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May 24, 2020


See what could be tweaked to address that particular problem which led to what happened there.

the thing is, there are already laws in place which should have prevented it. but, you know how criminals are about laws...

the whole thing relied on the ignorance of voters. they were signed-up for absentee ballots that the schemers suspected weren't going to be filled out (based on past voting records); ballots were collected by the schemers illegally (voters should have known not to give their ballots to strangers); ballots were tampered with (obv illegal); witness signatures were forged (obv illegal).

if voters don't know their own role in a vote by mail process, the process is going to be abused by people who don't care about the laws.

No, hsh. The "you have to prove it will fail" argument is a red herring. All I have to do to question its potential success is to point out reasonable risks, which have already been demonstrated. I dont have to "prove" people would take advantage of those vulnerabilities.

I dont have to wait until someone robs my house to install a lock.

So install a lock.

The (R)'s tried to hack a Congressional election in NC. They got caught. Because it was impossible to do what they tried to do - exactly what you suggest, collect people's mail in ballots and manipulate them - without calling attention to themselves.

(R)'s don't want people to vote by mail because it will increase voter turnout, which lowers their odds.

More pointedly - the GOP doesn't want people to be able to vote by mail in places where they know they are only winning because they are already suppressing votes by other means.

Turnout has no risks for the GOP in Utah, so no one worries about it.

It sounds like you have rather smaller precincts than I am accustomed to. I'm trying to remember if I have ever, in half a century of voting in every single election, seen someone I knew at the polls.

Typical for a western state. During the years before Colorado got a permanent absentee ballot list, I don't remember two consecutive elections where the precinct boundaries were the same, or the voting place in the same location. I have argued before that vote-by-mail seems much more attractive to people living in a place growing at some fantastic rate. On the near order of 70% of votes cast in the 13-state West in 2018 were ballots delivered by mail. This year it will likely reach 75%, maybe 80% if NV decides to go that route.

It sounds like you have rather smaller precincts than I am accustomed to.

Typical for a western state.

I live in a town that's 4 square miles, some of which is water, and 20,000 people.

We have 6 voting precints.

Plus, in New England, it's not uncommon for folks to stay wherever they grew up, or at least pretty nearby. Not me personally, I'm from away, even though I've been here almost 40 years now.

Townies are a thing. If you grew up here, went to school here or had kids that went to school here, work for the town or have any kind of business in the town, it's highly likely that you'll bump into some folks you know at the polling place.

I live in a "town" (and precinct, they are identical) of about 2500. Even counting the time when I was brand spanking new here, I have never gone to the polls without seeing people I know.

When this first came up in the thread, I was thinking it was mostly a rural vs urban thing. So Michael's observation about the West, and places where the population is growing rapidly, sheds additional light.

I put "town" in quotes because although it's legally a town (not a city, a plantation, a township, etc.), most people would probably laugh at that label. It's a blinker light, a few shops and public buildings, and a lot of old/former farmland.

From a different angle, I grew up in a town of about 24,000, where an awful lot of people knew an awful lot of people. Italian-Americans are all related to each other to begin with (j/k, but they do track relationships as avidly as hobbits), but people also knew each other because, as in russell's description of New England, they had grown up in the same neighborhoods, gone to the same (one of two or three) high schools, etc.

A bunch of my relatives ended up in Florida. One of the Orlando ones said, when I was visiting many years ago, "It's weird here. No one is from here."

Another bunch live in a town that had about 3500 people when my family visited in 1963. Now it has 65000+.

And we won't get into the bitching I had to listen to when they ran out of English ballots one year. ;-)

While I am an advocate of ballot-by-mail where states want to do it, I'm also in favor of systems that do the job well. This year in particular, the old saw about "amateurs worry about tactics, professionals worry about logistics" is appropriate. Who's going to print the ballots? Who's going to stuff the envelopes (a critical security step is tracking the specific return envelope sent to each individual voter)? What's the process for handling ballots when they arrive by the truckload every day for two weeks (eg, verifying signatures)? Are there enough machines to count the ballots in a reasonable time? If not machines, where will the bodies come from and how will they get trained up (the usual answer of "volunteer oldsters" may be a problem if the oldsters are still staying home)? We're at the end of May, so something under five months until ballots need to go into the mail. Any state that doesn't have answers to those questions now is likely to have a mess on their hands, fraud or not.

Things that are easy to do for one ballot become very difficult for a million ballots. Scale is a problem all on its own.

Grew up in/near a town of 8000 in WI. Both polling places I remember you couldn't not run into people you knew.

CO and CA (urban districts, all), I don't think I ever saw the same people twice if they weren't poll workers. I've only ever been to a polling place once in 16 years of voting (permanent absentee) in CA, and that because I had let my ballot sit too long. So we walked to the closest polling place (10 min walk) and dropped them off with no fuss and no wait.

I do know that Latinx mail-in ballots get challenged at about 2x the rate of non-Latinx ballots, so it seems that there really is no difference between that and voting in person...

i know it makes me a bad liberal, but i have to admit that NC's recent trouble has soured me on vote-by-mail.

Well, if they get some numbnut to do the dirty work and then hang them out to dry, mission accomplished. One only has to look at the parade of idiots who have their moment in the sun and are then discarded when their behavior leads to problems.

The "you have to prove it will fail" argument is a red herring.

Michael Cain’s comment, which I have no argument with, notwithstanding, your assertion would be correct if vote-by-mail wasn’t already a well-established thing with a track record. And you still don’t acknowledge the shortcomings, particularly now, of voting in person. Logistical problems in places unprepared are an issue, but the idea that vote-by-mail is inherently infeasible because of fraud is absolutely on you to prove. How have states been doing it all this time?

It's not on me to prove that incidents like NC would be more widespread if vote by mail became more widespread. The only two places I am aware of that simply mail ballots out to all registered voters are Oregon and Washington and they could have more controls than I am aware of, or more fraud than you are. Or both.

It is not sufficient, to me, to justify having every ballot have no chain of custody that you simply declare there havent been any problems yet.

OK, let's assume (for the sake of discussion) that vote by mail is as enormously problematic as Marty contends. The question arises: how have the places which have been using it extensively (not just the few that do it 100%, but those where it is used by at least, say a quarter of the voters), how have they all avoided having numerous problems? If it's that bad, there should have been lots and lots of problems. So many that they couldn't help having lots of them come to light.

And yet, we all talk about that incident in North Carolina precisely because it is so exceptional. Most places just don't have problems. Some are solid blue, some are swing states, some are solid red. But what they have in common is lots of vote by mail and no problems. How is that even possible?

The only two places I am aware of that simply mail ballots out to all registered voters are Oregon and Washington and they could have more controls than I am aware of, or more fraud than you are.

Also Colorado since 2013, and Hawaii and Utah starting in 2020. Colorado allows in-person voting for people who prefer that, even though everyone who is already registered will get a by-mail ballot. Arizona is about 80% ballots by mail, Montana and California about 70%, and New Mexico around 65%.

Oregon has poured lots of money into searching for fraud for lots of years and can't find it. Colorado wins the awards that the experts give out for secure, accurate elections. All the evidence suggests that if you want to steal an election, you have to resort to wholesale fraud -- non-voters mucking with lots of ballots. A well-designed ballot-by-mail system is inherently more secure against wholesale fraud because there are so many more audits and consistency checks applied.

None of that applies to badly designed systems. Badly-designed absentee ballot systems have been abused for years.

(R)'s don't want vote by mail, because it will increase voter turnout, which makes them more likely to lose.

Several of them have said so, explicitly, on the record. Including the POTUS.

The logistics of voter fraud in either in-person or by-mail voting are such that it is grossly impractical to make it work in numbers large enough to matter. See also, NC.

And Marty, since voting by mail already exists in virtually all places, it actually *is* on you to demonstrate not only why incidents like NC would be more widespread, but why we should think they would not be identified and addressed. As they were in NC.

Voting by mail not only exists, it's quite common. It's dead normal. It's been in place for years and years.

Suddenly, it's a danger to our electoral system?

It's on you to show why.


Many of the places you name dont just mail out ballots to everyone. I'm curious what audits and consistency checks there are in those places that do.(I will look it up, not asking anyone else to)

It seems more likely as states that are more competitive start to have widespread ballot availability that smaller fraud can have greater impact. It seems mail in voting is irrelevant in CA for example, except a few more Republicans might bother to vote. CO has been more competitive so it's a good sign if it's a good model.

AZ, if I recall correctly, did have some issues.

russell, I'm not R's. I'm me. I dont have to prove anything except that it is less secure than having a person walk up show an ID and get a ballot. Which it is.

Absentee voting is controlled at various levels of success. That's a different thing, in kind. If it's on anyone then it's on the people wanting to change the rules that it is as secure as the current method. You cant.

I dont have to prove anything except that it is less secure than having a person walk up show an ID and get a ballot. Which it is.

So "Which it is" is your idea of proof?

It's certainly true that no one can make you prove anything. But then, no one has to put any credence in your evidence-free assertions, either.

It’s certainly more secure from a public health standpoint, which is the very reason we’re even discussing it right now. And the fact is, as has been demonstrated, it’s a more than reasonably viable voting system. If Dear Leader, whom you claim to dislike and who claimed millions voted fraudulently in person in an election he won, weren’t making a bullsh*t issue of mail-in voting, would it even occurred to you that it might be a problem?

In what jurisdictions do you have to show ID to vote? I don't even have to sign my name.

How is vote by mail different from absentee ballot? Because they pro-actively mail you a ballot? That's less secure than going on a website and saying "Hey, send me a ballot"?

You say somebody's gonna pay people for their ballots. How many times do you think that will happen before somebody notices?

There are no foolproof schemes, and there doesn't need to be. There need to be procedues that make it impractical to hack an election by ballot fraud.

Those appear to be in place. Even with pretty widespread voting by mail, we have pretty reliable elections.

People generally don’t show ID to vote either way, Marty. Now we’ve moved the goalpost to voter-ID. Meh...

Badly-designed absentee ballot systems have been abused for years.

But then, badly (or, in some cases, deliberately) designed in-person systems have been abused for even more years.

One of my earliest political memories is my Dad saying that the 1960 election was decided by holding up returns from Illinois (which he was from) while Mayor Daley "voted the graveyards".

AZ, if I recall correctly, did have some issues.

Assuming we're talking about the same events, there were accusations. Multiple investigations found no evidence that anything illegal had occurred. The legislature changed the law to make such events illegal. That law is currently on hold, having been found to discriminate against Native Americans.

I have heard my son's girlfriend, who grew up in Chicago, still use the venerable phrase, "Vote early, vote often."

All pretence of wanting an independent judiciary has gone.

Graham urges senior judges to step aside so Trump, GOP can replace them
... "This is an historic opportunity. We’ve put over 200 federal judges on the bench. I think 1 in 5 federal judges are Trump appointees. ... So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status; now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center. This is a good time to do it," Graham added.

He also encouraged judges who want to make sure a successor can be confirmed by the November election to announce their plans to retire sooner rather than later, adding that he would "need some time" to get them through the committee....

Certain totalitarian freedom-averse countries (e.g. Germany) employ a tool quite effective against in-person voting fraud: national mandatory ID (also quite useful in many other situations). But, as we all know, that is impossible in the US where only selective ID for undesirables passes muster. And as far as voting goes: constantly changing ID requirements depending on how difficult they are to obtain for undesirables.

An, unfortunately now deceased, old lady from Texas who I knew had (in the Dubya years) to deal with GOP 'poll watchers' who worked on the principle of 'challenge any potential Dem voter in order to create as much delay as possible'.
In a polling place where everyone (except the GOPnik) knew her, he tried to persuade the poll workers that she was not who she claimed she was, was not eligible to vote etc. The way she told it she made a very loud scene, called him a POS and, if the poll workers had not removed him, she would have resorted to hitting him with her walking stick.
How many will have that same courage facing one or more of the 50K thugs* the GOP plans to send out (ideally 'figures of authority') and how many will get supported in that by the poll workers?

*with proper armlets just minus the swastika

Also from the culture war front:

Admittedly, requiring masks inside bars and restaurants (i.e. not takeout) is a wee bit silly.

with proper armlets just minus the swastika

Who needs a swastika when you've got your AK-47s? That's real authority.

An intetesting commentary on the state of the nation.

A few weeks ago, a bunch of heavily-armed (white) thugs showed up to invade and disrupt the Michigan state legislature. They were "just exercising their constitutional rights," so the police just watched.

This week, a bunch of unarmed (mostly black) peaceful protesters turned up (outside) in front of a police station in Minneapolis. And were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Somehow I have trouble believing the critical difference was Michigan vs Minnesota.

wj @11:43 -- thanks for putting it so succinctly.

In this country it's so ordinary it's invisible, like the air, which is also always with us.

It belatedly occurs to me that it could be argued that the differing responses should be taken evidence in support of the 2nd Amendment. But if anybody honestly thinks that armed protesters in Minneapolis would have gotten a less violent reception, well I can make you a great deal on this bridge I'm selling.

[Just dropping this in here as something I would have added to "the art of playing time" if it weren't buried on a back page at this point:


Afrikan Science, doing up the polyrhythms to destroy grids in EDM]

Minnesota doubles down on looking bad.

"As CNN reports,

CNN journalist Omar Jimenez has been taken into police custody during a live broadcast at the site of the protests in Minneapolis, after clearly identifying himself to officers.

Jimenez's crew, including a producer and a camera operator, were also placed in handcuffs.

The CNN camera was also taken into custody and continued to record as the crew was handcuffed, with police seemingly unaware that the camera was still on.

Watch the video here."

Minnesota Police Arrest CNN Reporters for the Act of Doing Journalism During George Floyd Protests: So much for the First Amendment.

And when the protests turned into vandalism and looting, the Minneapolis police left it to citizens with guns to protect property. Perhaps some of those "heavily-armed (white) thugs."

"That these four amateurs were able to protect this one business raises the question of why the city's more numerous and better equipped professional police weren't able to protect other businesses in a similar fashion.

Police departments exist, at least on paper, in order to protect people's rights and people's property. Over the past couple of days, police in Minneapolis have proven unable to do either."
Minneapolis Police Killed George Floyd, Then Failed To Protect Property Owners From Riots: Police departments exist to protect people's persons and property. The Minneapolis Police Department has failed to do either.

This week, a bunch of unarmed (mostly black) peaceful protesters turned up (outside) in front of a police station in Minneapolis. And were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets.

and the President, and leader of the Republican Party, called for citizens to be shot by police.

i bet his adoration among Republicans skyrockets.


If you and your buddies at "Reason" are in favor of "heavily-armed BLACK thugs" protecting their lives, liberty, and property -- not to mention their voting rights -- with "2nd Amendment solutions" then you have principles but no brains.

If not, then vice versa.


What Janie said @11.53

Well yes, but as a white person, I have to retract what I wrote, or revise it. Because the phenomena in question are certainly not invisible to black people.

I think the word "privilege" was the wrong word to apply to the concept it's now used for, but since it's the word we have, I'll confess, with shame, to having exposed my own privilege by my 11:53 comment.

Biden just said, "We are a country with an open wound."


But then he said something like, "Imagine if you have to have that talk...."

Which again AFAICT is addressed to white people. (Disclaimer: I haven't finished listening to his short speech.) Black Americans have no need to imagine it.

What a mess.

1968 all over again? With a virus on the loose?

Georgia requires showing ID when voting in person; I believe if the address on ID does not match address in voter registration records then you have to cast a provisional ballot and/or can only vote in statewide elections. Never had that issue so not sure of the details.

However, the state has responded to the pandemic by delaying primaries twice, now scheduled for June 9, and by mailing absentee ballot applications to ALL registered voters. There were definitely snafus in the process, but something over 1.5 million absentee ballots have been sent to voters and over 600,000 already returned. This in a state that has never had vote by mail except for the small number of "traditional" absentee ballots.

Only 9 states have more registered voters than Georgia, and the largest, California, already does a sizeable % of mail-in ballots. The logistics do not seem like an insurmountable problem.

Happy to be shown wrong if anyone has the energy to do the research, but my intuition is that the expense of printing, mailing, processing, and counting ballots would be much less than the purchase, storage, and security of dedicated electronic voting machines that get used maybe a few times a year (Georgia has purchased and is using new machines this year). Some "small government fiscal responsibility" we can all agree on?

Yes, nostra culpa (if that is the correct form - Hartmut can advise).

Which goes to something I have sometimes wondered: are any frequent commenters, or lurkers, people of colour? Our (or at least my) assumption was not. I hope it's wrong.

If you and your buddies at "Reason" are in favor of "heavily-armed BLACK thugs" protecting their lives, liberty, and property ...

Buddies at Reason and libertarians, in general, tend to not make distinctions between individuals based on what kinds of tans they have.

If you (the general "you," not you CharlesWT) don't make those distinctions, then I assume the answer is that you are in favor of anyone, regardless of melanin, employing "2nd Amendment solutions." But that would mean you do approve of "heavily-armed BLACK thugs" doing so, along with all the other kinds of "heavily-armed thugs." So TonyP's either-or formulation leaves you with principles.

If you mean by "2nd Amendment solutions" people using guns to defend themselves, others, and property, then yes.

Could we have an example or two of "heavily-armed white thugs" defending OTHERS?

Libertarians need their guns to protect their 2nd Amenendment rights, and the 2nd Amendment to protect their guns, AFAICT. An air-tight bit of "Reason"ing, I grant you, but still something sane people can snort derisively down their noses at.


The logistics do not seem like an insurmountable problem.

Not insurmountable, but a bunch of possible gotchas due to scale, especially the first time around, and if done on a tight schedule. States that adopt a full vote-by-mail system usually allow 18 months to get ready for the first general election.

More time to prepare, and more time preparing, is of course better. I was trying to provide an example of a largish state managing to respond in a decent-ish manner in the space of a few months. Less time than between now and the general election. It's not a full vote-by-mail, but as a one-time stop-gap solution, giving voters an easy way to request absentee ballots is a positive step. More absentee ballots sent out than the number of registered voters in 19 states.

"In the wake of the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, armed black activists have stepped up as the city endures protests, riots, and looting.

A video of a group of armed black residents in St. Paul went viral on Thursday. The video shows armed black men standing in front of a store. The person who is recording says that the business they're protecting is black-owned. A black gunman can be seen in the background of another video featuring civilians protecting a store.

The armed civilians aren't just protecting property. They're also using their Second Amendment rights to bolster their First Amendment right to protest."
Black Civilians Arm Themselves To Protest Racial Violence and Protect Black-Owned Businesses: They're using their Second Amendment rights to protect local businesses from riots and looting.

Sounds like Minneapolis is on its way to libertarian heaven: everybody with weapons and no government control in prospect. Tough on the folks who aren't interested in playing war games with real people dying, of course.

But libertarians like Charles are all in for it. Pity it will take a while to achieve the heaven that is Somalia....

Sounds like Minneapolis is on its way to libertarian heaven

And then there's Chicago that, in spite of having some of the most stringent gun laws in the country and the lockdown, had its deadliest Memorial Day weekend in five years.

It’s almost like Chicago can’t wall itself off from more lax gun laws elsewhere.

what hsh said.

So outside my workplace has become a protest turned to riot scene. Dozen cop cars windows smashed, one set on fire. Things are getting tamped down, hopefully when I leave in an hour there won't be random rowdies on downtown streets looking for more mayhem.

Priest -- I hope you can stay safe. I'll be thinking of you, as I'm sure everyone else around here will too.

It's almost like, when the law becomes a farce, people stop taking it seriously.

It's almost like, when the people who should be watching out for you shackle you and kneel on your neck until you're dead, you no longer give a flying fuck.


The dudes in Minneapolis guarding their tobacco shop with their semi-automatics did well, because the wheels appear to be coming off in their particular part of the world. If they're wise they'll leave it at that and not venture out into the rest of the whirlwind.

Priest, stay safe.

So. Minneapolis is the embodiment of the "caretaker" state? I would never have guessed.

This time, even the police unions think Derek Chauvin might have gone a bit too far. Chauvin is one of those problem cops who don't get fired until they screw up big time.

Even Police Unions Trash the Actions of the Cop Who Killed George Floyd: Are we seeing a tipping point where police begin to grasp why the public is so outraged?

Home safe. Mayor Bottoms and Killer Mike telling everyone to chill the F out and go home. Silence from Governor Shotgun. I hope no one got hurt. From my vantage point in the building I could see cops walking some cuffed people down the street to the school bus-paddy wagon. But I had my head in the computer reading about politics instead of watching it happen when the people were smashing cop cars, the front of CNN, etc.

I guess now we'll see how many of the hardcore MAGAts are Chauvinists.

Meanwhile destruction and looting have moved to other parts of the city. And other cities. I'm sorry I don't have any pithy commentary a la JT to add to the conversation.

After I made it safely to the train to get home I overheard some (young, but hell, I'm old, everyone's younger) folks talking about the one cop car set ablaze. With disappointment that it was only the one and not more. Anecdote not data, yada yada yada. To be clear, I have no point in relating this, other than just to report what I heard. A prism to allow people to see the angles, distortions, and colors they wish to focus on.

Thanks, Priest, for your testimony. And thank [insert deity of choice] for your safety. Pithy commentary unnecessary.

Sorry, everybody, I see I misposted this part of a comment on the Comparisons thread.

Meanwhile, I thought this a good piece from the NYT on the arrest of the CNN crew in Minneapolis.

Not content with the damage to their reputation caused by Floyd's murder (and from the videos that's pretty clearly what it was), the Minnesota State Patrol arrests a CNN news team live on air.

Just so there is not the least doubt about what was happening, we see the CNN crew identifying themselves and asking explicitly where to police would like them to stand so that they aren't in the way. And then, the police "explanation" for the arrest is . . . their failure to move.

The explanation for their eventual release is just frosting on the cake: they were released ”once they were confirmed to be members of the media.” Because just anyone might be standing there wearing clothing with CNN logos, holding cameras also with logos, and telling you they are from CNN.

We're still without an explanation for why the arrest somehow never made it into the system which logs arrests -- the CNN guys just disappeared.

I was told by campaign staffers in 1968 that votes in Chicago’s primary that year were going for $2 each. It may be hard to impersonate a voter but it isn’t hard to pay someone to vote in person the way you want them to. No way of voting is completely foolproof. Significant voter fraud is hard to get away with no matter what the method unless there is official complicity.

one big thing in-person voting has over vote-by-mail is that in a voting booth: there's little chance you're going to be watched by a controlling family member, to make sure you're voting correctly.

::i have too many colons. need to use them up::

Falcon has lifted off!
Second stage separation
(And we have video from inside the capsule (which the Russians have done, but a first for us).

Orbit insertion.

And the first stage has successfully landed. On a ship named (I'm not making this us!): Of Course I Still Love You
Whimsy is still alive.

A first for a private company.

We may have some Dark Web shenanigans going on from some groups.


Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington confirmed evidence of white supremacist groups trying to incite violence; Many posted messages online that encouraged people to go loot in Minneapolis and cause mayhem.

Idiot alt-right edgelords aiming for their own Project Mayhem. We are trapped in 1999 film amber as Fight Club battles The Matrix.

wj -- It's a literary reference -- or am I silly to think you don't know that? From your comment, I can't tell.

SpaceX tribute

In 2015, two SpaceX autonomous spaceport drone ships—Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You—were named after ships in the book, as a posthumous tribute to [Iain M.] Banks by Elon Musk.[3]

I pay as little attention as possible to Elon Musk (sorry), and I've read just one of the Culture books, because that one didn't grab me and make me read more. But the whimsical naming of ships stuck in my memory.

::i have too many colons.



A low cut?...

and I've read just one of the Culture books, because that one didn't grab me and make me read more....

Shame, that.

And, FWIW, I actually approve of Musk, as dick though he is, he gets good things done.

This is not something I would ever accept or forgive, no matter what "good things" he also gets done.

In fact, I was just thinking earlier today that it would almost be worth learning to......well, never mind. ;-)

wj -- It's a literary reference -- or am I silly to think you don't know that?

The breadth of my ignorance is not to be underestimated. I'd never heard of the Culture series until just now. Thanks!

This is not something I would ever accept or forgive, no matter what "good things" he also gets done.

Historically, the men (and they were mostly men) who got big things done had huge flaws as well. Both in what else they did and as human beings. We shouldn't forget the flaws (although we routinely do as time passes and few people are around who remember the flaws first hand). But we should acknowledge the good done as well.

Whether the balance is a net plus is a worthwhile question. For example, will Musk's achievement of vastly cheaper space flight result in an ability to routinely locate astronomical observatories in space (above even his satellites? Not just the rarities like Hubble and Webb, but routinely. That might, looking back from a hundred years on, balance things out.

and I've read just one of the Culture books, because that one didn't grab me and make me read more....

Well, a lot depends on which one it was. I read them all after he died, and loved most (but not all) of them. They differ very widely, between ones which are very character and culture (in the normal sense) driven, and ones which are much more abstract and concerned with what I can only call (after trying to think of a good description) philosophical extrapolation about super-advanced AI and how it might think.

Shame, that.

Well, a lot depends on which one it was.

Ya know, it's not like I contracted some rare disease or something.

Tastes differ. ;-)

True enough. I guess I was projecting; I'm desperate for good reading matter these days, preferably series!

I'm 2/3 of the way through Milkman. I was afraid it was going to be horribly depressing, and in the midst of current and personal events I wouldn't be able to slog through it.

It turns out to be quite wonderful, but very dense and difficult, so slow going. Which is fine at this particular moment.

I'm also reading my maternal grandmother's diaries, which she kept for the last 8 or 9 years of her life. Far from being slow going, this is fast reading, but completely absorbing for me as an exercise in both personal and American history.

Each entry starts with a brief weather report and continues with a few bare factoids about her day. You'd be hard put to it to prove from the diaries that the woman had an inner life, and if you hadn't known her, you'd probably be bored silly after a few entries.

For me -- it's mesmerizing. Both my grandmas were semi-mythical characters (both had pet names used by whole communities) (are most grandmothers semi-mythical characters?), but the diaries are making me see my grandmother as the ordinary human being she was, while still leaving intact the memories of how much I adored her when I was a kid, and fleshing out, by implication, some of the reasons why the whole town called her "Aunt Posie."

True enough. I guess I was projecting; I'm desperate for good reading matter these days, preferably series!

If you can tolerate urban fantasy, I've been recommending the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka. The protagonist provides a very different take on how an offbeat magical power can still be useful. It takes the author a couple of books to decide that he's doing a series with an overarching story line rather than just multiple books with the same characters. Set in London, which I always enjoy.

Set in London, which I always enjoy.

Me too. I might give these a try.

Between Dickens and Shaw and a lot of mysteries set there, London is the city of cities in my imagination. Sadly, I've spent very little time there, and the way things are going, well...we'll see.

London is the city of cities in my imagination.

I really like some of the odd bits of London geography that get tossed in, although I have no idea if they are accurate or not. One is a walking/bicycle trail connecting two parts of London that would require going the long way about if you drove. It was originally a small rail line connecting, if I'm remembering the detail properly, the city morgue and one of the big cemeteries and used to move bodies. London's big enough and old enough to have lots of things like that.

Still an open thread? In the neighborhood around the Capitol in Denver there are a number of old state buildings, or former state buildings. If you go deep enough there's a network of brick-lined tunnels connecting them. They were originally there to distribute coal because the coal company would only deliver to a single address. (In some of them the tracks are still intact.) During the 2008 Democratic Convention there were threats of some big, violent demonstrations at the Capitol. That week the state police set up in the obscure building where I worked. In the event of a riot, the officers would have deployed from my building through the tunnels so they could come out behind the rioters and surprise them. (Nothing happened; it was a calm peaceful week.)

London's big enough and old enough...

I love this stuff. From Wikipedia:

In 1993, the remains of a Bronze Age bridge were found on the south foreshore, upstream of Vauxhall Bridge.[68] This bridge either crossed the Thames or reached a now lost island in it. Two of those timbers were radiocarbon dated to between 1750 BC and 1285 BC.[68]

In 2010, the foundations of a large timber structure, dated to between 4800 BC and 4500 BC,[69] were found on the Thames's south foreshore, downstream of Vauxhall Bridge.[70] The function of the mesolithic structure is not known. Both structures are on the south bank where the River Effra flows into the Thames.[70]

As to tunnels, there's a tunnel system under the MIT campus, but I'm a boring enough person so that I only ever went into it once when I was an undergrad. Vaguely related: some years ago (15? 20?) I went and got an alumni ID, and lo and behold, it opens doors that are locked. I'm sure not that many, but enough so that on a cold winter day I was able to get inside a building at one end of the main part of campus and walk indoors to the other end.

Open thread stuff for sure... ;-)

The bit about bridges over the Thames reminded me that I (thought I had) read long ago (pre-internet) that the island that is now England and Scotland was connected to the mainland as recently as about 8000 years ago.

Googling, I first found this, which suggests that I misremembered badly.

But then there's this, which puts the land "bridge" more northerly than what seems like the obvious place (across the Channel, which is where I imagined it).

Michael Cain, I believe I can tolerate it!
I'll give it a look, thanks.

Salem MA is apparently rotten with tunnels. In the late 18th C. / early 19th C. it was a major port, and the tunnels were allegedly used to smuggle stuff to avoid customs duties.

A guy I know does tours.

there are tunnels under RIT, in Rochester NY, and everybody uses them all the time - because who would rather walk around outside in a Great Lakes winter?

As to tunnels, there's a tunnel system under the MIT campus, but I'm a boring enough person so that I only ever went into it once when I was an undergrad.

I would expect a boring person to really dig tunnels.

I would expect a boring person to really dig tunnels.

Groan. ;-)

...One is a walking/bicycle trail connecting two parts of London that would require going the long way about if you drove. It was originally a small rail line connecting, if I'm remembering the detail properly, the city morgue and one of the big cemeteries and used to move bodies...

I'm not aware of this trail - does it exist?

There used to be a London Necropolis Railway, running from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery about 30 miles away. And another dedicated rail service from Kings Cross about 8 miles north to New Southgate Cemetery.

There's a story about a tunnel under Whitechapel Road, from Royal London Hospital to Whitechapel Station, once used for moving dead bodies. It might not be true.

What Janie said 9:52!

This past week has been bleak. We have a very long way to go as a nation; and many, led by the President, who object to making that progress. Still, I think it's important not to lose track of the fact that progress is being made, too slow as it may be.

When I was in college (engineering, but UC Berkeley, not MIT) this wouldn't have been so much unthinkable as unimaginable.

wj @12:29 -- I don't follow MIT news much these days, so I missed that one. Cool!

Open thread? OK....for those of you with a contemplative bent.

I'm not aware of this trail - does it exist?

Got me. I'm not even sure now that I placed it in the right series. In addition to Alex Verus, over the last decade I've also read Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series and Stross's Laundry Files, some of which are set in London.

To avoid thread-jacking, yet in the interest of testing our own assumptions and biases, I'm re-asking the questions below of Nous:

Yes, it's relevant, because it fits in with the larger strategy of dismantling union protections.

But what about the problem of bad cops being protected by their unions--why isn't that something the that only the right seems to be concerned with?

Any legislation that gets taken up in the name of police reform will target the privacy rights of public employee unions more broadly.

Which privacy rights in particular are taxpayer-funded employees owed that are (1) legitimate and (2) in danger? Because, ISTM, that public employees competence, attendance, work ethic, etc ought to be known to the taxpayers who are--not to put too fine a point on it--paying their salaries--why shouldn't this be public record?

And this will mean that people like me will end up spending time fighting against the legislation when I'd rather be working to enact more restrictive and enforceable use-of-force guidelines that directly address the problem rather than hurting all unions for the sins of the police.

You can't fight bad legislation and contend for good legislation at the same time?

It seems to me that we have two issues which need to be addressed simultaneously.

First, public employees are just that, public employees. And it is hard to justify concealing their performance records from their employers, i.e. all of us. Nobody who works in the private sector gets that kind of shield from their employer. And if you don't want to have your performance and disciplinary records made public, well there's always the private sector.

But second, there is a need in both the public and private sector for something resembling a union to act in support of the employees. One of the issues that the private sector has had these past few decades is that there is basically no feedback loop. If you have a safety problem that isn't being addressed, if you have terrible first or second level manager, there is no effective way to get the attention of higher management to do something about it. (Whether they would is a different issue. If they are kept ignorant by the lower level managers, they simply cannot act.)

One of the reasons that unions have been losing influence over the past several decades is that the unions in the private sector in the middle of the last century had many of the problems that they public sector unions have now. Specifically, they made it difficult or impossible to deal with those who were really and inarguably failing to perform or causing problems. Their decline had unintended side effects, but the reason for that decline, and that it did not result in a public lashback, is that there was a real problem.

The public sector unions now face a similar situation. They can dig in their heels and fight any kind of change. In the short term, they may succeed. But in the medium (not eve long) term, that will result in severe restriction on them -- likely starting with their right to strike**, but continuing on to even their right to exist. It really is a matter of reform or die. And the sooner they realize that, the better their chances to survive.

** Few things enrage (and that is not too strong a word) the public so much as having a bunch of people who we pay taxes to employ deciding to go on strike. Especially when they already have civil service protection, exclusive of whatever their union provides, far stronger than anything the rest of us get.

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