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Great Reads - 04

My list of “must reads” for this week(s).

  • Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. - NYT [link]

    A very informative (and well visualized piece)!

  • Scientists must fight for the facts - Nature [link]

    President Trump’s unconventional stances cannot go unchallenged.

  • Everyday Authoritarianism is Boring and Tolerable - Tom Pepinsky [link]

    Most Americans conceptualize a hypothetical end of American democracy in Apocalyptic terms. But actually, you usually learn that you are no longer living in a democracy not because The Government Is Taking Away Your Rights, or passing laws that you oppose, or because there is a coup or a quisling. You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change.

    I highly recommend this one

  • Stanford historian uncovers a grim correlation between violence and inequality over the millennia - Stanford News [link]

    What price do we pay for civilization? For Walter Scheidel, a professor of history and classics at Stanford, civilization has come at the cost of glaring economic inequality since the Stone Age. The sole exception, in his account, is widespread violence – wars, pandemics, civil unrest; only violent shocks like these have substantially reduced inequality over the millennia.

    “It is almost universally true that violence has been necessary to ensure the redistribution of wealth at any point in time,” said Scheidel

  • The deep roots of modern resentment - The Economist [link]

    As economies slow, more people will feel that powerful elites have dangled the fruits of material progress only to pull them away. More will feel a sense of displacement, either figuratively within their country, or literally, because they have been forced to leave their failing states. Some will take the spontaneous decision to vote for a populist who promises to tear down the system at great cost. Some will make a life-altering and fatal decision for jihad. Whether easy or extreme, angry reactions may be perverse, but they can feel exhilarating.

    A review of the “Age of Anger: A History of the Present” by Pankaj Mishra. Interesting, even though I haven’t read the book.

  • Steve Bannon Is Making Sure There’s No White House Paper Trail - Foreign Policy [link]

    “He is running a cabal, almost like a shadow NSC,” the official said. He described a work environment where there is little appetite for dissenting opinions, shockingly no paper trail of what’s being discussed and agreed upon at meetings, and no guidance or encouragement so far from above about how the National Security Council staff should be organized.

    Read this, keeping in mind the recent “shock events” of immigrant banning of this past weekend.

  • Book Review: Eichmann In Jerusalem - Slate Star Codex [link]

    The cause for concern isn’t that anyone you can see on TV today is plotting a Fourth Reich. It’s that some common factor causes people who start out as only moderately objectionable to predictably become something much worse

    Another great post from Scott Alexander on his blog, reviewing a book called “Eichmann In Jerusalem” about Adolf Eichmann. It paints a bizarre picture of Eichmann and summarizes key events. I learned (and remembered) a lot from this post. He also ends with a reflection on what these events say about whats happening today. I highly recommend this one. He concludes with:

    Just as humanizing the Nazis is a two-way street, so pointing out the bizarre lack of dissent in Nazi Germany is both distressing and encouraging. Distressing because – how could ordinary humans tolerate that? But encouraging because – well, it seems almost possible to imagine a world where something goes wrong and America ends up overtly fascist. Yet even in my worst nightmares I can’t imagine a world where America ends up overtly fascist and nobody is annoying and obstructionist about it. Arendt’s picture of Germany, where the ruling party has 90% approval and dissent is unthinkable – you can’t get there from here. We’re never unanimous about anything.

    I thank G-d for the annoying obstructionists, for the nitpickers, for the devil’s advocates, for the people who hear something that’s obviously true and strain to come up with an absurd thought experiment where it might not be, for the reflexive contrarians, for the people who always vote third party, for the people who urge you to sign petitions on whitehouse.gov because “then the President has to respond”, for the people who have two hundred guns in their basement “just in case”, for the people who say “well, actually…” all the time, for the mayors of sanctuary cities and the clerks who refuse to perform gay weddings, for the people who think being banned on Twitter is a violation of their human rights, and for the people who swear eternal hostility to other people on the same side who agree with them on 99% of everything. On the spectrum from “totally ungovernable” to “vulnerable to Nazism”, I think that we’ve erred in the right direction.

  • Secret Docs Reveal: President Trump Has Inherited An FBI With Vast Hidden Powers - The Intercept [link]

    This is the “intro” document to The Intercepts The FBI’s Secret Rules which breaks down the leaked documents into separate pieces I’m working through now. Highly recommend.

  • Trial Balloon for a Coup? - Yonatan Zunger [link]

    Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information.

    A speculative, but informative (and scary) reflection on recent events.

  • Reince Priebus Defends Holocaust Statement That Failed to Mention Jews - [link]

    “The Final Solution was aimed solely at the Jews,” Mr. Podhoretz wrote, while acknowledging other groups were also killed by the Nazis. “To universalize it to ‘all those who suffered’ is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning.”

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