Thinking strategically about free speech and violence
Phenomenal article identifying the distinction between legitimacy and efficacy. Don’t agree with all of the conclusions, but well worth reading.
Trump tweets and the efficient market hypothesis
One of the greatest features of the American government is that even the executive has incredibly limited influence, both on government and society. It is encouraging that, even with a strong personality like President Trump, that holds true – the executive cannot simply bully his corporate enemies into submission. Of course, there is likely still a chilling effect based on the perception that President Trump has real influence on market caps, but at least it is simply rooted in perception and not reality.
National-security law professors’ takes on the Trump leaks
There are two issues with reporting on the recent Trump intelligence leaks. First, they tend to be from constant critics of the administration, for whom “Every move, every tweet is a threat to democracy, an affront to humanity, and surely will lead to the end of life as we know it.” Second, and just as importantly, most journalists covering the story appear to know very little about how either executive law or national-security law works, and seem to selectively give passes when it suits their agenda (e.g., for the past four months, the intelligence community, after years of being excoriated as clandestine thugs threatening rule of law, are now unimpeachable heroes who should be deferred to without question).
Jack Goldsmith’s Lawfare blog has skirted both of these issues. Goldsmith, “widely considered one of the brightest stars in the conservative legal firmament,” worked in the Bush DOJ and teaches at Harvard Law. Since he is both fairly balanced and understands security law, Lawfare tends to be the best reporting on these kinds of issues (as it was during the Obama administration).
Anyway, this is a fantastic synthesis of:
(1) what happened
(2) why it is not illegal
(3) why it still matters: (a) it threatens sources and methods, both from the US and allies; (b) it threatens US alliances and intelligence-sharing agreements; © it again raises questions of how disproportionately Trump trusts Russia; and (d) it raises broader questions about how impactful Trump’s rash actions may have on world security.
Though this might beg the question as to why it matters; after all, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because you know, the Cold War has been over for 20 years.”
Moral grandstanding: The quiet poison in American politics
We’ve all seen it in annoying tweets and chest-thumping Facebook posts ― items presented as casual observations or political arguments that carry a much different underlying meaning: I am good because I have said this important thing now, here, on the Internet! The social need to be perceived by our peers as being morally upright ― or to pile on, with tribal abandon, with our likes and faves ― has replaced our calling to pursue moral truth. Or to actually engage in morally useful activities.
Even more troubling to Tosi and his co-author, Bowling Green State University Assistant Professor of Philosophy Brandon Warmke, moral grandstanding is foreclosing meaningful debates about what the right thing to do might actually be. The nature of a just society is complicated, and the right answer to new issues can be difficult to decipher. Moral grandstanding encourages people to simply stake out successively extreme positions to impress their friends, instead of simply talking to each other. This eliminates nuance and forces people into bizarre partisan camps. People who share a great many moral intuitions become polarized as antagonists.
Chill, America. Not every Trump outrage is outrageous.
The argument put forth here is not that Trump is fine (he’s not), or that he doesn’t have unprecedented, reprehensible policies (he does).
Rather, it’s to make sure that the Trump counter-narrative is credible precisely in order to ensure that those policies which truly are unprecedented and reprehensible are most effectively countered.
But a continual state of panic serves no purpose and will eventually numb voters and their institutions to real threats when they inevitably arise. Trump is, without doubt, the most unusual chief executive in American history. He has promised to do many things, some of which are almost certainly impossible and a few of which are probably unconstitutional. In the meantime, he won his election fairly — as determined by the electoral college and certified by Congress — and he is thus mandated to staff and run a superpower.
Whether he will do so wisely or constitutionally remains to be seen, but the legitimate concerns of the president’s critics are not well served by attacking the normal functions of the executive branch merely because those powers are being exercised by someone they oppose.