Categories
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:

https://www.edge.org/response-detail/26756

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

https://quillette.com/2020/01/09/the-growth-dilemma/

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-growth

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

Categories
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.

Categories
Current events US Politics

Dissent within the Right-wing

Conservatives questioning/leaving the Republican Party, the “Right Wing”, or Conservativism. Or Fox News.

Max Boot, formerly of WSJ, author of The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right

Charlie Sykes, of The Weekly Standard, author of How the Right Lost Its Mind

(Podcast episode where Sykes interviews Boot)

https://www.weeklystandard.com/tws-podcast/max-boot-on-the-corrosion-of-conservatism

George Will, of Newsweek, The Washington Post

Steve Schmidt

Tom Nichols

Bill Kristol, of The Weekly Standard, of Fox News

Categories
Current events US Politics

Criticism of Trump

Architect of Bin Laden Raid Adm McRaven supports Brennan, calls Trump McCarthy-esque

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/revoke-my-security-clearance-too-mr-president/2018/08/16/8b149b02-a178-11e8-93e3-24d1703d2a7a_story.html?utm_term=.49e8605dc768

George Will – Trump put Russia before US

http://fortune.com/2018/06/22/george-will-leaves-republican-party-donald-trump/

http://thehill.com/policy/international/397596-george-will-calls-trump-sad-embarrassing-wreck-of-a-man

David Frum – Worst Security Risk in U.S.

History

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/putin-trump/565604/

Ralph Peters (ret. LtCln), former Fox News analyst, former Intel analyst on Russia

_ Trump is thrall to Putin

_ Fox is destructive

https://amp.thedailybeast.com/ex-fox-news-analyst-ralph-peters-calls-former-colleagues-sean-hannity-tucker-carlson-prostitutes

Categories
Current events Tech The Media US Politics

On the Clinton Email investigation

A thought: a lot of people talk about the Clinton email scandal and the Trump-Russia scandal as though they are alternatives, which is probably due both to the human tendencies toward both tribalism and binary thinking fallacy. 

Report alleges that Washington FBI office gave only a cursory look at Clinton emails on Weiner laptop in rush to end that investigation. 

https://www.realclearinvestigations.com/articles/2018/08/22/despite_comey_assurance_vast_bulk_of_weiner_laptop_emails_never_examined.html

Opinion piece argues that HRC was never going to be charged and that blame for that doesn’t lie with the FBI. 

http://thehill.com/opinion/criminal-justice/406500-dont-blame-the-fbi-hillary-clinton-was-never-going-to-be-charged

Categories
Current events The Media US Politics

On the Russia Investigation

Former Republican Senate leader Bill Frist on Robert Mueller and his investigation:

https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5b412d43e4b05127ccf2cb65/amp

Former FBI and CIA director in support of Mueller:

Comparison of Mueller’s staffing to that of Ken Starr, who investigated Clinton:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-witch-hunt-special-counsel-mueller-clinton-lewinsky-starr-20180718-story.html

A summary of the investigation so far:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mueller-investigation-trump-russia-probe_us_5b4cdda5e4b0e7c958fe3141

The memos Comey released after leaving FBI did not contain classified information:

The investigation began because a Trump campaign staffer blabbed about hearing from the Russians that they had possession of HRC’s emails.

On the makeup of Mueller’s team

  • Lawyers tend to be dems, agents tend to be republicans, and we only know about some of the lawyers
  • Law/policy prevented Mueller from considering political leanings

https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/mar/21/donald-trump/fact-checking-donald-trumps-claims-about-Mueller/

Alberto Gonzales (attorney general under GW Bush) in support of Mueller and the investigation

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/402619-alberto-gonzales-defends-mueller-after-trump-attacks-he-is-a-man-of

Politifact article debunking key Garrett assertions

https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/article/2018/aug/02/fact-checking-fox-news-analysts-pro-trump-book-rus/

Snopes articles on Steele Dossier:

https://www.snopes.com/tag/steele-dossier/

National Review / Andrew McCarthy on the FISA application and the Steele Dossier

– Steele dossier not verified before use in FISA app

https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/07/carter-page-fisa-applications-fbi-steele-dossier/

Brennan Center against McCarthy opinion, above

– Steele dossier met probable cause standard for FISA app

– Steele did not know he was working for DNC/Clinton

– Russia investigation already underway and Carter Page no longer with Trump campaign when FISA application first submitted

https://www.brennancenter.org/blog/fbi-wouldve-been-derelict-not-use-steele-dossier-carter-page-fisa-warrant

Vanity Fair article from early 2017 with the backstory of the Steele dossier.

– The FBI got the dossier from Steele, not DNC/Clinton

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/03/how-the-explosive-russian-dossier-was-compiled-christopher-steele

Wikipedia entry on the Steele dossier; seems to be thorough and well-sourced.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump%E2%80%93Russia_dossier

Categories
Current events Health Psychology Self improvement spiritual

On Jordan Peterson

Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist (no longer practicing), professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, author, and speaker. He has gained popularity and notoriety for criticizing the leftist/progressive ideology pervasive in education as well as political correctness, and for proposing views of meaning, identity, human development, among other things, that have resonated with many people on the right of the political spectrum and angered many on the left. He presents his views as being grounded in both evolutionary and Jungian theory, along with research findings from psychology, neurology, and anthropology. He is currently on a speaking tour based on his popular book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

My personal take:

  • Activists and journalists operating from left of center, politically, have tended to portray him as a misogynist, racist, and anti-LGBTQ by taking his questions and statements out of context.
  • The political swirl around Jordan Peterson has lifted him to prominence but also obscured what he has to say about living well.
  • One of JP’s frequent assertions is that the the current leftist ideology is repackaged Marxism, where race has replaced class as the basis for group identity; he then goes on to say that Marxism ultimately led to the deaths of millions. He seems to be implying that the current leftist ideology will eventually lead to millions of deaths, and to my mind, that sounds like a slippery slope argument. These arguments are pretty lazy, and based on fear. They tend to skip a lot of the explaining that is needed between the connections they are making.
  • People on the right have tended to idealize him, perhaps to an extent that is unwise. “Ah, look, JP said something that I agree with. I was right all along.” Rather than interacting critically with his ideas. Not a complete sentence.
  • When I read / listen to his actual words, in context, I find his ideas subtle, difficult, and thought-provoking, though I’m not sure whether I’ll ultimately agree with him.
  • Fav quote so far from 12 Rules: “You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act.” p.103

Jordan Peterson’s Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_Peterson

Jordan Peterson’s personal website: https://jordanbpeterson.com/

Categories
Current events Motivated reasoning Self improvement US Politics

Motivated Reasoning

Article: “How politics makes us stupid,” By Ezra Klein, for Vox

Article: https://www.vox.com/2014/4/6/5556462/brain-dead-how-politics-makes-us-stupid

  • About the research of Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology at Yale, and the Cultural Cognition Project.
  • Kahan’s theory is called Identity-Protective Cognition: our brains subconsciously work to justify and protect the beliefs that matter to our relationships, group membership, and identity.

Podcast episode: “How our unchecked tribal psychology pollutes politics, science, and just about everything else”, By David McRaney

Summary: https://youarenotsosmart.com/2018/02/26/yanss-122-how-our-unchecked-tribal-psychology-pollutes-politics-science-and-just-about-everything-else/

Transcript: https://youarenotsosmart.com/transcripts/transcript-tribal-psychology/

  • A podcast episode in which McRaney interviews Lilliana Mason and Dan Kahan about motivated reasoning.
  • Basic point: Once an issue becomes politicized, our brains work subconsciously to maintain the beliefs that will preserve our relationships, group belonging, and identity.
  • Related: McRaney’s series on “The Backfire Effect”, episodes 93, 94, 95, and 120.

My personal take: 

  • As noted by both Kahan and Klein, because motivated reasoning occurs outside of our conscious awareness and control, it is difficult to know when one is impacted by it. There is a natural tendency to try to make a special case for the objectivity of oneself or one’s own domain. McRaney, even as he’s describing the phenomenon, demonstrates this behavior when he writes, “In a professional domain like medicine, science, academia, or journalism, people are trained to pursue accuracy, to operate within a framework that helps them overcome other motivations.” He’s right that these domains include a framework that helps achieve greater objectivity, but I don’t believe he adequately acknowledges the degree to which even these “professional” domains can be impacted by motivated reasoning. (At least, not in that specific spot; he may, elsewhere.)
  • McRaney’s “You Are Not So Smart” podcast provides a great education the many ways our brains work against objectivity and reason.

Dan Kahan’s website: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan

McRaney’s website: https://youarenotsosmart.com

Categories
Current events The Media

Read the news with different biases

A news aggregation website that presents news articles from the “left”, “center”, and “right”, side-by-side. News sources are categorized according to bias based on reader voting. Search function allows readers to compare coverage within specific topics.

www.allsides.com

Categories
China Civilization Current events Economics History International relations US Politics

Interesting books about China

Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China’s Push for Global Power, by Howard W. French

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?, by Graham Allison

Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific, by Michael Fabey