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Read an article in the Times this morning profiling Black farmers in Georgia. A common complaint is that they are disappointed in promises they felt were made by Biden that never materialized. One farmer in particular holds Biden responsible for an loan forgiveness program that never happened because white farmers sued to stop it, as it was a program that was targeted at Black farmers.

Two other farmers were also featured, with one saying she doesn't see Biden as any better for Black farmers than Trump, and the other going further and saying he's just going to vote for Trump this time (while wearing a shirt quoting MLK "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere").

I feel the dynamic is based on the fact that people were in fact extremely ready for Trump to leave office as things sucked really bad, but they're holding Biden accountable for every disappointment and challenge since then, while forgetting that the source of their misery in January 2021 was in fact Trump.

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Not the point of your post but it’s a good jumping off point for me to note that I have extreme skepticism of “man on the street” news stories about people’s politics. After that HoffPo takedown of Selena Zito.

To refresh your memory, Zito got famous for these dispatches from Trump country and parlayed the popularity of these pieces into a gig at National News outlet and a book deal*. Problem of course is her anecdotes with “regular” folks strained credulity and in a few cases appeared to be outright lies. The most egregious (to me) was claiming someone was a “lifelong Democrat” who switched to voting for Trump who with two seconds of googling you can see is a local RNC chair (there’s a reason this became a running gag with NYtimespitchbot).

The thing that was amazing to me was seeing how prevalent this was everywhere! Zito just took this kind of reporting to an extreme. But over and over again I’d read an article of some reporter interviewing some “regular” voter and with 5 seconds of googling I find out he/she is the head of an activist group with a very particular agenda.

So upshot of this. I’d be very curious if there is any background info of these people and looking up their backstories. If past is any guide, I’d guess at least one has very relevant backstory that puts into question how “random” this interview was

*The fact these dispatches from Trump country was so good for Zito’s career is almost certainly a big driver of why so many of these trips diners in Trump country stories were written from 2017-2020

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author

It's a really interesting form of journalism (like I would love to interview random people about their political preferences) but I put it much more on the entertaining side than informative. That's what cold hard polls are for!

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Jun 17Liked by Ben Krauss

This would be a fun column or podcast that I would consume.

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It's also kind of bizarre, since we know empirically that there are in fact a lot of people who voted for Obama and then Trump, so it should not have been that hard to find such people. But reporters kept interviewing regular Republicans, probably because they made up more dramatic and interesting lies than the truth the actual Obama-Trump voters said (which was probably just 1000x variations of "oh yeah I like Obama, but Hillary's so status quo. I like change")

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Big agree on that. And it's all based on the media's complete shock that Trump could've ever been elected in the first place, so they went narrative hunting.

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That did NOT include non-stop coverage of "emails!"

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My biggest frustration with that whole line of coverage was when an article said "but it raises questions".

What were those questions? No one will ever know.

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Well… for a narrative that didn’t involve free air time and buttery males, anyway.

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Honestly I think yeah the local RNC people cosplaying as undecided just give better material to talk about than actual undecided voters and writers are going to be onto that like catnip. A focus group of actual undecideds would be pretty boring i think.

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Sarah Longwell actually does that as a podcast and it’s less boring and more infuriating.

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Yup, undecided voters aren't "well, Biden didn't do this, so I'm not voting/voting for Trump (outside of young college-aged voters), it's more 'well, stuff was cheaper and I'm bored, so why not?'

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Almost certainly. The RNC chair, or head of an activist group or even a heavy news watcher is very likely going to know the "correct" talking points, especially the first one. The RNC chair is very likely very aware or been coached to give answers that are going to fit pre-existing narratives. Like right now, I'm betting there is a reporter interviewing said "man on the street" who's giving some answer like "You know, I voted for Joe in 2020 and Hilary in 2016. I though the could bring some calm to the country. But we're more divided than ever and I see him on today and he looks so lost. How's he supposed to stare down America's enemies? I've never voted for a Republican in my life, but sometimes you gotta make that hard choice and vote for the candidate who's just more with it".

Of course Trump has displayed way more signs of cognitive decline than Biden. But that answer would be the perfect "both sides" anecdote for the Peter Bakers of the world.

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And the content would be hated because regular people don’t like content that exposes just how uninformed and irrational regular people usually are.

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Or reasons that were just plain incoherent or based on actual falsehoods. Voters often have extremely esoteric reasons why they vote they way they do. But given what we know about "swing" voters, this is especially likely true with this group. So an actual "swing" voters response as to why they switched their vote from Obama to Trump or heck from Trump to Biden in 2020 has a decent chance of being one that doesn't fit any pre-existing narrative and probably kind of bizarre.

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Yeah, there are people who voted for Trump in 2016 because they wanted to keep Obama and Hillary Clinton replaced him, so they think she's responsible for him leaving office.

There are people who think that Trump was a good president apart from COVID, so we brought in Biden to fix COVID and now we can go back to Trump.

There are people who heard any of a variety of nonsensical conspiracy theories.

But also there are people who have a bee in their bonnet about some very specific issue. Like there's a railroad crossing down the road and they want a bridge, or gates, or they want the gates removing so they can make their own judgment, and they'll determine their vote on the entire presidency on this.

In the UK, I've literally knocked on a door and been told that whether the bins are collected weekly or every two weeks is the most important factor in how they will vote. The best bit was that was a European election, and when I asked "do you think the EU should be deciding that?" they were offended...

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I think you live in the UK, but, eerily, your "bee in the bonnet" issue is exactly what is being hotly debated between Amtrak and a town in the county adjacent to mine. And you make a good point about people voting on their own weird niche issues.

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People are people everywhere, and the same issues come up everywhere.

The mainline from London to Norwich has been steadily sped up over the last decade or so, and much of that has involved removing crossings, either just closing them, or consolidating several into a single bridge or whatever - if there are no crossings, the train can run faster. People have very strong opinions on what should happen with a crossing that they drive over every day on the way to and from work.

I did a bit of campaigning for a friend in Suffolk, and a bunch of people had exactly this issue. Stuck in my head as an example. Especially as all of them said "everyone thinks X" when, in fact, three doors down their neighbour had said "everyone thinks Y".

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Chris Hayes' article on this from the 2004 election is great. (But click this link at your own risk: my browser's giving me some sort of warning about it. https://chrishayes.org/articles/decision-makers)

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I genuinely would like to know the vetting process of how these focus groups or “man on the street” stories are put together. Because I’m pretty certain on multiple occasions I’ve seen the same supposed “undecided” voter interviewed for multiple elections. Who with two seconds of googling you see is a pretty down the line GOP voters.

Like genuinely, what is the vetting process. Is it like, “I know a guy who knows a guy in Georgia. We’ll just interview him”? Do these news organizations know these people are not actually undecided? If I had to guess the real issue is certain people have learned where to show up to be part of these panels and then just lie about being “undecided”. But that’s still not a great look for news orgs if that’s what’s going on.

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You can't see voting history but they could at least check party registration or if they have voted in a primary right?

It seems like some level of vetting should be possible.

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This is exactly what Sarah Longwell does in "The Focus Group" podcast. (https://www.thebulwark.com/s/thefocusgroup)

It's really great, except that you have to listen to voters explain their positions in a way that sometimes makes me want to slit my wrists.

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It wasn't just about, "I like change." A major aspect of Obama's appeal was, "No Black America, no White America, etc." -- & Hillary was playing identity politics to the hilt. To top it off, she had all the appeal of Nurse Ratched -- or as Obama himself put it (ever-so-wryly), "You're likeable enough, Hillary."

Misogyny? Not quite: just the sort of personality (& attitude) that gave Trump an opportunity to portray himself (in contrast) as McMurphy.

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A much more trivial version of this is that when media outlets run "lifestyle trends" articles spotlighting one or two or three young people, invariably living in Brooklyn or whatever, as examples for the trend in question, it often turns out that the young people spotlighted are in the writer's personal friend group (or are friends of their friends) and are not representative of anything.

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Yeah, although I'd say those "trend" pieces are kind of famously obnoxious and get dunked all the time sort for that reason. I remember there was one that tried to argue that "Chinatown" was the new hip place to live. And they had a quote from someone that said "Anyone who's anyone, lives in Chinatown". My reaction was only Niles or Frasier Crane in the show "Frasier" would say anything like this. There's zero percent chance someone unprompted used this statement. What likely happened is a reporter said "would you say anyone who's anyone lives in Chinatown" and the response was some version of "I guess".

Also, narrator voice; Chinatown is not a "trendy" place to move in NYC.

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To be fair, Milan did one of these himself fairly recently.

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Incidentally, I could not figure out why I was disappointed in that article, and you've put your finger right on it. Not that it was badly written or uninteresting, but it's the type of content I simply wish journalists wouldn't indulge in. I know I probably just shouldn't let it bother me, but it annoys me a lot more when it's *my* side/writers who give in to this indulgence.

(Or perhaps I should simply lean into this and find 94 other things that I think everyone else is doing wrong and post it on a church door somewhere)

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Yup - the actual polling was fine, but Milan then put his finger on the scale by putting the focus on his buddies.

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Not to pick on Milan, but I was amused that his lead-in to the article was that only 2 of the 5 friends were voting for Biden, and then it turned out that actually a third would have been willing to vote for Biden but just won't be in the country for the election.

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It's fine if (a) it's disclosed, (b) the writer isn't arguing that it's a trend.

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Sure, but what's the point of writing it unless b) is being asserted? In general, the number of people who care what Milan's specific circle of friends think is measure 0.

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I feel similarly when they have "undecided voters" panels and it turns out have voted for the same party for the last 10 elections.

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"undecided" voters are people who have made up their minds but are "just asking questions"

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Yes. It’s often just lazy reporting. E.g., Trump campaign provides contact information of supporters. Well, with that sample, you’re going to find some Black farmers supporting Trump. It isn’t even necessary that they are fictional-they simply are really rare.

But so much of political reporting is infected by this “non-random sample” problem. Stories exist because they are pitched by the candidates’ teams. Facts are fed by the two teams.

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Yeah, at this point, I discount this sort of reporting as noise at best and actively fake at worst. News outlets go for it anyway because it’s more click-generating than observing the extremely consistent polling data showing immigration, inflation, crime, and Biden’s age as key issues for his disapprovers (and concern about reproductive rights and Trump’s fitness for office weighing heavily on the other side.)

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Remember when the pro-choice and pro-life demonstrators were yelling at each other in front of the Supreme Court, and then they all spontaneously started chanting "Fuck Joe Biden"?

This is all so exasperating

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

Even more predictable.

Half my Twitter feed is Muslims denouncing Biden as an evil Zionist puppet, but that's because I'm not a typical American. I imagine a lot more voters consume the kind of social media that attacks him for being an anti-Semite.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17Liked by Ben Krauss

I wonder how representative are these farmers though? Obviously, Biden is polling worse than his 2020 performance, but it's like 3-5% worse in the two way.

If we look at mainstream media voter coverage he's lost 40% from every single demo. But, at least they found a successor to the Trump supporters at a diner genre.

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I would say the bigger problem with this type of story is there extremely few farmers and even fewer black farmers in Georgia. https://www.gfb.org/news/ag-news/post/ag-census-results-show-size-of-georgia-farms-shifted

Key note "While 64,574 of Georgia’s farmers are caucasian, the ethnic makeup of Georgia’s producers is more diverse than expected. There are 2,870 African American producers; 922 Hispanic producers; 524 American Indian producers; 494 Asian producers and 43 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander producers."

The fact there is a whole deep dive feature in the New York Times is just another example to me that the idea of "real" Americans being farmers just won't die despite being wildly outdated for decades.

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There are nearly 600,000 people employed in the meatpacking industry. I'd be interested in an nyt profile on their voter preferences

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I imagine most of them are not eligible voters.

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I would be interested in whether the rate of veganism among them is higher or lower than the national average...

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I was just at a diner outside Macon and *all* the black farmers said they're voting for Trump

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What was her reason?

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My husband grew up on a farm in the South. I am frankly shocked that there are still over 65,000 farmers of any race in Georgia. I wonder how they are classifying farms.

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Yeah, there are definitely all sorts of "farms" in every state that are likely legally classified as farms for tax reasons. For my home state of NY. https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/assess/valuation/ag_overview.htm

Wouldn't shock me at all if we found out these "farmers" weren't actually farmers. If I had to guess, they probably are. But again, given what I noted above wouldn't surprise me if there is more to the story about their occupations.

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But it was the Biden admin, not the New York Times, that had the idea to focus on this!

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Another thing is that at least one of those farmers seems to be a Trump 2020 voter. Can't be sure because I don't think he said, but when explaining his Trump support he cited aid he received in 2019...

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Why was Biden promising a program that was blatantly illegal?

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Because black farmers in the South were historically discriminated against by USDA, and because the Supreme Court hadn't yet issued the college-admissions ruling which banned affirmative action for groups that have suffered historical discrimination?

The loan forgiveness may or may not have been a good idea but it wasn't "blatantly illegal" until the courts said it was. USDA had been running preferential programs for black farmers well before Biden took office, so this wasn't a radically new initiative.

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It was always illegal the court had just not issued a ruling stating such yet (technically). They were interpreting existing law not legislating.

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There should be a term for things that exist for a long time,but everyone knows they will be struck down in court. I think it is common in tax structures and selection policies.

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The term is desuetude: "a doctrine that causes statutes, similar legislation, or legal principles to lapse and become unenforceable by a long habit of non-enforcement or lapse of time. It is what happens to laws that are not repealed when they become obsolete. It is the legal doctrine that long and continued non-use of a law renders it invalid, at least in the sense that courts will no longer tolerate punishing its transgressors."

Perhaps the most prominent example of it today is federal marijuana laws. A previous example was laws against contraception, which prompted the Supreme Court to say in Poe v. Ulman, "'Deeply embedded traditional ways of carrying out state policy ...' – or not carrying it out – 'are often tougher and truer law than the dead words of the written text.'"

After a while it also becomes an equal protection violation to prosecute one person for violating a law that everyone else is openly and flagrantly violating without prosecution.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desuetude

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

To get votes from ignorant rubes? Don’t hate the player, hate the game. As they say…

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I think this is right to a large degree — but with the nuance that the source of people’s misery in January 2021 was not Trump, but another wave of Covid, schools being closed, high crime, higher unemployment, etc.

So people looking back on 2021 focus on how they hated Covid, rather than how they disliked Trump irrespective of Covid. And since Covid caution ended up being coded to Democrats — and lack of Covid caution coded to Trump — that makes them angry at Biden.

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Fauci has lot to answer for!

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Democrats overpromising a populist racial agenda to farmers that any halfway literate judge can see violates Civil Rights law and Trump talking about how McKinley's tariffs were neat is truly on the nose. Now they just need some progressives to start hawking an alternative currency before some nutjob from Portland murders Trump in his second term, and we can get an eccentric Vice President JD Vance distrusted by the Republican business wing. All of this has happened before and will happen again.

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Well, these voters have a point. I mean, Roe got overturned on Biden's watch, right?

More and more, this is turning into the FAFO election.

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Well said on Afghanistan.

It exasperates me that no one points out the obvious here: the Doha Agreement fixed the go-to-zero date for US forces at a point three months beyond the 2021 inauguration. The timeframe was already too short to allow for any real adjustment on the Afghan government's part, so it would have made hardly any logistical difference to make it a little shorter and have the withdrawal in midwinter, outside the fighting season.

The whole point, fairly obviously, was to give Trump the opportunity to reassess after the November election. If he'd won he could have torn it up and kept the force structure at Obama's levels. I doubt that would have worked, because the Taliban would have resumed attacks on US troops, but whatever went wrong in Trump's second term would have been less dramatic than a Saigon-style collapse.

When Biden won, Trump's initial impulse was to go to zero before the inauguration, to make things as chaotic as possible for his team. His military advisors talked him out of that but he still drew down to just 2500 troops, which probably wouldn't have been enough to defend Kabul alone in the face of a determined attack. At that point Saigon 2.0 was more or less inevitable, and I can't help thinking it may have been the outcome Zalmay Khalilzad (also a Republican) wanted all along.

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A-fucking-men. It’s downright embarrassing any time I hear someone say that *BIDEN* was responsible for the shit show withdrawal.

It’s an epistemically disqualifying litmus test. In my book, anyone who lays the blame at Biden’s feet instantly identifies theirself as a fundamentally unserious person and a bad fucking pundit.

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I'm going to pull rank here and point out that I probably know more about this subject than most SB readers, because it's been one of my little obsessions since coming back to Kabul.

There were definitely major operational errors, mostly made by the State Department, but I don't think better White House leadership would have made a lot of difference. (And I also think people don't acknowledge the incredibly disruptive effect that COVID had: partly because government employees were locked down, and partly because hardly anyone was paying attention to Afghanistan.)

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Agree. Afghanistan was about a decade of my life as an intelligence analyst. There’s lots of blame to spread around but the effort to absolve the Biden admin from any of it is just wrong. We (the US) made fundamental and unequivocal mistakes in the Spring and Summer of the withdrawal that cannot be pinned on Trump.

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To be clear, I'm not trying to *absolve* him of "any of it". I'm just saying that anyone who STARTS by talking about his errors is missing the forest for the trees.

A couple months of fumbling a hot potato sure looks dramatic, but it's downright idiotic when pundits fail to FIRST ask how it got so hot in the first place.

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Anyone who starts on Afghanistan with Trump's errors is also missing the forest for the trees.

The key errors were made by Bush. Obama then made the error of being afraid to pull out. Trump made a deal that forced a pullout, and Biden executed it. Trump and Biden are, at least comparatively, the good guys in this story. They removed the US from a place we had no business being in, where we continued to be because hawks are too immature to accept the notion that we might ever lose a war.

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I agree with the caveat that Trump made a *cynical and cowardly* deal, and then squib-kicked the hot-potato to make sure it was maximally uncatchable besides being hot in the first place.

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Biden wasn't forced to do anything. We never should have pulled out

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There are quite a few puzzles still to be unraveled. For me the biggest one is "who gave the order to evacuate Bagram, and why?" I don't think it could have been anyone but the commander-in-chief.

Follow me on Twitter if any interest in Afghanistan survives :)

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The simple answer is that the force reductions didn’t allow holding Bagram, the embassy, and Kubul airport at the same time.

The fundamental error, which cannot be blamed on Trump, is the assumption that government forces would hold at least the capitol and core areas for months at least. Hence why there was no sense of urgency to process Visas for Afghan allies. There wasn’t a contingency plan in place in case that assumption was wrong.

However, the signs of a potential collapse were becoming pretty clear by mid June to the open source community - I have a hard time believing no one in government saw them as well.

We won’t know the full story because no one is interested in lessons learned and the various agencies (WH staff, DoD, State, Intel community) are all pointing fingers at each other.

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So how long should Biden have put a halt on moving forward after inauguration to allow him to make appointments and for those people to hire their people and for those people to reevaluate the plans and adopt their own? People acting like Presidents show up with their people in place to implement their plans on day 1. Trump had withdrawn 86% of American forces from Afghanistan before Biden was even inaugurated.

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The Afghanistan War Commission will come up with some answers, but that's years in the future.

You may be right about Bagram (I'm not a military guy and can't judge) but it's striking that there's been so little transparency about the decision process. If it wasn't defensible in July, they should say so.

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I mean, that's totally true, but as you say, it's not really Biden's fault.

Like, sure, under the "Green Lantern Theory Of Governance", of course he could have just willed himself to do a better job.

But the GLToG is a by-joke because that's an absurd way of thinking about things! So, I maintain that even *starting* any analysis of what happened by looking at *Biden's* errors alone is just a fundamentally misguided framework.

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It’s not Biden’s personal fault, that is true. But the errors that were made were made by the Biden Administration and the administration is responsible for them.

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I don't see how Trump leaving them a 3-month window for deciding what to do is an "error" the Biden administration made.

Again, I'm not disputing that errors were made during the execution or during the entire 7-month stretch leading up to it. I'm just saying, 3 months is not much time to make a major geopolitical decision, and 4 months after that is not much time to plan a major withdrawal, especially if the last guy left the whole State department a mess.

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Three months is plenty of time. After all, when push came to shove, the no notice emergency withdrawal was planned and executed in a bit more than a week.

The military had already planned for the 1 May date and just needed the order to execute. The delay was because the WH was reviewing Afghanistan policy in part because the military and others didn’t want to withdraw. The WH eventually overruled that desire and extended the withdrawal date after which the military immediately began drawing down.

The whole notion that 7 months is not enough time to plan and execute the withdrawal of 2,500 troops is factually not true. The problem is that these decisions get stuck churning in the political and bureaucratic halls in DC.

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There's also just no way for a major military withdrawal to go down with *no* events. And reporters wanted something to report on, and Republicans wanted something to cynically complain about. Everybody got their wish.

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What are some good sources or at the time reporting about this, if I wanted to go down the rabbit hole? I'm also really interested in the withdrawal and it's sad how, to some, it seems to have set the tone for the rest of Biden's term.

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on the withdrawal last autumn. They've published lightly redacted transcripts of most of their interviews, though not yet all of them.

There are also two CENTCOM internal investigations of the Abbey Gate bombing. A redacted version of the first one was FOIAed by the Washington Post and a redacted version of the second one by me. You can find the full text of both reports posted to my Substack:

https://anacard.substack.com/p/abbey-gate-documents

That's thousands of pages of documentation, so it's a very deep rabbit hole. If you want to start with something shorter check out the State Department's After Action Review on Afghanistan, released last June:

https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/State-AAR-AFG.pdf

Note that this is an 87-page report, but that pages 21 through 84 are missing. I recommend following my Substack or Twitter account just in case the missing pages turn up at some point in the future... 🙄

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Were the failures to get interpreters out on State? Does the fact that State answers to the WH affect your view, or is it something where the fuckup is only apparently higher up the chain ex post?

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One of the biggest sources of the chaos at the airport was that some genius at the State Department decided to send out entry permits via text message, which of course were immediately copied and sent to thousands of ineligible people. (QR code, hello?)

I agree in theory that the President is ultimately responsible for anything that a cabinet department gets wrong, but if any individual president was responsible for gutting and demoralizing the bureaucracy at State I'd say it was Trump, not Biden.

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I also get the sense that US military personnel were unhappy with the way the British government handled its side of the evacuation process. But everything in the public record that looks as if it may have been criticism of the UK has been redacted.

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The visa process for interpreters and others had been a complete shit-show for at least a decade. State under Biden started to make efforts to speed things up but they hadn’t really gone anywhere.

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Also highly affected by COVID, because the in-person interviews stopped

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Fauci has a lot to answer for.

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Right. Focusing on the ephemeral chaos of that final week withdrawal, instead of the preceding years of policy failure and kicking the can down the road, when it was obvious there was no light at the end of the tunnel in the previous policy but nobody had the courage and leadership to end it, is the epitome of short-term thinking and missing the forest for the trees.

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The biggest failure was not getting our Afghan allies out of the country. I've got no clue how Trump would have handled them, likely because he thinks they are all "suckers." But Biden had seven months to figure something out, and for someone who is supposedly so empathetic, he just, didn't.

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Pulling out was a bad idea. Trump was wrong, Biden should have reversed.

The war in Ukraine almost certainly happened because of Afghanistan

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🤣

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How high would tariffs need to be raised to in order to replace income tax? I suspect the level would be so high that it would defacto ban legal imports of anything, meaning no tariffs would be raised at all. You would end up with people smuggling mangoes and coffee into the US as though it was fentanyl.

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Paul Krugman said yesterday he's crunching the numbers on that. He thinks it might be around 133 percent.

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Or parmesan cheese.

There aren’t many things that would make me fall back on my Italian heritage and try to join the mob, but “becoming a parmesan cheese kingpin” would be one of them.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

I believe the preferred nomenclature for a parmesan cheese kingpin is "The Big Cheese."

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That would be grate(d).

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Oh come on, it was hanging right there!

"I would be a grateful customer if you'd kindly deliver some to Chicago".

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Well, I would.

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D.O.P.

!!!!

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The GOP when discussing optimal income tax: "laffer curve means the optimal rate is lower than {whatever the current rate is}"

The GOP when discussing optimal tariff rates (they are playacting to please their totemic Father/cult-leader): "there is no effective cap on the revenue from tariffs, we can just keep raising them higher to get more money out of the money machine"

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I don't think there's that much thought going on. People generally just don't understand how large government spending actually is, hence the constant "we could have gold-plated single payer healthcare if the military was a bit smaller" arguments.

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Yep, the social democrat lovers are (probably willfully) math illiterate.

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Also journalists.

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It would just greatly reduce American’s standards of living and the GOP would blame Obama for it.

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A tariff is essentially a VAT at the point of import. To raise revenue sufficient to phase out the income tax as the primary source of federal revenue, that VAT system at the border would probably have to be gradually extended domestically until we had a full federal VAT system.

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I am torn by my desire of solving the revenue issue vs my offense at Trump’s asinine idea.

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Consumption taxes are better than income taxes, but not like this.

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Well, the question would be, if Democrats have leverage in Congress, is a deal possible where Trump gets what he wants - tariffs and less income tax - and in return Democrats get a foothold and pathway for a federal VAT to replace the income tax as the primary federal revenue source.

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Do Democrats even want a VAT?

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There have been a number of Brookings-ish proposals for a VAT coupled with some form of abatement at the bottom end of the income distribution to address the inherent regressivity of a VAT -- a UBI, refundable credit, payroll tax offset, etc. It's usually seen as a revenue adder to address looming deficits rather that a wholesale replacement to income tax, but it could be deployed in addition to something like eliminating all income taxes for incomes under $100,000 to make it politically palatable (I think I read somewhere that this would eliminate over 100 million federal tax returns, but we might need to inflation adjust that threshold). One advantage of this kind of VAT is that it would be nice vehicle for a border-adjusted carbon tax.

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Don't know. But if Democrats are the party that "believes in science" and "follows the evidence", as I've heard, and economists generally agree based on the evidence that a VAT is a superior, less distortionary way to raise revenue than an income tax (is that true?), then shouldn't Democrats want a VAT?

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NB, a VAT was proposed during the Trump administration and the Democrats lambasted it.

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I will be the first cheerleader for any party or politician that wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace all income taxes with a VAT. But Democrats want to replace income taxes with a VAT? I don't believe that. Democrats want to add a giant VAT to higher income taxes.

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Fentanyl is really easy to smuggle because it's so compact. One kilogram of fentanyl can produce 1 million to 1.5 million pills. They would be /trying/ to smuggle mangoes and coffee as though it were fentanyl!

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We're going to end up with mangos concentrated to a purity where a couple of cubic centimeters will kill a horse, aren't we?

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They'll just hide the mangos in their calf muscles.

Oh, that was watermelons, wasn't it?

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"You would end up with people smuggling mangoes and coffee into the US as though it was fentanyl."

Hey, buddy. You lookin' to buy a…lassi? I might know a guy.

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135% according to Krugman.

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Personally I blame the media. I definitely don't want to understate the seriousness of January 6, the fake electors stuff, the infamous phone call to Brad Raffensperger. There is some vindication there for the people that went most into a panic about Donald Trump.

However, prior to that I think his presidency was best characterized by farcical episodes like the week of the Mooch as communications director or the much hyped meeting with Kim Jong Un that accomplished... nothing. His entire presidency was full of strange stuff that seemed like it could have come from the writers of Veep. Even at the end there was the Four Seasons Total Landscaping thing.

But instead of that being the endless headline, we had Democracy Dies in Darkness, Russian interference, an impeachment that never stood a chance of removing him, and on and on. I don't want to over estimate the level of attention Normie America paid to day to day politics or the accuracy of their memories but defining the guy as a fascist instead of a buffoonish punchline set the bar in a place he could be seen as exceeding. The result is that it is nearly impossible to get anyone to pay attention to basic questions of policy and competence.

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I don't really think you can blame the Democrats for impeaching Trump. When the president commits crimes, you indict him for the crimes.

The fact that there was never any chance of convicting him is something to blame on the Founding Fathers. They didn't think political parties should exist, so they never anticipated a level of partisanship that would make it impossible to get a Senate supermajority against any president.

To be fair, even the rest of us mostly didn't expect the polarization to get so bad that senators would cover for the kind of things Trump did. But that's on the Republicans, isn't it?

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The Ukraine extortion was, in fact, really bad. And looks even worse in retrospect.

But to circle back to the post's theme, I have a Polish immigrant neighbor who has a "Russia Out of Ukraine Now!" Bumper sticker and a Trump 2024 sticker...

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Maybe they’re not fans of Biden’s hemming and hawing with the Ukrainians.

“You can have this, but not the tanks” six months later…”ok, you can have the tanks “

Repeat with aircraft, allowing Ukraine to fire over the Russian border, etc

Not saying the Trump administration would be morally righteous hawks, but the foot dragging by the Biden administration has been infuriating

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Yep, the inability of strike while the iron is hot is just basic incompetence. The time to press the advantage was when the Russians were on the run. Now dribbling aid into a frozen conflict isn’t going to accomplish much, and if the Russians end up grinding them down it will be very bad for Western morale and future proxy battles.

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This is not a defense or endorsement of the decisions the US has made along the way, but frozen conflict seems like the most likely path to Ukrainian victory. When smaller nations defeat larger invaders as has happened numerous times in the past 75 years or so, they don't typically drive the invaders off the field. What usually happens is that the defenders bog the invaders down in a quagmire until the latter get exhausted and leave on their own. Russia is an autocracy, but autocracies are only partially shielded from public opinion. Eventually people tend to get tired of losing their sons for no reason.

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Yes true. But the Ukrainians *were* driving the invaders off the field, and could have kept going if their western allies hadn't been so afraid of offending Putin -- there may still have been a frozen peace but the territory controlled by Russia would have been smaller. Now the Russian economy has been retooled to a war footing and that opportunity won't come again; any territory Ukraine regains now will be at a higher cost.

Just about the only thing that could make me say that Biden has done the best job possible under the circumstances, as opposed to just a merely adequate job, would be if the real reason he's been slow walking aid to Ukraine is that the US military readiness is in such poor state that the US can't give more within putting our own defense at risk, but for obvious reasons he thinks he can't say that publicly.

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Trump has pretty publicly been the face of being against the very idea of helping Ukraine. It is only recently softened to "we shouldn't help them at all but under me it wpuld magically not be a problem". I doubt someone who thought Biden should more decisively back Ukraine would support Trump because of it.

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Yes, the Theme 😖

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I think miscalculation of impeachment 1 made the odds of impeachment 2 being successful much less likely. And no, I'm not going to blame the founding fathers when the rules of the game are well known by all the players and have been for over 2 centuries.

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Perverting Ukraine policy for electoral advantage sure seems like a "high crime" to me.

It's true that if the Democrats had foreseen January 6th they probably would have saved their firepower and just done the one impeachment, but how could anyone have predicted that?

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The only question dictating the success of the second impeachment was whether conservative media was willing to give cover to elected Republicans. The same conservative media that pickled their supporters in election-steal lies for the previous two months. I don't know enough about conservative media dynamics to say whether a collective change-of-heart was in the cards. But I know that their calculations had nothing at all to do with the first impeachment.

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"We can't impeach him for this obvious crime now because we have to reserve our ammunition for no doubt far more serious crimes to come."

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Why did impeachment 1 make impeachment 2 less likely to succeed? If impeachment 1 had good grounds then that should have made impeachment 2 more likely, not less.

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The Ukraine impeachment was so warranting impeachment and so obviously doomed in the Senate that any objective observer must conclude that the self-destruction button of the US is simply waiting for the right hostile actors to put in the time and effort. It’s basically as certain as the US burying the Soviets under eventual economic collapse by keeping the Cold War focused on otherwise irrational arms production.

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I allocate blame to the GOP and their own moral rot. The are active criminal co-conspirators in Jan 6 and the extortion scheme against Ukraine.

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If the Senate Republicans had been smart, they would have done it to take back the party. Though just imagine the base rage if that happened.

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I'm not sure why you think the first group of examples was policy-centric, and the second group wasn't. Veep episodes aren't policy oriented. And the Mueller Investigation wasn't a damp squib because the public was fundamentally disinterested. Mueller was an ineffectual snob that got played by Barr and Rosenstein and didn't fight back at all. (Though, in fairness, he was trying to learn a lesson from Comey's disastrous flouting of the rules.)

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I also think it’s worth again stressing that the “Russia stuff” is not at all the equivalent of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election (I’ve seen this “both sides” comparison from reporters). As much as people like Chair got way over their skis with stuff like “Trump has been a Russian asset since 1987” I’d say we have some real unanswered questions about financials ties. The person who actually knows what they are talking about here is David Farenthold and the real tragedy is other reporters and Democrats didn’t rely on his reporting.

But even now. We have some serious unanswered questions about why Trump is so pro Putin. Point being focusing on the “Russia stuff” I really don’t think is some distraction

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

Why does the GOP love our enemies more than our own country? That is the real Russia question.

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I think for at least some far-right conservatives, the answer is simple:

1. What they consider to be "our country" is different from what you consider to be "our country." You consider "our country" to be the United States as a formal legal institution, and that "our countrymen" are all people who are U.S. citizens under U.S. citizenship law. They don't.

2. Who they consider to be "our enemies" is different from who you consider to be "our enemies." Not only do they consider certain United States citizens to be enemies rather than countrymen, but they also feel like certain foreign regimes that are hostile to the United States (qua formal legal institution) are potential allies against those enemies. Philosophically they share more in common with those foreign regimes than the do with their "domestic" (though they don't see them as truly "domestic") opponents, with the biggest point of commonality being their shared common primary enemy.

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Given how outrageous it would be if that proposition were true, shouldn't your question be "what don't I understand about GOP voters?"

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But it... IS... true. When you have their biggest media personalities carping for Putin on live TV, and a significant faction of their congressional caucus holding up Ukraine funding for months on end, this isn't some sort of unchecked bias, it's a verifiable fact bordering on common-ass-knowledge at this point.

While I agree it's important to understand what went wrong with GOP voters to get them to this point, reducing the entire thing to that question alone is dangerously myopic and concern-troll-ish at this historic juncture.

For a historical comparison... one did not need to understand what drove Lindbergh's America First supporters in order to understand that they were a threat to global democracy.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

I don't think these points connect as well as you seem to. Specifically, the accusation that failing to approve Ukraine aid funding is evidence that the GOP loves our enemies more than America. It seems rather obvious, but objecting to spending tens of billions of dollars to support a country that nobody really considered a stalwart geopolitical ally of the United States 5 years ago isn't exactly loving your actual enemies. I think it's easy enough to reconcile that policy disagreement on good faith grounds rather than accusing tens of millions of people of secretly loving communists and Russia more than America.

This thread seems to be going off the rails a bit below your comment, so I'm just chiming in to say that I think the questions being posed are doing more to obscure a meaningful discussion than to illuminate one.

ETA: Just to be clear- I support funding for Ukraine. I just don't think that those who disagree with me do so because of a hatred of America or love of Russia. I opposed the war in Iraq because I thought it was bad policy, so I am familiar with how these kinds of policy disagreements can devolve into attacks on patriotism that allow the other side to avoid addressing people's actual objections/concerns.

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I don't want to get too personal, but when 90% of your comments are stream-of-consciousness partisan talking points that extend charity to no one but your friends, you shouldn't wonder when your super-power is instigating long comment chains without getting upvoted yourself.

[Edit] One more thing - if we're looking for ways to improve the quality of conversation in the comments, I recommend adding "accuses people of or hints at people being concern trolls" to the list of ban-able offenses.

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Nonsense! I note your comment has not addressed the Steele Dossier. Russiagate was fundamentally a rat fucking operation by the Hillary campaign, supported by the IC and MSM.

Do you want to address the open letter signed by the IC about Hunter’s laptop?

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I mean, the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.

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*Chait not “chair”. Stupid autocorrect

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FYI- you should be able to edit the original comment to clear that up.

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Fair enough. No one made any mistakes and we're just on the verge of losing again for reasons entirely outside of our control.

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Don't blame me for your struggles coming up with a plausible theory for what's going on.

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Dude in the comment you’re responding to he named at least one person who made a mistake.

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Even worse, they'd actively bend over backwards to pretend Trump had a coherent and principled policy agenda. Trump doesn't want to hand Ukraine to Russia because he loves Putin, Trump is "isolationist". He also genuinely cares about fraud despite the fact that he's never said anything that was even remotely true about voter fraud. But hey guys Democrats aren't perfect so they're all the same.

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Four Seasons Total Landscaping! Great callback - thank you for that lol today...

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Had the media treated Trump like it did every other candidate in 2015, he would have died on the vine. Instead, they took his bait and turned politics into a circus in the name of ratings gold. Trump took advantage of this and was able to control the narrative with his nonsense. Biden’s main fault is that he took over this circus but thought he could go back to the way things were before. Trump is still controlling the narrative and he will continue to until he dies unless someone rises up and takes the spotlight away from him.

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Yea, the biggest issue with Trump's administration is that it completely went off the rails at the literal very end. Before that point there had been a persistent campaign to mix in genuine critique with liberal hysteria which I'm not sure was a great idea to do for 70 percent of the administration.

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Thinking a Presidency is “characterized” by a weeklong dalliance in communications directors is decadent. Swing voters forgot that before they voted.

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I wish I could like this comment a thousand times

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I genuinely find it frustrating that there has been nearly no non-partisan anger on Covid with like a high profile truth and reconciliation type commission.

It seems to me like large numbers of excessive deaths have been hand waved away by just like invoking polarizing parts of the other side.

I think there’s a fairly large amount of bipartisan bad outcomes that no one can do much about because zero sum polarization is the most important thing in the world.

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We desperately need a non partisan Covid commission. Everyone on every side got a lot of stuff very wrong, so it’s not as if it would only be embarrassing to one side.

We will have another pandemic and it’s going to be important to do stuff that works with minimal negative effects on society. My fear is that the response will be driven by politics and we’ll have the ineffective policies favored by whatever party is in power and a bunch of people will needlessly die.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

I usually try not to do pedantry, but please, everyone: Stop saying "disinterested" for "uninterested" or "not interested".

"Disinterested"="Has no skin in the game/no ulterior reason to favor one side of a dispute over any other/neutral"

"Uninterested"="Doesn't care"

"Not interested"="Uninterested"

A judge should have no stake in any given case before them, but should care about it in the sense of adjudicating it fairly, efficiently, and respectfully. An uninterested judge is deeply frustrating; a disinterested judge is essential. Conversely, you can often find people who have a material interest in some issue who just don’t care about it. (Ahem.)

I am not doing a pedantry for pedantry's sake here. This is a useful distinction and I beg everyone to respect and preserve it.

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Kareem, I gave up on this battle a long time ago. I'm just totally disinterested in fighting with people who don't understand the distinction anymore. Irregardless of the amount of people like us who still care, it's not worth the battle.

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Like, literally...

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We've just got to come up with a new word that means what "disinterested" used to mean.

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I'm totally down with that!

And luckily I happen to have that word with me right now. And that word is "dysinterested."

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lol

How about dysenterysted?

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Now don't be silly.

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Isn't that almost "impartial"?

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REGARDLESS of what people you're talking about (LOL)

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

Hey that's my music

No seriously, that's exactly why I chose this handle lol

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I’m here for a good pedantry! Co-signed as long as you co-sign my insistence that we all stop using “refute” as a synonym for “rebut”.

Refuting someone doesn’t mean you contradicted them, it means you PROVED they were wrong.

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But to out-pedant you, "disinterested" has a second meaning that is equivalent to "uninterested".

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Through confusion. And which we should ask be ended.

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Nope. The wonderful thing about language is it is democratic, and that the public, not elites, get to set meanings.

And the fact that elites get all upset about disinterested, and flout/flaunt, and less/fewer, is GOOD. They should get upset. Because when elites are whining, that's how we know democracy is working.

If you try to impose elite rule over language, you get France, where everyone says "le weekend" and "Internet" despite the government trying everything it can to stop them. It doesn't work.

Using disinterested the way Matt does is CORRECT English. It's in the dictionaries. If you don't like the language as it is, you can choose to speak another one. But you don't get to impose INCORRECT rules you just made up on other English speakers.

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I'm with you on principle, but I'm with Kareem insofar as I regret how the change in usage indicates a lack of appreciation for a valuable idea or distinction and precipitates its continued decline.

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I always hear these arguments and I think they are silly.

Did you actually have ANY doubt what Matt meant? Nope. Because we aren't idiots. We can see context. If someone says "he is flaunting the rule", nobody thinks that he is putting the rule on ostentatious display. When the supermarket says "10 items or less", we understand that. And when Captain Kirk says he is boldly going where no man has gone before, we get that too.

So no, nothing valuable at all is being lost here.

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The problem isn't that it's hard to understand Matt, it's the downstream effect on usage.

When people start using the word for "doesn't have a dog in the fight" to mean "doesn't care", it introduces confusion into more ambiguous cases.

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Your point is well taken but misses my thrust. This is a demand for a democratic movement to insist on a particular meaning of a particular word wipe out alternate meanings to preserve/create a useful distinction. It is GOOD that someone thought there should be a single word for "has no skin in the game". Call it linguistic Bismarckianism--applying democratic means to conservative ends.

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But there are ways to say someone has no skin in the game already. You can say neutral, conflict-free, unbiased, impartial, etc. etc. etc. So the word taking on a meaning in addition to the one you prefer doesn't rob English of a way to express what you're seeking. Heck, no skin in the game also works! Although it is more cumbersome than neutral or unbiased.

Trying to stand in front of these changes/evolutions and shouting "no!" is a pointless endeavor. It won't work, and if it did our language would be less beautiful and expressive than it is.

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I always hear these arguments and I think they are silly.

Did you actually have ANY doubt what Matt meant? Nope. Because we aren't idiots. We can see context. If someone says "he is flaunting the rule", nobody thinks that he is putting the rule on ostentatious display. When the supermarket says "10 items or less", we understand that. And when Captain Kirk says he is boldly going where no man has gone before, we get that too.

So no, nothing useful at all is being lost here.

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No one actually believes this, though. It’s a weird ideological commitment linguists have that is fundamentally incoherent.

Look at yourself: chastising someone for trying to get people to use a word differently by insisting that language is a democracy.

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It's not incoherent at all. It's the reason we don't say words anymore or employ usages that are all over The Death of King Arthur and The Canterbury Tales and Hamlet. What changed? Answer: language evolves. And how does it evolve? Not because "authorities" change it, but because the public does.

And nobody objects to this except in these stupid instances of pedantry where a few elites decided to tilt at windmills. Nobody objects to the fact that e-mail became email. Nobody objects to the fact that we now use "wife" as a verb. (Well, I playfully object to it, but no, I don't say "it's incorrect English". Because if enough people use it, it isn't.) Nobody objects to their friend saying "what up?" instead of "what's up?".

And your last sentence is wrong. It's not "trying to get people". It's falsely saying there's a rule when there isn't. It's LYING to get people to change. It's posing as an authority of correct English while being ignorant of what correct English actually requires.

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I think you should definitely log off until the feeling goes away.

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I'm not sure I understand what the "this" you're referring to when you say "no one actually believes this" is? No one actually believes that language evolves and develops via actual usage amongst the real population of speakers?

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No one actually believes in the toy version of that thesis offered here, which is what's required to power Dilan's disdain.

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I don’t think we have polling on this. Many people use “disinterested” to mean “uninterested”. Many do not (hi!)

Why should we assume that the new meaning is the preferable one?

We’re just as much the Common Man as you are — shouldn’t we push for our own lexicography?

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So long as enough people use it in reasonably formal register, it's correct English. That's all that is required to get it in the dictionary.

Language snobs use all sorts of words the public uses less often. Doesn't mean their usages are incorrect either.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

And the fact that a word may be used by two large communities of people, with incompatable meanings isn’t a problem? Sometimes the meanings are diametrically opposed, like “inflammable”. Wouldn’t it be good if we had an authority to adjudicate which of those meanings is correct?

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It’s not a settled issue, like using “terrible” to mean bad rather than awe-inspiring.

On this one, the war is still ongoing, and we haven’t lost yet!

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That's cool.

Now, can you give me a good word that means "Has no skin in the game/no ulterior reason to favor one side of a dispute over any other/neutral"?

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Like how if now "literal = figurative," we still need a word that means what "literal" used to mean.

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I'm literally going to fall on my sword over this issue.

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Literal still means literal, it's just that in context it can also sometimes mean figurative. Just like with everything else involving language, the context clues you in to the meaning. People who make big deals about this seem to do so purely for pedantic reasons while ignoring that the meaning is almost always perfectly clear in context (and if it's not, it's almost always because of poor writing/speaking rather than confusion created by a more expansive definition for a particular term).

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Neutral, unbiased, impartial, objective, conflict-free, etc. etc. There are lots of words that can efficiently and effectively convey what the apparently original meaning of disinterested was.

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The public gets to choose what to eat, too, but there's nothing wrong with saying that some foods taste better than others, or are more nutritious. There's nothing wrong with saying some movies are better than others, or with saying that bad movies squeeze good movies out of the marketplace. It's only with language that no one can offer a criticism of usage without others self-righteously coming in to democratically insist that no one voice an opinion.

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I think there's a big difference between saying "caviar tastes better than hamburgers" and saying "caviar is correct and hamburgers are incorrect".

Indeed, I think the latter statement is both incorrect and represents profound ignorance about food.

And that's exactly how I feel about people who believe in fake "rules" of language and try to "correct" people who actually know the rules and use the language correctly.

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I don't believe that Kareem used the words "correct" or "incorrect," though I guess you could say he implied it. But he wasn't insisting on "correctness" for its own sake, but to maintain a particular usage as primary. The key statement he made was, "This is a useful distinction and I beg everyone to respect and preserve it." To me this is comparable to Anthony Bourdain saying, "I beg everyone to shop at local restaurants, because they're worth preserving" or Wendell Berry saying "I beg everyone to buy seasonal food from local farmers, because the agricultural chain is worth preserving" (or, to switch media, any number of critics saying "I beg everyone to see non-Marvel movies in the theaters, because cinemas and a diversity of film genres are both worth preserving"). It's partly an aesthetic preference, partly resistance to a social change with perceived negative effects. There's no reason I can see that this would be invalid for language where it's valid for everything else.

Of course you can disagree that it's a useful distinction, and I gather that you do disagree because you say we'll just figure out what is meant from context clues. But that's a disagreement on the merits. The Academie Francaise or the principle of language being democratic is neither here nor there, because no one is calling for people to be forced to speak a certain way. We're appealing to them to do so, which grants the premise that the choice is theirs.

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Merriam Webster actually has a good explanation of what they call the "tangled history" of "disinterested" and "uninterested", which have flipped meaning at least once and (partially) flipped back. It's a better explanation than the one they give for caving on "literally"...

(PS - big fan of pedantry - keep it coming...)

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

I'm incredibly anti-Trump... and I'm a cross pressured voter in a key swing state, and this line of argumentation is just not very compelling. It's mostly true and correct, Trump 1 was a big mess, but I'd agree that was true of basically every administration I can remember? Being a huge mess in these mostly mundane ways is par for the course in presidential politics. The JCPOA is a good example, it was a mess when Obama negotiated it, it was a mess when Trump killed it, it's a mess with Biden trying to necromance it back into existence. The primary continuity between admins is being a giant mess.

The worst thing about Trump is that he's polarizers the electorate along coalitional lines that empower the worst people. The identitarian populists on both sides of the spectrum will absolutely drive the country straight off a cliff if they hold the wheel for too long, and that's what Trump does that's so terrible. He puts those coalitions in the driver's seat by setting the terms of the arguments.

The second worst thing about him is his personal greed/will to power/amorality/total lack of ideological constraint. Basically the dictator stuff. He'll directly destroy the institutions if he can manage it. Luckily he's pretty incompetent and the institutions are pretty robust in that regard.

This "he's a kinda incompetent mess at administrating the state" concern is a third tier issue, even if you fully embrace the perspective that Biden is actually a substantial upgrade.

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What made the JCPOA a mess when Obama negotiated it beyond the Israelis claiming it to be so? (I don’t know enough to have an opinion but my heuristic is that engagement + inspections was far preferable to proliferation + war as the only recourse.)

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1) Obama negotiated a deal that had so little congressional support he couldn't get it through a majority vote in Congress, much less get it through as an actual treaty.

2) Why did it have so little support? Because it was going to allow significant amounts of money to flow into Iran when they were going to continue to find proxy groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, etc. who would act against the US and it's allies.

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Jun 17·edited Jun 17

"much less get it through as an actual treaty."

This really isn't much of a metric -- the U.S. has ratified almost no new treaties in the last 25 years or so because there are almost always enough members of the opposite party in the Senate to vote against a proposed treaty (even if it otherwise has majority support) to deny the President a "win."

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Sure, but not only did he not have a 2/3 majority in the Senate to do this with Iran, he didn't have a congressional majority to ratify his executive agreement. The president shouldn't attempt to bind the US without congressional backing.

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But he got an agreement that locked Iran's nuclear program down and, absent Trump's idiocy, would have continued keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

Why on earth wouldn't he have taken that deal, with or without congressional support?

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