Improbable Names of Real People

Some people have names that novelists would avoid using for characters because they would be unbelievable or too on-the-nose, or both–e.g., Chad Wackerman, a jazz-rock drummer. Actually, Wackerman is a real person. In this thread, I’d like real people with names like these. Actually, I wouldn’t mind hearing examples from novels as well.

Notes on The Analects of Kong Fuzi

I just finished reading two translation of The Analects, or Lun yu in Chinese–one by D.C. Lau (Penguin books) and the other by David H. Li. (The quality of the second one might be questionable.) The book is a collection of sayings by Kong fu zi or Kongzi, otherwise known as Confucius in the West. In this thread, I plan to jot down some notes, starting with some general impressions. These comments draw not only from the Lun yu, but what I learned from a Great Courses series on Kongzi, as well as what I learned from school.

Here are some random thoughts and impressions:

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Trump’s Pattern of Reckless Handling of U.S. Intelligence

This month the FBI went to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve U.S. documents (i.e., documents that belong to the U.S. government, not Trump), and we’re learning that a) the National Archives, the agency that is irresponsible for these documents have tried repeatedly, over a year, to get them back, and b) Trump had highly classified documents–in insecure facilities. There are various levels of classification for these documents, and Trump had among the most secretive and crucial–documents that only a few people have permission to see and documents that require special, secure facilities–both in terms of storage and viewing. For example, some of the documents involve information about the method and sources of vital information–i.e., the way we obtain highly secretive information and the actual individuals, which include individuals from other countries, who obtain this information.

In light of this recent information, someone mentioned a October 5, 2021 NYT article, which had this as the lede:

Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.

The article points out the problem wasn’t entirely new, and it pointed to problems with the process of recruiting agents (i.e., informants/spies), underestimating foreign adversaries, and other issues. But in light of recent news, I can’t help but wonder if foreign spies identified agents of the U.S. and captured and killed them. For example, check out this paragraph:

A breach of the classified communications system, or “covcom,” used by the C.I.A. helped to expose the agency’s networks in China and in Iran, according to former officials. In both cases informants were executed. Others had to be extracted and resettled by the agency.

Does the C.I.A. know the details of the breach or is it still a mystery?

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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.

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.