The Teapot Tempest Continues

Just in case you are not reading Kevin D. Williamson’s newsletter,The Tuesday,you should go do it right now.  You can skip the language part if you like.  Today he is covering the teapot tempest of a few conservative pundits debating the wisdom of how much of GOP should be destroyed because of The Donald.  There is also The Lincoln Project that appears to be a group of political consultants trying to create a winning record to get future gigs.

Kevin cuts right though the discussion with his usual balance of overstatement, insight, and acerbity.  Here are a great couple of sentences:

Everybody loves a good purge, but real progress means recruiting new allies and forming new alliances. And that is what the Trump movement in fact did, aligning the soft xenophobic tendency (anti-trade, anti-immigration) with the entitlement mentality (“Don’t touch my Social Security!”) and a whole Chalmun’s Cantina of social anxieties, while promising a salubrious purge (“Drain the swamp!”) of effete elitists who secretly run the world while being simultaneously entirely irrelevant.

There are three things to talk about in the quote.  First, does he really think that EVERYBODY loves a good purge?  And yet it is true that folks spend an inordinate amount of time trying to exclude other folks.  On the right, conservative is the premier designation.  Is The Donald a conservative?  No, of course not but some disagree.   Are his detractors on the right conservatives?  Sometimes.  On the left there is a whole host of preferred classifications based on race, sexual preferences, and so on that leads to the cancel culture of their purges.

Second, unlike everyone else in the kill the GOP discussion, he gives The Donald credit for creating a winning coalition.  At the same time he recognizes that excluding parts of that coalition is unlikely to be a winning strategy.

Sidebar: Kevin expects the reader to work.  Other than the articles he doesn’t use many links.  An example in the quote above is when he uses Chalmun’s Cantina rather than the more common Mos Eisley Cantina without any link.  End Sidebar.

We can infer the third part from the second.  What are these pundits going to do to build a coalition if they are busy with the purges?  Elections in the USA are much different from those in the USSR.  The Stalin approach won’t work here.

The question is: do you want The Donald or The Frontrunner as president?  We can accept either answer.  All the pundits that Kevin links to have really run out of interesting things to say.  Kevin, of course, is the exception.

We Wish

David Azerrad from Hillsdale College has an interesting article in the What Is American Conservatism series at The American Conservative.   David’s title says American Conservatism Is Fiddling While Rome Burns.  It is a very strange title.  Is there a reason why David cares about Rome? We got the link from Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine, and like Paul, we find it interesting but lots to disagree with.

Our biggest disagreement comes in David’s second paragraph where he is describing the current state of conservatism:

Conservatism is the seven cheers for capitalism and the deafening silence on demographic change, feminism, and corporate malfeasance. It’s the same tired cast of speakers blathering about limited government almost a century after the New Deal. It’s the platitudinous Reagan quotes and the worn-out Buckley anecdotes. It’s the mindless optimism and the childish exhortations—if something can’t go on forever, it won’t!  [Emphasis added]

We wish there were seven cheers for capitalism.  As the forgotten and ignored capitalistic orphans we would settle for a single cheer.  As we have said before, we want the whole loaf of capitalism but we would take a half a loaf.  We have settled for The Donald because we get a single slice: The heel.  Our most important priority capitalism and the related free markets,  free trade, and rule of law are not a priority for any politicians and few pundits.

Then there is the non-deafening silence.  As a Mark Steyn fan, we get as much demographic change as we can bear.  We are not at all sure how David came to his opinions in the first sentence above.

What we think that David and other folks need to recognize is that each person on the right has a list.  These lists have lots of overlap.  The problem is that our priorities are very different.  We support The Donald in this year’s election because we are hoping for a slice and are almost sure to get a few crumbs from him.  Looking at the candidates in 2024 like Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio we are not sure we will be willing to do that.  We think they need us for a majority.  David and others seems to disagree on that point.  We shall see.

You Only Get One First Bid

We were doing battle with the robots at Bridge Base Online (BBO) recently.

Sidebar: It was yesterday.  We can’t release the hands until the day is over because other people could be playing the same hands.  End Sidebar.

In this post-peak COVID-19 world BBO is still the place to play.  Partner ‘Bot opens one spade and we see this flash on the screen in front of us:

S: KQJx,  H: Axxxx, D: xxx, C: A

So we have 14 points, four card trump support and a singleton.  Because this is the ‘Bot game and you know partner ‘Bot cannot have more points than you, so a robot only bid of four spades might be considered.  However, the ace of spades, KQJ of hearts, and ace of diamonds is 14 points too and produces a sure slam.

So if you are going to bid it correctly then you have three possible responses.  Two hearts shows five hearts and a game force (everybody is playing 2/1these days).  Two no trump is Jacoby no trump for most folks and shows four-card (usually) trump support  and a game going hand.  Four clubs is a splinter and shows a singleton or void in clubs, four trump, and at least a game going hand.

You can only make one first bid.  Which one should you make?  We started by ruling out a splinter.  Points in the singleton shouldn’t count.  If the hand held diamonds Axx and clubs x, then we would splinter to four clubs.  Why?  Because you want strength in a potentially long suit.

Jacoby two no should be ruled out because it is for a balanced hand.  It allows opener to show shortness.  The downside is the slight possibility that opener has a single diamond which partner ‘Bot would show after two no.  We would head for slam city.

The best choice is two hearts.  If partner ‘Bot supports hearts then the next bid is Blackwood.  If partner shows two key cards and the queen of hearts then everyone is checking kings for a chance to empty the bidding box at seven no trump.

We bid two hearts and partner ‘bot did not support.  He bid two spades showing six (almost surely) spades.  We bid four spades and made five.  However, if the splinter was on (our hand would be diamonds: Axx, clubs: x) then we make six based on the cards and the lead.

Partner ‘Bot held spades:A10xxxx, hearts: Jx,diamonds KJ, clubs: Kxx.  A diamond was led making the K a winner.  In the alternative universe both would be winners and we could dump a heart on the diamond ace.  Trumps split nicely in the alternative world we make six.  In the actual world we lose a diamond and a heart.

The alternative world splinter and six spades is risky.  You need a diamond finesse to work or a diamond lead and either the clubs ace onside or trumps to split two-two.  Lots of duplicate players are willing to take that risk.

Courage

We remember that it was the now disgraced Dan Rather’s sign off when he was reading the news for one of the networks.  David French has a history of courage in his litigation and as a warrior.  In his recent Dispatch article he is back on the issue of burning down the GOP and we think it relates to courage.  He supported Marsha Blackburn for the Senate but does not now because she attacked a a Purple Heart recipient named Vindman who attacked The Donald:

And that’s but a small part of what Politico called her “multimonth, multimedia crusade against Vindman.” It was inexcusable. It betrayed a corruption of character that makes her unworthy of future support.

We often don’t agree with it but we love David’s thunderous disapproval of folks.  David didn’t use the word but it is clear to us that he finds Vindman courageous and Marsha not.  We find these excommunications for a single action or a series of related actions worrisome.

Sidebar: On the other hand, there are surely some actions that would merit such a response.  The problem is that conditions matter.  See or read Murder On The Orient Express as a book, TV show, or movie to consider when murder might be acceptable to even those who live by the rule of law.  End Sidebar.

For example, David is an NBA fan and ends some (many, most all?  We are not going to spend the time to check.) of his recent articles with an NBA story or clip.  How can the NBA with its China connections earn his support but not Marsha?

Jim Geraghty in the Morning Jolt (it is a newsletter so we don’t have a link) is discussing the threat from Communist China.  He observes that some the of difficulties in confronting China are financial:

And yet, quite a few wealthy Americans — some of whom make an affluent living dribbling basketballs — wish to keep the American relationship with China intact, because this arrangement is financially good for them. [Emphasis added]

It is easy for us to disagree with David on the NBA because we gave up watching basketball decades ago so it doesn’t take courage for us to call out the NBA.  David is wrong to continue to shill for the NBA.  We don’t deny his courage, his good faith, or his conservatism when we say this.  We just think he is wrong to support the NBA without mentioning the China problem.  We know it is unlikely to happen but we think he should show the same attitude towards Marsha and The Donald.

Capital Idea Indeed!

Four cheers for The National Review and National Review Institute they have launched Capital Mattersto the joy of us capitalistic orphans.  For those of you that might have missed a MWG post, we refer to ourselves as capitalistic orphans because supporting capitalism is rarely a priority for politicians.  It is a first priority for us.  Capital Matters is:

a new initiative on business, finance, and economics from a National Review sensibility.

When headlines are going to Climate Change and the ironically named organization Black Lives Matter it is good to start serious discussions on serious stuff from the details of the deficit and entitlements to how to encourage capitalism.  We hope that Bjorn Lomborg has put the last nail in the Climate Change activist’s coffin with

How climate change alarmists are actually endangering the planet

But we really doubt it.  We are sure that when Bill Barr (via PowerLine) pointed out the obvious:

When a community turns on and pillories its own police, officers naturally become more risk averse and crime rates soar. Unfortunately, we are seeing that now in many of our major cities. This is a critical problem that exists apart from disagreements on other issues. The threat to black lives posed by crime on the streets is massively greater than any threat posed by police misconduct. The leading cause of death for young black males is homicide. Every year approximately 7,500 black Americans are victims of homicide, and the vast majority of them –around 90 percent – are killed by other blacks, mainly by gunfire. Each of those lives matter[s].

that it won’t yet make an iota of difference.  So there will still be plenty of silly and/or trivial issues and ideas floating around but you can go to Capital Matters for important issues and we will have more to write about.  Everybody wins.

Stardust Versus Wrack And Rune

In honor of the start of baseball season we are doing a double header book review.  In Stardust (there is also an unrelated movie and song of the same title), Joseph Kanon reaches his the apex of a career writing historical fiction in the WWII era with a comment from the great Alan Furst on the back cover.  Another cover comment about Charlotte MacLoed’s Peter Shandy series lead us to Wrack And Rune.  We try to read series in order but circumstances prevented it so we started with the third, Wrack.

We were attracted to the Peter Shandy series by another cover comment: “A thoroughly engaging amateur sleuth.”  Joseph’s lead characters vary between unpleasant and psychopathic so engaging sounded like a good change.  Stardust has a  typical Joseph protagonist with ADHD Rueben (Ben) Collier coming to Hollywood to finish an Army picture and visit his mortally injured brother, Danny.  Ben makes and unmakes up his mind at an astonishing clip.  Did Danny kill himself?  Was Danny bad?   Or Good? Should he sleep with Danny’s widow?  Is the last one that hard a question? As advertised, Peter is much more engaging.

What Joseph gets right is the history.  Charlotte’s history is about the possibility of the Vikings coming to America before Columbus.  Ben’s trip on the train is great.  Hollywood in the studio era is lovingly recreated.  The newspaper business is another great touch in Stardust.  Then there are the usual cast of Communists, fascists, Jews and other folks fleeing from war.  The surprise is that nobody carries a body around.  There are more of Joseph’s usual moral dilemmas.  One interesting one is the Communists, not quite (?) Communists, and the anti-communists in the legislature that are investigating them.

What Charlotte gets right is a page from P.G. Wodehouse.  She has oddball characters with strange names like a reporter with a first name of Cronkite.  Love is everywhere including a 102 year-old man with an older woman.  It is a fun read with interesting plot twists and characters you like and don’t.  With Charlotte, you know who is good and who is bad.  The killer is going to be from the group of baddies.  We need to read another from Charlotte in the post-peak COVID-19 era.

Nobody is really good with Joseph.  Among other things he wants to compare Bunny, the second in command at the studio, to Ben.  Ben is a man of conviction and action.  Bunny is a live and let live guy.  They both want to run the studio as the entrepreneur that started the studio is dying.  Ben is going to fight the anti-communists.  Bunny is not.  We thought, “Bunny don’t give in.  Ben is a fool who changes his mind more often than his shirt.”  We like Joseph’s moral dilemmas but they make for more of a challenge than Charlotte.

We recommend bothStardust and Wrack And Rune but they are very different reads.  We are going to read another by Charlotte before we go back to Joseph.

Voting Decision Models

James Lileks writes great angry.  Here is an example.  James used to have a section of his website, we think it was called screeds, for his collection of angry, nasty humor.  We loved them.  Kevin D. Williamson is also a master of the genre.  David French is not.  We are not either.  That’s why it has taken us time to respond to David’s “Dump [The Donald], But Don’t Burn Down The GOP” at The Dispatch.  David’s Dump doesn’t have the style of James or Kevin but who does?  The problem is that it doesn’t make much sense either.

Our disagreement is interesting because we suspect that if asked to pick who should be president now we would both have the same response: Mitt’s second term.  We are not saying David is not a conservative.  We just think he is wrong about voting models.

One issue we are ignoring is the conjunction of dumping The Donald AND burning down the GOP.  Near the beginning David says:

In other words, in the furious argument over the future of the Republican party and political conservatism, consider me squarely in the camp that seeks to dump [The Donald] but not to seek vengeance on the rest of the GOP.  [Emphasis added]

It must be a Twitter thing since we are not in that milieu.  We see that there are still some Never The Donald folks out there and there are some folks that want to burn the GOP because it doesn’t support The Donald enough but we didn’t know anyone was for both.  We weren’t aware of an argument of any kind never made a furious one.  We are not interested in that part of David’s Dump.  We are interested in the Dump The Donald part.  David quotes himself on how Christians should vote:

First, they must possess a personal character that is worthy of the office they seek. Second, they must broadly share my political values. If a candidate fails either prong of that test, he or she doesn’t receive my vote.

Then he goes on about The Donald’s incompetence.  He needs to reread The Weed Agency to remind himself of the difficulties of governing.  Yes, we know it is a work of fiction but it is instructive.  He goes on to say that competence is a character trait.  He is surely wrong about that.  Expertise relates to specific limited areas.  Everyone (do we need an almost before everyone?) has limited areas of competencies.

Sidebar One: The winner of a recent bridge tournament with thousands of entries including MWG is also (self reported) a crossword puzzle champ.  We are amazed by that combination of extraordinary skills.  End Sidebar One.

Our major complaint is that David’s voting model has people staying home on election day or only making a couple of votes.  How many people have you voted for enthusiastically in your life?  If your two main criteria are character and political values while competency fits in too do you want to help The Frontrunner win?  VDH isn’t always right (is he?) but you might consider this in your voting decision.

When we get down to the general election we think you need to compare the two candidates.  It is a binary choice: either The Donald or The Frontrunner will win in November.  Even if you live in Wisconsin only rarely do you get to vote for a Ron Johnson.  Pick the best candidate by your model and vote.  If your model has you staying home often reconsider it.

Sidebar Two: One rational model for staying home is that the value of your vote is not worth the cost of making it.  It is not an unreasonable conclusion.  The problem is that this model means that rational people vote less.  We don’t think that having rational people voting less is a good idea.  End Sidebar Two.

Don’t stay home or leave the presidential choice blank on David’s orders.

The Conservative Brand

Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch is on about The Donald as is his wont. The headline is:

Does The Word “Conservative” Mean Anything Anymore?

Below it is:

Positions Aren’t Conservative Just Because The Republican President Holds Them.

You should read the rest of this before you read all of Jonah’s so you can evaluate what we have to say.  The second one isn’t a questions but we would say yes to both.  Conservatism has great meaning because so many people what to be one.  We don’t, however, think The Donald is a conservative and so his positions don’t determine conservatism.  We voted for him once and we will vote for him again but he is not, as we see it, a conservative.  The Donald holds some conservative positions but, as we see it, conservatism is largely about process and that is why The Donald is not a conservative.  We would prefer a more conservative option but one is not on offer.

What Jonah needs to recognize is that, unlike liberal, progressive, or libertarian, conservative is a great political brand.  People (lots of them but obviously not everyone) want to support and vote for conservatives.  Thus, there is a great battle to be anointed as a “true” conservative.  The Donald and his supporters want him to have the advantage of the conservative brand.  We agree with Jonah that he should not have the conservative brand but the nature and details of conservatism, and every other political designation change over time.  Some folks might find our “heresy” of supporting a modest carbon tax sufficient to be excommunicated as a conservative. We think economic freedom, political freedom, and due process should be high on the list for somebody to be considered a conservative.  The Donald supports economic and political freedom some of the time but he is a results guy rather than a process guy.

Sidebar: Of course the details get tricky.  When is the carbon tax no longer modest? What should we do about Venezuela?  How can we support economic an political freedom there and elsewhere?  End Sidebar.

Exactly what conservatism means beyond the great brand is a political and philosophical debate.  We need to continue the debate.  We need to recognize that few political candidates will be full conservatives.  If you are going to wait for a true conservative to support you won’t vote very often.

 

Rays Of Sunshine

In our cultural wars there are an enormous amount of battle lines that have been drawn.  According to the partisans, the last two presidents could either do nothing right or are playing six-dimensional chess.  There are all kind of trenches for various religious groups and races and ethnicities.  We see it as the bigotry of bigotry.  If those folks on the other side are against us then we can’t admit that they could  be right about anything.

The rays of sunshine come from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via Jay Nordlinger at NRO.  Kareem’s “Where Is The Outrage At Anti-Semitism In Sports And Hollywood?” makes us see sunshine, rainbows and more for two reasons.  First, it is well done.  Of course you should read it it all but here is a great story about the wonderful Billie Holliday from Kareem:

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

One small quibble: We expect that Abel got his royalties.  He didn’t give the song to Billie.  He gave her the right to sing it.

What makes us joyful about Kareem’s op-ed is that he black Muslim.  He began using his Muslim name many years ago at the age of 24.

Sidebar: Kareem’s Wikipedia entry might need some explaining.  He did win three consecutive NCAA championships.  Back in those days you couldn’t leave college early for the NBA and you couldn’t, how quaint, play varsity as a freshman.  End Sidebar.

Before that he was Lew Alcindor.  Kareem’s history makes his op-ed infinitely more powerful.  When Kareem takes Louis Farrakhan to task folks might listen.  He ends with this:

The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So, let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.

We can still disagree about when X’s freedom impairs Y’s freedom but we need to first look at ourselves.  We are glad that Kareem found his voice.  We hope he will be a role model for others in every group.

 

 

Frazzled

Frazz is a comic strip by Jeff Mallett about the eponymous and unpleasant young man who works as a janitor at a school.  Our recollection is that he is independently wealthy.  In the comic at the link a kid says to Frazz, “I am just wondering how close I am to the last generation who knows what a battery is.”  This got us thinking.  We thought about when we used our battery powered shaver.  We thought about it when we started the car.  Our cars have batteries to start them but don’t run on batteries.  We continued to think about it as we used our battery powered lawn trimmer.  We enjoyed cutting that cord.  We decided to respond but we had to make a decision about using our battery powered phone, tablet, or laptop.  We decided to wait to see the next strip.  It continues the theme where the kid asks about alternative energy.

Some folks need to have the newest phone, tablet, or laptop.  Like many people we get a new one when the battery wears out.  If “alternative” energy sources are ever to be useful they will need to create storage.  Only having electricity when the sun shines will not be popular.  The storage will likely be in batteries.  The oblivious kid in the comic and our grandkids are the battery generation.  One of their serious environmental challenges will be building and disposing of all those batteries that allow us freedom from cords.