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.
26 thoughts on “Hey! Check This Out–the Politics Edition (2022)”
Is the West Laissez-Faire About Economic Warfare? from War on the Rocks. I thought this was an interesting article, although I need more time to process it. One main idea is that the use of sanctions in lieu of using the military can have significant effects on global economic system, and can actually instigate aggressive behavior. For example, the article explains the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the 30s in this way:
Countries will not only consider military actions to make them resilient to economic warfare, but they may not fully integrate their economy with the global one, which will likely make the global economy less efficient.
There’s more to digest, but I will mention one other point. The article suggests that the West and other countries that use economic warfare with a “shoot-first-ask-questions-later” approach–that is they’re not really thinking carefully about political and economic implications and consequences these effects will have.
Here’s another War on the Rocks article that discusses the ways in which economic sanctions can lead to riskier actions.
On a related note, the first article references another interesting article from the Guardian about a way to deal with inflation now. Again, I’m not sure I fully understand it, but the author suggests the use of price controls as temporary measure, to deal with inflation. She points to the use of price controls after WWII, where the situation was similar (e.g., bottlenecks in supply chain, pent up demand, companies raising prices to increase profits). My vague understanding is that the government implementing price controls on certain products, preventing companies for gouging consumers, will slow inflation, giving time to resolve other issues leading to inflation (like supply chain problems).
To get a better understanding of inflation, I tried reading op-eds by economists like Paul Krugman and Lawrence Summers. I found them too difficult for me to understand. Fortunately, the following podcasts helped.
First, NYT’s The Daily had a podcast explaining inflation in the 1970s. The one big takeaway for me: Inflation becomes a huge problem once businesses and consumers begin to believe inflation is something that will continue into the future–that is, people expect prices to continue to rise–to the degree that their present behavior changes. Specifically,
In other words, a vicious cycle begins. And once that occurred, the way to stop this–slowing down the economy by raising interest rates–was a long, painful process.
(There’s a ominous part that pertains to Biden. Carter appointed Paul Volker as the FED chair–in spite, or because of, the fact that Volker said he’d raise interest rates, evenn if it would slow the economy. The plan worked–eventually–but in the short term it caused economic pain. My impression was that this contributed significantly to Jimmy Carter’s 1980 loss to Reagan. Carter may have sacrificed his presidency for something that ultimately was best for the country. I hope Biden doesn’t have to be in that position.)
The second podcast is from the Ezra Klein show, specifically his recent interview with Larry Summers. I’m not finished with this, but what I listened to was helpful.
I still don’t think I have a great grasp of the causes and solutions for the current inflation, but these two podcasts helped a lot.
How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church from Tim Alberta in theAtlantic.
This is an in-depth report about politics and the evangelical church–mostly focusing on the deleterious impact of Trumpism on the evangelical chuch–although it also features pastors who have pushed back against this, as well as pastors who have attempted to be apolitical in their churches.
The article is thorough and balanced, but it just occurred to me that they don’t factor in progressive Christians. Is there a way that Progressive politics poisons or hurts the church? I’m wary of promoting political positions, either on the right or left, in churches–particularly if they’re attached to specific public policies. It can be really hard to know which ones are appropriate for Christians to embrace and to what degree the church should embrace them.
In any event, I think this is a good article for American Christians to read and discuss.
No Atheist Has Done This Much Damage to the Christian Faith from Peter Wehner in theAtlantic
Sadness was the first reaction I felt when I read this, as well as other articles, like the one from Russell Moore in Christianity Today (with an even more dramatic title, “This is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse”).
I also felt sad when I heard the Catholic church sex abuse scandals as well, and, at the time, while I suspected this wasn’t exclusive to the Catholic church, this recent scandal strengthens this impression to the degree that I know suspect similar types of abuse occur in most large, religious organizations.
If this impression is accurate, then we need to examine the factors that are contributing to this. My guess is that it has to do with power–specifically, when an individual and/or an organization gains this kind of power. the probability of these type of abuses increase. I would guess sexual abuse would be more frequent if males are in power. Finally, religious leaders who have the trust of their members will likely find themselves in intimate discussions with members who are vulnerable. Forgive this next point if it’s crude and unseemly, but if the members are physically attractive, I would guess this likely increases the chance of sexual abuse.
My sense is that if we don’t identify the cause of this and address them, they will happen again. On a more pessimistic note, I feel like these abuses have gone on, maybe from the beginning of time, so to speak.
They are Preparing for War WaPo interview of a person who studies insurgencies within a country happen. Basically, I’m talking about the way civil wars begin, but I think “civil war” will turn people off. It did for me. I saw this interview a while ago, but never read it because of those words. The idea that a civil war might break out in the U.S. was too much even for me.
The scholar, Barbara Walter, addresses this, saying that against a government with a strong military, civil war looks more like an insurgency–with small groups choosing targets to attack–not unlike a terrorist group (if I recall correctly).
Anyway, I recommend reading this.
Here are some passages that stood out for me.
Walter mentions analyzing data of civil wars from other countries, in an attempt to identify patterns. Here’s what they found:
On the GOP covering up the 1/6 insurrection:
The CIA has a manual for insurgency, breaking it into three stages
Q&A with Alan Dershowitz from Isaac Chotiner in the New Yorker
I laughed out loud, several times while reading this.
At several junctures in this interview, I genuinely wondered if this was a real interview, and not some satire or parody. (But wasn’t Alan Dershowitz actually answering the questions?) The next thought I had: Since the interview is lightly edited, the New Yorker is distorting the interview for comedic effect.
To me, both explanation seem just as plausible as the notion that these are real responses from Dershowitz. Judge for yourself, but if this is real, the guy’s ego and arrogance are something else (and his cluelessness).
How the GOP May Move on from Trump
Yesterday’s WaPo editorial by Greg Sargent suggested that the GOP may attempt to sideline Trump and pivot away from him–namely, to quietly disable Trump’s ability to win office, behind the scenes, while publicly speaking out against him. This method occurred with Sen. Joe McCarthy, Nixon, and even the 1995 Oklahoma bombing incident. In the first two examples, the GOP wanted to move on from the candidates, but not alienate their voters who were energized by those individuals. In the case of the Oklahoma City bombing, the GOP didn’t want to alienate far-right militias and others with strong anti-government sentiments.
In the case of Trump, the GOP may attempt to pivot to another candidate–like Ron Desantis–while claiming the Democrats unfairly tarnished Trump. Now, I would be happy if the GOP sidelined Trump, but if this approach would be reckless and irresponsible in my view. Trump has stirred up the GOP base, undermining their trust in election and the press–based on falsehoods, and the GOP politicians know this. But they don’t want to alienate the base, by telling them the truth. Telling them the truth would be a robust way they could help preserve our democracy, but it would also politically damage them. Ultimately, they would be attempting to benefit from voters whipped up by lies and demagoguery, primed for violence. How would this be different from better than Trump?
(Aside: If this plan is correct–and I can see it in the comments of some conservatives–then it partly explains the GOP reaction to Liz Cheney. She’s ruining this plan. But I think she’s acting responsibly, ultimately unwilling to risk our democracy, while the Republicans preferring to take that risk, playing a dangerous and foolish game. They basically did the same thing with Donald Trump and that got us to 1/6, among other things.)
Most third parties have failed. Here’s why ours won’t. WaPo editorial by David Jolly, Christine Todd- Whitman, and Andrew Yang
Why won’t this party help Trump or a Trumpist Republican win the election? To me that’s the question. And based on their op-ed, I think it could happen. Here’s how. Part of their way of winning is to promulgate the idea that Democrats and Republicans are both, equally inadequate–which is what I think many Trump voters want to believe.
This is nonsense, in my view. The Republicans have accepted authoritarianism, if not embraced it. The Democrats have not. If you are patriotic and care about American democracy, you should help all Americans understand this; because too many Americans do not; they think both parties are equally bad–that is, corrupt, dishonest, etc. I believe this is a big reason the Trump debacle occurred and a big reason American democracy is currently in jeopardy.
This third party will have to push this false equivalence, and I’m afraid they may help the forces that threaten our democracy.
On the senate filibuster
This letter from 400+ scholars (recommended by James Fallows of theAtlantic) calls for reforming the filibuster.
While I mostly agree with this, I’m also wary about it for a couple of reasons. First, we don’t live in a direct democracy, by design–my understanding is that the Founders strongly opposed direct democracy. Elected representatives would make the decisions they deemed best for the society–which means that they would make decisions that were unpopular, at least some of the times. This is a feature, not a bug. On the other hand, representatives have to be sensitive to their voters wishes, because if they didn’t voters can replace them. That is, they can’t simply ignore the will of the voters’, and to do so too frequently does seem like a problem. The voters, ultimately, can accept or condemn a representative for ignoring their wishes.
And this seems like the bigger problem. Voters continue to vote for politicians, even when they’re ignoring the popular will. In other words voters are big part of the problem–but not entirely. I think the press, the information environment, as well as role money plays in campaigns also hinder the way voting holds politicians accountable. If we could effectively address these issues, perhaps the filibuster would not be such a problem?
On a related note, if Democrats won more senate seats, I tend to think the scholars likely wouldn’t be protesting so vociferously. To be fair, I agree that needing a supermajority to pass regular legislation needs to be changed, and I do think these scholars would support that. I’m not sure if they’d feel the same sense of urgency, though.
This leads to my second point–namely, I’m uncomfortable about the possibility that these complaints stem from Democrats failing to winning enough elections. If this is the driving factor, I feel like the Democrats, and their supporters, should focus on doing what it takes to win more seats–including in red states–rather than focus on ending something like the filibuster. (This kind of reminds me of the way Republicans try to suppress the vote, instead of changing their policies and campaigns to win more voters to their side. To be clear, I’m not saying there is an equivalence between the two. What’s similar is that both parties should put more of their efforts in winning over American voters to their side.)
I just want to comment here that the GOP found success by branding government as a problem (not the solution, according to Reagan). But we seem to have gotten to a perverse point where Republicans benefit more when government seems or is ineffective rather than the opposite. This incentivizes Republicans to employ obstructionist tactics, when the other party is in power–especially since voters haven’t really punished them for this.
I take polls with a grain of salt, but I really hope voters’ top concern is the threat to democracy. That would really boost my spirits and make me feel good about my fellow countrymen.
However, in the same poll, I believe the GOP has a two point lead over Democrats, in terms of voter preference. This raises questions as to whether voters’ top concern are threats to democracy. It could also suggest a failure in the news media–i.e., their “both sides” coverage obscures the threat the GOP poses to democracy.
I don’t usually recommend articles from people who I know little about. I’m going to make an exception now–although I should say that I read the article because someone I tend to respect and trust recommended it. (Matt Glassman, and I found Glassman’s twitter account from more well-known journalists, former/current professionals in government, and people of this sort.)
Here’s the tweet that got me to read the article:
The writer is from Sri Lanka, but grew up in Canada and the U.S. He’s experienced a coup in his country, and so he’s writing from that perspective. It reminds me of a post written by a Venezuelan that I really liked. That one gave recommendations for defeating a populist leader. This one explains that America has experienced a coup, and is still not out of hot water. One last thing, he infuses his article with the type of irreverent humor I associate with stand-up comics, which readers may enjoy. (Note: It was written on Nov. 10, 2020.)
Here’s a passage that I liked:
Here’s a video the author made shortly after 1/6/21:
The Authoritarian Playbook: A Guide for the Media by Protect Democracy. (For what it’s worth, the advisers behind this organization are people I trust.) While this is document is supposed to be a guide for journalists, I think the chart below is useful for news consumers.
Articles and other sources on Gov. DeSantis sending immigrants to Marth’s Vineyard.
Ron DeSantis Can’t Troll His Way Into the White House from David Frum in theAtlantic
Frum’s piece is really informative, not just about DeSantis’s move, but about immigration, specifically those seeking asylum, and the challenges surrounding it.
And what Miles Taylor says below is…I don’t have the words anymore. In the old days, something like this would be unthinkable.
I agree with the sentiments here. Concessions like this are one of the things that make America great.
Some quick thoughts on the following before I forget.
“I’m Christian, Conservative and Republican, in that order.” But these candidates he was “happy to support” told lies that threatened our democracy and human lives–and not in an abstract sense, but a concrete one. Moreover, the lives in danger were his wife and daughter. It sounds like he’s a Republican before he’s a Conservative, and maybe even a Christian.
In any event, this is totally sickening to me.
How Elon Musk could politically weaponize information he has by owning twitter.
If Musk genuinely cared about in government intervention and influence in social media platforms, the approach below seems like a good step to prove it.
Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe, encourages violence, officials say from WaPo
My sense is that Musk has underestimated the importance, complexity, and difficulty of content moderation in social media. If true, I hope it doesn’t cost people their lives.
My sense about Musk’s approach to twitter: emulation of Rupert Murdoch’s approach–namely, do things to stoke cultural resentments and political animus against the Democrats, in a way to activate the right, in hopes this will translate to financial gain.
Also, this will outrage and draw the left to the site, again, in hopes to financially capitalize on this.
And like Murdoch, Musk doesn’t care if it tears the country a part, endangers lives, or threatens our democracy. As an example, Musk tweeted today:
This seems to vindicate those that claim Musk’s actions could lead to violence:
Yesterday, Musk removed several journalists from twitter. My understanding is that a) there was no reason, or the reason was dubious; b) they are reporters who have covered or questioned Musk.
April 25, 2022, Elon Must tweeted the following:
A potential bipartisan deal on immigration
I don’t know the issue well enough to know if this is a good deal, but it sounds good on the surface.
“New resources to process asylum seekers” should be something that those on the right support–or at least, they should view this as a practical step to address something that they ostensibly care about. Namely, determining whether the USG can grant an immigrant asylum can take a long time. My understanding is that during this process immigrants can wait (live and work) in the U.S. Immigrants know this, and it can make coming to the U.S. more appealing.
That this would frustrate and anger Americans who want (near) total control of the borders is easy to understand.
More resources to speed up the determination process–and the fast removal of those who don’t qualify–is a step in gaining greater control of the border. This is something that, in principle, should appeal to those on the right.
Here’s something else that should appeal to (real) conservatives (if it’s accurate):
One last thing. If Republicans don’t like this, they should offer reasonable, counter-proposals–the type of counter-proposals that would expose Democrats for not being serious about solving the problem. I have hard time thinking of examples of Republicans doing such things, especially in the last six years. I want to the Republicans to show that they really care about taking serious steps to solving this issue.
Yesterday, on social media, Trump proclaimed that he had a big announcement today. Here’s what it was:
I post this not to sneer, mock, and laugh at Trump. That’s really not what I feel. I probably felt pity more than any of those emotions. If he were a good friend, I would feel sad. This diminishes him; to put it in a matter-of-fact way: this is pathetic. What came to mind as I saw this: do his supporters sense this as well, or is their support is completely unshaken? A part of me feels like this is something that could be a signal of the end, but there have been too many other potential situations like that, so I don’t put much stock in this view.
I get all your sentiments of course, even the hypothetical sadness, but have you seen the fan art his supporters have created? It looks just like these trading cards. $99 seems like the right price, too.
The guy has put his name on steak. This actually feels like a step up, concept-wise. The stupid superhero motif should really go — I think NFTs of yet-unseen photos of the man in action, perhaps taken by his personal photographer (not the official White House photographer) would have been more dignified and might have sold better. However, they are claiming a sellout (that’s the beauty of NFTs: manufactured scarcity) and the marketplace has the $99 cards trading for $120 or so, last time I checked. If his team is smart (not a safe assumption) and controls the marketplace, as the NBA does with TopShot, he makes money on every trade without spending any of his own.
Of course, this is exactly the wrong time to get into selling NFTs, but the guy has always been about using his name to make any money possible, and this appears to be doing it. Without transparency about numbers of items or the cost expended in bringing them to market, it’s impossible to tell, but at least for now it seems to have been a good move, brand-wise and possibly campaign-wise.
I have not seen the fan art. I do think think selling WH photos would have been more slightly more dignified, but it would ultimately be tacky.
As for selling out, I wonder how many foreign nationals bought this. (Also, my understanding is that the money is going to Trump, not his campaign.)
Why do some on the right (and left) view Ukraine and President Zelensky in a negative way?
The Bulwark’s Cathy Young chronicled these negative feelings, specifically to Zelensky’s recent speech to Congress.
Today, WaPo’s Greg Sargent described an ideology behind Carlson’s rant, and I think he makes some valid points:
I honestly don’t know if Carlson believes these things, or is just cynically saying them for ratings.
I also liked this excerpt of Nick Catoggio Dispatch piece (which I couldn’t read because it’s behind a paywall):
Good to see this:
Rachel Maddow did a piece on this Dec. 2. EDIT: I found the full video so I’m replacing that third-party upload with this from MSNBC.
Just watched this. Thanks!