Yrsa Flirts With Conservatives

We are continuing our binge reading of  Yrsa Sigurdardottir with Someone To Watch Over Me.  It is the fifth book in the Thora Gudsmundsdottir [symbols and accents omitted] series.  We always note that the author’s Icelandic name means that you might find her as Yrsa or Sigurdardottir.  It is a step worth taking in the Thora series.

Of course, you should really read the first four first.  It is not absolutely critical because the big relationships are explained but you can understand all the players better by starting at the beginning.  There are many characters in Someone and keeping track of all the Icelandic names and nicknames is a challenge.  It is like reading The Deerslayer.  The names have lots of accents and some non-English characters.  In another book a character had a name we couldn’t figure out so we called him a character from Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore.  We have three reasons why we like Yrsa and Thora in their fifth outing.

First, Yrsa has an interesting way of piquing your interest in the mystery.  We always get part of it before Thora but there is another piece to add.  This book has a great example with bla-blaO2.  We are yelling at Thora, “It is oxygen you dummy” but it isn’t clear why oxygen is important.  The oxygen is important but there is much to do in order to connect it to the mystery.

Second, there are interesting characters.  There are even some you like.  Most entertainment is about characters you don’t like.  Yrsa has some of those from Thora’s secretary Bella to the really evil guy, Josteinn [accent omitted].  One of the characters is Iceland and we learn about the crash.

Third, Someone has a conservative soul that is different from Yrsa’s earlier books and different from almost any piece of entertainment.  Thora is not a conservative but the story often is.  Iceland has all but eliminated Down syndrome through abortion.  Thora’s client, Jakob, has Down syndrome.  Thora thinks that she would have aborted him but his mother loves Jakob and he loves her.

The typical story is bad businessmen these days but Someone contains an astonishing number of errors and dirty deeds by the government or government employees.  For example, the home for impaired adults that Jokob is charged with burning down is probably a bad idea but it is even more poorly implemented as the fire suppression system is never implemented leading to needless deaths.  As the government continues to fail or government employees behave improperly Thora’s extended family faces challenges but often succeeds.  It they wanted to make a movie of the book they would make it a bad businessman story.

Yrsa has a good mystery with good characters and atypical heroes and villains.  It is a really different from what we see in our culture and that makes it an excellent read.  And there might be some supernatural too.

Ricky’s Confusion

We are no fan of Ricky Gervais.  We didn’t like either version of The Office (British or American).  But he was hilarious at the Golden Globe Award show.  Conservatives liked it because he took on the rich, beautiful, and powerful.  Madeline Kearns in the NRO Corner notes correctly that:

The British comedian Ricky Gervais can hardly be called a conservative. He voted for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. He also hates religion,…

To be fair to Ricky, there is a difference between British and American conservatism but when he says on Twitter:

“how the f*** can teasing huge corporations, and the richest, most privileged people in the world be considered right wing? [laugh emoji]?”

He really doesn’t understand conservatism.

 

A Good Day For Freedom

Today, yesterday over there, citizens in the United Kingdom voted for a new parliament.  We love their efficiency.  The election was set in the fall and the voting was December 12.  In the US we have had a number of debates for the primary season that starts in February.  Our general election isn’t for 11 months.  And, in the US, you can start voting several months before the election.  We like our Constitution more than their parliamentary system but we have room for improvement.

We would like to talk about the UK results and the losers reaction to those results.  The election was largely about Brexit.  Jim Geraghty at the Morning Jolt set the stage this morning before the results:

The stakes for the Conservatives and pro-Brexit forces may be win big or go home. There are 650 seats in the U.K. Parliament, meaning to win a majority and control of the government, a party needs 326. The YouGov poll estimates that Conservatives could win anywhere from 367 seats to 311. {Emphasis added]

As the UK has ten parties that have won seats it is hard to get a majority with a single party.  As the Conservatives and UKIP (zero seats to date) are the only pro-Brexit parties, the stakes in the election are high.  Early in our evening the exit polls had projected the Conservatives at 368 seats.  That is one more than the maximum in the quote above.  More recent projections have the Conservatives down a few at 362 and they have just hit a majority, 331 with 49 seats left.  The results should give Boris and the Conservatives control they need to get Brexit done.  Equally important, it would deny Jeremy.  Freedom will be advanced by Brexit.  Then there will be the issue of Scotland and if it should be set free.  The Scottish National Party has tightened its grip on Scotland by gaining 12 seats so far.

Everyone hates to lose.  Especially handball players.  The good thing about most handball players is the only question is usually, “Whose serve or when do we play next?”  The left cannot bear to lose elections and they seem to take the worst possible route in blaming the electorate.  We have seen it in person, “It was the worst day of my life when [some Republican] won.”  We see it in the media and on the media.  Watch next November’s election returns with the sound off and only look at the reporters.  You will know who won.  Here are some comments collected by the Spectator with a few [of our comments] set off:

I cannot imagine how so many people in England can have been quite so stupid. [and how do you feel about Wales, Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom?  Then again, the conservatives did really well in England.]

and

BBC exit poll predicts Tories to take 70+ seats. If so – a victory of the old over the young, racists over people of colour, selfishness over the planet. Scotland will leave UK. However it does not feel right compared to on-the-ground.  [Calling folks racists and selfish is a strange way to try and attract voters.  Perhaps you need to widen your ground to fix the last sentence.]

And

This country is utterly, quadrilaterally f**ked.  [Emphasis and ** added.  We don’t understand the adjective in bold.  What four sides are we talking about?]

And

This looks abysmal. The result will be devastating for communities like mine all around the country who are now facing five years of Boris Johnson with unchecked power. I am more fearful for our country than at any point in my lifetime. [How come the right (Conservatives or Republicans) gets unchecked power when they win and the left does not?]

And here is one from PowerLine (they also have most of the ones above):

The country is going to be staggeringly and bitterly divided now.  Worse than under Thatcher.  [It is the biggest conservative majority since Maggie.  How can big majorities lead to bitter division?  So when the right wins, and especially if it wins big, then the country is divided.  When Labor (the big party on the left in the UK) wins the country is …. what?  We wonder how these folks would describe the USA under the 44th president?]

It is amazing how folks that want your vote can insult you and yet they seem to think that this will help them win in the future.  And yet Labor (and the Democrats) will win before too long.  We hope they are neither bitter nor vindictive when they take office.

No Surprise

David Harsanyi at NRO is covering the senior senator from Florida who recently made a speech on Common Good Capitalism at Catholic University and the text of it showed up at NRO.  David’s review is titled, “Marco Rubio’s Bizarre Turn Against Capitalism.”

We agree with just about every word David wrote except for bizarre.  You should read every word.  Since David takes care of the issues, we will restrict out comments to the trends.  Marco is for sugar tariffs and industrial policy.  As we see it, folks like Marco and Josh Hawley are expanding upon The Donald’s ambiguous support for capitalism.  Why are they doing this?  Because they think it is good politics.  We hope they are wrong but fear they are right.  Why might they be right at a time when capitalism has done so much for so many people and the alternatives have done so badly for so many people?  To pick up on David’s word, it is bizarre that we are even having this discussion never mind that there is a chance of losing the vote.  Why?  The left hates capitalism.  The right doesn’t trust the left but many folks on the right don’t embrace capitalism unless it has a modifier.  Here is a story from earlier this year where the right (National Conservatism Conference) endorses industrial policy.   Thus, the way to a majority is to create something like “Common Good Capitalism.”  It is way worse than Compassionate Conservatism from earlier in the century.

The Donald is not a capitalist but in office he has done some sensible things like reduce corporate taxes and reduce regulation.  He was in the general election of 2016 and will be again in 2020 the least bad presidential choice for us capitalists.  There is every reason to be concerned that the least bad presidential choice in 2024 general election will not be as good.

 

Our Conservative Sensibility

July has been a good month for reading.  We have just finished George Will’s The Conservative Sensibility.  We hope to have a formal review for you later but we recognize we are in debt to the reader already.  Instead we want to discuss the rise of our own conservative sensibility.  We are less philosophically inclined than George and perhaps because of that our sensibility arrived later.

We went to Saint Anselm College (SAC) as an undergraduate but when we went there it had an apostrophe in the name.  We weren’t as aware of such things as we are now but we suspect it was more conservative than the average college then.  Grade inflation certainly hadn’t arrived.  We ended up with averages of 89.7 and 89.9 for two semesters in Chemistry and were told that you needed a 90.  That is why we tell faculty to use xx.0 if that is what they mean.  When we took introductory economics there were two sections and  two semesters in which no student got an A.

SAC was into assessment before we knew what assessment was.  To escape German we had a one-on-one conversation in the language with the good Father whose name escapes us.  To graduate in economics there was a multiple choice test, we think it was the Undergraduate Record Exam,   We don’t know if our memory is faulty, the Internet is, or if it doesn’t exist any more as we could only find the GRE.   In addition, there was an oral exam where each student was individually questioned by a group of economics faculty members.  We did not have a stellar, to be kind, undergraduate academic record. So when we went to discuss the results we were surprised to hear something like, if we didn’t pass you we couldn’t pass anyone.

George’s book reminded us of that and instructed us in why.  The economics department included some pretty progressive members.  One of the questions in the oral was why didn’t Nixon add profits to his wage and price controls.  Our answer was simple arithmetic.  If you controlled the prices of the inputs then you controlled the sums and differences.  We remember the interviewers stirring around on that answer.  George’s book points out why this is, in part, a conservative answer, and why it troubling to the progressives.  Of course, George is not the only one to point this out but he takes 600 pages to hammer it home.

It is a conservative answer because it avoids the passion and envy of we must control profits.  It troubles the progressives because they believe that they can do all the math to make government work to bend the economy to their will.  So telling them that it should be easy is a troubling answer for them.  Either it is easy or it is hard.  If it is hard then the whole progressive project falls to ruin.

 

 

Stuck In (The Middle?) With You?

Well, Stealers Wheel’s lyrics often come to mind when surveying the political scene.  The first two lines of the chorus are often apropos but the we have never before felt like the last two lines apply to us.  In case you forgot:

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right

Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

What has got us in a tizzy is Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is reminding us that National Health Care Is Free.  It is silly but we have read it so you don’t have to.  What is worrisome is the jokers on the right.  Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine reports that:

At the recent National Conservatism Conference in Washington, the crowd voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to adopt an “industrial policy.” In so doing, the conservative crowd agreed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren who, as John [Hinderaker at PowerLine] has noted, also wants the U.S. to adopt such a policy.

The idea is for the government, through a set of policies — taxes, spending subsidies, regulation, and tariffs — to protect factory jobs against the forces of globalization and technological change.

Paul links to James Pethokoukis at AEI for an evaluation.  The headline is “GOP’s Stupid Swoon For Big Government.”  We are entirely on board on “Stupid” but this was the National Conservatism Conference rather than just Marco Rubio.  As the link shows, serious people were there.

As we are trying to deal with the level of disagreement on the right, we come across this from Rosie Gray in Buzz Feed News:

It’s an odd feature of American politics today that while the Republican party as an institution has never been more unified, the right has never been more ideologically fluid. Intellectual subgroups have had their moments in the sun: neoconservatives, libertarians. But they, and the Reaganites who have decided conservative dogma since the 1980s, have all diminished as Donald Trump has occupied all of the available breathing room on the right.

We can help Rosie with her confusion.  The GOP is as fractious as ever.  Just like the Democrat party.  The right has always had intellectual subgroups.  Each candidate brings a number of those subgroups together.  The Donald created a new one: NeverTrump.

Oh, back to Kevin and our concerns on the left.  Kevin is trying to convince us that national health care is free and he says:

You see, the vast bulk of health care spending goes to providers. This means that the only way to reduce spending is to pay doctors less, pay nurses less, pay drug companies less, and pay device manufacturers less. This will not happen, and anyone who’s serious about national health care would be insane to try. Why put up an enormous barrier to success, after all? [Emphasis added]

We agree with Kevin on the part we have put in bold.  The only problem is that the part above it is a description of national health care.  It is certain

Sidebar: We often envy writers for their certainty about a variety of things.  The outcome of very few events is certain.  End Sidebar.

that national healthcare will pay doctors less, nurses less, drug companies less, and manufacturers less.  As a small example from the left, there is the Obamacare tax (#10) on medical devices.  The Donald, like many politicians, is upset with drug prices.

Then Kevin explains how it is free:

The one thing we probably could do is get rid of insurance companies, which would save a bit of money—probably about enough to make up for the cost of adding the remaining uninsured to the system. So in the end it comes out even after all.

We did not make that up.  Kevin is saying that moving administration largely from the insurance companies to the government is going to save us money.  Not just a few dollars but enough to add all of the uninsured into insured.  What do you think the probability that the government is more efficient that private enterprise?  To be fair, given the government regulations in health care, the chance is very close to but not exactly zero.

The clowns and jokers seem to be more numerous than ever.  Did MWG really end up in the middle?  How many adjectives or prefix will there need to be to make MWG a conservative? Are you with us?  We have received but not read the other Kevin’s new book.  Perhaps reading that we relieve our funk.  We hope to get around to explaining why George Will’s new book is great but we still feel lonely.

 

 

 

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.