Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics and religion by Paul Tuns -- in short, everything about the human endeavour from a non-hyphenated conservative perspective. I am Toronto-based writer and editor, whose articles, columns and reviews have appeared in more than 35 publications. I am editor-in-chief of The Interim, Canada's life and family newspaper, author of Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal and a regular contributor to the book pages of the Halifax Herald.

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Thursday, January 31, 2013
 
Courier gets updated
Details.
(HT: Kate Heartfield via Twitter)


 
Ed Crane
The new Cato Policy Report has an article on the legacy of Cato co-founder Ed Crane. There are also numerous pictures including one of Crane handing Russian president Vladimir Putin some libertarian literature.


 
The university flexibility option
Reihan Salam on the University of Wisconsin's flexibility option for degrees that test knowledge but do not require classes, compared to its traditional classroom and credits approach: "If the UW Flexible Option is to be subject to rigorous reporting standards, surely the same can be said of UW’s more traditional options, particularly in light of the fact that the latter are far more expensive than the former."


 
New oil shale discovery
Australia the new Saudi Arabia? Glenn Reynolds: "Oil and gas do seem to be turning up in all sorts of interesting places."


 
Worst ever Super Bowl half-time show
In 1995 it was Indiana Jones-themed for some reason -- it was six years after the previous movie was released and 13 years before the next one -- and featured Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett. The music played between scenes in which the Indy and Marion characters tried to keep the Super Bowl trophy out of the hands of the bad guys.


 
Toobin is a liberal stooge
Walter Olson: "Don’t the New Yorker’s readers deserve a better law analyst than Jeffrey Toobin?" Toobin is terribly partisan in commenting on the Supreme Court's decision on Obama's recess appointments. Ed Whelan notes: "Without mustering a single word in dispute of the reasoning that the D.C. Circuit provided in its ruling on recess appointments, Toobin condemns it as a 'judicial atrocity'." Toobin's actual piece suggests that recess appointments have never been legally challenged before (not true -- by my count of cases noted in the decision, there are at least three previous cases) and gets right into the politics: "huge gift to the contemporary Republican Party" and Obama needs to appoint more judges.


 
Rihanna's right
Pop sensation Rihanna, who is 24, is almost as famous for serially dating Chris Brown, another performer, who infamously beat her while they dated in 2009, as she is for her music. Apparently the couple is back together (again) and she told Rolling Stone, "Even if it's a mistake, it's my mistake." In the coffee shop and on the subway this morning numerous people mentioned this in horror. But Rihanna is right: we are free to make our own mistakes. Some learn from. Other's don't.


 
Obama says he is not 'a king'
Breitbart reports:
In an interview with the leading Hispanic network Univision, President Barack Obama stated, “I think it’s important to remind everybody that, what I’ve said previously, I am not a king, I am head of the executive branch of government. I am required to follow the law, and that is what we’ve done.”
Then he should stop acting like a king, issuing executive orders to regulate guns and declaring the Senate in recess in order to make unconstitutional appointments.


 
Liberal leadership race (January 31 edition)
Deborah Coyne says all Liberal nominations should be open and challenges her fellow leadership candidates to commit to open nominations. Sounds good and everyone says they are for it and then it doesn't happen. Her idea that the leader not have the ability to appoint candidates is sound, but it is very hard to people to give up a power once they get it. But this idea of Coyne's is not well thought out as it would waste scarce party resources: "The leader will visit every riding in Canada before the next election."
Tickets are now on sale for the GTA debate. You can spend $20 (or more if you want to join in the fun at the reception) to watch nine people mostly agree that Stephen Harper is evil and must be replaced.


 
Cuban on university
Mark Cuban says high school students should still aspire to university but suggests they anticipate that the institution they attend my go out of business before they graduate: "When I look at the university and college systems around the country I see the newspaper industry." He wonders: "Why in the world are schools building new buildings?" Cuban says, "the days of one school for four years are over," and indeed one hopes that the University of Wisconsin model reported by the Wall Street Journal last week (testing knowledge, no classes required) becomes widespread.


 
So?
Toronto Star: "Conservative MP and senator belittle Chief Theresa Spence, Idle No More movement." Why is Spence beyond questioning and criticism?


Wednesday, January 30, 2013
 
Woken up by that falling feeling
OMG Facts explains "hypnic jerk":
While most experts agree that it’s normal, it’s not completely known why it happens. The general consensus is that when you begin falling asleep, your muscles begin to slack and go into a restful state. However, this happens before your conscious brain shuts off. When the conscious brain feels your muscles relax, it misinterprets the signal thinking you’re falling down. Your brain then sends a signal to the muscles in arms and legs in an attempt to jerk you back upright.
OMG Facts explains that people who have trouble sleeping or are sleep-deprived are more prone to it.


 
Subsidize this
William Watson has a great column in the Ottawa Citizen on The Canadian Subsidy Directory 2013 which lists more than 3000 subsidies. Watson notes that innovation and film are two major categories for handouts. He also notes that not all subsidies are from the government although the vast majority are. Watson concludes that an Average Taxpayer Subsidy for those "who go about their business from year to year without asking for any grants or special favours from any level of government," would apparently cost very little because "there are so few such people," who would evidently qualify. Don't give the government any ideas.


 
Goofy or bad ass
Tom Flanagan in a bison fur coat.


 
Liberal leadership campaign (January 30 edition)
Kathy Shaidle's unique take.
Is Martha Hall Findlay too right-wing for today's Liberal Party? The Regina Leader-Post reports: "She told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on Monday she favours nixing supply management for dairy, poultry and egg producers, and believes the private delivery of health care would work within the public system."
In a guest column in the National Post one of the Liberal dwarfs says that merger talk is loser talk. At least that's what the headline says. The column actually makes the case against cooperation noting that not running candidates in all ridings could hurt party infrastructure at the grassroots level, even in a one-off cooperative effort of running a single candidate. George Takach calls upon the party to attract all voters who oppose Stephen Harper, implying unity through defeat of the NDP among so-called progressive voters.


 
Cracked (for once) gets it wrong
Cracked.com has a list of the four least anticipated movies being released next month. Somehow the absolute worst looking movie of the year is being released on February 8 and isn't listed.


 
Are ignorant non-voters smarter?
Yes. Diana Thomas has a Learn Liberty video on why rational people don't vote.


 
Politicians are like the rest of us -- but worse
Donald Boudreaux has a great post on the worshipful attitude people have toward presidents (I would add politicians in general). He concludes:
Years later, in November 2002, I was invited to a White House reception as a guest of my newly minted Nobel-laureate colleague Vernon Smith. (I was honored to be invited – but my honor came exclusively from being invited by a man whom I respect deeply, Vernon, and not at all from going to the White House to meet a politician.) It was the first time that I ever met a president of the executive branch of the national government in the United States. (I wound up meeting two, sort of, as Jimmy Carter was there also, he having won the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.) I was thoroughly underwhelmed. My impression of Bush was that he’s more charismatic in person than he is on television. His charisma, however, still fell far short of making me feel any awe for the man or “the office” that he held. Quite the contrary. I couldn’t wait to leave; being near such people creeps me out. They are, after all, merely bipedal mammals like the rest of us, yet who fancy themselves, and are fancied by their groupies, as being something more blessed. (Actually, these particular bipedal mammals are not quite like the rest of us: they specialize, and succeed, in practicing in the dark arts of politics – arts that no truly decent bipedal mammal wishes to specialize in for long, and certainly not in ways that bring success.)
I don't quite agree; calling politicians bipedal mammals implies that they are human beings, a point I would not concede. By the very fact that they seek higher office to tell us how to live makes them sub-human and not worthy of our respect. A few years ago Prime Minister Stephen Harper was glad-handing at some event and he recognized me and came over to say hello and offered his hand. I refused to shake it, and I am very proud that I didn't give into the pressure to show deference to the office or the man. There are politicians I like (the late senator Jesse Helms, former Ontario MPP Bill Murdoch, current MPP Randy Hillier, current Senator Rand Paul) to whom I would extend my hand, but most do not deserve it.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013
 
The Bible
I spent a good portion of the day at CTS in Burlington, Ont., as part of a combination press junket/church outreach to promote The Bible Series by Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and Mark Burnett (Survivor). I'll have more about it tomorrow but enjoy the trailer. The 10-hours series which will begin airing on History on March 3 looks excellent.


 
Liberal leadership race (January 29 edition)
Justin Trudeau is his father's son, calls for national energy strategy. This time, he has the Alberta premier onside (which doesn't make it any better).
CBC profiles one of the Liberal dwarfs, David Bertschi.


 
Sadly true
Instapundit: "'I told you so' is the chief source of pleasure in the blogosphere." Not that there is anything wrong with that.


 
The cost of regulation
Here is a really good look at the costs of regulations from American Action Forum, focusing on the burdens to specific companies. The expense of complying with regulations to the top 30 companies is in excess of $34 billion. Last year those companies wasted 86.6 million hours on paperwork complying with regulations. Energy efficiency and environmental regulations are the two largest burdens, representing about 60% of the total.


 
Cell phones and crime
A paper by Jonathan Klick, John MacDonald, and Thomas Stratmann says mobile phones are the "an underappreciated link" to decreased crime rates:
Between 1991 and 2001, crime rates dropped by about a third across all crime categories. We suggest that the introduction and growth of mobile phone technology may have contributed to the crime decline in the 1990s, specifically in the areas of rape and assault.
This seems either too cute or probably correct. The paper seems plausible.


Monday, January 28, 2013
 
What I'm reading
1. Free Will by Sam Harris
2. Who's In Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain by Michael S Gazzaniga
3. Recall Abortion: Ending the Abortion Industry's Exploitation of Women by Janet Morana
4. Moynihan's Moment: The Fight Against Zionism as Racism by Gil Troy
5. "Choosing to Succeed," a collection of Heritage Foundation opinions on school choice.
6. "Mobile Phones and Crime Deterrence: An Underappreciated Link," a paper by Jonathan Klick, John McDonald, and Thomas Stratmann
7. "Not Dead Yet: The Changing Role of Cash on Corporate Balance Sheets," a C.D. Howe Institute paper by Finn Poschmann


 
We should have known Sandra Pupatello was doomed
Kathy Shaidle notes the curse of Warren Kinsella.


 
Dallas, Season 2 premiere tonight
Even though it will not be the same without Larry Hagman (he only taped three episodes for season two of Dallas), I was still looking forward to it -- until I saw that Judith Light is in it.


 
Is China becoming more free?
The headline and teaser on a Steve Chapman article at Reason.com: "Is China Becoming Less Authoritarian? Thanks to capitalism, the sphere of personal autonomy in China is now vastly larger than it was in the dark days of Mao Zedong." I was always dubious of the theory that western-style capitalism would result in more liberty because the government in Red China was not some tinpot dictatorship but a massive bureaucracy backed up by a massive army. (Also, they did not end up importing western-style capitalism, but a Chinese variant of state capitalism that would end up enriching the state and its cronies.) I am still not convinced the theory is working out as the Chamber of Commerce would have predicted, but I hope it turns out to be true. However, despite some new openness about pollution, the treatment of dissidents and its coercive one-child policy indicate that the regime is still brutal and that the more things change, the more things stay the same.


 
Queen Beatrix to abdicate
Netherlands to soon have King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima. Dutch royals have cooler names. (Beatrix`s mother was Juliana.)


 
Trudeau to spend week in Manitoba
Winnipeg Free Press story here. I don't know who I feel more sorry for: Justin Trudeau or Manitobans.


 
Let's hope Hayward writes this book
At Powerline Steven Hayward writes about a new paper on building permits and begins his post with this tease:
Bureaucracy in America may well be the subject and therefore the title of my next book, and its theme would be Tocqueville meets James Q. Wilson. Tocqueville, as I mentioned in my note about the nanny state here a couple weeks ago, described the form of “soft despotism” that America needed to fear, but which he didn’t quite have a name for. James Q. Wilson’s 1988 book Bureaucracy is still perhaps the best general treatment of the subject, but is a bit dated in some ways, as the administrative state (the more comprehensive term for how we are misgoverned today) has advanced in several important ways since Wilson wrote.


 
More conservative Catholic seminarians
Ed Morrissey notes there is some talk about the new generation of Catholic seminarians being more "conservative" on abortion and religious liberty, a conclusion with which he concurs. The observation is probably right, but I recall Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and George Weigel making the same observation 10-15 years ago, saying that new priests then were both counter-cultural (to the predominant liberal culture of America) and part of the John Paul II generation. We'll have to wait and see.


 
Great quote
Via Donald Boudreaux notes this great James Buchanan quote:
Despite the empirical evidence that we can observe, we continue to think, and to behave, as if we can, through political action, subvert elementary laws.


 
I absolutely endorse this idea
Glenn Harlon Reynolds column in the New York Post: "Why not a waiting period for laws?" Reynolds says:
I’d like to propose a “waiting period” for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?)
And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.


Saturday, January 26, 2013
 
You can follow me on Twitter
Here.


 
Why people have trouble saving money for retirement
Writing in the Toronto Sun Maddie Di Muccio has advice for whoever win the Liberal leadership, but this point has much larger implications:
Parents today are having a tough time saving for retirement. In no small part this is due to adult children not leaving home at 18 years of age, primarily because of a lack of economic opportunity. Parents have adult children as dependents for six to eight years longer than we saw a generation ago. This is taking away the opportunity for parents to save.


 
#OLPldr
It appears I will be wrong in predicting Sandra Pupatello winning the Ontario Liberal Party leadership. But who saw Charles Sousa, Eric Hoskins, and Gerard Kennedy all being bought off by supporting Kathleen Wynne? Now be prepared to be told by Liberals and the media that Wynne's sexual orientation doesn't matter -- and to be told repeatedly.


 
'What Do Prices "Know" That You Don't?'
Good video from Duke economist Mike Munger and Learn Liberty.


 
Ontario Liberal leadership
The conventional wisdom says that either Sandra Pupatello and Kathleen Wynne, who are virtually tied in delegate count (27% to 25%), will be the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party and premier of the province. It should be noted that neither the federal Liberals in 2006 nor Ontario Liberals in 1996 picked either of the two front-runners going into the convention. I'd have more confidence picking the third place candidate Gerard Kennedy (14%) for the upset if it wasn't Gerard Kennedy, who has lost his past two leadership bids (the 2006 and 1996 races) as well as his own riding the last time he ran federally. Kennedy is virtually tied with Harinder Takhar (13%) whose scandals, ethnic-group based bid, and personality seems to place a low ceiling on his potential. Pro-business Liberal Charles Sousa (11 %) almost certainly won't be backing Kennedy but with a good number of ex officio candidates (party grandees -- MPPs and MPs from the province, former MPPs, losing candidates in the last provincial election that are not counted among the delegate percentages at this point) Sousa might avoid being eliminated on the second ballot by leap-frogging Takhar or Kennedy. Eric Hoskins has 6% and his name will be dropped from consideration after first ballot.
How does this shake down? Wynne will pick up a large number of uncommitted delegates who supported Glen Murray who dropped out of the race three weeks ago and endorsed her. More ex officio delegates will back Pupatello, but the fact that she is not the prohibitive front-runner might have these ultra party people making a decision based on ideology rather than a quick-and-easy party favourite. It should be noted that although there are 420 ex officio delegates, some (perhaps many) won't be at the convention. So after the first ballot Wynne and Pupatello are still tied, Hoskins is off the ballott and the close three-way tie among Kennedy, Sousa, and Takhar has to play out. Hoskins has a bright future in the party and probably won't back any candidate unless a plum position (health) has been dangled in front of him for his support. Either leading contender could have done that, and if he can deliver most of his 6% -- a big if -- he could provide some distance for Pupatello or help put Wynne ahead. I don't think it affects the dynamic that much.
Back to the clump of candidates with 11%-13%. My best guess is that Takhar doesn't have many ex officio delegates, ends up at the bottom of the heap, and backs the candidate he has already made a deal with. While it seems natural for Sousa to go with the party brass favourite Pupatello and Kennedy to back Wynne as the more progressive of the two, I simply have no idea which way Takhar will go. Considering that Takhar probably has more influence over his (ethnic) delegates, more of his backers are going to follow his lead than other candidates. If he drops off earlier, he can create a lot of momentum for either Pupatello or Wynne.
I don't think this will need five ballots, and as either Sousa or Kennedy can drop off after seeing who finishes third on the third ballot (it's an ego thing). Most models I've seen have either Wynne or Pupatello winning on the third, fourth, fifth ballot by a mere 2-4 percentage points. If a larger gap develops earlier, you won't need five ballots. When you weigh everything it appears Pupatello has this thing in the bag. But the same was said of Michael Ignatieff or Bob Rae in 2006 or Gerard Kennedy and Joe Cordiano in 1996. The difference this time is that the leadership contenders and strategists don't hate one another so finding the tolerable compromise candidate (Dalton McGuinty, Stephane Dion) isn't necessary. And anyway, two of three potential tolerable candidates (Kennedy and Takhar) aren't that tolerable to many of the party higher ups.
I'd love to know who Dalton McGuinty's and Greg Sorbrara's people are backing (presumably Pupatello), because they'd probably be decisive. That sounds right, so I'm going with Pupatello on the fourth ballot with more than 55% (although there is a good chance they won't share that number if it is only Wynne and Pupatello). We'll know the winner between 8-9 pm rather than midnight.


 
Court says no way to Obama's non-recess recess appointments
Investor's Business Daily editorializes on the Court of Appeals reining in Barack Obama's imperial presidency by saying that the President cannot appoint "recess appointments" while the Senate is still in session. IBD says:
Assuming the Supreme Court upholds the panel's ruling, all the decisions the board made over the past year will be nullified, since without those three there weren't enough members on the board to make any rulings at all.
The AP story called the decision an "embarrassing setback" for Obama.
But that assumes Obama has the capacity to be embarrassed in this regard at all. There's been little, if any, evidence of that throughout his first term.
The decision was unanimous (3-0). More about it at the Washington Post. The distinction between intersession and intrasession recesses is important, as John Elwood explains the technical legal issues at Volokh Conspiracy. Obama's actions are not unprecedented as George W. Bush made several intrasession appointments.


Friday, January 25, 2013
 
The Harper majority
On Friday Stephen Harper appointed five new senators. According to David Akin on The Battleground on Sun News Harper has appointed a majority of the current senators sitting in the Senate: 53 of 105. To be clear this is not merely a Conservative majority, but a Harper-appointed majority.


 
Great sign seen at the March for Life in Washington
This sign was inspired by the blank all the blank meme.


 
Cyprus could default
Felix Salmon:
[H]ow can it structure the process to minimize the chances of a messy bank run, default, and possibly even exit from the euro? It’s easy to dismiss Cyprus as too small to worry about. But it’s still an important sovereign state.
There should be two major concerns about Cyprus defaulting: precedent and proliferation; we don't want default normalized nor do we want the problems of Cyprus to spread (bank runs). A major difference with Greece, Salmon notes, is that Athens issued debt under domestic law, while Nicosia issues it under international law.


Thursday, January 24, 2013
 
Reading the fine print, i.e. the actual story
Going beyond the sensationalistic headline in the Washington Times, "Jindal: GOP should change "just about everything'," and reading the actual story indicates that Jindal didn't really say that (or is he about to). The Times reports that pre-released notes of a speech Jindal will make to the Republican National Committee tonight shows he will say:
We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives — our principles are timeless. But we do need to re-orient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives: in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.
In other words he's not really saying conservatives need to change everything at all. What he's saying is that conservatives and Republicans need to apply their principles to things that people care about, at least if the GOP wants to win elections. Not really all that radical and not exactly what the headline is implying.


 
Scalia's hat wasn't that goofy after all
Ed Driscoll says, "Justice Antonin Scalia was able to make a protest during Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Monday that likely flew entirely under the MSM’s radar." At First Things, Matthew Schmitz said, "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both."


 
Brilliant commentary on intellectuals
Robin Hanson has a good post on asking questions that matter (a thorough dedication to genuinely finding answers that are not yet known) but begins with a critique of what passes for being an intellectual today: "I know a lot of people who think of themselves as intellectuals. That is, they spend a substantial fraction of their free time dealing in ideas. Most of these people are mainly consumers who take in ideas ..." Well put.


 
Skepticism about epigenetics
Jerry A. Coyne of Why Evolution is True is a neo-Darwinian skeptic of epigenetics. Coyne says: "maybe ecological epigenetics is poised to take off, but I doubt that, with the data presented, it will revolutionize the field." Speaking of his neo-Darwinism, Coyne says, "I think that an objective observer would agree that that that current paradigm is working pretty well." (I am not endorsing or opposing Coyne's view, just noting that it is interesting.)


Wednesday, January 23, 2013
 
Video games for libertarians
Reason's Peter Suderman has a list of "6 Video Games Every Libertarian Should Play." I don't like first-person shooter games, but I will encourage my kids to play these ones.


 
The U.S. government could be the Jean Paul Getty of the modern world
Alex Tabarrok notes, "According to The Institute for Energy Research the Federal government owns oil and gas worth on the order of $128 trillion," although he thinks that number might be "optimistic." The IER states: "These technically recoverable resources total 1,194 billion barrels of oil and 2,150 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is owned by the federal taxpayer." More details at Marginal Revolution.


 
40 years of Roe w. Wade
My story on four decades of Roe in the February edition of The Interim is now online. Here's a bit:
In the intervening 40 years, pro-lifers have tried numerous strategies, in the political, spiritual, cultural, and service fields. George Grant in Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood described the burgeoning response: “The Church arose from its cultural slumber … pro-lifers developed creative alternatives for women and children in crisis … serious legal challenges continued.” From street activism to political engagement, the movement sought to protect the unborn by blocking abortion facilities, educating the public, demonstrating for political action, and getting involved in party nominations (in the political primaries). The rise of the Religious Right and its influence in the Republican Party has practically guaranteed that the presidential nominee of that party is committed to overturning Roe v. Wade in the appointment of Supreme Court justices. Indeed, Roe’s greatest political influence is on the judiciary.
If the 1973 decision took abortion out of the political realm, it placed the nomination of judges squarely within it. The Hoover Institution’s Clint Bolick argued in his 2012 book Two-fer: Electing a President and a Surpreme Court that the power to nominate judges to the Supreme and federal courts is the “grand prize in presidential elections.” Both pro-life and pro-abortion activists often frame the case for their favoured candidate – or control of the Senate – in terms of determining the make-up of the Supreme or blocking their opponents from doing so ...
[L]ooking at the legacy of Roe, everything, from the assault on democracy, the rise of judicial activism, the rise of new political movements, and the sociological and health consequences, all pale in comparison to the toll in human lives. In the early 1990s, 1.6 million children a year died in surgical abortions. That number has decreased to just over a million abortions a year (due in part to pro-life activism but also the decline in the number of women in their child-bearing years and the rise of abortifacient drugs). A conservative estimate has the total casualties of Roe at 50 million. Time magazine’s coverage of the Roe anniversary said pro-lifers are winning, and indeed there are state-level battles being won. But in the larger war, the Culture of Death has the upper hand over the Culture of Life: 50 million is an unimaginable holocaust unleashed upon the United States by the Supreme Court 40 years ago.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013
 
America needs a ban on Obamas
Glenn Harlan Reynolds in his USA Today column: "The NRA has a higher approval rating than the president because it's in sync with Americans' beliefs."


 
Literally
Kyle Peterson at The Spectator blog wonders whether it is time to give up on insisting that the word literally be used correctly. The latest offender is NPR. Joe Biden does it all the time -- not literally all the time, but ... All too often literally is used metaphorically. My favourite example was in the 1980s when Gorilla Monsoon said during some big wrestling event that "you can literally cut the excitement with a knife."


 
#Idle No More vs. Ezra Levant
Kathy Shaidle comments and has the video is worth watching. Most of the Indians were white Occupy professional protesters who complained that Sun News is racist as they called Levant a Jew. They also accused him of "provoking genocide." None of them would answer his question of what specifically he had said that was racist. It would be comical if it weren't so pathetic. The police involvement, on the other hand, is actually tens times more offensive than what the anti-Sun protesters did.


Monday, January 21, 2013
 
Sun TV asking CRTC to grant it must-carry status for basic cable
Details here. Hope they are successful. Blazing Cat Fur on how you can help in their "do or die" application.


 
Ontario political news
The Toronto Star endorses Sandra Pupatello as the best candidate to become Liberal leader to help the party win the next election. The paper seems to buy into the notion that Kathleen Wynne is unelectable because she's a lesbian. Curiously the editorial does not say who would be the best candidate to put forward Liberal and liberal ideas and policies. The Star falls into the trap of electability. Remember Ernie Eves and John Tory were electable but Jim Flaherty wasn't. Remember that Howard Dean was not electable but John Kerry was. Remember that Mitt Romney was the most electable Republican in the field in 2012. Electability is a media fiction. Electable = bland and safe, but sometimes voters want boldness.
In other news, the Liberal government will repeal Bill 115. This will be viewed with extreme cynicism and it should be; the authority for cabinet, not the provincial legislature, to repeal it is contained within the bill itself. The bill was passed last Summer, suggesting that the McGuinty government may have planned to use it briefly to signal they were serious about the budget deficit -- they were fighting two by-elections at the time -- but uninterested in totally isolating the teachers' unions. Progressive Conservative MPPs I talked to assumed Bill 115 was never 1) going to be used or 2) stay around long.


 
Save the planet, kill the people
Conservative Critic: "The ban on plastic grocery bags enacted in San Francisco and several other California communities has an unexpected side effect — an increase in food-borne illnesses, emergency room visits, and even deaths." Unintended consequences happen, but will SF and other cities that have imposed plastic bag bans reconsider their lethal environmentalist sentiment in light of such evidence? In other words, will the Left follow the science?
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
Pre-chopped veggies indicates that there is no pay stagnation
Donald Boudreaux says that pre-chopped vegetables at grocery stores is "evidence that the real pay of ordinary Americans is today higher than in was in the 1970s." In other words, our time is more valuable today than it was several decades ago. I often make the point that we undervalue (or completely ignore) the value/cost of time in our lives and public policy; pay stagnationists definitely fail to look at what a dollar buys today compared to the vaunted 1970s.


 
Happy Martin Luther King Day -- if that's your thing
Kathy Shaidle has a column at Vdare linking disgraced Toronto educrat Chris Spence to the slain communist rabble rouser American civil rights leader as fellow plagiarizers. And then there's Sarah Silverman's supposedly "racist" comedy:


Sunday, January 20, 2013
 
Vote for you favourite Super Bowl commercial
Vote at CBS.com. Some very good ones, and my all-time fave is on the list, the Clio-winning Joe Green Coke commercial.


 
GOP deal extends debt ceiling talks for three months
House Republicans caved on their insistence that any extension for the federal government's borrowing authority be tied to spending cuts equal to the increase in the size of the debt. There is a three-month extension but no conditional spending cuts. Here are my two favourite reactions:
Steven Landsburg: "The Tea Party was nice while it lasted."
Jared Bernstein: "Institutionalizing Crisis Mode."


 
Selling inauguration tickets
Greg Mankiw sees a teachable moment:
Background: The Congress allocates free tickets to the presidential inauguration, often by lottery. Some winners of the lottery try to sell them for thousands of dollars. Senator Schumer objects to the resale.
Question 1: When David, a lottery winner, sells his ticket to Ann, both David and Ann are better off. Who is worse off?


 
Cowen on Zero Dark Thirty
Tyler Cowen: "I don’t regret having seen it, but I would regret it even less had they not made it in the first place."


 
Why don't liberals who complain about conservatives being anti-science ever mock Muslims?
Blazing Cat Fur has another great find: Muslim cleric says sex with pregnant wife beneficial to future intelligence of the child.


 
Liberal leadership race (January 20 edition)
The debate doesn't matter, or at least that's what I think the point of this Canadian Press story is when it says there is no chance of the eight non-Trudeau candidates (or is it 7.5 non-Trudeau candidates) to distinguish themselves. That happens when nine candidates have two hours to debate more than a dozen topics. I will be watching football during the debate.
The first debate takes place today in Vancouver from 1-3 local time. Tickets started at $20 and it is sold out.


 
Euthanasia for the non-terminally ill
Wesley Smith on the push for euthanasia for people with Alzheimer`s: "Don’t anyone tell me that the mercy killing imperative and cost containment aren’t mixed–driven by a pernicious “quality of life” ethic that denigrates and demeans the moral value of the most weak and vulnerable among us."


 
For fellow history nerds
The Washington Post has a great feature on the inaugurations of all the presidents of the United States. Click on a president for details of the inauguration and the transcript of their inaugural address. Details include date, the Bible used, and attire. John Adams, for example, wore, "Suit of grey broadcloth, without fancy buttons or knee buckles." Could get lost in this for a long time.


Saturday, January 19, 2013
 
Is this philo-Semitic or anti-Semitic?
Dutch teens use the term "Jew" to mean cool.
(HT: Marginal Revolution)


 
Four and down (Conference Championship Weekend edition)
4. Before the analysis, here's my explanation of who I want to win. I have no team in these games although I have a huge amount of admiration for the New England Patriots and a growing admiration for the San Francisco 49ers. Both teams play smart, exciting football and execute at a high level. Five years ago I would have liked to see the crushing defense of the Baltimore Ravens grind out a victory over the Pats, but the Ravens D is now merely good. I don't like or dislike Joe Flacco but quite admire the physical WR Anquan Boldin. The defense is aging and its shows, so as an admirer of physical, stifling defenses, Baltimore doesn't even have that. The Atlanta Falcons are a good but not great team, and while you'd like to see Tony Gonzalez retire on a Super Bowl victory, I just don't care about the Falcons as a team. It's weird that a team with so many playmakers is so vanilla. If Atlanta wins the game and deserve it, fine, if not, that's fine, too. With the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the picture, at this stage of the season I want to see good football in the remaining three games, and a match-up of Bill Belichick's Patriots and Harbaugh's Niners provide the best chance of a great Super Bowl. Both coaches worry a lot more about winning the game than winning the press conference so do things that maximize their chances of coming out victorious rather than follow some unwritten rules of what coaches are supposed to do in a particular situation. But -- and there's always a but, isn't there? -- there are reasons I don't want the Pats and Niners to win the Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team to win the Super Bowl six times. San Francisco has won five and New England has three. I don't want the Niners to tie the Steelers for most Super Bowls nor do I want the Patriots to get any closer (and New England would tie Pittsburgh with most Super Bowl appearances with an AFC Championship, with eight). Sixburgh has a nice ring (make that rings) to it, but San Fransixco doesn't. So on some level I hope it's Atlanta and Baltimore in the Super Bowl. But Baltimore is the divisional rival to the Steelers so I don't want to see them win. Ah, heck, let's hope for the best team to win the whole thing, and that probably means the New England Patriots edging the San Francisco 49ers in a back-and-forth, hard-fought, game in New Orleans in two weeks. Probably. And there is plenty of reason to not want a Baltimore-San Francisco Super Bowl, on top of the endless slobbering over Ray Lewis by football pundits for two weeks. That's a long way of saying I don't really care, but if you love football more than the spectacle, you should be cheering for the Pats to face the 49ers.
3. San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons: I'll summarize the pre-game analysis of the legacy media (Associated Press, USA Today, most daily papers, the sports magazines with print editions): Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick, Colin Kaepernick. And whether Atlanta can stop Kaepernick. Even some of the more intelligent online, advanced metric football analysis has fallen into this trap.* Let's try not to here. The Falcons are a good team, but they are vulnerable. They allow a lot of yards (372.9 per game) although they lead in defensive yards per point allowed (19.4 yards per point), a good measure of how efficient the defense is at not allowing points on the board. Basically that means teams settle for field goals instead of dancing in the end zone. Part of the reason for that is they have the fourth best red zone defense, with opponents scoring TDs on only 46% of red zone possessions. The other part of the reason Atlanta does this is that they are very good at forcing turnovers (1.9 takeaways per game, fifth overall on the season). The question for Mike Smith's squad is whether they will be able to handle the zone read offense San Fran employs and which shredded the Packers defense last week. The analysis generally looks like this: 49es QB Colin Kaepernick is darn near unstoppable -- end of story. That's not quite right. He had 444 yards against the Packers last week, but he can't be counted on to replicate his 181 rushing yards -- the most by a QB ever in the playoffs and most by a QB in any game since 1960. In fact, it's nearly 100 rushing yards more than any other game Kaepernick had all season. That said, Carolina which runs a similar zone read offense with a running QB (Cam Newton) beat and nearly beat the Falcons during the regular season, and the Falcons almost lost a game against Seattle last week after blowing a 20-point lead (the Seahawks sometimes use a zone read offense and Russell Wilson is also a QB that uses his legs for first downs). Clearly Atlanta is vulnerable to exactly the type of offense San Fran uses (despite the fact that Atlanta uses zone coverage in defense). So what other factors come into play? The Wall Street Journal reported this week that teams that won in a game in the post-season decided in the final two minutes or overtime are 12-21 in the next game they play, indicating that the close contest or extra time wears on the eventual victor and Atlanta pulled out an emotional blown-lead, come-from-behind victory (both in the final minute) last week. As per Football Outsiders, San Francisco has a stellar third down defense and as per Pro Football Focus, it may have the best O-line in the game. Odd for a team with Gonzalez, Julio Jones, and Roddy White, the Falcons are not a big play team as a lower percentage of their pass plays go for 20 yards or more than the league average. Although the secondary of the Niners isn't as good as that of the Seahawks, the pass rush is possibly the best in football, and last week proved that Aldon Smith is healthy enough to contribute but not well enough to dominate. The Falcons had one of the worst run defenses, allowing 4.8 yards per attempt, and it seems likely that the 49ers can exploit that with Frank Gore, LaMichael James, and (yes) Kaepernick. If Atlanta fills the box to stop the run, Kaepernick will get open to pass the ball to WRs Michael Crabtree (who has blossomed with Kaepernick as the QB) and Randy Moss, and TE Vernon Davis. Looking at the Niners, they are good enough to beat anyone, but they seem to match up particularly well against the Falcons on paper. If Kaepernick gets open and runs for 70 or more yards and he begins to target Davis, I can't see the 49ers not winning. Otherwise, the game is a toss-up. The Vegas book has Atlanta four point underdogs, which I wouldn't take because the field goal difference sounds right.
2. Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: These two teams are facing each other for the third time in 12 months and in the AFC Championship game for the third time in five years. The Pats have won the previous two conference championship contests, but the Ravens won the regular season contest back in week three. These are all interesting storylines as the Ravens and Patriots become one of the better NFL rivalries, but this is definitely not the same Ravens team that eked out a victory in September. For starters, injuries have forced players into new positions and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are showing the signs of being aged veterans in a long season. Nor are the Patriots the same team. The loss of receiving and blocking TE Rob Gronkowski is big for the Patriots but hardly fatal. The upside is that the Patriots seem to have an endless supply of players to rotate through the offense, to compliment the stars Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd, and Deion Branch (when he's targeted). If RB Danny Woodhead is hurt, RB Shane Vereen shines (with a pair of TDs last week). However John Harbaugh game-plans for this contest, it is doubtful that the injury-depleted, out-of-position, older Ravens defensive squad will be able to keep up with the Tom Brady-led hurry-up offense, especially after playing an overtime game in the Ricky Mountains last weekend. A vastly superior and more youthful Houston Texans team was repeatedly burned in the divisional game by the Patriots who hurried to the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball before the Texans defenders were even close to being in position; Vereen was untouched for his two TDs. Moreover, Baltimore has to honour New England's running game as RB Stevan Ridley is a legitimate running threat, finishing seventh for most yards in the NFL (1263, good for 4.4 yards per run and nearly 80 per game) and 12 TDs. This is the most balanced offense Tom Brady has had in New England. To borrow a popular joke this week, the Patriots may not have Gronkowski, but the Ravens don't have Rahim Moore, the Denver Broncos safety who blew his coverage in the final minute of play allowing for Baltimore's game-tying TD last week. That's funny. The Patriots secondary gets more out of its squad than the talent level and constant moving of pieces indicates they should. One way in which the Pats are not the same team as it was when it lost 31-30 in Baltimore in Week 3 is the addition of CB Aqib Talib. He is the best CB on the team and will be covering Torrey Smith, which should be an upgrade over Champ Bailey (at this point of in their respective careers). Acquiring Talib allows Devin McCourty to move to strong safety, giving the Pats a much better secondary than it had early in the season. That said, it doesn't take much to swing a game around in this pass-wacky NFL and with Joe Flacco targeting more throws of 20 yards or more in the league than any other QB (17.3% of all pass attempts) and a Ravens receiving corps that drops relatively few of their passes (4.3%) chances are his receivers are going to catch something for a big play. The question will be whether the game will be close enough for it to matter. The Pats average about one full takeaway more per game than the Ravens (2.5 to 1.7) and New England gives away the ball less than any other team (15 over the season). Add in the fact that Baltimore is among the most penalized teams in the NFL, giving up a league-leading 69.7 penalty yards per game, and Baltimore fans might be praying for more deep bombs than Flacco and company can realistically count to connecting on. I don't see the Ravens defense stopping the Brady-Belichick offense and while I wouldn't be comfortable laying down a large bet in Vegas (Pats favoured by 8), I would place $10 on the game for fun and think I have a decent chance to win.
1. Having predicted the Pats and Niners to win, I fully expect that the Falcons will meet the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Last week I predicted Green Bay over San Francisco (wrong), Denver over Baltimore (close but no cigar), Seattle over Atlanta (almost), and New England over Houston (that one was correct).
* For other quality analysis see the Football Outsiders AFC and NFC championship previews, as well as their championship games film room previews, and Bill Barnwell's Grantland AFC and NFC analysis, and the Pro Football Focus AFC and NFC previews. Don't forget the Cold Hard Football Facts Quality Stats Power Ranking (you have to subscribe to get their very good analysis, which all serious fans should be doing already). Less technical, Shutdown Corner looks at the AFC and NFC games. Barnwell is the most readable and you can get a clear idea of what PFF is talking about without understanding their metrics, although FO's DVOA is more complicated but is worth further investigation if you have the time. And for what it is worth, Joe Namath's prediction is for a Harbaugh Bowl (note to reader: I don't recall seeing a single statistic in his "analysis").


 
Chris Spence update
You can add exaggeration next to plagiarizing to the list of leadership qualities of former Toronto District School Board director Chris Spence.


 
Amazon & the Super Bowl
Amazon has a Super Bowl page with everything from game gear to supplies for your party.


 
Stock market bears little resemblance to larger economy
Good CNBC story on how all three major stock market averages have had three consecutive weekly gains, and the Dow and S&P close at 5-Year highs, despite sluggish economy.
(HT: Lorrie Goldstein on Twitter)


 
GCH on Trudeau the Younger
Gods of the Copybook Headings has a must-read post on Justin Trudeau. A snippet:
This is who the Liberals are entrusting their fate to. A man who speaks and campaigns in political cliches so obvious most real politicians stopped using them years ago. If political hack was a profession, one trembles at the possible accreditation process, the governing body would have to strike off anyone that sells a line like: "our greatest strength is above ground, in our people."
I like lollipops! I like puppies! I like sunsets! Hugs for everyone!
The success of Justin Trudeau is terrifying on many levels.
When GCH writes about Justin that way, it reminds me of the unseriousness of Elizabeth May.


 
Weird
CNN journo has strange obsession with writes to Barack Obama everyday of the President's term. The love has never been reciprocated.
(HT: Small Dead Animals)


 
This is a joke, right
Newsweek "cover" of Obama II inauguration.


Friday, January 18, 2013
 
It's too early to think about 2016
Breitbart on Rand Paul vs. Chris Christie. Regardless of implication for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, go Rand Paul.


 
Support Adam Carolla in patent troll fight
Five Feet of Fury has the links. (Needless to say that the Carolla broadcast is not safe for work or the easily offended.)


 
Against life insurance ... unless you plan to freeze yourself
Robin Hanson: "Life insurance is bought more because it sounds like a good idea than because it is actually needed," and as a new paper finds the "final death benefit is not paid for a majority of policies." But Hanson being Hanson notes that cryonics patients benefit disproportionately from life insurance.


 
Sensible position on labeling of genetically modified organisms
Discover magazine's Keith Kloor is both pro-GMO and pro-labeling. While most anti-GMO advocates want labeling and most supporters of GMOs are against it, there is actually no good reason that these be mutually exclusive positions. Initially, Kloor was against labeling.


 
Have you ever served fast food at a party?
Another great Cracked list: "6 Absurd Situations That Only Happen In Food Commercials." I need to bring back Weekend Stuff.


 
Liberal leadership race (January 19 edition)
This is not a surprising headline (from Canadian Press) and in fact one might wonder why it took so long: "Internal dispute erupts over Liberal party's leadership voting rules." Internal disputes define the Liberal Party.
The Toronto Star's Susan Delacourt says that Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra) will have a hometown advantage at the first LPC leadership debate which is being held in Vancouver this Sunday. I seriously doubt that she would finish second in a poll of people at the event, likely being a strong third behind Justin Trudeau and Marc Garneau. But what does hometown advantage mean in the grand scheme of things other than slightly louder cheers at otherwise indistinguishable answers among candidates? Murray is the Liberal candidate most open to cooperation with the NDP and Greens, supporting cross-country run-off nominations in close ridings. If she focuses on that idea, she might separate her from the pack and grow her support while at the same time putting a ceiling on herself by suggesting that the Liberals can't beat the Harper Conservatives.


 
The Poverty Industry
Peter Cove has a must-read article in City Journal on the failure of anti-poverty programs and indispensability of work to lift individuals and families out of poverty. A snippet:
But the government’s unprecedented expenditures failed to bring about the decline in poverty that [Lyndon] Johnson had promised. Instead, they made things worse. Neither city hall nor I comprehended that the “community action” organizations on which we lavished taxpayer dollars would entrench dependency by urging people to get on the welfare rolls. War on Poverty funds paid for social workers, community activists, and lawyers to organize the poor, but these organizers, far from lifting poor people out of dependency, helped them sign up for more—and more expensive—welfare programs. For instance, the National Welfare Rights Organization urged single black mothers to protest the welfare system’s eligibility restrictions, and the organization’s goal was to flood the system with new clients.
These bureaucrats and politicians care more about having clients than helping the poor. Why else would the government not conduct vigorous analyses of whether or not their programs work?
Anyway, the article is worth reading in its entirety.


 
Experts
Gawker: "Ordinary Housecat Beats Professional Wealth Managers in Year-Long Stock-Picking Challenge."


 
My review of Morality and the Law in Canadian Politics
My review of Morality and the Law in Canadian Politics: The Abortion Controversy by Fr. Alphonse de Valk in the January Interim is now online. I say:
Fr. de Valk, a Catholic priest and trained historian, sifted through numerous newspapers, professional journals, and parliamentary debates to provide a copiously footnoted roll call of those who sought changes to Canada’s abortion laws. It is historical scholarship at its finest, and all at the service of having a record of those responsible for what he would later call “the worst law ever,” in order to have a moral book-keeping for those responsible for liberalizing Canada’s abortion law in 1969.


Thursday, January 17, 2013
 
Democrats, not GOP the party of Big Business
Tim Carney: "Cutting government would directly and acutely harm some of these companies. So they fear that this time the Republicans might actually mean it when they say they want to cut spending."


 
Modern sentences
Tyler Cowen points to this AFP story, which reports: "A Twitter feud in June between the Estonian president and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who questioned the impact of Estonia’s austerity measures, is being turned into an opera ..."


 
Liberal leadership race (January 17 edition)
The state broadcaster describes the format of the first debate which will be held this coming Sunday: "Over the two-hour televised event, the combination of opening and closing statements as well as a series of 14 questions from moderator Randy Boissonault and the audience, means each contestant will get about 10 minutes total to actually speak." Never mind the 10 minutes per leadership candidate; it's 10 minutes per leadership candidate to address 14 issues/questions. So I wonder what Karen McCrimmon and George Takach and Joyce Murray think of cooperation among the left-wing parties and what they can say about it in 20 seconds.
The National Post notes Martha "Hall Findlay blasts Harper’s 'absolute, blind, unilateral support of Israel, at all costs'." Well there goes her Jewish support. (Didn't she represent Willowdale at one time?) In other MHF news, she won't commit to running in the next federal election if she isn't the leader which will no doubt be used against her with the implicit criticism that she isn't a good team player. I don't blame her but she has to know this hurts her politically.
This is big but probably won't be all that significant: David Akin notes that former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie has endorsed George Takach.
Pundit's Guide has a longish post on "tactical" aspects of the leadership vote and highlights the fact that "Canadians who sign up to become supporters of the Liberal Party through the website of one of leadership contenders, instead of through liberal.ca, will not become known to other leadership contestants until after the March 3 cut-off." So the LPC says that the "universe" of voting is about 100,000 supporters and members, the fact is the party doesn't really know how many of each they have, or whether as one executive contends the membership category is not "unduly hampering" (PG's characterization) the leadership race process.


 
The best sentence to ever appear in a news story
That is what Kids Prefer Cheese says about this line: "He dropped his shorts and threw the dog at the Hell's Angels, escaping on a bulldozer from a nearby building site." Context (the story) is here.


 
Three hours in the life of a (glorified) 'data scientist'
If that title sounds like it would interest you, it probably will. A snippet from Kaiser Fung, author of Numbers Rule Your World (2010):
Teradata and I were not friends at the moment. What to do? Like a spurned lover, I sought out my other good friend, SQL SERVER. What if I converted the column of dates to dates first before the data got transferred into Teradata?


 
Shaidle to 'mentally ill castration fetishists'
Five Feet of Fury to transsexuals: "We don’t 'hate' you. We just think you’re weird and annoying." And FFF to those trying to shut up Julie Burchill: "If we’re all entitled to create our own identity and 'reality,' why not let Julie and Co. have theirs?"


 
Zero chance of this happening
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been invited to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in March. Harper would be pilloried here in Canada if he addressed a group of foreign right-wingers as Liberals, the NDP, and Parliamentary Press Gallery would link the views of U.S. conservatives in attendance to Harper, rekindling talk of extremism on abortion, guns, immigration, and foreign wars. Such linkage would be unwarranted and unfair, but they would fuel attacks on him that he doesn't want or need.
(HT: National News Watch)


Wednesday, January 16, 2013
 
Julian Simon
As Mark Perry notes, Julian Simon is still right.


 
Schools: a common sense-free zone
A report out of Maryland:
Two more Maryland school kids got into trouble for pointing their fingers playing cops and robbers at school ...
The two six year olds had been playing and were suspended for a day.
(Via Hit & Run)


 
Scrabble updated
Via Tyler Cowen, letters should have different values because the English language has changed in 75 years. The comments are worth reading, too.


 
Pop-Up Economics
It's a new radio series by Tim Harford. First broadcast will be tonight.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013
 
Four and down
4. I said the Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos game would be the least interesting game of the Divisional Playoff Weekend, giving it an entertainment value of B and predicting the Broncs making it to the AFC Championship. I was wrong on both counts, with the game being one of the two or three most exciting of the year with numerous lead changes, a 70-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 31 seconds left in regulation time, and the victor finally decided in double overtime. Baltimore won 38-35. So the storyline now is that Joe Flacco is an elite QB and Peyton Manning can't win big playoff games (he's 9-11 in his post-season career). It is a little unfair that Manning gets the blame (and his reputation tarnished) because Rahim Moore blew his coverage of Jacoby Jones to allow that 70-yard game-tying touchdown pass. Despite the blown coverage, the bigger issue for Denver's D was that 34-year-old Champ Bailey was routinely beaten by Ravens WR Torrey Smith (3 passes, 2 TDs, 98 yards). Bailey was often beaten by a yard or two, and as one person said on Twitter, Champ Bailey looked more like Pearl Bailey. Great game. Now the Ravens face the New England Patriots for the third time in 12 months.
3. I hated two coaching decisions (actually three, but one was done twice) from the weekend. The decision to let time expire at the end of the first half and regulation by Denver coach John Fox; the Broncs have Peyton Manning and timeouts and they take a knee. That kind of conservatism is cowardly and Denver deserved to lose in overtime if they were willing to settle for it. I also hate icing the kicker. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll iced Matt Bryant who missed his first field goal attempt near the end of regulation. The Atlanta Falcons were down 28-27, so it was justice that Bryant scored the game-winning field goal on his second chance. I loved Carroll's attempt to sell the idea he never called T, when obviously he did. Such dishonesty seems to suit him well. While I love what Carroll did with the 'Hawks this year (they steadily improved and his playbook selection evolved as rookie QB Russell Wilson matured week by week), he seems like the kind of person you would want to punch if you met him on the street. I think icing shows poor sportsmanship, so I'm glad his unsportsmanship was not rewarded, and indeed backfired.
2. Most of the analysis of the San Francisco 49ers defeating the Green Bay Packers goes along the lines of Pack defensive coordinator Dom Capers being incapable of stopping Colin Kaepernick's running game (181 rushing yards, 400 total yards). I am convinced that the biggest reason the 49ers beat the Packers is a brilliant coaching decision Niners coach Jim Harbaugh made -- in weeks 16 and 17 of the regular season. Harbaugh abandoned the spread offense for the final two games of the season and no doubt the Packers coaching staff would have relied on those pair of games for most of their game tape analysis. Then in their playoff contest, Harbaugh used the spread offense and the Pack was unprepared. The Pack adapted by using various players to spy Kaepernick and tried blitzing from the side to keep him from moving around too much, but whatever they did either gave him room to run or open targets.
1. Grantland's Bill Barnwell's is the best column about the weekend's worth of football and I highly recommend it. The polar opposite is the crap Don Banks is selling at SI.com, some of which is refuted by Barnwell. There is a lot of nonsense in the Banks column, but the notion that this was "a weekend full of revelations" like a single game, or often a single play, can tell us anything more meaningful than five seasons worth of Matt Ryan performances or the career of Peyton Manning is utter nonsense. You really must read the Barnwell piece, but his argument against those who think Matt Ryan is finally revealed to be someone notably different than he was six days ago is brilliant: Here's exactly where the argument of Ryan-as-playoff-choker falls apart. If you really believe that the only way Ryan can overcome his issues and become a legitimate franchise quarterback is by winning a playoff game, you're basing your entire viewpoint upon whether Matt Bryant hits a long field goal. Football is a team sport and we tend to give too much credit or place too much blame on quarterbacks for the outcome of team, thus heaping praise or scorn on the man under center for the performance of a kicker (Bryant) or a player in the secondary (Denver's Rahim Moore and his blown coverage).


 
Union violence
Alex Tabarrok: "Union violence against non-unionized workers and their employers is an under-reported story." Tabarrok highlights this Philadelphia story that is worth reading in its entirety.


 
Lliberalism is racist
Thomas Sowell covers ground he's written about extensively before, but it's worth repeating as he briefly describes liberal policies (welfare, housing, affirmative action) harm poor blacks.


 
Crime as a demographic problem not gun issue
Ann Coulter: " If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium." (HT: Five Feet of Fury)


 
Hilarity from beauty contestants
Via Jill Stanek:


 
Does anyone really need heavy fire power?
Yes. Andrew Klavan expalins:
As the founders knew, however, the power we grant the state to defend us can easily be turned against us. “The means of defence against foreign danger,” Madison wrote, “have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” Going back even farther, this was why the supporters of republican government stuck the long knives into Julius Caesar. In “crossing the Rubicon,” he violated the law by bringing the Roman army into Italy. This effectively turned the means of protecting the republic into the tool for establishing imperial rule.
In the Second Amendment, the founding fathers sought to protect us against any Rubicon-crossing by granting Americans the right to bear their own arms and form home militias. We own guns, in other words, to defend ourselves from the possibility of government tyranny. It is part of our foundational contract with the American state. This is why, whenever some anti-gun idiot on television cries out, “Why would a hunter need an automatic rifle?” the correct answer is… well, unprintable. The hunter has a 30-06 in his gun cabinet for hunting. The M-16 he hides in the cellar is for the next American Revolution.
As with the death penalty, the argument of the progressives is that times and people have changed. Our democratic institutions and traditions are now engraved upon our hearts, they say, and no longer require the elaborate constitutional safeguards the founders provided for us. Civilized by the years, our leaders no longer pose the threat of tyranny, and guns only serve to give the anarchic power of death to individual lunatics and rednecks when it should be reserved to the state.
The conservative argument is, to put it succinctly: “Not so much.” Once again, we aggravating creatures of the right can’t help pointing out that human nature has changed neither a jot nor a tittle since we hightailed it out of Eden. Those who in ancient days sought to rule us in the name of our own good are still among us, and the only thing that keeps them on their side of the Rubicon is, in the words of that great patriot Neo from The Matrix: “Guns. Lots of guns.”
It sounds radical, but doesn't disarming a population so it cannot defend itself sound downright scary?


 
Pornoscanners and child porn
Airport pornoscanners might violate British anti-pornography laws and at least one airport will not force children to be violated virtually photographed nude to avoid running afoul of the law. But everyone else will still have to be violated by strangers security.


Monday, January 14, 2013
 
What I'm reading
1. The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined by Salman Khan. I read an interview with the author Thursday evening and bought the ebook later that night; they both blew me away. On Friday I ordered a hard cover edition. It arrived today. I will have more to say about this book when I have time for a longer post. There are plenty of problems with the book and I'm not a fan of Khan's style, but I agree with him that we need a wholesale rethink of education (which will never happen) but Losing Ground seemed radical when it came out in 1984.
2. Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere by Will Richardson. I don't buy many ebooks, with over half my collection coming in the past week (see also #3). Richardson's book takes a significantly different approach to broad changes to delivering education than Khan's.
3. Why Romney Lost (And What the GOP Can Do About It) by David Frum. It's an ebook and it was released two days after the November election and it is what you'd think it would be.
4. Poker and Philosophy: Pocket Rockets and Philosopher Kings edited by Eric Bronson. The "Fill-in-the-blank and Philosophy" series has been disappointing lately so I've gone back to 20th volume in the series (published in 2006). Lately I've enjoyed reading about poker a lot (this is the third such book since Christmas), and while there are certainly chapters that are sub-standard, some are quite good and even potentially helpful for life and (if I ever took up the game) poker.
5. The Commentary symposium in the current issue: "What is the Future of Conservativism in the Wake of the 2012 Election?" Almost everyone you'd want weighing in on this is here.
6. "A Rational Response to the Privacy 'Crisis'," a Cato Institute Policy Analysis by Larry Downes. Privacy is an issue that is not sufficient credence by policy analysts and politicians.


 
Three and out
3. William Doino Jr. in First Things: "The Christian Witness of Roberto Clemente." Doino says, "in all the discussions about Clemente that have marked the anniversary of his death, there has been one thing largely missing from these otherwise moving tributes—the centrality of his faith to his life and work." This article corrects the oversight/slight, although I would have liked more details.
2. This is a few weeks old, but SI.com's Joe Sheehan has 10 predictions for MLB in 2013, including a good year for the San Diego Padres, continued disappointment in Kansas City, and a disastrous All Star Game ... for the New York Mets. Also a major AL East prediction that I'd bet against.
1. Rob Neyer of SB Nation examines the impact of THE INTERNET on Hall of Fame voting and while it (analysts stating facts on the median) likely has influenced HOF voters, the influence is not as great as some traditional media journos think it is. Neyer's proof: the fact Jim Rice is in Cooperstown and Jack Morris is edging toward it, while Craig Biggio came up short and that Tim Raines has not yet been inducted. I'd also note that Ken Rosenthal's suggestion that those who argue vigorously (using facts) for or against certain HOF candidates are a sort of Tea Party element in the baseball commentariat; I find Jon Heyman, Tom Verducci, and Ken Rosenthal eminently ignorable and there recent commentary on the sabermetric community's crusade against Morris cements that point.


 
Best. Story. Ever.
Wasn't it Harold Bloom who said that we live in an age in which satire isn't possible? Via Five Feet of Fury we find this story about a teacher suing her school board for violating her civil rights because she has a disability: pedophobia. Other sources seem to confirm the story.


 
It's hard to write good satire
Despite the silly fictitious names, John White does a good on how the media is "working overtime getting ready to ignore the March for Life" in Washington next week.


 
Charter cities
Tyler Cowen's point-form thoughts on charter and free cities. One important one is this: "To what extent do charter cities require the active support or at least implicit support of a major hegemon?" Consider Hong Kong vs. Goa.


 
No charges for David Gregory
Legal Insurrection provides the statement from the Washington D.C. Attorney General:
Having carefully reviewed all of the facts and circumstances of this matter, as it does in every case involving firearms-related offenses or any other potential violation of D.C. law within our criminal jurisdiction, OAG has determined to exercise its prosecutorial discretion to decline to bring criminal charges against Mr. Gregory, who has no criminal record, or any other NBC employee based on the events associated with the December 23,2012 broadcast. OAG has made this determination, despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust. Influencing our judgment in this case, among other things, is our recognition that the intent of the temporary possession and short display of the magazine was to promote the First Amendment purpose of informing an ongoing public debate about firearms policy in the United States, especially while this subject was foremost in the minds of the public following the previously mentioned events in Connecticut and the President’s speech to the nation about them.
The emphasis is mine, and let me interpret the last sentence of the paragraph for you: because David Gregory is promoting Barack Obama's agenda, everything's fine.
(HT: Daily Caller)


Sunday, January 13, 2013
 
Robson on Idle No More
John Robson on the Idle No More threat to bite the hand that feeds it "bring the Canadian economy to its knees":
It's tempting to ask where such people think residents of, say, Attawapiskat will get food, clothing or fuel if they "bring the Canadian economy to its knees."
But we're liable to get back the fantasy of living like the ancestors: Nepinak's own online biography characteristically includes that as a child "Derek observed his great grandparents living the ways of his people; hunting, fishing, gardening, smoking fish, tanning moose hides and other traditional activities."
As if you could feed and clothe some 300,000 aboriginals now living on reserves with flint arrows and hand-plaited nets.


 
David Chen gets Diamond Jubilee Medal
Nice.


 
Nate Silver does Reddit
Here. I found this interesting and insightful about Silver's punditry:
At some point in the last few weeks of the election, I guess I decided to lean into the upside outcome a little bit in terms of pushing back at the pundits in my public appearances -- as opposed to emphasizing the uncertainty in the model, as I had for most of the year. (Nothing about the model design itself changed -- just how I tended to talk about it.)
Stupid poker analogy: part of playing well is in maximizing the amount of value you get from a hand in the event that things go well, in addition to mitigating your losses if they don't.
This Silver observation is true:
The distinction that got lost a bit was between closeness and uncertainty. If a baseball game is 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th inning and you've got Papelbon on the mound or whatever, it has definitely been a "close" game but not one in which the outcome is in all that much doubt.


 
Kenney for Indian Affairs? Not bold enough (and why do that to Jason?)
Ezra Levant suggests moving Jason Kenney from Immigration (which he has mostly cleaned up) to Indian Affairs (which needs someone who can take on the stakeholders). I have a different idea: because one need not be an MP to be selected to cabinet (although tradition has dictated cabinet ministers sit in the House or Senate), I'd name Ezra Levant Minister of Indian Affairs.