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Andreas Schou

Andreas Schou 

Occupation: Snake Parliament

Location: Mountain View, California

Followers: 8,731

Following: 229

Views: 37,785,264

Cream of the Crop: 12/07/2012

Added to CircleCount.com: 12/24/2011That's the date, where Andreas Schou has been indexed by CircleCount.com.
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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 220

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2016-07-22 04:12:31 (220 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

Most reshares: 29

2016-08-04 01:38:12 (15 comments; 29 reshares; 74 +1s; )Open 

This is a baller move.

Missouri, being Dixie's furthest northern outpost, has historically underfunded its indigent defense system. (Because indigent defense might, horror of horrors, actually help a black person.) This has been pointed out in a series of media reports and adverse federal court decisions, but nothing's been done.

Fortunately, state law gives the public defender's office the right to deputize any active attorney to handle cases that can't be picked up by staff attorneys. The governor is an active attorney. So the public defender's office is deputizing him to serve as counsel in an indigent defense case, and will continue to do so until they're told not to.

Most plusones: 120

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2016-07-29 20:45:49 (104 comments; 16 reshares; 120 +1s; )Open 

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world."

-- Donald Trump, on Tienanmen Square

Latest 50 posts

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2016-08-24 19:45:22 (15 comments; 7 reshares; 32 +1s; )Open 

Dammit, Bernie. I had hopes for this.

But Jeff Weaver is the reason that the last part of the Sanders campaign was such an utter damp squib: he, like Sanders, had a vision of a completely colorblind Democratic party which (by not-really-coincidence) is run entirely by elderly white men. He could not understand why he was losing despite winning the white part of the Democrats.

That coalition is dead, and will never occur again.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, up until the first Jim Crow laws were established in the 1880s, black voters were solid Republicans. But it was always a weird fit: the Republicans were a sectional, mercantile party, while the Democrats were the party of basically farmers, immigrants, slavery, the poor, and the South. So, where black people could vote (the North, some Southern counties), they started voting for Democrats.

By the... more »

Dammit, Bernie. I had hopes for this.

But Jeff Weaver is the reason that the last part of the Sanders campaign was such an utter damp squib: he, like Sanders, had a vision of a completely colorblind Democratic party which (by not-really-coincidence) is run entirely by elderly white men. He could not understand why he was losing despite winning the white part of the Democrats.

That coalition is dead, and will never occur again.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, up until the first Jim Crow laws were established in the 1880s, black voters were solid Republicans. But it was always a weird fit: the Republicans were a sectional, mercantile party, while the Democrats were the party of basically farmers, immigrants, slavery, the poor, and the South. So, where black people could vote (the North, some Southern counties), they started voting for Democrats.

By the 1920s, the majority of the black vote, even in the South, was Democratic. It's easy to caricature this as being "voting against their own interests," but it really wasn't; their interests were very similar to those of the immigrant parts of the party as a whole. The rest of the party was what you might call "white working class," although white identity had not yet encompassed people like (for instance) the Irish and Italians.

This would have been completely stable except for the issue of civil rights. Which white voters in the South, and many in the north, were deeply, fundamentally opposed to. Everywhere but the South, elites were for it, rank-and-file voters were against it. And so in order to avoid breaking the party, the Democrats systematically blocked everything which might benefit black voters, all while pushing the most economically-left social policies in American history.

In 1968, when civil rights finally passed (with an extremely bipartisan vote) the party started rapidly shedding the white Southern voters which formed the core of its support. In 1964, Goldwater had explicitly made a play for racist Southerners. He didn't get them then, though. From that point forward, the Democrats began to lose the core of their support in the South.

The economic policy of the latter half of the 20th century is a direct result of poor white voters abandoning the Democratic Party because of civil rights. This came to a head much later than you might imagine: though the South started to switch to Republican control in 1968 (in terms of presidential elections), its House seats didn't fully switch over until 1994.

Minority voters have basically two choices given the present alignment of American boting vlocs: become an indispensible part of a majority-minority coalition with a relatively small number of college-educated white voters, or become a disposable part of a white-working-class populist coalition which might turn on them at any moment, and which historically has. Frequently.

This is not an enviable position to be in, but note that a white-working-class-based Democratic coalition would be as likely or more to elect a candidate like Trump than a candidate like Sanders. This is not a long-term recipe for tolerable policies.
___

2016-08-23 19:58:11 (22 comments; 0 reshares; 34 +1s; )Open 

Ghostbusters: "We need to keep operating this unlicensed homemade nuclear reactor so we can store ghosts."

Okay, so, in what possible world does the EPA guy respond, "Oh, yeah, that sounds reasonable; let me just write you a permit so you can continue to store your ghosts in that reactor?" Like, why is he the bad guy in this scenario?

Ghostbusters: "We need to keep operating this unlicensed homemade nuclear reactor so we can store ghosts."

Okay, so, in what possible world does the EPA guy respond, "Oh, yeah, that sounds reasonable; let me just write you a permit so you can continue to store your ghosts in that reactor?" Like, why is he the bad guy in this scenario?___

2016-08-22 21:08:47 (10 comments; 14 reshares; 47 +1s; )Open 

As it turns out, we now have the answer to where Trump's campaign donations are going. And it wasn't to his campaign: after admin and fundraising costs, the Trump campaign's largest expenditure was hats. From a financial perspective, his campaign seems weirdly like a hat website which advertises by running a guy for president.

But that's only 1.8m. Where did the rest of it go? As it turns out, he isn't repaying his loans. He's just being dishonest about how many donations he's gotten.

Partisan political campaigns in the United States can set up what's called a JFC: a joint fundraising campaign. These are almost always split down the middle. But Trump's are unusual, and I suspect the reason was to make his campaign look more healthy than it actually is. That money is being split 80/20 between the RNC and the Trump campaign, but because the JFC funds... more »

As it turns out, we now have the answer to where Trump's campaign donations are going. And it wasn't to his campaign: after admin and fundraising costs, the Trump campaign's largest expenditure was hats. From a financial perspective, his campaign seems weirdly like a hat website which advertises by running a guy for president.

But that's only 1.8m. Where did the rest of it go? As it turns out, he isn't repaying his loans. He's just being dishonest about how many donations he's gotten.

Partisan political campaigns in the United States can set up what's called a JFC: a joint fundraising campaign. These are almost always split down the middle. But Trump's are unusual, and I suspect the reason was to make his campaign look more healthy than it actually is. That money is being split 80/20 between the RNC and the Trump campaign, but because the JFC funds are attributed to the presidential campaign until they're disbursed to the party, 100% of those funds were attributed to Trump on last month's fundraising reports.

Of the 20% which Trump keeps, the vast majority is being spent on more fundraising. Bizarrely, his main fundraising contractor is a web design firm which has previously done work for the Trump Organization, and they appear to be taking an almost 30% (!?!?!?!) commission on all fundraising done for the campaign.

So, TL;DR: Trump wasn't lying about how he's spending the money. He was lying about having it to begin with.

___

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2016-08-19 00:28:18 (12 comments; 10 reshares; 39 +1s; )Open 

Q: So, Andy. Why are you so concerned with a Cayman Islands lawsuit between Paul Manafort and a Ukrainian joint venture incorporated there?

A: This article, basically.

Q: So, Andy. Why are you so concerned with a Cayman Islands lawsuit between Paul Manafort and a Ukrainian joint venture incorporated there?

A: This article, basically.___

2016-08-17 18:02:22 (64 comments; 1 reshares; 22 +1s; )Open 

So, I got in a little tiff the other day about whether Democrats could have done substantially better, over the past six years, by paying attention to George Lakoff's political theories. The short answer: no. The longer answer: also no, but more emphatically. Lakoff is essentially a fraud.

For those of you who are familiar with Lakoff, here's the basic framework he proposes: that metaphors are the basis of human cognition, and that political success is essentially a function of deploying the right metaphors. In order to succeed in electoral politics, you only need the right metaphors, not the right policies: once politicians adopt the correct metaphorical frame, everyone will come around to their view.

This is nonsense. But it's not nonsense simply because it contradicts some deeply-held empirical results in political science (particularly, the median voter theorem).... more »

So, I got in a little tiff the other day about whether Democrats could have done substantially better, over the past six years, by paying attention to George Lakoff's political theories. The short answer: no. The longer answer: also no, but more emphatically. Lakoff is essentially a fraud.

For those of you who are familiar with Lakoff, here's the basic framework he proposes: that metaphors are the basis of human cognition, and that political success is essentially a function of deploying the right metaphors. In order to succeed in electoral politics, you only need the right metaphors, not the right policies: once politicians adopt the correct metaphorical frame, everyone will come around to their view.

This is nonsense. But it's not nonsense simply because it contradicts some deeply-held empirical results in political science (particularly, the median voter theorem). It's nonsense even on its own terms.

(1) In Lakoff's CMT, metaphorical frameworks are found intuitively and unsystematically; there is no methodological regularity in how metaphors are found, nor is there methodological regularity in determining which metaphors are primary. They are arrived at on an ad hoc basis and determined to be causal on an ad hoc basis.

(2) CMT presumes metaphors to be foundational: that is, the mapping of physical objects to abstract concepts is the basis of cognition.

There is one major problem with this, of course: the existence of multiple disjoint sets of metaphors for particular abstractions. Lakoff handwaves away this problem by saying that the brain encodes one (and no more than one) object-to-abstraction metaphor at any one time; the remainder, he claims, are mere results of the cultural imposition of nonbiological frames onto an underlying neurological framework.

This implies that it is literally impossible to simultaneously believe in Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam; even more weirdly, it implies that Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam are the actual underlying representations of national character, rather than a mere synecdoche for a set of characteristics for the underlying abstraction.

(It bears noting that the neuroscience does not support Lakoff's position on this: cognition about abstract concepts occurs in parts of the brain which appear to be fairly well-segregated from the parts of the brain that reason about concrete objects.)

(3) CMT makes very loose guarantees about the schematicity of metaphorical frames, meaning that it can retroactively explain metaphors, but never proactively predict them.

For instance: arguments have foundations and other characteristics of objects; therefore, in CMT, arguments are buildings. In a strictly schematic implementation of CMT, that would imply that arguments, like buildings, also have windows. That they have doors. That some arguments have people inside them.

Not even Lakoff would claim that this is true, however. By allowing schematic elasticity, he can claim that arguments are buildings, but that arguments nonetheless do not have most of the relevant characteristics of buildings. No windows, no doors, no people inside them. Could we have predicted this ahead of time using CMT? No. The extent to which the metaphorical schema applies is a purely post-hoc determination.

If we assume that metaphors are not a first-order characteristic of human cognition, though, we have a relatively simple explanation for the idea that arguments have foundations: that the relation between an argument's evidence and its conclusion is similar to the relation between a building's foundation and the structure. That is: if a foundation fails, then the structure it supports also fails.

In this case, a completely atheoretical approach which assumes that abstractions are first-order concepts in human cognition -- the idea that we can conceive of an argument without first conceiving of buildings -- is clearly superior to a CMT approach with schematic elasticity, which predicts nothing and is capable of concluding anything.

(4) CMT also proposes that metaphors require embodiment: that is, that there is some physical correlate of every abstraction, and that that physical correlate is used as a token representing an abstraction in abstract cognition.

This is key to the entire theory, which is grounded -- at least in part -- in the theory that human abstract cognition results from the evolutionary generalization of cognitive modules designed for motor and sensory behavior. But there are two major problems with this.

First, the problem of generalization. The concepts involved in metaphorical frames are already abstractions: there are no general "mothers" and no general "fathers," just the mothers and fathers which exist in the world. If abstract thought is not a first-order capacity of the human mind, then how do we generalize all mothers together into a single personality and then attribute those mothers to an abstraction?

Second, the problem that, if all metaphors are embodied, are we really building hierarchical chains of embodiment in order to create metaphors for complex abstractions? For instance: war is a common metaphor, and a common frame used in politics. But war is, itself, an abstraction, and an apparently first-order abstraction: we do not make a lot of metaphors for war (certainly, no embodied metaphors), but we use war as a metaphor for other abstractions as well. ("War on drugs," "war on poverty.")

Worse for Lakoff's theory, we use war as a metaphor for embodied acts! So, for instance, I might describe a series of fistfights as a war between myself and someone else, thereby using an apparently high-order abstraction for a concrete, embodied acts. Strictly construed, in CMT, this would seem entirely impossible.___

2016-08-16 22:44:42 (20 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

Because National Journal is so heavily locked down -- you literally have to fill out an application in order to get a subscription -- this 2014 article about Bernie didn't really make the rounds during the election. But I think this is a really good overview of the things which made his candidacy what it was -- both the things which I loved about him as a candidate and the things which I was deeply suspicious about.

+Ahmed Amer, +John Wehrle, +Irreverent Monk

Because National Journal is so heavily locked down -- you literally have to fill out an application in order to get a subscription -- this 2014 article about Bernie didn't really make the rounds during the election. But I think this is a really good overview of the things which made his candidacy what it was -- both the things which I loved about him as a candidate and the things which I was deeply suspicious about.

+Ahmed Amer, +John Wehrle, +Irreverent Monk___

2016-08-15 23:30:17 (29 comments; 0 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

So, Paul Manafort needed that 12 mil in RUS cash. He's working for Trump pro bono.

Sorry, cui bono. I get those two confused sometimes.

So, Paul Manafort needed that 12 mil in RUS cash. He's working for Trump pro bono.

Sorry, cui bono. I get those two confused sometimes.___

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2016-08-15 03:37:06 (20 comments; 0 reshares; 35 +1s; )Open 

BONUS: Right now, Ivanka Trump is literally vacationing with Putin's new girlfriend, Wendi Deng.

http://www.people.com/article/ivanka-trump-wendi-deng-murdoch-croatia

Popcorn time begins!

The NYT has a story today revealing how a ledger, seized when Ukraine's "pro-Russia" President Yanukovich was removed in a 2014 revolution, includes $12.7M in cash for one of Yanukovich's trusted advisers, Paul Manafort. It goes into the rather fascinatingly twisty web of shell companies, Russian oligarchs, mafiosi, and fairly overtly corrupt and criminal deals which Manafort appears to have specialized in facilitating.

Not that this is a huge surprise; before Yanukovich, Manafort did much the same for Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. He's essentially a career specialist in assisting corrupt regimes – not corrupt in the "does campaign finance law create a conflict of interest?" sort of way, but corrupt in the "get this suitcase full of cash on the next plane to the Cayman Islands and no questions" way.

Manafort's closest business partner in his Yanukovich-era operations appears to have been Oleg Deripaska, a noted Russian oligarch and close ally of Putin's.

But the popcorn time is likely to really step up this week. Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager – until he was dismissed, moved over to CNN to become a talking head, but seems to have still kept at least some amount of role as a Trump advisor – was one of the first to retweet this NYT article. Which is interesting, as Manafort was his replacement and is currently Trump's top "aide."

Adam Weinstein, senior editor at Fusion, responded to the NYT article with something even more interesting: "Speaking as someone who has a story coming this week: This is just the beginning for Manafort. It gets worse."

Several people have speculated that the really interesting story is going to involve Deripaska, and just how felonious all of these activities really are.

And while some have speculated that this may cost Manafort his job either with Trump or with the SVR, I think both are unlikely, at least in the near term. On the one side, Trump probably knows Manafort pretty well, having no small number of Russian deals (which Manafort likely brokered) in his own past; I can't imagine any of this surprising him. On the other side, Manafort is presumably a stringer rather than an actual officer of the SVR – both because his work tends towards the very "unofficial," and because I can't imagine any intelligence professional wanting to run Trump as an agent. He may be very useful to Putin, but he's not the sort of person that you could run in a traditional way; he's far too unpredictable, and frankly stupid, to be any good at that.

Instead, you would want an experienced grey-ops handler, run in turn by someone close to you, that you can trust, and who knows both grey and black ops well, but entirely off the books of a large bureaucracy that you can only partially trust. Know anyone like that?

(Ah, how standards have fallen! Back in the day the First Directorate would never have let an operation run like this; his handler would have been an experienced officer with no particularly interesting-sounding background, and nobody would have noticed him. "This agent is an idiot and dangerous to the cause" would have been recognized and overruled; his value clearly outweighs the danger.)

Anyway. The short version is that it looks like Trump's lead Russian handler may have just gotten blown in a rather embarrassing fashion, and there are a bunch of more interesting news stories to follow.

Get out the popcorn, folks! This one promises to be interesting.___BONUS: Right now, Ivanka Trump is literally vacationing with Putin's new girlfriend, Wendi Deng.

http://www.people.com/article/ivanka-trump-wendi-deng-murdoch-croatia

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2016-08-15 01:18:40 (23 comments; 3 reshares; 41 +1s; )Open 

That is, I think, one of the top five most inexplicable media things I have ever seen.

That is, I think, one of the top five most inexplicable media things I have ever seen.___

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2016-08-14 20:57:35 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

Somehow, this post didn't make it into a collection when I posted it. I think it still stands up, so I'm putting it in this one.

Here, a post by the excellent +Xavier Marquez, concerning Aztecs: an Interpretation:

[Sacrificial] rituals should not, I think, be understood as promoting an “ideology” of submission – in the sense of stories told by ruling classes to preserve their privileges. No “private” privileges could compare to the intensity of these manufactured collective experiences, for one thing; and, as Clendinnen notes, the rituals at Tenochtitlan did not help to compel acceptance of Aztec supremacy among subject peoples either. Though it is true that in their thoroughgoing embrace of submission to and dependence on the god, Mexica rituals did dramatize the microcosmic hierarchy as an instance of the macrocosmic one, that hierarchy is not presented as just, or fair, or otherwise as "justified" in any sense we could recognize; the power of such practices was in their sacralization of social life through extraordinary emotion, not in their "justificatory" content. At the end of the day, their deep “message” could hardly serve to legitimize anything in the sense of persuading the subjects of the ruling elite’s “right to rule.”

This is an ingenious description of the inward-facing purpose of sacrificial ritual in the Aztec state: to demonstrate the power or of the forces to which the Mexica people were enslaved, and to both demand and allow public participation in those forces. But if the outward-facing purpose of that ritual did not demonstrate the Mexica right to rule, what purpose did it serve with respect to the outside world?

The answer, I think, hinges on the source of Aztec sacrificial victims.

Throughout much of the ancient Western world, among chiefdoms, and among states bordered by chiefdoms, the concept of total war is basically unfamiliar. No individual warring party can afford to lose a significant portion of its population to its neighbors, there are few types of rare goods, and the institutions of the state are not so firm that they can be seized without evaporating. Warfare, insofar as it exists, tends to be highly formal, ritualized, and rulebound. For further examples, consider the practice of counting coup in North America, or Maori war dancing.

Beginning at 1450 at the latest (and probably before), Aztec warfare was similar. Structured warfare between the Triple Alliance and its subject states and chiefdoms served as both a replacement for taxation and a source of slaves and sacrifice: the Aztecs would have a right to take tribute from the loser, and both sides would fulfill their need for sacrifice.

This did not, in a Weberian sense, serve as a source of legitimacy for the Aztec state. The treaties which governed xochiyaoyatl were generally the result of a decades-long cycle of conquest and revolt, and steady attrition from the vassal states meant that the Mexica could field a young and healthy army of elites, whereas partners could field only those remaining after the previous cycles of xochiyaoyatl. In addition, Aztec demands were erratic and escalating.

It is possible to view xochiyaoyatl as a purely political phenomenon, designed to subjugate and suppress rebellion. But it was intricately bound into the system of ritual and sacrifice which existed at the center of the Aztec state: captives from the Aztecs' eternal war against their subjects were the primary focus of national attention, and the driving force behind the expansion of the state.

To the outside world, Aztec sacrificial ritual (and the warfare which fed it) consisted of rituals of subjugation: symbolic acts which both entail oppression and demonstrate that the fates of the oppressed were entirely subject to the whims of a capricious outside power.

Among the Aztecs, it occurs in stark contrast. But they were not uniquely barbarous. There are clear analogies elsewhere. In Sparta, the krypteia: a coming-of-age ritual  wherein young warriors were given permission to kill any serfs they came across. In Assyria, the practice of constructing public artwork declaring and demonstrating kings' brutality.

In the American South and elsewhere, lynching for offenses which would not rise to the level of a crime in any other society on Earth.___Somehow, this post didn't make it into a collection when I posted it. I think it still stands up, so I'm putting it in this one.

2016-08-14 01:52:23 (28 comments; 0 reshares; 24 +1s; )Open 

Capsule Review, No Man's Sky: Minecraft and Elite: Dangerous, as filtered through Borges' The Library of Babel.

I have already named a planet Axaxaxas Mlö.

Capsule Review, No Man's Sky: Minecraft and Elite: Dangerous, as filtered through Borges' The Library of Babel.

I have already named a planet Axaxaxas Mlö.___

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2016-08-13 00:50:51 (63 comments; 10 reshares; 71 +1s; )Open 

Trump has literally zero ads in the air. His staff is a tenth the size of Clinton's. He doesn't have field offices in key Republican counties in key swing states. He doesn't have outreach directors for key Republican constituencies.

He raised $80m last month.

The most likely conclusion is that Trump is using Republican donations not to run for President, but to line his own pockets and those of his closest advisors -- and this is not unique. The entire conservative movement is affinity fraud which, as a side effect, runs candidates for public office. You know how I know? Because one of Trump's top advisors is Barry Bennett -- the guy whom Carson accused of stealing the vast majority of his donations.

This is a regular feature of Republican electoral politics. Ben Carson's advisors stole all of his donations, forcing him to drop out. Mitt Romney's... more »

Trump has literally zero ads in the air. His staff is a tenth the size of Clinton's. He doesn't have field offices in key Republican counties in key swing states. He doesn't have outreach directors for key Republican constituencies.

He raised $80m last month.

The most likely conclusion is that Trump is using Republican donations not to run for President, but to line his own pockets and those of his closest advisors -- and this is not unique. The entire conservative movement is affinity fraud which, as a side effect, runs candidates for public office. You know how I know? Because one of Trump's top advisors is Barry Bennett -- the guy whom Carson accused of stealing the vast majority of his donations.

This is a regular feature of Republican electoral politics. Ben Carson's advisors stole all of his donations, forcing him to drop out. Mitt Romney's media buys cost four to five times what Obama's did because his ad buyers were trying to make a buck. Karl Rove has made a fortune on ad-buy kickbacks from credulous superPACs. And all the way down to local races, fly-by-night direct mail organizations "fundraise" by scaring elderly voters into turning over huge chunks of fixed incomes, pocket the money, and leave the candidates themselves out in the cold.

When you build your movement around lying to the gullible, you'll find that your movement attracts those who want to lie to the gullible to make a buck rather than the (notional) people who want to lie to the gullible in order to make the world a better place.___

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2016-08-10 21:01:27 (10 comments; 12 reshares; 53 +1s; )Open 

This result is... unexpected.

This result is... unexpected.___

2016-08-10 02:46:14 (27 comments; 2 reshares; 44 +1s; )Open 

I'm on vacation. So whatever the dümpsterführer said that made my notifications explode can wait.

I'm on vacation. So whatever the dümpsterführer said that made my notifications explode can wait.___

2016-08-05 20:10:28 (59 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s; )Open 

Imagine that you have two possible legislatures:

(a) A 60% majority of legislators favoring 75% of your policy preferences, but where each legislator will defect to the minority on the 25% of issues (randomly distributed) on which they oppose your preference if not bought off by a concession on an unrelated issue.

(b) A 55% majority of legislators favoring 90% of your policy preferences, but where each legislator will unconditionally oppose your policy preferences on the 10% of issues (randomly distributed) on which they oppose your preference. These principled legislators may not be bought off by concessions on unrelated issues.

Which do you choose? Why?

Imagine that you have two possible legislatures:

(a) A 60% majority of legislators favoring 75% of your policy preferences, but where each legislator will defect to the minority on the 25% of issues (randomly distributed) on which they oppose your preference if not bought off by a concession on an unrelated issue.

(b) A 55% majority of legislators favoring 90% of your policy preferences, but where each legislator will unconditionally oppose your policy preferences on the 10% of issues (randomly distributed) on which they oppose your preference. These principled legislators may not be bought off by concessions on unrelated issues.

Which do you choose? Why?___

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2016-08-05 17:30:35 (9 comments; 3 reshares; 42 +1s; )Open 

Oh my god, what? Matt Braynard was Trump's data director?

To give you some background: I know this guy via a friend who used to work in right-wing politics. He's a weird, angry monotone sloganeer who's apparently lived a marginal existence on the fringes of Republican politics since I last heard from him: a couple jobs with doomed campaigns, but nothing that I would call a "successful career" before Trump. If it's not clear, I ... uh ... don't like the guy.

But here's the best thing: back in 2012 and 2013, when I was last in peripheral and very unpleasant contact with him, he was furiously unskewing Republican polls to prove Democratic voter fraud. This unhinged campaign strategy is another page out of the same book: he's a guy whom you hire to provide comforting numbers on demand, not a guy whom you hire to tell you what the numbers actually say.... more »

Oh my god, what? Matt Braynard was Trump's data director?

To give you some background: I know this guy via a friend who used to work in right-wing politics. He's a weird, angry monotone sloganeer who's apparently lived a marginal existence on the fringes of Republican politics since I last heard from him: a couple jobs with doomed campaigns, but nothing that I would call a "successful career" before Trump. If it's not clear, I ... uh ... don't like the guy.

But here's the best thing: back in 2012 and 2013, when I was last in peripheral and very unpleasant contact with him, he was furiously unskewing Republican polls to prove Democratic voter fraud. This unhinged campaign strategy is another page out of the same book: he's a guy whom you hire to provide comforting numbers on demand, not a guy whom you hire to tell you what the numbers actually say. I can't imagine anyone else whom I'd rather have running the Trump data operation, and am sad that he was fired in April.___

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2016-08-05 15:57:19 (19 comments; 8 reshares; 41 +1s; )Open 

From a Trump-related press release:

"Donald Trump lives, works, eats and employs people of all races and religions."

Um.

From a Trump-related press release:

"Donald Trump lives, works, eats and employs people of all races and religions."

Um.___

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2016-08-04 21:19:07 (26 comments; 2 reshares; 19 +1s; )Open 

The analysis here is good and a bit surprising. The conservative movement has been exiling people who talk this way, so I'm a bit shocked anyone would take the risk.

One quibble: when the author talks about "left-wing" media, he means CNN; when he talks about "right-wing" media, he means Hannity. This is a problem and part of the "reality has a strong liberal bias" joke. The equivalent of something like Hannity is probably Daily Kos or The Young Turks. Hannity is an opinion program, not a news program, whether in fact or pretense, and just not comparable to CNN or even NPR. Fox News is, but it's common to see talk radio compared to CNN or NPR.

I'd argue that this exposes a problem. For these programs to be comparable, you need to believe that CNN is basically opinion. It simply isn't; it's almost entirely reportage. The same is true of... more »

The analysis here is good and a bit surprising. The conservative movement has been exiling people who talk this way, so I'm a bit shocked anyone would take the risk.

One quibble: when the author talks about "left-wing" media, he means CNN; when he talks about "right-wing" media, he means Hannity. This is a problem and part of the "reality has a strong liberal bias" joke. The equivalent of something like Hannity is probably Daily Kos or The Young Turks. Hannity is an opinion program, not a news program, whether in fact or pretense, and just not comparable to CNN or even NPR. Fox News is, but it's common to see talk radio compared to CNN or NPR.

I'd argue that this exposes a problem. For these programs to be comparable, you need to believe that CNN is basically opinion. It simply isn't; it's almost entirely reportage. The same is true of NPR. You might argue with their reporting priorities, but they're not outlets for agitprop like Hannity or The Daily Show. The implied worldview is pretty strange.*

What's also striking is that there's no movement conservative equivalent of Jacobin. The closest example is the paleo-conservative American Conservative, which many movement types now see as vaguely left-wing and, in fairness, doesn't match up well with the conservative movement anymore.

*Though I keep thinking of John Oliver's joke that the RNCC was more about feelings than facts. Whatever its merits as analysis, it meshes well with a lifetime of reading and watching conservative media. There's a lot more time spent on feelings, especially outrage and fear, than anything else. It really looks like those emotions are more important to conservative audiences, as if the news was more what people felt about events than what happened.___

2016-08-04 01:38:12 (15 comments; 29 reshares; 74 +1s; )Open 

This is a baller move.

Missouri, being Dixie's furthest northern outpost, has historically underfunded its indigent defense system. (Because indigent defense might, horror of horrors, actually help a black person.) This has been pointed out in a series of media reports and adverse federal court decisions, but nothing's been done.

Fortunately, state law gives the public defender's office the right to deputize any active attorney to handle cases that can't be picked up by staff attorneys. The governor is an active attorney. So the public defender's office is deputizing him to serve as counsel in an indigent defense case, and will continue to do so until they're told not to.

This is a baller move.

Missouri, being Dixie's furthest northern outpost, has historically underfunded its indigent defense system. (Because indigent defense might, horror of horrors, actually help a black person.) This has been pointed out in a series of media reports and adverse federal court decisions, but nothing's been done.

Fortunately, state law gives the public defender's office the right to deputize any active attorney to handle cases that can't be picked up by staff attorneys. The governor is an active attorney. So the public defender's office is deputizing him to serve as counsel in an indigent defense case, and will continue to do so until they're told not to.___

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2016-08-02 21:03:33 (43 comments; 3 reshares; 50 +1s; )Open 

It doesn't matter that this is probably a better strategy for the Democratic party. It's also the only ethical strategy.

For the past twenty-two years, the Republican strategy for winning elections has been to utterly delegitimize the opposition. They've done this by creating a closed media ecosystem with very few points of contact with the left-to-moderate media, and by repeatedly cutting off their nose to spite their face. After twenty years of controlling the Supreme Court and the filibuster, they can afford to stand pat and delegitimize any policy proposal from the Democrats.

And if it had been just that bubble -- National Review, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh -- it might have been fine. But over the past ten years, something new has happened: a bubble has developed inside the conservative media bubble. In the outer world, among apparatchiks like Ailes and Kristol and... more »

It doesn't matter that this is probably a better strategy for the Democratic party. It's also the only ethical strategy.

For the past twenty-two years, the Republican strategy for winning elections has been to utterly delegitimize the opposition. They've done this by creating a closed media ecosystem with very few points of contact with the left-to-moderate media, and by repeatedly cutting off their nose to spite their face. After twenty years of controlling the Supreme Court and the filibuster, they can afford to stand pat and delegitimize any policy proposal from the Democrats.

And if it had been just that bubble -- National Review, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh -- it might have been fine. But over the past ten years, something new has happened: a bubble has developed inside the conservative media bubble. In the outer world, among apparatchiks like Ailes and Kristol and Gingrich, it was understood that the delegitimization of the opposition was an electoral strategy, not a fact about the outside world.

In the paranoid, hyper-orthodox inner bubble, no one understands that anymore. They were raised in the outer bubble. They believe it to be true. In the world of NewsMax and WorldNetDaily and the Free Republic Michael Savage and Trey Gowdy and Joe Wilson, the illegitimacy of political opposition and those cucks in the outer bubble isn't a cynical electoral stance. It's a deep well of personal rage.

There are two ways the Democrats could approach this: they could attempt to tar and feather those in the outer bubble with the crazy beliefs of those in the inner, or they could attempt to unite the outer bubble with those of us who live in the evidence-based world, creating a political opposition which at least exists in the same universe as most Democrats. This is not a path to winning huge electoral majorities for the next ten years.

The alternative plan (viz., forcing the Republicans to double-down on crazy) might be more successful. It's also dangerous to democracy. If the ruling party regards any cooperation with a fundamentally illegitimate opposition as treasonable, then every election becomes a life-or-death struggle over the future of democracy. By extending a lifeline to whatever salvageable parts remain inside the conservative movement, the Democrats have a chance (however slim) to pull the opposition party away from the brink.

In the long term, this is the lower-variance strategy: there's not much chance of securing a durable single-party majority, but there's also not much chance of electing an unstable demagogue as President-for-Life.

(I suppose this is the world we live in now.)___

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2016-08-02 16:48:58 (35 comments; 1 reshares; 42 +1s; )Open 

Conversations From Last Night

A: Veterans. Grieving mothers. Firefighters. I mean, I have no idea what he could possibly do that would be that would be more politically destructive.

S: I dunno -- fight a baby? 

Conversations From Last Night

A: Veterans. Grieving mothers. Firefighters. I mean, I have no idea what he could possibly do that would be that would be more politically destructive.

S: I dunno -- fight a baby? ___

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2016-08-01 22:32:12 (65 comments; 3 reshares; 36 +1s; )Open 

Does anyone really think that Trump is going to concede if he isn't elected? By telling the electorate that the election is rigged, he's laying the groundwork for political violence which will reverberate for a years after this election is settled. 

Does anyone really think that Trump is going to concede if he isn't elected? By telling the electorate that the election is rigged, he's laying the groundwork for political violence which will reverberate for a years after this election is settled. ___

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2016-08-01 21:41:10 (46 comments; 6 reshares; 29 +1s; )Open 

Finally, the Democrats are recognizing rural poverty as a genuine issue. Which is good: some of the poorest places in America aren't inner cities, but the places which are furthest from a rich urban agglomeration. But this is deeply disingenuous for a number of reasons:

(1) In the primaries, the median yearly income of a Trump-voting household was $71k. The median yearly income of both Clinton and Sanders-voting households were $61k. And he's not drawing poorer voters to the polls: the percentage of Republican voters making under $50k/yr fell from 31% to 29% between 2012 and 2016.

(2) The Democratic Party didn't leave poor white voters. Poor white voters left the Democratic Party. More specifically, poor white voters left the party in 1994, when control of the South flipped from Democrats to Republicans, and has been consolidating ever since.

On a... more »

Finally, the Democrats are recognizing rural poverty as a genuine issue. Which is good: some of the poorest places in America aren't inner cities, but the places which are furthest from a rich urban agglomeration. But this is deeply disingenuous for a number of reasons:

(1) In the primaries, the median yearly income of a Trump-voting household was $71k. The median yearly income of both Clinton and Sanders-voting households were $61k. And he's not drawing poorer voters to the polls: the percentage of Republican voters making under $50k/yr fell from 31% to 29% between 2012 and 2016.

(2) The Democratic Party didn't leave poor white voters. Poor white voters left the Democratic Party. More specifically, poor white voters left the party in 1994, when control of the South flipped from Democrats to Republicans, and has been consolidating ever since.

On a statewide level, poor white voters have been voting for conservative politicians in larger and larger numbers. This matters: the safety net is now administered largely at the state level.

(3) ... because Republicans have been steadily moving safety net programs from direct federal administration to increasingly slush-fund-like block grants.

As it stands, only 26% of federal TANF money is spent on direct cash grants. Another 24% is spent on child care and work supports. The rest, however, goes into general conservative-priority slush funds (like promoting marriage), contractors, and administration fees. The same goes for SNP dollars.

This is, incidentally, why red states show a large and growing rate of disability: federal disability programs are the only form of cash support that's out of control of states which have made the decision not to offer meaningful support to citizens in poverty.

(4) And, yes, there's a huge delta between red and blue states in terms of social service spending: of the ten states that spend less than 10% of their TANF funding on something you might understand as "welfare," all but one are deep-red states. The only red states that spend more than 30% on actual cash grants are Tennessee and Kentucky.

(5) And this is a little petty, but the woman pictured in this story is not some proud hillbilly. She's a millionaire who's a regular guest at Mar-a-Lago. ___

2016-08-01 06:01:36 (22 comments; 3 reshares; 20 +1s; )Open 

So, in any given poll, when given a ridiculous question, a certain number of respondents will respond with the most ridiculous answer available. That's how you end up with 10% or so of people reporting that they were abducted by aliens, that they believe in fairies, that they believe the sun orbits the earth, et cetera.

So, while it's best for epistemic hygiene not to believe there's result, how do you think this plays out in this election?

So, in any given poll, when given a ridiculous question, a certain number of respondents will respond with the most ridiculous answer available. That's how you end up with 10% or so of people reporting that they were abducted by aliens, that they believe in fairies, that they believe the sun orbits the earth, et cetera.

So, while it's best for epistemic hygiene not to believe there's result, how do you think this plays out in this election?___

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2016-07-29 23:18:18 (23 comments; 1 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

___

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2016-07-29 20:45:49 (104 comments; 16 reshares; 120 +1s; )Open 

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world."

-- Donald Trump, on Tienanmen Square

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak... as being spit on by the rest of the world."

-- Donald Trump, on Tienanmen Square___

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2016-07-29 17:55:43 (14 comments; 8 reshares; 58 +1s; )Open 

So, the 4th Circuit has struck down North Carolina's monstrous voter-suppression law. But I think the articles on how momentous this decision is -- and it's huge -- are understating its actual effect.

Because the 4th Circuit contains every plausible Southern swing state except Florida. 

So, the 4th Circuit has struck down North Carolina's monstrous voter-suppression law. But I think the articles on how momentous this decision is -- and it's huge -- are understating its actual effect.

Because the 4th Circuit contains every plausible Southern swing state except Florida. ___

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2016-07-29 17:48:29 (17 comments; 2 reshares; 23 +1s; )Open 

“I, ryan c, man, am an idiot of the ‘Legal Society’; and; am an idiot (layman, outsider) of the ‘Bar Association’; and; i am incompetent; and; am not required by any law to be competent."

I've been saying this guy is an idiot for a long time. And there's finally a notarized court filing to back me up.

“I, ryan c, man, am an idiot of the ‘Legal Society’; and; am an idiot (layman, outsider) of the ‘Bar Association’; and; i am incompetent; and; am not required by any law to be competent."

I've been saying this guy is an idiot for a long time. And there's finally a notarized court filing to back me up.___

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2016-07-29 03:46:55 (25 comments; 0 reshares; 28 +1s; )Open 

Word. Scott Adams is 100,000 roaches in a human-suit:

Word. Scott Adams is 100,000 roaches in a human-suit:___

2016-07-28 20:22:00 (4 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

Hypocrisy is a virtue when betraying one's worst convictions.

Hypocrisy is a virtue when betraying one's worst convictions.___

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2016-07-28 19:30:25 (17 comments; 2 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

important because +Lala lololvulvanoodlesfork 

important because +Lala lololvulvanoodlesfork ___

2016-07-28 16:51:20 (19 comments; 0 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

Religious conservatives are freaking out. Trump has no use for them and the Democrats are openly hostile. I feel like they have only themselves to blame: they took a path to power that burned a lot of bridges. Their strength was the ability to push their agenda while conservatives were powerful and defend it while weak through the prospect of a rollback after the next election.

Whatever your opinion of religious liberties, you have to recognize that politics has a dice-rolling quality to it. Anyone might be ascendant at any time, holding a lot of power thanks to how a the world shook out for a week. It helps immensely to have a large number of allies and religious conservatives tried hard to push people away. Prospectively, that was an obvious outcome: the religious right, in its own outlets, admitted that they were putting all their eggs in a single basket. They were proud of it and they were... more »

Religious conservatives are freaking out. Trump has no use for them and the Democrats are openly hostile. I feel like they have only themselves to blame: they took a path to power that burned a lot of bridges. Their strength was the ability to push their agenda while conservatives were powerful and defend it while weak through the prospect of a rollback after the next election.

Whatever your opinion of religious liberties, you have to recognize that politics has a dice-rolling quality to it. Anyone might be ascendant at any time, holding a lot of power thanks to how a the world shook out for a week. It helps immensely to have a large number of allies and religious conservatives tried hard to push people away. Prospectively, that was an obvious outcome: the religious right, in its own outlets, admitted that they were putting all their eggs in a single basket. They were proud of it and they were certain that they had a permanent lock on power.

I suspect the movement is finished. What the consequences will be aren't clear.

As a coda, I think they way overstepped on gay marriage. That issue seems to have done more damage than any others. And I think the reason is pretty obvious even in theological terms. If you look at the theological justifications given, it's a metaphysical-cum-moral issue. Arguments of that form make strong cases but the premises are correspondingly hard to justify.[1] So they should have recognized that it would be hard to achieve public justification.[2] Strategically, their best outcome would have been "civil unions for all", but there was too much resistance to further secularizing the government. The result was a severe blow to their legitimacy in politics. Had they took my proposed route, you'd not be hearing about discrimination cases over weddings. The wedding would have no legal aspects and it would be easier to separate sentiment from writ.

[1] Alternatively, they struggle with specification problems and other peculiar diseases of very strong arguments. Kant, for instance, has he issue that I can will as universal law anything with enough parameters to pick out only a single event.

[2] A benefit of Rawls was always how well it captured a good chunk of how we think public discourse ought to operate anyhow, pulling norms together into an extensible framework.___

2016-07-27 20:27:45 (64 comments; 2 reshares; 59 +1s; )Open 

So, Trump has endorsed Russia hacking into US cabinet secretaries' email, and -- on a cursory review of conservative media -- no one appears to have broken from formation. The Corner is calling it a masterstroke; Hot Air treats it as a mixed story; Fox News literally isn't covering it.

I'm starting to think the only thing that would dislodge the conservative movement from Trump's corner is if he did something truly horrifying, like eating a child on live television or proposing an 1.5% increase in the capital gains rate. 

So, Trump has endorsed Russia hacking into US cabinet secretaries' email, and -- on a cursory review of conservative media -- no one appears to have broken from formation. The Corner is calling it a masterstroke; Hot Air treats it as a mixed story; Fox News literally isn't covering it.

I'm starting to think the only thing that would dislodge the conservative movement from Trump's corner is if he did something truly horrifying, like eating a child on live television or proposing an 1.5% increase in the capital gains rate. ___

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2016-07-26 21:25:19 (55 comments; 13 reshares; 77 +1s; )Open 

In 2008, my wife was seriously ill. I dropped out of law school to take care of her; she lost her job. Then we lost our insurance. Then we spent our savings, and we started to sink deeper and deeper into debt. And I thought: this is how middle-class people end up in inescapable poverty.

I was afraid of getting stuck. I was angry at the people leaving me behind. It was only a shadow of what Trump supporters feel.

In a zero-sum economic world, where the only opportunity is escape, escape becomes a threat to those who remain. Communities which were poor but healthy dwindle until all that remain are the disabled, the elderly, and the dysfunctional. The threat to the world as you understand it isn't necessarily your poverty -- the absolutes of material allocation -- but others' abundance.

Your community isn't being killed by its poverty. You can live with that, and... more »

In 2008, my wife was seriously ill. I dropped out of law school to take care of her; she lost her job. Then we lost our insurance. Then we spent our savings, and we started to sink deeper and deeper into debt. And I thought: this is how middle-class people end up in inescapable poverty.

I was afraid of getting stuck. I was angry at the people leaving me behind. It was only a shadow of what Trump supporters feel.

In a zero-sum economic world, where the only opportunity is escape, escape becomes a threat to those who remain. Communities which were poor but healthy dwindle until all that remain are the disabled, the elderly, and the dysfunctional. The threat to the world as you understand it isn't necessarily your poverty -- the absolutes of material allocation -- but others' abundance.

Your community isn't being killed by its poverty. You can live with that, and have, and your parents had, and your grandparents had. It's being killed by opportunities elsewhere. It's being killed by the people who see that there's a better place for them and move on. When the property values plunge and the mills close and the mines lay off their workers, what are you left with? Who do you blame?

As your horizons close in, you become angry at the idea that anything lies beyond them. It's not envy. It's not privilege. It's that the world you live in can't be reconciled with the world that's on it's way. It's that the coal has dried up. It's that a new phosphate-refining process has been invented, and you aren't needed anymore. It's that no one can promise you that the world you know today will exist tomorrow.

It's that you remember that the America you know was great once, or at least livable, and that you're willing to follow anyone who is willing to promise you that the irreversible can be reversed. But because this bitter nostalgia isn't about absolute material conditions but relative conditions, it can't be solved by building poor white communities up.

It can only be solved by tearing their alternatives down.

Which we cannot do.

Which means that we have to live with this now and for a very long time.___

2016-07-26 18:22:40 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 21 +1s; )Open 

We know a lot about election fraud thanks to history, defectors, and observation.

Here's the thing about election fraud: it's either obvious or ineffective. "Obvious" is a weasel term, I guess, so let me give an example of obvious.

The US occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 and ran a tinpot military dictatorship there. It didn't prop one up, it ran one. The Navy wrote their constitution and the Marines ran the government. No, I mean literally, not that stupid left-wing metaphors-are-real way. As an explicit policy of the US, its military commanders were also the filling the civilian roles in Haitian government.

There were, however, elections for a variety of not really in charge institutions. Here's how those worked. To vote, you'd pick up a slip of paper with the name of the candidate you wanted and put it in the ballot box. Those slips were... more »

We know a lot about election fraud thanks to history, defectors, and observation.

Here's the thing about election fraud: it's either obvious or ineffective. "Obvious" is a weasel term, I guess, so let me give an example of obvious.

The US occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934 and ran a tinpot military dictatorship there. It didn't prop one up, it ran one. The Navy wrote their constitution and the Marines ran the government. No, I mean literally, not that stupid left-wing metaphors-are-real way. As an explicit policy of the US, its military commanders were also the filling the civilian roles in Haitian government.

There were, however, elections for a variety of not really in charge institutions. Here's how those worked. To vote, you'd pick up a slip of paper with the name of the candidate you wanted and put it in the ballot box. Those slips were passed out by the Marines and there was only one candidate to vote for. If that sounds like how Duvalier did his elections, congrats, you're drawing connections. It's also how Hussein did his. And so on. One candidate, ballots passed out by the military.

When I say "election fraud is either obvious or ineffective" I mean "election fraud is either Marines passing out ballots with only one name on it or ineffective". That's the sense of "obvious" I use.[1]

The other effective methods for election fraud are all like that. Changing the tally is pretty obvious because it requires an architecture of secrecy. That's why people's wariness at electronic voting makes a lot of sense to me, it can potentially provide that architecture of secrecy. Large scale ballot-stuffing requires lots and lots of ballots and teams upon teams or, again, an architecture of secrecy that lets you dump the fakes in at a single bottleneck you control, like a counting room. You know all that stuff about people standing around to observe the counting? That's why they're there, preventing that architecture of secrecy needed to let the counters make the results, if you know what I mean. But accomplishing that requires sudden black-box choke points where, mysteriously, accountability entirely disappears and observation is completely forbidden.

Less[2] tweedy methods like having people vote multiple times require large organizations acting in public. These are obvious and everyone knows they're happening; they require the buy-in of other organizations, like police. They advertise for fraudsters. Seriously: it's a job you get hired for, explicitly, or a bounty is paid.[3] If you lived in a place where it happens, you'd know who was involved because they'd tell you. Usually they'd tell you right before basically kidnapping you to use a multi-voter, changing you clothes constantly and carting you from polling place to polling place.[4] They succeed because no individual vote is obviously fraudulent even if the operation as a whole is.

I'm being a bit disingenuous here. The "ineffective" methods are mostly the same ones, mechanically, just done on a smaller scale. Some intimidation at a few places. A couple miscounts, here and there. A few hundred or thousand duplicate votes. These are less obvious because they aren't large and they're not Marines passing out ballots. But that means their effect size is naturally smaller. And, in smaller elections, there's less space to hide them. The proportion of fraud matters both to effectiveness and secrecy. A higher proportion of fraud is more effective and more obvious. A lower proportion, less effective but also less obvious. So anything not obvious[5] is only effective if an election is really close. The election needs to be decided by a few thousand votes, at most, with millions cast.

If fraud is obvious or ineffective, why bother? First: people aren't always that bright, never attribute to Machiavellian genius what can best be explained by Machiavellian incompetence.[6]

Second, though, elections serve a lot of important purposes. One is that they have an reifiable legitimacy: the winner of an election has the support of most people and, ipso facto, most of the manpower which could be used to take the position by force. Before we think anything else about democracy, think about how winning an election is a really good sign that you could, gauntlets down and roses picked, most plausibly win the game of Bigger Army Diplomacy. The more people accept the idea that elections determine political outcomes, the more likely that the winner could assemble a bigger army; many of the loser's supporters will accept the loss and the winner's supporters will be incensed. When I said "if Trump isn't the nominee, there will be riots and there should be", I meant it and now you know what I meant.[7]

They also fulfill a perfectly reasonable idea of "public will".[8] Take a tally of all the opinions, and the most commonly held is the "aggregate" opinion. This has flaws, but it also makes intuitive sense. In fact, it makes so much intuitive sense that many ideas which people propose to improve elections take this idea of public will as their starting point. They just see how different ways of measuring can have different results. Many though just rely on our improved understanding of statistics to create systems which can be accurately described as "measure twice, cut once". This idea is so reasonable that proposals offered by way of disagreement are, in many ways, mostly about improving accuracy.[9]

They also have a weirder role. They're obvious. The outcome of an election, fraudulent or legit, is obvious. There's a winner. People tend to know if they'd care who it was. This has excellent implications for succession if you think about the number of wars fought over uncertain lines of succession in monarchies. I can bring it up and you know about it. That's actually huge. I spent two paragraphs making the meaning of "obvious" obvious. Being obvious is a big deal.

So is winning the argument. Winning the argument with friends, family, coworkers, and others, society wide, every day. That's the bedrock of politics, in the end, even in authoritarian states. How you win arguments isn't obvious. In fact, "winning the argument" needs scare quotes to properly contain it. I'm "winning the argument" about policing right now. I'm not talking to many people about policing. A combination of cellphone video, stagnant policy landscape, and a large head of pressure built by people like Radley Balko have pushed a lot of the abuses I've harped on for years into the public's attention. Opinions are changing. I'm "winning the argument" without even arguing myself. A lot of that winning is happening in the more classic way of debaitng with people; I'm just not doing the debating myself. Those classic cases are winning their particular argument, but "winning the argument", as a concept, is something all these factors do together.

When you come up against someone who supports an authoritarian regime, they can give you the result of the obviously rigged election and be a little bit disingenuous. "There were Marines passing out ballots!" "As is their patriotic duty, comrade." And on and on. This won't be an argument over facts. The facts are obvious. Your interlocutor knows them, is possibly proud of them. If facts enter, it will be forcing you to recount them and explain how election fraud works. I've written a whole article about that at this point. You're probably going to give up well in advance.

You know what just happened? The regime is winning the argument even though they really shouldn't because the fraud is obvious.[10]

What frustrates me about charges of election fraud in the United States is this issue here. When people argue that election fraud is occuring, they don't use "obvious" the right way. There aren't Marines passing out ballots. They personally never looekd into a part-time job disguising carting novelists from polling-place to polling-place. They're not referring to how all the ballots were collected into a shadowy warehouse guarded by a street gange and owned by mayor. If there's fraud involved, it's the ineffective kind. The sort which works only when the election is decided by a few thousand votes, at most, with millions cast. And that's just not the kind of election they're talking about! Most recently, it's about elections decided by millions of votes with millions cast. Just before this most recent outburst of fraud accusations, it was conservatives insisting that "fake voters" were swinging elections. Likewise, it seem unlikely that such an operation wouldn't be obvious in that Marines passing out ballots way.[11] That's just not how election fraud works.

And I mean that: it doesn't work that way. People do try it but it doesn't work. You can't swing big elections by tweaking the margins a little.

The problem, fundamentally, isn't known to me. I've got suspicions, sure. The big one is how passionate people slip into epistemic closure and the way epistemic closure lets metaphorical language become literal.[12] But knock it off. I'm tired of seeing this proposed by the loser every time. This year, it's Sanders supporters. In 2012, it was Republicans. It was Republicans in 2008, too. In 2000 Marines were passing out ballots. I mean, the Supreme Court decided the election in an actual court case.[13]

Loose talk about election fraud is very damaging. While those who make the accusation see the damage it does to their opponent, they usually don't see the wider consequences. Take a different topic. Americans grossly misperceive the amount of crime and whether crime is increasing.[14] Anxiety about safety distorts perception.[15] Likewise, building up anxieties about election fraud can distort people's perception of it. They see it everywhere and it feels obvious even though they can't point to any Marines. That's very bad. People start becoming suspicious of elections themselves; not just particular elections, the whole democratic framework becomes suspect. As Hannah Arendt points out, the bedrock of authoritarianism is the collapse of political trust into a kind of conspiratorial cynicism. That's really super bad. That's how you get Marines passing out ballots.

I don't consider this an idealistic case. Remember my merits of elections above: Bigger Army Diplomacy, obviousness, winnding the argument, public will. Only one would qualify as "idealistic". The rest are wholly cynical and very literally Machiavellian.[16] They're very good reasons to protect the mechanism from fraud. They're also very good reasons to protect its legitimacy from loose accusations. The system itself isn't perfect, there are lots of problems in it, from low voter engagement to long lines, to the inability to reduce long lines if turnout is unexpectedly high. But these things aren't fraud. Election fraud is either obvious[5] or ineffective. It's not the former this year.



[1] Don't use it any other way. Had all of you made a commitment to "obvious" being obvious, I'd never have had to write two paragraphs about Haitian history and American assholery to explain what "obvious" means. Or don't. Maybe you want two paragraphs. Jerk.

[2] Read: more.

[3] It's an interesting thing, if you look it up.

[4] This is, in fact, how Edgar Allen Poe died.

[5] Remember: obvious means "Marines passing out ballots", that's our paradigmatic case.

[6] We had this phrase, "Dunning-Krueger Machiavellians", to describe people who think they're carrying out a secret and insanely clever plot which is, in fact, transparently obvious[5] and dumb.

[7] Side concerns about voter engagement and so on should be thought about carefully before raised; start with whether disengaged voters even have a candidate to fight for. I'm not saying you're wrong, just don't try my patience with cute bullshit.

[8] Reasonable, not right. There're lots of arguments about what the public will is or how you might measure it. I'll bet that the idea "what the majority says" is on the list from every brainstorming session on the topic, though. And I'll also bet that it's pretty rare for it to just get struck down immediatel along with the idea that maybe the public will is sandwiches. It's a brainstorming session, we just write down everything, even if it's a sly attempt to suggest we break for lunch

[9] Or "fidelity", really. Like converting between waves and digital signals. How do you make a stairstep pattern a wave? A wave a stairstep? How close is "close enough" or, considering our main topic, what methods really are "good enough for government work"?

[10] Remember: obvious means Marines passing out ballots, that's our paradigmatic case and very likely the immediate one as well.

[11] More precisely, in that "I and everyone I know have worked as a 'fake voter' before, or at least applied" way.

[12] Seriously, I've noticed ths a lot. Metaphors are used as linguistic shorthand. Someone "flies like an eagle" so I don't need to write a whole passage about strength and beauty. It's like an acronym: "Bob is an E.A.G.L.E.". But there's a tendency for feedback loops to forget that the metaphor is shorthand, to go from "Bob is an E.A.G.L.E." to "Bob is an EAGLE" to "watch out, I hear that Bob soars through the air and attacks people with his talons, according to Trusted News Source, he's attacked several people this year, bearing them aloft to his grim perch where they shall soon join the macabre assemblage of bones below".

[13] Not that it mattered, if the Constitution were followed, the House would have voted because neither Bush nor Gore would have a majority of Electors. The Republicans controlled the House, so there's no prize for guessing how it would go. The court case itself and the decision can be (metaphorically) litigated until the end of time, but the easiest answer was that Florida's election was too close and, so, neither infinite recounts nor arbitrarily stoppig them really yielded the correct result. What makes that answer easy is Republican control of the House: both stopping the recounts and declaring the Florida balloting null had the same result in practice, it's just that the latter has more constitutional legitimacy and less "the counters decide the election".

[14] Notice how the graphs align, too. That seems like a 9/11 effect. The perception of crime seems to be related to anxiety about safety, not crime. Septemeber 11 wasn't about street crime, but it did a lot of damage to people's sense of safety. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/17/despite-lower-crime-rates-support-for-gun-rights-increases/ft_15-04-01_guns_crimerate/

[15] Anyone who remembers an anxiety attack can testify to this. It has an immediacy there which can be easy to miss in daily life.

[16] Though famous for The Prince, Machiavelli was most interested in republicanism with that kind of idealistic pragmatism which characterized the Renaissance. He would not have seen these as "cynical". We've lost the sense of "natural" he would have used to explain this. I sometimes talk about "post-cynicism", this is what I'm talking about.___

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2016-07-25 23:59:33 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

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2016-07-25 01:19:34 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Mostly I emphasize how the economic populism in the Trump movement isn't new. On economic issues, poor whites and blacks in the South were naturally aligned. It should surprise no one, then, that Jim Crow followed the defeat of a major Southern populist movement which had been building an alliance with blacks. The great fear of Southerners going back before the revolution has always been an alliance between the indentured and free workers. It messed with that "cavalier utopia" so many second sons dreamed of.

Racialization of the welfare state turned Southern whites against economic populism, sort of. Whites were still on board with the welfare state, they simply saw black people as undeserving. With no way to cut off blacks, they'd rather shut it all down. So they did.*

But the focus is now on immigrants. They're the new bogeyman

Immigrants are people... more »

Mostly I emphasize how the economic populism in the Trump movement isn't new. On economic issues, poor whites and blacks in the South were naturally aligned. It should surprise no one, then, that Jim Crow followed the defeat of a major Southern populist movement which had been building an alliance with blacks. The great fear of Southerners going back before the revolution has always been an alliance between the indentured and free workers. It messed with that "cavalier utopia" so many second sons dreamed of.

Racialization of the welfare state turned Southern whites against economic populism, sort of. Whites were still on board with the welfare state, they simply saw black people as undeserving. With no way to cut off blacks, they'd rather shut it all down. So they did.*

But the focus is now on immigrants. They're the new bogeyman

Immigrants are people they can do something about. So good news: the welfare state is gaining acceptance because the people whites most want off the rolls can, in fact, be kicked off essentially on account of race.

Hopefully, Andy actually picked up that bulk hard liquor.

*And this gets fractal. Whites overestimate crime, drug use, and so on among blacks. So when they implement policies meant to restrict welfare targeting criminals and druggies and other ne'er do wells, they don't expect to see the welfare rolls look the same. But they do; because blacks are more upright than whites on some measures, no less on others, and an uneducated black man is no more able to navigate welfare than an uneducated white man. People aren't that different, so radical results were never in the offing.___

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2016-07-23 04:28:44 (15 comments; 0 reshares; 12 +1s; )Open 

Okay, what?

Okay, what?___

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2016-07-22 23:36:22 (60 comments; 1 reshares; 25 +1s; )Open 

No. Because appointing someone other than a pro-life, bank-deregulating empty suit isn't about shoring up a left flank. It's about picking a VP which actually plays to the dynamics of the race.

The "left flank" of this race cuts right through the edge of Trump's coalition. For educated white professionals, there's genuinely no real dispute: even in the conservative fraction of those voters, they're inclined to vote for austere economic policy and lower taxes, but they're not particularly inclined to vote for Trump in large numbers. Because they're often looking for actual policy: policies which support large corporations, free trade, and laissez-faire economics.

A large portion of Trump's base -- white voters without post-secondary education -- hates big banks and large corporations as much as the average Occupier does. Unlike the Republican... more »

No. Because appointing someone other than a pro-life, bank-deregulating empty suit isn't about shoring up a left flank. It's about picking a VP which actually plays to the dynamics of the race.

The "left flank" of this race cuts right through the edge of Trump's coalition. For educated white professionals, there's genuinely no real dispute: even in the conservative fraction of those voters, they're inclined to vote for austere economic policy and lower taxes, but they're not particularly inclined to vote for Trump in large numbers. Because they're often looking for actual policy: policies which support large corporations, free trade, and laissez-faire economics.

A large portion of Trump's base -- white voters without post-secondary education -- hates big banks and large corporations as much as the average Occupier does. Unlike the Republican voters of previous races, who (eventually) voted for whomever they were told to vote for, Trump's base expects the President to actually do something about the worsening economic conditions across much of low-wage, rural America.

Trump promises that he will take the gains which went to non-white Americans, expropriate them, and hand them over to the white majority. That is horrifying, but in a completely amoral sense, it's easy to see why some part of the country might be enthusiastic about that sort of zero-sum banditry against the country's most vulnerable.

Clinton, as it stands, promises nothing but small-bore tinkering with economic policy. Which is not enough. It's like she doesn't even recognize why she nearly lost to a not-ready-for-prime-time ideologue: she was offering more of the same to a part of the country which, in absolute terms, is still doing better than most, but which in relative terms has been in decline since the beginning of this century.

If she wants to cut into Trump's numbers rather than simply double-down on her own, she needs to make a choice which offers, or at least promises to offer, something which is better than the alternative. And that means some read-meat populism, not a candidate which stands for precisely the same trends which nearly lost her the nomination.___

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2016-07-22 04:12:31 (220 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s; )Open 

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2016-07-22 02:53:31 (45 comments; 0 reshares; 36 +1s; )Open 

Capsule Review, RNC Capstone Speech: Trump of the Will. Cristalnacht. I have never seen such genuinely terrifying incoherent rage in American politics.

Capsule Review, RNC Capstone Speech: Trump of the Will. Cristalnacht. I have never seen such genuinely terrifying incoherent rage in American politics.___

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2016-07-21 23:53:30 (32 comments; 3 reshares; 32 +1s; )Open 

This is not unprecedented. The city of Toronto, upon discovering that it couldn't impeach or recall Rob Ford for smoking crack on the job and possibly threatening to kill private citizens over the video of it, made Rob Ford king of Toronto. The City Council took away all of his powers and left the office of mayor effectively powerless.

This is not unprecedented. The city of Toronto, upon discovering that it couldn't impeach or recall Rob Ford for smoking crack on the job and possibly threatening to kill private citizens over the video of it, made Rob Ford king of Toronto. The City Council took away all of his powers and left the office of mayor effectively powerless.___

2016-07-21 02:42:11 (13 comments; 0 reshares; 31 +1s; )Open 

Of "things which might save America," Cruz's amoral careerist opportunism was not high on my list.

Of "things which might save America," Cruz's amoral careerist opportunism was not high on my list.___

2016-07-21 01:52:17 (19 comments; 2 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

A: For god's sake did Laura Ingraham finish her speech with a literal sieg heil?

S: Yup, looks like it.

A: Does Google Shopping Express still deliver liquor in bulk?

S: Okay, good.

A: For god's sake did Laura Ingraham finish her speech with a literal sieg heil?

S: Yup, looks like it.

A: Does Google Shopping Express still deliver liquor in bulk?

S: Okay, good.___

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2016-07-19 21:39:44 (56 comments; 4 reshares; 37 +1s; )Open 

“A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds. Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make peopleb... more »

“A mixture of gullibility and cynicism had been an outstanding characteristic of mob mentality before it became an everyday phenomenon of masses. In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. The mixture in itself was remarkable enough, because it spelled the end of the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds. Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow. The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness."

— Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

(Quote, and the application thereof, via Adam Serwer.)___

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2016-07-19 19:47:18 (17 comments; 2 reshares; 50 +1s; )Open 

Metaphorical shitshow becomes literal shitshow.

Metaphorical shitshow becomes literal shitshow.___

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2016-07-19 04:36:08 (11 comments; 3 reshares; 30 +1s; )Open 

Melania Trump stole a whole paragraph from Michelle Obama's speech.

Click to hear Melania and follow Michelle's words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53Ei2dSDsFY&feature=youtu.be&t=2m4s

It's literally a plagiarized passage about the importance of hard work. ~@Matt Pierce, LA Times

Melania Trump stole a whole paragraph from Michelle Obama's speech.

Click to hear Melania and follow Michelle's words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53Ei2dSDsFY&feature=youtu.be&t=2m4s

It's literally a plagiarized passage about the importance of hard work. ~@Matt Pierce, LA Times___

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2016-07-18 20:45:39 (90 comments; 2 reshares; 29 +1s; )Open 

This is as trivial as it is true.

Across time and across cultures, men have been responsible for the vast majority of violence. This article attempts to make out that perfect regularity to be unexplained or somehow variable, but it isn't: men are the problem, at all places and in all times, and they are so consistently the problem that it almost strains credulity to blame it on nurture rather than nature. I mean, everywhere else in primate biology, testosterone levels (and testosterone receptivity) are highly correlated with use of violence. There is no reason to believe that humans are an exception.

Lumping the problem together this way doesn't even propose a solution: violence is a problem which mostly afflicts men, just as ovarian cancer is a problem which mostly afflicts women. It's difficult to read an article that says, trivially, "and the problem is men"... more »

This is as trivial as it is true.

Across time and across cultures, men have been responsible for the vast majority of violence. This article attempts to make out that perfect regularity to be unexplained or somehow variable, but it isn't: men are the problem, at all places and in all times, and they are so consistently the problem that it almost strains credulity to blame it on nurture rather than nature. I mean, everywhere else in primate biology, testosterone levels (and testosterone receptivity) are highly correlated with use of violence. There is no reason to believe that humans are an exception.

Lumping the problem together this way doesn't even propose a solution: violence is a problem which mostly afflicts men, just as ovarian cancer is a problem which mostly afflicts women. It's difficult to read an article that says, trivially, "and the problem is men" and take the proposed solution to be anything other than "fuck men's problems with violence (but black men in particular) until men, as a class, get their shit together."

And fine, okay, if you want to take the point as being "there are large numbers of men who are defective in a way that virtually no women are," I'll happily wave that banner. But the only solution to that I see is gendercide. I don't see anyone actually advocating for that. But, worse, this fails to engage anywhere where its analysis might be complicated by the actual facts on the ground.

Once you look at the rates of victimization in the types of crime discussed, especially around police shootings, it's pretty clear that men aren't just the perpetrators, but also the supermajority of its victims. Only 1.7% of the people shot by cops every year are women. About 75% of non-police homicide victims are men. If you look at stranger homicides, including deaths due to mass shooters, the number shoots up to 90%. The only area of homicide that's dominated by women victims is intimate partner homicide, and the best known solutions to that are completely orthogonal to the problems with state violence and mass incarceration.

Do I see anything about how policing strategies are often driven by using notional (and relatively low and sharply declining) rates of public violence against women as a warrant for broken-windows policing? Not really. How about the strongly male-biased patterns of victimization in the various types of violence discussed? Nope, not that either. How about the uncomfortable willingness of mainstream feminist/criminal-justice lobby groups to pressure states and municipalities to drop measures which create police accountability? That was mostly prior to the 2000s, but still -- there's nothing there.

Men are at fault here, sure. But there's nothing unusual or helpful about explaining that men are at fault. Unless you have a proposal to eliminate or make germline-level changes to human males, explaining that the thing which is always true is still true won't solve your problem. ___

2016-07-16 05:34:16 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

+Faruk Ahmet writes, "What else concerns you about the protests?"

My response: Only that some idiot Kemalist lieutenant or other small-time actor will actually attempt to do what the military's done in the past, except without the competence or consent of the military as a whole, and it'll be used to justify extraordinarily repressive measures.

So not really concerns about the protests proper, but concerns about the way in which escalation might be used as a way to frame this as a more bilaterally problematic conflict than it has previously been.

Yeah.

I'd like to highlight +Faruk Ahmet's response to my question about the possibility of a secularist coup in Turkey, and comments on the unusual stability of post-coup governments in Turkey:

It shouldn't be that surprising, I guess, since the general stability of the governments successing the coups was a result, not completely, but largely, of them being an almost natural extensions of the army—or of the discourse and politics (Kemalism) the army represented. Until the mid-50s, it was a single-party regime, and the line between the army and Atatürk's party CHP was a really fine one. The coups were The Regime's way of re-winding the clock. This is almost not even a metaphor—It's funny how periodic it was, every ten years, like clockwork: 1960, 1971, 1980... The last successful intervention of the army was in 1997. Ten years after that came the Ergenekon Trials—the current ruling party AKP's crackdown on the military.

Is there still a lingering fear of a coup? Technically, I guess that's not impossible, and some liberal intellectuals voice their suspicions in this regard from time to time but it'd be a tremendous surprise to everyone if it were to happen. AKP did its best to make sure, with Ergenekon, that the suppression of the military was as complete as possible. I don't even know the current High Commander's name, and for a Turkish citizen, not knowing the High Commander's name was unthinkable just 5 years ago.

Maybe we should wait for another 5 years, for the 10th year anniversary of Ergenekon and see if the Clock-of-Coup is still working.

In other words, Erdogan's prosecution of high-ranking military commanders seems to have done its job: the Kemalist old-guard which otherwise might have conducted a coup in response to public unrest now seems unable to do so. Which alleviates some of my concerns about the ongoing Turkish protests.___+Faruk Ahmet writes, "What else concerns you about the protests?"

My response: Only that some idiot Kemalist lieutenant or other small-time actor will actually attempt to do what the military's done in the past, except without the competence or consent of the military as a whole, and it'll be used to justify extraordinarily repressive measures.

So not really concerns about the protests proper, but concerns about the way in which escalation might be used as a way to frame this as a more bilaterally problematic conflict than it has previously been.

Yeah.

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2016-07-16 00:03:34 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 16 +1s; )Open 

A counterexample to Betteridge's Law.

A counterexample to Betteridge's Law.___

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