Why Average Americans Should Care About Helping Ukraine

Part of the current impeachment hearings involves Trump withholding congressional approved military aid to Ukraine, who is now engaged in a war with Russia. (My understanding is that Russia invaded and has annexed Crimea, which is a territory in Ukraine.) I think most Americans can agree that this act of aggression is wrong, and I think they can understand, on some level, that withholding aid to a U.S. ally like Ukraine, in their current situation is troubling. However, I’m not sure most Americans understand how helping Ukraine is in the interests of average Americans. I was going to write a post to make a case for this, but I think the following Time article is a good start. Here’s a key excerpt:

…an effective Ukrainian defense against Russian aggression raises the cost of that aggression and (crucially) raises the perceived cost of future aggression.

A Russia that can simply walk over Ukraine is a stronger Russia – a nation that one day may feel emboldened to take even greater risks to secure regional dominance and strain the western alliance. A Russia that is bogged down in a fight against a well-armed foe is less likely to seek another fight – especially a fight with much higher risks.

In my opinion, what the author, David French, is talking about is a lesson from World War II–namely, when one country invades or annexes another, that act of aggression must be rebuffed quickly at the beginning. If not, the aggressive nation will likely act aggressively in the future–until another country(ies) push back hard. The thing is, if you wait too long, the initial aggressor might become really powerful–powerful enough to be a threat to the U.S. In the case of WWII, the U.S. eventually had to join the war–paying a significant price in blood and treasure.

Instead of sending U.S. troops to fight in a massive war, wouldn’t it be better to arm Ukrainians, helping them stop Russian aggression before it escalates? I believe this is one reason helping Ukraine–in terms of helping them defend themselves against Russian aggression–matters to average Americans.

There’s also another, more abstract, but no less important, reason. And I’ll try going into that in the next section later.

House Impeachment Inquiry Thread

Thread to discuss the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry. Public hearings started today.

References and Resources

The Just Security website has page with links to transcripts of public testimony. See below.

Notes on Fiona Hill’s testimony, October 14, 2019

I can’t believe I’m reading the transcript of this testimony, which occurred behind closed doors with House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. (I think members of two other committees were also present or allowed to attend.) I say, “I can’t believe,” because I didn’t have a strong interest in reading this. But I just took a peak and got hooked. (We’ll see how long the transcript holds my interest.) These are some notes as I read the transcript.

Trump: Impeachment Thread–Is it Time?

This thread is for links and comments about on impeaching Trump. Should the House of Representatives impeach Trump? Should they do so even if the Senate won’t convict and remove him? The first thing I’m going to post is a twitter thread from Yascha Mounk, a political scientist who studies democracies. Mounk lays out the two key questions that one should ask, in my opinion Continue reading “Trump: Impeachment Thread–Is it Time?”

Idea for News TV Show: The Accountability Board

General idea:

The show will feature a panel of journalists and pundits that represent at least the left and right. Panelists, lead by a moderator, will discuss issues, giving everything from general remarks analysis, predictions, etc. Some of these remarks will be summarized at put on a large board–picture at table with the top row with the name and picture of each pundit per column. In the rows below will a list of questions or issues. In the pundits column we will see some of their comments and/or a summary of their comments.

One of the main effects of the show I’d like to see is the reputations of pundits becoming linked to the degree to which their analysis and comments are reasonable, logical and fair. Ultimately, the rewards should come in the form of improved reputation and status, while punishments should have the opposite effect–e.g., the reputations of those who make outrageous comments, lie, etc. will take a big hit.

One format I’d like to use on the show is to present at least two types of narratives or theories about an individual or situation. For example, with Trump, the great dealmaker who Washington hates because he’s crude outsider that has made them look foolish, might be one theory. The other theory is that Trump is a conman, who only cares about enriching himself. Pundits will all stake on their positions on each theory. As new information comes in, the pundits can adjust their position. In these reviews, the moderator can bring up previous comments made by the pundits–both positive and negative. One variation is the entire panel can also vote on whether an individual pundit is being reasonable, operating in good faith, etc. And these comments can also be put on the accountability board as well. Basically, the idea is to hold a pundit accountable for their public statements.

Mueller Report

I figured the report deserves a separate thread.

BREAKING: The House Judiciary Committee is told to expect notification by 5pm that the Mueller report has been delivered to Barr— Ellen Nakashima (@nakashimae) March 22, 2019

While we wait for more information, I think the following David Frum piece,
A Special Prosecutor is not the Answer, written in 2017, is worth reading. The gist is that a Special Prosecutor will focus illegal acts that can be prosecuted, and that a president can do a lot of bad things that aren’t crimes. The Trump campaign coordinating with Russia and its cutouts to harm Clinton may not be illegal, or the Special Prosecutor may decide there isn’t enough evidence to prosecute anyone. This does not mean that the coordination is acceptable. What it does mean is that the question is not something for the legal system to answer, but the political one. In my view, the Republicans has hindered the political system from properly functioning. If Clinton had become president and Clinton campaign behaved similarly with regard to Russia, we would be moving towards, if not completing, impeachment. If a future president behaves in a similar manner, impeachment and removal would be justified.

This is probably better:

Continue reading “Mueller Report”

Alternatives to Horse Race Coverage of Elections

In case you haven’t seen. My thread with reactions and pushback from journalists who cover politics. ⚡️ “Election coverage in 2020 is on track to be even worse than 2016” by @jayrosen_nyuhttps://t.co/NtQ07El3lF— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) February 10, 2019


This thread is to discuss alternative ways to cover a presidential campaign–specifically avoiding emphasis on the horse race, which candidates are ahead versus behind, and the analyzing the strategy and tactics the candidates employ to win the contest.

Rosen mentions going to voters to find out what they want to hear the candidates adddress, and build the coverage around these concerns. I like the idea, and I will respond to some of the other concerns that Rosen raises, but I want to start by discussing an approach that I’ve longed favored.

In addition to covering the the issues that the candidate and voters care about, including the policies favored by the candidate, I’d like to see the press evaluate whether the candidates have the attributes that good president’s possess. To do this the press should first identify the qualities that most good presidents seem to possess, seeking the help of historians, former presidents, white house aides, etc. Once the press identifies these qualities, they can then seek ways to analyze the candidates based on whether they have these attributes or not. Here, the press would work like an employer doing research on a potential employee.

One way the press could do this is creating a chart for each candidate. As the campaigns progress, the journalists can gather information and fill in the chart. Maybe at the start of campaign there will be many unknowns about the candidates–the journalists may be uncertain about certain attributes–e.g., knowledge, character, leadership, negotiating skills, etc. Over the time voters will see these charts fill up as journalist collect more information.

On a related note, part of the candidates’ profiles can include the overall governing philosophy of the candidate. What is their political philosophy and ideology? How was it formed? What are some expressions of this philosophy? I care about this as much, if not more, than their specific policy proposals.