Open Thread and Link Farm, The Bus Will Show Up Anytime Edition

  1. “If we take all this at face value, then compared to the cannabis of the 1960s, our modern weed is about 3 x 40 x 7 x 15 times stronger, which makes one modern joint equivalent to 12,600 joints of the 1960s variety!”
  2. The Trump Administration’s Onslaught Against Trans Rights Continues
    “Trans rights don’t narrow the scope of acceptable gender expressions for cis people; they inevitably broaden them. The Trump administration’s filing confirms what transgender advocates have been warning us for years: When we try to set firm limits on who’s allowed to identify as a woman, or what women are allowed to look like, cisgender women invariably suffer too.”
  3. California Is Blaming Prison Reform for Incarcerated Fire Fighting Labor Shortage
  4. The Electoral College gives the GOP a huge advantage, in one chart – Vox
    Any time the Republicans lose the popular vote in a close election, they have a 65% chance of winning the presidency. This, of course, means that the GOP is freer to pursue extremism (like choosing Trump as their presidential nominee), because they don’t need to care about what most voters want.
  5. Proposed 2020 Ballot Measure in Oregon Could Limit Self-Checkout Machines – Blogtown – Portland Mercury
    A conservative think tank says the measure “would force retailers across Oregon to downsize their self-service checkout areas to no more than two kiosks per store.” But that isn’t true, as far as I can tell. It just says there needs to be one employee to help per two kiosks – so there could be sixteen, as long as eight employees were assigned to helping with them. Which brings up the question, which serves more customers faster, a single cashier or an employee with two self-checkout kiosks?
  6. Young people: ‘Trans people should use whichever bathroom they want’
    This bodes well! (I’m unclear on if the survey’s sampling methodology was good, however.)
  7. I am briefly interviewed at the “Living ~400lbs” blog.
    As I understand it, this is the first of a planned series of interviews about being fat with various people. Occasional “Alas” comment-writer Charles took the photo!
  8. Opinion | We Deported Him to a Land He’d Never Seen, and Now He’s Dead – The New York Times(And an alternative link.)
    This should be inexcusable. He died because he was deported to Iraq, where he doesn’t speak the language, and without the ability to communicate he was unable to get treatment for his diabetes.
  9. FAIR Act: House passes a bill to ban mandatory arbitration – Vox
    If this bill became law, it would restore the rights of millions of workers to sue their employers. Also, I think this article deserves some sort of award for understatement when it says “the bill may face resistance from Republicans in the Senate.” Ya think?
  10. An AI learned to play hide-and-seek. The strategies it came up with were astounding. – Vox
  11. Is Quillette Right? Are Scientists Afraid to Discuss Race? (Spoiler: No) | Fardels Bear

    “Why does Quillette claim that scientists are afraid to discuss race given the wealth of contrary evidence? Well, it is because much of this literature on race and science serves to debunk Quillette‘s warmed-over 19th century approaches to race.” Reminder: You’re not allowed to use “Alas” to argue for “race realism,” “scientific racism,” etc..
  12. Maine Poised To Be First State To Use Ranked Choice Voting In A Presidential Election | HuffPost
    “… voters will rank their choices for president in the general election instead of choosing just one (if there are more than two candidates on the ballot). If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the candidate with the least first-place votes gets eliminated. The second choice votes of everyone who voted for the eliminated candidate then get distributed to those remaining. The process continues until a candidate gets a majority of the vote.”
  13. A Grieving Father Is Standing Trial for Criticizing a Judge on Facebook – Reason.com
    As far as I know, this is a one-off case, not a systemic problem of people being jailed for public criticism of judges. But it’s still appalling af.
  14. Yes, You Are On The Right – Matt Jameson at Arc Digital
    If someone spends all their public time arguing for the right and sneering at the left, and never supports liberal causes in any significant way, it’s fair to say they’re on the right.
  15. Brett Kavanaugh’s impeachment won’t happen. But calling for it is still useful.
    “As a bare five-member majority of the Court (80 percent of which have been appointed by presidents who first obtained office despite losing the popular vote) continues to aggrandize power to itself, Democrats will increasingly consider constitutionally permissible measures like expanding the size of the court. Revealing the raw power politics behind Kavanaugh’s appointment in particular and Republican indifference to his character (or his truthfulness when testifying before them) can be an important part of this case, if it turns out to be necessary.”
  16. Is this art? Your answer can reveal a surprising amount about your politics. – VoxDisliking Trump is more highly correlated with thinking the sketch “Coffee Thyme” is art, than it is with being a college graduate.
  17. Gender-neutral bathrooms can save women from waiting forever in line | News | The Guardian
  18. Missing woman “finds herself” after intense search – CBS News
    The woman was actually in the search party, without realizing that the “lost” person being searched for was herself.
  19. Elizabeth Warren Wants a Wealth Tax. How Would That Even Work? – The New York Times and alternative link.
    I like the idea of a wealth tax, but I’m not sure if it would work. OTOH, it could work less well than I’d like, and still be better than our status quo.
  20. The bus art illustrating this post is by Portuguese street artist Odeith. Thanks to occasional “Alas” comment-writer Ben for sending me the bus image.

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90 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, The Bus Will Show Up Anytime Edition

  1. 1
    Grace Annam says:

    Regarding #13: he was found “not guilty” in 26 minutes of deliberation, apparently.

    https://reason.com/2019/09/20/a-michigan-man-has-been-acquitted-by-a-jury-for-criticizing-a-county-judge-on-facebook/

    Grace

  2. 2
    Gracchus says:

    While the prosecution of the Michigan guy probably doesn’t make sense, it sounds like he does need some help – the phenomenon of white men raging against the court system and their ex-wives, and claiming some kind of conspiracy while they reserve the right to unilaterally determine what is good for their child (without input from the family care system or the child’s other parent) is a scenario that all too often ends in tragedy. I am glad to see in this case it didn’t.

  3. 3
    Tatterdemalion1983 says:

    Re #14: “If someone spends all their public time arguing for the right and sneering at the left, and never supports liberal causes in any significant way, it’s fair to say they’re on the right.” Taken literally, for a sufficiently weak value of “significant”, this is tautologically true. But I don’t think anyone would think, or does think, that such people are left-wingers, which makes me suspect that either your value of “significant” is too high, or that you’re thinking of people it’s not literally true when of when you write it. Who did you have in mind? As obvious examples of possible points of dissent, I think that Scott Alexander is obviously left-of-centre, and while I don’t know enough about their writings to be as confident, what I have seen makes me think that e.g. Brett Weinstein, Sam Harris and Stephen Pinker are too.

    Re #16, the thing they’re comparing against – education level – is a fairly weak predictor in its own right; if you want to broadbrush the American political coalitions then my understanding is that “college educated whites and all minorities” vs “non college educated whites” fits quite well. But the proportion of minorities who are college educate is much lower than for whites, and so “college educated” vs “non college educated, isn’t nearly such a strong predictor.

    Re #19: the article you link too is behind a paywall, unfortunately. But the forms of taxation I’d most like to see more of are the ones related to intergenerational transfer of wealth – inheritance tax, and (here in the UK especially) property tax. There are two arguments against taxing the rich: firstly, that it will hurt the rich directly by taking away their money, and secondly, that it will hurt the poor indirectly by damaging the economy. I think that the first doesn’t matter but that the second matters a lot, and that inheritance tax is probably the form that will do so the least. It’s also the fairest form – I would rather take money from people who got it by being born than from people who got it be doing things that made other people want to give them money. And in the UK the value of property compared with everything else has increased ludicrously over the past few decades, as the population density has increased; I think that we need a superlinear property tax so that someone who owns two homes pays more than twice as much as someone who owns one, in order to encourage them to sell and hence increase the number of people who own at least one.

  4. 4
    Harlequin says:

    Took me at least 30 seconds to realize that–no, the wall isn’t hiding the bus, the wall IS the bus. Wow!

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Regarding #13: he was found “not guilty” in 26 minutes of deliberation, apparently.

    Thanks for the update, that’s good news.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Re #19: the article you link too is behind a paywall, unfortunately.

    I think you may have missed the “alternative link” I included in #19?

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Took me at least 30 seconds to realize that–no, the wall isn’t hiding the bus, the wall IS the bus. Wow!

    I know, right?

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Re. #2:

    When we try to set firm limits on who’s allowed to identify as a woman, or what women are allowed to look like, cisgender women invariably suffer too.

    That might come as news to the increasing number of female athletes who are losing competitions to men claiming female identity and competing as women.

    Re. 4:

    This article does a good job explaining how someone can win the Presidency with less than 50% of the popular vote. Aside from the obvious partisanship, it does not explain why that is significant. Given that the effects of the EC are well known – that the effect of your vote for President stops at the State line – the “popular vote” in a Presidential election is not a national popular vote, it is the sum of the popular votes across the 50 States and is clearly different from what the popular vote would be if the EC didn’t exist and the President was elected by a direct nationwide popular vote.

    So, unless your issue is a partisan “OMG it helps Republicans get elected President”, I don’t see why the fact that someone can win the EC vote without carrying a majority of the sum of the State popular votes is particularly an issue. And if the Democratic party has an issue with this, perhaps they might want to modify their party platform to appeal to more people outside of heavily urbanized States. Take Sen. Sanders, for example. He identifies with many Democratic platform principles, but there’s no way he’s going to sign on for the extreme anti-firearm proposals that some of the other Democratic contenders support because that simply won’t fly in his chiefly rural State.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    Re. #15:

    In response to a new book by two New York Times reporters about Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination that found further corroboration for accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior,

    Digging up an old claim that the supposed victim doesn’t remember and that four people supposedly present say they never and that no direct witnesses have stated they saw happen is “further corroboration”?

    “Four of the nine justices on the Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who entered the White House without having won the popular vote.”

    Why is that significant?

  10. 10
    J. Squid says:

    the increasing number of female athletes who are losing competitions to men claiming female identity and competing as women.

    Wow. Do you understand what you just stated by making that declaration? Do you mean to? Do you care?

  11. 11
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    That might come as news to the increasing number of female athletes who are losing competitions to men claiming female identity and competing as women.

    Ron, as a long-time contributor here, you know better. There is a place on Alas for discussions of how we define “man” and “woman”. That place is the MintGarden. You have posted there before, so you know how to find it. You are welcome to discuss this further over there, and nowhere else on Alas. I will reply over there.

    Jake, your response has my complete sympathy, and was civil, so thank you for that. Please continue this over at the MintGarden. Thank you.

    Grace

  12. 12
    AJD says:

    the “popular vote” in a Presidential election is… clearly different from what the popular vote would be if the EC didn’t exist

    Why is this “clear”? It seems to me you are advancing a hypothesis that, while not ludicrous, is at best seriously wanting evidence.

    “Four of the nine justices on the Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who entered the White House without having won the popular vote.”

    Why is that significant?

    Because they were appointed by a ruler who took power against the expressed will of the people he governed, and therefore had no legitimate right to rule, of course.

  13. 13
    Kate says:

    So, unless your issue is a partisan “OMG it helps Republicans get elected President”, I don’t see why the fact that someone can win the EC vote without carrying a majority of the sum of the State popular votes is particularly an issue.

    I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t understand if your side was the one frequently losing the presidency, not controlling the senate and underrepresented in congress despite being supported by a clear majority of voters. No, you would not be o.k. with that. No one would.
    What makes it even worse, is that the system in place was built to uphold white supremacy. It was designed to increase the influence of slave states, then Jim Crow states and now, white evangelical Christian men and their wives.
    Seriously, does it never give you pause that every single racial and religious minority has a tendency to vote against your party to a greater or lesser degree…even those which tend to be more wealthy on average, more likely to own small businesses, more socially conservative (non-white evangelicals, for example) and therefore have every reason to vote conservative…except the white Christian supremacy. Because it should.

  14. 14
    Gracchus says:

    @Kate: The history of minority voting behaviour is very illustrative. In the 80s and early 90s many minorities were more likely to vote Republican – Asian-Americans voted en masse for Bush Snr in 1992, and (with dark comedy) Middle-Eastern Americans voted by a narrow margin for Bush Jr in 2000. But this was before the Republican party’s wholesale conversion into a white nationalist party (although don’t get me wrong, the seeds were there even in ’92).

  15. 15
    nobody.really says:

    I’ve always wanted to see an Indiana Jones style adventure film about a Nigerian archaeologist who uses fantastic skills to steal Benin artifacts from western museums and return them to Nigeria.

    Can’t help you there. But how ‘bout a Chinese version? China is a growing film market. And lo and behold, here’s a plot outline….

  16. 16
    J. Squid says:

    I think you’ve got it wrong on #5. Copying and pasting the text from the body of the proposed ballot measure results in the following:

    Section 3. Restriction on Number of Self-Service Checkouts in Grocery Stores Grocery stores cannot have more than two self-service checkout stations operating at any one time per location.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    Squid, clearly you’re right, and I did get it wrong.

    Which I find weird, because I read it pretty carefully. All I can think of is I either clicked on the wrong document, or read the wrong part of the proposed law.

    In any case, thanks for catching that!

  18. 18
    J. Squid says:

    Now that we’ve got that cleared up!

    I’m totally in favor of abolishig self-service checkouts at the grocery altogether. I remember when the first one’s showed up at the Glisan Fred Meyer.

    “I guess they’re getting rid of your job,” I said to the cashier.

    “No, not at all. They promised not to eliminate any cash register jobs,” she replied.

    “And you believed that? Well, I’m never going to use one.”

    Guess what? They have a lot fewer cashiers than they used to have. And I’ve kept my promise.

    If we’re going to automate all “unskilled” labor out of existence, we either need a UBI or a federal jobs guarantee. Or we can just become a 3rd world country. I’m pretty sure we’ve collectively decided on that last one.

  19. 19
    Kate says:

    Good point, Gracchus @14. I was not clear, but I was referring specifically to the contemporary Republican party. I think of that as starting with the Tea Party meltdown in response to the Obama presidency. That’s when I see the faction of the party that wanted to reach out to conservative people of color lose that fight.

  20. 20
    Eytan Zweig says:

    J. Squid @18 – I support the existance of self-service registers because they provide an accessibility solution to several groups of people, including people with hearing/communication disorders, people who don’t speak the majority language (but whose minority langauge can be made into an option in the automated system), and people with social anxiety issues that prefer to avoid contact with unfamiliar people. They also can enable smaller businesses to survive financially if they cannot afford another employee. So I think the measure has it just right – allow a small amount of self-service registers in a shop to serve the people who may need them, but prevent larger shops from replacing their cashier staff en mass with them.

    (Anecdotally, the local M&S didn’t seem to replace a large amount their permanent cashiers; I still see them around. But they used to hire a lot of teenagers in the summer/holiday months as part-time support, and the self-service registers seem to have killed off that practice)

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    AJD @12:

    Why is this “clear”? It seems to me you are advancing a hypothesis that, while not ludicrous, is at best seriously wanting evidence.

    Then you should find this NPR essay interesting. Fairvote maintains that the same thing occurred in 2012, but they don’t provide the backing data.

    The sum of the State popular votes during a Presidential election does not equal a measure of the will of the electorate. Only an election based on a nationwide popular vote without regard to State borders would do that. Pres. Trump did not lose the national popular vote for the simple reason that we didn’t hold one. You can’t lose (or win) an election that wasn’t held.

    Kate @ 13:

    I find it hard to believe that you wouldn’t understand if your side was the one frequently losing the Presidency, not controlling the Senate and underrepresented in Congress despite being supported by a clear majority of voters.

    I wouldn’t be happy about it, but I wouldn’t claim that the Presidency was lost despite winning the popular vote. It’s valid to propose that perhaps we should get rid of the EC and hold a national popular vote for the Presidency. It’s not valid to claim that it was held and Trump lost. With regards to the Senate – people in different regions of the country have different attitudes on what the proper role of government is. I’ll wager that it breaks down along the lines of whether a given State has a lot of urban residents or not. The Senate was never meant to represent the people at large. The House was, and there’s legitimate complaints to be entertained with regards to gerrymandering, but it cuts both ways (for example, if you take New York State’s last Gubernatorial vote of D vs R and proportionally assigned House reps by party, the R’s would pick up 7 or 8 seats more). As long as we have a House that represents the people on the basis of where they live instead of what party they belong to, the Democratic party’s disproportionate attraction towards urban dwellers is always going to cause the system to favor the GOP to some degree.

    Grace @11:

    There is a place on Alas for discussions of how we define “man” and “woman”.

    I was commenting on an exact quote from what was posted on this thread for #2. If it’s posted and quoted here I can’t comment on it here? Maybe the issue is that #2 should have been posted in Mint Garden. But I won’t belabor the point further if you prefer.

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    J. Squid – I only use the self-service terminals at a store if I am absolutely pressed for time. But then, I once worked as a grocery store cashier (back before lasers were more than a lab curiosity and you had to push a lot of buttons and occasionally do math).

    AJD:

    Because they were appointed by a ruler who took power against the expressed will of the people he governed, and therefore had no legitimate right to rule, of course.

    One of the major issues that we have not just in the U.S. but also in countries such as Poland and England is that the population as a whole perceives that our governments are infested with people (often described using the word “elite”) who think that they are there to rule over the people instead of govern for them. And yes, certainly both parties in the U.S. have people like this in them holding elective office. I believe it to be one of the reasons for the genesis of the Tea Party Movement and one of the reasons that Trump got elected.

    Kate @ 13:

    Seriously, does it never give you pause that every single racial and religious minority has a tendency to vote against your party ….

    Given that I have voted for one or more Democratic candidates in pretty much every general election held since I can remember I believe that I’m justified in saying that the GOP is not my party. Neither is any other party. I’m tempted to quote Marx here (Groucho, not Karl).

  23. 23
    AJD says:

    the “popular vote” in a Presidential election is… clearly different from what the popular vote would be if the EC didn’t exist

    Why is this “clear”? It seems to me you are advancing a hypothesis that, while not ludicrous, is at best seriously wanting evidence.

    Then you should find this NPR essay interesting. Fairvote maintains that the same thing occurred in 2012, but they don’t provide the backing data.

    That essay is very interesting! It doesn’t really demonstrate that the result would have been “clearly different”, however.

  24. 24
    AJD says:

    Because they were appointed by a ruler who took power against the expressed will of the people he governed, and therefore had no legitimate right to rule, of course.

    One of the major issues that we have not just in the U.S. but also in countries such as Poland and England is that the population as a whole perceives that our governments are infested with people (often described using the word “elite”) who think that they are there to rule over the people instead of govern for them. And yes, certainly both parties in the U.S. have people like this in them holding elective office. I believe it to be one of the reasons for the genesis of the Tea Party Movement and one of the reasons that Trump got elected.

    I feel you are picking on word choice instead of engaging with the substance of what I said.

  25. 25
    J. Squid says:

    RonF @21:

    I was commenting on an exact quote from what was posted on this thread for #2.

    Cool, cool. And then you were directed to the MintGarden to continue discussion.

    Can you check in over there and answer the questions that your comment raised?

  26. 26
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    I was commenting on an exact quote from what was posted on this thread for #2. If it’s posted and quoted here I can’t comment on it here?

    Ron.

    You have three choices:

    1. Stop commenting on trans topics entirely, anywhere on Alas.

    2. Discuss trans topics in a way which does not make it a chore for trans people to participate here. That includes not labelling trans women as men, even implicitly. If you don’t know how to do this, see options 1 and 3.

    3. Discuss whether trans women are men in the MintGarden.

    Do not comment on trans issues again in this thread. Do not debate my moderating decisions again in this thread.

    Grace

  27. 27
    Harlequin says:

    The sum of the State popular votes during a Presidential election does not equal a measure of the will of the electorate. Only an election based on a nationwide popular vote without regard to State borders would do that. Pres. Trump did not lose the national popular vote for the simple reason that we didn’t hold one. You can’t lose (or win) an election that wasn’t held.

    1. While such a thing wasn’t held, it’s also the case that the will of the people is better represented by the national vote totals than it is by the electoral college, even if neither of those options is as good as a national popular vote.

    2. In the majority of non-EC conditions, increased turnout preferentially helps Democrats, because Democratic turnout is lower overall as well as more elastic.

    3. I haven’t run the precise numbers but I’m pretty sure the number of Democrats in non-competitive states is higher than the number of Republicans in such states.

    4. So yes. The sum of all state popular votes isn’t the same as a national popular vote. It almost certainly underestimates the amount by which Hillary Clinton would have won such a contest. Or perhaps that was your point?

  28. 28
    Appro says:

    Harlequin:

    If the Electoral College rule had not existed at the time of the 2016 campaigns, they would have been conducted in very different ways.

    Both campaigns would have completely ignored the smaller states and focused on the urban centers. That would not have been a big change for Clinton, but it would have been a big change for the Trump campaign – he would have played up New York, for instance. The popular vote would have been much different.

    As an example, you can have a 200-meter race. Person A wins the race, but the fans of Person B say that she was slightly faster at the 100-meter point, so she should have won.

    No, because you have to really have a 100-meter race to find out if that’s really true. Person A would definitely change his tactics, for instance having much less focus on energy conservation to maximize the full 200 meters. The numbers would be different if the objective is 100 meters.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Both campaigns would have completely ignored the smaller states and focused on the urban centers. That would not have been a big change for Clinton, but it would have been a big change for the Trump campaign – he would have played up New York, for instance.

    That’s not even remotely how Presidential elections work with the electoral college.

    Clinton basically didn’t campaign at all in New York, for example. Why would she? New York isn’t a swing state. In fact, the largest states were almost entirely ignored by both candidates.

    Both Clinton and Trump concentrated the majority of their appearances in the same six states – Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. Because in an electoral college election, that’s the only strategy that makes sense, and so the majority of states are basically ignored by both candidates.

    And it’s true, of course, that if the GOP had to compete to win the majority of votes, they’d be forced to change their tactics. For instance, instead of deciding that the only voters they need are white voters, they’d be forced to try to appeal to the majority of Americans. I’d welcome that change.

    * * *

    A question: If the Republicans would almost certainly win a Presidential election decided by the majority of voters, then why are they so terrified of fair, majority-based elections? Why haven’t I met a single Republican who isn’t against letting the majority of voters choose the President?

    * * *

    Two-thirds of Presidential Campaign Is in Just 6 States | National Popular Vote

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    Republicans talking about how they could definitely get the majority of voters if they wanted to, but they don’t, but they could, but they don’t, but they could if they wanted to.

  31. 31
    Appro says:

    I thought that one of the reasons for Clinton’s loss was that she didn’t pay enough attention to “flyover” states like Michigan, but I guess I won’t put the energy into substantiation because it was a side point.

    Main points:

    1) Presidential election campaigns would be carried out differently if there wasn’t an electoral college

    2) … which would lead to different results because of the different style of campaigns.

    So you can’t presume that Hillary and Trump would have had exactly the same results as in the election-college-style election.

    I didn’t say the Republicans would necessarily win a popular-vote election.

    You really disagree with all of that? Those just seem like obvious, logical points to me.

  32. 32
    Appro says:

    New York isn’t a swing state.

    “Swing states” are only swing states because under the electoral college voting is done on a state-by-state basis. You win a particular state.

    If the electoral college were to be eliminated, states wouldn’t matter because you just find the voters where you find them. You don’t have to win a state.

    So I presume that presidential campaigns would switch around, not give a hoot about individual states, and just focus on finding voters where they get the most bang for the buck. In any case, there would clearly not be any swing states (it doesn’t matter then if you “win” a particular state by a hair or not).

  33. 33
    AJD says:

    New York isn’t a swing state.

    “Swing states” are only swing states because under the electoral college voting is done on a state-by-state basis. You win a particular state.

    The context of this was, you said that in the absence of the electoral college, Republicans would campaign more in states that are (in the current system) not swing states but that Democrats’ campaign behavior wouldn’t change. This is false; Democrats would have campaigned more in such states as well.

    (Also, “’swing states’ are only swing states because under the electoral college voting is done on a state-by-state basis” is just not true. You see pundits talk about e.g. “swing counties” all the time, even though the count of votes on a county-by-county basis isn’t relevant to the result.)

  34. 34
    Ampersand says:

    I thought that one of the reasons for Clinton’s loss was that she didn’t pay enough attention to “flyover” states like Michigan…

    That’s definitely an argument that people make, and it might be true. Clinton appeared 8 times in Michigan – which may not seem like much, but she appeared less often in 44 other states. With 20/20 hindsight, maybe Clinton should have written off Florida (the state both she and Trump did the most appearances in) and appeared much more often in Michigan?

    But of course, her campaign didn’t have hindsight to work with. And if she had done that, pundits would have said she was committing electoral suicide by neglecting Florida.

    So you can’t presume that Hillary and Trump would have had exactly the same results as in the election-college-style election.

    No, we can’t. You’re right.

    But it’s clear that the electoral college, by effectively giving extra votes to small white states, gives the GOP an advantage they wouldn’t have if they had to compete for votes. (Which is why they’re so opposed to having to win the majority of voters). I don’t want a guaranteed Democratic win; I want fair elections.

    ADJ wrote:

    The context of this was, you said that in the absence of the electoral college, Republicans would campaign more in states that are (in the current system) not swing states but that Democrats’ campaign behavior wouldn’t change. This is false; Democrats would have campaigned more in such states as well.

    Yes, thank you – that’s exactly what I meant.

    (Also, “’swing states’ are only swing states because under the electoral college voting is done on a state-by-state basis” is just not true. You see pundits talk about e.g. “swing counties” all the time, even though the count of votes on a county-by-county basis isn’t relevant to the result.)

    You’re right, but although the concept of “swing states” would still exist, they’d be infinitely less significant, because they’d no longer be the thing that determines who wins the election, which I think is what Appro meant.

  35. 35
    Harlequin says:

    Both campaigns would have completely ignored the smaller states and focused on the urban centers.

    In addition to the points above–do gubernatorial and senatorial candidates in New York only campaign in NYC? California only in LA and SF?

    There are more voters in big media markets, but ads there are more expensive. Also, the easiest voters to convince will be convinced with your first ad–you may well get more voters out of your first ad in Buffalo than you do your tenth ad in NYC where you’ve already picked the low-hanging fruit. The Electoral College doesn’t just fail at getting attention to small states–in our current country, where most small states are pretty politically homogeneous, it actively steers presidential campaigns away relative to their probable behavior in a popular vote system.

    I thought that one of the reasons for Clinton’s loss was that she didn’t pay enough attention to “flyover” states like Michigan

    At least partially rebutted by her loss in Pennsylvania where she DID spend a fuckton of time.

    It’s true that campaigns would be run with different messaging and strategies and such if we had a national popular vote. But again, that doesn’t mean the Electoral College results are a better representation of the current will of the people than the sum of the state popular votes, which seemed to me to be RonF’s original point.

  36. 36
    lurker23 says:

    AJD says:
    September 23, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    the “popular vote” in a Presidential election is… clearly different from what the popular vote would be if the EC didn’t exist

    Why is this “clear”? It seems to me you are advancing a hypothesis that, while not ludicrous, is at best seriously wanting evidence.

    this is backwards i think? most of the time when you change something then it will not make the same thing. you are maybe saying that it is maybe “ludicrous” and maybe “seriously wanting evidence” that if you change what you do then your will not get the same things? but that is almost always true.

    it is like saying “well the world cup wins would be the same if the field was ten metres longer and if they had 7 subs and if they had 3 yellow cards to make a red card.” that would be changing what you do! why would results be the same? why would it be ludicrous to think results would be different?

    if you want them not to change you need to show that all the things do not change, like for voters you need to show that people stay home the same, and vote the same, and listen to tv the same, and care about the same people, want the same things, and alot of other stuff.

  37. 37
    AJD says:

    it is like saying “well the world cup wins would be the same if the field was ten metres longer and if they had 7 subs and if they had 3 yellow cards to make a red card.” that would be changing what you do! why would results be the same?

    The answer to that, of course, is that the game would still be very similar, and employ the same skills on the part of the players, and so a team that is good at winning the game under the current rules would also consist of players that are good at winning the game under the changed rules.

    (Lest you say something like “but switching from an electoral vote to a popular vote is a substantial change to the rules”: that is true, but what we’re talking about now isn’t “would the winner be the same under a popular vote as under the electoral vote”, but rather “is the person who receives the most popular votes under the electoral-vote system likely to be the same person that would have won under a popular-vote system,” which is a much smaller relevant change to the rules.)

    why would it be ludicrous to think results would be different?

    I literally specifically said that it would not be ludicrous.

  38. 38
    Gracchus says:

    I have never understood the idea that the electoral college brings more attention to small states. The only truly small state that gets an elevated level of attention from the electoral college is New Hampshire, and even then, it’s only slightly elevated – New Hampshire may get more time in the electoral sunlight than, say, Wyoming, but it is still eclipsed by Florida, Pennsylvania, etc. The “must win” states, e.g. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, are all large states.

    What the electoral college seems to mostly do is give attention to some big states, and take it away from certain other big states. I am not sure that Texas being neglected and Ohio being lavished with attention is necessarily something so desirable (no offense to any Ohio residents).

  39. 39
    nobody.really says:

    To summarize:

    1. Hillary lost by a razor thin margin in three states. Thus, yes, pretty much ANY claim that a different strategy might have produced a different outcome is plausible. Heck, different weather or a different TV lineup might have produced a different outcome. Likewise, no, we can’t PROVE that a different strategy would have produced a different outcome.

    Old campaign adage: Everyone knows that half of campaign activities are a complete waste of time and money. But no one knows which half.

    2. Yes, Hillary got the majority of the nation’s vote. But no, we can’t know what the outcome would have been if we had a policy of picking presidents based on the popular vote, because in that scenario, each campaign likely would have campaigned differently. As we observed in Beto O’Rourke’s race, states that are dominated by one party–such that the other party will tend to ignore them in a presidential race–may nonetheless have vast numbers of votes for that other party. In a popular vote election for president, I’d guess that Democratic candidates would spend a lot more time in Texas–and Republicans spend a lot more time in California. The outcome would be hard to know.

    Yet my gut suggests that the practice would favor the Democrats. And I don’t share Ron F.’s view that Democratic campaigning–or outcomes–would not change under a popular vote system.

    3. Yes, elections based on winning the Electoral College boosts the importance of small states relative to elections based on winning the popular vote. That doesn’t mean that small states will get the majority of the attention in either scenario; it just means that they almost certainly get more attention now than in the alternative scenario.

    4. Is is desirable for Texas to be ignored and Ohio to be lavished with attention?

    Yes.

  40. 40
    RonF says:

    Grace @ 26:

    Given my opinions, what they’re based on, and the fact that a lot of people will likely hold that they find them quite disturbing, I’ll choose #1. Not a big problem for me.

  41. 41
    J. Squid says:

    I would like to register a complaint. Maybe two complaints.

    I object to the idea that The Cloud is innovative or new. “The Cloud” is just a new(ish) name for Outsourcing. Outsourcing to a remote data center is something that has been done for decades. It was old hat when I started doing IT in 1988.

    I also object to the idea that Virtualization is innovative or new. Virtualization is a new(ish) name for the model I was told was being made obsolete by Distributed Computing when I started doing IT in 1988.

    I am a proponent of Virtualization or, as it used to be known, centralized computing. It takes fewer resources and is easier to back up, maintain and control.

    The Cloud is definitely a good thing for certain applications and/or businesses, but it is hardly The First Thing You Should Consider.

    It’s all marketing and buzzwords and do I ever hate marketing and buzzwords.

  42. 42
    nobody.really says:

    Amp @ 30: Very funny; very topical.

    That said, what kind of budget do they have for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? That was an amazing long shot video, chock to the gills with gratuitous extras. What lunatics would blow money like that?

    More remarkably, it appears to be shot on a bunch of public streets. Who would do that? Or is this just a REALLY big sound stage?

  43. 43
    Ampersand says:

    I doubt that’s a sound stage. It was shot in LA – I’m sure that there’s a system in place for productions to pay the city to close parts of a public street for shooting now and then, at non-rush hour times. Or it could be a fake street on a studio backlot that multiple productions can rent to shoot on.

    I read a “making of” article about the crazy ex girlfriend “Miracle of Birth” song, and was really surprised by just how enormous an effort it is to do things I never even think about. For instance, they couldn’t find any commercial hair dye the EXACT color of the actress’, but they wanted her to have longer hair for the scenes where she’s dressed as a nature goddess, so three people in the hair department pulled an all-nighter mixing different hair dyes together until they invented a formula so they could dye the extensions the right color.

    (By the way, the actor who plays “Dr No Vagina” in that scene was one of my bunkmates in Jewish summer camp a zillion years ago!)

  44. 44
    Charles says:

    It’s on Melrose Place in LA (the store “eye tailor” was the searchable thing). They use a lot of extras in Crazy Ex Girlfriend, and only one extra gets a speaking part in this scene.

  45. 45
    Petar says:

    J. Squid, little if anything is really new. There are ideas that have been considered as theoretical possibilities, but were not yet technologically possible or financially sound.

    My favorite example is the rifle. People who know when rifles first became popular as weapons of war are surprised to learn that for centuries before that, rifles had been used by rich hunters who could afford insanely expensive gadgets, servants to reload their toys, and a couple of minutes between shots. Most Americans think the 19th century Springfield rifle is one of the earliest rifles. But there are rifled barrels from the late 1400s in what used to be the Holy Roman Empire, there are mentions of rifling attempts in Russian texts from the early 1400s, and there is a Seljuk Turk archery treatise from the 1300s which explains why ‘fire-lance’ projectiles are less accurate than arrows, and bemoans the impossibility of fletching, and thus spinning, bullets. (To which, of course, rifling is the answer.)

    In the same way, the balance between on-site and off-site computing has been shifting depending on ease of communication, hardware costs and bulk, privacy and security concerns, etc.

    In the last few years, since I decided that being retired is a bit too much like being dead, I have been working as a low-level (as in close to the metal) C/Rust/C++ programmer for companies that for one reason or another want to keep everything on site. This may make me a dinosaur in a society where the majority is OK with their digital assistant sending everything it hears to the Internet, but I have a lot more projects to choose from than time I’m willing to spend working.

  46. 46
    J. Squid says:

    In the same way, the balance between on-site and off-site computing has been shifting depending on ease of communication, hardware costs and bulk, privacy and security concerns, etc.

    Ease (and speed) of communication, sure. Privacy and security concerns? I suppose so. I mean, I think that they’re mistaken in thinking that privacy and security will increase when they move to the cloud, but that could factor into the decision. Mostly, though, it’s marketing by the biggest hosting corps (MS, Google, Amazon, Apple).

    Me? I fear the cloud. Whoever’s hosting is a much bigger target for data breaches than I am. Security of HIPAA and financial data isn’t taken nearly as seriously as it needs to be.

    When “The Cloud” and “Virtualization” came into vogue nearly 10 years ago, I’d ask, “What is the cloud? Can you explain virtualization to me?” Almost nobody providing these awesome new things could describe them. They did better at cloud than virtualization, though. “Oh, you mean hosted!” And they would agree when pushed on it. It’s all marketing.

  47. 47
    Petar says:

    I suppose so. I mean, I think that they’re mistaken in thinking that privacy and security will increase when they move to the cloud, but that could factor into the decision.

    Oh, just the opposite. Most of the people whom I’ve worked for want to keep things on-site exactly because they know that the cloud, which may or may not be more secure than the average on-site setup, is definitely less secure than a properly designed and managed local network. Many companies, such as law enforcement, military contractors, etc. air-gap parts of their IT infrastructure. Even some manufacturers isolate the computerized controls of their robots cells.

    —————————-

    And virtualization and hosting are two distinct things. They often go together, but they are quite separate. You can host your stuff off-site without virtualization of any kind, and you can visualize your servers and keep them on-site. Both approaches are far from uncommon, although you need a good reason to host off-site without virtualizing.

    One of my colleagues virtualizes everything she can. She keeps separate VMWare guests for every single project she works on, and can list reasons for doing so for 15 minutes without repeating herself. I do not go this far, but I do test anything I send to a customer on a clean virtual installation, to make sure that I do not miss a dependency, as in sending a program that relies on an specific version of a .dll to run.

  48. 48
    RonF says:

    It’s true that the cloud in part is just someone else’s data center. And for someone working at the consumer level, that’s really all it is – a place that from anywhere you can upload and download files and have them automatically backed up.

    However, for the corporate user, what gives it new value over the standard outsourcing model is that you (the client) can create an architecture of routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, WAN links and servers all with a GUI front end to run your applications on without having to own/maintain/backup the devices – someone else handles all that. And if your application is running slow because of unanticipated demand, you can (presuming you’ve got the requisite contract with Amazon Web Services or Azure (Microsoft) or one of their competitors) simply connect up, tell the system “Add on 10 more servers”, and in rather rapid fashion it does so, instead of having to go out, buy servers, possibly buy another switch, bring it all in, inventory it, configure it, have them physically connected and powered up, etc., etc. You can also decrease the capacity of the system quickly and save money on your monthly payments (and not have to then repurpose or sell off the now surplus equipment), which is especially valuable for seasonal businesses.

  49. 49
    J. Squid says:

    But that’s exactly what “outsourcing” was before they started calling it The Cloud(tm). For hosting companies that were big enough, you could do the same thing (only slower cuz it was the 90s and 00s and technology wasn’t where it is now). I truly don’t see a difference. We didn’t stop calling it IT when the tech got better. But we stopped calling it outsourcing and came up with a whizbang cool branding in an effort to sell more of it.

  50. 50
    Ampersand says:

    Charles:

    “(the store “eye tailor” was the searchable thing”

    Nice catch!

  51. 51
    RonF says:

    you could do the same thing (only slower cuz it was the 90s and 00s and technology wasn’t where it is now). I truly don’t see a difference.

    O.K. I have come up with a brilliant new application (for in-house, B2B or consumer use, doesn’t matter). Management wants it implemented.

    Legacy hosting scenario:
    Figure out demand. Determine server and network architecture that will accommodate it. Checkpoint A. Write up capital expenditure request. Get it approved. Order equipment. Receive equipment. Write up data center services request to get cabling and power provisioned and hardware unpacked and mounted. Configure servers. Configure routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, etc. Checkpoint B. Load up app. Test. Roll out to production.

    Cloud hosting scenario:
    Figure out demand. Determine processing and networking requirements. Check the expense budget to see if you have the money to increment the monthly bill from AWS/Azure/whoever. Checkpoint A. Go onto AWS/Azure/whoever browser-based GUI and enter them in. Load up app. Checkpoint B. Test. Roll out to production.

    In the Legacy scenario, the elapsed time between Checkpoint A and Checkpoint B can be at least a month; I’ve seen it take a lot longer than that. In the Cloud scenario the elapsed time between those two points can be less than a day. Also, the Legacy scenario requires a) capital expenditure and b) the involvement of multiple network engineers, server administrators, and data center hardware and cabling guys. The Cloud scenario involves only expense money, not capital (much different tax implications) and pretty much none of the people involved. And, if the project fails or alternately succeeds beyond one’s wildest dreams, you don’t end up with hardware that you have to either re-purpose or dispose of (the latter scenario requires writing off the depreciation on the capital that was spent on them in an accelerated fashion, which is double-plus ungood).

    Corporate management loves to shift expenditures from capital to expense. They love lowering headcount. They’d much rather pay Amazon or Microsoft expense money than hire and pay engineers. It’s a lot more flexible should business conditions or direction change.

  52. 52
    RonF says:

    Now, the Cloud is not all skittles and beer. The security concerns Petar noted above are real. I personally do not use a cloud backup scenario for my own personal data for those reasons. And there are applications that do not lend themselves to Cloud implementation. My own company provides what is called Hybrid IT; we will help you migrate those of your apps that are suitable to the Cloud – we have people that have a lot of expertise in migrating and maintaining Cloud implementations. We will also run those of your apps that are suitable on hardware/networking in one of our own data centers. And get the two to talk to each other. That’s especially useful when you have a company (e.g., credit card or other financial services companies) that insist that a) all data reside in the U.S. and b) all support people involved are American citizens (or at least reside legally in the U.S.).

  53. 53
    RonF says:

    Petar @ 45:

    But there are rifled barrels from the late 1400s in what used to be the Holy Roman Empire, there are mentions of rifling attempts in Russian texts from the early 1400s,

    The Art Institute in Chicago has a collection of arms and armor from antiquity to the present day. I spent an hour there last year looking at it. They must have 100 of such firearms (as well as partial and complete sets of armor for both man and horse, pikes, halberds, swords, daggers, etc., etc.). There’s a life-size statue of a horse with a man mounted on him, both completely outfitted with armor, decorative fabric and arms.

    Amp, the next time you get to Chicago you need to add an extra day to your schedule, bring a sketch book, and spend the day at the Art Institute.

  54. 54
    J. Squid says:

    Ummmm. I’m not arguing legacy vs Cloud. I’m arguing that Outsourcing/Remote Hosting and Cloud are the exact same thing. Because, you know, they are.

    I’m not arguing that there are no applications for which the Cloud is appropriate. I’m arguing that Cloud and Outsourcing/Remote Hosting are the exact same thing.

    This is my pet peeve, dammit, and I will not tolerate misinterpretations or drift.

  55. 55
    Harlequin says:

    Amp, the next time you get to Chicago you need to add an extra day to your schedule, bring a sketch book, and spend the day at the Art Institute.

    I mean, heck, I could spend half a day just looking at the miniature rooms.

    I’m not a very visual or artistic person so I’m really impressed by people who are. When I was living in Chicago, I found out that one of my favorite Georgia O’Keeffe paintings was on display. It was right when the modern wing was opening, so I figured it was there, but couldn’t find it. I was waiting in line at information and the woman and the coat check asked if she could help anyone. I described the painting (didn’t remember the title) and she told me where it was–like, exactly where it was, the specific location on the specific wall that had a number of works on it. How do brains work??

  56. 56
    Petar says:

    Back in the day, in Boston, museum admission was waived for students. It may have been just MIT students, and may have been only some museums, but all of my three favorite ones were free.

    I used to spend way too long in them. I always allocated all of the time until closing for the trip, as there was never enough tie to see everything. My then-not-yet-wife used to make fun of me for it, as we were often making dates right after closing time.

    I have not improved. Last time I was in DC (where my wife is from) I must have spent half my waking time in museums. I was the (not)cool uncle who was taking all the young ones to museums. The parents were aghast at the way I was gang-pressing the teenage males into sheepdog duty, but they were happy enough with the results to overlook my combination of bribery, usurpation of authority and toxic hierarchy (an actual quote from one of my sisters in law)

    And of course, if I am ever in Chicago again, I will check the Art Institute. I have actually had a ‘museum day ‘ in Chicago, but never made it out of the Museum of Science and Industry. Growing up in Bulgaria, I had wanted to see it as far as I remember – the greatest 19th century Bulgarian classic is “To Chicago and Back”.

    How popular is the book? Its author and title page appears on the Bulgarian banknote with the highest denomination. And before anyone asks, it is not about immigrating to the US, but about the outside world as seen by the newly independent Bulgarians. The World Exposition is the stated goal of the trip.

  57. 57
    dragon_snap says:

    I just returned yesterday from nine days in Hudson County, NJ, visiting a friend, and we made it in to NYC on several occasions. When I first visited this friend in March of this year, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian (a Smithsonian institution), the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (the other Smithsonian in NYC), and MOMA. We also went to Stonewall National Monument (this was #1 on my list of places to go), Washington Square Arch, saw The Band’s Visit on Broadway (amazing), and walked the High Line.

    This time we went to the last day of the Play It Loud exhibition at the Met, the Tenement Museum, and the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn (which was only $10), as well as seeing Wicked (we got free front row tickets through my friend’s work!), and visiting Bluestockings. And we went to the Nintendo Store three times over the two trips :P

    These institutions don’t need my recommendation, but nonetheless I enthusiastically give it to all of them. And if you’re looking for a cool craft brewery to check out in Jersey City, Departed Soles Brewing Company is the place to go for sure!

  58. 58
    J. Squid says:

    NASA says the first humans will set foot on Mars in the mid-2030s. It will be the most dangerous mission any human has ever taken.”

    I don’t believe that for even a second. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 5 missions humans have taken that were unavoidably and inevitably fatal.

  59. 59
    Petar says:

    Yes. Complete nonsense. There has been hundreds of missions which carried no chance of survival, undertaken by people who had weighted their life, and decided that the goal they would strive for was worth it.

    Industrial accidents, military operations, etc. Hell, suicide bombings, mass shootings and vehicular terrorism probably qualify as well, although I prefer recognizing someone who goes to shut down a nuclear reactor rather than someone who straps on a vest full of explosives.

    But… hyperbola. In too many areas of modern life, the simple truth will not do. Whether it’s politicians or moviemakers, too many people think that the public won’t be impressed by less than 317% of anything.

  60. 60
    J. Squid says:

    There really is no excuse too stupid for killing people.

  61. 61
    Petar says:

    I’m really curious what people around here think about the situation in Syria.

    This weekend parties, among the crowd I move with, are absolutely guaranteed to be dominated by discussions of the situation in Syria. We do not have any non-Kurdish Syrians, but with the exception of a couple of Frenchmen, and one WASP significant other, we are all originally from countries with a long history with Ottomans, if not Turkey – ethnic Armenians, Bulgarians, Ex-Yugos, Jews, Lebanese, Moroccans, Persians, Poles, Russians and Turks.

    But I hear very little from people who’ve been Americans for geenrations, or rather, it is all about Trump, not about the Kurds and their balancing act between Turkey, Syria, Iran, and the US for five years.

    So, does anyone here even care/know/think anything beyond “Orange Man resurrected ISIS by betraying our allies!” and “The Messiah got us out of a war over death and sand!” which is what I hear from clients?

    (Of course, I would not dream of actually offering an opinion to them. “Not my monkeys, not my circus” is my motto wherever there’s likely harm without potential gain.)

  62. 62
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I’m not American, so I’m not really the type of person you are asking, but my opinion is:

    1. The USA should never have been in Syria to begin with.
    2. It is correct that the USA should have aimed to remove its troops from Syria.
    3. But, given that the troops were there, and that in the recent past the whole region was in a state of precarious equilibrium, the USA should have planned and enacted its depature in a careful manner, using diplomacy to try to ensure that its departure doesn’t create a power vacuum that will plunge the region into renewed conflict.
    4. Needless to say, that’s not what happened.

    Both America’s entry into the Syrian war and its (method of) departure from it were horrible mistakes, in my opinion.

  63. 63
    Gracchus says:

    @Eytan: I’m just curious

    1. Do you think other countries should also not be in Syria? Do you think there is a general responsibility for countries not to put troops in other countries, or is there something about America’s policy that makes American troops unacceptable in Syria but Russian, Iranian, Turkish etc etc troops OK?

    3. Do you think there were diplomatic measures that could have prevented Turkey from invading Kurdish controlled areas of Syria? The current Turkish government sees armed and organised Kurdish groups as an existential threat – is it hard for me to imagine any diplomatic approach that would stop them from moving against them.

  64. 64
    Eytan Zweig says:

    1. I wasn’t making a general moral point about countries being involved in Syria. I believe the USA’s current involvement in the Syrian civil war, which started as an attempt to support anti-Assad rebels and shifted focus several times with no clear goals beyond frustrating Russia at the expense of Syrian lives, was ill conceived and did not serve either the USA’s interests or those of the Syrian people.

    2. I don’t know. And I’m certainly not an expert on what’s actually happening on the ground in Syria. But a competant government should have at least tried, and had contingency plans in place. Trump’s move apparently took not only the kurds by surprise, but also the US military. It cost the lives of not only Kurdish fighters but also many civilians, and it undermined the US’s only remaining goal in the region which is to supress ISIS. If there was no way to prevent a Turkish invasion, then at least there could have been attempts to mitigate its effect on non-combatants.

  65. 65
    Gracchus says:

    2. Well, there was a way to prevent a Turkish invasion – to keep US troops in place.

    I guess what is confusing me is that you believe there are two strong imperatives, for US troops to to leave Syria and for the US to protect Kurds. The problem is, while they may not be 100% contradictory, doing one makes the other very, very difficult. You have said yourself you don’t know what could be done diplomatically to stop a Turkish attack on the Kurds – is it possible nothing could be done? Mitigating effects is more likely, but even then a mitigation of an invasion is not as good, from the Kurd’s point of view, as preventing the invasion.

    I am not exactly defending Trump but this is a problem that Obama struggled with and never really came up with a good solution to, which is presumably why Obama didn’t pull the troops out.

    You say that the US troops presence in Syria was originally to support democratic forces – isn’t protecting the Kurds at least theoretically a good purpose? If Trump (or, hell, any US President) had publicly announced that the purpose of the US military presence in Syria was to protect the Kurds, would that mean that, in your point of view, the imperative for US troops to be removed would go away?

  66. 66
    Eytan Zweig says:

    I’m a bit confused about what you are saying. You seem to be giving arguments for leaving the US troops there, but then also argue that that could be construed as a defense of Trump, who didn’t leave the troops there.

    What I am saying is that I believe the US should have withdrawn its troops, but not suddenly and without warning to their allies, and that there should have been a transition plan in place with the Kurds.

    The question of whether the US should have had troops in Syria is a different one. The point is, it *did* have troops in Syria, and they had been there long enough for them to be an intergral part of the balance of power. Therefore, any departure should have been planned, and enacted, responsibly.

  67. 67
    Gracchus says:

    OK, a transition plan is all very well, but a transition plan to what? To a situation where the Turkish government won’t view the Kurds as an existential threat? That is an outcome that is always in doubt and, if it is achievable, is going to take a long time – so that means we are talking about a multi-year transition period, and a transition that may well fail. Which means US troops staying in Syria for years, and possibly even more than that. Which may be OK for you, but to many people who believe the US presence is immoral, it’s too long.

    And I will ask again, why not redefine the US mission in Syria as protecting the Kurds – which we agree is a worthy goal – and then the imperative to withdraw troops disappears, and there’s no need for a transition?

  68. 68
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Gracchus – I really don’t understand what you are saying. A transition plan is a plan to transition from the US being in Syria to the US not being in Syria, in a way that is negotiated with its Kurdish allies so that they have time to prepare.

    You seem to be arguing with me on two fronts – you say that what I’m saying is unacceptable because it leaves the US troops in Syria for too long. Then you say let’s redefine the mission so they stay there forever. Would redefining the mission make it more acceptable to the people who believe the US presence is immoral? Why?

  69. 69
    Ampersand says:

    Petar:

    I’m really curious what people around here think about the situation in Syria.

    I’m curious what you think about the situation in Syria.

  70. 70
    Petar says:

    The Kurds played a dangerous game, antagonizing the Syrian government, rejecting Russia’s courtship, and leaving themselves vulnerable to accusations of secularism by Iran. They dream of Kurdistan, and given that they are about 30,000,000 of them, without a homeland, it’s not hard to sympathize. That dream made them place their trust in the US, only to get betrayed right on schedule. At least once per generation, they get roped into fighting for British, Russian or US interests against whichever of Turkey, Syria, Iran, or Iraq needs destabilizing, and are left hanging as soon as they outlive their usefulness. (I meant to list the times it had happened, came up to five off the top of my head, then did a few Google searches, and found two, arguably three, extra times it had happened)

    Personally, I understand their desire for a country of their own, but I also know that there are powerful interests that make an independent Kurdistan unlikely, and that hundreds of thousands of Kurds have died pursuing the dream, and many millions have been displaced. In the last round, they’ve lost 10,000 fighting ISIS, and 200,000 have already gotten displaced by the Turkish invasion. They’re getting off cheaply, so far.

    It’s easy to say “Give it up, fools”… but they are forbidden, at least in Turkey, from speaking their language, they cannot teach it to their children, their politicians get their immunity revoked and are sent to jail every ten years or so (when they do not get raped and murdered the way it happened to Khalaf last week) Even using the word “Kurdish” can get you jailed in Turkey. As a someone with Turkic ancestry (Turkic, not Turkish) who grew up in a country that used to be occupied by the Ottomans, and who butted heads in the 80s with people financed by pan-Turkish organizations, it’s very, very easy to wish the Kurds well. That does them little good, of course.

    Anyway. Now, about the US.

    Everyone here seems to have forgotten how for years Hillary Clinton thumped her chest, claiming full credit for the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and made jokes about his sodomization and murder. When Libia went to shit, with millions dying and fleeing to Europe, she stopped talking about it.

    In a similar manner, US helped destabilize Syria. It may or may not have made sense, for political expediency. I do not want Russian bases in Syria, I understand why Putin wants them, and I sure as hell hope some people in Washington work to make them less likely. Well, clearly they are doing a piss poor job.

    In any case, at the beginning of October, Trump withdrew the US troops from Kurd held Northeastern Syria. The Kurds had previously been persuaded to demolish North facing defensive installations and move heavy weapons South. It would not have made any difference against Turkey, but I still have trouble believing that the Kurds did so without at least some reassurances from the US. The politician whose bodyguard was recorded being gunned down, whose voice was heard on the video, and whose corpse turned up at a nearby hospital was, as late as October 3rd, reassuring her people that Washington would safeguard northern Syria from a threatened Turkish assault by mediating between Kurdish-led forces and Ankara

    So now, Assad had most of his country back, Turkey has invaded yet another neighboring country, Russia is firmly entrenched in Syria, and “into a well with an American rope” is becoming an idiom in the Balkans and Middle East. And Kurds are dying, but we covered that already. For their future fate you may want to ask the Slavs and Helenes from Constantinople (sorry, Istanbul), the Armenians from Trebizond (sorry, Trabzon) the Greek Cypriots from…

    The one thousand American troops from Syria have been withdrawn, and are available to be sent to assist their much more numerous colleagues helping Saudi Arabia with the Yemen war.

    To me, it all looks like a victory for Putin and Erdogan, who looked pretty happy at their meeting. Mohammad bin Salman also has reasons to be hopeful.

    As for ISIS? Something will come back, but then it would have come back anyway. As Marxists preach, economics are always at the root of political developments, and life is hard in the Middle East, and getting harder. Concentration of wealth, drying agricultural lands, breakdown of centralized governments which, in that region, have for millennia been necessary for large scale projects… Those who can will leave to exacerbate the immigrant tensions in the neighboring countries. Those who stay will face a life perceived worse than that of their ancestors, and will look for someone at whom they can strike… before or after they convince themselves they’ve found the culprit for their own hardships.

    And how does the US look after all this? Not so good… but lets be honest, here. It’s not as bad as many people make it. The US was already known for having no friends, only interests, and next time we need someone to do the dying for us, we will probably be able to scrounge up enough incentives for them.

    The only loss is that it is a bit harder for the US to claim the morale high ground when it abandons the relatively progressive (relatively!) Kurds to Erdogan, Assad and Putin. The withdrawal could have been handled better. But people have short memories. The Kurds I’ve met only talk about what Nixon did in the 70s and Bush in the 90s… what happened before that is forgotten. This too will pass.

    ———–

    Heh. Syria according to Petar. There you go, Ampersand. I actually believe most of the above.

  71. 71
    Gracchus says:

    @Eytan: The problem is, a transition to a situation where the US doesnt have troops in Syria seems to me to be a transition to a situation where the Kurds got crushed. I can’t see any way around that, because I dont think it is within the power of US diplomacy (or, given Turkeys modern history, any diplomacy) to stop the Turkish state seeing the Kurds as an existential threat. And even if it is possible to change that, it is going to take a minimum of many years.

    When you say you want to see a transition plan, are you OK with like a five year one? E.g. that the US troops have to stay in Syria for as long as they have already been there? I dont want to put words in your mouth but it is hard to imagine somebody saying on the one hand, US troops have no right to be in Syria but on the other hand, the optimal way forward is for them to stay there for years.

    Re: the mission, you said that you think US troops have no right to be in Syria because they have no defined reason to be there. I was just saying, if they acquired a reason, and it was a good reason (e.g. protecting a threatened minority) would you feel like they had acquired a right?

  72. 72
    Gracchus says:

    @Ampersand: If you really cant guess what Petar thinks about Turkish foreign policy, I guess you havent met many Bulgarian nationalists before.

  73. 73
    Michael says:

    A lot of people seem to be in doubt that sections of the Left are hostile to free speech, so look at this article:
    https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/10/22/20927292/uconn-video-white-students-n-word-arrest-racism
    Two U Conn students were arrested for using the n-word after students protested the incident. The campus police arrested them and the school issued this statement: “It is supportive of our core values to pursue accountability, through due process, for an egregious assault on our community that has caused considerable harm”. And the Vox article contains a lot of discussion about racism but no discussion about the free speech issues these arrests raise.

  74. 74
    Petar says:

    If you really cant guess what Petar thinks about Turkish foreign policy, I guess you havent met many Bulgarian nationalists before.

    I guess you haven’t actually met many, either. Because they would want my head on a spike, given my views. My daughter is losing her Bulgarian language, and has no Bulgarian citizenship. I believe that any revanchism is detrimental to Bulgarian interests, and has been such for more than a century. I also believe that rapprochement with Macedonia is crucial, and should be started by admitting that due to Communist policies in the last 70 years, the two people have developed distinct national identities, languages and cultures, and should seek cooperation not unification. I also happen to be living on a street where my friends have been buying houses for 15 years, and those friends include ethnicities that Bulgarian nationalists love to hate or despise… including secular Turks.

    You can call me totalitarian, violent, arrogant, duplicitous, etc. and I will not take much offense. But ‘Bulgarian nationalist’ was never true, and even back when, in the Army, it was a way to differentiate yourself from apparatchiks.

    Modern Bulgarian nationalists are idiots with superficial knowledge of history, who talk about ethnic purity, which is in direct oppositions to earlier Bulgarian nationalists, who took pride in the theory that Bulgar meant ‘mixed’ nearly two thousand years ago.

    I am only a quarter Tatar – with blond, light eyed mother and paternal grand-mother – but I kept the Turkic phenotype. Half of modern Bulgarian nationalists will try to hail me as a proto-Bulgar, and other half dismiss me as Turkish, depending on whether they believe Bulgars or Slavs made Bulgaria great. Which it no longer is, if it ever was.

    On the other hand, the above does not mean that I am enamored of Turkish foreign policy, especially since Erdogan took power. Turkish nationalism is just as real as Bulgarian one, and a lot more dangerous. Not because it is any more vile, but because Turkey is a real player in international politics, while Bulgaria is moribund.

  75. 75
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Gracchus – I never said the US troops don’t have a right to be in Syria. I said they shouldn’t have gotten into Syria. But they did go into Syria, and that changed the situation.

    I’m not an expert in the Kurdish situation, and I don’t know if it’s right that they would be necessarily annihilated without the US there. They were surviving before the US put its troops in. And it’s my understanding that the US troops weren’t actually defending the Kurds so much as providing a diplomatic shield, in that Turkey wasn’t going to attack the US bases and they were in the way.

    What I have read of the situation is that the US assured the Kurds that they will not withdraw, and that the Kurds made strategic decisions based on the assumption the US will stay there. Had the US told them there was a time limit, the Kurds would have made different strategic decisions. But I can’t see how comitting to withdraw in a phone call with Turkey and only telling the Kurds after the fact and contrary to prior assurances served anyone’s purposes other than Erdogan.

    I am still confused why you think that it’s inconsistent to believe the US sending its troops was a mistake while at the same time not insisting they leave right away.

  76. 76
    J. Squid says:

    Is anybody else following the Brandon Taubman saga?

    Step 1: After winning the NL championship, chant your happiness with the domestic abuser you traded for last year at women reporters. Reporters who weren’t talking about the scumbag or the Astros shitbaggery or talking to you.

    Step 2: The team issues a statement claiming the story is not not true and the reporting is irresponsible.

    Step 3: Wait to see the reaction to corroboration of the original story by several witnesses.

    Step 4: Taubman is fired. A statement from the team says that Taubman’s conduct does not reflect the organizations values. An organization that traded for a domestic abuser, minimized the abuser’s actions, got angry when it wasn’t forgotten about and then defended a team executive taunting women reporters with the fact that the Astros traded for a domestic abuser certainly reflects values that differ greatly from those of the executive who’s actions they at first defended.

    Fuck these people. From now on, I think, I am calling them the Houston Taubmans. When I’m not calling them the Houston Osunas.

    Note: In the 70s the Astros minimized the actions of a murderer while making sure he didn’t face any further consequences. Professional sports is a garbage industry full of garbage people.

  77. 77
    J. Squid says:

    It turns out that one of the reporters targeted by Taubman’s action habitually tweets links to DA resources every time the domestic abuser pitches for the Astros. And Taubman’s been angry at her for that.

  78. 78
    Saurs says:

    A lot of people seem to be in doubt that sections of the Left are hostile to free speech, so look at this article:

    Michael, what “sections of the Left” are operating in that news item you linked to? Is it campus police? The legislators that created the relevant statute, enacted in 1917, when Republicans commanded all executive offices and the state’s general assembly?

  79. 79
    Michael says:

    @Saurs#78-Firstly, the law was apparently only intended to apply to advertisements. And it would almost certainly be unconstitutional today:
    https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-connecticut-vs-free-speech-20191022-cbejqiqtejcvddrnt33cwkewji-story.html
    But the point is that the students were only arrested because the protesters made a big deal. And the University President supported the arrest:
    https://www.nepr.net/post/uconn-students-react-classmates-arrested-shouting-racial-slurs#stream/0
    And the Vox article had no problem with the arrests.

  80. 80
    nobody.really says:

    Happy Birthday! Apply as necessary. (You know who you are.)

    And to everyone else, a very merry Unbirthday.

  81. 81
    hf says:

    And it would almost certainly be unconstitutional today

    Then a court case is what you want, yes?

    The statute may well be thrown out, since I would tentatively guess the accused did not mean their racial slur as a threat. Are you saying, though, that if you were a black student you would feel safe walking into the parking lot with these three? Do you understand how someone might feel threatened?

  82. 82
    Michael says:

    @81- “Then a court case is what you want, yes?”
    No, because I don’t believe in using people as test cases against their will, even if they’re racist jerks.
    And yes, I get that as a white guy I can’t understand a black person’s reaction to that word. But by holding demonstrations demanding punishment over speech, the demonstrators ensured there would be an overreaction. That’s what “cancel culture” is, even though some people think it doesn’t exist- punishing speech in the name of “safety”.

  83. 83
    J. Squid says:

    That’s what “cancel culture” is, even though some people think it doesn’t exist- punishing speech in the name of “safety”.

    So we are allowed to do things like the old cliche of shouting, “Fire!” in a crowded movie house with no punishment?

    So we are allowed to threaten harm to the children of those we hate with no punishment?

    So we are allowed to incite violence against others with no punishment?

    I think that you’re not quite on the mark in saying that cancel culture is about punishing free speech in the name of safety. Else, calling for, much less meting out, punishment for shouting, “Fire!” is cancel culture. And I’m pretty sure that’s not what you mean.

  84. 84
    Ampersand says:

    Happy Birthday! Apply as necessary. (You know who you are.)

    Thanks to Nobody!

  85. 85
    Ampersand says:

    I can’t say I care a lot about this case. If people lack the freedom of speech to walk in a public area chanting the “N” word in the middle of the night, I’d rank that VERY low on a list of current free speech issues that we should be worried about. Like, if we listed 100 free speech problems today from 1 (most important) to 100, that people can’t freely chant the n-word in this manner would be number 100. I see zero positive value in that speech, and I don’t mind a bit if the result of all this is that students are chilled from chanting the N word.

    Not that I want them arrested. Because the statute is obviously bad and anti-free-speech. I’d be fine with it being overturned in court.

    (Michael, you seem to call for an on-purpose test case. But it might be hard to make a test case on purpose for this one; the statute is used about five times a year, so it’s apparently not an easy law to get arrested under.)

    The politics of this aren’t simply left vs right. The ACLU has come out against the arrests (and the CT ACLU seems pretty left wing), while one of the defenders of the statute quoted in the article is an elected Republican. The college administration, I suspect, is less about left or right than they are about being seen to be doing something.

    (The ACLU’s position seems to be that calling the police is wrong, but consequences for these students from the university would be appropriate).

    I don’t know if the UConn Black Student Union thinks of it this way, but in general these sorts of incidents are used by student activists, not to seek to put anyone in jail, but to try and get more Black faculty, more support for Black students, etc.. That seems to be what the students at UConn are doing. Frankly, it seems like an smart tactic to me.

    A lot of people seem to be in doubt that sections of the Left are hostile to free speech…

    I myself wouldn’t put it that way. After all, there are millions of lefties in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that some of them are hostile to free speech.

    I would, however, deny that there is a “free speech crisis on campus” – incidents like this are very much the exception, not the rule – and I’d deny that the left is more anti-free-speech than the right.

  86. 86
    Ampersand says:

    That’s what “cancel culture” is, even though some people think it doesn’t exist- punishing speech in the name of “safety”.

    But in practice, the term “cancel culture” is used to refer to much more than that. For instance, I’ve more than once seen the criticism of Dave Chappelle referred to as “cancel culture,” although no one I know of is calling for him to be punished.

  87. 87
    J. Squid says:

    I am now 100% convinced that conservatives/Republicans are only concerned about illegal immigration. They just keep acting in accordance with their words on the subject, so I think that issue has surely been put to bed.

  88. 88
    J. Squid says:

    Responding to Petar from the discussion about terms

    … the doctor swooping in to exchange a few sentences with you and then taking off… and that’s on a really good Californian Kaiser plan…

    Kaiser is like that. When I had Kaiser, back at the dawn of time, I found a strategy that worked. If the doctor left before I got all my questions answered, I refused to leave the exam room. They’re all on quotas for number of patients they need to see and they need that room. If it’s quicker to get the doctor back than to try to wait you out, that’s what they’ll do.

    Kaiser was much easier to deal with once I learned the tricks. Being a squeaky wheel isn’t enough with them, you need to be a crazed jackhammer.

    When you’re not part of an HMO, however, you can interview doctors before you settle on the one you stick with. Of course, it’s easier to do that while being white and male, but I think it’s worth the effort.

  89. 89
    Saurs says:

    But by holding demonstrations demanding punishment over speech, the demonstrators ensured there would be an overreaction.

    You seem to be suggesting that whenever a protest or demonstration is held about a thing you don’t care about, authorities always immediately acquiesce and to a degree you think is disproportionate. Is that what you’re saying, or am I reading that wrong? Too much speech—in this case, a protest—is dangerous because sometimes things happen as a result? Activism inherently leads to an “overreaction?”

  90. 90
    Saurs says:

    Michael, your response doesn’t address my questions. Were the legislators that made the law you think is unconstitutional, even when applied to where you think they intended it to be applied, The Left?

    But the point is that the students were only arrested because the protesters made a big deal.

    You didn’t link to anything that substantiates that claim. The uni President is quoted as saying campus police opened an investigation after a report was filed, not after any protest.

    Again, are anti-racist protestors in your mind automatically The Left? You appear to think only left-wing people protest racist pejoratives. That’s fine, but you don’t then get to cite that idiosyncratic belief as proof of your claim that only the left attacks free speech. You are not an authority to be argued from. Show your work.

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