Things tagged pol:

A New Progressive Federalism

The new dean of Yale Law has some smart things to say about federalism:

Heather Gerken in Democracy:

Progressives are deeply skeptical of federalism, and with good reason. States’ rights have been invoked to defend some of the most despicable institutions in American history, most notably slavery and Jim Crow. Many think “federalism” is just a code word for letting racists be racist. Progressives also associate federalism—and its less prominent companion, localism, which simply means decentralization within a state—with parochialism and the suppression of dissent. They thus look to national power, particularly the First and Fourteenth Amendments, to protect racial minorities and dissenters from threats posed at the local level.

But it is a mistake to equate federalism’s past with its future. State and local governments have become sites of empowerment for racial minorities and dissenters, the groups that progressives believe have the most to fear from decentralization. In fact, racial minorities and dissenters can wield more electoral power at the local level than they do at the national. And while minorities cannot dictate policy outcomes at the national level, they can rule at the state and local level. Racial minorities and dissenters are using that electoral muscle to protect themselves from marginalization and promote their own agendas.

Also in Vox:

Federalism doesn’t have a political valence. These days it’s an extraordinarily powerful weapon in politics for the left and the right, and it doesn’t have to be your father’s (or grandfather’s) federalism. It can be a source of progressive resistance — against President’s Trump’s policies, for example — and, far more importantly, a source for compromise and change between the left and the right. It’s time liberals took notice.

Staying true to principle in the age of Trump

Ilya Somin in the WaPo:

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, a prominent conservative opponent of Trump, recently noted that he is now more popular on the left than in the past, but despised by many of his former fans on the right:

Watching this process unfold has been particularly painful for me as a conservative columnist. I find myself in the awkward position of having recently become popular among some of my liberal peers—precisely because I haven’t changed my opinions about anything.

Won’t directly apply to many of you, being liberals. But, please read this well written mini essay about the detrimental effects of partisan bias, and reflect on it now, when it doesn’t apply, so that later when it does perhaps you can be a better participant, holding to your values no matter who is leading your team.

Under Trump, red states are finally going to be able to turn themselves into poor, unhealthy paradises

Ignore the dumb headline, and stay for this by Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post:

After all, if Republicans cut taxes — in particular, taxes on investment income — then the biggest winners are going to be the residents of Democratic states where incomes, and thus income taxes, are significantly higher. Governors and legislatures in those states — home to roughly half of all Americans — will now have the financial headroom to raise state income and business taxes by as much as the federal government cuts them — and use the additional revenue to replace all the federal services and benefits that Republicans have vowed to cut.

and think again about how you can move your government more local, and less federal, thanks to republicans.

Some thoughts on the election

I see people responding to the widespread despair and fear on social media with a positive message of strength and unity. Thank you to these people for responding in a positive fashion, and looking for what we can do to improve our world.

However I personally disagree with the idea of ‘unity’ on a national level being a solution. Take a look at this:

As it was in 2008 and ‘12, the map shows not red and blue states, as the media (due to the electoral college) talk about, but blue cities, and red rural areas. We should be starting to accept that there is not one America, there are two, and that this is ok. I talk frequently about ‘foot voting’, which is the idea that people can express their political preferences by moving to places that are are a better match for them. This has been happening for a while here, and around the world, younger more educated and liberal people are moving to the cities. When they join together in these cities, they change the cites to be closer to their ideal, through the local political process.

So, what should be done about our federal government? Which does have a large impact on us, even those of us in the cities? Well, I believe that a better result for ‘America’ as a whole, and certainly the cities, would be to reduce the power of the national government, to allow cities to diversify, and provide various options for people to vote with their feet. I provide several links talking about this idea in comments to this post below.

Does this mean we are ‘abandoning’ the poor folks in red areas to their terrible fate? No. I have seen some very disappointing articles linked on social media about how third party voters are operating out of white privilege, etc. If we only were at risk of the ‘consequences’ of a Trump presidency we couldn’t vote for anyone but Clinton. In my mind this is exactly the attitude that has gotten us here. That we only have two choices, and we all have to fall in line with one or the other, due to how scary the other side is! The fact of the matter is that to a large extent already, LGBT, people of color and others are already refugees from the red areas. Is this fair? That people should have to leave their houses, families, etc to go to the cities to be safe/express themselves? No of course not. I believe that everyone should respect each other for their beliefs, and be able to live free wherever they are. However this is not reality, and though I hope it will be reality in the future, it will surely be a slow process. How will this process take place? I believe it will be through competition between the cities and the rest of the world. This is how progress has always been made, people that believe in a better life going to a new area, making it theirs, and proving that it is a better way. See also my separate comment below about the rights of ‘red people’ to live as they please. (‘Red people’ of course being a label for people who voted for Trump, red on the map, nothing further is meant by the term)

So, we should work on unity at a local level. Act to make this city the best it can be. Welcome the refugees, provide them safety and a hope for a better future. And if you agree with me about an idea for a better world being a less powerful federal government, work to provide open immigration into your city from the rest of the country as well as the world. Will life here in Seattle become less safe for the people Trump attacked in his speeches, and threatens to do in in policies? I hope not! I hope that we can prevent that, but if it does seem to be happening here, let us gather together and fight it. And even Seattle today (yesterday) as we all know is nowhere near a safe place yet for marginalized people, there is much work still to be done here already.


Freedom of red folks to live as they want to: The flip side of this, is to try and think about what the red areas are asking for. They went out and voted for Trump for a reason, their own reasons, and who are we to say that they are wrong. Trump seems to me to be a misogynist, and a dangerous person to women. I have a reaction that I should protect all the women of America by voting against him, to prevent him from coming to power. But, 62% of non-college educated white women voted for Trump. By voting against him I actually tried to overrule their stated wishes! I don’t believe in forcing my views on people, and a national election is just that: Me trying to force my views on a whole lot of people who don’t agree with me. I would much rather people in red areas that voted for the policies they desire be allowed to have them, even if the election had gone the other way!

Cities as a term: A city is currently the example of a progressive place in America, and also seems to me to be the future, for economical, cultural, and environmental reasons. However, I do not mean that rural places can’t also be progressive, or that rural places should not be able to take autonomy in a political sense. So I use cities here as a term to mean a self governed group of people. I hope that other places will also be able to self govern if we set up a system of government that would allow it.

Unity locally and tolerance: So what of those people who voted red right next to us, our neighbors and family, etc.? I think as progressive people, we already are aware of the value of inclusion and respect, but these trying times ahead will of course be challenging. They have “won” our national election, and we will have to forgive them some gloating, but do not need to accept their strategic attempts to take the national position of strength and use it locally. Respect, but not passivity!

Another view of the two Americas from the NYT

And a great counterpoint to the conventional narrative from WaPo called Election maps are telling you big lies about small things. Which I feel mostly reinforces what I say above.

Voting with Feet vs. Voting with Ballots

Cato Podcast:

The decisions we make in the voting booth tend to be less informed and less decisive than the votes we cast with our feet. Ilya Somin, author of Democracy and Political Ignorance, explains.

Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter

Ilya Somin’s Democracy and Political Ignorance has profoundly influenced libertarian thinking about voters and elections. More generally, the 2016 primary season has satisfied few and left the electorate choosing between two highly disliked presidential candidates.

Also, his talk at Harvard Kennedy School.

Always nice to sit down and talk about the issues.

Possible presidential spoiler Gary Johnson speaks to The Times editorial board about siphoning votes from Hillary Clinton

This is two former Republican governors having gotten re-elected in heavily blue states, so what’s that animal? What makes up that animal? So, in myself and Bill Weld’s case, that’s being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. We don’t care what you are socially as long as you don’t force it on others. The third unique leg on the stool is to really be skeptical about our military interventions and the fact that these military interventions have led to the unintended consequence of things being made worse, not better. Rule the world with free trade, rule the world with diplomacy. So free trade, lower taxes, smaller government, but recognizing that government does have a role and choice. Always coming down on the side of choice when it comes down to you and I as individuals. Those choices that don’t put others in harm’s way.

Preliminary thoughts on the Apple iPhone order in the San Bernardino case: Part 3, the policy question

Orin Kerr in The Volokh Conspiracy:

In this post, the third in a series, I want to discuss what I think is the policy question at the heart of the Apple case about opening the San Bernardino iPhone. The question is, what is the optimal amount of physical box security? It’s a question we’ve never asked before because we haven’t lived in a world where a lot of physical box security was possible. Computers and cellphones change that, raising for the first time the question of how much security is ideal.

A Message to Our Customers

Tim Cook at

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. 

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

About time a corporation stood up, the telecoms sure haven’t, so Apple took on the role, and now have the opportunity to make a needed stand.

Judge to DOJ: Not All Writs

And Andrew Crocker at the EFF explains why the goverment is overreaching with the use of All Writs:

Reengineering iOS and breaking any number of Apple’s promises to its customers is the definition of an unreasonable burden. As the Ninth Circuit put it in a case interpreting technical assistance in a different context, private companies’ obligations to assist the government have “not extended to circumstances in which there is a complete disruption of a service they offer to a customer as part of their business.” What’s more, such an order would be unconstitutional. Code is speech, and forcing Apple to push backdoored updates would constitute “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment. It would raise Fourth and Fifth Amendment issues as well. Most important, Apple’s choice to offer device encryption controlled entirely by the user is both entirely legal and in line with the expert consensus on security best practices. It would be extremely wrong-headed for Congress to require third-party access to encrypted devices, but unless it does, Apple can’t be forced to do so under the All Writs Act.

Via darringfireball

Capitol Bells

And in reference to the previous post, here is an app that pokes a bit at the representative vs. direct democracy:

Capitol Bells

Capitol Bells lets you cast your vote for upcoming bills, and informs you when your elected representative votes for, or against, or not at all.

Of course the problem isn’t so much the voting, much more the understanding the bills. I have some ideas on this front, but need some more time to think them through, and would be a huge project to build …

Why real-world governments don’t have the consent of the governed – and why it matters

Ilya Somin in The Volokh Conspiracy:

The Declaration of Independence famously states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” But, sadly, this is almost never the case in the real world. If it is indeed true, as Abraham Lincoln famously put it, that “no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent,” that principle has more radical implications than Lincoln probably intended. Few if any of those who wield government power measure up to that lofty standard.

A fantastic overvew of some things I feel very strongly about. And his conclusion is exactly the same as mine:

The nonconsensual nature of most government policies also strengthens the case for devolving power to regional and local authorities in order to increase the number of issues on which citizens can “vote with their feet” and thereby exercise at least some degree of meaningful consent.

The Case of the Missing Hong Kong Book Publishers

Jiayang Fan in The New Yorker:

When a politically problematic figure disappears—or is disappeared—in China, a dark uneasiness falls, though usually accompanied by a glum sense of the inevitable. This is the cost of living within an authoritarian regime with diminishing patience for deviance. For a breather from such oppressive strictures, one might hop across the border to Hong Kong, where the policy of “one country, two systems” guarantees the freedom of speech and of the press, under the former British colony’s Basic Law, its own mini-Constitution. That refuge had seemed reasonably dependable, at least until a week ago, when Lee Bo became the fifth member of a Hong Kong-based publishing house specializing in provocative tomes about Beijing leaders to vanish mysteriously, not on a trip to the mainland but from his own home city, Hong Kong.

Ted Cruz and the use of deception to exploit political ignorance

Ilya Somin in The Volokh Conspiracy:

William Saletan of Slate has an interesting article on Ted Cruz’s misrepresentations about his record on immigration. He effectively shows that Cruz supported the legalizing the status of large numbers of illegal immigrants back in 2013, but now pretends that he opposed it all along.

The truth is that deceiving voters about one’s past or present positions is a fairly standard political strategy. Few successful politicians become such without engaging in this kind of deception at one point or another. I see little difference between Cruz’s distortions of his record on immigration, and President Obama’s years of lying about his position on same-sex marriage between 2008 and 2012.

Obama’s bad behavior, of course, in no way excuses Cruz’s or that of other Republicans. Here, as elsewhere, political partisans would do well to try to keep their biases in check and remember the sins of their own party, as well as those of the opposition.

In fairness, Cruz, Obama and other similar political leaders could potentially justify their deceptions by pointing to the dangers of unilateral disarmament in political combat. If they stop engaging in politically convenient lying, their opponents probably will not, and the more ethical candidates will be at a disadvantage. Donald Trump, whom Cruz is battling for the Republican nomination, is the proud winner of Politifact’s 2015 Lie of the Year award. To say the least, it is highly unlikely that he would reciprocate any restraint on Cruz’s part. President Obama (who won the same award in the 2013), can cite the various deceptions perpetrated by his political opponents.

If, as is likely, Cruz truly believes that the public interest would be best served by his winning the presidency, he could also conclude that he is justified in using deception to try to achieve that goal – especially if his opponents are going to use similar tactics. Similarly, Obama likely believes that his lies about same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act also ultimately served the public interest by helping him get elected, and enabling him to push through various beneficial policies.

Americans have the politicians they deserve, as in, if we can’t keep track of their lies from one month to the next, they have no choice but to manipulate our ignorance, rational or otherwise.

The WELL: Bruce Sterling & Jon Lebkowsky: State of the World 2016

In January 2000 Jon Lebkowsky interviewed Bruce Sterling here in Inkwell about “The Viridian Future,” and in 2001 about “The State of the Future.” 2002’s discussion was called “State of the Whirled,” followed in 2003 by a discussion inspired by Bruce’s nonfiction book, “Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next 50 Years.” In 2004, we had the “Bruce Sterling State of the World Address,” and thereafter we called it the “State of the World” conversation.

Pundits abound, speaking with real or fabricated authority on a variety of subjects, and as the year turns spewing top ten lists and year-end summaries, and confident but subjective prognostications about the next year or five. If you’re bored with that sort of thing, you might find this two-week conversation more fun, interesting, and compelling. Our speakers are not creating keyword-rich listicles to maximize hits and produce conversions… but discussing the “state of the world” based on their perspectives as future-focused mavens immersed in information and contemporary culture.

Bruce Sterling’s perspectives are especially interesting given his global perspective as someone who travels and reports broadly, and his experiences as an author, speaker, teacher and maker attentive to trends in science, culture, politics, and design. He’s known a novelist, journalist and speaker. While acting as “Visionary in Residence” at Art Center College of Design in 2008, he wrote “Shaping Things,” one of the first books about the Internet of Things. In 2008 he was the curator of the Share Festival in Turin, on the theme of Italian digital manufacturing. He was one of the original columnists for Make magazine and wrote the cover story for the first issue of WIRED. Bruce Sterling lives in Turin, Belgrade and Austin.

Jon Lebkowsky has been making and sharing experiences in digital culture and media for over 25 years. Currently he’s part of Polycot Associates, a mission-driven digital development co-operative based in Austin, Texas. He’s also President of EFF-Austin, an organization that’s been supporting digital freedom in Texas since 1990. He’s been an activist, sometimes journalist, and blogger who writes about the future of the Internet, digital culture, media, and society.

Lee Kuan Yew’s Death Has Already Taken Place

Jeremy Fernando at berfrois:

There is a famous maxim that one must always kill your idols. That the only way to become your own person, as it were, is to free yourself from the shadow of the one you admire, look up to. Singapore has clearly taken this to heart: and has murdered its founding father. Not in the banal sense of attempting to erase his memory, an erasure by censorship, omission, but in a far more sophisticated way: by cementing a version of him, memorialising him — archiving him.

Via Isabella

When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job?

Eugene Volokh in The Volokh Conspiracy:

Yet besides her losing claim in the federal lawsuit, it seems to me that Davis has a much stronger claim under state law for a much more limited exemption. Davis’s objection, it appears (see pp. 40, 133, and 139 of her stay application and attachments), is not to issuing same-sex marriage licenses as such. Rather, she objects to issuing such licenses with her name on them, because she believes (rightly or wrongly) that having her name on them is an endorsement of same-sex marriage. Indeed, she says that she would be content with

Modifying the prescribed Kentucky marriage license form to remove the multiple references to Davis’ name, and thus to remove the personal nature of the authorization that Davis must provide on the current form.

Now this would be a cheap accommodation that, it seems to me, a state could quite easily provide. It’s true that state law requires the County Clerk’s name on the marriage license and the marriage certificate. But the point of RFRAs, such as the Kentucky RFRA, is precisely to provide religious objectors with exemptions even from such generally applicable laws, so long as the exemptions don’t necessarily and materially undermine a compelling government interest.

And allowing all marriage licenses and certificates — for opposite-sex marriages or same-sex ones — to include a deputy clerk’s name, or just the notation “Rowan County Clerk,” wouldn’t jeopardize any compelling government interest.

If Davis sues in state court, seeking a declaration that she can issue licenses and certificates without her name — as a Kentucky RFRA-based exemption from the Kentucky statutory requirements for what must go on her license — I think she’d have a good case. The federal district court rejected her Kentucky RFRA argument on the grounds that the requirement doesn’t much burden her beliefs:

The record in this case suggests that the burden [on Davis] is more slight. As the Court has already pointed out, Davis is simply being asked to signify that couples meet the legal requirements to marry. The State is not asking her to condone same-sex unions on moral or religious grounds, nor is it restricting her from engaging in a variety of religious activities. Davis remains free to practice her Apostolic Christian beliefs. She may continue to attend church twice a week, participate in Bible Study and minister to female inmates at the Rowan County Jail. She is even free to believe that marriage is a union between one man and one woman, as many Americans do. However, her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk. The Court therefore concludes that Davis is unlikely to suffer a violation of her free exercise rights under Kentucky Constitution § 5.

But though I agree that her religious convictions can’t excuse her from issuing marriage licenses altogether, I think the judge erred in the rest of the analysis in this paragraph. If Davis believes that it’s religiously wrong for her to issue licenses with her name on them, ordering her to do that indeed burdens her religious beliefs, enough to trigger the Kentucky RFRA. And giving her the more modest exemption from the include-the-court-clerk’s-name requirement might therefore indeed be required by the Kentucky RFRA.

So if Kim Davis does indeed go through the state courts, and ask for a modest exemption under the state RFRA — simply to allow her to issue marriage licenses (opposite-sex or same-sex) without her name on them — she might indeed prevail. Rightly or wrongly, under the logic of Title VII’s religious accommodation regime and the RFRA religious accommodation regime, she probably should prevail.

There’s a lot of appeal to the “you take the job, you follow the rules — if you have a religious objection to the rules, quit the job” approach may be. But it’s not the approach that modern American federal employment law has taken, or the approach that the state religious exemption law in Kentucky and many other states has taken.

Muslim truck drivers who don’t want to transport alcohol, Jehovah’s Witnesses who don’t want to raise flags, Sabbatarians (Jewish or Christian) who don’t want to work Saturdays, and philosophical vegetarians who don’t want to hand out hamburger coupons can take advantage of this law. Conservative Christian county clerks who don’t want to have their names listed on marriage certificates and licenses likely can, too.

Germans Welcome Migrants After Long Journey Through Hungary and Austria

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has been praised for her moral leadership for saying that all Syrian migrants would be allowed to come to Germany and apply for asylum. But some have argued, like Mr. Orban and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, that simply opening the European door will cause many more thousands of migrants and asylum seekers to abandon refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and embark on the hazardous and expensive journey to Europe, promoting more people smuggling, and not less.

Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems

It’s a standard assumption in the West: As a society progresses, it eventually becomes a capitalist, multi-party democracy. Right? Eric X. Li, a Chinese investor and political scientist, begs to differ. In this provocative, boundary-pushing talk, he asks his audience to consider that there’s more than one way to run a succesful modern nation.