Historic Denver Maps

This is so cool. Bird’s-eye drawings of Denver from around the turn of the 20th Century.

Denver in 1889:

Denver in 1908:

Civilization Current events Economics

On Economics

Figured I’d start collecting information related to economics.

Eric Weinstein, on his Portal podcast, has advanced the idea that we may be post-growth, at least in some parts of the economy, that this is being hidden in some fashion, and that it may ultimately have serious consequences for society.

Here’s an article by Eric Weinstein on “Anthropic Capitalism”. I’m not yet sure I understand what he’s saying:

Quillette has this article, arguing for a need to maintain growth as a goal. I haven’t read it yet, but will soon/

Here’s the Wikipedia entry for “post-growth”:

I will keep adding to this post as I find things.

Current events Law US Politics

My take on impeachment

The Constitution is pretty vague about the criteria and process for impeachment. Most scholars (I think) consider “high crimes and misdemeanors” to be an 18th Century legal “term of art” (ie., a phrase that has a specific meaning in the in a particular context) that includes abuses of power by high officials.

On the abuse of power question, Congress (House and Senate) needs to draw the line somewhere. There probably ought to have been more laws, and more impeachments, over the years, to draw those lines. All presidents use their powers to improve their reelection chances. They all make policy choices based on what they think will please the voters and they spin, leak and lie to make themselves look better. But it’s a bridge too far when a president (or any official) uses his/her power to intentionally harm a political opponent, particularly when it impedes legitimate policy goals or undermines US national interests.

Between the official White House summary of the phone call, Trump’s subsequent statements to the press, and the government witnesses who testified, there’s more than enough evidence to conclude that Trump attempted to use US aid to Ukraine as leverage to get Ukraine to open an investigation against Biden’s son, that this was done to create suspicion about his political rival rather than some legitimate US policy goal, and that he did so in a way that undermined US interests.

The idea that the President was legitimately concerned about corruption with Joe and Hunter Biden is transparent BS. If it had been legitimate, the concern would have originated with and been pursued by the Justice or State departments, not just by Trump and his personal lawyer.

Congress doesn’t have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Trump did this, either. That would be the evidentiary standard from criminal law. Under civil law, on the other hand, the standard is “a preponderance of the evidence” (ie., it’s more likely than not). Impeachment is not a civil or criminal legal proceeding, so it is up to Congress to select (or not) a particular standard. But given the near impossibility of getting 50% of the House and 60% of the Senate to vote to impeach and remove – it’s never happened, after all – why would they make it even harder by borrowing the standard of evidence from criminal law?

The second charge is on shakier ground, but a wise move. Presidents have been expanding and increasing their powers at the expense of Congress for a long time, and Congress has largely rolled over and let it happen. Congress is supposed to make the big policy choices (ie., laws) and then make sure (through oversight) that those laws are faithfully enacted by the executive branch. They can’t really do that if they don’t have the power to compel testimony from executive branch officials.

The Supreme Court may disagree, ultimately. But it was important for Congress to assert this power. After all, the idea that the Supreme Court has the power to decide whether laws are constitutional isn’t explicitly in the Constitution, either: the Court asserted that it had this power by implication, and eventually the other two branches went along with it.

The House Democrats did the right thing. (On purely ethical grounds, they probably should have impeached Trump already for the content of the Mueller report.) It’s probably not good for most of them, politically, and there may be some negative consequences for the country in the short term, such as increased partisanship or economic uncertainty. But it’s good for the system itself, in the long term.

Health Psychology Self improvement

Hidden Brain: How habits work

“When we repeat an action over and over again in a given context and then get a reward when you do that, you are learning very slowly and incrementally to associate that context with that behavior,” she says.

Wendy Wood

Today’s episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, hosted by Shankar Vedantam, is excellent. The guest, Wendy Wood, is a psychology professor who debunks myths about willpower and explains how habits are formed and changed.

Some key points:

  • Will-power and education may be effective for one-off, short-term changes, but are not effective for forming or breaking habits.
  • Habits are the product of dopamine rewards in the brain and repetition.
  • To build a habit, make it easy to do, and enjoyable/rewarding.
  • To remove a habit, make it harder to do, and enjoyable/rewarding to avoid.
  • To be effective, positive and negative reinforcement need to be close to the “now.”