Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ronan Farrow releases "bombshell" story about a coverup (Michael Cohen) in the New Yorker


Maybe Ronan Farrow is Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.  And like David Hogg (the NRA’s nightmare), he seems to be just getting started.
  
Today Farrow’s booklet article “Missing Files Motivated theLeak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records” shows up on the New Yorker (paywall, but $1 a week). 
  
  
The detailed narrative does show how easily anyone with a sensitive job can get into trouble by comingling with his own accounts, perhaps through shell companies.  (That can happen with trusts, by the way.)
  
The narrative refers to the acronym SARS, or “suspicious activity reports”.  It’s a curious irony that SARS also refers to a surveillance reporting system for Medicaid MMIS (which I have worked on).
If Farrow takes down Trump and gets him impeached, we have Pence to deal with (at least with LGBT).

On Thursday afternoon, CNN explained that banks often drop customers whose activity generates SARS reports, because they don't want the "risk".  Imagine what the Internet world would be like if monitoring for legal problems (like Backpage) were handled this way. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

"Suicide of the West": introducing a book "franchise movie" with two conservative authors



I am not ready for a full review yet (to be done soon on Wordpress), but I have started Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” with subtitle “How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy”, from Crown Forum 379 pages before the notes.

The book maintains that civilization with the rule of law and individualism is somewhat of a “Miracle” and a geographical accident for which we should be grateful.  It probably started in England in the 17th Century.


Even more than Amy Chua, the author explains how tribalism is hardwired animal behavior, and how easy it is to backslide once social norms are broken.  It is more important to support the right “tribe” and its grievances than to succeed of be respected “in the world” as an individual, in this thinking. The aggressive tribalist demands not only individual freedom from discrimination in the usual sense but also positive affirmation from others of his or her (or “their”) group identity. 


The book is a real page turner. A lot of the material reminds me of George Gilder ("Sexual Suicide", 1973).  A particularly disturbing claim is that leftist tribalism sees "meritocracy" as a code for "racism". 

Goldberg thinks that when diverse people live in close quarters, there is less social capital -- yet what seems to be needed is people reaching across tribal divides, sometimes very personally. 



But it is also a “sequel” to James Burnham’s 1964 classic “Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism” (Encounter Books – the Kindle isn’t as pricey as print) which had followed “The Managerial Revolution” (1941).  Burnham had started out dabbling in Marxism and Trotskyism before becoming anti-Communist.  He opens this essay with with “This book is a book” and not a collection of papers, and soon says that Communism used free speech to destroy free speech.   Burnham seems critical of putting peace over liberty and wary of “moral busybodies”.  At a rough level, some of this sounds a little like Trump sometimes, and maybe Goldwater others.

  
I am quite shocked at how determined and coercive some tribalist behavior has become in the past four years.   Tribalism seems even to explain the reaction to James Damore’s memo (April 29). 
 
Goldberg mentions Burnham's book on p 115 where he says Burnham thinks that the intellectual development of Communism was motivated by guilt. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

"How Xi Jingping Views the World" in Foreign Affairs


Kevin Rudd has a “booklet” in the May 2018 “Foreign Affairs”, “How Xi Jingpig Views the World”, with a tagline “The Core Interests that Shape China’s Behavior” (paywall) 

All of this follows Jingping’s crowning himself president and leader of the party for life.
Trump has vacillated, sometimes in the past saying “China is not your friend” and imposing tariffs, and yet sometimes admiring Xi Jingping as a “strong man”.  Xi Jingping is undoubtedly important in controlling North Korea.

  
The most important of the seven pillars is that Xingping wants to make Communist Party ideology the driver of China’s future, and not economic reform for its own sake, or statecraft (or the deep state or administrative state, for that matter, an end in itself). This ultimately winnows down to “rightsizing” individual people for the sake of overall social stability, and that is where the planned “social credit score” by 2020 fits in.   Apparently in school kids have to memorize the ideology.
  
However, the peripheral areas, some of which are legally part of China and not sovereign (Tibet), and others which are (Taiwan, with is anti-Communist, and North Korea, which is hyper-communist) are also a major issue.
  
So is balancing environmental concerns with growth.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

"Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Keeping Russia Closeted": dissertation from Finland


I found a thesis online from a Finnish university of Tampere, “Out of Sight, Out of Kind: Keeping Russia Closeted: A Biopolitical Analysis of Non-Normative Sexualities in Russia”, by John Cai Benjamin Weaver, link here  (84 pages plus notes). 
   
The first word of the text is “Tcaikovsky”.  The author gives the history of anti-gay laws in the Soviet Union, their relaxation under Yeltsin in Russia in 1993, and then the 2013 “anti-propaganda” law, which had been preceded by some local laws like in St. Petersburg.

The author structures his argument around Michel Foucault’s theories of “biopolitics” and social control.

While Putin maintains he is not homophobic and has no problems with homosexual activity in private, Russia is very concerned with the inclusion of homosexuality and gender fluidity in public spaces, because it believes that, if presented as acceptable, people will have fewer children. The policy is designated to deal with the supposed collective well being of the Russian “nation”, but not with individual people.

Curiously, Russia has little concern with closeted homosexuality in its military, since Russia has a 12-month period of conscription.

Most of Russia's anti-gay sentiment comes from acceptance of propaganda as an important force in shaping society, with little respect for the potential of the individual for critical thinking (and Putin says he has to protect children).  It also comes from a desire to distinguish Russia from the West. 


But Russia is in demographic decline both because of low birth rate and poor life expectancy.  

The latter part of the thesis describes the surveys used and actual results.

Picture: 
By Cryonic07 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link