Responsible Spending

Yesterday we continued our support for a carbon tax to replace the current federal gas tax.  Our back of the envelope estimate was that a carbon tax of about $20 per ton would be equivalent to the current federal gas tax of $0.184.  Of course, because the left would love to have a carbon tax we agreed with Holman W. Jenkins, jr. that the right is in a good position to negotiate.  The responsible spending should include other tax cuts.

Here is how the negotiations start.  Transportation emits about 28 percent of US carbon and motor vehicles are about 83 percent of that so a revenue neutral replacement of the gas tax would be a carbon tax of roughly $5 per ton.  The negotiation space is what can we get for the additional carbon tax of about $15 that would gas prices unchanged.  Our confidence in the GOP in negotiating for the right is limited but this is one they should be able to get a reasonable deal.  It won’t be perfect and some folks will be worried about introducing a new tax but we think it is worth the risk.  That is how we see politics working.  You rarely get something for nothing.  Here we could get much for some mild uneasiness.

 

 

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Open And Closed

The folks over at Unherd have a number of articles on open versus closed led by Peter Franklin’s The Deeper Meaning Of Open And Closed.  Many other folks have made our point that leftist claim to be more open minded but really aren’t.  We are sure that Jonah Goldberg has plowed this ground but we are not willing to spend the time to find it.  Peter starts off:

Following Brexit, Trump and the formation of a populist government in Italy, there would seem to be an open-and-shut case for open-and-closed.

Then he follows up with the obvious.  Open and closed terminology is a brush to try and discredit the right:

At least the terminology of left-and-right sounds neutral to modern ears.1 The language of open-and-closed, by contrast, is one-sided in the impressions it conveys – and is intended to convey.

Yup.  The problem is that it isn’t representative or even useful.  Folks that have a consistent world view have effective ways to focus.  In the current terminology, they have closed minds.  The most obvious example of folks with a consistent worldview would be academics.

If you ask a physicist about perpetual motion they will immediately dismiss the idea because it is contrary to the laws of physics.  Well, at least Newtonian physics as we are not up to date on our physics.  The point is that academics, like other experts, have a framework for identifying interesting questions.  They have a closed mind towards others.

Another example would be the opening lead of a king against a three no-trump contract in bridge.  A novice declarer might win the first trick with his ace but a more expert declarer is unlikely to win that first trick.  Here we have a slight difference between the (expert) physicist and the bridge expert.  The bridge expert is open to a couple of alternatives, the most likely concern is if a change of suits on the second lead would cause problems.  It is highly likely but not certain that the expert will quickly decide to refuse the first trick.  If the dummy has two small cards in that suit and the declarer has the ace plus two small cards then the decision to duck approaches certainty.

What is true in our political environment is that folks on the left are open to one set of things and folks on the right are open to another set of things.  It is because they often have a set of principles that they use to think about problems.

Sidebar: Yes there are folks that are unprincipled generally.  Jonah Goldberg writes about principles and bigots at NRO.  Yes there are difficult political decisions that test an individual’s principles.  We think that untested candidates are in vogue because they have not had to make those difficult decisions. It is not our preference but that is what we see.  End Sidebar.

Although there are many ways to slice and dice each wing, those sets don’t have much overlap.  For example, consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Charles Cooke does at NRO.  To the left, her hyphenated name and ethnicity are enticing.  Her socialism is exciting.  Her behavior can be used to castigate The Donald.  To the right, to overstate it slightly, socialist is another word for a fool.  Her behavior that Charlie describes buttresses that initial take.  Neither side has claim to being the open side or the closed side.  When they have principles they are different and that is part of what causes our disagreements.  The other part is lack of principles.

(Re)Defining Liberalism

We saw a leftist on Facebook approving this 1960 quote by JFK:

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

JFK was running for president at the time.  Of course, his main policies, virulent anti-Communism and cutting marginal tax rates would be most unwelcome by somebody claiming JFK’s position now and even then.  It is reasonable to say that he was firing up the base.  He was a Democrat that wished to run as an unmodified liberal.  To do that he had to define liberal and since the Democrats nominated him and elected him it seems reasonable that they accepted his analysis.  The text, however, shows how much the left has changed in just under 60 years.  Here is his list that he says marks his liberalism:

  1. Looks ahead and not behind
  2. Welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions
  3. Cares about health
  4. Cares about housing
  5. Cares about schools
  6. Cares about jobs
  7. Cares about civil rights and civil liberties
  8. Believes we can break through abroad.

Remember this is about being a liberal versus conservative rather than Republican versus Democrat.  In addition you should note that included in numbers three through seven is the issue of the welfare of the people.  Thus when liberal say they care about something but proceed to enact policies like the healthcare act of the last president they have not reached JFK’s standard.

Our analysis is that JFK’s would-be heirs have thoroughly rejected two, five, six, and seven.  Number seven has become a hallmark of conservatism as Jonathan S. Tobin explains at NRO.  For number two see the left’s reaction to The Donald’s judicial appointments.  Five and six have become conservative only as the left is, at least, partially owned by the teacher unions.

 

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Joe Lieberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, is a former US Senator and Vice Presidential nominee.  He tells an interesting story in the WSJ:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley seems likely to hurt Congress, America and the Democratic Party. It doesn’t have to.

Because the policies Ms. Ocasio-Cortez advocates are so far from the mainstream, her election in November would make it harder for Congress to stop fighting and start fixing problems. [Emphasis added].

Joe’s statement in bold is an amazing thing in this day and age.  It is extraordinary for a party leader to say such a thing about a member of his own party.  We would like to see more of it.

Of course, Joe did a similar thing that he suggests the other Joe do now.  Joe L. ran as an independent in 2006 to continue as senator.  Joe C. has the nod of one of the minor parties and could be on the ballot in November.  We are not sure if Joe will take Joe’s advice.

More important is what the other Democratic leadership does.  Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are pretty old news.  We would like for folks like Hillary, the 44th president, Nancy Pelosi to stand up for Joe C. and with Joe L.

We agree that both parties lack leadership.  The Democrats have a great opportunity to take action now.  If we develop a scale with Winston Churchill as a thousand then the Democrats would score five (with Joe L giving them the lead), the GOP four, and the legacy press one.

Sidebar: Yes it is a silly scale and we can’t defend the precision it suggests.  It is possible we should put the GOP in the lead because the impact the leadership had on The Donald about his recent behavior in Europe.  It also is important to remember that strong leaders, even Churchill, are not always right.  LBJ is an example of a strong leader that made big changes that left, at best, a mixed impact on our country.  End Sidebar.

Of course, the major parties and the press have very different problems.  The Democrats have skidded far to the left.  The GOP has confused pugnacity with principle, and the press has become Democratic operatives.  Leadership support for both Joes would make us more optimistic about the future.

Rewriting History

A recent Facebook post says:

On June 12, 1987, a defiant Ronald Reagan challenged Premier Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. He was applauded by both American political parties and earned the respect of most of the world for doing so.

Then the post goes on to discuss The Donald’s recent poor behavior.  When you start off with a falsehood it is hard to pay attention to your point.  To be precise, and to make the comparison relevant to The Donald, it was not a popular speech at the time.  Here is what Wikipedia says about Reagan’s speech:

The speech received “relatively little coverage from the media”, Time magazine claimed 20 years later.[12] John Kornblum, senior US diplomat in Berlin at the time of Reagan’s speech, and US Ambassador to Germany from 1997 to 2001, said “[The speech] wasn’t really elevated to its current status until 1989, after the wall came down.”[9] The muted response in the Western media contrasted with the reaction from the East: East German Politburo member Günter Schabowski considered the speech to be “absurd”,[13] and the Soviet press agency TASS accused Reagan of giving an “openly provocative, war-mongering speech.

How was it received in the US?  CBS news tells us:

“It was not well-received within the foreign policy community or the pundit class,” Brinkley [a history professor at Rice University] said, in an interview with CBS. “Many people called foul.”

Reagan’s speech got mixed responses from his party and negative responses from just about everyone else.  It was provocative.  After it turned out that he was right the speech became remembered differently.

None of this means The Donald is right in his current spats with Putin and much of Europe.  It means that history sometimes shines a different light on old controversies.  Reagan was right but he didn’t have to be.  It also means if you want to make a historical comparison you need to get it right.

Born Yesterday – The Play

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see the opening night of Born Yesterday at American Players Theatre (APT) in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  We encourage you to go to APT any time you have a chance and especially to go “up the hill.”  Up the hill is to the Hill Theatre cut into the top of a hill in the woods.  Some evenings when the lights go out the stars are spectacular.  Other evenings, like ours, it gets amazingly black.  You do have to worry about rain but it is worth the chance.

APT has developed a talented Core Company over the years.  We got to see two of the stars shine despite the clouds: Colleen Madden as Billie Dawn and David Daniel as Harry Brock.  Colleen was wonderful as the ditzy show girl turned into an intellectual with a ditzy touch by a writer at The New Republic.  She gets to wear great styles to stunning effect.  The late forties must have been when The New Republic drifted away from the Progressive cause because the reading list he prepares pays homage to the Founders.  David is the most disgusting cut-throat capitalist you could imagine.  He is ill mannered in speech, manners, and behavior as well as poorly educated and dishonest.  Every moment he is onstage you loath him.  Compared to him The Donald is a model of decorum.

One interesting part of viewing Born Yesterday was the audience.  Spring Green is close to Madison and Madison has a well deserved reputation.  Our first take was that it was a typical bad businessman story was influenced by the audience.  Make no mistake, Harry is one of the most antagonistic antagonists but the play is much more than that.  We think is makes important statements about rights, education, and power.

The first point is that even folks as loathsome as Harry have their rights.  We forget if Billie or the writer is responding to the legality of Harry’s project by saying we’ll change the law.  Here the protagonists have forgotten their principles, specifically rule of law.  Rights are not rationed by niceness.

The second point is about education.  Billie’s education is a classically liberal one with documents from the Founders and classics from writers Charles Dickens.  Billie’s education compares well to most university curriculums today.  We think that important point was missed by the audience.

The third point is about power.  At the end Billie has Harry in her power.  Is she any better than Harry?  We don’t want to resolve that point but as a point of comparison go see Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Prospero is more magnanimous than Billie.  It doesn’t mean that Billie is bad it just shows her humanity.

It is an excellent play in a great place with wonderful performances.  Go see it.

 

Plagiarism?

We rarely watch TV shows when broadcast so we are always behind schedule but a benefit is that it sometimes shows a commonality that we would otherwise notice.  The two shows in question are Instinct (Owned, episode seven, season one, broadcast on 5/6/18) and NCIS New Orleans (Welcome to the Jungle, episode 18, season four, broadcast 3/27/18).

There are lots of superficial differences between the two episodes but the summaries look like they came from the same plot books.  In both cases the main suspect is black.  It is a man in Instinct and a woman in NCIS: NO.  In both cases the secondary suspect is ethic.  An Eastern European in Instinct and an Argentinian in NCIS:NO.  In both cases there is a white male waiting around to be identified as the perp.

Sidebar: As an additional progressive fantasy in both cases there are women beating up men.  On Instinct it is the star Bojana Novakovic, who’s is listed as an Australian but hails from Serbia.  Check the picture on the link and give your probability that all men in the police force would be unwilling to spar with her because of the beatings they receive.   On NCIS: NO it is the black suspect who we suspect will soon be part of the cast.  The latter was more convincing than the former but there is a reason why fighters have different weight classes.  End Sidebar.

Even though the basics of the story sound the same we don’t think it is plagiarism because it is too widespread.  If you create a Venn Diagram with rich, white, and men the intersection will often give you the perp.  Sometimes you are not sure if the CIA perp was rich.  It would be a fun research project.  All is we need is a bunch of grad assistants to watch crime shows on TV.