Open Thread and Link Farm, Hico Ujill Edition

  1. New Paper: Why “Intellectual Property” is a Misnomer – Niskanen Center
    Long and (to me, anyway, but I assume I’m not the only one) interesting read.
  2. Texas Museum Puts Donald Trump Wax Statue in Storage Because People Kept Punching It
  3. I did a “I’ll post one comic I love for every like this tweet gets” meme thing. The tweet ended up getting 171 likes, but I decided it would be okay for me to quit after listing just 100 comics I love. So here’s the list, if you’re curious. It touches on many different genres.
  4. Designer Creates Hilarious Travel Posters for America’s National Parks Based on Their 1-Star Reviews
    I’m not sure I’d say “hilarious,” but they’re amusing and also very pretty.
  5. What Happens When Republicans Simply Refuse to Certify Democratic Wins? | Washington Monthly
    Essentially, it’ll come down to what judges say. And if the judges are Trump appointed, we could be screwed.
  6. Man Builds a Working Electric Guitar from His Deceased Uncle’s Skeleton
  7. The War on Critical Race Theory | Boston Review
    “CRT functions for the right today primarily as an empty signifier for any talk of race and racism at all, a catch-all specter lumping together “multiculturalism,” “wokeism,” “anti-racism,” and “identity politics”—or indeed any suggestion that racial inequities in the United States are anything but fair outcomes…”
  8. The Tapeworm That Helps Ants Live Absurdly Long Lives – The Atlantic
    A parasite makes ordinary worker ants live years longer. The infected ants are fed and coddled and carried around by the non-infected ants and don’t have to do any work themselves.
  9. The strange journey of ‘cancel,’ from a Black-culture punchline to a White-grievance watchword – The Washington Post
    It’s more about the origins of the term – there’s not much about how it became a right-wing watchword. But what there is interesting.
  10. As a Rabbi Raised in South Africa, I Can’t Ignore Israel Is an Apartheid State
  11. Reflections on Growing Up Fat and Chinese-American — naafa
  12. Promoting Public Health in the Context of the “Obesity Epidemic”: False Starts and Promising New Directions
    A journal article provides an overview. It’s from 2015, but nothing’s changed since then. (I mean, regarding the issues the article discusses.)
  13. the demonisation of fatness – earth to venus
    A broad overview of a lot of fat acceptance issues, in the form of a blog post.
  14. Group that can’t find systemic voter fraud eager to help combat systemic voter fraud – The Washington Post
    A Heritage Foundation database often cited to show that voter fraud is a major problem… shows that voter fraud is an insignificant problem. The database contains just one case from the 2020 election, for example.
  15. Addressing The Claims In JK Rowling’s Justification For Transphobia | by Katy Montgomerie | Medium
    A detailed response to JKR’s famous anti-trans letter from last year.
  16. Voter suppression: A short history of the long conservative assault on Black voting power – CNNPolitics
  17. Open Letter on the History, Impact, and Future of the Filibuster | by Scholars for Reform | May, 2021 | Medium
    “…the Framers explicitly rejected a supermajority requirement for common legislation…. Today, the Framers’ vision of the function of the Senate has largely been inverted.”
  18. Photos by Alice Donovan Rouse and Lindsey Ross with Tim Mossholder.

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20 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Hico Ujill Edition

  1. 1
    Adrian says:

    #6 should be a ballad (Child Ballad #10, I think.) Maybe in the style of Jim Steinman, may he rest in peace, to do justice to the electric guitar.

  2. 2
    Fibi says:

    “CRT functions for the right today primarily as an empty signifier for any talk of race and racism at all, a catch-all specter lumping together “multiculturalism,” “wokeism,” “anti-racism,” and “identity politics”—or indeed any suggestion that racial inequities in the United States are anything but fair outcomes…”

    #7 is a long, interesting, but ultimately unpersuasive article. It’s certainly true that many on the right (and the left) don’t map out the different nuances between CRT, “anti-racism,” “wholeness,” etc. That’s not surprising. But the Ur Text of the anti-CRT movement is President Trump’s now rescinded Executive Order banning CRT trainings with Federal contractors. It just so happens that I work for a Federal contractor and got pulled into a compliance review of our D&I trainings after the EO came out. And we barely changed anything. In fact, all of the slides, instructor notes, discussion questions, scenarios were fine. We just had to trim a couple of items from the Resources page (mostly eliminating websites and podcasts for fear that future changes or content would run afoul of the EO). So I certainly don’t agree that the anti-CRT movement calls into question “any mention of race or racism at all.”

    I considered quoting Section 2 of the EO here. And while the EO is rescinded it’s basically word for word what’s in the new Florida law. But I think I will just leave the link where it is for those who are inclined to follow. Also, I’m not really weighing in on whether CRT trainings are better or worse than traditional D&I trainings. Just taking issue with the claim that they aren’t easily distinguishable and/or the anti-CRT movement isn’t distinguishing them.

  3. Pingback: The Anti-Critical Race Theory Movement Advocates Censorship | Alas, a Blog

  4. 3
    Saurs says:

    But the Ur Text of the anti-CRT movement is President Trump’s now rescinded Executive Order banning CRT trainings with Federal contractors.

    Absolutely not. This jumped the thinktank and law review/popular culture war skirmish divide when Breitbart got a whiff.

  5. 4
    RonF says:

    It’s funny to watch the Democrats decry the filibuster when 4 years ago 33 Democratic Senators (a majority of the Democratic Senate caucus) were among the 61 Senators who signed a letter supporting it. The only thing that’s changed in last 4 years is what party holds the White House and a (bare) majority in the Senate. This is far more about power than about democracy.

  6. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, my impression is that the 33 Senators were not a beginning point, but a middle point in an ongoing change. 10 years ago there wouldn’t have been a majority of Democratic senators for it; 20 years ago I’m not sure you would have found one for it.

    That said, of course the experience of having Republicans use the filibuster as an absolute, non-negotiable veto on the preferences of the majority of voters is what’s driven so many Democrats to change their mind. That’s not wrong. It’s not selfish to think that the party that wins the most votes should have some power to pass its policies.

    Fortunately for the Republican’s desire to shove their agenda down voters’ throats even though they can’t win a majority of voters, there are still at least two Democrats who value Senate traditions more than they value voting rights. That will most likely allow the GOP to increase their use of the filibuster and other anti-democracy techniques to win the House and Senate without actually getting a greater proportion of votes than previously. We’re pretty much watching the effective end of democracy in the USA, at the Federal level and in many cases at the State level.

  7. 6
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    Democracy ended in Wisconsin about 10 years ago.

  8. 7
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    #13– I’m in general agreement, but skinny shaming might be a little more institutional/serious than is obvious. In particular, I’ve seen accounts from very thin women of doctors ignoring symptoms and saying to just gain weight.

  9. 8
    Corso says:

    Amp @ 5

    If I believed that Democrats were actually interested in good, ordered governance, I’d agree with you, and I even see your point. But we had a front row seat to some very objectionable gamesmanship over the last four years, and at best, I think that what you’ve described the views of a very small minority of Senators, and for the rest, that serves as the fig leaf they’ll use.

    But that’s academic. Eventually the Republicans are going to regain control of the Senate. It might be as soon as 2022. With Manchin and Sinema signaling that they won’t do away with the filibuster, Democrats will probably eventually get the chance, perhaps sooner than later, to put their money where their mouth is and not use the tool that they’ve just described as being a “Jim Crow Era” “Anti-Democratic” vestige.

    I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  10. 9
    Ampersand says:

    If I believed that Democrats were actually interested in good, ordered governance, I’d agree with you, and I even see your point. But we had a front row seat to some very objectionable gamesmanship over the last four years, and at best, I think that what you’ve described the views of a very small minority of Senators, and for the rest, that serves as the fig leaf they’ll use.

    1) Either you think the elected representatives of a majority of voters should have a chance to pass policy, or you don’t.

    2) Most Democrats are also against the Electoral College. If Democrats nonetheless choose campaign strategies that make use of the EC – for instance, by choosing to campaign much more in swing states – that doesn’t mean that they’re not really against the EC. It means that they’ve made the pragmatic choice to live within a bad system while trying to take it, rather than unilaterally disarming themselves while not changing the system.

    3) (Also, if the GOP wins the Senate, it will almost certainly be a win with a minority of voters. Most voters will have voted for Democrats. So the argument I mentioned – ” Republicans use the filibuster as an absolute, non-negotiable veto on the preferences of the majority of voters” – probably won’t be applicable.)

  11. 10
    Celeste says:

    Democrats will probably eventually get the chance, perhaps sooner than later, to put their money where their mouth is and not use the tool that they’ve just described as being a “Jim Crow Era” “Anti-Democratic” vestige.

    This is an absolutely rock-solid vicious takedown argument in the same way that, “If taxation is theft, why don’t Republicans just stop funding the Military forever,” is.

  12. 11
    Corso says:

    Amp @ 9

    1) Either you think the elected representatives of a majority of voters should have a chance to pass policy, or you don’t.

    I don’t.

    America is not a direct democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic. There is a system, with levels of government that hold other levels of government in check. And as a feature, not as a bug, these systems are designed to protect against regional candidates. Take Canada as an example, in the last election the Conservative Party of Canada got 3% more votes than the Liberals. Justin Trudeau is still our prime minister, and he was able to pull that off because all of Andrew Sheer’s support was disproportionately concentrated between BC and Manitoba.

    They’re also supposed to bias in favor of the status quo. Senator Sinema said it: These procedures are supposed to encourage bipartisanship. Now, you could argue that bipartisanship isn’t possible, because the Republicans are being obstructionist, and/or there is no middle ground or compromise to be made. That doesn’t actually make your case. Because, and she made this point as well, every time you have a 50% plus 1 regime change, you’d have this situation where the laws would be going back and forth between some really extremely different systems. That is not good governance.

    If you cannot figure out a way to get the representatives of a majority of the States in the Union to agree on a policy change, then the policy shouldn’t be changed. New York and California should not be able to set national policies just because they’re more populous.

    Most Democrats are also against the Electoral College. If Democrats nonetheless choose campaign strategies that make use of the EC – for instance, by choosing to campaign much more in swing states – that doesn’t mean that they’re not really against the EC. It means that they’ve made the pragmatic choice to live within a bad system while trying to take it, rather than unilaterally disarming themselves while not changing the system.

    Again… This ignores all the times when a Republican was in office, and those same Senators called the filibuster a pillar of your Democracy. It’s one thing to say “this is a necessary evil, so I’ll hold my nose and use it” and a completely different thing to do complete 180’s on the issue depending on who has the bare majority. The first time, the very first time, that Democrat Senators actually stand on the principle when it’s not politically convenient for them to do so would be the point where I’d have to start taking them seriously on the issue.

    I’m also not really interested in hearing arguments like that from Democrats when they institute objectively worse procedures in their internally controlled party apparatus. If the Democrats are so amazingly keen on direct Democracy, why are still using superdelegates during the primary? There isn’t a Republican on Earth that could prevent them from a one person-one vote system, and yet they’ve chosen not to.

  13. 12
    Görkem says:

    Corso, your saying America is “not a direct democracy, but a constitutional Republic” doesn’t really make sense. These two terms are not incompatible. I don’t know exactly how you define direct democracy – you seem to imply any country without a federal legislative system is a direct democracy, but that would leave no term to describe a referendum-driven system like Switzerland’s, which is what “direct democracy” means in most of the academic texts I have read.

    But whether a direct democracy is something like Switzerland or something like Finland, either way, both of those countries are also constitutional republics. So I don’t know why you think the fact that America is a constitutional republic means it cannot also be a direct democracy.

    Edit: Since you don’t like it when I post short replies to you, let me expand this one – what is the problem that would ensue if America did have a system where a majority of voters were allowed to set policy? Can you give examples of countries that are “direct democracies” and the problems majoritarian policy-making have created, that America has successful avoided?

    Or do you perhaps think that America (and maybe also Canada) are so unique in their geography/their diversity that they have a unique need for non-majoritarian policymaking which works tolerably well in physically smaller/ostensibly less diverse countries?

  14. 13
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    America is not a direct democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic.

    Oof. If I had a nickel for everybody I’ve heard say these words and truly understand what they mean, I’d have somewhere under a nickel.

  15. 14
    JaneDoh says:

    When the Constitution was ratified the ratio between the state with the largest population was about 10X larger than the state with the smallest population. Now, that ratio is about 69X. Having population reflected in one chamber while ignoring it in the other was a lot less unfair then, and it is unlikely that anyone would have foreseen that a few really small states would have enormous power to enact their will. FWIW, the same thing plays out in many states, where the population is highly concentrated in urban areas while political power is focused by the much larger number of rural districts.

    In addition, the Founding Fathers deliberately made it so that legislation did not require a supermajority. That this was instituted later (and by accident) doesn’t make it part of the original design, so invoking the “design” of the American government (as enumerated in the Constitution) is not a real strong defense of the Senatorial filibuster. It would be one thing if obstructionism was blocking legislation that a bare majority would support, but some things that the GOP is blocking poll at 70% of the US population. How is that “government by the people for the people”?

  16. 15
    Görkem says:

    @JaneDoh: If we are to believe Corso, American government is not government by the people. It’s government by states. The fact that states contain people is just a detail. Government by a bare majority of citizens would, it is stipulated, be illegitimate, but government by a bare majority of states is not only legitimate but is actually superior to government by the majority of citizens, which would apparently lead to chaos, corruption and other Very Bad Things (TM). It’s not clear if Corso believes it would be bad for America’s unique situation or it is bad as a general principle, but it’s bad.

  17. 16
    Corso says:

    Gorkem @ 12 and Jacqueline @ 13

    Corso, your saying America is “not a direct democracy, but a constitutional Republic” doesn’t really make sense. These two terms are not incompatible.

    Oof. If I had a nickel for everybody I’ve heard say these words and truly understand what they mean, I’d have somewhere under a nickel.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_democracy

    Direct democracy or pure democracy is a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly. This differs from the majority of currently established democracies, which are representative democracies.

    […]

    In a representative democracy people vote for representatives who then enact policy initiatives. In direct democracy, people decide on policies without any intermediary. Depending on the particular system in use, direct democracy might entail passing executive decisions, the use of sortition, making laws, directly electing or dismissing officials, and conducting trials. Two leading forms of direct democracy are participatory democracy and deliberative democracy.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic

    A republic is a form of government in which “power is held by the people and their elected representatives”. In republics, the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers.

    […]

    Most often a republic is a single sovereign state, but there are also sub-sovereign state entities that are referred to as republics, or that have governments that are described as republican in nature. For instance, Article IV of the United States Constitution “guarantee[s] to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government”.

    I’m not saying America isn’t a Democracy, I’m saying it isn’t a Direct Democracy. And it isn’t, you don’t even directly elect all of your leaders, nevermind policy. My point, which you seem bound and determined to miss, is that it was never the intention of the people creating the framework to create a system that was perfectly representative. A vote in California was never supposed to elect a Senator in Texas, And every state was given an equal seat at the table, at least in the Senate. As Jane points out later, this was done at a time where the largest state had 10x the population of the smallest, so while there was less disproportionality, it was still there, still obvious, and still planned for. Feature, not a bug. And there are reasons for it to be that way.

    It helps in understanding American civics if you approach it from the perspective that the system is designed to bias against laws changing. The assumption was that the laws, generally, would work, and if laws needed to change, the changes ought to be uncontroversial enough that an obvious majority, not a mere plurality, could agree on it. I get why this might rub a progressive the wrong way, the system was literally designed in a way that hampers change and progressives are looking for an awful lot of change, but it’s also good governance. Being able to easily legislate on controversial issues would mean that every regime change, with a bare 50% plus 1, various levels of government would waffle between some very polarizing positions, which would almost certainly negatively effect the people they are supposed to represent. And there would be even less reason to cooperate than there is now, because all they’d have to do wait out to the next election while demonizing their opponents and hoping for literally one more seat at the table. Don’t believe me, look at the senate now: Invoking the nuclear option has gutted partisan cooperation.

    Edit: Since you don’t like it when I post short replies to you, let me expand this one – what is the problem that would ensue if America did have a system where a majority of voters were allowed to set policy?

    For the record, it’s a substance problem, not a quantity problem, but I appreciate the effort.

    If it was supposed to be as simple as a majority vote, what’s the point of having a senate at all? Hell, why have a house? The president is elected by everyone, just let them have as big a cabinet as they deem necessary and git er done, right?

    Again…. This starts to make sense if you view American political power as the ability to control against legislation. The House was supposed to give populations a relatively proportional power to say “No”, and the Senate was supposed to give States the relatively proportional power to say “No”, and no one was supposed to have a really easy time passing legislation. It’s why the president has the power of the veto and not the power to make law.

    To your question, the largest problem would be that smaller states wouldn’t have a reason to participate, and the United States wouldn’t exist. Small states would have never agreed to join the union if they didn’t have some kind of guarantee that they weren’t setting themselves up to be tyrannized by more states with larger populations. The Senate gave states individually an equal power to vote against legislation they found wanting.

    Or do you perhaps think that America (and maybe also Canada) are so unique in their geography/their diversity that they have a unique need for non-majoritarian policymaking which works tolerably well in physically smaller/ostensibly less diverse countries?

    Almost the exact opposite… I don’t think America or Canada are unique. Outside of Switzerland, I don’t think there are any examples of nations that create policy by referendum. As far as I know, all modern Democracies have representation that doesn’t align perfectly with constituent desires, if not all, at least any with First Past The Post Systems (which are most of them). Look at the dustup Spain had with Catalonia a couple years back.

    What are these psychically smaller, ostensibly less diverse nations with majoritarian policy making?

  18. 17
    Corso says:

    From Previous: “What are these psychically smaller” Heh…. Physically.

    Jane @ 14

    In addition, the Founding Fathers deliberately made it so that legislation did not require a supermajority. That this was instituted later (and by accident) doesn’t make it part of the original design, so invoking the “design” of the American government (as enumerated in the Constitution) is not a real strong defense of the Senatorial filibuster. It would be one thing if obstructionism was blocking legislation that a bare majority would support, but some things that the GOP is blocking poll at 70% of the US population. How is that “government by the people for the people”?

    This is the better argument, by far.

    Part of the of having checks and balances against law as opposed to in favor of them is that the laws that make their way through the system tend to be better as a result of the process. The founders weren’t perfect, they were men, and they were men of their time. I don’t ascribe to the near religious worship American Republicans seem to hold for them. But they were intelligent, and they did set up one of the most robust frameworks for Democracy on Earth.

    If you’re going to move away from the system they designed, which is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, you should probably have a good reason to do it, a good understanding of why the system existed the way it did in the first place, and a good understanding of the system as it exists to control against unintended consequences. Now the filibuster kind of flies in the face of that; not original, the unintended result of what was supposed to be legislative housekeeping (bipartisanship was healthy enough at the time that the normal rule was seen as redundant, and done away with), but not a bad idea in and of itself. I suppose that it’s evidence that not all accidents are disasters. I can explain the reason why these systems are the way they are, and make a defense of them independent of “The Founders Did It”.

    As to how the GOP blocks things that have 70% popularity… They do. And yet they they still get elected. I would suggest that means the things we’re talking about have a relatively low priority on the part of the voting base, because otherwise they’d vote DNC. There are also things the DNC blocks that have supermajority support, I don’t see either of those examples as failures.

  19. 18
    Görkem says:

    “I’m not saying America isn’t a Democracy, I’m saying it isn’t a Direct Democracy”

    Well, using the wikipedia definition, there are no direct democracies in the world, not even Switzerland.

    More to the point, if the USA shifted to legislation by majority, it -still- wouldn’t be a direct democracy.

    So basically, how did direct democracy even get into the mix? Nobody here, at least, is advocating it.

    “If it was supposed to be as simple as a majority vote, what’s the point of having a senate at all? Hell, why have a house? The president is elected by everyone, just let them have as big a cabinet as they deem necessary and git er done, right?”

    I think what is being suggested is not to give the President unlimited executive power, but to remove the Senate’s vote-weighting in favour of small states, so the Senate represents the preferences of a majority of the population (or at least, the majority during an election).

    You might well ask, why even have the Senate? Well, having a unicameral legislature would not be a disaster and it clearly works for a lot of countries. But if the change I made above was made and everything else was left the same, Senators would still serve for longer terms than Congressional representatives – so differences in priority between the Senate and Congress would reflect different dynamics in term limits rather than people vs states. That’s much more democratically defensible.

    “you should probably have a good reason to do it, a good understanding of why the system existed the way it did in the first place, and a good understanding of the system as it exists to control against unintended consequences. ”

    I think “democracy” is a good reason to change it. I understand the system very well, and I understand the founding father’s motivations. I still want to change it. Thanks for checking in, though!

    “As to how the GOP blocks things that have 70% popularity… They do. And yet they they still get elected.”

    …they get elected by the 30%.

    “For the record, it’s a substance problem, not a quantity problem, but I appreciate the effort.”

    Please tell me if you feel my posts meet your standards for substance! I mean I have a postgraduate degree with a major in History and Political Science, but what I really want to validate my understanding of political history is your approval, Corso.

  20. 19
    Corso says:

    Gorkem @ 18

    So basically, how did direct democracy even get into the mix? Nobody here, at least, is advocating it.

    Corso @ 17

    My point, which you seem bound and determined to miss, is that it was never the intention of the people creating the framework to create a system that was perfectly representative. A vote in California was never supposed to elect a Senator in Texas, And every state was given an equal seat at the table, at least in the Senate. As Jane points out later, this was done at a time where the largest state had 10x the population of the smallest, so while there was less disproportionality, it was still there, still obvious, and still planned for. Feature, not a bug. And there are reasons for it to be that way.

    Gorkem @ 18

    I think what is being suggested is not to give the President unlimited executive power, but to remove the Senate’s vote-weighting in favour of small states, so the Senate represents the preferences of a majority of the population (or at least, the majority during an election).

    You might well ask, why even have the Senate? Well, having a unicameral legislature would not be a disaster and it clearly works for a lot of countries. But if the change I made above was made and everything else was left the same, Senators would still serve for longer terms than Congressional representatives – so differences in priority between the Senate and Congress would reflect different dynamics in term limits rather than people vs states. That’s much more democratically defensible.

    Couple things:

    First; Most unicameral countries are either undeveloped, small, or corrupt. And there’s a different reason for each of those, but one characteristic they share is that a unicameral legislature is less secure. There’s a tradeoff between cost, legislative efficiency, and security, but it’s one that almost every developed nation on Earth has made. Bicameral legislatures are less susceptible to corruption, provide checks and balances to even uncorrupt overreach, and better represent their constituents by having different appointment procedures. And again… That’s a feature, not a bug. If you had a single election for two different legislative bodies that were effectively representing the same people in the same way…. You’ve just elected the same body twice. It’s the definition of redundancy. Which brings me to….

    Second; Having the above situation, but on two different timeframes would be more Democratically defensible, but also at cross purposes to your position. If public opinion on an issue switched at a House-but-not-Senate election, all of a sudden the House would be in line with the majority’s wishes and held up by a Senate that nolonger represented the issues of the people, even if they had at the previous election.

    It’s like you understand the reason bicameral legislatures exist, and you want the benefits of them, but you don’t want to have to deal with some of the benefits of them because you see them as less than beneficial. It’s like wanting a cheesecake made without cheese.

    …they get elected by the 30%.

    I don’t think you understand how devastating that is for your argument…. How do you think that happens?

    The other thing that I feel like needs to be said is that when talking about a lack of proportionality, you’re primarily talking about the disproportionality of the Senate, and I think you’re doing it either because the Senate is standing in the way of your preferred policy, or because the House is relatively proportionate. Both of which are true, but I’d like to point out that despite some VERY different election processes, the House and the Senate are basically at the same proportion, and are like that more often than not. The Democrats hold a 219/211 eight seat margin with five vacancies in the House, and there’s a 50/50 split in the Senate, with Harris acting as a tiebreaker. That means that Democrats control 50.114% of the House and 50% plus 1 of the Senate.

    Please tell me if you feel my posts meet your standards for substance! I mean I have a postgraduate degree with a major in History and Political Science, but what I really want to validate my understanding of political history is your approval, Corso.

    Will do! I’ve often found that there is a very large difference between having education, and using education, and oftentimes people that resort to telling me their credentials are doing so because they’re unwilling or unable to demonstrate them. It’s so refreshing to meet someone willing to accept and build off the criticisms of others.

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