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David Schneider-Joseph

Just a summary of what we currently know:

• The Kremlin offered assistance to the Trump campaign.
• The highest levels of the Trump campaign met with self-identified Kremlin agents with the intent to receive such assistance, then denied publicly that any such meetings took place, then when the meetings were revealed lied about their intended purpose.
• Trump denied having personally written those lies and then this itself turned out to be a lie.
• The man who was then Trump’s personal attorney claims Trump was privy to and approved the meeting in advance.
• Trump himself, on national television, requested Kremlin intrusion into American computer systems.
• The Kremlin shortly thereafter engaged in such intrusion, then released the stolen information publicly.
• Trump denies that the Kremlin did so despite overwhelming evidence, agreed to by even his own White House.
• Trump fired the FBI director after pressuring him to drop investigating these matters, then told the Russian Foreign Minister as well as NBC News that he fired the FBI director because of that investigation.
• Trump (if not the rest of his administration) has pursued a foreign policy agenda favorable to the Russian government and contrary to American interests: slow-walking sanctions; modifying the GOP platform in exactly one way which happens to favor Russia’s interests in Ukraine; undermining NATO, the G7, Canada, and the EU; offering up American ambassadors to Russian interrogators; and refusing even the mildest rebuke of Putin.
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I’ve just made a donation to Flippable, an organization aimed at gaining Democratic control of state legislatures. After researching the many options available to us — House and Senate races, political action committees, charities, etc. — I have concluded that this is the best investment of time and money. If you have some of either to spare, please consider offering them some.

State legislatures represent a significant and undervalued structural component in the workings of American democracy, one in which Republicans have a hugely disproportionate degree of control. At their best, state governments mount legal challenges to unconstitutional assaults on religious freedom, as in Washington and Hawaii’s lawsuits against Trump’s Muslim ban, which resulted in restraining orders, multiple delays in implementation, and a significant weakening of the final version of the executive order; or as in the New Mexico-led challenge to Trump’s wantonly cruel family separation policy.

At their worst, they pass laws to suppress voter turnout and gerrymander US House and state legislative districts to deny voters the ability to choose their representatives and president. Remember that Trump won in 2016 by only 70,000 votes in three key states, some of which had deliberately curtailed polling place hours in areas with racial minority populations; and Republican retention of the House was also facilitated by gerrymandered district boundaries. In addition to benefiting a political party which has shown no intention of fulfilling the responsibility of Congress to control an errant and dangerous president, gerrymandering also encourages political extremism in both political parties by reducing the importance of general elections in comparison to party primaries.

The Supreme Court’s recent punts in Gill v. Whitford, Abbott v. Perez, and Benisek v. Lamone, along with Kennedy’s departure, make it unlikely that we’ll see any broad judicial remedy for gerrymandering in the near future. With the 2020 census and ensuing redistricting fast approaching, we must beat Republicans at their own game, by taking control of state governments now.

These state legislative races fly under the radar, which means that even a few thousand dollars can matter a great deal for a candidate. Flippable is doing the research and allocating resources where they have the greatest leverage — in close races that have the potential to be tipping points for control over all three branches of a state’s government.
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There are many reasons to be horrified by this proposal, but chief among them is that there are no flaws in the argument. (From August 2017)
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Though nature abhors a vacuum, it admires all that a vacuum contains.
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“We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. … This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy.

… We’re suggesting that in today’s situation, people should vote a straight Democratic ticket even if they are not partisan, and despite their policy views. They should vote against Republicans in a spirit that is, if you will, prepartisan and prepolitical. Their attitude should be: The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period.

… So why have we come to regard the GOP as an institutional danger? In a nutshell, it has proved unable or unwilling (mostly unwilling) to block assaults by Trump and his base on the rule of law. Those assaults, were they to be normalized, would pose existential, not incidental, threats to American democracy.

Future generations of scholars will scrutinize the many weird ways that Trump has twisted the GOP. For present purposes, however, let’s focus on the party’s failure to restrain the president from two unforgivable sins. The first is his attempt to erode the independence of the justice system. This includes Trump’s sinister interactions with his law-enforcement apparatus: his demands for criminal investigations of his political opponents, his pressuring of law-enforcement leaders on investigative matters, his frank efforts to interfere with investigations that implicate his personal interests, and his threats against the individuals who run the Justice Department. It also includes his attacks on federal judges, his pardon of a sheriff convicted of defying a court’s order to enforce constitutional rights, his belief that he gets to decide on Twitter who is guilty of what crimes, and his view that the justice system exists to effectuate his will. Some Republicans have clucked disapprovingly at various of Trump’s acts. But in each case, many other Republicans have cheered, and the party, as a party, has quickly moved on. A party that behaves this way is not functioning as a democratic actor.

The second unforgivable sin is Trump’s encouragement of a foreign adversary’s interference in U.S. electoral processes. Leave aside the question of whether Trump’s cooperation with the Russians violated the law. He at least tacitly collaborated with a foreign-intelligence operation against his country—sometimes in full public view. This started during the campaign, when he called upon the Russians to steal and release his opponent’s emails, and has continued during his presidency, as he equivocates on whether foreign intervention occurred and smears intelligence professionals who stand by the facts.

… So we arrive at a syllogism:

(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.

If the syllogism holds, then the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.

… We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.

We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.”
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This article expresses well my deep skepticism of Ethereum and other expansive uses of blockchain. There’s an illusion underlying all of this: that it’s somehow possible, via technology, to eliminate the need for trusting people. At best we’ve simply moved the trust to the contracts running on the blockchain, often without recourse to social, legal, and democratic institutions when the contracts prove fraudulent or when the inevitable bugs (which all complex software has) lead to disaster.

‘You actually see it over and over again. Blockchain systems are supposed to be more trustworthy, but in fact they are the least trustworthy systems in the world. Today, in less than a decade, three successive top bitcoin exchanges have been hacked, another is accused of insider trading, the demonstration-project DAO smart contract got [$150M] drained, crypto price swings are ten times those of the world’s most mismanaged currencies …

Projects based on the elimination of trust have failed to capture customers’ interest because trust is actually so damn valuable. A lawless and mistrustful world where self-interest is the only principle and paranoia is the only source of safety is a not a paradise but a crypto-medieval hellhole.’
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A geometrical puzzle:

There are multiple U.S. congressional districts, among the 48 contiguous states, whose perimeters are long enough to enclose an area on the Earth’s surface containing all of Canada. Find such a district.
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The first few sentences of Goodstein’s States of Matter:

“Ludwig Boltzmann, who spent much of his life studying statistical mechanics, died in 1906, by his own hand. Paul Ehrenfest, carrying on the work, died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics.

Perhaps it will be wise to approach the subject cautiously.”
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