June 3, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Miracle Workers: What the Resistance Can Still Learn from Arendt (John Thomason, June 3, 2019, Commonweal)

What has interested journalists most about Trump is his lies, and Origins does indeed contain insights into the role of lies in totalitarian movements. "What convinces masses are not facts," Arendt writes, "but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part." The application of this insight to contemporary American politics is obvious. Trump's rhetoric has substantial appeal precisely because it subordinates truth to a closed but consistent ideological system. These sorts of systems are so resilient, Arendt argued, because they appeal to both gullibility and cynicism, conditioning people to "believe everything and nothing, to think that everything was possible and that nothing was true." These are the conditions that allow a leader like Trump never to have to account for his lies. The Origins of Totalitarianism is therefore a prescient corrective to naïve claims that appeals to facts and truth can combat Trumpism.

Arendt has thus been welcomed to the #Resistance primarily as a prophetic psychotherapist, one who foretold the pathological appeal of Trumpism to the masses. It's likely that nothing would have pleased her less. Her account of the way totalitarian movements engulfed mid-century Europe was never meant to be merely descriptive. By examining how societies had become so debased that they fell prey to movements that treated every individual as utterly expendable, Arendt was taking the first steps toward articulating and recovering a positive vision of the kind of politics that might redeem those societies. In other words, her perennially popular descriptive views of the great crimes of the twentieth century (outlined most famously in Origins and Eichmann in Jerusalem) cannot responsibly be severed from her prescriptive views about the proper flourishing of politics. [...]

For Arendt, the root of freedom and therefore politics is just this kind of spontaneity, the ability of any person or group of people to initiate an unforeseen or unexpected event. How to promote and sustain this freedom is one of the slipperiest questions in Arendt's work. But even though the Hungarian Revolution was quickly crushed by the Soviet behemoth, in the five years that followed Arendt only became more convinced that this "fact" of freedom could not be stamped out from the human condition entirely. In a 1960 lecture called "Freedom and Politics," she explained why. "If one is serious about the abolition of political freedom," she declares, "it is not sufficient to prohibit what we generally understand by political rights.... One must take possession of even those areas we are accustomed to regard as outside the realm of politics, precisely because they, too, contain a political element." One recalls here Václav Havel's account of the grocer who one day simply removes the state party's slogan from his shop window, and in doing so exposes the nakedness of the regime to his neighbors. As long as necessity and coercion do not exercise complete and all-consuming rule over one's life, this kind of spontaneity, and therefore freedom, is always possible.

This account of freedom corresponds to something like Maslow's hierarchy of needs; at the base of the hierarchy are subordinate, lesser freedoms--freedom from want, freedom from coercion--that must be satisfied for the best and highest form of freedom to flourish. The pinnacle is public freedom, in which individuals can fully exercise their capacity for spontaneity in full view and appreciation of their peers and equals. Arendt believed that something called politics could only correspond to the full exercise of this highest freedom, the only kind that could mean "more than not being forced."

Arendt believed that this loss of a higher, positive vision of political freedom was the result of a Western philosophical tradition that disdained politics in favor of contemplation, one concerned, as Arendt would put it, with man and not with men. For the pre-Platonic Greeks, however, politics was an end in itself: the participation in shared enterprises with their peers, the expression of their full humanity in word and deed. In a 1953 lecture at Princeton, Arendt called this a "unique, outstanding way of life, of being-together, in which the truly human capacities of man, as distinguished from his mere animal characteristics, could show and prove themselves." Even though Western philosophy utterly abandoned this conception, in Arendt's view, it could not excise it from language. Therefore, it could not excise it from thought: "To the historical belongs what is really an astounding fact...that in all European languages we use a word for politics in which its origin, the Greek polis, can still be heard."

This is one reason Arendt believed there was still hope to restore the ethos of the polis in modern times. But we need not exalt the ancient Greek polis and its attendant injustices to recover the virtues that Arendt felt it promoted. For Arendt, the essential question of modernity was how to reconcile universal equality with freedom. 

Republicanism for Republicans (Brink Lindsey, Winter 2019, National affairs)

However much we may differ from one another, however many distinctions we draw among ourselves in a modern, sprawling, pluralistic society, there is one thing that binds all Americans together as moral and civic equals: the res publica, or commonwealth, under whose laws we all live and within whose institutions we can all participate to make those laws better. In the republican worldview, all Americans are "real Americans," because we all pledge allegiance to "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." As Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, "We are not enemies, but friends," because we are all members of one, all-embracing body politic. We're all in this together.

This civic conception of patriotism stands in stark contrast to the blood-and-soil conception increasingly evident on the conservative right. Conservatives today all too frequently distinguish between "real Americans" -- white, native-born, Christian, and disproportionately rural -- and the rest of the country, vowing to "take their country back" from fellow citizens they regard as the equivalent of foreign occupiers.

Such attitudes and rhetoric are utterly poisonous. They are also deeply un-conservative, given that a creedal rather than ethnic understanding of American national identity is among our oldest and most cherished political traditions. This raises some questions: Why the need for a republican turn on the right? Isn't it possible to resist populist ethno-nationalism in the name of genuine conservatism?

Of course such a response is possible, and many good conservatives are doing precisely that -- if so far with a notable lack of success. The problem is that, under contemporary conditions, the language of conservatism pulls its users naturally and almost irresistibly toward the ethnocentrism and dark divisiveness we see so much of today. In the rapid social change we've been undergoing since the 1960s, one common denominator has been a quest for civic equality by traditionally oppressed and disadvantaged groups -- blacks, Hispanics, women, gays. In these circumstances, a political right that expresses itself in terms of conservatism -- "standing athwart history, yelling Stop" -- slips all too easily into a defense of the status quo by the traditionally dominant groups. This has been a recurring, and recurringly disgraceful, theme of postwar conservatism. Opposition to school desegregation, hostility to the civil-rights movement, excuse-making for sexism, demonization of homosexuality, and most recently a rising tide of intolerance toward the foreign-born -- all are black marks in the annals of the American right. This need not be where the intellectual tradition of American conservatism points, of course. But it has too often been where the rhetoric of conservatism has been taken (and allowed) to gesture.

Making matters worse is postwar conservatism's enduring self-conception as the antithesis of liberalism. Not just its rival, its opposite number, its balance and counterweight -- no, in the conservative imagination, liberalism is too often the enemy. From the Buckleyite beginnings of the modern conservative intellectual synthesis, liberalism was presented as an alien, un-American, elitist ideology that was on the same continuum as, and acted as the enabler of and apologist for, totalitarian communism. Since the Cold War ended and communism passed from the scene, the caricaturing has now elevated liberalism to public enemy number one. Today, "owning the libs" has become an end in itself; inflicting a loss on the other side is a victory regardless of the implications for policy or the national welfare.

Obviously, people on the left routinely caricature and demonize conservatives as well. An accounting of the failings and excesses of today's left would occupy an essay of at least the length of this one. But that is no excuse for anything. This is not just a point about civility. A politics that justifies its own abuses by reference to those of its opposition amounts to little more than a negation.

And even more important, a conservatism that views itself as the negation of liberalism is actually wrong about itself, or at least about the tradition whose name it has taken. American conservatism, at its best, has been about conserving the broad liberal tradition of individualism and the rule of law -- both by promoting those essential pre-liberal attachments to family, faith, community, and nation on which a liberal order depends, and by checking both the excesses of reformist liberalism and the illiberalism of the left. Conservatives have tried to draw a distinction between old, good, "classical liberalism" and new, bad, "modern liberalism," but the distinction ignores deep and important continuities.

The misconceived blanket opposition to liberalism has made the center-right vulnerable to its own most illiberal elements, which have now remade conservatism in their own odious image. Among the repugnant lowlights: animus against the foreign-born carried to the point of orphaning and caging children; acquiescence in blatant corruption by the president and top officials; mindless trashing of the liberal international order and the global economy; restricting the franchise for some voters rather than insisting it be preserved as the bedrock of a republican form of government and confidently competing for the votes of all Americans; and systematic subversion of the rule of law to stymie investigations of foreign tampering with our elections. It will be very difficult to beat this back, to restore decency and honor to the right, using only the rhetoric of conservatism -- especially in its current degraded state.

The rhetoric of republicanism, by contrast, tilts easily in the needed direction. At its emotional core is patriotism, a fundamental moral passion of the right. But with that passion conceptualized in civic rather than ethnocentric terms, republicanism reorients patriotism away from divisiveness and instead enshrines it as a universal, unifying principle.

The conservative right's ethno-nationalism already generates intense opposition -- but from the left, where the critique is marbled with open-borders cosmopolitanism and outright hostility to nationalism of any kind and American exceptionalism in particular. The left's campaign may ultimately succeed given the trajectory of demographic change in this country, but whether it succeeds or fails, the effect on the right is to strengthen the conflation of patriotism and white identity politics.

A republican movement on the right, on the other hand, can criticize ethno-nationalism as fundamentally unpatriotic and unfaithful to American exceptionalism -- that is, in terms that carry real weight with conservatives. Republicanism thus offers an opportunity to actually weaken right-wing attachment to ethno-nationalism internally rather than simply mobilizing against it externally and hoping to outlast it.

And a republican right could do more than just give right-wing ideological arguments for abandoning white identity politics. By refashioning the right's domestic-policy agenda, republicans could also give voters new reasons to vote Republican and thus reduce the political dependence on pandering to white fears and resentments.

Conservatism, relying heavily on libertarian thinking, now often identifies "small government" as its chief desideratum of economic and social policy: lower taxes to spur initiative, fewer regulations to lighten the load on business, less government spending to reduce dependency and the need for taxes. That orientation was constructive in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s as pushback against left-liberalism's infatuation with top-down planning and hostility to the spontaneous innovations and adjustments of competitive markets.

But as liberal suspicion of markets abated, and as structural changes in the economy meant that a rising tide now lifted the rich's yachts a great deal while ordinary folks' rowboats rose little or not at all, the idée fixe of small government has risked becoming an intellectual dead end. Rising to the challenge of new conditions means embracing the need for major structural regulatory reform, not so much to unburden business as to expose it to more robust competition by removing regulatory subsidies and barriers to entry. It also means embracing the need for active government in some key arenas -- to help people develop the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly demanding labor market, and to provide social insurance that protects people against the inevitable losses and dislocations associated with a dynamic market economy.

Republican principles point the way to a new center-right approach to economic governance. The pole star for republican governance is the public interest, or the common weal -- the values that we share across ethnic, regional, sectarian, and class lines and that require collective action for their advancement. As Lincoln, the towering figure of the American republican pantheon, ably summarized the matter, "The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities." This is a statement both of the limits of government and of the uses of it.

Relative to libertarian dreams of minimal government, the public-interest standard may seem vague and permissive. But its flexibility is simply a recognition of reality's messy complexity; libertarian efforts to delineate the proper role of government within clear, bright lines are as intellectually incoherent as they are hopelessly utopian. The ideal of the public interest, informed by deep republican skepticism of concentrated power, can serve as a powerful constraint on government. Fidelity to a public-interest standard means relentless opposition to the manipulation and takeover of policymaking by insiders, as well as to policies, however well-meaning, that fail to accomplish their stated purposes. Although shrinking government just to make it smaller is not the goal, hostility toward corruption and wastefulness does push toward making government simpler and more transparent.

A new approach to domestic policy is further aided by the republican conception of liberty as non-domination. The basic intuition here is that freedom requires a level of personal independence among the citizenry, and that in turn requires a broad middle class and limited extremes of wealth and poverty. In the republican view, excessive imbalances of power and status undermine government in the public interest because both the rules themselves and their administration will end up slanted in favor of the powerful.

Opposition to domination leads simultaneously toward a deep appreciation of markets and the recognition of a vital supporting role for government. Competitive markets are a bulwark of independence because they encourage a proliferation of options; they are an important check against arbitrary power because they subject market actors to accountability at the hands of their customers. But for market competition to operate as intended, government has a few big jobs to do. First, it must provide and enforce rules that structure and sustain competition; second, it must secure the broad enabling conditions that allow people to participate successfully in the market system and protect them from the hazards of life when their participation goes awry.

These republican ideas can be developed into a rich conceptual framework for active but limited government. The public interest, as an enabling principle, frees center-right policymaking from the libertarian cul-de-sac and reorients it toward problem-solving governance. The public interest, as a limiting principle, then distinguishes center-right problem-solving from the center-left variety by directing attention to the possibility of insider capture and other unintended consequences, and by focusing on policy designs that minimize these pitfalls. An understanding of freedom as non-domination, meanwhile, pushes the center-right toward greater concern with inequality as a political (as opposed to essentially economic) problem and a clearer recognition of the realities of structural disadvantage.

Republican principles thus supply the intellectual tools the center-right needs to resume the main work of governance: helping real people to improve their lives in tangible ways. And if the center-right can better attend to the material as well as the more-than-material interests of its base among rural voters and the white working class, it will not have to rely on divisive culture-war theatrics to mobilize support.

As suggested, recovering our republicanism requires returning to the classic view of republican liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


House Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Bill Despite Earlier GOP Efforts To Stall It (Kelsey Snell, 6/03/19, NPR)

The House has approved a $19.1 billion disaster aid package despite earlier objections from Republicans.

The legislation was approved 354-58. All those who opposed it were Republicans. The Senate already passed the bill overwhelmingly and it heads to the president's desk for his signature.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Don't Let Trump Win All the Nationalists: Loyalty to a nation-state, especially when tempered by more universal values, is a force for good. (Tyler Cowen, May 30, 2019, Bloomberg)

Nationalism's reputation was already low among intellectuals when President Donald Trump claimed the label for himself. "You know what I am?" the president said at a political rally last year. "I'm a nationalist, OK? Nationalist. Use that word."

In response, Harvard historian Jill Lepore published a column titled "Don't Let Nationalists Speak for the Nation," in which she wrote: "Nationalism is an abdication of liberalism. It is also the opposite of patriotism." Both of those claims would probably confuse the American people (not to mention me), or seem outright objectionable.

All of which raises the question: What might a sane nationalism look like -- a nationalism broadly consistent with a centrist cosmopolitanism?

I start with a primary commitment to cosmopolitanism and the notion that borders are morally arbitrary. A person is no better or worse if he or she was born on one side or the other of the Rio Grande. For most of human history, of course, such borders either did not exist or were not enforced. If I see a bystander drowning in a lake, I feel an obligation to help; it would never occur to me to first ask about citizenship. And don't tell Donald Trump, but I don't even feel compelled to root for the U.S. in the Olympics.

The plot thickens, however, when considering more practical political issues. This is a world where just about all of the habitable territory has been carved up into nation-states. Regardless of whether that is your moral ideal, it is not a system likely to change anytime soon. Furthermore, at least since the end of World War II, this system has performed pretty well. Living standards have risen greatly, progress has spread and, for the most part, liberty and democracy have expanded. The recognition of these facts follows readily from a doctrine that I call practical nationalism.

As Jonah Goldberg often says, when you have to qualify your support by saying you mean the good kind of nationalism you're conceding that Nationalism is evil.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


A FEAR OF 'WHITE EXTINCTION' IS PROVOKING RACIAL BIAS AMONG AMERICAN WHITES: New research finds that such fears are provoked by demographic shifts, and in turn prompt stronger support for conservative policy positions.  (TOM JACOBS, 6/03/19, Pacific Standard)

Remember white people? Once upon a time, they dominated American life. But at some point in the 21st century, beset by low birth rates, they gradually died out.

Yes, that's an absurd notion. But new research suggests that, for some white Americans, it's a real fear--one that stimulates racial bias and political conservatism.

"White population decline does not merely trigger the threat considered in most studies of demographic change--that is, status threat," write University of Minnesota psychologists Hui Bai and Christopher Federico. "Our work suggests that it may additionally elicit fears that the in-group will actually cease to exist."

Victimology is always repellant, but especially coming from us.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


A Former Hotel Partner Alleges the Trumps Evaded Taxes in Panama (Ben Protess and Steve Eder, June 3, 2019, NY Times)

The owners of a luxury hotel in Panama City that ousted the Trump Organization as property managers last year accused it on Monday of evading taxes in Panama and creating a "false light" around the hotel's finances.

The accusations, made in a legal filing in Manhattan federal court, are fraught with potential diplomatic and legal complexities for President Trump, as they essentially assert that his family business cheated a foreign country's government.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Figure linked to Trump transition charged with transporting child pornography (Devlin Barrett and Rachel Weiner June 3, 2019, Washington Post)

George Nader, who has a previous conviction on such charges, was charged in federal court in Virginia and is expected to make an initial court appearance in New York.

Nader played an unusual role as a kind of liaison between Trump supporters, Middle East leaders and Russians interested in making contact with the incoming administration in early 2017.

Officials said Nader, 60, was charged by criminal complaint over material he was traveling with when he arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport on Jan. 17, 2018, from Dubai. At the time, he was carrying a cellphone containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, officials said. The charges were unsealed after his arrest Monday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Iran to US: Stand by commitments and we'll talk (Al-Monitor, June 3, 2019)

President Hassan Rouhani also responded, stating, "When they put aside the oppressive sanctions, when they stand by their commitments, when they themselves return to the negotiation table which they quit, the path for them is not closed, it is open." Rouhani further said, "[Iran] will not be dominated by any power" and cited "mutual respect within the framework of international laws" as being necessary for talks.

The day before Pompeo's comments, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remarked, "Some people think we have a problem with Trump. It is not so." Rather, he said, the main obstacle to negotiations is the United States not sticking to its "commitments," meaning the JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Liberals go after Joe Biden, trying to blunt his presidential candidacy and the recent centrist surge in the Democratic Party (Sean Sullivan June 2, 2019, Washington Post)

The liberal wing of the Democratic Party launched a sudden volley of attacks against presidential candidate Joe Biden and his allies over the weekend, showing a new urgency to wrest control of the party from moderate forces that had seized an advantage in recent months.

Another year of stories like this and the staff manages to keep him from speaking in public and Uncle Joe can start fitting the curtains.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


A Middle East Peace Plan Built on Un-American Principles (Kori Schake, 6/02/19,  The Atlantic)

The Trump administration's Middle East peace plan sounds more like Chinese foreign policy than it does American foreign policy. American policy invokes the principle our Founders enshrined in our culture: that people have inherent rights and loan them in limited ways to governments for agreed purposes. We fail often to uphold this principle, but it is a genuine departure for an American administration not to even acknowledge it.

Moreover, other nations are less wary of our power because of our values. By tapping into the universal aspiration for human dignity and political liberty, American policy has been cheaper and easier to advance, because it works with the grain of positive political change. Our successes are seen as the advancement of a cause, not just the advancement of our interests.

China's policy, domestic and foreign, is based on the premise that the government will create conditions for prosperity and in return people must forsake political liberty. They prioritize "an emphasis on economic rights over individual political rights in the development of global norms," as Michael Swaine has argued, and want an international "community of common destiny for mankind" on Chinese terms.

China would erase the truths we hold to be self-evident that all people are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights by betting that their citizens, the citizens of developing countries--and even the cosseted rich of the liberal West--will accept incursions on their liberty in order to have greater prosperity or affordability.

China's defense minister, General Wei Fenghe, outright said so at the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore last weekend, justifying the forcible internment of more than a million Uygur people by arguing, "the living standard of the local people has improved."

Jared Kushner and the rest of the Trump administration appear deaf to Benjamin Franklin's warning that "those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But the Palestinians, Jordanians, and others with hard experience of difficult trade-offs can hear it, which is why the administration's Middle East peace plan is both dead on arrival and also bad American foreign policy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 AM


The Bolsonaros Try to Behave (Kind of. For Now.) (BRIAN WINTER, JUNE 3, 2019, Americas Quarterly)

It won't go down with the Treaty of Versailles, Nixon-to-China, or other historic triumphs of diplomacy. But when Jair Bolsonaro walked across the street from the Palácio do Planalto for a surprise visit to Congress last week, his intentions were clear. The official cause was an homage to Carlos Alberto de Nóbrega, a popular comedian. Yet Brazil's president was there to try to repair relationships badly frayed by his constant attacks on Twitter and elsewhere on what he has long called a corrupt, "communist" political establishment. 

"Our two branches together have everything it takes to change Brazil," Bolsonaro declared. Asked by reporters what prompted the visit, the president smiled and said: "There are moments where you have to go honor your colleagues. And life goes on."

The visit came a day after Bolsonaro unexpectedly met with the heads of Congress and the Supreme Court, attempting to forge a "pact of understanding" in which all three branches would support a range of measures from pension reform to a reduction in bureaucracy. The initiative, which Chief Justice José Antonio Dias Toffoli first floated last year, seeks to put an end to the so-called guerra de poderes, the institutional power struggle that has paralyzed Brazil since 2016. Bolsonaro also pointedly distanced himself from the more radical elements of a pro-government demonstration on May 26, including those advocating for Congress to be shut down. "That's more Maduro's thing," he said, referencing the Venezuelan dictator. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro and his sons have been relatively subdued on social media and IRL, compared at least to their flamethrowing of previous months. Among those who appreciate the truce is Rodrigo Maia, the chief of Congress' House of Deputies, a frequent target of the Bolsonaro boys - and the key to getting any legislation passed this year. "(The president) has built in the last few weeks... the dialogue that is necessary for things to go forward," Maia told Estado de S.Paulo in an interview published Monday. 

It's all evidence that Bolsonaro is - inconsistently, tenuously - trying out a less confrontational approach to governing in the hope of saving his presidency and Brazil's economy, both of which have been flashing bright red DANGER signs in recent weeks. With Bolsonaro's reform agenda stuck in Congress, the euphoria that gripped Brazil's business community following the 2018 election has vanished. Data published last week showed GDP shrank 0.2% in the first quarter, raising the specter of a "double-dip" recession ahead. Bolsonaro's popularity ratings continue to fall, to 34% in a recent poll. Two of Brazil's last four elected presidents were impeached after they lost control of both the economy and Congress; just five months into Bolsonaro's government, the i-word is now out in the open once again. Many of Bolsonaro's advisers, particularly those from the comparatively moderate "military wing" of his Cabinet, have begged the president for months to temper his rhetoric and try to work with Brasília's old guard; some believe Bolsonaro has finally understood how much trouble he's in, and that their message is getting through.  

The reforms are all that matters.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It's a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness: Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them - unconditionally (Jon Henley, 3 Jun 2019, The Guardian)

When the policy was being devised just over a decade ago, the four people who came up with what is now widely known as the Housing First principle - a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop - called their report Nimi Ovessa (Your Name on the Door).

"It was clear to everyone the old system wasn't working; we needed radical change," says Juha Kaakinen, the working group's secretary and first programme leader, who now runs the Y-Foundation developing supported and affordable housing.

"We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions."

As in many countries, homelessness in Finland had long been tackled using a staircase model: you were supposed to move through different stages of temporary accommodation as you got your life back on track, with an apartment as the ultimate reward.

"We decided to make the housing unconditional," says Kaakinen. "To say, look, you don't need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems."

With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes - among them the Rukkila homeless hostel in the Helsinki suburb of Malminkartano where Ainesmaa now lives.

Fewer homeless, a Bush legacy (David Frum, April 29, 2013, CNN)

For three decades, we have debated what causes homelessness and how to deal with it. Is homelessness a mental health problem? A substance abuse problem? A problem caused by gentrification and urban redevelopment? Or something else again?

The Bush administration substituted a much simpler idea -- an idea that happened to work. Whatever the cause of homelessness, the solution is ... a home.

In 2002, Bush appointed a new national homeless policy czar, Philip Mangano. A former music agent imbued with the religious philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, Mangano was seized by an idea pioneered by New York University psychiatrist Sam Tsemberis: "housing first."

The "housing first" concept urges authorities to concentrate resources on the hardest cases -- to move them into housing immediately -- and only to worry about the other problems of the homeless after they first have a roof over their heads. A 2004 profile in The Atlantic nicely summarized Tsemberis' ideas: "Offer them (the homeless) the apartment first, he believes, and you don't need to spend years, and service dollars, winning their trust."

The Abolitionist: Bush's homelessness czar has some new ideas. Will liberals listen? (DOUGLAS MCGRAY, JUNE 2004, The Atlantic)

With his dark tailored suits and his silver banker's coif, Philip Mangano looks like a liberal Democrat's idea of a conservative Republican's idea of an advocate for the poor--which, as the Bush Administration's homelessness czar, he happens to be. It is difficult to imagine Mangano fasting on the Capitol steps in a ratty Army-surplus jacket, as the late activist for the homeless Mitch Snyder once did, much less winning over the bleeding hearts in the nonprofit world by promising to apply the President's governing philosophy to their cause. But the latter is precisely what he does. "Any investment we make will be research-and-data-driven, performance-based, and results-oriented," I heard him declare on a cold March morning in New York City, to a gathering of social workers and housing advocates. It is something he has said again and again.

Mangano's message is as pure an example as can be found in government of "compassionate conservatism," which argues that traditionally liberal social concerns can be advanced through such conservative principles as responsibility and accountability. Though this was the centerpiece of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, the "compassion agenda" heralded in the President's inaugural address seemed to dissolve in the face of partisanship, underfunding, and an all-consuming foreign policy. What was once a unifying theme is now likely to be invoked by his rival as evidence of Bush's hollowness. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?" John Kerry recently asked an audience in Jackson, Mississippi, quoting from the Book of James. Mangano is nevertheless making a compelling case for compassionate conservatism in an unlikely field.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A.I., Captain': The Robotic Navy Ship of the Future: Defense contractor Leidos' Sea Hunter is the first of a new class of warships that use artificial intelligence in place of a crew.(Aaron Pressman, May 22, 2019, Fortune)

When it was first put in the water in 2016, Sea Hunter was a slick gray beast, fierce-looking and intentionally tough to board. The ship lacked not just the interior amenities to house a crew, like sleeping quarters, a galley, and bathrooms, but also handrails along the sides and padding on the deck for traction. The Navy, after all, had asked for an autonomous ship that could track enemy submarines and resist boarders. But when the testers from Leidos launched its very first trips along the Columbia River in Oregon, it became apparent that they needed to add handrails and an anti-skid coating on the deck for safer human boarding. There's also a small, bolted-on pilot's cabin for shelter and some metal rails for connecting gear. Cook, the senior program manager, says some of the additions make him cringe. "It's like a roof rack on a Corvette," he says.

But without them, it would have been all but impossible for the engineers to come aboard and fix the engine two years later, while tossing on the high seas. In under an hour, Crabtree and the Navy engineers restarted the craft, tracing the problem to an easily corrected software setting.

While the airborne drones commonly used by the military are piloted by remote control, and some autonomous under­water craft use computer-controlled collision avoidance programs, Sea Hunter was designed to achieve an even higher level of self-control--a challenge not unlike that designing autonomous vehicles. Though sea traffic is nowhere near that of highway driving, the stakes of an error are significantly higher. And there are no road signs, traffic lanes, or dividing lines for the software to track. Cook, a self-described "autonomy snob," says, "I think a [self-driving] car is easier."

Leidos designed Sea Hunter to meet the fundamental rules of human ship-to-ship encounters, which require that a ship follow different procedures depending on its features and functions. Typically, one ship is to stay on course and the other is to give way. But the priorities differ for sailboats vs. powerboats, the direction of the wind, and many other criteria. Sea Hunter uses sensor data from cameras and radar to assess any other craft it encounters and properly choose the correct maneuver.

Some of the largest savings achieved by unmanned vessels come from long missions. Sea Hunter could remain at sea for weeks, voyaging from California to Hawaii and back almost twice without returning to base. The fiberglass hulled boat isn't meant for the front lines of battle but could serve as a prototype for future autonomous ships built with a variety of materials and missions in mind.
I was the Navy that sought the big test--an ocean crossing with "no human hands on"--to prove that the concept of unmanned vessels was ready for a much bigger push. After Sea Hunter passed with flying colors, the Navy Department issued requests in April for the design of truly combat-ready medium-size and large-size (up to 300 feet long) unmanned surface vessels. Says Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare for the Navy: "We're looking for a mix of ships that gives us the most lethality per dollar." Unmanned ships are "in a research and development phase right now, but they could cross into an operational procurement phase relatively quickly when we think we're ready."