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Andreas Schou has been at 1 events

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Nicholas Kristof1,456,683The issue of the moment is Syria, so I'm delighted to host a Google+ hangout in which we'll be able to pose questions to Secretary of State John Kerry about Syria policy. I'll be joined by +Lara Setrakian, a journalist whom I've long admired who specializes in Syria. Andrew Beiter, a social studies  teacher and a regional education coordinator for the Holocaust Memorial Museum, will also be in the Hangout. Most of all, we'll be joined by all of you--so jump into the conversation on this page and leave us your questions. In particular, with this Hangout we want to involve teachers and students, so spread the word in the schools, please, and student questions are particularly welcome! This kind of online interview is something of an experiment, and we're still figuring out how to make it work best. So we also welcome your suggestions and guidance before and criticisms after. Syria: Weighing the U.S. Response2013-09-10 20:00:006961  

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Most comments: 142

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2016-01-28 19:07:15 (142 comments; 10 reshares; 42 +1s)Open 

I conditionally preferred Bernie on the broad details of his program, but only until I saw how absurd the details of his policies were. Single-payer does work, but there are tradeoffs. There is a huge body of evidence on what those tradeoffs are. It's like neither he nor any of his staff have seen any of it.

I don't quite blame him for this. The problem is that America has no socialist policy establishment; no one you can ask, "will this work?", and get any answer other than "well, is this socialist? Then yes." Which means that when American politicians try to make socialist policy, they end up with bullshit. I mean that in the Frankfurt sense: "things said with utter disregard for what the truth might be"."

You cannot replace a $2.9t industry with a $1.0t government program without cutting salaries or coverage. You can't leave even a rump... more »

Most reshares: 34

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2016-02-02 23:25:18 (23 comments; 34 reshares; 250 +1s)Open 

#BAMF for #BlackHistoryMonth  Now THIS is a cat I'd love to see a biopic about!

From Wikipedia: As a politician, Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, and founded the Republican Party of South Carolina.

Most plusones: 250

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2016-02-02 23:25:18 (23 comments; 34 reshares; 250 +1s)Open 

#BAMF for #BlackHistoryMonth  Now THIS is a cat I'd love to see a biopic about!

From Wikipedia: As a politician, Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, and founded the Republican Party of South Carolina.

Latest 50 posts

2016-02-09 23:03:52 (2 comments; 1 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

"Yeah. A total ABCD."
"What?'
"A class-A B-school C-Suite D-bag." 

"Yeah. A total ABCD."
"What?'
"A class-A B-school C-Suite D-bag." ___

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2016-02-09 04:27:52 (19 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

Dear CafePress,

I Googled "hot garbage water," and a page of water bottles (presumably, for hot garbage water) was the first result. This particular model, imploring me to keep calm by focusing on tripe (?), is my favorite.

What is your algorithm for automatically generating slogans doing.

What is it doing.

How can I keep it doing that forever?

Thanks,
Andy

Dear CafePress,

I Googled "hot garbage water," and a page of water bottles (presumably, for hot garbage water) was the first result. This particular model, imploring me to keep calm by focusing on tripe (?), is my favorite.

What is your algorithm for automatically generating slogans doing.

What is it doing.

How can I keep it doing that forever?

Thanks,
Andy___

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2016-02-08 21:10:41 (15 comments; 13 reshares; 47 +1s)Open 

Suggested Term for Computer-Generated Hilarity: Big Dada. 

Suggested Term for Computer-Generated Hilarity: Big Dada. ___

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2016-02-04 20:41:31 (15 comments; 4 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

In other words, "Saudi Arabia offers to send ground troops to Syria to start a region-wide, genocidal, sectarian war with Iran. Because I guess murdering its most prominent Shi'a cleric and bombing Shi'a in Yemen wasn't provocation enough."

Every time I think Saudi Arabia can't sink any lower, they just limbo straight under the bar. 

In other words, "Saudi Arabia offers to send ground troops to Syria to start a region-wide, genocidal, sectarian war with Iran. Because I guess murdering its most prominent Shi'a cleric and bombing Shi'a in Yemen wasn't provocation enough."

Every time I think Saudi Arabia can't sink any lower, they just limbo straight under the bar. ___

2016-02-03 23:03:20 (31 comments; 0 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

Dear Norway,

Okkupert is a genuinely great show. Even though the scenario is a tad unlikely, it's still the most adult fictional treatment of geopolitics I've ever seen. A few notes:

(1) Are those really your military dress uniforms? Giant, ridiculous epaulets? A bowler hat with... is that a ponytail? The whole thing looks like it was cobbled together out of random pieces of 19th-century upholstery.

(2) Everyone just goes ahead and calls the Prime Minister by his first name? Including random police officers? I'm pleased by the egalitarianism.

(3) Is Oslo really that gorgeous? It's all 19th-century architecture which looks like it was built yesterday and brushed-metal-and-pale-wood saunascapes everywhere else.

(4) Everyone is cheating on their partner. No one really comments on it.

(5) Do... more »

Dear Norway,

Okkupert is a genuinely great show. Even though the scenario is a tad unlikely, it's still the most adult fictional treatment of geopolitics I've ever seen. A few notes:

(1) Are those really your military dress uniforms? Giant, ridiculous epaulets? A bowler hat with... is that a ponytail? The whole thing looks like it was cobbled together out of random pieces of 19th-century upholstery.

(2) Everyone just goes ahead and calls the Prime Minister by his first name? Including random police officers? I'm pleased by the egalitarianism.

(3) Is Oslo really that gorgeous? It's all 19th-century architecture which looks like it was built yesterday and brushed-metal-and-pale-wood saunascapes everywhere else.

(4) Everyone is cheating on their partner. No one really comments on it.

(5) Do the politics of this show code as relatively right-wing in Norway? The trajectory seems to be "milquetoast socialist PM transforms into resolute warlord-PM." I'm a little surprised.

(6) Why does everyone in Oslo speak English better than I do. That isn't a question, I suppose. Just an observation. (Surprisingly, I find myself understanding snatches of Norwegian by analogy to Danish or German.)

(7) Even for a show with a rightward orientation, the treatment of the EU's representatives as craven, simpering bandits is a bit shocking.

For people who aren't Norwegians and who have Netflix -- it's more than worth watching. Going through a fictional analogue really clarified my feelings about what's going on in Ukraine right now.___

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2016-02-03 20:55:03 (13 comments; 1 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

"Beezow Doo Doo Zopittybop-bop-bop arrested in Wash. officers' assaults" is now the actual title of an actual article. 

"Beezow Doo Doo Zopittybop-bop-bop arrested in Wash. officers' assaults" is now the actual title of an actual article. ___

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2016-02-02 23:25:18 (23 comments; 34 reshares; 250 +1s)Open 

I just want to amplify what +Tshaka Armstrong said about how awesome Robert Smalls was. Just to give you some details which fall between the big bullet points here:

* Born into slavery.

* Started out with seriously unpleasant menial jobs. Taught himself to read. More importantly, taught himself navigational trigonometry. This is not simple to do yourself. This is especially not simple to do when you grew up speaking Gullah creole, and your first exposure to standard-dialect English was when you were ten.

* In general, was seriously awful at being a slave. Ran away. Resold tobacco and candy to make money his master didn't have access to. Bailed out of slave lockup over and over again because, despite the fact he never took to the whip, he was too competent to punish.

* Stole a Confederate ship. Sailed off with it. Gave it to the... more »

#BAMF for #BlackHistoryMonth  Now THIS is a cat I'd love to see a biopic about!

From Wikipedia: As a politician, Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, and founded the Republican Party of South Carolina.___I just want to amplify what +Tshaka Armstrong said about how awesome Robert Smalls was. Just to give you some details which fall between the big bullet points here:

* Born into slavery.

* Started out with seriously unpleasant menial jobs. Taught himself to read. More importantly, taught himself navigational trigonometry. This is not simple to do yourself. This is especially not simple to do when you grew up speaking Gullah creole, and your first exposure to standard-dialect English was when you were ten.

* In general, was seriously awful at being a slave. Ran away. Resold tobacco and candy to make money his master didn't have access to. Bailed out of slave lockup over and over again because, despite the fact he never took to the whip, he was too competent to punish.

* Stole a Confederate ship. Sailed off with it. Gave it to the Union.

* Pushed for Congress to pay him the bounty, and was paid about $37,000 for it. Which is to say, "more money than a slave would likely see in five lifetimes."

* Joined the US Navy. Which is notable, because the US Navy was not admitting black sailors at this point.

* Convinced the US Army to admit black soldiers. You know. Like you do.

* Oh, did I mention that all of this happened before he turned 23? Because it all did.

* Assigned to pilot an experimental ironclad steamship in an attack on Charleston harbor. This fails. The ship sinks. Smalls is nonetheless commended for bravery.

* Reassigned to the Planter, the ship he stole less than two years ago, with some of the black crew which originally stole it. The captain of the Planter, caught in crossfire between Confederate and Union ships, attempts to surrender to the Confederates.

* Decided he's going to have none of that, because black soldiers and sailors are killed on capture. Sails the ship back to the Union lines against his captain's orders, saving the lives of his black crew.

* Commended for bravery again. And promoted. Which makes him the first black naval captain in US history. He's actually captain of the Planter, the ship he stole less than two years ago.

* The war ends.

* Used the money he got from stealing Confederate ships to buy the house he lived in when he was a slave. Moves in. Runs for Congress.

* Won.

* Kept running for Congress. Kept winning. Became the longest-serving black Congressman until the late 20th century.

* Reconstruction ended. Gerrymandering, poll violence, and the like keep him from running again.

* Stayed active in politics. Attempted to return the black vote to South Carolina. Fails, but consider that this is precisely the sort of thing which would get you lynched between the years of 1876 and 1920.

* Appointed to be customs inspector. Which, again: this is a math-heavy job, and Smalls had no formal education.

Name an important thing which a human being could have done between the Civil War and World War I, and Smalls did it. He didn't just rise up from poverty: he rose up from the most abject position an American could be consigned to, and just ... kept rising. Even after the tragedy that ended Reconstruction, he somehow managed to keep his head above water.

He died the owner of the house in which he had been a slave, serving the country which had both rewarded and betrayed him.

2016-02-01 19:41:48 (32 comments; 10 reshares; 46 +1s)Open 

Let me lay my cards on the table:

I do not think Bernie would be a great President, because I don't think that the United States has a socialist policy bench. I mean, who would he even hire to run policy programs?

You can see that from his health care plan, which is basically laughable: it doesn't engage with any of the difficult trade-offs necessary to implement single-payer in the most expensive health care market in the world. He's attempting to replace a 2.9 trillion dollar market with a 1 trillion dollar program without cutting coverage or doctor salaries. 

You cannot do that. That's not a policy position. That's math. 

He also doesn't know anything about foreign policy, and most of what he knows is wrong. For instance, he wants genocidal sectarian militias to keep the peace in Syria, which would be laughable if it were not sos... more »

Let me lay my cards on the table:

I do not think Bernie would be a great President, because I don't think that the United States has a socialist policy bench. I mean, who would he even hire to run policy programs?

You can see that from his health care plan, which is basically laughable: it doesn't engage with any of the difficult trade-offs necessary to implement single-payer in the most expensive health care market in the world. He's attempting to replace a 2.9 trillion dollar market with a 1 trillion dollar program without cutting coverage or doctor salaries. 

You cannot do that. That's not a policy position. That's math. 

He also doesn't know anything about foreign policy, and most of what he knows is wrong. For instance, he wants genocidal sectarian militias to keep the peace in Syria, which would be laughable if it were not so stunningly immoral. But as he's unlikely to accomplish that, he's wrong in a way which is unlikely to do harm. 

On the other side, Clinton's primary accomplishment as a politician is her management of the State Department. Particularly, the progress she made in securing an Iran deal. But as an elected official, the only consequential thing she did was to vote for the Iraq war -- which puts about 6,000 Iraqi deaths on her conscience, personally, and the immeasurable damage it did to US foreign policy. She's also pro-mass-surveillance, conditionally pro-torture, and a small-bore thinker on social issues. 

She's also a bad campaigner who surrounds herself with morons. She lost the 2008 primary because she did not understand the benefits of pursuing states with small vote totals but a winner-take all-system. And her core advisors : Mark "Scroogled" Penn? Lanny "I started the birther movement" Davis? Sydney "I Send the SecState Emails From InfoWars And Expect Her to Act On Them" Blumenthal? Really? 

If there were any other viable Democratic candidate this election, or the Supreme Court were not 5-4, I would be more publicly suspicious. But those are both the case. And so I am cautiously optimistic that she will overcome her history of taking bad advice and hidebound thinking.

She was a Senator at a time when the Republicans controlled the rest of government. I'm willing to write more off because I think she actually listens to her advisors, and that the Democratic moderate policy bench is deep enough to keep her from doing real or permanent harm. 

But there's no pretending that the criticisms of her from the left are unreasonable or false.___

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2016-02-01 18:34:32 (32 comments; 5 reshares; 33 +1s)Open 

This whole case is nonsense from top to bottom. Even presuming the worst, there has never been a prosecution of a cabinet-level official or congressperson for disclosure of classified information. This is for several reasons:

(1) Unauthorized disclosure of classified information, in the general case, is not a crime.

This is somewhat surprising to most people, but there is no general statute penalizing civilians for disclosing classified information. The closest statute which exists is 18 USC 641, which punishes the unauthorized retention of classified materials, and 18 USC 952, which punishes the (apparently verbatim) illegal transmission of a diplomatic code or material prepared in that code.

All other statutes which punish officials for mishandling classified officials have a strict scienter requirement: to violate the statute, official must intend to harm the... more »

This whole case is nonsense from top to bottom. Even presuming the worst, there has never been a prosecution of a cabinet-level official or congressperson for disclosure of classified information. This is for several reasons:

(1) Unauthorized disclosure of classified information, in the general case, is not a crime.

This is somewhat surprising to most people, but there is no general statute penalizing civilians for disclosing classified information. The closest statute which exists is 18 USC 641, which punishes the unauthorized retention of classified materials, and 18 USC 952, which punishes the (apparently verbatim) illegal transmission of a diplomatic code or material prepared in that code.

All other statutes which punish officials for mishandling classified officials have a strict scienter requirement: to violate the statute, official must intend to harm the interests of the United States or have a reasonable belief that those interests will be harmed.

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/R41404.pdf

(2) Executive branch policy has long allowed non-declassifying disclosures of classified information.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has worked in intelligence, Congress, or national security journalism, but officials release classified information all the time. They don't declassify information, but they do release it.

"But that's not what the law says," you might object. This sends us back to the scienter requirement. Here's what the Congressional Research Service thinks about the probability that a presidential appointee could be prosecuted for disclosing classified information:

If in fact a case can be made that a senior official has made or authorized the disclosure of classified information, successful prosecution under current laws may be impossible because the scienter requirement (i.e., guilty state of mind) is not likely to be met. The Espionage Act of 1917, for example, requires proof that the discloser has the intent or reason to believe the information will be used against the United States or to the benefit of a foreign nation; [...] courts tend to show deference to the government with respect to the sensitivity of whatever classified information was released. [....] In the event the disclosure was made or authorized by a person who has the authority to make such determinations, it would seem likely that court deference would result in acquittal absent some overwhelming proof of ill intent.

Can you plausibly hit the "overwhelming proof of ill intent" standard here? Especially in the context of executing government policy?

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/secrecy/RS21900.pdf

(3) High-level diplomats need to disclose classified information.

And obviously, considering the nature of their job, they need to disclose it to foreign government officials. Consider the following real-life examples of conversations which SecState might have had recently:

Pakistani Ambassador: The NWPF government is telling us that drone strikes have killed five children in Waziristan.

SecState: We have credible intelligence that the compound we hit was being used by the Haqqani network.

Or perhaps:

French Ambassador: We have deep concerns that the NSA's BANANAGLEE program is spying on French nationals, and are having difficulty reauthorizing agency-to-agency contacts between DGSE and CIA.

SecState: That code name describes a technique, not an intercept program.

These disclosures do not, and cannot, declassify. But they are routine, and because they are routine, any disclosure of that type would likely prevent the scienter requirement from coming into effect.

(4) Prosecutorial discretion rests with the executive.

You'll note that the law on this subject is not particularly well-developed. This is because presidents are not in the business of prosecuting agency appointees for disclosing classified information in the process of running their agency.

This seems like a double standard -- until you realize that the entire reason that classification exists is to prevent members of the bureaucracy or foreign agents from undermining the policies of the executive branch. ___

2016-02-01 17:44:05 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

A major problem I have with Bernie Sanders is that he's more interested in bringing down the wealthy than doing anything for the poor. I would expect Sanders to engage in pointless fights trying to destroy, say, insurance companies rather than burn that capital on just extending Medicaid coverage to states currently rejecting it and increasing the subsidy amounts.

A major problem I have with Bernie Sanders is that he's more interested in bringing down the wealthy than doing anything for the poor. I would expect Sanders to engage in pointless fights trying to destroy, say, insurance companies rather than burn that capital on just extending Medicaid coverage to states currently rejecting it and increasing the subsidy amounts.___

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2016-01-30 05:33:37 (25 comments; 26 reshares; 58 +1s)Open 

I have never quite come to terms with the fact that, mostly, what I want out of a conversation is brief, painful relief from being wrong, no matter what it takes. And that basically no one else wants that.

I'm not good by nature, and not correct by nature. I started out my life knowing nothing. Any relief from ignorance I've ever had has been brief, and the process of getting there has often been painful. I'm more stubborn than I ought to be.

I can't say how I'd feel if I'd been browbeaten out of the right position over and over again.

I have never quite come to terms with the fact that, mostly, what I want out of a conversation is brief, painful relief from being wrong, no matter what it takes. And that basically no one else wants that.

I'm not good by nature, and not correct by nature. I started out my life knowing nothing. Any relief from ignorance I've ever had has been brief, and the process of getting there has often been painful. I'm more stubborn than I ought to be.

I can't say how I'd feel if I'd been browbeaten out of the right position over and over again.___

2016-01-29 21:57:25 (57 comments; 17 reshares; 71 +1s)Open 

Duane Ehmer, one of the last holdouts at Malheur, was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

He was also a militiaman.

This is not a coincidence.

The modern world provides few opportunities for mythic struggles between good and evil. There are no dragons to slay: the majority of the problems we're left with are solvable only by intense focus and difficult choices. But not everyone is well-suited to picking the threads in the giant, terrible knots which we originally tied with good intentions.

If you look through the backgrounds of the militiamen, you'll find a history of petty crime. Impulsive misdemeanors; small acts of violence; stubbornness in the face of official sanction. The same sort of thing you'll see in a particular sort of soldier or police officer: people who can hold their life together with intense discipline, so long as an... more »

Duane Ehmer, one of the last holdouts at Malheur, was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

He was also a militiaman.

This is not a coincidence.

The modern world provides few opportunities for mythic struggles between good and evil. There are no dragons to slay: the majority of the problems we're left with are solvable only by intense focus and difficult choices. But not everyone is well-suited to picking the threads in the giant, terrible knots which we originally tied with good intentions.

If you look through the backgrounds of the militiamen, you'll find a history of petty crime. Impulsive misdemeanors; small acts of violence; stubbornness in the face of official sanction. The same sort of thing you'll see in a particular sort of soldier or police officer: people who can hold their life together with intense discipline, so long as an outlet for their violence is available, but whose life before and after their service is an erratic disaster. I knew a lot of these men when I was working with the homeless.

We sometimes blame this on PTSD. But listen to their own narratives about their lives, and you'll find that they often credit the military for holding their lives together in the face of their own violent impulsivity. Their need for structure, and their desire to channel their impulses toward a useful purpose, isn't a sign of deep, underlying sociopathy: it's an attempt to avoid becoming the person they fear becoming.

To many of these men (and they are almost all men) in the militia movement, their delusions are not the cause of their problem. They are a defective solution to their problem. They long for an apocalyptic civil war, or nuclear holocaust, or the disintegration of the economic order because they are unsuited for an order in which problems cannot be solved by shooting at them.

Having known a lot of these men, I feel a certain amount of sympathy for their position: in a different time, they might have been the impulsive do-gooders whom they imagine themselves to be. But they are often dangerous. They fill the ranks of every authoritarian movement worldwide: they're the petty criminals who became Brownshirts; the Jordanian video-store clerk who founded AQI; the marginal, unemployed Arab twenty-somethings who joined ISIS and al-Qaida.

There is no general solution, other than to reduce the world to the terrifying place where they belong. ___

2016-01-29 20:27:32 (19 comments; 1 reshares; 26 +1s)Open 

My frustration with the Hillary email scandal is that it's not obvious that there is any sense in which the Secretary of State can break the law when discharging her duties by revealing classified information. To a first approximation, Congress has no authority over diplomatic activity and, so, these laws merely give the President the tools to discipline his own staff with. It's just a basic separation of powers question.

Yet people act like she was just some schmuck revealing classified information. Unless the President says otherwise, my assumption is that the Secretary had the authority to reveal whatever she wants, to anyone she wants, at any time she wants, in any manner she seems appropriate. If you don't like it, pass an amendment.

My frustration with the Hillary email scandal is that it's not obvious that there is any sense in which the Secretary of State can break the law when discharging her duties by revealing classified information. To a first approximation, Congress has no authority over diplomatic activity and, so, these laws merely give the President the tools to discipline his own staff with. It's just a basic separation of powers question.

Yet people act like she was just some schmuck revealing classified information. Unless the President says otherwise, my assumption is that the Secretary had the authority to reveal whatever she wants, to anyone she wants, at any time she wants, in any manner she seems appropriate. If you don't like it, pass an amendment.___

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2016-01-29 02:10:24 (78 comments; 9 reshares; 37 +1s)Open 

They've now released the video of the Finicum shooting. Starting at 9:12, Finicum intentionally steers off the road, almost hitting an officer. He exits the vehicle with his hands up almost immediately, then reaches across his body, toward his waistband. The officer he apparently tried to hit is on the ground.

Another cop (who is apparently in the woods) fires what appears to be just a couple shots, and Finicum falls over. I don't see any plausible interpretation where this is a bad shoot.

They've now released the video of the Finicum shooting. Starting at 9:12, Finicum intentionally steers off the road, almost hitting an officer. He exits the vehicle with his hands up almost immediately, then reaches across his body, toward his waistband. The officer he apparently tried to hit is on the ground.

Another cop (who is apparently in the woods) fires what appears to be just a couple shots, and Finicum falls over. I don't see any plausible interpretation where this is a bad shoot.___

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2016-01-28 19:07:15 (142 comments; 10 reshares; 42 +1s)Open 

I conditionally preferred Bernie on the broad details of his program, but only until I saw how absurd the details of his policies were. Single-payer does work, but there are tradeoffs. There is a huge body of evidence on what those tradeoffs are. It's like neither he nor any of his staff have seen any of it.

I don't quite blame him for this. The problem is that America has no socialist policy establishment; no one you can ask, "will this work?", and get any answer other than "well, is this socialist? Then yes." Which means that when American politicians try to make socialist policy, they end up with bullshit. I mean that in the Frankfurt sense: "things said with utter disregard for what the truth might be"."

You cannot replace a $2.9t industry with a $1.0t government program without cutting salaries or coverage. You can't leave even a rump... more »

I conditionally preferred Bernie on the broad details of his program, but only until I saw how absurd the details of his policies were. Single-payer does work, but there are tradeoffs. There is a huge body of evidence on what those tradeoffs are. It's like neither he nor any of his staff have seen any of it.

I don't quite blame him for this. The problem is that America has no socialist policy establishment; no one you can ask, "will this work?", and get any answer other than "well, is this socialist? Then yes." Which means that when American politicians try to make socialist policy, they end up with bullshit. I mean that in the Frankfurt sense: "things said with utter disregard for what the truth might be"."

You cannot replace a $2.9t industry with a $1.0t government program without cutting salaries or coverage. You can't leave even a rump private insurance market, because doing so screws you out of your monopsony pricing power. Not to mention the fact that you can't get a single payer system past any Senator which Kansas or Indiana might plausibly elect.

But I want to relate this back to reparations, and why Bernie won't say he supports them:

Bernie knows that virtually all of his supporters are white. His support among minorities is very, very low. Purely symbolic proposals directed at white liberals are popular among white liberals. Purely symbolic proposals directed at remediating the problems of black Americans are not. For all his ethical steadfastness, Sanders is still a politician: he can push daydreams about single payer because they will not alienate his base; he cannot push daydreams about reparations because they will.

He can throw out bullshit single-payer plans because they're things his base will accept. It's a cynical political move that looks like idealism only because the narrowness of his goals. His rejection of reparations is, similarly, a cynical political move that looks like pragmatism only because of the narrowness of his base.___

2016-01-28 18:08:23 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 24 +1s)Open 

How do you characterize people like the Malheur militiamen?

For all their pseudo-military language, neither their tactics nor strategy were workable. The "impunity" they enjoyed had been a trap the entire time. It is not as if the rest of us had been fooled either; this author, at least, has been advocating this very strategy the entire time. But there is also an issue of cowardice. Ritzheimer, feeling the noose close, didn't die in defense of his beliefs as he fearfully predicted when the Hammond's prepared themselves for their well-earned sentences. He fled to Arizona to say goodbye to his family and turn himself in.

What do we make of that? Cowardice, as I said before, seems the measure of it in the light of his earlier statements. But is it cowardice to realize that you, bluntly, done fucked up? It must have been clear to many that Malheur was no Megiddo, no... more »

How do you characterize people like the Malheur militiamen?

For all their pseudo-military language, neither their tactics nor strategy were workable. The "impunity" they enjoyed had been a trap the entire time. It is not as if the rest of us had been fooled either; this author, at least, has been advocating this very strategy the entire time. But there is also an issue of cowardice. Ritzheimer, feeling the noose close, didn't die in defense of his beliefs as he fearfully predicted when the Hammond's prepared themselves for their well-earned sentences. He fled to Arizona to say goodbye to his family and turn himself in.

What do we make of that? Cowardice, as I said before, seems the measure of it in the light of his earlier statements. But is it cowardice to realize that you, bluntly, done fucked up? It must have been clear to many that Malheur was no Megiddo, no reckoning would come. Even now, as people who sat on the sidelines begin a martyr's cult around Finicum, it's obvious that the FBI never intended anyone to die. There must not have even been a final showdown, what with everyone alive and seemingly well but Finicum. Had they been gunned down like Bonny and Clyde -- or the innocents slaughtered by blood-crazed cops searching out a man named Dorner -- we'd expect more among the dead.

So when Ritzheimer fled to Arizona, to say goodbye, to turn himself in, what was he doing? Possibly he was escaping his promise. Possibly he realized he wasn't going to die for his country, that he was going to die for a handful of entitled jerks who'd been rebuked by those they claimed to defend. He might tell us in time.

What are militants who face no foe and who realize, in the last hour, that there's no good fight because there is no fighting?.___

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2016-01-28 16:14:32 (34 comments; 3 reshares; 45 +1s)Open 

"When I heard that Finicum had died my own feeling was some mix of sadness and disgust - not because I sympathized with Finicum, he clearly seemed to want to end his life like this, but because of how sad and stupid it is to throw away your life over bullshit. He had a wife and eleven kids. No doubt they're devastated. Even with the rankest violent white supremacists or jihadis who blow themselves up or get themselves killed, I can get that there's a thing they're doing, a set of beliefs, albeit crazy and totally evil. Here, though, these guys have this bucket of nonsense hocum about Magna Carta and Sheriffs somehow being the true "sovereigns" over state governments, federal governments, the people themselves and all of this means the federal government can't manage and charge grazing fees for land that it in fact owns.

These aren't archaic ideas that were once... more »

"When I heard that Finicum had died my own feeling was some mix of sadness and disgust - not because I sympathized with Finicum, he clearly seemed to want to end his life like this, but because of how sad and stupid it is to throw away your life over bullshit. He had a wife and eleven kids. No doubt they're devastated. Even with the rankest violent white supremacists or jihadis who blow themselves up or get themselves killed, I can get that there's a thing they're doing, a set of beliefs, albeit crazy and totally evil. Here, though, these guys have this bucket of nonsense hocum about Magna Carta and Sheriffs somehow being the true "sovereigns" over state governments, federal governments, the people themselves and all of this means the federal government can't manage and charge grazing fees for land that it in fact owns.

These aren't archaic ideas that were once true but are now outdated. This stuff was never true or even made any sense. Clearly, there's a sense of alienation and entitlement and a cultural posture driving these beliefs but I'm sorry, that's just a complete f'ing pile of nonsense that isn't based on anything. Like I said, it's sad to see someone throw their life away over bullshit. Not because Finicum matters to me but because senseless bloodshed is sad and stupid and with any life ultimately tragic."___

2016-01-27 17:51:01 (6 comments; 5 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

Fun project for +Anthony Baxter and I today: trying to work out, once and for all, if the ACT has a coastline.

For you non-Australians: the ACT is the Australian Capital Territory. The place where Canberra is. Think DC in the USA; there are many similarities, including the fact that states donated land to carve out a neutral HQ for the national capital. (Side note: you may see references to the FCT, or Federal Capital Territory, in some of the stuff linked below. It's the same place; it was renamed along the way.)

You'd think "does a federal subdivision have a coastline" would be an easy question to answer. You'd be so, so, so wrong. This is a pub trivia kind of question in Australia; the problem is, most people get it wrong. At best, they get it right, but for the wrong reasons. Like, maybe it does have a coastline, but not the one they think.

At... more »

Fun project for +Anthony Baxter and I today: trying to work out, once and for all, if the ACT has a coastline.

For you non-Australians: the ACT is the Australian Capital Territory. The place where Canberra is. Think DC in the USA; there are many similarities, including the fact that states donated land to carve out a neutral HQ for the national capital. (Side note: you may see references to the FCT, or Federal Capital Territory, in some of the stuff linked below. It's the same place; it was renamed along the way.)

You'd think "does a federal subdivision have a coastline" would be an easy question to answer. You'd be so, so, so wrong. This is a pub trivia kind of question in Australia; the problem is, most people get it wrong. At best, they get it right, but for the wrong reasons. Like, maybe it does have a coastline, but not the one they think.

At least 3 Wikipedia pages cover the topic. Each of them give different answers to the question.

Regardless, this is a fascinating geopolitical quirk. So here's what we know:

Easy answer: no, it's inland

This is the answer you get when you look up 'Australian Capital Territory' in your favourite online map site, or (heaven forfend) a paper atlas. The ACT is landlocked, as any fule no (cf. http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/image/0004/117526/Australia_map_downsized.jpg). Obviously it doesn't have a coastline, some will say.

These people are wrong.

Pub trivia answer: yes, on Jervis Bay

Some background. When the various states federated into the Commonwealth of Australia (1901), Australia didn't have a capital per se. Melbourne acted as capital, with the promise that they'd sort a real one out later. In 1908,  the Seat of Government Act was passed, which basically said "we're going to build something in the Yass-Canberra area, the New South Wales government will give us some land once we've worked out somewhere mutually agreeable". The interesting part is the quote "The territory to be granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth for the Seat of Government shall contain an area not less than nine hundred square miles, and have access to the sea." (emphasis mine). The astute amongst you will note, from your maps, that the "district of Yass-Canberra" is nowhere near the sea. No problem, New South Wales will carve out another bit, on the sea, and pony that over too. The land they chose was at Jervis Bay (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jervis_Bay), a bay due more-or-less east of Canberra.

So, people say, this land they carved out (you can see it on a map!) is actually part of the ACT. It does have a coast!

These people are wrong.

Advanced double-bluff pub trivia answer: no, Jervis Bay isn't part of the ACT

The next (correct) argument is that the thing at Jervis Bay is not part of the ACT; it's part of the Jervis Bay Territory (JBT), a completely separate part of Australia. This is fairly startling to many Australians; we are all taught that Australia has 6 states (NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania) and 2 mainland territories (Northen Territory and the ACT). But this isn't true; there are three mainland territories. Jervis Bay Territory is, legally, exactly like the other two: an independent top-level division of Australia. Finding out there's a third territory is startling for many Australians: it would be like if the US actually had 51 states, but no-one ever bothered to mention, say, a South Rhode Island. Anyway, it's true. Legally, in Australia, JBT is just like the ACT. The difference is: it's smaller, almost no-one lives there, and lots of people have never heard of it. But that's irrelevant.

Really quite advanced pub trivia answer: the Jervis Bay Territory is PART of the ACT, so yes

This is wrong, as stated above. But people believe it, because of one key fact: the JBT doesn't have a government. Because almost no-one lives there, giving it a government is kind of wasteful. So the ACT administers it. That is, the laws of the ACT apply; commit a crime there, you're tried in the ACT courts. Live there, you vote for the ACT government. But the law is clear; it's as if it's part of the ACT, but it's not. This is an administrative convenience.

Exhausted and confused person answer: so it's no then?

Ahahaha. No.

Epic map nerd smart arse answer: yes, but not the one you're thinking of.

Ahh. Here's where we get really tricky. All that stuff above? You know where I said the "pub trivia answer" people who said "yes" were wrong? Well, they're very possibly right. But for the wrong reasons. There's a completely separate parcel of land, also on Jervis Bay, which may well be part of the ACT.

Look at Bing Maps (no, really): http://binged.it/1nngW39. The Jervis Bay Territory (NOT part of the ACT, as established above) is the thing outlined in green. But that's irrelevant to us. Look north-east of there. See the land at the north headland of Jervis Bay? That's the Beecroft Peninsula. This is in fact the bit of land that may be part of the ACT.

Cadastral surveying nerd answer: a-ha! That's not part of Commonwealth land; Beecroft peninsula is merely leased to to Commonwealth by NSW! So no!

Oh-ho, cadastral surveying nerd, hold up. I'm not talking about all of Beecroft peninsula. In the majority, you're right. But there's one part where I'm not sure you are. See http://i.imgur.com/giylEo1.jpg - I'm not saying A or B are part of the ACT. All I'm talking about is C: the land given to the ACT under the Seat of Government Acts of 1908 and 1922.

That land is part of the Jervis Bay Territory too! So no!

No, it's not. This is actually really quite clear. The Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915 (https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2004C00038; hereafter JBTA) makes it clear what's part of the JBT. See "The Schedule". Following the descriptions is complicated, but this describes the parcel of land on the south headland. It mentions nothing about the North one. 

If your argument is based around the JBTA: nope, it's not in there.

If you argument is that a subsequent piece of legislation post-JBTA has changed it: [citation needed], as I'm not aware of any.

THE LAW

So, let's look at the law. There are a few relevant parts here, beyond the ones we've already discussed.

There's the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1909 (https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2004C00608). This was actually two acts: this one, and a corresponding one from the NSW Government, the Seat Of Government Surrender Act 1909. That is, NSW passed an act surrendering the land; the Commonwealth passed one accepting it. Each was conditional on the other; both were passed and both came into effect. This does cover the north headland; for example, "Eastern Division, Land District of Nowra, County of St. Vincent, Parish of Beecroft, area five hundred and thirty‑one acres. The Crown lands within the following boundaries: Commencing on the High Water Mark of Jervis Bay at Longnose Point, and bounded thence on the east by that High Water Mark and the right bank of Duck Creek generally northerly to the road leading to Point Perpendicular Light House, thence by that road, generally westerly and north‑westerly to the High Water Mark of Jervis Bay at a wharf, and thence generally on the west and south by that High Water Mark southerly and easterly to the point of commencement. Plan Misc. 1393 Sy." (Yes, it's ALL like this. Gripping). I chose this example deliberately: the lighthouse is recognisably on the north headland, so you know that's where they're talking about. If you follow up on the others, they all seem to be on the north too (with one exception, but let's not go there).

There's the Seat of Government Acceptance Act 1922 (https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2004C00609; again, there's a corresponding NSW act). This complicates things, but then again… it doesn't. It does because it defines a whole new set of land parcels; it doesn't, because it's the same set. This exists only because _"certain errors and misdescriptions exist in the descriptions of lands set forth in [SoGA 1909]". That is, it's covering the same stuff, but more precisely. Nothing (really) to see here.

There's the Jervis Bay Territory Acceptance Act 1915; the one I cited above. I've already said this is irrelevant; what complicates it a tiny bit is that the corresponding NSW state act was called Seat of Government Surrender Act 1915. Ignore that, it's nothing to do with the Seat of Government. It's totally seperate. They just, like… copied and pasted the name of the 1909 state act, or something. Ignore it.

There's the Australian Capital Territory (Self‑Government) Act 1988 (https://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2014C00617): this is the act that gave the ACT the right to make its own laws. This should be useful, but… it's not. Its entire definition of the actual boundaries of the ACT is "Territory: (a)  when used in a geographical sense, means the Australian Capital Territory". That's really helpful, you bastards.

As far as I can tell, that's all the legislation that's relevant. 

So, my answer: as far as I can tell, it's unambiguously part of the ACT. It was ceded in 1909 (and clarified in 1922). These acts, as far as I can tell, are the best source we have for defining the boundary of the ACT. If there are other sources, I don't know them.

To address some likely objections:

"The Jervis Bay Territory Act says…" I'll stop you right there. Irrelevant; these acts don't cover the north headland. Ignore JBT, it's a red herring.

"This map says…" Maps don't actually define boundaries. This is an obscure point of geopolitics: it's obvious that many maps don't bother to get it right. Even government maps: we know some of them get it wrong, because many of them disagree. They can't all be right. So which ones are?

"The boundaries have changed since the 1909 Act" [citation needed]. Where? Give me a source dammit.

"NSW ceded the land, and the Commonwealth accepted it. But they didn't make it part of the ACT; it's now just regular Crown [commonwealth-owned] land" Great, good argument. But where is it defined which bits are part of the ACT? Again, [citation needed]. If not the act, find me a source.

In conclusion: damn, I need a stiff drink.

No, wait.

In conclusion: I'm pretty sure it is part of the ACT. But it's deeply murky, and not only do the three goverments seem to disagree on the exact state of this land, but individual sources from the same government do.

Geopolitics is fun!___

2016-01-27 17:28:59 (39 comments; 3 reshares; 68 +1s)Open 

Foolproof Prediction: One way or another, the Malheur militants are going to be occupying federal property for a long time. 

Foolproof Prediction: One way or another, the Malheur militants are going to be occupying federal property for a long time. ___

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2016-01-27 03:28:23 (64 comments; 4 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

This will get worse.

Ritzheimer and Payne entered this with the intent of committing mass suicide by cop. More arrived with the same intent. They will get what they want. If this had been done earlier, the risk would not include the deaths of the children they are using as human shields.

This will get worse.

Ritzheimer and Payne entered this with the intent of committing mass suicide by cop. More arrived with the same intent. They will get what they want. If this had been done earlier, the risk would not include the deaths of the children they are using as human shields.___

2016-01-25 19:10:28 (33 comments; 3 reshares; 32 +1s)Open 

The idea that Homo sapiens traits originated synchronously in different geographical reasons has a whiff of disrepute to it. After all, if human traits originated in different places at different times, then human equality seems like a wildly improbable coincidence. And if it's a wildly improbable coincidence, then it is most likely untrue. 

As an explanation of the facts, however, there's something to be said for multiregionalism. While the mitochondrial evidence is a fairly convincing argument that sapiens traits originated in North Africa, the human genome likely contains some contributions from Neanderthals and Denisovians. More controversially, there is some skeletal continuity between regional erectus populations and their early-sapiens replacements: the skulls and teeth of regional sapiens populations resemble those of the erectus populations which preceded them.
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The idea that Homo sapiens traits originated synchronously in different geographical reasons has a whiff of disrepute to it. After all, if human traits originated in different places at different times, then human equality seems like a wildly improbable coincidence. And if it's a wildly improbable coincidence, then it is most likely untrue. 

As an explanation of the facts, however, there's something to be said for multiregionalism. While the mitochondrial evidence is a fairly convincing argument that sapiens traits originated in North Africa, the human genome likely contains some contributions from Neanderthals and Denisovians. More controversially, there is some skeletal continuity between regional erectus populations and their early-sapiens replacements: the skulls and teeth of regional sapiens populations resemble those of the erectus populations which preceded them.

Presuming that there were multiregional contributions to modern sapiens, why is human intellectual capability so uniform? Every modern sapiens has a brain larger than every erectus. Furthermore, this uniform development appears to be cultural, not just skeletal: there are are no known congenitally-incompetent populations of early sapiens. Populations from Indonesia to Croatia to Kenya began to use relatively sophisticated tools as soon as their brains could accommodate them.

The orthodox conclusion is that the similarities in skeletal morphology are coincidental or illusory, that the contributions of non-sapiens populations are small, and that erectus was relatively recently replaced by modern humans departing Africa for cooler climes. This rather tidily dispatches the racist narrative surrounding even weak multiregionalism. But does there need to be a racist narrative at all? 

After all, gene flow does not require much transfer between populations. Only a few individuals need to interbreed with nearby populations in order for selection pressures to take hold. Taking that in mind, the same uniformity of capacity might be explained by profound selection pressure for sapiens traits. We all know, after all, how important intelligence is. 

Once the sapiens genes arrived in regional populations, they quickly spread throughout the population, leaving full-blooded erectus with a profound competitive disadvantage. Genes with a negative influence on intelligence were quickly culled, and those with a positive influence remained. 

This points strongly away from a racist conclusion: indeed, if intelligence is a highly selected trait, then populations in substantial historical contact, no matter their physical characteristics, will regress or advance to the intercultural intellectual mean. Thus we don't need to worry about wide intellectual disparities between interbreeding populations. Nature will fix those for us.___

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2016-01-22 18:03:36 (8 comments; 3 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

The unique characteristic of the Chinese system is its willingness to execute massive amounts of its own leaders.  In fact, the CPC's willingness to appease the grievances of the masses with the blood of its own elites is the ultimate source of its strength, it's very foundation.  Despite its troubles, it has proven to be a remarkably durable institution.  

The Party, in effect, has managed to internalize and institutionalize revolutionary Terror.  Once upon a time, Mao Zedong rose to power on the back of his ability to rouse a nation of peasants into murdering their landlords and expropriating their property.  Decades later, he roused their children into violent revolt against the government he created.  Now Xi Jinping, a child of one of Mao's high officials, himself imprisoned in that tumult of the Cultural Revolution, is instituting a new round of purges. 

Thisis the ... more »

The unique characteristic of the Chinese system is its willingness to execute massive amounts of its own leaders.  In fact, the CPC's willingness to appease the grievances of the masses with the blood of its own elites is the ultimate source of its strength, it's very foundation.  Despite its troubles, it has proven to be a remarkably durable institution.  

The Party, in effect, has managed to internalize and institutionalize revolutionary Terror.  Once upon a time, Mao Zedong rose to power on the back of his ability to rouse a nation of peasants into murdering their landlords and expropriating their property.  Decades later, he roused their children into violent revolt against the government he created.  Now Xi Jinping, a child of one of Mao's high officials, himself imprisoned in that tumult of the Cultural Revolution, is instituting a new round of purges. 

This is the characteristic pattern of the Party's response to social tension.  When the masses are restless, it offers up a fresh crop of sacrificial victims from its own ranks.  Revolt from outside becomes unnecessary.  We have a sort of weird closed loop; the Party's officials become lax and corrupt, the masses grow angry, and that anger is appeased with a brutal culling.  The very anger of the masses is internalized as a support for the regime.

Thus the Party has institutionalized revolt; it overthrows itself, attacks itself.  The paradox is that this secures its position all the more firmly.

Compare this with the Soviets. Perhaps the fall of the Soviet Union became inevitable once the generation of leaders following Stalin tried to reform it.  But Stalinism was not reformable.  The very cruelty of the system was its foundation.  Because it was not a normal state but a revolutionary state, it was born in purges and terror, and could not stop without changing its very nature.  

If a new Stalin had emerged in the mid-50's to institute a new round of purges, the Soviet Union would probably still exist today.  Instead it tried convert itself into a normal state, drifted about in a desultory manner for a few decades and collapsed.  It's notable how its fall required no war.  The old regime put up scarcely any fight.  It simply gave up.

Xi Jinping, a Maoist of the old school, a man who has been on both sides of Revolutionary violence, and a student of history, of the fall of the Soviets, is not liable to make the same mistake.  It is nto clear to me that Xi desires to be the new Mao, but he desires to preserve the the Party, and this is what the situation calls for.  His personal predilections are irrelevant. It seems to me that the purges will only continue and intensify.  ___

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2016-01-22 17:50:34 (9 comments; 2 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

I've been seeing this article about the 2014 Syrian election circulating among otherwise well-intentioned people, explaining that a "team of international observers" had concluded that the election was democratically credible.

First, the observers:

The majority of international observers were recruited through the World Peace Council, which is a Russian-funded, Russian-operated organization. That's where the Russian, Indian, Venezuelan, Bolivian, and American observers came from. An add'l batch came from China, and a third batch came from Iran and Shi'a-sectarian groups influenced by Iran. For instance, the Lebanese delegation was from Hizbollah. 

They concluded that the election was legitimate. This is unsurprising, considering that their whole purpose was to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the election. But I am unsure how you could adequately... more »

I've been seeing this article about the 2014 Syrian election circulating among otherwise well-intentioned people, explaining that a "team of international observers" had concluded that the election was democratically credible.

First, the observers:

The majority of international observers were recruited through the World Peace Council, which is a Russian-funded, Russian-operated organization. That's where the Russian, Indian, Venezuelan, Bolivian, and American observers came from. An add'l batch came from China, and a third batch came from Iran and Shi'a-sectarian groups influenced by Iran. For instance, the Lebanese delegation was from Hizbollah. 

They concluded that the election was legitimate. This is unsurprising, considering that their whole purpose was to lend a veneer of legitimacy to the election. But I am unsure how you could adequately explain the following as being "legitimate" features of a democratic election:

(1) Candidates were restricted to only those vetted by the Ba'ath party, meaning that the party in charge was permitted to select its own (weak) opposition. Both "opposition" candidates were members of the Ba'ath-supported alternative parties.

(2) The Ba'ath party, similarly, controls the entire media. Alternative candidates received next-to-no coverage, except when endorsing the policies of their ostensible "opponent." Which both did, in detail, and then endorsed the election as being free and fair.

(3) A third of the electorate of Syria consists of refugees in third-party countries. Had they been able to vote, this might have been acceptable, but -- unless you left Syria by an official border crossing and have a passport stamp -- you were disallowed from voting at an embassy. 

This is particularly perverse insofar as the only official border crossings are from territory controlled by the government, and a majority of the refugees in 2014 were from areas targeted by the government. 

(4) The polls weren't open in a majority of the country. In major urban areas like Aleppo, Homs, and Hama, voters would have had to cross battle lines in order to vote. In other urban areas -- particularly, Raqqa and Kobani -- no polls were open, and Syrians couldn't vote.

I am not saying that foreign intervention was justifiable, or has had positive effects. I am saying that Ba'athist Syria has never had a contested election before 2015, and the idea that a free and fair election is possible under these circumstances, or that an actual contested election was desirable to Assad, is ... basically just laughable.___

2016-01-21 23:24:59 (12 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

I think if I were going to give "the best argument for theism" it would be this:

(1) We live in a monistic world described by physics and the other sciences.

(2) Anthropologically, mystical (f.ex., ecstatic) states where we perceive immense amounts of unity are a basic element of religion, possibly the core element.

(3) One apparent value of these states lies in using, through anthropomorphization of non-human animals and forces, our ability to make social calculations to instead understand the non-social universe.

(4) If you troll through the sciences, you will find, often enough, scientists, mathematicians, and even engineers who describe "eureka moments" or periods of intense integration which are, facially, mystical experiences.

(5) When we teach these subjects, we are prone to using metaphors and pretended intention to explain... more »

I think if I were going to give "the best argument for theism" it would be this:

(1) We live in a monistic world described by physics and the other sciences.

(2) Anthropologically, mystical (f.ex., ecstatic) states where we perceive immense amounts of unity are a basic element of religion, possibly the core element.

(3) One apparent value of these states lies in using, through anthropomorphization of non-human animals and forces, our ability to make social calculations to instead understand the non-social universe.

(4) If you troll through the sciences, you will find, often enough, scientists, mathematicians, and even engineers who describe "eureka moments" or periods of intense integration which are, facially, mystical experiences.

(5) When we teach these subjects, we are prone to using metaphors and pretended intention to explain the behavior of materials and abstractions. Students report, on understanding, a kind of "rapport" with these non-human subjects.

(6) These possibly are mystical experiences because they have all the markers of mystical experiences.

(7) If we argue that they are not mystical experiences because they do not involve mystical subjects, we are wrong for two reasons: first, those are the subjects of mystical experience historically and presently, people believe their mystical experiences tell them things about the physical world even if they describe it in spiritual language; second, to assume the proper subject of mystical experience would not allow an empirical determination of what the subject of mystical experience is, the presence of the tautology trivializes the inquiry.

(8) We must accept, then, that our knowledge about the world is actually built and transmitted through mystical experiences. Moreover, that is likely we understand them in precisely the kind of unifying and anthropomorphizing way which is, ethnographically and historically, how spiritual beliefs operate.

(9) Because the spiritual model, complete with mystical revelation, is precisely the way in which we understand the world and advance that understanding, we are required, for reasons of parsimony, to identify the world as made of spiritual stuff.

(10) Therefore, not only is the spiritual interpretation of the universe true, it is actually the belief of nearly every person and possibly all, whether they acknowledge it or not.

I feel this argument is pretty good for a literal shower thought.___

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2016-01-21 00:19:57 (24 comments; 15 reshares; 42 +1s)Open 

I have never heard of this happening. I have never heard of any procedure which might result in this happening. I cannot think of any reason why this might happen, other than that the prosecutor was afraid that the grand jury would not act as a pure conclusion-laundry. 

I have never heard of this happening. I have never heard of any procedure which might result in this happening. I cannot think of any reason why this might happen, other than that the prosecutor was afraid that the grand jury would not act as a pure conclusion-laundry. ___

2016-01-20 21:37:48 (30 comments; 12 reshares; 86 +1s)Open 

A data-point about the end of scarcity, and the potential for human misery caused by the end of necessity of human work:

The Chinook were whalers. 

Which is unusual, because they lived directly at the mouth of the Columbia river, where the salmon runs were so thick that the river turned red when they arrived. The Chinook's only real subsistence activity was setting nets to capture as many salmon as they needed for the year, and then smoking the remainder. They were not technologically advanced enough to make their life much easier -- but their life was already as easy as it needed to be.

But they were whalers.

Because of the salmon glut, they did not need whalemeat to survive. They did not use whalebone for anything practical. The problem was that they did not have any red cedars, which they needed to build canoes large enough to go whaling. The source of red... more »

A data-point about the end of scarcity, and the potential for human misery caused by the end of necessity of human work:

The Chinook were whalers. 

Which is unusual, because they lived directly at the mouth of the Columbia river, where the salmon runs were so thick that the river turned red when they arrived. The Chinook's only real subsistence activity was setting nets to capture as many salmon as they needed for the year, and then smoking the remainder. They were not technologically advanced enough to make their life much easier -- but their life was already as easy as it needed to be.

But they were whalers.

Because of the salmon glut, they did not need whalemeat to survive. They did not use whalebone for anything practical. The problem was that they did not have any red cedars, which they needed to build canoes large enough to go whaling. The source of red cedars was 400 miles to the north.

So they engaged in a great deal of incredibly boring activity, collecting dentalium shells with rakes. They cleaned those out and transported them north, to trade with the Nootka for red cedars. Then they built canoes.

In the absence of necessary, misery-averting work, they did something incredibly boring, then transported the biggest plant down the entire Northwest coast in order to pick unnecessary fights with the biggest animal. And while I might suggest that we have more productive post-scarcity activities than 'let's pick fights with the biggest thing we can find!', the fact that that was some culture's decision indicates to me that we can find adequate motivation to do things other than 'starvation if we don't.'___

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2016-01-20 19:24:41 (6 comments; 4 reshares; 7 +1s)Open 

The second part would not surprise me. It really does look like most techniques for tolerance improvement rely on stereotype threat as a form of social control. However, this may also be why such policies are ineffective: stereotype threat tends to reduce performance. Inducing stereotype threat as a tolerance tool might therefore backfire, causing people to subtly sabotage themselves. This would also provide an alternative explanation for the common experience of failing at tolerance the more one attends to it. Because stereotype threat reduces performance even if people subjectively try harder, we should expect a common experience of failure which is unrelated to increased awareness.

This possibility opens political risks, of course. By acknowledging that such experiences may be veridical, facial justification can be dishonestly seized by people who would go further, arguing that diversity... more »

The second part would not surprise me. It really does look like most techniques for tolerance improvement rely on stereotype threat as a form of social control. However, this may also be why such policies are ineffective: stereotype threat tends to reduce performance. Inducing stereotype threat as a tolerance tool might therefore backfire, causing people to subtly sabotage themselves. This would also provide an alternative explanation for the common experience of failing at tolerance the more one attends to it. Because stereotype threat reduces performance even if people subjectively try harder, we should expect a common experience of failure which is unrelated to increased awareness.

This possibility opens political risks, of course. By acknowledging that such experiences may be veridical, facial justification can be dishonestly seized by people who would go further, arguing that diversity policies explain all social failures of this kind. That's certainly false. So I'd rate this finding as dangerous because of its usefulness in spreading antihuman FUD. Naturally, this means it should be researched quietly and adjustments made in open secret; the sort of thing revealed in a Cracked article or an Atlantic explainer a decade from now, after the changes are implemented.

Via +Jay Gischer​.___

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2016-01-19 22:00:04 (19 comments; 2 reshares; 38 +1s)Open 

The study here is not generally terrible, but there are two obvious problems with the dataset the authors use:

(1) There's a major statistical splice in the NCVS data in 1992, the point at which the DOJ started looking at rape by means other than force. This led to elevation (and regularization) in the rape statistics prior to 1992, as the study couldn't do much better than to assume that forcible rape and other rapes were 100% covariant. There were some other, simultaneous methodological changes, too -- I'm less familiar with those, as I've only worked professionally with the rape data. 

This would not normally be an issue. But I'm very suspicious of a dataset where the inflection point in violent crime occurs simultaneously with the overlapping data from a complex splice.

(2) UCR data skews toward white, female, and middle-class victims... more »

The study here is not generally terrible, but there are two obvious problems with the dataset the authors use:

(1) There's a major statistical splice in the NCVS data in 1992, the point at which the DOJ started looking at rape by means other than force. This led to elevation (and regularization) in the rape statistics prior to 1992, as the study couldn't do much better than to assume that forcible rape and other rapes were 100% covariant. There were some other, simultaneous methodological changes, too -- I'm less familiar with those, as I've only worked professionally with the rape data. 

This would not normally be an issue. But I'm very suspicious of a dataset where the inflection point in violent crime occurs simultaneously with the overlapping data from a complex splice.

(2) UCR data skews toward white, female, and middle-class victims -- all things which make crime reporting more likely. Crimes against those victims are, in general, different than crimes committed but not reported: they tend to be more impulsive, riskier, and less rewarding. This is one of the reasons why UCR and NCVS data are not often in sync. It is possible that lead level is are unrelated to transactional, rational crime, but are strongly correlated with levels of impulsive crime.

So, interesting data, but I'd like to see some more fine parsing of the UCR and NCVS datasets before concluding anything. ___

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2016-01-19 18:59:48 (64 comments; 1 reshares; 41 +1s)Open 

So, Iran took some of our sailors. Which is a hostile act. We pretty much ignored it, because it would be diplomatic malpractice of the highest order to start a huge shit-fight over this. 

There are two Iranian governments. One is an illiberal democracy which is more-or-less as bad as, say, Venezuela. We have improving relations with that government. The other is a corrupt quasi-theocracy which is among the worst governments in the world. Our relations with that government are still awful. Unfortunately, we still have interests which align with both.

Which means that starting a war over a stalled motorboat is a terrible idea. If it's ever a good idea.

First, there's the nuclear deal. They're dismantling their reactor, transferring their uranium to a third state, and (in general) extending the timeline before they can have a half-assed nuclear bomb ready. Likei... more »

So, Iran took some of our sailors. Which is a hostile act. We pretty much ignored it, because it would be diplomatic malpractice of the highest order to start a huge shit-fight over this. 

There are two Iranian governments. One is an illiberal democracy which is more-or-less as bad as, say, Venezuela. We have improving relations with that government. The other is a corrupt quasi-theocracy which is among the worst governments in the world. Our relations with that government are still awful. Unfortunately, we still have interests which align with both.

Which means that starting a war over a stalled motorboat is a terrible idea. If it's ever a good idea.

First, there's the nuclear deal. They're dismantling their reactor, transferring their uranium to a third state, and (in general) extending the timeline before they can have a half-assed nuclear bomb ready. Like it or not, we've committed to not starting a war with Iran. Backing out of that diplomatic position would mean the loss of all international support -- and while we could hypothetically go it alone, that would mean basically abandoning Iraqi Kurdistan and all of Syria to genocidal Salafis.

Second, the Iranians are doing a lot of what would otherwise be American military dirty work. Most of the uniformed ground troops fighting ISIS are Revolutionary Guard special forces -- Qods Force. They've been relatively successful at doing so, because (a) they know the region, (b) they know their enemy, and (c) they're actually supported by the civilian populations they're embedded in, unlike the Russians or (hypothetically) US troops. 

Third, the prisoner swap wasn't completed yet. If we'd started a war, we would not only consign the guys-in-a-stalled-motorboat to Evin prison for the next ten years or so, we'd also be doing the same for the five prisoners Iran had. Which means that we'd not only be throwing away our bird in the hand, we'd also be throwing away the two in the bush. 

Fourth, we'd be empowering the awful Iranian government at the expense of the merely-bad Iranian government. It's worth noting that we got the release of our sailors with a call to Javed Zarif, whose boss is not even in the Revolutionary Guard's chain of command. What appears to have happened is that the Iranian civilian government called the clerical government -- and got the Supreme Leader to back down. 

All good. Except for the part where the Revolutionary Guard took them to begin with.___

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2016-01-15 00:32:54 (22 comments; 21 reshares; 74 +1s)Open 

#StillABetterIdeaThanTrendMicro

#StillABetterIdeaThanTrendMicro___

2016-01-14 21:41:54 (6 comments; 0 reshares; 36 +1s)Open 

For those of you who are interested and would like to see +Mikey D talk about performing open-heart surgery on poorly-designed government software, he'll be at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View tonight. I presume there will probably be some video afterward.

I have seen versions of this talk -- versions which were unencumbered by his new position as a Very Important Government Official of Some Sort -- and imagine that it will be more restrained than some of the others, but I also imagine that attempts to get +Mikey D to talk like a politician have gone poorly and that the talk will still be interesting.

For those of you who are interested and would like to see +Mikey D talk about performing open-heart surgery on poorly-designed government software, he'll be at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View tonight. I presume there will probably be some video afterward.

I have seen versions of this talk -- versions which were unencumbered by his new position as a Very Important Government Official of Some Sort -- and imagine that it will be more restrained than some of the others, but I also imagine that attempts to get +Mikey D to talk like a politician have gone poorly and that the talk will still be interesting.___

2016-01-14 18:03:31 (8 comments; 1 reshares; 3 +1s)Open 

Just a list of things which probably overlap Schwitzgebel significantly:

» I think there might be a lot said for his second point in favor, especially in conjunction with his third. Rationalization really only undermines our belief that a speaker is also truth-tracking. If the argument is good, it may well be a reason for us to believe it and, in turn, the speaker might be able to use our belief to salvage personal justification.

» I'd argue that rationalizing conclusions you don't have is an affirmative good. In the same vein as the point above, I might stumble upon a really powerful argument in favor and truly become justified. After all, I've convinced myself of a foregone conclusion I didn't actually endorse. Instead, I've adopted the attitude of a rationalizer to gain epistemic access.

» I'd also argue that rationalization isn't bad ifyo... more »

Just a list of things which probably overlap Schwitzgebel significantly:

» I think there might be a lot said for his second point in favor, especially in conjunction with his third. Rationalization really only undermines our belief that a speaker is also truth-tracking. If the argument is good, it may well be a reason for us to believe it and, in turn, the speaker might be able to use our belief to salvage personal justification.

» I'd argue that rationalizing conclusions you don't have is an affirmative good. In the same vein as the point above, I might stumble upon a really powerful argument in favor and truly become justified. After all, I've convinced myself of a foregone conclusion I didn't actually endorse. Instead, I've adopted the attitude of a rationalizer to gain epistemic access.

» I'd also argue that rationalization isn't bad if your belief is still open to change. We could break out the ways in which we believe our reasoning is veridical into at least two: "reaching true justification", where I have argument which is sound and correct (no Gettier case is afoot driving the specific conclusion); and "identifying strong arguments", where I correctly assess the strength of the argument I've presented, its susceptibility to rebuttal compared to other arguments about similar questions.

If I am good at identifying strong arguments, I have reason to give up my belief in the face of underlying motives because I've arrived at the strongest argument I could find and it was still too weak. While rationalization seems like the helpmate of delusion, it depends on whether we're prepared to be honest about the rejection of it. If we're ready to admit that this was the best we could muster in favor of a cherished belief only to see it torn down, rationalization is actually helping us be less wrong.

» In thinking about this, I keep picturing how this might go. I'd identify an argument and it would be rebutted. But, in response, I might just start rejecting rebuttals. I'm not building a new rationalization, not yet, but I am doing something awfully similar. So I want to use the word "attitude", I'm just not sure it's the right word. A "rationalizing attitude" is behind the dialectic death spiral I'm outlining, where I can't seem to find good faith in myself during discussion. The existence of rationalization might signal rationalizing attitude. That seems to break apart "rationalization", dividing attitude and rationale. It's plausible that only the attitude is bad.

» I also think about what I'd do in a rationalizing attitude. I might dismiss adverse evidence. I might give greater weight to supporting evidence. All the cognitive biases could bring themselves to bear. I might assign really strong priors, too. One way I might do that is let my confidence in the conclusion slowly rise all the time. Maybe this is availability bias: the conclusion is always asserting itself, raising its own priority because rebuttals are comparatively less available. Or maybe I just forget them over time. But I might also be impassioned, having a way to pump greater confidence back into my conclusion all the time. I've done that, where I become more convinced I'm wrong only to suddenly have a spurt of confidence from nowhere.

Via +Jordan Peacock___

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2016-01-13 20:32:11 (21 comments; 19 reshares; 51 +1s)Open 

On Not Being Evil: Making Ethical Decisions Under Pressure

This is really illuminating. Intense social pressure and the routinization of ethical decision-making easily lead to profound ethical failure. So, ten rules I try to follow to keep that from happening: 

(1) You cannot exercise ethical judgment if you cannot quit when overruled on an important ethical issue. Save enough money that you can actually exercise judgment.

(2) Expediency is not ethics. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the ethical thing to do is expedient. Don't take the easy road, but don't be hostile to expediency just because expediency isn't ethics.

(3) Important decisions are measured in profound human misery. Very important decisions are measured in human lives. Face that down early, then make sure you continue to feel what that means. Understand... more »

On Not Being Evil: Making Ethical Decisions Under Pressure

This is really illuminating. Intense social pressure and the routinization of ethical decision-making easily lead to profound ethical failure. So, ten rules I try to follow to keep that from happening: 

(1) You cannot exercise ethical judgment if you cannot quit when overruled on an important ethical issue. Save enough money that you can actually exercise judgment.

(2) Expediency is not ethics. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes the ethical thing to do is expedient. Don't take the easy road, but don't be hostile to expediency just because expediency isn't ethics.

(3) Important decisions are measured in profound human misery. Very important decisions are measured in human lives. Face that down early, then make sure you continue to feel what that means. Understand that you will have to make these decisions regardless.

(4) Circumstances change. The relevance of variables changes. The state of your knowledge changes. Apparent inconsistency will result from that fact. Hurting people is worse.

(5) Make your easy decisions easy for the people you're working with. This will give you enough slack to make the hard decisions hard for them.

(6) Understand the incentives of people who have ethical disagreements with you. People you disagree with are not your enemies. 

(7) You will sometimes have to act against the interests of people who are not your enemies. You will tend to overrate the amount you hurt them relative to the amount you hurt third parties. This will suck for you. This will suck for them. 

(8) Make your decisions at a point in the process which makes sense. This is usually early, but sometimes the problem will be inchoate until late. Dithering to avoid conflict and deciding late will seem as though it's helping.

It isn't. It's wasting other people's hard work. 

(9) There is a difference between "issues you don't fully understand" and "problems which need a solution." It may be that some issues you don't understand will turn out to be problems, but if you feel you don't understand something, find someone who does. Understand that person's interests: if there's a conflict of interest, get multiple viewpoints. 

(10) Pay your debts. You will ask people to do hard things to avoid ethical failure. A third of your job is ensuring that people doing the right thing are rewarded for doing the right thing. ___

2016-01-13 17:56:53 (35 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

I was surprised to see that a "US Superior Court Judge" was showing up to try Burns'  BLM officials for treason. This is especially interesting considering that the federal government does not have a "Superior Court." 

It turns out it's this guy.

And he's a sovereign citizen.

This bodes well.

I was surprised to see that a "US Superior Court Judge" was showing up to try Burns'  BLM officials for treason. This is especially interesting considering that the federal government does not have a "Superior Court." 

It turns out it's this guy.

And he's a sovereign citizen.

This bodes well.___

2016-01-13 00:26:57 (43 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

I have a question about gender identification, which I try to express here without offending unnecessarily. If I do offend, please explain why, so that I may make amends if I have done wrong.

What does it mean to identify as female?[1] At the least, female-identified persons claim to be female. What is the substance of this claim? How would the world be different if it were false?

"Female" has no single definition. It can, however, be broken down into many independent aspects: XX chromosomes, a vagina, appearing "female", being "female" in the eyes of the law, "feminine" behavior, etc. "Female" itself is neither a disjunction nor a conjunction of these; rather, it is context-dependent. "Females are in more danger walking alone at night" probably refers to outwardly seeming female; "the law prohibits female-female... more »

I have a question about gender identification, which I try to express here without offending unnecessarily. If I do offend, please explain why, so that I may make amends if I have done wrong.

What does it mean to identify as female?[1] At the least, female-identified persons claim to be female. What is the substance of this claim? How would the world be different if it were false?

"Female" has no single definition. It can, however, be broken down into many independent aspects: XX chromosomes, a vagina, appearing "female", being "female" in the eyes of the law, "feminine" behavior, etc. "Female" itself is neither a disjunction nor a conjunction of these; rather, it is context-dependent. "Females are in more danger walking alone at night" probably refers to outwardly seeming female; "the law prohibits female-female marriages" applies to females in eyes of the law; "only females can bear children" refers to persons with ovaries.

The problem is that identifying as female is not reducible to any of these aspects. Indeed, for any boolean function of these aspects, there are females who don't satisfy and males who do. On the other hand, perhaps I'm missing an aspect of femaleness that just says "identifies as female". Then anyone who calls themselves female is female. But many females I know don't identify female "just because". Their femaleness is substantial, not just a name they call themselves; for example, some did not explicitly identify as female in the past, but currently say they were always female.[2]

So the question remains: if no boolean function of female aspects captures female-identification, and yet identifying female is more than just claiming to be female, what is it to identify female? Beyond mere analytic aspects (eg. "I do not have a vagina; I have XXY chromosomes; I act and dress 'femininely'; I am attracted to males on weekdays and females on weekends; I am female in the eyes of the law; etc."), what does being female mean?

My current best guess is that identifying female means feeling intrinsically female. But I don't feel intrinsically male, yet if asked would say I am male (is that "identifying male"?), simply because I have most of the male aspects (XY, penis, appearance, clothing, etc) and I'm okay being put in that cultural box. But this is not part of my identity (a female me would still be me), and it is hard to imagine how it could be. The anxiety I would feel wearing female clothing is mere social anxiety -- "will people laugh at me?". In a nonsocial situation, the only thing standing between me and a skirt is habit. Likewise, the thought of having a female body and all it entails doesn't disturb me (though I haven't tried, so how can I know?).

Am I unusual? Do most cissexual males feel intrinsically male, or are they like me, male by circumstance? Or am I ignorant or privileged -- do I have male aspects that are not mere habits and social expectations, that I don't notice because I'm used to them, and haven't experienced their absence or negation? If so, what are they, and are these the foundation of intrinsic female/maleness?

Even if feeling intrinsically female is the key, what does it mean? "Female" has no single meaning, so which aspect(s) does "intrinsically female" refer to? Feeling intrinsically XX-chromosomal doesn't make sense. Feeling intrinsically 'female'-behavioral, that is, wanting to act 'feminine', makes sense; but this doesn't distinguish females from males. There are males who act strongly feminine (at least in some circumstances) but still male-identify, and vice-versa. Are those distinguishable by the degree to which they act female? Would a drag queen who was always in drag, who never acted male, be a transwoman? I imagine most drag queens and transwomen would answer "no", but that's just my imagination. Or perhaps they're distinguishable by motivation? I just don't know.

The most radical possibility I've considered is that "female" in "feeling intrinsically female" is like "blegg" (http://lesswrong.com/lw/no/how_an_algorithm_feels_from_inside/) -- a meaningless confusion of terms. This would imply that anyone who gender-identifies noncircumstantially (eg. many cisfolk and most transfolk I know) is making a category error. That's not inconceivable, but I doubt it. Blegglike beliefs tend to be fragile in smart people, evaporating when examined, but I know smart people who strongly identify female or male. I'm still looking for a strong refutation, though.

All in all, then, I still don't have a satisfactory answer to my question: What does it mean to identify as female (or male)?

--------------------------------------
[1] "Female" vs "male" chosen by coin flip. I know there are other possibilities, but they're harder to discuss. If you have something to contribute from a non-(male xor female) perspective, please do.

[2] And I don't disagree with them. I don't care or have an opinion on what gender any person is. Rather, I want to understand why they are that gender; not to dissuade them, but to empathise. Given the opportunity to "step into the shoes" of someone whose experience differs from mine in a way I have limited comprehension of (eg. a female, transgender, nonwhite, or religious person), I would do it in a heartbeat. I want to feel the world the way other people feel it -- and then come back to being me, of course; but not an unchanged me.

This post was originally longer, concerned identification of all sorts, with a digression on analytic versus radial categories. I cut it down to just gender, and it's still too long.

Ideas, comments, criticism, responses, etc. are not only welcome but are the entire reason I wrote this.___

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2016-01-12 17:49:16 (49 comments; 6 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

This critique of nonbinary frameworks for thinking about gender is asinine, but pretty typical of Becca Reilly-Cooper. 

Most people either have one type of genitals or the other. This is not a particularly controversial fact, and it is not particularly interesting. If we are talking about actual mechanics, then it's important, but most people only need to have that conversation once before they have it down. 

Once you get into any other trait -- as in, "any of the traits which feminists are actually interested in" -- then you will find that there is either a one- or two-humped curve for that trait's prevalence. If we are talking about biological facts which are not genitals, then those two humps are relatively close together, and it is incoherent to talk about a "binary." If we are talking about cultural features with their purported basis in biologicalf... more »

This critique of nonbinary frameworks for thinking about gender is asinine, but pretty typical of Becca Reilly-Cooper. 

Most people either have one type of genitals or the other. This is not a particularly controversial fact, and it is not particularly interesting. If we are talking about actual mechanics, then it's important, but most people only need to have that conversation once before they have it down. 

Once you get into any other trait -- as in, "any of the traits which feminists are actually interested in" -- then you will find that there is either a one- or two-humped curve for that trait's prevalence. If we are talking about biological facts which are not genitals, then those two humps are relatively close together, and it is incoherent to talk about a "binary." If we are talking about cultural features with their purported basis in biological facts, either genital or nongenital, then we find an even broader distribution.

Sometimes these cultural features are assigned by what type of genitals someone has. Sometimes these cultural features are assigned independently of genitals. Sometimes there is a third or fourth category which is totally independent of genitals: we know this because there is not a third kind of genitals to have. 

Reilly-Cooper doesn't want to talk about nongenital features of biological sex, because those prevent her from talking about "women" as though "women" were a category of identical people with identical features. She doesn't want to talk about cultural features of gender, because she would like to talk about a single, monolithic patriarchy. She would not like to admit any variation in cultural or personal treatment of gender because the intercultural prevalence of nonbinary gender categories complicates gender Manicheanism. 

In other words, it is sometimes useful to talk about a binary, because a binary system is often imposed. It is often useful to talk about a spectrum, because gendered traits do not fall in a discrete, two-humped distribution. And it is often useful to talk about a ternary or x-ary system, because human beings are not constantly examining each other's genitals to determine appropriate behavior.

All of those ontologies are useful -- and you do not get to demand the nonexistence of other human beings (in this case, inconvenient transfolks) in order to demonstrate that your framework for thinking about gender is correct.___

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2016-01-11 22:01:19 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

___

2016-01-11 05:49:50 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s)Open 

"Jesus Christ. The lyrics to this. It's like he's singing Jaden Smith's Twitter feed."

"Jesus Christ. The lyrics to this. It's like he's singing Jaden Smith's Twitter feed."___

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2016-01-07 18:13:53 (47 comments; 6 reshares; 66 +1s)Open 

Pretty much right: if you let people get away with pointing guns at federal agents, they'll learn the lesson that they can get what they want through threats of violence. 

Pretty much right: if you let people get away with pointing guns at federal agents, they'll learn the lesson that they can get what they want through threats of violence. ___

2016-01-05 21:39:15 (17 comments; 1 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

The DOJ generally appeals sentences lower than the minimum mandatory sentence. I agree with this overall because I prefer the government defend its laws. There is no surer way to legal mischief than an alliance between the adversaries. But the Hammonds' appeal wasn't wrecked by the mandatory minimum.

The Ninth Circuit went one step further. While the mandatory minimum entitled the government to an appeal, they categorically rejected the defendants' Eighth Amendment claim. The Circuit pointed out that arson is a serious crime because of its potential to get out of control and threaten others far beyond its origin. They made a note that this in fact happened with the Hammond arsons and they were lucky damage was minimal.

They found that the five year minimum wouldn't be unconstitutional and then proceed to, I think, browbeat the defendants with a litany of truly unjust... more »

The DOJ generally appeals sentences lower than the minimum mandatory sentence. I agree with this overall because I prefer the government defend its laws. There is no surer way to legal mischief than an alliance between the adversaries. But the Hammonds' appeal wasn't wrecked by the mandatory minimum.

The Ninth Circuit went one step further. While the mandatory minimum entitled the government to an appeal, they categorically rejected the defendants' Eighth Amendment claim. The Circuit pointed out that arson is a serious crime because of its potential to get out of control and threaten others far beyond its origin. They made a note that this in fact happened with the Hammond arsons and they were lucky damage was minimal.

They found that the five year minimum wouldn't be unconstitutional and then proceed to, I think, browbeat the defendants with a litany of truly unjust applications of minimum mandatory sentences. The picture developed by the whole decision is of grossly irresponsible and entitled people endangering others. They point out that the BLM out them on notice in 1999 after a fire escaped their property; that they lit a fire to cover poaching in 2001, nearly killing a teenager as it spread too violently; and then again in 2006 lit a fire despite a burn ban on the region imposed, in part, to protect firefighters addressing the wildfires.

I'm not a fan of minimum mandatory sentences and, so, the Ninth's litany was filled with familiar outrages. But five years doesn't sound unreasonable given the facts in the case and may even be a light punishment. Nor is this the only thing to hold against the Hammonds. Like the Bundys before them, they are entitled whiners: government grazing rights are an impressively sweet deal, by law they must be set at a very profitable rate for the ranchers. That is, in essence, the Hammonds, Bundys, and all the rest have been receiving a massive subsidy from the taxpayers, a subsidy they complain isn't large enough. A subsidy many Americans would prefer not to grant at all, closing the land to ranchers entirely.

Conservatives have naturally rushed to their defense because they hit all the right notes of rural grievance and pretended masculinity. But there's no injustice here. There are just some angry rural mall ninjas occupying a Federal building and a couple of arsonists in prison. Rumors are circulating, after a video of their supply stores, that they haven't the food to last like they claimed. They may have intended to go down in a hail of gunfire. While I'm not going to hope for violence, I'm not going to argue that these are, deep down, good people. They're not and the only reason this situation lacks "good guys" is because its villains are so cartoonish and incompetent that a protagonist is superfluous.___

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2016-01-03 08:23:39 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s)Open 

Thank you and goodnight.

Thank you and goodnight.___

2015-12-30 06:40:06 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s)Open 

Capsule Review, Black Mirror Christmas Special: Finally, Jon Hamm knows what it's been like for me since he started ignoring my calls. 

Capsule Review, Black Mirror Christmas Special: Finally, Jon Hamm knows what it's been like for me since he started ignoring my calls. ___

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2015-12-29 19:41:14 (28 comments; 8 reshares; 36 +1s)Open 

This is an inherent problem with any system in which tax bills are subject to negotiation. Which, fundamentally, reduces to "any system where taxation is associated with due process."

The maximum a person will be required to pay is the amount of taxes owing plus interest. Because the government doesn't have an irrebuttable presumption that the taxes are owed, the BATNA is substantially less than the taxes owing. The transaction cost of getting the rich to pay taxes means that there's a strong incentive to settle.

"Transaction costs," in this context, aren't just "the cost of the lawyers." Common-law systems like ours are stateful: any decision which comes out against the IRS permanently alters the shape of the law. This means that a case which comes out at exactly BATNA may negatively influence the outcome of similar cases. This is a huge... more »

This is an inherent problem with any system in which tax bills are subject to negotiation. Which, fundamentally, reduces to "any system where taxation is associated with due process."

The maximum a person will be required to pay is the amount of taxes owing plus interest. Because the government doesn't have an irrebuttable presumption that the taxes are owed, the BATNA is substantially less than the taxes owing. The transaction cost of getting the rich to pay taxes means that there's a strong incentive to settle.

"Transaction costs," in this context, aren't just "the cost of the lawyers." Common-law systems like ours are stateful: any decision which comes out against the IRS permanently alters the shape of the law. This means that a case which comes out at exactly BATNA may negatively influence the outcome of similar cases. This is a huge problem: it means that a case that wins the IRS $1b may result in case law that costs $5b every year until Congress fixes it. 

This is why I'm a big proponent of VAT instead of income taxation and capital gains taxation instead of corporate taxation: legal statefulness and due process don't constantly erode the ability of the state to tax. Under regimes like this, progressivity is more difficult, but you can establish progressivity the opposite way: slightly-progressive taxation by VAT, then aggressive negative income taxation up to the middle tax brackets.___

2015-12-29 18:42:38 (11 comments; 1 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

Cultural appropriation is not coherent in a way which works as an analytical frame. Rather, the criticism arose among anthropologists, art historians, and others in the humanities in response to something odd: people like things about a culture but then characterize it derisively. This became incredibly frustrating for this group of people and they created the academic framework for cultural appropriation, casting their frustrations as analysis.

That framework hit home with a lot of people in minority groups because, well, who wouldn't be pissed off? Here's this dude copying everything you're doing and, at the same time, telling you how you're crap. Despite the fact that all that stuff they copied is, like, 80% of your identity. It is approximately the most frustrating thing you can do to someone without the words "stop hitting yourself". But it's not cohesive,... more »

Cultural appropriation is not coherent in a way which works as an analytical frame. Rather, the criticism arose among anthropologists, art historians, and others in the humanities in response to something odd: people like things about a culture but then characterize it derisively. This became incredibly frustrating for this group of people and they created the academic framework for cultural appropriation, casting their frustrations as analysis.

That framework hit home with a lot of people in minority groups because, well, who wouldn't be pissed off? Here's this dude copying everything you're doing and, at the same time, telling you how you're crap. Despite the fact that all that stuff they copied is, like, 80% of your identity. It is approximately the most frustrating thing you can do to someone without the words "stop hitting yourself". But it's not cohesive, it's an attempt to turn an analytical structure out of "don't be an incomprehensibly tedious asshole".

Thus the basic structure is achieved. How do you appropriate appropriately? In the same way you appropriate from your own culture with one caveat: if your appropriation is parody, it only works if making a similar verbal joke would. If you perceive that the joke would land on anything from crickets to boos, your joke is in poor taste whether executed behind a microphone or not.

That is all. Every other rule is someone weaponizing in pursuit of notoriety.___

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2015-12-29 18:30:26 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

Yotam Marom:

The meetings are closed, and we all feel kind of bad about it, although this is another thing we don’t talk about often. There isn’t much coherence to how we ended up here in the first place — one person invited a few over and the next invited a couple and so on, until the room was full. It was as arbitrary a time to stop inviting people as any, but this is how things often happen in movement moments. We justify the boundary by reminding ourselves that we are certainly not the only collection of people meeting like this — there are many affinity groups and other kinds of formations — and that we are here to plan and strategize, not to make decisions.

But we also know that there are a lot of movers and shakers in the room, and that this affords us a disproportionate ability to move things through the rest of Occupy. We know the age-old pitfalls ofpeople making plans i... more »

Yotam Marom:

The meetings are closed, and we all feel kind of bad about it, although this is another thing we don’t talk about often. There isn’t much coherence to how we ended up here in the first place — one person invited a few over and the next invited a couple and so on, until the room was full. It was as arbitrary a time to stop inviting people as any, but this is how things often happen in movement moments. We justify the boundary by reminding ourselves that we are certainly not the only collection of people meeting like this — there are many affinity groups and other kinds of formations — and that we are here to plan and strategize, not to make decisions.

But we also know that there are a lot of movers and shakers in the room, and that this affords us a disproportionate ability to move things through the rest of Occupy. We know the age-old pitfalls of people making plans in closed off rooms, and it’s not lost on us that — while this space is also led by some of the most powerful women and folks of color in the movement — most of us are white, middle class, and male. If someone had asked any one of us directly, we’d likely have agreed that, collectively, we have quite a bit of power and aren’t being held accountable to it.

But for the most part, we keep that nagging feeling under wraps, so we can continue the work. There is a confidence we seem to share that we are filling a void, meeting a real need, putting everything we have on the line to keep momentum going. We seem to agree, even if quietly, that movements don’t exist without leadership, that the general assembly has been more performance art than decision-making forum since the first couple of weeks, that leaderlessness is a myth, that we need a place to have sensitive discussions hopefully out of reach of the surveillance state. And in truth we know our jobs aren’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination; after all, a good deal of the efforts of the folks in the room are aimed at getting occupiers port-o-potties and stopping the incessant drumming.

[...]

Some of the folks in the group got frustrated, and pulled away. They accused the rest of us of being liberals (this was a curse-word), said we were co-opting the movement for the unions, claimed that even meeting like this was a violation of the principles of the movement. Those claims were false, but they were hard to argue with, because most of us were already feeling guilty for being in closed off rooms. So we shrunk. Sort of like when an over-zealous white “ally” trips over other white folks to call out an example of racism; the first to call it out sits back smugly, having taken the moral high ground and pointed a finger at the others, and then the rest clench their jaws and stare at the floor guiltily, hoping the storm passes over them.

We tried to stop the split. We slowed down. We spent time trying to figure out what the right thing to do was. We tried to be honest about how much of this had to do with differences in politics and how much of it was really just ego on all sides. Some of us tried to reach across the aisle, to mend broken relationships. But in the meantime, the folks who had taken the moral high ground had begun building a separate group. That split happened in October in that living room on the Lower East Side, perhaps in other circles in the movement around the same time; by November it was playing out in the movement more broadly, until in December there were distinctly different tendencies offering different directions to the movement as a whole. It would be overly simplistic to trace the overall conflict inside the belly of Occupy Wall Street to the dissolution of this one group or even to in-fighting more broadly, but at the same time, it was a significant factor. All movements develop mechanisms for leadership and coordination, whether formal or informal, and they suffer real setbacks when those systems collapse.

[...]

It wasn’t the state, or the cold, or the media. The real problem underneath it all was a deep ambivalence about power. In fact, all of the things that made Occupy Wall Street brilliant had this paradox built into them, this politic of powerlessness woven deep inside, like a bad gene or a self-destruct mechanism.

For example, the mantra of leaderlessness came from a genuine desire to avoid classic pitfalls into hierarchy, but it was, at the same time, a farce, and divorced from any sense of collective structure or care for group culture. It foreclosed on the possibility of holding emerging leaders accountable, created a situation in which real leaders (whether worthy or not) went to the shadows instead of the square, and made it impossible to really develop one another (how, really, could we train new leaders if there weren’t supposed to be any in the first place?). Similarly, the refusal to articulate demands was brilliant in opening radical possibilities and sparking the popular imagination, but it also meant we didn’t have a shared goal, meant the word winning wasn’t even part of the movement’s lexicon. In many ways, it was an expression of a fear of actually saying something and taking responsibility for it, and it encouraged the often-repeated delusion that we didn’t even want anything our enemy had to give, that Wall Street and the State didn’t have any power over us.

[...]

In those moments, when we refuse to engage in these fights because they feel childish and below the belt, we forget that the majority of people are standing in the middle, wondering what the hell is going on and looking for people they can trust. When those of us who are thinking about power and trying to grow the base don’t step up to that challenge, the folks in the middle assume that the people bringing in toxicity are the leadership, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. They find no other voices providing leadership they can feel a part of. So they go home.

[...]

Our behaviors — even the self-sabotaging ones — are our bodies’ responses to threat. Our instincts are clumsy at times, and they often cut us off from our better options, but credit where credit is due: these instincts, at some points, probably saved our lives. Instead of hating those traits so much, we might be better off tipping our hat to them, thanking them for the safety they have provided us, and letting them know that we don’t need them anymore — that we want to practice something new instead.

[...]

The politics of powerlessness is a defense mechanism, meant to protect us from our worst fears. And as I’ve been learning, it never works to hate one’s defenses, to bang our heads against them, to bend them into submission. No, the way we change is by really getting curious about their source, and trying to address their root causes. Of course we’re afraid. Fear is a totally grounded response to what is happening around us. We need to sit with that. And we need to find new practices for dealing with our fears, because in the end, those hard truths are precisely the reason we need to do awaywith the politic of powerlessness.

http://www.alternet.org/occupy-wall-street/what-really-caused-implosion-occupy-movement-insiders-view___

2015-12-28 07:30:53 (23 comments; 27 reshares; 88 +1s)Open 

Capsule Review, the Force Awakens: The First Order continues the Empire's tradition of excellent engineering vision combined with slapdash execution. Among the problems which might have been addressed if the Imperial Navy had a robust postmortem culture:

(1) Once again, an Imperial superweapon project is crippled by poor attention to HVAC design and insufficient redundancy. Maybe install some grates?

(2) It doesn't matter how good your biometric scanners are if they can be bypassed by shooting them. Also, Han, are you sure it's a good idea to have an airlock to your cargo bay that opens when you shoot it?

(3) Bottomless pits are the most common cause of death among Sith Lords. Maybe you need one. But if you want to add flair to your lair, have you considered a water feature? Or maybe install a railing on the catwalk.
... more »

Capsule Review, the Force Awakens: The First Order continues the Empire's tradition of excellent engineering vision combined with slapdash execution. Among the problems which might have been addressed if the Imperial Navy had a robust postmortem culture:

(1) Once again, an Imperial superweapon project is crippled by poor attention to HVAC design and insufficient redundancy. Maybe install some grates?

(2) It doesn't matter how good your biometric scanners are if they can be bypassed by shooting them. Also, Han, are you sure it's a good idea to have an airlock to your cargo bay that opens when you shoot it?

(3) Bottomless pits are the most common cause of death among Sith Lords. Maybe you need one. But if you want to add flair to your lair, have you considered a water feature? Or maybe install a railing on the catwalk.

(4) Someone in the Imperial research corps said, "We thought Stormtroopers were too accurate, so we took away the eyeholes." Then they gave them flamethrowers. This man was an idiot.

(5) If you need to keep a star inside a planet, have you considered building two of the thing which keeps the star in there? It seems like it would be bad if it got out.

___

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2015-12-27 21:59:35 (22 comments; 6 reshares; 37 +1s)Open 

Almost every single one of my favorite foods, for instance, is an incompetent attempt by one culture to reproduce a staple belonging to another culture. 

Good read: Cultural appropriation is great! http://bit.ly/1JA2gTh
by Noah Smith #economics___Almost every single one of my favorite foods, for instance, is an incompetent attempt by one culture to reproduce a staple belonging to another culture. 

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2015-12-25 04:03:46 (7 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

"""
[T]here is an unspoken, horrible idea that contemporary political activity starts and perhaps ends with building a really good politicized identity—a process that, again, relies on disapproval, disaffiliation, offense. As tired as the Jezebel-as-offense-factory expectation is, we still get a constant stream of emails asking why we haven’t stated our outrage at one thing or another, telling us that not taking umbrage will weaken our general stance. Offense masquerades are seen as so politically useful that there’s a whole subgenre of rhetoric centered on offense taken hypothetically.
"""

"""
[T]here is an unspoken, horrible idea that contemporary political activity starts and perhaps ends with building a really good politicized identity—a process that, again, relies on disapproval, disaffiliation, offense. As tired as the Jezebel-as-offense-factory expectation is, we still get a constant stream of emails asking why we haven’t stated our outrage at one thing or another, telling us that not taking umbrage will weaken our general stance. Offense masquerades are seen as so politically useful that there’s a whole subgenre of rhetoric centered on offense taken hypothetically.
"""___

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2015-12-24 22:20:04 (8 comments; 9 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

So, Sheldon Adelson has been the one driving pseudonymous "articles" about corruption in the organizations suing him for torts and investigating him for crimes. This is unsurprising, given Adelson's past behavior when buying newspapers -- his free daily in Israel, Bibi HaYom -- sorry, Israel HaYom -- has been a money-sink designed to push forward his political ambitions, not a "newspaper" as such.

Which is what Las Vegas' paper of record is likely to become relatively shortly. 

So, Sheldon Adelson has been the one driving pseudonymous "articles" about corruption in the organizations suing him for torts and investigating him for crimes. This is unsurprising, given Adelson's past behavior when buying newspapers -- his free daily in Israel, Bibi HaYom -- sorry, Israel HaYom -- has been a money-sink designed to push forward his political ambitions, not a "newspaper" as such.

Which is what Las Vegas' paper of record is likely to become relatively shortly. ___

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