Alexander Hamilton

To prepare for the stage musical, Hamilton–which I have tickets to at the end of August–I have begun reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The paperback version that I have has 731 pages, which means I need to read 24.4 pages per day in order to finish it before I see the show. It’s doable. I think.

It’s a fitting time to study Hamilton, whose singular vision of a world bustling in trade, industry, stock markets and banking is fully expressed in modern America. Indeed, it was Hamilton’s work that shaped our military, banks, and financial institutions. Furthermore, it was Hamilton who envisioned the magnitude of the federal government’s powers. Over two centuries later, we are still living in Hamilton’s America. The interplay between capitalism and government is indisputably Hamiltonian.

From a personal viewpoint, I have lately begun to question whether capitalism is a good fit for our world going forward. In simplistic terms, capitalism values private ownership and profits. In today’s 7-billion-plus populated world, those ideas of competition as an engine of wealth begin to harshly chafe against all-too-real issues of poverty, stagnating wages, limited natural resources, shrinking habitable land, not to mention a polluted environment. While capitalism undoubtedly pushed societal progress in the form of the Industrial Revolution and brought on the Internet Economy, it accentuates very primal traits in humans: that of the urge for mass consumption and the need to win. We now live in a world where there is enough for everyone, truly. There is no good reason why there should be anyone in poverty. But there is. We come into the world with nothing and we will die without being able to take anything with us. Yet, we spend our entire lifetime trying to amass property.

Of course, the world is complicate. Solutions are not easy. And truth be told, not everyone is motivated to live in a world where everyone does well.

Henry II & the meddlesome priest

During his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday morning, James Comey said that President Trump told him that he’d hope Comey would drop the Michael Flynn investigation. Senator Angus King of Maine asked if Comey interpreted the President’s use of “hope” as an order, Comey replied, “It rings in my ear as kind of, ‘will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?'”

It’s an allusion to Henry II’s infamous outburst, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” The priest was Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket, whom the king was frustrated with due to the priest’s refusal to give additional powers to the king. Henry’s knights took that statement to mean the king wanted Becket dead. So they murdered him near the altar of Canterbury Cathedral on December 29, 1170.

Trump’s utterance isn’t as nefarious, but Comey’s reference was clear in what he thought Trump wanted. After all, Trump had demanded loyalty.

We’ll no longer always have Paris

President Trump has made good on his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In his remarks, Trump asked rhetorically, “At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

This statement shows how un-self-aware he is. The world is laughing louder than ever.

Is there any reason why the US would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement?

President Trump is set to make a decision this week on whether to stay in or pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump has called the agreement “a bad deal.” But as understood, the Paris agreement is a voluntary one. So if the agreement is voluntary–without incurring any penalty if the terms are not met–why is it a bad deal?

From Vox:

 [The Paris agreement] asks participants only to state what they are willing to do and to account for what they’ve done. It is, in a word, voluntary…

Here’s how the process works. Each participating country determines, on its own, the policies and emission reductions to which it is prepared to commit. It then submits a Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC — a set of emission targets and a plan to achieve them…

Trump can weaken the US NDC, without penalty. He can roll back all of Obama’s carbon regulations, without penalty. He can simply fail to meet the targets of the NDC, without penalty…

That means all talk of Paris being a “bad deal” for the US, or hurting US trade, or affecting the US coal industry in any way, is nonsense. Paris does not and cannot do any of those things. The US voluntarily offered up an NDC and can voluntarily offer up a different or weaker NDC any time it wants.

Montana GOP candidate body-slams Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs

Could the political climate continue to devolve? We are seemingly living in an alternative facts, fake news, post-factual alternate universe where the alt-right is position close to the seat of power. The media has been labeled as enemy of the people by the President, whose recklessness has trickled down to brazen acolytes like Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in a special congressional election in Montana. Gianforte explicably attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. There were no video of the incident, but there is audio, which didn’t dissuade Gianforte’s campaign from releasing an alternate version of what happened:

“Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

Fortunately, journalistic integrity is still alive, and from Fox News no less.

Merriam Webster, who has been killing it on Twitter since Trump became president, had the best commentary: