Helping Cities

A recent National Review cover story (Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow on NRO), by Joel Kotkin discusses the continued failure of progressive policies in big cities and states controlled by progressives. Of course you should read the whole thing. We agree with Joel that progressive failure should provide opportunities for conservatives, the GOP, and the right to help themselves and their new constituents. Joel sets the stage by telling us about progressive or “blue” policies:

Many core constituencies associated with blue politics may become aware that their interests, prominent on the progressive menu, will never in reality be served. Ultimately, results, not memes, matter most. Progressives have demonstrated monumental incompetence in addressing everything from social equity to education, culture, and energy policy. Even in postmodern America, failure cannot forever be sold as success.

You are going to read the whole thing so we will tell you briefly that Joel gives data about various minorities and about the various political groups. According to Joel’s sources we can break the electorate into three pieces:

As Teixeira argues, the woke agenda lacks a large electoral constituency. Conservative traditionalists are also a minority, representing barely 25 percent of Americans, according to the recent Hidden Tribes survey; woke progressives constitute only one-third that percentage, or just over 8 percent. The survey describes roughly two-thirds of Americans as “the exhausted majority.” 

He recognizes that conservatives/the GOP/the right will have a hard time getting support from the exhausted majority. We agree with Joel on the challenge but we want to disagree with his odd bogeyman. Joel says that the GOP faces challenges and give us examples:

Some conservative market fundamentalists, like progressives, favor the eradication of single-family neighborhoods. Others recoil from trade policies that violate free-trade principles, even when hewing to those principles threatens the livelihoods of both middle-income households and, even more, the downwardly mobile working class. 

We rarely run across part of a paragraph with as much to disagree with. To start with we really don’t like “conservative market fundamentalists” as a term to describe folks like us. Free marketers or capitalists will do but we like capitalistic orphans because we are capitalists but the conservative movement gives us lip service when we are particularly lucky. What is even stranger is that he has picked on a tiny portion of the conservative movement that is completely out of power. If we are going to stick to whole numbers then capitalistic orphans are either one or zero percent of the conservative movement.

Then he tells us, without a reference, that capitalistic orphans support the eradication of single-family neighborhoods. If the capitalistic orphans came out against single-family neighborhoods then we missed that meeting. We are market driven so Joel must think that the markets will eliminate such neighborhoods. We don’t know why.

Tariffs seem an odd topic for state and city governments because they are set by the federal government. Yes, us capitalistic orphans do recoil from trade policies that violate free-trade principles. Zero is the best tariff. We completely disagree with Joel suggestion that higher taxes like tariffs are good for middle-income or (and this is a really strange term) the downwardly mobile working classes. Tariffs fall mostly on those folks because they are a regressive tax. They benefit only a few. What Joel hopes, like most everyone else, is that the strategy of taking a little from lots of folks and giving a big benefit to a few will make the few happy and the many won’t notice it. We wish it were less successful.

We understand as almost every political platform has foolish economics in it. The Donald is going to win trade wars. The Frontrunner is going raise the minimum wage and tax the rich.

Sidebar: We should remind you to vote for The Donald as he, unlike The Frontrunner, has some economic policies that are not foolish. End Sidebar.

So we would pick something else other than tariffs for the GOP to sell to the electorate in big cities and other progressive enclaves. As a capitalistic orphan we would sell markets. Markets for schools would be an excellent place to start.

Joel is right that progressive policies have failed and the GOP should fight for the future of big cities. Progressives have fooled that electorate for decades. Conservatives and the GOP need to work at appealing to those folks. These cities need and deserve a competition of ideas.

Time For Serious Discussions

Usually when you see a headline like the one above it means somebody wants to lecture you on their views on Climate change or racism. That is not what this is about. Rather, the presidential debates have been uninformative in the primaries and again in the general election. John Tierney has some interesting ideas over at City Journal. You should read it all. We need to do better next time around. We have some memories. We were nine at the time.

Sidebar: Wait a second, isn’t MWG the blog that tells us that memory is subject to error and the older the memories are the larger the potential for error? Yes that is true. We think we have accurate recollection but we know from our study that there is a substantial risk of error. End Sidebar.

Sixty years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…. No that’s not it. About sixty years ago we had the Kennedy-Nixon debates. There were four of them and they were the first televised debates. Much has been made that Kennedy won because he had a better stage presence and no five-clock shadow. Our memory is that they talked about serious stuff. Our particular memory is the discussion of military reactions to Communist actions. Wikipedia tells us it comes from the third debate:

The main topic of this debate was whether military force should be used to prevent Quemoy and Matsu, two island archipelagos off the Chinese coast, from falling under Communist control

We have always been a terrible speller but we knew there were two of them and one started with a “Q.” See Sidebar above. Our point is that if Kennedy-Nixon could have serious discussions then we could have ones like Kevin D. Williamson has about The Frontrunner’s tax plans:

The Frontrunner’s tax plan is based on a deathless myth: that taxes are actually paid in economic terms by those upon whom they legally fall. The obviousness of this nonsense is clear enough if you put the proposition into plain English: “Don’t you worry, now, we’re not going to raise taxes on you, Bubba — we’re just going to raise taxes on your employer, your customers, your vendors and business partners, the people who make and sell the things you buy and use, your bank, your Internet provider, the companies that build houses and commercial buildings, your landlord, gasoline distributors, all the companies your retirement account is invested in — oh, you won’t be affected at all!”

We think it would require improved candidates on both sides. Don’t worry, Kevin is equally unkind to some of The Donald’s ideas. We have a host of serious issues like tax incidence, entitlements, Climate Change, wildfires, and so on that we need to have serious discussions about. Press bias, poor debate structure, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other reasons means we are wasting our time. We wish we had a solution.

Support The Donald

We are bored about the election but we have at least one more time to support The Donald. We were reading Ramesh Ponnuru’s article at NRO and NRODT about never Trump. We find it unconvincing. You should read the whole thing too. We think that it is so unconvincing that it will lead you to the right decision. That is, if you are somewhere on the conservative spectrum we think you should support The Donald in the current election. Ramesh gives us a list of The Donald’s accomplishments as president and concludes his first paragraph with:

On many issues, Trump has far exceeded the expectations I had when he won the 2016 election.

We agree and we voted for him in 2016. We voted for him then because his few positive attributes made him a better choice than the alternative then. Ramesh still won’t vote for him because:

I’m not voting for him, rather, because his character flaws keep him from meeting the threshold conditions to be entrusted with the presidency. All presidents have lapses in judgment, honesty, and self-control; many of them have even been wanting, at least sometimes, in decency and public-spiritedness. Trump is alarmingly deficient in all of these qualities at once, and their lack has marked every day of his presidency.

Three points: One, as Ramesh pointed out, The Donald has accomplished lots of stuff that makes conservatives happy. Two, we want explain the binary choice. Three, we agree with Ramesh that you must consider the alternative candidate.

Since we agree we Ramesh that The Donald has often taken conservative actions as president there is no need for additional comment other than we too wish he was more consistently conservative.

America has a binary choice. Either The Donald or The Frontrunner will be elected as president shortly. You, as an individual voter have a myriad of choices. You can not vote, write in anyone you want, vote for one of the main candidates, or vote for a smaller party. If you are a conservative and you don’t vote for The Donald then you are supporting The Frontrunner because one of them will be elected president. What does Ramesh have to say about the alternative?

Would [The Frontrunner] do better? He was always a fabulist, sometimes a demagogue, never a man of principle; and now he is also fading. He leads an increasingly left-wing party. 

That would be enough to convince us to vote for The Donald. We would also mention that he was part of the 44th president’s scandal plagued administration. Then there is The Post story.. We find supporting The Frontrunner on character issues utterly unconvincing. We think The Donald is worth every conservative’s vote in 2020.

Rebecka Martinsson II

When we first reviewed the Swedish TV show Rebecka Martinsson from Acorn earlier in the month we said it could be an outstanding show. We have now been through both seasons and Rebecka has reached her potential despite Ida Engvoll having the lead in the first season and Sascha Zacharias in the second. Perhaps it will change every season.

Sascha is a prettier and sexier version of Rebecka but she keeps the same impetuousness and nasty edge while solving murders. A good example is her (both Ida and Sascha) relationship with her now ex-flame Mans. First she was sleeping her way to a partnership in Stockholm. Then stuff happened and Mans followed her all over Sweden caring about her and for her. They bought their dream house in Stockholm together. Rebecka dumped him to stay in northern Sweden while Mans is alone in the dream home. Rebecka has money problems and asks Mans to sell the house to help her out and gives him power of attorney. He, not unreasonably given her vile treatment of him, sticks her with a big loss by selling it cheaply to a friend of his.

Rebecka is thinking of returning to Stockholm. At a meeting there she finds a man to go to bed with. While astride him she decides she needs to crash the housewarming party at her old house. In an amazing show of agility, she dismounts the man, gets out of bed, puts on her pants, and heads out the door. On reaching the house she is alerted to some drug use, swills some champagne, and then insults Mans and the new owner. Showing off her new maturity, Rebecka does not hit anyone with the large champagne bottle she is holding. As a housewarming gift, she does call the police to investigate the drug use at the party.

Rebecka is not the only interesting character in the show. Despite the need for subtitles they have interesting dialog and relationships. The mysteries are solid too despite getting away from the original books. You need to understand it is very Scandic-noir. People die nasty deaths. Characters from the cast die too. There are surprises. The biggest one for us was the show going pro-life. We thought that the person who had pro-life lines would surely be the murderer. We can usually pick out the murderer on American TV by looking for the person with some conservative views. Rebecka is an interesting character surrounded by other interesting humans solving interesting mysteries. There is much sadness and not much funny but those rare times when they go funny it is really funny. Watch for the fight between Rebecka and Anna Marie and the aftermath. Enjoy the show.

Facebook And The Donald

From our Facebook feed:

Here we go voting in a Supreme Court Justice a month away from election. Mitch disagreed with it years ago but now claims it’s different! It’s so typical Republican conservative hypocrisy and of course they want MORE conservatives! It’s disgusting because the PEOPLE can’t speak! History is being made! what a total sham!

Look, we know it is only Facebook but people are agreeing with it and nobody is disagreeing with it. This Supreme Court nomination is different from four years ago. It cannot be hypocrisy because it is different. Before: Democrat president and GOP Senate. Now: GOP president and GOP Senate. That is why it is different in case you forgot.

Fact Check Failure

Paul Caron at TaxProf blog has a fact check on the Vice Presidential debate. Notice the name of the blog. OK. Here is the set up:

Harris said that Donald Trump’s tax law benefited “the top 1% and the biggest corporations,” while Pence said that the average American family of four saved $2,000 in taxes because of the new law. [Emphasis added]

And here is the fact check quote:

According to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, a typical family of four earning $73,000 received a $2,000 tax break in 2018.

One-nil for the GOP.

According to Eleanor Wilking, an assistant law professor at Cornell University, because the tax law reduced personal income rates for every tax bracket except for the 10% bracket, it did not exclusively benefit those in the top 1%. She pointed out that it did disproportionately benefit high-income taxpayers

Wilking noted that multiple studies showed the bottom 20% of the income distribution experiencing a 0.3-0.5% increase in after-tax income, while the top 20% of the income distribution had their taxes reduced by between 2.8% and 3.1%.

Hardly a Democrat goal but triple A (KAmAlA) isn’t completely wrong.

Summary: The VP debate is a narrow victory for the GOP on taxes. What is important, however, is what is missing. Given his occupation Paul should be aware of two elements of who pays federal income taxes. First, the high income earners pay most of them and low income earners pay very little. The bottom 50% (2017 data) pays three percent of federal income taxes. Second, corporations are just a conduit for taxes that humans pay. The actual incidence of the corporate tax is disputed. Paul should have gotten into both issues.

We think an important additional issue is the impact on employment of reducing corporate income taxes (our preferred rate is zero). When rates are lower organizations (and individuals) spend less time on tax avoidance activities like corporate inversions. This could have a negative employment impact on some pricey lawyers and accountants but has got to be good for the employment prospects for almost everyone else. We think a reasonable hypothesis is that The Donald’s corporate tax reduction had a positive influence on the terrific economic results for households in 2019.

It is disheartening that we can’t have a serious discussion of the impact of corporate taxes in the political debates. It is even more disappointing that Paul didn’t do it. He really didn’t do much to evaluate the dispute.

The One From The Other

Philip Kerr managed to stay on hiatus from Bernie Gunther for 15 years. He finished the Berlin Noir trilogy in 1991 and they were published together in one volume in in 1993. You should probably read them in order but it isn’t absolutely necessary. When Philip returned to Bernie in The One From The Other he was ready for his reluctant hero.

We start with Bernie joining Adolph Eichmann to go to Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East to meet Zionists and anti-Zionists. After WWII Bernie reunited with his wife and they are running a small unsuccessful hotel. Bernie’s wife died, he sells the hotel, and he goes back to being a private investigator but this time in Munich as he wishes to avoid the Ivans (Soviets). A wise choice as Philip reminds us of the failure of socialism of both the Nazis and the Soviets. The challenges of America are not left out. We already started the next book where Bernie goes to the Argentine and Philip tells how rich the country is. Of course Juan Peron is the president and we know what happens under socialism.

Philip writes great, rich books. There is the history of Europe and a bit of Palestine before, during, and after WWII. There is the moral question of distinguishing between the war criminal and the warrior. Bernie is front and center in those questions. Philip has a nuanced discussion of trying to draw the line but it comes to a practical point when a Jewish squad charged with killing Nazis comes after Bernie.

Then there are the people and the places. You will feel like you are riding a tram in Munich. There are great villains. Some, like Eichmann, seem evil by nature. Others just ended up there some how. The Jewish squad killing Nazis might seem justified but they get too enthusiastic about their work. Will Bernie fall into that trap to escape the Jews and if and when he catches up with the book’s primary villains? The One From The Other has a great online but it is a better book.

We are delighted that Philip brought Bernie back and even more excited that there are ten more adventures. We start in Buenos Aries soon.

The Lost Man By Jane Harper

We read stuff like The Lost Man by Jane Harper to help us really enjoy other books. It is Jane’s third book and much like the first two. It is set in the outback of Australia with unpleasant and often boring people that can really hold a grudge. The cast includes the three brothers: Nathan (divorced from Jacqui), Cameron, and Bub (his given name is Lee; never married), the mom (Liz) along with Cameron’s two young daughters, his wife Ilse (who was first involved with Nathan), Nathan’s c. 18 year-old son Xander, Harry, the long-term hired hand, and Simon and Katy two young temporary workers at Cam’s ranch.

One of the many odd things about the story is there are no nicknames other than Bub and Bub is always called Bub. In families folks usually have more than one name. Perhaps Jane does it to make it easy to follow but it makes conversation seem stilted.

The story starts in December with Cam’s death from exposure. It is summer in Australia and hot in the outback. Jane tells us it gets to 45 degrees those days. That is 113 degrees F. It is a proper mystery as Cam’s car is found in perfect working order filled with survival supplies a few miles away from his body. There is no sign of foul play.

Nathan and Xander are the main detectives searching to find out what happened. We find out that everybody remembers exactly what happened 10, 20, and 30 years ago. And they are still upset about it.

Of course, that is the big problem. Old memories are notoriously inaccurate. Especially old, drunk memories. Jane has brought our attention to great issue. It is what we would call the casting couch problem where sex and power are involved. Some women are enthusiastic participants. Rebecka Martinsson (The TV show. We haven’t read the book) would be an enthusiastic participant. On a later show than we reviewed she lets us and her target see her assets. If we were writing the show the one handed man would have said to the less than voluptuous Rebecka, “Come back when you grow up,” rather than ignoring her. We might add two more classifications: reluctant and coerced. When Katy says it was easier to have sex with XXX (no spoilers here) than not there is a real challenge in legally dealing with these kinds situations. We can’t make everything illegal.

Cam’s funeral is on Christmas Eve. We are screaming at the book for Nathan to smarten up as he gets in a fight with his brother Bub and has sex with the widow. Yup, he has sex with his brother’s widow just after the mourners leave. I think you will be disappointed rather than surprised. That seems to help him solve the mystery.

Jane knows what sells: tight plots and unpleasant people. There isn’t much else to give the book richness. For example, one of the subplots is Cam is sabotaging Ilse’s vehicle so she won’t wander off. When Nathan goes to check the vehicle he checks the usual trouble spots (which are??? How??). We never find out how or if Cam does these things. Perhaps he is a Jedi master. Jane makes you appreciate our next review Philip Kerr.

Minimum Wages Follies

We really don’t get it. By “it” we mean this Never Trump stuff. Steven Landsberg from the University of Rochester writing in the WSJ starts off his article with:

For nearly four years, I’ve looked forward to voting against Donald Trump. But Joe Biden keeps testing my resolve.

It isn’t only that I think Mr. Biden is frequently wrong. It’s that he tends to be wrong in ways that suggest he never cared about being right. He makes no attempt to defend many of his policies with logic or evidence, and he deals with objections by ignoring or misrepresenting them. You can say the same about President Trump, but I’d hoped for better.

Then he spends the rest of the article explaining some of the reasons why The Frontrunner is wrong or cynical in supporting doubling the minimum wage. Steve leaves out supporting unions.

Sidebar: Steven doesn’t seem to have his facts right when he says the minimum wage is a stealth tax on McDonalds and Walmart. Perhaps the former (but not much of a tax compared to other places) but not at all for the latter. According to this, Walmart is paying more than the proposed minimum wage. The proposed minimum wage will do them most damage to small business and not-for-profit organizations like universities. End Sidebar.

So, we have The Donald who gives us some policies we like and some we don’t as well as lots of tweets that bother us. We have an alternative, The Frontrunner, that gives us policies we don’t like and the best we can say about him is that we hoped he would be better. He is not.

We really don’t get it. Steve seems agree that The Donald is a better choice but he is reluctant to vote for him. Does he think The Donald will do something worse than The Green New Deal?

Rebecka Martinsson

We have started to watch the Swedish import, Rebecka Martinsson on Acorn. You need to put up with subtitles unless you can understand Swedish but it could be an outstanding show. It does live up to its noir category so don’t turn in looking for humor. It has some horrific scenes. Unfortunately, there is only one season and then a reboot with a new lead actress. We await the creation of season three. We are watching the first season with Ida Engvoll (we think) as Rebecka.

The show starts with Rebecka sleeping her way to a partnership in a Stockholm law firm. She is quickly painted as a sociopath. She gets a call that her friend or mentor (perhaps both, we are not sure) has died in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle. She returns home and we find that Rebecka is an orphan and there are suggestions that her mentor was murdered. The investigation reveals that her friend is another sociopath with a complete disregard for rules and laws. She has a husband and a lesbian lover. She is blackmailing various people for, as she sees it, the good of the community. We can see the show is going to be about Rebecka returning home and perhaps growing as an individual.

It has at least three things going for it. First, there are many interesting characters and the female leads are not much to look at. Rebecka (Ida) is about the most shapeless young actress we have ever seen. Her connection (Rebecka doesn’t have friends yet) to the force, Anna, is first pregnant and then less than glamorous. Anna likes to drive fast and scare her police partner. There aren’t the usual bad businessmen.

Sidebar: Yes we know shape, especially a woman’s shape, is about presentation. We were watching Enola Holmes with a demonstration of whalebone corsets. Enola is more fun but Rebecka is a much tighter script and much more interesting. We have checked the available pictures and think Ida is well cast for shape. We wonder is Sascha, the second actress will be presented differently. End Sidebar.

Second, the conversations in the police station are well done with believable and interesting characters. The cops seem like real people. The get angry when Rebecka steals stuff and have fun and get scared.

Third, Rebecka is such an interesting character. She absolutely has no limits. She seduces, lies, steals, and drinks. And that is just in the first episode. Will she grow up even a little bit?

A skinny woman, a chubby woman, an older man, an old man and the rest in northern Sweden. Rebecka Martinsson is an interesting show about interesting people in an interesting place. It is worth putting up with the subtitles.