Showing posts with the label politics

Am I an Internet Person?

I was thinking about online polarization the other day and anti-elite sentiment, and I realized that despite what I'd like to believe, I'm an exhibit in the power of the internet. I often sympathize with the people termed "elites" — not financial elites, but academics and in many cases the media and mainstream but progressive politicians. So in this age of Brexit and Trump and Yellow Vests I've been inclined to think I'm not one of the anti-elite members of the public...

Until I thought about my views on animals and how I think what's happening to animals is a moral crisis of the first order. I've had these concerns since early on in college, but it did not dominate my thinking back then. Today, I see what's happening to animals as of overwhelming importance. (I've also come to be strongly aware of moral obligations to help others, the long-term future, and rationality, but those are perhaps less political and certainly less clearcut.) How did …

A Funny Thing Happened While Selling Cory Booker to Vegans

Last Friday I wrote a post in support of Cory Booker's presidency. The main audience was animal advocates, though I also aimed it at the general public and wrote about a number of his policies and politics that I think recommend him.

My original version of the post included a section that I decided to delete. In the deleted section, I predicted that a lot of people concerned with animals would immediately dismiss the first true animal advocate running for president based on other stances, something they would never do for human issues. It's striking to me how accurate my predictions are, so I thought it was worth sharing what I removed from the post, which I think underlines a problem not only among vegans but also on the left in general: that there is a socially-enforced ranking of issues that nearly everyone follows at the end of the day and that has little explicit justification.

The note is below the line.


I anticipate some on the vegan internet accus…

Booker 2020

Cory Booker announced his presidential bid. I'm going to sign up to volunteer with his campaign as soon as it's possible, and I think he’s the candidate worth supporting. Here's why:

Trump has made clear that he intends to further incite white voters in 2020 with racist appeals, and so far Democrats don’t have a great idea how to combat it. One idea is to do the same thing on the left and try to use equally angry rhetoric, and I think this could work, but it's not the best bet because (a) Trump isn’t actually that popular, he’s just a puzzle in his extreme political tactics; (b) left-leaning voters are just not as angry or hateful; (c) the blue coalition is very mixed and hard to unify as a singular group. Also, even if it works, it's probably better to go with a positive message for the long-term health of American politics.

It seems to me that there are two things that may work. First, representing underrepresented voters most affected by Trump. Second, crafting a …

What I Learned from a Year Spent Studying How to Get Policymakers to Use Evidence

The past year I was a senior research analyst at Northwestern University's Global Poverty Research Lab on a study of evidence-based policy. Specifically, our goal was to work on a question often on researchers' minds: how can I get my ideas acted upon?

To do this, I dug through a number of bodies of evidence on how science influences policy. One area I looked at is what is called "implementation science" in medicine, which looks at how to get doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to adopt evidence-based practice. Another was a series of papers by social scientist Carol Weiss and her students on how policymakers in government agencies claim to use evidence. There is also a small literature on how to implement evidence-based policy in public schools, and a little work on policymaker numeracy. I've included a bibliography below that should be helpful for anyone interested in this topic.

Most of my year was spent on delving into attempts to scale up specific pol…

How I'm Voting in California's Overwhelming June Primaries

I've finished going through the June 5th California primary election for Oakland, and below are my picks. If anyone disagrees with my choices, please make your case—most of these I do not feel strongly about, and I did not have time to thoroughly research all of them.

In general, the issue I care most about is opposing or at least not supporting animal agriculture. In most cases that's irrelevant, as I could not find any relevant positions. The rare exception is incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein, who spearheaded the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which is disqualifying. On top of that, she's historically supported mass incarceration and has buckled under to Trump until she started fearing primary challengers. Senator Feinstein deserves to lose badly. Everyone should vote for her most plausible opponent from the left, Kevin DeLeon, both now and in November. On top of that, if you can state publicly that you voted against her because of the AETA, that would be powerful.

As …

Things I've Changed My Mind on This Year:

1) The importance of artificial general intelligence:

I'd previously been dismissive of superintelligence as being something altruists should focus on, but that was in large part motivated reasoning. I read books like Superintelligenceand Global Catastrophic Risks, and I knew their theses were right initially but would not admit it to myself. With time, though I came to see that I was resisting the conclusion that superintelligence is an important priority mostly because it was uncomfortable. Now I recognize that it is potentially the most important problem and want to explore opportunities to contribute.

2) The economic argument for animal welfare reforms:

One of the reasons often given for supporting animal welfare reforms to those who want to see fewer (read: no) animals tortured for food is that welfare reforms make the industry less profitable, cutting down on the numbers of animals raised. I did not think this effect was strong enough to be worth the effort activists put into …