264 Comments

Don't often disagree with you but you are dead wrong on one thing in this post: Frank Herbert makes explicit in the book (by putting extensive to this effect in Jessica's stream of consciousness) that there is no way in hell Paul should be able to *lose* the fight against Jamis. Paul's been trained continuously in knife combat almost since birth, by the most renowned individual fighters in the galaxy (Gurney, Duncan, and Thufir too). He's been given vast amounts of additional secretive Bene Gesserit training by his mother to improve reflexes beyond a human baseline. Physically everything has been done to make him perfect. Jamis is Fremen, and they fight hard, but he's just a regular joe, and indeed in the book Paul & Jamis have a short scuffle when the Fremen meet Paul and Jessica which Paul wins instantly.

As a result of all this, the shield thing only really impedes Paul on the *attack*. He's been trained not to get hit *at all*, for preference, and he easily dodges Jamis throughout the fight. The problem is that he attacks too slow (because of his anti-shield training) to hurt Jamis at first. The Fremen watching become angry because they see Paul is vastly better than Jamis, and seems to be toying with the latter. This is compounded by Paul's unwillingness to kill at all. Eventually he is forced to, and when the Fremen understand it was his first kill they forgive him for appearing to toy with Jamis.

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And then he demonstrates his sincerity about not toying with Jamis by crying at his funeral -- "Usul gives water for the dead."

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Spoilers brah that's definitely going to be the opening scene of Part 2

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Part 1 showed us the mouse. Part 2 needs to open with the naming for the mouse.

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Yeah, I was kind of disappointed not to see that in the movie. Along with losing the banquet scene.

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Bam. Nailed it.

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Shouldn't you have mentioned that the proper strategy for sword fighting with shields is like the slow boring of hard boards?

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JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. I just figured this out. Matt's Substack's name, I mean. I've seen it every day for months and never thought about it. I even read your comment like eight hours ago and didn't connect the two. I just was vaguely surprised at your upvotes. I'm getting old.

Being by yourself, anonymous, and yet somehow deeply embarrassed is a weird feeling.

Really witty comment, by the way, now that I get it. Kudos.

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The slow bore penetrates the hard board.

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Probably decided it would've been too self-indulgent

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Are you new?

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The takes must flow

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"you get a lot of this kind of take that basically begs everyone to call the electorate racist and say there’s nothing to be done"

Democrats could start by examining how their own rhetoric and messaging on race has become confused and incoherent. It's now considered controversial in Democratic circles to say you support the goal of a colorblind society, meaning a society where people are not treated differently based on their skin color or ethnic ancestry. But if that's not what Democrats stand for, then what do they stand for?!

The fact that Republicans tolerate racism in the Trump camp isn't an excuse for Democrats' muddled messaging on race. On the contrary, that makes it all the more important for Democrats to offer the public a clear and compelling message on this issue.

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Even if it’s true (the electorate is racist) how does yelling that help? Are they all going to immediately repent after we yell at them and come back to us?

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As we all know, "you're an asshole and you should stop being an asshole" is among the very best of effective persuasive arguments.

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It's pointless, and it's not even an argument.

Unless you preface it with, "therefore".

"Therefore, you're an asshole and you should stop being an asshole"

Now, you've got an argument!

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Most fellow Democrats I know can't seem to get the realities, so I hear them as agreeing with you but with a change: "You're an asshole. and therefore, you should stop being an asshole."

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You’re forgetting the four-minute digression about the history of the word asshole and how it actually is problematized in unexpected ways when considered in the context of 200 years ago.

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It reminds me of a newbie mistake I see a lot of people make when they're first playing Dungeons & Dragons - they can make a skill check (Insight) to determine if an NPC is being honest, and if the Dungeon Master tells them the NPC is not being honest, the player responds by calling the NPC a liar to their face and demanding an explanation.

This does not work as well as one would hope.

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It’s very Slow Boring that under a post that analogizes something nerdy to politics we get a comment analogizing a totally different nerdy thing to politics.

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Not everything is within Democrats' control, but it is within their control to articulate a message that has maximum clarity and appeal.

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I'm skeptical about "wokeness as a religion", but it'd behoove progressives to ask some actual missionaries "does yelling at people to tell them they're sinners actually gain converts?"

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There's this good-bad vs. good-evil dynamic going on within "wokeness as a religion" that seems explanatory to me. As others have peppered across this thread ... within the strident Woke circles there's no room for disagreement. Their views are the Truth. Others are not just wrong but racist.

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I've seen this very thing work with great success in Evangelical churches. Owning up to being a sinner and getting forgiven has a strong appeal. But they sure do irritate people outside the circle.

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But I think the key part is that getting forgiven has strong appeal not the owning up to being a sinner. The whole point of forgiveness and absolution is that you can be restored. In fact, many of the greatest preachers were once great sinners who "redeemed." Under what circumstances could Ben Shapiro ever become the great Woke preacher?

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Politely telling the preachers in our subway stations that they won't persuade me hasn't stopped them.

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"It's now considered controversial in Democratic circles to say you support the goal of a colorblind society, meaning a society where people are not treated differently based on their skin color or ethnic ancestry."

I am by no means up to date on the latest policy positions in "Democratic circles" (by which I assume you mean, not the mayors of hundreds of small towns, but rather the young self-appointed visionaries who are over-educated, over-woke, and over-represented on Twitter).

But I would have thought that the desire for a future in which people's legal, professional, and educational opportunities were entirely independent of their skin color was still universal among even the wokest groups.

Now, these people might also say that this color-blind society is a long way in the future, and in order to reach it we will need to employ race-sensitive countervailing measures in the mean time.

And we also know that some people think that's a ploy, and want to declare that "the mean time" is over. This was the rhetoric that John Roberts used in gutting the anti-discrimination parts of the voting rights act, thereby paving the way for new innovations in racially-motivated voter suppression. He said that worries about race-based voter suppression were a thing of the past, and the only thing keeping us from having a colorblind society *right now* was the existence of laws like the Voting Rights act. And he was tragically, criminally wrong, as events have shown. The only thing keeping us from enjoying a sunny day was not, in fact, the umbrella, but rather the steady downpour of racism (e.g. in voter-suppression legislation).

So there will still always be disagreement about how long the temporary period lasts, and how to identify exit-ramps from the period of compensation, even if all sides think of explicit legal (or professional or educational) considerations of race as a temporary or provisional response to earlier racism, and as part of a transition to a color-blind future.

But are there, in addition, people who think that in the ideal future society, one's legal treatment will still depend on one's skin color? I find that implausible. One's professional treatment? One's educational treatment?

I suppose some of the Kendi-style nonsense suggests that he thinks that the ideal future society will have race-sensitive education. But then does your reference to "Democratic circles" simply mean -- "people who take Kendi seriously?"

Again, I do not have my finger on the pulse of Democratic circles, so maybe you'll have an easy time finding major elected officials saying, e.g., "the dream of a colorblind future is outmoded, and I reject it: I want explicit racial considerations now, explicit racial considerations tomorrow, and explicit racial considerations forever!"

In that case, I'll be sadder and wiser.

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This is a good framework for the argument that non-colorblind actions todaay could lead to a colorblind future.

Where I disagree is that it frames today's actions as temporary and tomorrow's future as utopian.

As long as there are distinct ethnic groups of any kind, be they immigrants, members of religious minorities, "races", etc there will be some degree of bias from members of other groups. There will be occasional overt acts of discrimination. There will be measurable gaps between the groups. And even if that somehow all permanently went away there would still probably be class differences that would rise in prominence.

So I think we're always going to be in "the temporary period'. So to convince me that non-colorblind policies are needed today you also have to convince me that they are needed in some form permanently.

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"...to convince me that non-colorblind policies are needed today..."

My comment was not intended to take any stand on that question.

Instead, I was responding to Allen Thoen's claim that it is now orthodoxy in "Democratic circles" that we do not want a colorblind society at *any* time in the future. This struck me as a misrepresentation of (most? all?) Democratic circles, a confusion of the (non-colorblind) means with the (colorblind) ends.

You are now arguing that one can never successfully use the means of temporary race-based policy in order to achieve the ends of a colorblind society.

Yup. Could be. I don't know. Hard question.

But there would still be a big difference between saying, "these people want a colorblind society, but they're going about it the wrong way" (your claim), and "these people don't even want a colorblind society, ever," (AT's claim).

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The big challenge of this comment section is fully getting across meaning while being somewhat succinct.

A common place we both seem to get mixed up is in what we're just laying out versus what we are personally claiming.

I didn't intend to challenge your personal stand on that question or interpret your post as largely about your personal stance. My "you also have to convince me" was referring to the general "you", i.e. the general case of anyone convincing me would have to clear this hurdle. Sorry for the sloppiness on my part.

Likewise - I don't mean to argue that "one can never successfully..." I just think you have to measure them against the standard that there will always be some prejudice, bias and gaps, and the forms they take and identities they are directed to are always evolving. So if we pass non-colorblind legislation I would like that taken into account. But I think that's a hard hurdle to clear.

What's interesting to me is there are more than 200 sovereign states around the globe and every single one of them deals with their unique combination of ethnic / religious / racial tensions in their own unique ways. My take from comparing how they handle things is that the countries that emphasize these identities tend to have the most dangerous tensions along those lines and make the least progress towards reducing them.

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"The big challenge of this comment section is fully getting across meaning while being somewhat succinct."

Although I have never managed to be both succinct and clear, I would like to think that, now and then, I have achieved simultaneous prolixity and obscurity.

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That's going in my permanent quote list.

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What a great discussion you two had. Please run for something.

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I think the frustration is that Democratic politicians don't loudly say "We are not these people!" "These people" being the activist left / Dem circles/ whatever you want to call it. People suspect that Dem politicians won't do that because they agree with the activists on the merits and/or all of their staff does.

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I think the the influence of staff here is an important point. A weird micro-example: I was on the National Archives website last week, where I discovered a link to a statement about "harmful content" that used the word "misogynoir." A very woke word that almost nobody knows. On a site that provides a non-political national service to all Americans. How exclusionary and supercilious is that? It leads me to wonder: how much harm is this doing to the Democrats, when people come across this stuff in their daily interactions with the Federal government?

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On another Substack this week the author described Terry McAuliffe's ultra-woke campaign website in such an alarming manner that I decided it could not possibly have been produced by the sitting governor of any American state, but instead must have been put together by a gaggle of young Democrat staffers (though I admit I have not seen it myself).

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Or that they’re afraid of “these people”, like many regular people out here. You’re almost certainly going to face some type of -ist/-phobe accusations when you push back.

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That's become controversial in activist-class circles, not regular voter circles. I don't think we're disagreeing about anything, but I think this is an important distinction to draw.

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Is it, though? The speed which "controversial in activist circles" becomes "iron-clad law in regular voter circles" these days is frightening.

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There's a magnetic push / pull dynamic going on too. So as the more extreme activist positions become adopted across further gradients within the core voting circles they are then also a repulsive force to the flip the moderates. That's what's frightening - and so maddening - to me.

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The Republicans give it a good push when they can, and they usually can, and do, like they did in Virginia which the schools. And you can't say they don't have a point. The documentation is there. Old Joe may be okay on this stuff, but a lot of the people who work for him are not. The Vice President is not.

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Harris hasn't really staked out a position on this as a national politician responsible to the country as a whole, rather than her old California primary base. But fair or not, if she runs to succeed Biden she almost certainly won't be able to avoid addressing it like he or Obama did, so had best figure out how to do so in a way that helps her.

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As far as I can tell, the most recent culture war topic to become iron-clad law in regular voter circles is that same-sex marriage is okay. I'm open to correction on this, but Twitter, etc. are very weird places (not bad-weird, just totally unrepresentative of the population at large).

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There are good reasons not to support the goal of a colorblind society, and even the Supreme Court agrees.

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You are in a distinct minority if you believe the goal should be a society that treats people differently based on skin color or ethnic ancestry. That's not what the Supreme Court has said either.

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It is too

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I’m a bit disappointed you didn’t explain why the doctor’s betrayal is a really BFD in the Dune universe, but I’ll chalk it up to you not getting enough spice in your diet.

As for the election analysis I’ve seen three explanations put forward by Democratic partisans and progressives:

1. Voters are racist or stupidly we’re fooled by racists.

2. This is all just a normal cyclic pattern, there is nothing to see here.

3. Democrats failed at messaging and were too wimpy and didn’t “fight” enough.

The latter two are the kind of normal rationalizations that have been around for ever.

The first i’d definitely worrying. I fail to see how calling people racists - without evidence - would attract anyone to your side.

But that’s become one of the defining problems with contemporary politics - in-group signaling is much more important than making the group bigger.

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I would argue that the Iron Law of Institutions is the single biggest problem in contemporary politics, IMHO.

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Thanks for the explication with only minor spoilers. Reading the books after seeing the movie.

Also thanks for the bit on VA. As someone with 2 kids currently in public school but debating moving them to Montessori or Waldorf, I don't find the claim that this is all white back lash helpful. Parents concern over how their children are being educated by someone else is obviously valid and its reasonable that we should debate this on the national and local level. Just seems like we have lost most mechanisms by which to have such a reasonable debate. Makes me want huddle in my camp and give up on "public debate", frankly.

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“…currently in public school but debating moving them to Montessori or Waldorf…”

What has dawned on so many parents over the past year and a half is that the public schools are not run primarily for the benefit of the students. When someone who used to believe otherwise finally understands the truth the result is shock, then disappointment, then anger.

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I know that I’m feeling that, in retrospect, my decision during the LA teachers’ strike to just trust the teachers and take their side now strikes me as a flawed heuristic.

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I would say my school district (farm country NY) did do an amazing job through the pandemic. Nothing but respect for what they had to handle and how they handled it. But yea its gotta be trust & verify, but even that can't be individual parents breathing down individual teachers necks. I would love to explore ways to strengthen/optimize school boards and PTAs. Create a better feedback loop and open source process. No idea what that would be.

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I would have loved a "Yes, parents should have a say in what and how children are taught.

But I'm not a teacher.

I'm also not a contractor, so what do I do when I want to remodel my kitchen? I hire an expert. I have input into what I want to achieve, what my budget is, I have two or three different folks quote a price... but at a certain point I am trusting the expert to get on with their work, with only a bit of oversight from me.

That's what our public school system has done. Parents have the final say on what the goals are, and they hire trustworthy folks to reach them. No one is saying we should do otherwise!

But we're not letting the book burners come in and overturn the experts either. That's not going to get our kids the quality education they need and deserve."

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Based on what I’m now reading about the Virginia school situation, no one got anywhere near book burning.

I have no idea how to fix this, but I think it is harming Democrats that the media is now fully in the bag for identity-based activists, and seemingly Democrats.

The stories are too long for me to get into at the moment, but once I started digging into the facts of the Virginia school situation, I became genuinely angry with the media coverage of it.

If any previously liberal VA parents are now in the right wing “everything in the liberal media is BS” camp, I would have trouble blaming them for it.

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It's politics, KISS works there just as well as it does in engineering.

Win first, then do your best to clean up the stupid that's leaking out of your most rabid supporters before it pisses off even more people.

The media's bias isn't even left/liberal, it's just so insanely, mindlessly cosmopolitan that it offends even those of us who have actual experience living abroad in Asia and Europe, let alone ordinary people who don't. Now, naturally, the wokeness of the professional classes is leaking in alongside their pro-everywhere-but-here bullshit.

That they're much more tethered to facts than Fox (let alone the other networks, whose leadership should all be hanged for treason) doesn't matter, when their attitudes are gratuitously demeaning to 70% of the country.

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“Foolish” would seem to cover it with fewer letters.

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Man, I’m agreeing with you, there’s no need to call names.

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It’s no shame to have previously been foolish.

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It makes me grumpy when Ken in MIA says something I agree with.

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Scroll down to his Biden comments for the antidote.

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How do you think it makes *me* feel?

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Reveling in your increase in social status?

:-)

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Indeed, having to accept that most people aren't comic-book villains is awful. Let's go back to mindless animosity -- it's been working out so well for America.

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I wouldnt say this was my expectation. Think public school should benefit society at large and in general and reflect societies priorities. The decision you reference above is more to do with my kids own particular ways of learning (and the fact I can afford an alternative). But all of thats my opinion and im not mad at public schools that they don't address my preferred pedagogical preference. I'm mad that we can't have a debate where the input from both sides produces a workable product, but that just seems to be where we are at these days across most of our institutions.

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"I'm mad that we can't have a debate where the input from both sides produces a workable product, but that just seems to be where we are at these days across most of our institutions."

Forgive me, but I am genuinely curious: What "both sides"?

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I had to look up what Waldorf was. Since you have kids, what are your thoughts about the spinoff from Ad Astra (Elon Musk's method)?

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Into learning more about it for sure. Let me know if anyone has good links. I did terrible in conventional school, but then thrived when I went to St. John's College which has a discussion based, Socratic method, style pedagogy that worked really well for me. Personally, I think the St. John's method is better suited for highschool , so would love to see something like that out there.

Believe there is a great school in Annapolis like this (Key School?).

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And then we have to contend with this nonsense that "Private Schools are Indefensible" (NOTE: The Atlantic flips their headlines around but this was the original) and gifted and talented programs are racist. Again with these race-to-the-bottom positions that are going to bleed moderates. Democrats badly need a coherent, future-oriented vision on education ... that IMO should repudiate the woke radical fringe.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/04/private-schools-are-indefensible/618078/

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-york-city-phase-out-gifted-talented-public-school-programs-n1281134

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One side effect of Tuesday is the normie libs seem emboldened. Scott Weiner local SF Dem politician, just endorsed the recall of the SFUSD board members (cancel Lincoln, end gifted and talented program, keep schools closed). Presumably you will see more of that.

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Unfortunately Dem staffers and activists are overwhelmingly young people without kids in schools, and therefore particularly susceptible to the whistling-past-the-graveyard nonsense about “CRT isn’t taught in K-12” and “this is just racists opposed to teaching real history.” Particularly since that is what they want to believe.

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Yeah. Hope so. I mean if Carville is the normie-weathervane then I would say his rant "blaming stupid wokness" might embolden some.

https://thehill.com/homenews/media/579991-carville-blames-stupid-wokeness-for-democratic-losses

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As long as it’s only white men taking a stand, I’m afraid it won’t do enough.

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We need VP Harris to do a conversion and lead the stand.

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Private schools *are* indefensible! That's why we need to make the public schools vastly better, not an inferior product covered up in wokeness.

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It's weird. The loss was sad. But being a parent after Tuesday, it feels like being a diner regular in Waukesha county while being politically engaged at the same time.

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A reference to Waukesha county from someone in LA? Interesting. And evidently a few people here got it.

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I'll bite. I didn't get the reference - what's up with Waukesha?

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There is a reporter (Dave Weigel) who has been repeatedly referring to "Crucial Waukesha County" in elections for about 10 years now. Shorthand for "the national media thinks I am in a politically important demographic." Views of diner regulars in Waukesha tell us the direction of the country and so on. I'm a normie liberal in LA - I don't matter politically. But the media now thinks as a "concerned parent of schoolchildren" I am in a swing demographic. Which is new.

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The reference works on two levels: both as a joke and kind of as the truth. NM explained the joke part.

The truth part is that Waukesha county is part of the Milwaukee suburbs/exurbs, and it has traditionally been the Republican party's cash cow --- often delivering more R votes than any other county in the state (and sometimes by crazy margins too: not 55% of the vote but 55% of eligible voters). Like a lot of suburban areas, it has been shifting left recently (part of the reason Biden won WI), but "education" is an issue that will likely play well for Rs there.

https://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/columnists/christian-schneider/2018/08/17/trump-era-waukesha-county-remains-crucial-gop/1010381002/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/09/07/trump-clinton-waukesha-wisconsin-republicans/89724308/

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As a private school parent, I can’t say the situation is a whole lot better.

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I went to a Waldorf school for middle school, and I wish I hadn't. Some of the kids that had always been in a Waldorf program seemed a little messed up, including one that couldn't really read.

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To be honest I have seen both. Been around a lot of Waldorf kids throughout my life and some where exceptionally well balanced to navigate and thrive in life, others less so. I went to 2 different private schools (Episcopalian and Baptist) and then public school myself. Saw plenty of kids in TX public highschool who couldnt read.

Anyways, my 5 year old just got diagnosed with mild ASD, so looking for alternatives to the special ed/IEP that a rural public school can offer.

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The two of you have more experience with private schools than I do, so I'm not sure my comment will be much help. But: my oldest just started kindergarten in our local Catholic school after a year of kindergarten in our local public school (the repeat of K was really an age thing + the fact that nursery school had been cancelled because of Covid). I went to all public schools; my wife all Catholic.

One difference that I've noticed immediately is how strong the community around the school is, and how much more positive its impact on my son than the public school community (and I loved his public school). Public school communities can be a little transactional and mercenary.

If we sent my 5 year old for testing, he'd probably be diagnosed with mild something-or-other. ASD, ADD, one will probably fit. But I already see how much better he functions in the Catholic school when all the parents are so much more present and the families interact in so many non-school settings (Church the most obvious).

If you compared our public schools to our Catholic schools the Catholic schools would come out worse on a lot of important metrics. But this positive effect of the heavy community involvement is real, and has helped my son, who can be a bit shy and high-strung, thrive.

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My now 9 year old went to catholic school when we lived in NE DC. The structure, discipline, but to your point close knit community were great for him and us. Also the fact that he got early exposure to a more diverse culture set since it was run by Indian Nuns (and we are super white: British & Austrian). It was quite a shock to him when we moved to Cow Country NY. The private schools I have looked at so far are actually more diverse than the public school he is now.

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Our kid went to Montesorri and is a bordeline autistic kid (she has a diagnosis, although in my admittedly biased view I think in the 70's she would been categorized as "quirky"). The Montesorri approach was very good for her, sort of giving her freedom within a guided structure.

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Thanks. Very helpful. Heard it can go both ways, but his doctor said "hes young and smart so give it a try for a few years."

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This was one of the most valuable posts I’ve read, and I’ve been subscribed since the beginning. Not because your other posts aren’t good. But I’ve spent probably 6+ hours post movie reading dune wikis and watching YouTube videos for context and still didn’t catch all the stuff you mentioned.

Also, I’d appreciate a multi week series of posts that painstakingly turn every feature of Dune’s plot into a metaphor for US politics.

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You could read most of Dune in 6 hours

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I only sully my brain with "reading" for Slow Boring and twitter. Audiobooks, podcasts, and movies all the way. The relevant metric: Dune is 22 hours long. 2x listening speed is all I can handle without impacting my cortisol levels. So--for me--Dune, the book, is an 11 hour proposition.

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For the record, I have purchased and downloaded it on Audible. But gotta finish "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" by Richard Rhodes for the third time before I start Dune (currently, I'm right before the Trinity Test).

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I'd say 3 hours - just skip every song and poem. Trust me, you will miss nothing at all. Actually the book is much, much better when you skip the drek.

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Very true. Gurney only broke out his baliset when everyone wanted to be bored for a change.

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I know how you feel, I've been completely Dune-pilled

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"Will he still be this unpopular?"

The root of the "Brandon" phenomenon is that a huge portion of the electorate finds Biden to be comically incompetent and utterly unworthy of respect. Could that change? Could Biden become less gaffe-prone? I think we all know he cannot - he was a gaffe machine and a blithering idiot even in his salad days.

"...you get a lot of this kind of take that basically begs everyone to call the electorate racist..."

The same folks who elected Youngkin also elected Winsome Sears - an immigrant and the state's first black woman to become lieutenant governor. (Maybe they didn't notice?)

Here are some of her words:

"There is no Census Bureau category called 'of color.' I am Black. Virginians are ready for strong, principled and sensible leaders who will serve them -- no matter one's color."

...and...

"We have a saying in church, 'I may not be what I'm supposed to be, but I ain't what I used to be.' And that's America. We are not back in 1963, when my father arrived at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and things were very bad for us as Black people.

"Are there changes that need to be made? Most assuredly. There is no country in this world that does not suffer from racism...But you have seen people who are dying to cross the border into America because they know that if they can get their foot on American soil, the trajectory of their lives will change -- as it did for my father."

If this country is to make more progress on race - and I believe it will - it will not be Democrats who lead the way. It will be people like Ms. Sears who have an uplifting, hopeful, and conservative vision for The United States.

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This analysis (the problem is inherent to the person Joe Biden) fails to explain why Biden's popularity was steadily ~56 until July. Something changed to drive those numbers down. There are a couple of things one might point to in late June/early July, but Joe Biden becoming Joe Biden is not one.

Also, "fuck Joe Biden" is hostility, not a lack of respect. Lack of respect results in sarcasm (e.g. Chevy Chase stumbling Ford or Dana Carver's HW Bush).

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Delta wave happened. Complete reversal from "things are getting better fast on the COVID front" to "There we go again".

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“Something changed…”

Well. There was that debacle in Afghanistan. It was all over the intertubes and TV.

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The debacle in Afghanistan was that no President until Biden had the courage to pull the plug.

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No, it was the manner of withdrawing, starting with setting the deadline on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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And no one pulled that plug as badly as the Ol' Foreign Policy Hand, Diamond Joe Biden.

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It's sad.

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I don't think we need to over-think this. Americans are grumpy, if not worse. Yes, Afghanistan looked bad on TV; even if they wanted us to pull out of Afghanistan, no one likes to have their noses rubbed in the failure. We all thought it would be hot vax summer, with the economy soaring and COVID a fading memory. Instead, we got Delta, economic tremors, and more damn divisions due to masks/vaccines/etc. Lastly, I think the whole COVID siege just did a number on us psychologically. I believe there's something that links increased homicides, airline passenger rage, and the general ugliness of so many personal interactions.

People are in a bad mood. Sucks for the ruling party. Hope the next 12 months are a lot better.

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“Sucks for the ruling party”

Especially when you’re bad at it.

“Hope the next 12 months are a lot better”

So do the citizens of Virginia.

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Biden did the right thing. And with a very low cost in human lives. Everyone knows that it was time to pull the plug -- everyone with an R after their name agreed when Trump initiated the pull-out by signing articles of surrender to the Taliban.

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“And with a very low cost in human lives.”

What do you consider “low”?

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But that's something that happened at a particular time, not the existence of Joe Biden as POTUS. He was the same person in June as July.

As to Afghanistan, having read your comments I understand that Afghanistan is a high priority to you. For many (or most) other people, the rise of delta cases around the same time was a blow to Biden, as well as rising inflation. Add the public squabbles of Congressional Dems and you can see that several big things have gone against Biden, so it's not surprising Biden's number have fallen.

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"...I understand that Afghanistan is a high priority to you..."

It was shameful for the US government. Less so for Americans generally.

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I actually agree with Sears's comments on this specific matter. Just not your "conservative vision".

Your conception of a "conservative vision" for the United States will lead to her being a hollowed out, burnt-black shell of her former self within 50 years. Climate change will leave Americans food and water insecure, cause vast shortages of safely located housing, destroy tens of trillions of accumulated physical capital, and likely lead to the end of the Republic in favor of some flavor of populist authoritarianism.

It's also blithely ignorant of our history: at every step, America's advance towards a modern, middle-class economy has been mediated mainly by the government, and only secondarily by the "free market". It has *always* been the government that sets ground rules and the shape of the field on which the market gets to play. If that were not the case, starting with the Federalists, high tariffs, and internal improvements, the US would still be a largely agrarian republic, clinging tenuously to the Atlantic littoral, a peripheral satellite to a European-dominated world.

So screw your "conservative vision." It's an ignorant, foolish mirage and always has been.

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"America's advance towards a modern, middle-class economy has been mediated mainly by the government, and only secondarily by the "free market"."

This is highly disputable as a matter of history. The government is not some kind of independent historical agent that initiates and mediates things. It follows the people and the national consensus, and it is powerless for good (as we are seeing at this very moment) unless there is a national consensus behind it.

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Government, body politic, electorate, whatever. Doesn't change the fundamental point: someone is building a playing field before the first player sets foot on it.

Modern American conservatism/reaction would have me pretend that is not the case, and it's just bullshit. The cultural stuff, I can understand, but how anyone can be so blinkered as to believe the horseshit that the Ryan's and AEI pundits of the world spout is just completely beyond me.

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Actually, in the first instance the players work out the game and the playing field first. Only later does the government come in to set the rules and specifications to further what is seen at that point as the public interest. The stock exchange was working under the oak tree long before the SEC came along. Before there was the Federal Reserve, there was J.P. Morgan. etc. People simply differ in terms of how much standards-setting needs to be done or how valuable it is.

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Point, I'm not wording this terribly well.

"Only later does the government come in to set the rules and specifications to further what is seen at that point as the public interest"

My point, as put better in the other post, is that mainstream modern American conservatism would have us pretend that this isn't the case, that the current rules as set over the last 40 years are immutable, rivaling laws of nature in their permanence. Which is plainly bullshit spouted in defense of the immense rent-seeking the capital-owning class engages in in every sector of the economy.

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Well, certainly that strain of conservatism is a lot of hooey, in my view. It does seem to work with the really existing electorate, though. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you can't change the rules just by wrestling away control of the government from conservatives. The people have to want you to use the government to change the rules. And right now, they don't, or not enough to make it stick.

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There are a few people who deny any positive government action (extreme libertarians/anarchists). But most conservatives would agree that the government serves useful functions. The question is as always how much. Is the government sugar or salt in the cookie dough? If sugar, then you dump it in by the cup and its THE major ingredient. If its salt, then a little goes a long way and if you dump sugar level amounts, what you get tastes terrible.

Most conservatives (at least historical conservatives, Trumpists are???) lean more toward government is salt. Have it do a few really important things that only it can do, but otherwise let the rest of the ingredients do the work. Progressives see the government as sugar - where you can add it to not only the cookie, but then put in the icing you cover the cookies with as well.

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In the abstract, this is a good summary.

In practice, I don't think it really holds together well. Many or (I hope) most progressives still understand what markets can do, and that they work in many instances. Meanwhile, many or most modern "economic conservatives" are just full-fledged supporters of the rentier state.

The Paul Ryans of the world, as I alluded to below, would have the electorate believe that the market dictates outcomes as if it had the force of natural law, and ignore that the regulatory and legal regime has as much or more influence over those outcomes, both because of what is enacted and what is not.

I agree with progressives that there are some instances in which the government should simply spend money and do things. Healthcare is probably the biggest single one, with climate change a close second, only because a well-structured market *could* solve the latter.

I also often agree with the principled libertarian/conservatives who genuinely believe that regulatory capture is a result of over-regulation. All 14 of them, but I agree with them nonetheless, some of the time.

But I've never once agreed with the Ryan-ist "free market fundamentalists", who take the exact shape and scope of government following Reagan-era "deregulation" as a given and claim everything must be exactly how it is.

We simply *must* accept that 45-50% of American healthcare sector revenues stem from rent-seeking. If we don't allow it, no one will invest in healthcare provision or research.

We *must* accept an income distribution in which individual worker productivity is entirely decoupled from wages after years of deliberate policy to reduce worker bargaining power. If we change the policy, employers will leave the US permanently.

We *must* accept that fossil fuels are the most effective way to generate power and provide fuel even though they have been subsidized to high hell directly, and given implicit subsidies in the form of all sorts of regulatory exceptions. If we use any other means, the grid will fall apart and the whole US will look like Texas did this past winter.

We *must* accept this and more. Must. Because these things are the inevitable outcome of the "laws of economics," not a reflection of the poorly-thought-out and special-interest-dictated lawmaking of the 1980's and 1990's, come home to roost.

It's Stockholm Syndrome, writ large. There are great numbers of people who genuinely believe this is the best possible world for them even as it robs them blind, and that any attempt to bring the people who have *inflicted* this on the American citizenry to heel will make things worse.

It'd be horrifying, except that I've given up any hope of convincing folks otherwise and have resolved to climb far enough that the rentier state benefits me rather than hurts me.

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I was mostly going for an abstract summary, so yay.

Reality is so much more complicated with Progressives wanting the government involved in somethings, but not in others. Conservatives generally wanting the reverse on any given item, except when it comes to making a big change in the way things currently are.

As to why Conservatives are so bought into the Reaganish era - of course they are, that was when the vast majority of them came of age and saw the US outlast its major rival of the time. Imagine asking the previous generation to not idolize FDR and what the US did in WW2, or why Matt and others keep wanting Democrats to go back to doing what Obama did.

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“… America's advance towards a modern, middle-class economy has been mediated mainly by the government…”

I couldn’t disagree more. The power of the United States comes not from its government but from the multitude of Americans who were driven to work hard to improve their own lives. That ability is inseparable from the freedom we all possess. The role of the government is to protect that freedom, not to direct it.

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Your disagreement is not supported by the historical record and utterly divorced from reality.

As usual, you've done nothing to actually support an argument.

Of course the US isn't a command economy and individual enterprise is the mechanism by which we've advanced. But the actual field on which the game has been played has been shaped by policy. Always.

If not, we'd still be using export revenues from the proceeds of chattel slavery to buy imported manufactured goods from a handful of industrialized European nations.

As usual, this is pointless and I don't know why the hell I keep getting sucked in.

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“…individual enterprise is the mechanism by which we've advanced.”

I’m happy you agree.

“…we'd still be using export revenues from the proceeds of chattel slavery to buy imported manufactured goods from a handful of industrialized European nations.”

Why on earth do you believe that? You already conceded the fact that it was “individual enterprise” that allowed the country to “advance.”

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Sorry, your ignorance and pedantry are an unpleasant combination and I’m bored of this.

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And yet the government has, in fact, done quite a bit of directly in the past ~120 years. You may not like that, but it's happened. Generally conservatives complained about that, not deny it has happened.

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Since day 1, actually.

Without the Federalists, we're an agrarian republic using slave labor to produce a few goods with export value.

Without the early Republicans, we're a semi-industrialized state without good internal transportation links, where the frontier stays a frontier and the South stays a massive plantation.

Without the New Deal as a whole, we're a society in which the middle class is a narrow band of professionals and managers above much poorer working class laborers, as it had been since the early days of the country.

Without the TVA to spend Northeastern tax money on the Deep South, the South is a sharecropping, borderline-third world appendage supplying migrant and immigrant labor to the richer NE and Great Lakes states.

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Conceptually the idea of a free market existing without government is impossible, so I agree with your point. But the role of government has expanded since the early 20th century, which is why I threw in the 120 year number.

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“…the government has, in fact, done quite a bit of directly in the past ~120 years”

Such as…?

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The answer is so obvious that I'm guessing we have a failure to communicate here. A different understanding of terms, perhaps?

In my terms, the direct involvement of the government that moved us towards a modern, middle class economy includes the roads/bridges that allows trucks to move goods around the country, the electrical and water grid that provides power and water to enable the production of those goods, the system of public education that educated the workers producing those goods, etc. I'm guessing you don't consider those things direct??

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"The answer is so obvious that I'm guessing we have a failure to communicate here"

I agree.

So: Such as...?

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Curious what major gaffes you think Biden has made in the past, say 6 months?

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I’m sure I do not have enough time to properly curate a list. The Afghanistan withdrawal debacle rises far above the level of gaffe, so let’s set that aside. But for some for-instances:

- Saying that Facebook was killing people.

- Saying publicly that passing the infrastructure bill is intrinsically tied to passing the Democrats’ reconciliation bill, after apparently making private assurances that was not the case.

- This was pretty funny: “And her lieutenant governor who covers her in every way, both in terms of physically, and mentally, and every other way.”

- When asked whether he planned to visit the US-Mexico border he said both that he doesn’t have time (this just before embarking on a world tour) and that he’s already been to the border and seen both sides. A clarification from the White House was that Biden, 13 years ago, rode in a car from the El Paso airport to a campaign event.

If you haven’t noticed Biden saying silly or nonsensical things, or saying things that ultimately hurt him politically, you either haven’t been paying attention at all or you have a really high threshold for B.S.

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The root of the Brandon thing is that the people chanting it think they are being "edgy" and think its clever while also being kind of funny. Everybody with a brain thinks its a childish thing to do and shouldn't be paid any attention. I'm pretty sure when Trump was in office there were plenty of people who thought he didn't deserve respect but didn't feel the need to develop a "clever" phrase to voice their displeasure.

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"there were plenty of people who thought he didn't deserve respect but didn't feel the need to develop a 'clever' phrase to voice their displeasure."

Good god, I'm not a conservative, and I loathe Trump, but your statement is utterly and laughably untrue. He was called "orange man" for his entire presidency and literally everything about him that *could* be mocked routinely was, from the way he talked to his spelling mistakes to his bizarrely long ties to his tiny hands. Were you living under a rock, or is this just selective amnesia?

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Yeah by random people on twitter not by actual Democrats with political power

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The goalposts, where have they gone?! Oh, seems you just moved them.

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I'm not going to go hunting for examples, but one that stands out in my mind is that Rep. Tlaib got a lot of plaudits for outright saying "impeach the mfer!" about Trump.

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"Let's go Brandon" sounds like exactly the kind of thing we'd do in fifth grade, with lots of sniggers directed at the clueless teacher.

Whatever floats your boat, Brandonites.

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You didn’t hear about the Women’s Marches?

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You don't think there's a difference between organized protests and drunk college kids chanting in a football stadium?

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Certainly there is a difference: The latter seem to be having fun.

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As a parent of schoolchildren who is annoyed at covid theatre now and angry about how LAUSD handled the past year, I find the main stream media’s explanation (angry parents) spot on. I feel heard.

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You should write about books and movies you enjoy more. I mean, I’m here for the politics and policy stuff, and these particular explanations I already knew because I had a decent education in the classics, but this is good and I’m interested in reading other similar things.

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Once again Matt's last line is his best one: "If you don’t try really hard to win, it’s going to be hard to win." I would add that, if you're running for Governor of Virginia, maybe don't tell people that you think parents should have no say in what their kids are taught in school.

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And yet so many Democrats won't listen, so it needs to be said.

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One of my favorite things about Dune was how much world building he did by throwing in tidbits here and there and leaving the rest to be figured out. Which made what Brian Herbert did with story so tragic, he filled so many of the gaps that were already filled with my imagination - and not to boast, but my imagination is a far better writer than he.

For example - the first time I ever saw the Matrix, I walked away thinking "is this how the Butlerian Jihad started?" which of course doesn't work, but seemed like a cool way to connect the two stories for a minute.

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Dune is about worms

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I hope the next movie delves into the thermodynamics of worms. I was thinking about the energy demands of these vast critters as they move at frightening speeds through millions of tons of sand. What do they eat to give them the energy they need for that?

You would think a worm that had a mutation allowing it to move on top of the sand would have a major evolutionary advantage, but I guess that just didn't happen.

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Right, it's not like they have predators to worry about. Maybe their food source is underground

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I thought about that energy thing too. Like why don’t we see any gargantuan animals in real-life deserts? So why would we see them here?

Remember the giant red worm that lived on an arctic planet in the first Chris Pine Star Trek movie? Boy did that not make sense.

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One of about a hundred things that did not make sense in that movie. Why would a logical Vulcan maroon Kirk to die on a deserted planet instead of just putting him in the brig and following regulations, why did they say that someone was coming to pick him up and then when he finds Scotty no one even knew he was there. How does he happen to be marooned on the same planet with Spock out of all the trillion planets in the universe? How does Scotty have technology that doesn't even exist a hundred years in the future in the other timeline? Why does the Enterprise have pipes made out of glass and how would they use water that isn't boiling hot in a power plant? That movie was just trash.

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Josh Marshall yesterday saying we need to "grow up "Dust ourselves off, try to build and internalize an ethic of strength and resilience even if it is only at first within ourselves. ".

I agree to a certain extent. I think more broadly though that there are many signs we aren't going to get it together before the midterms. Too much we would have to change and we aren't good at changing how we do what we do. Once they mentioned a carbon tax I was pretty sure nothing was going to pass.

Maybe we get something passed. Does it turn the polls around? I doubt it. Dems are bad at selling accomplishments. And all the takes say "pass stuff to improve quality of life" = win. This is pretty close to demographic change = win. Neither of these things are true. Getting to a win is about crafting a compelling story and telling it well while all the other variables (e.g. good economic situation) line up behind you.

On top of that we need to be winning more territory and we aren't even making an attempt to win more states.

This is all the long way of saying I am pretty sure we are boned. Josh Hawley could be president in our 2030 christian authoritarian state.

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I related mostly here to the “aren’t even making an attempt to win” point and feel fatalistic about it. I think the GOP will win two presidential elections in a row at some point (either ‘24 and ‘28 or else ‘28 and ‘32) and then at that point everyone will say “oh losing sucks” and make the obvious adjustments you need to win. But until then, they won’t.

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It seems interesting to me that the two most successful recent Democrats have had two different approaches to the overly-excitable left of the coalition.

Clinton did some explicit rejections of them (the "Sister Souljah moment") which made clear that he wasn't tied to the left, and meant that moderates weren't afraid to vote for him.

Obama just ignored them, went ahead with talking about what he wanted to do, and made it clear that they were irrelevant to him by not talking about them.

I think that a lot of professional mainstream Democrats are trying to adopt the Obama strategy and it isn't working because it isn't obvious to the electorate that the left is irrelevant to them (Biden may be able to make this work personally, but I don't think the party can).

That probably means that using the Clinton strategy of overtly attacking the left from the center (while also attacking the right) is going to be necessary. Especially if you pick the popularist ways of doing this, ie pick "open borders" and "Critical Race Theory" as the leftwing things you oppose, while picking "tax cuts for the already rich" and "cutting Medicare and Social Security" as the rightwing things you oppose.

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I think that it's important for any President o occasionally punch the outer wing of party. Otherwise they're going to seen as the face of the party, not least because the opposition is going to continually claim just that.

Trump was completely unable to do that for various reasons, and it solidified the beliefs that he sympathized with extremists.

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I'm still pissed about Ralph Nader 2000 of course, but lately I've also been kind of wondering if Nader's rejection of Gore actually helped Gore on net and made the election close to begin with. That is, maybe the votes that Gore lost to the left resulted in a net gain from the middle. (Of course, even then the ideal outcome would have been for Nader to denounce Gore at the beginning, then drop out or at least stop campaigning in October.)

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I've always wondered if Bush won an actual majority, do things play out any differently?

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I'm worried about the mobilization myth followers but even more concerned about their apparent abandonment of rural voters. Plenty of Trump supporters still want populist economic messages that Republicans will have a hard time pandering to. I still think a big pro-union trade-skeptical candidate who stays away from cultural issues could pull support from those areas but Democrats seem like they have just given up. Hopefully there are some ground games going right now that just haven't made national news yet.

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The GOP won two presidential elections in a row back in 2000 and 2004.

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Thermostatic reaction works the other way as well. No one wants to live in an authoritarian Christian state. The American public is deeply change-averse when it comes to culture and society. If they overreach, they will lose everyone but the actual Christian theocrats, a group of people whose influence is minimal in secularized, low-religiosity regions of the country (which include electorally high value areas like the midwest!)

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Yea, unless they actually reach a point where their control over the military is such that they can simply toss election results, which I think is impossible, the most they can do is maybe weight the House like the EC does the presidency.

If they fuck up, they're still going to lose, perhaps badly.

And a decade in the wilderness will do the Democrats some damned good.

The only thing that makes me worry about this is climate change, but if we get in one decent bill, market forces will mostly do for the rest, IMO.

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If if you really think that we’re going to turn into Gilead in 10 years, I have assume you’re a prepper already. How’s your arsenal? Or are you planning to flee on foot? When are you cashing out your 401k? Feel free to enlighten the rest of us on your plans for the impending collapse.

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Geez man, maybe carrying my comment further than it needs to go. Christian authoritarianism doesn't mean Gilead. It can mean stuff like no abortion and a voting system that doesn't allow voters to vote. The stuff politicians and voters are getting into is pretty authoritarian now.

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What's your concrete prediction about abortion and voting, on what timeframe?

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Abortion could move fast, possibly with this upcoming supreme court decision on the Mississippi case. Voting is going to depend on what state you are located in. TX and GA are on the forefront it seems like. Red states will wait to see how GA executes on refusing to certify urban votes. So, that seems like it will happen in 2022 and then get litigated. Once the law gets tested out other red states will follow in the next 5 years.

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I can't help but notice that this isn't a concrete prediction. What do you *actually* think will be the state of things, on what timeline? Do you think that abortion will be fully illegal? Where and when? What restrictions are you expecting on voting?

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It’s going to suck losing both houses in 2022 (which I now think is likely) but at least Biden will be able to veto anything super crazy. I’m more worried about 2024 - do we really think Biden will win a re-match?

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If it’s really a rematch, Trump against Biden, then yes, I do. Trump is very, very, very unpopular, he’s lost his ability to appeal to independents (he can’t talk about anything other than his grievance), and the incumbent usually wins.

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Yes... I am probably 70/30 to vote Republican if its a moderate Republican, but 100% voting Democratic if it's Trump.

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I was going to say the same. But if the Republicans put up any of their even halfway promising prospects (e.g. Nikki Haley) the Democrats are toast. It is depressing to me, but we have to face it.

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I don’t see why the Democrats would be toast. The incumbent usually wins! And today’s jobs report plus today’s Pfizer announcement suggest it’s very plausible the country will be in good shape in 2024.

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Maybe. But given his age, Biden may well not be the incumbent in 2024. And in my view, Harris would be a worse candidate even than Hillary Clinton. being more unlikeable and with even worse political instincts.

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"Harris would be a worse candidate even than Hillary Clinton. being more unlikeable and with even worse political instincts."

If that's even possible, and I believe it assuredly is (I'm originally from California).

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Harris will be President by then.

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What's really aggravating is that the Democrats already have a lot of policies that are good for the "electorate of white voters." Even over-50 non-college and rural whites! It's not as if they'd need to drastically alter their actual policy platform - certainly not the policies that are actually possible to enact. I mean, of course they're not going to win the white non-college demographic outright, but they do have sellable pitches. But they have to try to sell them.

I said this in the open thread yesterday, but Trump's outreach to POC voters in 2020 is very instructive. He didn't propose any new policies to win POCs over. He did stop talking about the wall, which is important. But the other big thing that distinguished 2020 Trump from pre-Trump Republicans was simply that he *asked POCs to vote for him* whereas most pre-Trump Republicans didn't bother, thinking it was pointless. High-info liberals scoffed at the cheesy tokenism at the RNC, but it sure didn't hurt him with POC voters.

It's kind of ironic in a way that educated social liberals are all about "representation" being of paramount importance (sometimes even to the exclusion of tangibly benefiting underprivileged groups economically), but simultaneously can't imagine (or perhaps are averse to) even using empty representation to try to stop the bleeding with older non-college voters. Even if all they did was make it a point to consistently put older non-college people in ads and on the stage at events (including many white males, but of course not limited to) might help and wouldn't hurt. But you can't succeed if you don't try.

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"I mean, of course they're not going to win the white non-college demographic outright..."

Why not? The white non-college demographic was the backbone of the Democratic Party for decades. Maybe the balance of policies in the Democratic platform no longer ARE good for the white non-college demographic, so they're defecting in droves.

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People actually poll non-college whites from time to time, and a majority of them will consistently say that they like some Democratic policies, even as they've grown to oppose the Party as a whole. Politics is fought at the margins and votes are fungible. Winning an outright majority of non-college whites is not necessary. But the polling shows that the Party has potential sales pitches that many non-college voters would like, so it should try to use those and at least attempt to lessen the Republicans' margin of victory with that demographic.

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To elaborate a little more on this, a common feature of ideologues of all stripes is that they don't see opposition voters as an audience to be won over, but as enemies to be defined out of relevance. Though it works out a little differently between the American Right and Left.

The Right sees low-info swing voters as marks to be fooled (which the Right does pretty effectively) while it sees liberals as "not real Americans" whose votes can freely be suppressed as they are not relevant to democratic legitimacy in the "real American" polity (although, apart from gerrymandering, the suppression efforts are not nearly as effective).

The Left obviously sees conservatives as the enemy, but it also sees many swing voters as enemies, and as people who are undeserving of sharing the same polity. As such, winning over these swing voters would be inconsistent with the objectives of the whole political project, like Native Americans trying to win over the colonist vote. The goal shouldn't be to live alongside those people but to be liberated *from* them. On the plus (?) side, the Left doesn't try to suppress anyone's vote or really take any action at all that would flow logically from these premises other than complain.

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>As such, winning over these swing voters would be inconsistent with the objectives of the whole political project, like Native Americans trying to win over the colonist vote.

That's a very good analogy, considering how many leftoids on the local level, where nobody filters out the loonies, actually come out and just call everyone they don't like a *colonizer*.

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"the Left doesn't try to suppress anyone's vote or really take any action at all that would flow logically from these premises"

You forget gerrymandering, which apparently, everyone is happy to do. Politicians choosing their voters, rather than the other way around, is undemocratic. And no, the standard "but the other guys do it more!" excuse is not acceptable, even if true, which I'm skeptical about.

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Just to further this point ... the updated IL districts should pick-up two GOP house seats. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave it an 'F'.

https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/chicago-politics/illinois-dems-embrace-gerrymandering-in-fight-for-us-house/2661040/

Paywalled: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/15/us/politics/illinois-democrats-gerrymander.html

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Totally. I used to complain about Republicans for not even attempting to win over Hispanic votes when they are mostly Christian blue collar types that should be inclined to vote conservative. That is mostly still the case, but more and more it feels like Democrats who aren't attempting to expand their voters.

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BBB has tax break for local journalists. Why not for comedians?

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I support this, but only for comedians who are funny.

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