Who Makes Policy Campaign 2016 Edition

Cold War Part Deux Roundup: 9/8/16

I have decided that I will do a little news roundup of the news on US-Russia now and again.

Today there was a lot of news about how a Russian fighter jet made an unsafe mid-air intercept of a US jet above the Black Sea (see here). This was also mentioned on the townhall-style presidential forum last night when Donald Trump claimed that this aggressive behavior was because America is not respected anymore (I will save the sarcastic comments about how he is the reason we are not respected, too late).

It seems that tensions continue to rise between the US and Russia in the post G20 week. The US Secretary of Defense warned Russia publicly not to interfere with the US election (see here).

So putting this in context, Russia got aggressive with one of our jets and the US drew a line in the sand with Russian tampering of the election. So how much of this is saber rattling and how much of this is the precursor to increased tension between the two superpowers?

Post G20 Russia-US Updates

Before the G20 conference in China happened the Treasury Department increased sanctions. I discovered this via twitter and confirmed it here.

Reports of this are far and few between but I did find this piece on an Aberbizani news source (see here).

This is interesting as it seems that, at least according to Reuters, that the US and Russia will be meeting soon and that talks are expected to be positive.

Let’s review:

Before the G20 the Treasury Department announced increased sanctions.

During the G20 reports were coming out that the US and Russia were coming to terms on the Syria question then all of a sudden Russia “backed out.”

Now reports are coming in that the parties are going to meet and that a deal seems to be in the works.

So the question is whether this positivity is because talks really are getting somewhere or whether the sanctions that the Treasury Department is levying are inducing Russia. If it is the later we have to ask whether this will last? Do sanctions even work in the long term? They did not really work in Cuba, I really don’t know if they will work in the long run with Iran either (only time and nuclear oversight will really tell on that one).

If Russia-US Relations Weren’t Already Strained, Russia Using Iranian Airbase Won’t Help

The state of play this weekend started to get interesting with respects to Russia-US relations. During the G20 summit in China this weekend news reports came out that Russia and the United States had come to terms regarding Syria.

But that lasted only a day at most when reports started to come in that Russia had backed away from some of its promises.

So, this is nothing new. Diplomacy is a slow thing sometimes.

However, reports started coming in today as the G20 leaders are leaving China that Russia is planning to resume its use of an Iranian air base.

My feeling is that this is not a good development. First, Iran is no friend of the United States. I cannot imagine that the Supreme Leader of Iran telling the Russians no because we don’t like it; in fact, I think the opposite is a likely driver for Iran. This also means that there is a possibility of a Russian-Iranian partnership in the area which will weaken US interests. I wonder if the Iran airbase deal is what was the precursor to Russia and the United States walking away from the negotiation tables on Syria.

For more on this see here and here.

Nuclear Disarmament and the Currant State of US-Russia Relations

This report by Brookings is interesting, it’s also a long read and admittedly I have not been able to make it through all the way but it made me ask a question.

In light of the strained relations between the United States and Russia (and who knows what will happen come January 20th) is it even possible for a multi-lateral deal that includes Russia and the United States? Thoughts?

Elderly, homelessness, mental health, and Social Security

This one hits a bit close to home for me. My mom is just over 70-years old and I have helped her navigate Social Security (and failed a few times). Due to a number of past events she also has little savings (and no retirement aside from Social Security) so she also works, for the most part, full-time.

The idea of Social Security was to ensure that the elderly would not be homeless or in poverty when they retired (or someone could not work anymore). Also, social security was designed when the average lifespan was all but 65 or so years old.

There are issues with the system for sure. My mom gets about a grand a month from her Social Security which is not enough to even pay the rent on her apartment. Becuase she works she has to pay taxes on her Social Security income (which I think is ridiculous).

Anyway, that is why this piece from the Washington Post hits close to home. This 70-year old woman was homeless because the Social Security Administration messed up (and trust me they mess up a lot). Add to that she was homeless for 16-years while fighting for what was owned her (up to now over $100,000.00). If you want to fight for what is owed you, it is advisable to get an attorney. But when you make so little, and the attorney takes either percentage of what is recovered or several thousand dollars that many elderly can ill afford, many people choose not to fight (my mom is one).

As the article points out there are more claims now than ever due to the Boomers retiring. Add to that budget cuts and staff reductions at the Social Security Administration and we have a recipe for disaster: long waits for appointments, backlogs of claims processing. Is this what we want for our parents (I don’t even say us because Social Security likely will not be there when we retire)? If we don’t want this for our parents what can we do to fix it? That is a big question, one that I don’t have time for in this post, but I think is starts with the following issue that we have to figure out: do we want a social safety net (welfare, and social programs) to be a part of our society? If we do, then we must fund them, which means we must pay for them. If we do not, then we have to figure out a way to transition the soon to retire so we don’t have a generation of the elderly on the streets.

A first look at Russia… and Clinton.

I did a Twitter search for Putin and have a few things to share.

First, there is the new Clinton “scandal” revolving around a nuclear deal between Russia and Canada. Twitter was aflutter with tweets like this:

If you did into this story, however, it becomes obvious that this is likely much ado about nothing (as much of the Clinton attacks seem to flush out to be). To get a better idea of the facts look to PolitiFact, the Times, and the Washington Post.

I really have to ask myself, and all of us I think should be asking the same, why are the Clinton’s always mired in scandal. Personally, I think Clinton was stupid for having the personal server. She knows she is under a microscope. So is this Clinton making silly choices that are not a big deal, are some of them big deals, or is it really the Right trying to bring her down at all cost, or a little of all of it? How will this affect her ability to be a productive President?

A new way to look at the binary political spectrum.

I think many think of politics as binary. Left and right. Libertarian and liberal. Fascist and Communist. Moreover, I think many think that these are substitutions for each other. I want to give everyone this site, Political Compas (link here).

What these researchers are asking is simple (and complex in a way) are these multiple dimensions actually distinct? Can we understand political beliefs better by mapping these as distinct interrelated constructs? So for some food for thought I will leave this here for comment:

So, do people think that Hillary and Donald, as proxies for the zeitgeist of their party, are, in fact, more to the right politically but more separate on the authoritarian-libertarian dimension? (Please note: this survey instrument was designed to look at left-right and authoritarian-libertarian on an international basis and is not Ameri-centric.)

Comments on New Yorker Article: “Politics and Personality: Most of What You Read is Malarkey”

I came across this article “Politics and Personality: Most of What You Read is Malarkey” in the New Yorker.

Overall, I think this is an interesting piece. It summarizes the source document quite well. Given that there are a lot of problems with the reproducibility of some social science experimentation (especially in the field of social psychology, see the reproducibility projectthis summary from science, and this Atlantic piece about Brian Nosek’s version of the project).

As Ms. Konnikova notes about the bulk these types of studies they use correlation, and as we all should know “correlation does not equal causation.” However, and this is where I push back on the ultimate thesis of this piece, these types of analyses in psychological science are somewhat outmoded. To hold modern psychological science to the methods of the past in light of OLS regression, multiple regression, structural equation modeling, and other methods which can establish both correlation and causation better than those used when Zimbardo did the “Stamford Prison Experiment” is somewhat disingenuous.