Attacking Straw Men

George Will at NRO has a great article on the silliness of politics.  He mostly indicts would-be Democrat presidential nominees but he shows his displeasure for their likely opponent.  Benjamin Zycher from the American Enterprise Institute is also at NRO with the wildly misnamed The Confusions of The Conservative Carbon Tax showing how silly the right can be.  The first misnaming is in the title.  What would be “the” conservative carbon tax?  We hope it is the MWG proposal but that seems presumptuous.  To remind you, the MWG carbon tax proposal is a modest one, $20 per ton, that includes eliminating the the gas tax and federal support of alternative energy.  After skewering some straw-men

Sidebar: Would straw-men mind being skewered?  We think, like in the Wizard of Oz, they would be worried about fires rather than blades.  Still we are sticking with alliteration.  End Sidebar.

Benjamin starts his conclusion with an exactly wrong sentence:

Once conservatives have endorsed a carbon tax, they will have no principled answer to the endless pressures for more government intervention.[Emphasis added]

The answer is exactly the opposite.  Since we endorse a carbon tax then we have principled answers for reducing government intervention.  Particularly, we have the opportunity to reduce the current government support of “alternative” energy.  In fact, the joy is that we could do both as one deal.

The rest of his conclusion is sensible:

Conservatives cannot defeat climate alarmism and the fundamental threat to freedom that it represents unless we defend first principles. In the context of climate policy, watchful waiting and adaptation over time are the only sensible approaches consistent with them.

One of the first principles of conservatism is to get incentives right or at least move them in the right direction.  A modest carbon tax that eliminated the gas tax and reduced [yes, the principled answer is eliminate every bit of support but we need space to negotiate] alternative energy support would be a conservative step because it gets the incentives closer to right.  If the left is unwilling to make a deal then we do what Benjamin suggests.

 

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National Review Disappoints

We look forward to the print version of the National Review (NRODT).  They have been on a roll lately with the special issues on socialism and capitalism  Despite the article below you should subscribe in some manner.

We have started a category for Josh Hawley because he has been the most disappointing GOP Congress critter in recent memory and the only person obviously running for the ’24 GOP presidential nomination.  The National Review puts him in the spotlight with Josh Hawley’s Virtue Politics by John McCormack.  We were disappointed that it turned out to be a hagiography.

Sidebar: We understand that Josh is a rising star in the GOP and the National Review can hardly do a MWG piece on him.  On the other hand, John and his editors could have been more even handed.  End Sidebar.

Our disappointment started early when John described him as a “conservative intellectual.”  We find him neither although, to be fair, we do find him “a populist with a paternalistic streak” that shows up in the same sentence.  We see the two descriptions as mutually exclusive but not collectively exhaustive in case you thought we were going to make a connection to binary choices.  Still you should subscribe and read the whole thing, online if you prefer.  You will learn he is up to other mischief beyond our reporting.  He and Florida senator Rick Scott have introduced legislation that would prevent drug firms from charging more in America than they do in Canada or some European countries.  The “some” is from the article.  We don’t understand it either.  Anyways, we are highly disappointed that two GOP senators are fighting markets and attempting to micromanage drug companies to the detriment of our children and grandchildren.  He Rick don’t think it will stifle innovation.  They are wrong.  Even worse, Josh suggests he knows what profits should be: “Pharma is turning a nice healthy profit in Europe.”

Josh seems like the worst possible presidential choice for the GOP in ’24.  Worst?  Well, we hope they can do much better.  On the other hand, he is just fine as the senator from Missouri.

The Bad Idea Machine

Our buddy, and the junior senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley is at it again. Lots of folks are upset about political comments on Internet giants like Facebook and he wants to put Washington in charge.   David French at NRO and Elizabeth Nolan Brown at Reason do a good job of explaining why Josh has a particularly foolish bill.  Of course you should real both of them in their entirety.  Here is David’s description:

[Josh] wants to replace common sense with a legal fiction, making Facebook responsible for user comments unless it can satisfy an extraordinary condition — it has to prove to the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] by clear and convincing evidence that it doesn’t moderate content in a manner “designed to negatively affect a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint” and that its moderation doesn’t “disproportionately restrict or promote access to, or the availability of, information from a political party, political candidate, or political viewpoint.” [Emphasis added]

Josh’s proposal would put the Internet giants in an impossible position and make them  subject to FTC’s whims.  Do we think we will get limited government with Facebook appearing before the FTC every two year?  As you are already going to read David and Elizabeth, we shall limit our comments to conservatism and level of proof.

We want to make clear that changing the level of proof would not make the bill acceptable but the level of proof shows how poorly thought out or dishonest Josh’s bill is.  Josh says:

“Today I’ve introduced legislation to end Big Tech’s biggest sweetheart deal from government,” [Josh] tweeted Wednesday morning. “No more government protection for Big Tech’s political censorship.”

As the bold shows, Facebook will need to show clear and convincing evidence of lack of bias. It is an daunting task especially when you think about all the groups you could show bias against.  Nolo gives us four legal standards of proof in ascending order: Substantial Evidence, Preponderance of Evidence, Clear and Convincing Evidence, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.  Josh’s choice is, according to Nolo, reserved for civil lawsuits where something more than money is at stake.  The bill is not going to reach Josh’s stated goal because Facebook will not meet that standard and that would mean much more government involvement.

And that brings us to conservatism and conservatives.  Part of political classifying is the Venn Diagram issue.  How much to folks need to overlap before you can give them a common categorization?  But it also a matter of priorities and thinking process.  There might be substantial evidence based on his positions that Josh is a conservative but his processes and priorities are clear and convincing evidence to us that he is not.  We are not voting for him in the ’24 presidential primaries that he is clearly positioning himself but we shall reserve judgement on the general election.  It will be another binary choice.

Comments On Kamala

We still think Kamala will be the next president but we are more concerned about our prediction than we were a few months ago.  It seems more likely that the year will be 2024 rather than 2020 but time will tell.   Instapundit cited a Jim Geraghty post in NRO’s Corner that caught our attention.  Jim says and quotes:

The other day Wonkette offered an article with a headline that declares — cleaning it up for your sensitive eyes — “Kamala Harris Doesn’t Have To Explain Herself To Your Dumb [Tushes].”

Infuriated by headlines about a Harris speech declaring that she is defending her record as a prosecutor, Stephen Robinson writes:

Is Harris on trial here? Why is she “defending her record”? Did she lose all her cases like the prosecutor who faced off against Perry Mason each week? That guy needed to explain himself. Harris put [bad words] in prison. She imprisoned [bad words] so well she was the first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco and the first black woman to become attorney general of California. She’s the Serena Williams of law and order.

While she’s undoubtedly better than Hamilton Berger, Harris’s record is a little more complicated than that. [Emphasis added]

Jim concludes that candidates always need to defend their records.  We agree but we have concerns.  First, Stephen can’t be bothered to look up Hamilton Berger like Jim did.  Really, this is not a tweet but Stephen’s article and he can’t be bothered to type in Perry Mason prosecutor.  Go and try it.  We will wait as it won’t take long.  You won’t even need to finish typing prosecutor and you will find that Hamilton Burger has his own Wikipedia site!

Second, what is a good record for a prosecutor?  We are not convinced that Jim is right that Kamala is better than Hamilton.  Hamilton, on our small sample, never convicts the innocent or frees the guilty.  Obviously, life is more complicated than a TV drama but convictions, as Scooter Libby could tell you, might not be the best measure of a prosecutor. Evaluating teachers and prosecutors involves problems because the goals, learning and justice, are hard to measure.

Third, Jim is worried about the need to serve a strong leader demonstrated in the tone of Stephen’s article.  Instead, given the circumstances at Oberlin College, we find Jim’s parenthetical comment is more important:

(Whatever else you think of [Stephen]’s argument, he’s absolutely right when he declares, “it’s insulting to claim that black people can only have an adversarial relationship with the criminal justice system or that a black woman can’t prosecute crimes without betraying her community.”)

Kamala has a mixed heritage but we are not getting into the swamps of what is black in the quote.  The important point is that protecting communities from bad actors is a good idea even if Oberlin disagrees.

Sidebar: We have already said that convictions are not necessarily justice and we would add that police do not always act properly.  Protecting communities without harming them is a challenge and we agree with Jim that Kamala should explain how she did that.  Perhaps she has examples of convicting cops.  We just think that Stephen’s law and order message is the important one rather than the she doesn’t need to explain one.  End Sidebar.

This is the first good news we have seen about a Democrat presidential candidate.  Perhaps more is forthcoming but we are not holding our breath.

WSJ On Josh

Recently we evaluated two opinions on Josh Hawley, the GOP junior senator from MO.  We concluded that we were unimpressed with his behavior.  We still see him as a political opportunist.  It is nice to see the WSJ agree with us.

The editorial board of the WSJ compares Josh’s behavior in questioning a prospective judge with Harvard’s action of punishing a law professor for defending Harvey Weinstein.  They give lots of detail that Josh, as a lawyer and former attorney general, should be embarrassed by.  Do read it all.  They conclude:

For many on the right and left these days, principles are merely weapons of temporary convenience in the battle for power. But such thinking breeds contempt for the law, and that is dangerous for all Americans, especially for cultural conservatives who need the law to defend against an increasingly coercive left. Defenders of religious liberty shouldn’t imitate Harvard’s situational legal ethics. [Emphasis added]

We would expand their thought to all conservatives because the rule of law and respect for the law is a big part of conservatism.  We know that politicians often disappoint conservatives and we still support them. Josh is an improvement on Claire McCaskill, who he replaced but not as much as we had hoped.  Josh’s failure is an enormous one and conservatives need to consider looking for an alternative.  He is not the answer in ’24.

Opinions On Josh Hawley

Josh Hawley has received some interesting commentary from the right.  For background, Wikipedia tell us Josh:

is an American lawyer and Republican politician, currently serving as the junior United States Senator from Missouri. Hawley previously served as the 42ndAttorney General of Missouri from 2017 to 2019, before defeating two-term Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in the 2018 Senate election. He is currently the youngest member of the Senate at age 39.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at NRO is having a bromance with Josh in Josh Hawley versus the Aristocracy.  Michael concludes his article with

[Josh] staked out new territory for Republican politicians, based on some of the bleeding-edge conservative thinking on issues of tech and labor policy. For the first time in a long while, I’m excited for what’s coming next.

David Bernstein writing at the Volokh Conspiracy has a very different outlook.  David is the University Professor and Executive Director of the Liberty & Law Center at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University.  Both writers have impressive conservative credentials but they couldn’t disagree more.  David’s title is, “Senator Josh Hawley is becoming a first-class demagogue.”  How can two people with such great conservative credentials disagree so completely?

First question: are Michael and David talking about the same thing? The answer is in part.  David limits his discussion to Josh’s questioning of The Donald’s federal judge nominee.  Michael’s brief is more wide ranging but he approves of Josh’s questions:

Hawley also got some conservatives’ attention by blasting Michael Bogren, a Trump judicial nominee to the U.S. District Court in western Michigan. Hawley hammered him for his legal work defending East Lansing’s ban against a Catholic farmer’s participation in a public farmers’ market because the farmer announced his intention on Facebook to continue renting his orchard for weddings, but not same-sex ceremonies. As part of his legal arguments, Bogren had said there was no distinction between the Catholic family running their orchard in accordance with their faith and the Ku Klux Klan persecuting non-whites. Hawley grilled the nominee, saying that his unflattering comparison failed the test that Justice Anthony Kennedy had outlined in the Masterpiece Cakeshopcase, in which anti-religious animus was deemed to be at work in Colorado’s application of non-discrimination law.

Second question: Who wins the argument from a conservative perspective?  David.  Don’t forget that Josh is a lawyer and former Missouri Attorney General.  David doesn’t address Michael Brendan directly but you can see that Michael Brendan has made an enormous error.  Michael, the prospective judge, was working for East Lansing.  His job was to advocate for his employer.  The legal system doesn’t work if one side throws in the towel.  Josh knows that.

Third question: What are the implications?  It is clear to us that Josh wants to replicate The Donald in one of the upcoming presidential elections.  He will be the progressive Republican who will support some conservative positions.

Sidebar One: What makes a person a conservative?  Who gets to decide?  MWG, of course! Seriously, labels can be a problem.  We see conservatives as being more concerned with process than outcomes.  That is why conservatives often disagree more often than the left.  The latter even has a name for it, BAMN.  Thus, conservatives support the Constitution and rule of law.  We see personal and economic freedom as part of that but, unlike libertarians, we don’t see freedom as the only good.  End Sidebar One.

Elections are always about choices and those choices depend on the opposition but it is highly unlikely that we would vote for Josh in the Republican presidential primary.

Sidebar Two: Marco versus Josh would be a tough primary call.  They are two young and pretty Republicans but not reliable conservatives.  End Sidebar Two.

We voted for The Donald in the general and it is highly likely we would vote for Josh in in the general given the folks we see running for the Democrat nomination now.

Socialism Is Economic Foolishness

David French is off The Donald beat and writing about Bernie Sanders and school choice at NRO.  It makes David sound much better.  He seems almost surprised that Act Naturally would favor public schools.  It is not a misguided attack by the candidate.  Act Naturally is a socialist and he supports lack of choice for deodorants, schools, and everything else.  He, Bernie, always thinks he knows better than the consumer.  David has an almost beautiful conclusion:

Sanders makes his intentions crystal clear. In his plan, he writes, “We do not need two schools systems; we need to invest in our public schools system.” This is exactly wrong. One size does not fit all. Sanders looks at parents and declares that he knows best. Parents should look back at him and respond, quite simply: I know my child, and I want to shape his destiny. Your collective solutions cannot meet my family’s [educational] needs.

It is almost beautiful because it needs one more sentence after we have inserted education above.  The sentence might go like this: Your collective solutions cannot meet my or my family’s needs in any area.