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November 21, 2018


A fine and delicious thanksgiving to all of you on that side of the pond!

And of course to lj, in the middle of a much bigger pond!

Thanks to scheduling conflicts, our family (and friends) did Thanksgiving dinner last Sunday. Various problems, big and small, in the world notwithstanding, we all found things to be thankful for. Plus, everybody went home with enouh leftovers to skip cooking for days.

That, to my mind, is what is most important about Thanksgiving: reminding ourselves to focus occasionally on all the things that are going right.**

** For instance, do you know which country is on track to be the first to meet its commitments under the Paris Accords on climate change? Yup, the US -- even though we have formally backed out. No matter how much denial of the problem there is in some circles, there are enough of us who know and care to get the job done.

Despite all the problems real and imaginary, longstanding and transitory, the world is, from a human point of view, the best it's ever been. For that, we can be thankful.

Off to my daughter's for the family get-together tomorrow. Enthusiasm will be provided by granddaughter #1, now five and loving kindergarten, and granddaughter #2, almost two and still gets up believing every day will be an adventure (of the good sort).

Ran across this depressing, but thought-provoking piece during a writing workshop in my science fiction class today:

Mr. S, an ordinary American, is minding his own business outside his East Coast home when he is suddenly abducted by short, large-headed creatures from another world. They bring him to their ship and voyage across unimaginable distances to an alien empire both grander and more horrible than he could imagine. The aliens have godlike technologies, but their society is dystopian and hivelike. Enslaved at first, then displayed as a curiosity, he finally wins his freedom through pluck and intelligence. Despite the luxuries he enjoys in his new life, he longs for his homeworld. He befriends a local noble who tells him that the aliens in fact send ships to his world on a regular basis, quietly scouting and seeking resources while the inhabitants remain blissfully unaware of these incursions. He gets passage on such an expedition.

Ugh skrev :

> the kids

> the 7 YO

> we're hosting

I'm envious. My extended family is between generations and very short on children, and scattered -- there will be four or five small regional gatherings of the grayhairs and their adult children.

So pay attention to what you've got.
There is nothing in all the world more joyous than the laughter of a family full of children.

Nothing in all the world more joyous than the laughter of a family full of children?

Nah, I'll pass. I value sanity, peace, and quiet far too much. The three yard apes I dealt with were plenty enough for five hours, and served to reinforce my belief that parenting is a game for masochists only, and that my wife and I made the right decision in choosing not to spawn diaper factories of our own. Not to say that we don't keep trying. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving all! May your days be free of retail shoppers. :)

Mobs of retail shoppers are a serious reason to give thanks for Amazon. ☺

We have a tradition of potluck with the neighbors. Thank you to this little on-line community for existing.

Thank you to this little on-line community for existing.


Yes, thirded. I'm hoping everyone is managing facing the coming bleak mid-winter. Thanks for making it all a bit less bleak.

Spent Thanksgiving with close friends, up in NH. Low-key, good food, lovely people. A good day.

Today, cutting back perennials, raking leaves, swapping the nesting boxes for roosting boxes for the birdos. Many trips to the dump.

Winter in New England is almost more of a state of mind than a season. Realistically, it's almost half the year, so you just have to treat it as the new normal, rather than as anything exceptional.

Used to be more fun when I was younger, nowadays it's mostly just an annoyance. We get through it.

I've shifted from contemplating a job change, to sort of passively pursuing a job change, to being actively engaged in looking for a new job. Most likely I will be giving up what has been a seven-year run of a fifteen-mile daily round trip. So, rather than 25 minutes each way, probably more like an hour-plus, depending. Traffic hereabouts sucks, period.

My wife and I have been watching the Kominski Method on Netflix, which we are finding quite good. Probably more jokes about the male prostate than are absolutely necessary, but in general pretty funny. I feel like I'm watching my future, and not a particularly distant one.

Turned 62 last month, and what I'm finding to be the biggest challenge is finding inspiration. I more or less know what I'm doing (finally) in most areas of life, but nothing is really grabbing me. Which tells me something needs to shift, but I don't know what, yet.

And that said, I'm grateful, for all of it.

Better days, y'all, but also many thanks for what we got.

Cheers, everyone.

Looking forward to tomorrow's traditional post-Thanksgiving party with friends. (His mother and my Mom were best friends for 40+ years.) Most of the crowd will be professional musicians; nary another IT type in sight -- quite a change from my usual crowd.

And it looks like we'll get a break in the rain as well. Much as we're all delighted to see rain at last, it's a lot easier to barbecue without it.


Spent Saturday night at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. The highlight was an arrangement for three string quartets of Julius Eastman’s ‘Evil Nigger’.
For those interested in modern classical music, it was recorded for BBC Radio 3, where it can be found.

Interesting guy, who died homeless:

Cellist Okkyung Lee’s improvisation with saxophonist John Butcher also extraordinary.

The New Yorker reposts a fine essay by Hannah Arendt on Auden. I’d never seen it before, and it’s interesting her favourite poems are mine too.

One wonders if Saudi Arabia had just "oopsied" a JDAM on Khashoggi if there would have been any fuss.

Yup, but hey, Save the Children tells us that 85.000 children under 5 starved to death in Yemen in the past 3 years...

And I'm addicted to following the Brexit train wreck gathering momentum on Twitter.

But my little family is fine so that's something to be grateful for. I do agree that one needs a madochistic streak or at least insane amounts of patience, but there's nothing like it really.

Having finished Knausgaard this summer, I have found a new Norwegian author called Dag Solstad who is a little bit less demanding, but writes incredibly well. Thank god for the TLS, LRB and NYRB, where incredibly intelligent and educated people do the hard work of reading all the other books for me.

I'm looking forward to watching Cuaron's "Roma" since everybody seems to find it amazing. Somewhat relatedly "Narcos- Mexico", i.e. Season 4, pulls off the amazing narrative feat of making you root for the founders of the first Mexican drug cartel.

That's a terrific piece on Auden, Nigel, thank you.

Glad you enjoyed it, GFTNC.

Yesterday's winner for the best T-shirt:

There are two kinds of people in the world
  1. Those who are capable of extrapolating from incomplete data

Seems like something I would expect from some IT guys. But these were a bunch of musicians. Live and learn.

I've seen that one. I'd expect the one with musical notation showing 7/8 and 5/4, with "These are difficult times" printed on it.

A couple of my favorite "kinds of people" jokes:

There are 10 kinds of people in the world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

There a 2 kind of people in the world - those who dichotomize and those who don't.

Yeah, I've always been fond of the binary one. But it's hard to explain outside the usual crowd. Most people being part of "don't"

And it kind of has to be in writing. "There are one-zero kind of people" said out loud doesn't quite work.

But it's hard to explain outside the usual crowd. Most people being part of "don't"

Even as a complete non-maths, non-IT person, I understand it because of (just about) remembering learning about number bases 50 years ago (!) in high school. I couldn't translate long numbers in binary, but 10 I can just about do. But trying to explain what the Mandelbrot set was to a cousin (an antiquarian manuscript expert) of Benoit Mandelbrot last Christmas, now that really was hard (all I could do was describe its visual representation).

I had this one back in my SQL report writing days:

Select All from Users where Clue > 0
0 rows returned

you left off the semicolon at the end.

This blog is really going down hill. Once people start forgetting stuff like that, it's pretty much over.

Khashoggi's killing was "UnAmerican." Remember when Bill Maher got fired for pointing out this cultural difference:

"We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly."

Maher may have further enraged viewers when he contrasted the action of the U.S. military with the hijackers who died along with their victims when they crashed commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11. "Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly,"

Snarki, I did not omit the semicolon - Think Geek did. My screw up was using "ALL" rather than "*" but then it's been 15 years since I did any work in SQL, so...

I see that Brad DeLong has front-paged one of hilzoy's ObWi postings from 2007, less than a dozen years ago.

Permit me to observe that, while ObWi is still one of my favorite places on the intertoobs, we seem to have lost the best when she retired from blogging.

wj proposes a winner for best T shirt.

I like these, which are more political

Y'all mad
Y'all mad
Y'all mad
Y'all silent

You don't watch the NFL game for the anthem,
so if you don't like the kneeling,
just ignore it,
just like you do the racism and police brutality.

That Hilzoy article stands the test of time extremely well.

In that context, this makes interesting reading:

Everything I go back and read from Hilzoy (which I often do) stands the test of time. She is the best thing I've ever encountered online.

I loved that piece, this:

The absolute monarch, according to Hobbes, does more than protect us from all our other enemies. He provides us with a clear answer to the question: whose word is law? Whose will governs? Hobbes thinks that that answer has to be as clear as possible, since if there is any ambiguity about it, even people who agree on the need to live together under the rule of law will end up fighting about its interpretation.

This is where we are. And below this she recognizes the possibility of using violence to decide whose word is law, and that elections are often, if not always questioned.

In many wayssdd more relevant today.

The absolute monarch...

...This is where we are.

Trump would like to think so.

Only Olde-Timey countries still have "monarchs" any more.

The modern version is "President For Life".

I, for one, think that anyone that declares themselves President For Life should immediately get their wish.

With two in the noggin.

and the Kevin Drum piece linked in the comments of that Delong post is pretty good, too:

It's strawmen all the way down.

The modern Republican Party, in particular, is almost entirely committed to the propositions that tax cuts pay for themselves, wars don’t cost anything, social welfare hurts the poor, climate change doesn’t exist, and the unregulated free market magically solves all problems

Yes strawmen all the way down.

No one believes wars don't cost anything, unconstrained social welfare does hurt the poor (and the middle class who ends up paying for it), climate change is real ,the doomsday scenarios are impossible to prove but the only ones presented as possibilities, and no Republican I know believes in completely unregulated markets.

The whole list is about where to make the tradeoffs. which the Democratic party is almost entirely committed to refusing to admit have to exist. We can do it all, just ask them.

No one believes wars don't cost anything

Republicans do. that's why they say we can't afford to [spins wheel] pay SS and Medicare but have never once tried to raise a single dime to pay for the $5,000,000,000,000 the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost. in fact, they've cut taxes.

unconstrained social welfare does hurt the poor

talk about strawmen. "unconstrained" is not Drum's word.

climate change is real

your party disagrees, top to bottom.


Also keeping in mind that being committed to the propositions does not require believing in them as truths. It simply requires acting as though they are true. Belief is irrelevant.

OT but it seems like every thread is an open thread these days - I thought this was well said.

Wasn't sure it merited a new thread, and didn't want to take the literary thread too far off track, so here it is.

Maybe Marty's right about some strawmanning when saying Republicans don't believe in climate change.

Of note, nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64%) now believe in climate change, a 15 point jump from just under half (49%) three years ago.

Of course, this now makes me doubt that climate change is real. If Republicans believe it, it must be a hoax after all. ;^)

More seriously, that is a big shift. Too bad the evidence had to start hitting people over the head before they would believe it.

that's good news! i stand corrected.

Half of independents (51%, up from 42%) say climate change is a very serious problem and only a quarter of Republicans (25%, up from 18%) feel the same.

though not by very much.

"Majorities of Democrats (56%), Republicans (55%), and independents (53%) do not think it is likely that Congress will act in the next few years"

The actual depressing part.

Is this anything other than the action of a thug ?

Even without Trump, whose policies have been massively damaging to efforts to reduce US CO2 emissions, Republican Senators are likely to stymie serious action for years to come:

I retain a certain degree of hope that improving technology and market forces will do something to alleviate the situation.
In any event, technical solutions are there if the political will ever emerges.... which is not inconceivable.

Well in a few dozen other articles it's pretty clear she didn't accidentally do anything. She filled out the form correctly, was told she didn't qualify to vote, resubmitted with the citizen box checked and then voted. That's fraud.

The problem is one or two of these allows the perpetuation of the whole voter fraud narrative.

Well, and the obvious voter fraud in California where you just keep finding more votes until the Dem wins no matter how long it takes.

On technical solutions:

First of all, in the last 15 years, wind and solar went from extremely expensive green luxury items maintained by subsidy to the cheapest forms of energy ever. That happened because government subsidized wind and solar, made a market for it that companies competed over, and they relentlessly drove the cost down. It’s a remarkable achievement – that conservatives should relish – of market success, but through government subsidy...
...With the direct air capture technologies, 10 years ago you would have said that’s just like a fairy tale. But because of diligent activity by a small number of technical people, there’s been very rapid progress, so much so that knowledgeable people who are not starry-eyed, but just hard-headed, believe that there is a very high probability that a research effort within 10 years would produce direct air capture at less than a dollar a gallon of gasoline. That’s $100 a ton [of captured CO2]...

For the first time in my lifetime, it is conceivable that we can within a relatively short period of time, sort the carbon problem without massively reducing economic activity. That is a reason for hope despite the idiocies currently perpetrated in our politics.

the obvious voter fraud in California where you just keep finding more votes until the Dem wins no matter how long it takes.

This is nothing short of bizarre. California, like over a dozen other states, allows voting by mail (without having to come up with an excuse). It allows voters to drop off their by-mail ballots at the polls; at the precinct I worked, we got roughly as many drop offs as in-person voters.

In person votes get counted immediately. But mail ballots (whether dropped off or mailed in) have to be checked against the voter roster . . . you know, to prevent voter fraud. This has to be done manually, and takes time.

The law says mail in ballots get counted provided 1) they are postmarked by Election Day and 2) they arrive by Friday.** At which point, they have to be checked, too.

All this takes a while. But it makes sure that people who are eligible to vote do get their votes counted. And that invalid ballots don't get counted.

It's true that by-mail voters skew Democratic more than the overall population. Which, inevitably, means that final counts are going to shift in that direction compared to day-of results. Sometimes that actually makes a difference; other times, it doesn't. But the effect is the same regardless . . . which you wouldn't expect if this was something done to change the results.

In short, there is significant voter fraud only in imaginations fuelled by ignorance.

** There's a caveat for the small number of cases where voters contrive to mail their ballot to the wrong county. They have an additional 4 days to get to the right county for counting.

"But mail ballots (whether dropped off or mailed in) have to be checked against the voter roster . . . you know, to prevent voter fraud. This has to be done manually, and takes time."

I cant imagine a system designed to be more susceptible to large scale voter fraud.

Manual verification of a large percentage of votes by local political entities. What could go wrong?

That system was replaced even in south Texas decades ago.

Marty seems to think that poll workers in Orange County are aiming to flip things blue. I've talked to a few of them and they are mostly old and white and old school. That the vote kept going and kept skewing blue is a testament to their integrity.

You know, I'm guessing that most of those Republicans in the OC would have done better if they had not sided with Trump against their own constituents. Most of those districts went red for congress but crossed over for Clinton rather than vote for Our National Shame.

These results were not inexplicable. This is what happens when representatives choose national party over the wishes of local voters.

Marty, w.r.t. vote-by-mail: I cant imagine a system designed to be more susceptible to large scale voter fraud.

I can. So can Marty, if he tries.

But I'd really like to know how mail-in ballots get mailed out in our various sovereign states. Do election officials bulk-mail ballots to "Resident" at every street address in the district, like AOL used to send out CDs? Or what?


In California, you have to sign up for vote-by-mail. IF you opt in, you get a ballot addressed to you by name at the address where you are registered to vote. (They are not forwarded, even if you have moved and left a forwarding address.) Other people at the same address do not get them unless they, too, opted in.

FYI, the list of registered voters which is used to check in voters at the polls do NOT include the folks who opted for vote-by-mail. If they show up with their by-mail ballot, they can drop them off. But if they don't have it, they get to vote provisionally. Which means, when those ballots get to the county seat, their names and addresses are checked against the mail-in ballots which have been received -- to avoid having people vote twice. Obviously that means that those cannot be counted until the deadline for mail-in ballots to arrive has passed.

An amusing exercise, for those who think California is somehow faking its results. Take a look at every Congressional race, every state Senate race, every Assembly race. Notice that, in all of them, mail-in votes skew more Democratic than the district as a whole.

In some of those races, the district is safely Republican. The outcome isn't changed, even though the Democrats run up (proportionately, although not necessarily numerically) more votes. Likewise in the districts which are safely Democratic. Again the outcome doesn't change, just the vote totals. There's no reason anyone would bother fiddling with those counts. But I think you will find that they reflect the same trend seen in swing districts.

So, are we to assume that someone is somehow fiddling the results in every county, even the solidly red ones? (Because each county administers the election locally.) Or do we accept that what we are seeing is real? Try Occam's Razor.

Well in a few dozen other articles it's pretty clear she didn't accidentally do anything

A citation would add some strength to your argument.

the obvious voter fraud in California...

An obvious drive-by.

No need to bite hooks.

True enough russell, I'm believe the system is flawed and will be abused, but the concept as I stated it was mostly tongue in cheek.

Here is one of many articles over time, after the appeals court upheld the conviction:

And a search for Texas voter fraud finds a ring in Ft Worth being paid by a Dem to forge ballots, mail in ballots.

I cant imagine a system designed to be more susceptible to large scale voter fraud.

Voting machines, running on Windows, with an accessible USB port ?

You need to work on expanding your imagination.

A not uncommon pathology:

Not to belabor this, but the account in your link doesn't differ in any significant way from the one in Nigel's.

I don't see clear intent to defraud in this story. The election officials involved appear to own as much responsibility as the woman.

She has lost custody of her 4 kids and is going to jail for 8 years.

My takeaway is this: never put yourself at the mercy of a TX jury. Her best outcome would have been to take the plea.

8 freaking years.

Also, your second link appears to be the same as your first.

The DFW voter fraud ring.

Sounds like some canvassing staffers were coloring outside the lines.

We report, you decide.

I dont see clear intent to defraud... there's the rub. Unless you think somehow she actually thought she was a citizen?

How many other noncitizens are "unintentionally" marking that citizen box? The challenge is that in a state like Californis there is no one interested in even checking.

Oh and 8 years, eligible for parole in less than 12 months. And yeah, she should have taken the plea. She was guilty.

Excellent Slate piece, Nigel. Yup, that's definitely how it's been working.

it's inconceivable to Republicans that people don't think Trump-enablers should be in office.

i've told this story here before, but i keep finding new and fun details to add...

in NC, the GOP won the popular vote for House seats with 50.4% - that's about 75K votes.

in district 3 the Republican ran unopposed; and he got the most votes of any Republican in any district in NC: 187K votes. we can assume that's close to the ceiling for GOP candidates.

now, no Democrat in any NC district got fewer than 110K votes. (and one got as high as 247K).

so, if a Democrat had run in district 3, odds are very good that the GOP would have lost the popular vote while still winning 10/13 House seats.

there's your f'ing vote fraud.

but yes, let's hear more about one woman in Texas! and let's indulge the GOP's desperate hunt for an explanation as to why CA voters might not like the GOP so much right now. it must be fraud!

no, friends, the GOP is the fraud.

and, while i'm ranting about NC...

you know what would be helpful in that TX mail vote fraud case? a graph showing abnormal vote results in there area where people reported suspicious activity around absentee ballots.

cleek's graph

notice anything strange about Bladen County?

Wallace went on to say a review of public records “confirms that serious irregularities and improprieties may have occurred.” Bladen County had the highest percentage of absentee ballot requests in the state. There, 7.5 percent of registered voters requested absentee ballots. In most counties it was less than 3 percent.

An analysis by Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer suggested more aberrations.

In seven of the eight counties in the 9th District, for example, McCready won a lopsided majority of the mailed-in absentee ballots. But not in Bladen County. There, Republican Mark Harris won 61 percent even though registered Republicans accounted for only 19 percent of the county’s accepted absentee ballots.

wake me up when Republicans start furrowing their brows about that one.

dammit. i even put a WIDTH tag on that img link.

mods, feel free to kill it. sorry.

cleek, you don't understand. Voter fraud is something that, by definition, benefits Democrats. Why do you think Dear Leader spent so much time talking about the millions of fraudulent voters? They obviously voted for Clinton ... obviously. That's just how it works.

cleek -- I tried adding a height tag, decreasing the dimensions, and adding an alt tag, on the model of the embed code that Flickr has given me that works here. Nothing made any difference.

Of course, the Flickr code has a lot of other junk that's only related to Flickr, and I have no idea if some of that is what makes Typepad accept it. I'm not that knowledgeable about html. Typepad behind the scenes says that it doesn't support images in comments in the first place, so the bigger mystery to me is why the scripts coming from Flickr work at all.

I left the's not hurting anything, but I'll remove it entirely and leave a note saying so if you want.

I've also only ever embedded jpg files in comments (always from Flickr if I remember correctly). Don't know if jpg vs png would make a difference.

Just to be clear, the woman convicted in Texas voted Republican by all accounts I read.

Happy, no, eager to have someone look into absentee ballots in NC. About ten minutes ago I read about vote harvesting in CA. Again, what could go wrong? third parties collecting ballots and delivering them in bulk?

Unless you think somehow she actually thought she was a citizen?

I have no opinion about what she thought. After all these years, I find that I am still unable to read minds.

What seems equally plausible to me are:

* She knew she shouldn't vote and she did so anyway
* She had no clear understanding of whether she should be allowed to vote or not, and her interactions with the election officials in TX did nothing to shed light on the question.

There are probably 3 or 4 other plausible variants.

I have no idea which is the most accurate.

At any rate, she lost her kids and is going to jail. Whatever purpose might be served by throwing the book at her, has presumably been served.

How many other noncitizens are "unintentionally" marking that citizen box?

I would say the answer is somewhere between 100 and a million. Probably toward the lower end of that range.

Who knows? Not me. But I'm always happy to offer an opinion, just ask my wife.

If it's toward the higher end, it's a shame that the eagerness of non-citizens to vote is not matched by that of actual citizens.

In any event, the reason that (D)'s prevailed in CA is that (R) policies don't serve the citizens of CA very well. So they voted against them.

It ain't rocket science.

I have a question about that Texas case. When the woman registered, in person, the ID she presented was, per the linked story, her alien registration card. Therefore, the person doing the registration KNEW she wasn't a citizen.

So, what happened to him? What kind of sentence did he get? Was he even charged? Inquiring minds want to know.

Speaking of voting fraud, I am aware of only one instance nationwide (feel free to enlighten me about others) where it was apparently so large as to impact the results. To the point that the state has refused to certify the results:

Note that, for whatever reason, it isn't the Democrat whose victory is in question. Note also that they are also looking into the candidate's primary victory. Guess all those anti-voter-fraud measures in North Carolina weren't targetted correctly.

It's good news that the NC Board of Elections voted unanimously not to certify.

note that what's being described in the NC case is exactly what the right is alleging happened in TX and CA.

is there a "How To Rig Absentee Ballots" wiki out there ? or is this a case of the GOP getting ahead of a bad story by preemptively blaming Dems for what they know people in the GOP actually did?

This, in response, is both smart politics from Pelosi, and fairly admirable:

US Senate votes to invoke the War Powers act and get the US un-involved in Yemen.

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