Zero Sum
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. — Neils Bohr
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Posted May 4th, 2018 by ravi    / Permalink /

Vox has a post with legal opinion on Giuiliani and Trump’s admission that Trump was aware of the money paid to Stormy Daniels and has repaid Cohen the amount. The analysis by Douglas Spencer at the University of Connecticut is the most insightful one of the lot. Spencer correctly points out that admitting he was aware of Cohen’s payout helps Trump’s potential argument that this was a matter of personal, and not political, safety. This achieves legal safety for Trump at the cost of political harm. But one thing that we have learnt in the Trump era is that no controversy can inflict political damage, especially on the Right, when tribal identity is assured.

Last nights revelation by Giuliani changes the political landscape much more than the legal one. The central legal question has not changed: When Michael Cohen wired $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, was he trying to prevent Melania from learning about Clifford’s allegations or trying to prevent voters in Michigan from hearing these allegations?

Trump’s acknowledgment that he was personally involved in the payment may actually help his legal argument. I think the defense that this was about protecting Trump’s marriage would be very weak if Michael Cohen had acted alone. Why would Cohen care about Melania’s perception of Trump more than Trump himself? The Melania defense is much stronger now.

Politically, however, the president of the United States has acknowledged paying hush money to a porn actress and acknowledged that he knowingly and willfully lied to the press when asked about it.

Posted May 11th, 2017 by ravi    / Permalink /

Medicaid currently finances about 45% of all births in the United States. Trumpcare (AHCA) slashes Medicaid by $880 billion over 10 years. How is this pro-life?

Posted Apr 7th, 2017 by ravi    / Permalink /

From philosopher Robert Simpson’s essay in Aeon:

I’d propose a third way: put free ‘speech’ as such to one side, and replace it with a series of more narrowly targeted expressive liberties. Rather than locating actions such as protest and whistleblowing under the umbrella of ‘free speech’, we could formulate specially tailored norms, such as a principle of free public protest, or a principle of protected whistleblowing. The idea would be to explicitly nominate the particular species of communication that we want to defend, instead of just pointing to the overarching genus of ‘free speech’. This way the battle wouldn’t be fought out over the boundaries of what qualifies as speech, but instead, more directly, over the kinds of communicative activities we think need special protection.

Intentionality matters. In all but the hard sciences, it’s time to get rid of the outdated idea or hope that we can abstract away the particulars.

Posted Feb 27th, 2017 by ravi    / Permalink /

As violent anti-democratic forces spurred by a demagogue start to engulf both nations in which I find a home (the USA and India), it may be tempting to recycle the old poem by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Read More…

Posted Nov 8th, 2010 by ravi    / Permalink /

Commenting on the Stewart/Colbert non-rally in the NYRB, Janet Malcolm approvingly quotes David Carr from the New York Times:

Most Americans don’t watch or pay attention to cable television. In even a good news night, about five million people take a seat on the cable wars, which is less than 2 percent of all Americans. People are scared of what they see in their pay envelopes and neighborhoods, not because of what Keith Olbermann said last night or how Bill O’Reilly came back at him.

This Malcolm calls a “brutal truth”. But is this really true? And what sort of truth is it?

Five million may be 2% of all Americans, but is it the same 2% that “take a seat on the cable wars” each night? Malcolm and Carr do not tell us.

Further, should the percentage be calculated against the entire population? Or the adult population (approximately 225 million)? Or the households (about 105 million in 2000)? (source: US Census Bureau QuickFacts)

Even as a percentage of households, this audience amounts to only 5%, but this ignores the vaunted “network effect”. In other words, what of the influence of this audience as they disperse into workplaces, Starbuckses and Elk Lodges to magnify the voices of their liking?

In polling the citizenry on the bizarre notion that Barack Obama is a Muslim, the Pew Research Center (about as reputable as polling outfits get, from what I can tell) found that 18% of Americans subscribe to this idea and 43% say “they do not know what Obama’s religion is”. And only 46% of Democrats are of the opinion that Obama is a Christian.

Where would the people polled gain these impressions? We know the answer because Pew asked them:

When asked how they learned about Obama’s religion in an open-ended question, 60% of those who say Obama is a Muslim cite the media. Among specific media sources, television (at 16%) is mentioned most frequently.

And these beliefs, Pew finds, have a political price:

Beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him. Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while a majority of those who think he is a Christian approve of the job Obama is doing. Those who are unsure about Obama’s religion are about evenly divided in their views of his performance.

A summary consideration of the matter also hints to us that pocketbook/neighbourhood issues (the concerns contrasted by Carr against the screeds of cable commentators) are not mutually exclusive with the opinions expressed on television. Often, it is in these media that personal experiences of economic or security concerns are corralled into political viewpoints.