Are Congressional Republicans Violating Their Oath of Office?

The January 6 Committee has revealed information that bolsters the case that Trump and several of his associates corruptly and comprehensively attempted to overturn the 2020 election–in spite of being told this was illegal and wrong. My sense is that the upcoming hearings will make this case even stronger. Whether Trump and some of his associates will see jail time has been receiving a lot of attention.

But something, maybe a bigger matter, has received much less attention in my view—namely, did congressional Republicans violate—and are they continuing to violate– their oath of office? To put this more specifically and concretely, are they failing to “defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic,” and in some cases are they undermining and subverting the Constitution, either tacitly or actively? (Would it be fair to designate those who are undermining and subverting the Constitution as the “enemies” in the oath?)

Raising these questions makes me wonder if I’m being irrational, blinded by biases, but let me lay out my thoughts to see if others agree or not.

Interesting Ways Blockchain and NFTs Could Impact Music

Music critic Ted Gioia had some ideas on the ways blockchain and NFTs can impact music–positively for both musicians and fans. I’m not comfortable with my knowledge of blockchain or NFTs, but based on what I know, Gioia’s speculations does generate some enthusiasm. I say more on this later, but I should also say that I have a heavy-dose of skepticism, with regard to a new financial model that will actually compensate musicians fairly. My cynical sense is that the corporations (and historically, the people with money) will ultimately find ways to exploit the artists. (A handful of individual artists may prosper, but many will not, including great artists who were ahead of their time.)

The Political Lens I Use to Understand the Current GOP

For a while now I’ve arrived at a way of understanding GOP politicians and their supporters–a way I expect many will consider proof of bias and/or irrationality. I want to describe the lens I use to understand the GOP, and lay out the reasons for this–including the reasons a more, seemingly reasonable approach doesn’t seem to work.

Let me begin by first discussing and describing the reasons people adopt specific political positions. Normally, they do so because they believe such a position is good for the country, and, relatedly, they oppose a position because they believe it is bad for the country. “Good/bad” in this sense generally refers to things like improving economic conditions, improving education, increasing the access and affordability to health care and housing, etc. To determine good or bad policies, most people rely on their values and and political principles. Of course, self-interest is also a key factor. That is, people support or oppose a policy to the degree to which it helps or hurts their personal interests. My guess is that personal interest is the biggest factor for most people.

While this may be true, political parties and politicians should rely more on what they believe is in the best interests of the country. Certainly, self-interest, in the form of power and wealth shouldn’t be the primary basis for their positions. Generally, if a party or politician supports a policy simply because it increases or protects power and wealth, that would undermine the argument for such a policy. Therefore, while self-interest is a legitimate reason for supporting a policy, it can’t be the only one–not if broad support is the goal.

For most of my adult life, I have assumed that Democrats and Republicans consistently chose their policy positions based on a genuine interest in the welfare of the country. Again, the quest for power always plays a role–and sometimes may supersede the country’s interests–but I didn’t doubt that the country’s interests were consistently a key driver.

Since Trump became President, I no longer feel that way about the GOP.

Normally, I would want to lay out a thorough argument for this position, but I’m impatient to describe the lens I use to understand the current GOP, so I’m only going to provide a brief explanation. In a nutshell, the GOP, in supporting Trump, have revealed that they don’t, or never did, value most of the political principles they’ve espoused–as Trump has violated, sometimes egregiously, them. At this point, I don’t know what Trump could have done that would have caused the GOP to oppose him. (Low taxes seems to be the one exception, although Trump never violated this principle.) Additionally, my sense is that the GOP really doesn’t seem serious or interested in solving major problems.

To keep and maintain power, they seem to have employed the following strategy. First, when Democrats are in power, obstruct and stonewall, so very little gets done. Doing so will deny any success that Democrats can use to win votes, without losing votes for the GOP. (Many voters seem to blame both parties when little is done in Congress–but they also don’t blame incumbents very often.) Second, go all in on the “culture wars.” I will have a lot to say about the culture wars–indeed, the political lens I use relates to my current understanding of this. I’ll go into that in the next post.

A Middle Ground for Moderating Social Media

Social media companies have been wrestling with content moderation for several years. Jaron Lanier recently suggested an alternative to a laissez-faire approach and government regulation. Here’s how he describes it:

…a platform would require users to form groups through free association, and then to post only through those groups, with the group’s imprimatur.

…It would be like starting up a zine, a band, or a partnership. You’d find some people with whom you feel compatible, people whom you trust, and then you’d work together to create a brand—a name for your group to be applied to a common feed of posts. Only groups like this would be able to post, not individuals, though individuals would still identify themselves, just like they would when playing in a band or writing in a magazine. Individuals could join multiple groups and groups would self-govern;…

…Members would share both good and bad consequences with one another, just like a group shares the benefits and responsibilities of a loan in microlending.

…Groups, as they appear on existing platforms, can be of any size. Some number in the millions. The sort of groups I have in mind would be much smaller as a rule. The point is that the people in the groups know one another well enough to take on the pursuit of trust and quality, and to rid their groups of bots.

…each group will be self-governing. Some will have a process in place for reviewing items before they are posted. Others will let members post as they see fit. Some groups will have strict membership requirements. Others might have looser standards. It will be a repeat of the old story of people building societal institutions and dealing with unavoidable trade-offs, but people will be doing this on their own terms.

I’ll write some thoughts later. What do you guys think?

Hey! Check This Out–the Politics Edition (2022)

A thread posts or links about current events that don’t warrant a separate thread.

The first one I have is an NYT article about U.S. law firms cutting ties with clients–Russian oligarchs, specifically. That’s the good news. Apparently, Putin’s invasion is enough for these firms to put their values or at least their reputation ahead of profits. (Then again, if there wasn’t such strong public backlash, they may not have cut ties.) The bad news is that these wealthy oligarchs will likely find some firm, in the U.S. or West, to take them as clients. This is likely to be an ongoing weakness in the U.S. and Europe. I really hope I’m wrong about this last point.

Is Conservatism a Legitimate Political Ideology? Was it Ever?

“Conservatism* is a sham!” That was the original title of this thread. While it’s actually both sexier and more succinct, I opted against it because it doesn’t accurately reflect my position, although it’s not that far off. The Trump presidency has shed a lot of of light, or maybe brought to the surface, the real impetus behind the people who claim to be conservatives, and thus revealed the true nature of conservatism. Well, partly.

I need to make two important distinctions before I proceed–separating two different types of conservatives–namely, ones that don’t really have any real convictions in a legitimate (more on this later) political ideology, and ones that do. The reason that my initial title is both (mostly) true, but too misleading for me is that 99% of conservatives fall into the former category, while the rest fall into the latter. In other words, I believe there is such a thing as a legitimate conservative ideology, but so few people actually believe this that it’s fair to say conservatism is largely a sham.

Now it’s time to explain what I mean by a legitimate political ideology. First, I want specify that I’m talking about legitimacy within a liberal democracy. The rule of law; a constitutional government, separating powers in a way that creates checks and balances; free and fair elections; a free press; freedom of religion; due process–a legitimate political ideology would take these as a given. What also legitimizes a political ideology are the presence of legitimate goals–goals that relate to making the lives of both individuals and the overall society better. By “better” I’m thinking of things like protecting civil liberties, while also ensuring the security of the overall society; I’m thinking of a healthy economy, where one can earn a living, afford quality housing, education, health care. I could probably name other things, but hopefully you get the idea.

In the rest of this thread, I want to address two questions: 1) How is conservatism illegitimate? 2) And what does a legitimate conservatism look like?

(*In this thread, “conservatism” and “conservatives” refers to the American forms of both.)

No, Music Isn’t Worse Than It Was in the Past

I can’t remember if I’ve written about this before, but I saw some interviews of musicians I respect, which reminded me of this topic. Both bemoaned the current state of music, one of them gloomily predicting the the end boundary-pushing. (This interview was from the 80s.) My sense is that the basis for their assessment stemmed from a comparison with the past. That is, the compared their perception and understanding of the music of the present relative to the music from the past. If this is accurate, I don’t think this is a good way to judge the present. Indeed, I think doing so leads to an erroneous judgments and pessissms.

Now, let me make a few things clear. One, I’m not taking this position because I necessarily think the present moment is filled with great musicians and great music. Instead, I’m basing my position primarily on the way we perceive and understand both the present and the past. The difference, I think, primarily explains why the present seems bleak, relative to the past; and I’m going to explain that in this thread.

(Note: This applies to movies, and I would suspect most other art forms as well.)