Video Games Liking Ryan Avent a lot at this moment.
Living in a big city means getting comfortable with the gradual disappearance of things you love: bars, restaurants, stores, buildings, scenes, neighborhood identities. Fantastic couple of paragraphs on new buildings as “ruins of the future”.
Trump the Placebo President - Tyler Cowen on how Trump’s policy is his rhetoric.
The way we treat alcoholism is out of date — by about a hundred years. This is an important and oft neglected truth. Our knee-jerk response to alcoholism is to mandate people go to AA meeetings—which are about 5-8% effective in helping people recover from their addiction. Worse, the system treats people who relapse as if they (not the program) are the ones failing. There are a lot better treatments out there: CBT, medications, . . . The least we can do is bring addiction treatment into the 21st century.
Sewer Socialism — So much I want to say about this but I don’t have the time to deep dive. Relevant:
A few months ago, Sandy Johnston called for a revival of a US tradition called sewer socialism, associated with Socialist Milwaukee mayors Emil Seidel (r. 1910-12), Daniel Hoan (r. 1916-40), and Frank Zeidler (r. 1948-60). The Milwaukee socialists boasted of the municipal sanitation system that they’d built, and were notably corruption-free. This was while they remained in good standing in the Socialist Party, which was orthodox Marxist; Seidel was Eugene Debs’ running mate in the 1912 presidential election.
The problem with the sewer socialist tradition that Sandy cites is that it inevitably makes the sewers more important than the socialism, and soon, the socialists turn into technocrats. This happened to European social democrats starting in the 1930s and 40s. Out of power, and even early in power in the 1920s and 30s, they talked about replacing capitalism with socialism. After years of power, they built public housing for the working class, comprehensive education, and national health care systems, and abandoned revolution; within the US, Zeidler was influenced by Debs and identified as a socialist but explicitly rejected Soviet communism.
The people who passed the laws creating public works, social welfare schemes, and public services were usually committed to social and economic equality, but the people running them would be promoted and rewarded based on competence rather than ideology. A politician could succeed in a social democratic party by showing ability to implement a government program rather than by showing ideological commitment. Sewer socialism turned into sewer big-tent center-left politics, and subsequently into sewer neo-liberalism.
Describing the floor at CPAC — A fine observation on the careerism of being a conservative activist.
No, those protesters aren’t paid. Some sanity about both sides of the debate regarding protesters and town hall meetings. Do the Democrats even remember the Tea Party? Anybody? One of my friends is fond of saying that Americans have the cultural memory of gnats and the older I get the truer that feels.
Machiavelli as homo politicus — in analogy to economics’ homo economicus. A self interested ruler whose self interest leads to better outcomes all around. He goes on to discuss how a ton of the really bad things that have happened in the world have happened because of too little Machiavellian rulers, i.e. bad things are done in the name of “good”.
Why we need a better staffed congress — The always excellent Lee Drutman on how congressional staff has declined over the last couple of decades and how that, among other things, has led to the ceding of many of its powers to the executive branch.
Shut up with the transhumanist shit already — A short thinkpiece about rationalism blending seamlessly into magical thinking and religion. Which sums up Silicon Valley pretty well.
1984 is not a manual of resistance, it is a chronicle of crushing, obliterating defeat — A nice writeup on Orwell as a more important essayist than novelist. Particularly loved this excerpt of a profile he did on H.G. Wells.
Because he belonged to the nineteenth century and to a non-military nation and class … he was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity. Creatures out of the Dark Ages have come marching into the present, and if they are ghosts they are at any rate ghosts which need a strong magic to lay them. The people who have shown the best understanding of Fascism are either those who have suffered under it or those who have a Fascist streak in themselves.
And maybe Trump is just a weak president. — because apparently all I post about is that asshole. However, it seems increasingly likely that he will be a strange yet ineffective president. Unless, of course, we have a terrible national emergency on the scale of 9/11 or the financial crisis. In which case I’ll be setting all of my hair on fire and advising liberals to buy more guns.
Trump hasn’t really done anything. — Not that surprising.
Stop comparing terrorists to ladders — This article hits all the right points: comparing terrorist attacks to household accidents neglects the usefulness of the household objects; The comparisons also neglect the fat tailed distribution of deaths from terror attacks; However, Justin Fox didn’t mention what I feel is the most important aspect of a terror attack— the widespread fear that terror creates. People just aren’t angry about auto accidents or toddler shootings or bathtub (er, slippings?)
Maybe they should be, but should is never a good metric for policy. People are irrational and making dumb comparisons between ladder falls and bombings is not only naive, it contributes to the image of the smug out of touch liberal.
More on why white folk are disgruntled Noah Smith on the dashed expectations of white people during the financial crisis. Basically, if you thought you were going to retire easy in 2007, you’d be pretty disappointed right now.
Critics of this theory will point out that whites in coastal cities that had the biggest housing bubbles tended to go for Hillary Clinton. But the educated whites who tended to lean toward Clinton have an additional kind of wealth – human capital, the value of their skills and credentials. That wealth didn’t decline when housing crashed. But for many whites without a college degree, housing wealth – and maybe a pension or 401(k) – was all they had.
Indivisible, an effective answer to the Tea Party Particularly:
“It doesn’t matter who we take money from — we’re always going to get blamed as a Soros group, even if we don’t take money from Soros,” said Padilla, now an analyst with the National Immigration Law Center. “That’s one of the attacks and that’s fine.”
The Indivisible manual is often blunt about what it says members of Congress really tick — and how protesters might use it to their advantage. One chart compares what “your MoC cares a lot about” (an example: “an interest group’s endorsement”) vs. what a lawmaker “doesn’t care much about” (for one, “your thoughtful analysis of the proposed bill”).
My goodness, liberals may just be learning themselves a little bit of politics.
Tyler Cowan’s Fascism Reading List Reassuring?
Overall I did not conclude that we Americans are careening toward fascist outcomes. I do not think that notion is well-suited to the great complexity of contemporary bureaucracy, nor to our more feminized and also older societies. Furthermore, in America democracy has taken much deeper roots and the system of checks and balances, whatever its flaws, has stood for a few hundred years, contra either Italy or Germany in their fascist phases.
Still, I did not find this reading reassuring, as people will support many bad things in politics. The Italian war in Ethiopian was remarkably popular, but exactly why? We Americans could (again) do something quite bad, but without being fascists.
A rebuttal to that lengthy article on Cambridge Analytica — Leonard Bershidsky at Bloomberg View registers a rebuttal to the article that claims Trump’s data operation was what swung the pendulum over to his side. Key quote:
Had she won, Clinton’s head of analytics, Elan Kriegel, would be where Cambridge Analytica is now. But in a contest of sorcerers, the loser is never truly magical.
So is Trump an authoritarian mastermind or an incompetent buffoon? — The two, apparently, look the same. A little sanity from someone who studies this stuff. Maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are not the diabolical masterminds that we’re being told they are. Time will tell. The key thing when reading these tea leaves is a political science problem called observational equivalence:
Let me explain how observational equivalence works with an example. President Trump may have brought Steve Bannon into the NSC because he is consolidating power and intends to sideline all regular establishment players in the formulation of American foreign policy. Or he might have brought Bannon into the NSC because he is so isolated that he needs someone who he believes he can trust, and everyone in the foreign policy establishment is dragging feet and dissembling. The former is a sign of strength. The latter is a sign of weakness. Both have the same observable implication.
You’re wrong about sugar — A review of the fad diet book “The Case Against Sugar” by someone who actually knows the science. Guys, you know how you’re scoffing at those idiots from the 70s and 80s who thought eating fat was super unhealthy? Well, you have some mustard on your tie.
On the confusion — Ross Douthat with some important warnings for the media.
Tyler Cowen on not underestimating Trumponomics — Another important column. Trump economics likely won’t be the catastrophe that the left expects it to be, and it’s popular (which it may very well end up being) there’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
They know what you are thinking — More nightmare fuel. Not that we didn’t already know that our every move is constantly tracked, but now we see the results of that data being used: superior marketing. This is a long article but it’s worth a read. Essentially a psychometrics researcher realized that he could build scarily accurate models of behavior based on relatively small amounts of Facebook like data. A firm called Cambridge Analytica weaponized this and provides political consulting. Their two biggest clients to date: The Brexit campaign and Donald J. Trump.
The key (scary) innovation is the ability to market to behaviors rather than demographics.
Trump the moderate Matt Yglesias on a model of the president that assumes his antics are meant to distract congressional Republicans as much as they are meant to antagonize his enemies. Plausible.
Trump and big business, who’s messing with who? — A good summary of how the CEOs of several large companies are manipulating the president by giving him talking points and stroking his ego. ATT and Bayer might be good buys right now.
Andrew Sullivan on being an immigrant — I can identify with quite a bit of his sentiment, having been an immigrant in Australia and feeling much the same urge to assimilate. Enjoyable and less breathless than usual from him.
And a little Voxsplainer on NAFTA — Courtesy of Brad DeLong.
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