Apologies for missing last month’s, and the delay on this one. I attended EAG, and enjoyed it. Wrote a few small pieces for the EA Forum, and am in the process of writing a few more. In the meantime…

Politics and Possibilities

The FTC is proposing a ban on all non-compete clauses.

For the obvious reasons incentives, power, and corruption have been on my mind lately. This is a well-reported story on Elise Stefanik, detailing how an ambitious moderate at Harvard became a die-hard Trumpist.

But the story I was reminded of was something I once heard from Desmond King. Des was a professor of mine, and he’s one of the globe’s top scholars on American racialized politics. I think Des over-simplifies his analysis of US politics, but I have some sympathy for his perspective. And, as such scholars do, he’s had many students, many of them bright and distinguished. One of them, a bright young Rhodes Scholar, would go on to attack “shareeah law” in America while running in a presidential primary. While relating this, Des seemed sad. Not angry, just disappointed. He knew that his former student knew better, and didn’t care. And that’s a hard thing to know. Said student would fail out of US politics, and now works as an “operating advisor” at an investment management firm.

Texas is getting into more explicit social engineering: 40% off property taxes for your primary residence if you have or have ever had four kids, if you’re a married couple, neither of whom has ever been divorced. I think that I’m against this, partially because of the abuse of the tax code it entails, partially because it discriminates against renters. Law hasn’t passed yet.

Estonian news of the month: Fitch continues to give them an AA- rating. I hadn’t been aware that bond ratings are this public, and it is interesting to see how everything is assessed. Oh, and also they had an election in which the majority of votes were cast online. At some point I really want to see one of the computer security experts who explain why it can’t be done safely explain to me why Estonia has a relatively anti-Russian government after a mostly-online election. I suspect that the answer is that the costs are too high to bother attacking Estonia, a country about the size of New Hampshire by population and double it by land area. Though if you think that America would smoothly go on one consistent system…

By far the strangest thing about about American attitudes towards the war in Ukraine is people who think that the spending doesn’t make sense.

The calculation is simple. US military planning policy is to be able to fight Russia and China, simultaneously, without allied support.1 Technically the goal doesn’t specify Russia or China, just any two adversaries, but even with recent declines there is no obvious third-most dangerous military threat.

That means that degrading Russian capabilities straightforwardly saves money. Ukranians will put their lives on the line to fire our equipment against an incredibly demoralized and poorly structured Russian military. It’s much cheaper to ship them weapons than to pay US soldiers to train in Germany and wait around for an invasion of a NATO ally.

Improving the World

Charitable giving fact of the month: charitable giving with income is U-shaped! Also, this probably doesn’t shock you, but people are more charitable around when they get their bonus.

This is a fascinating book review that touches on one of the smaller drums I bang about automation: automated surveillance is going to make workers *miserable*, and right now nobody has a solution. The attempt to blame economic deregulation, while acknowledging that the bad problems are driven by government regulation, are a little forced.

The moral reasoning around artists doing performances with a severely restricted audience is surreal.

The second issue of Asterisk is out, and it is focused on food. Strongly recommended.

Poem of the month is Appalachian Elegy 1-6 by bell hooks.



We can talk about whether or not that’s a good goal, but for now that’s the stated planning of the US military

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