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Andreas Schou
Works at Snake Parliament
Attended Awesome Skeleton Hell College
Lives in Mountain View, California
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Andreas Schou

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On Moderation: An Ass-Backward Guide to Managing a Community Which Extends From Revolutionary Socialists to Anarcho-Capitalists

(1) When responding as editor, always assume that you are talking to a reasonable person making the most reasonable possible version of their argument. This is not always true in the real world, but this sort of bad-faith good-faith heads off any risk of escalating, tit-for-tat misinterpretation of the other person's argument.

(2) A new member of the community, especially a dissenting member, will often appear to be a troll. Dissenting members who have been socialized to dissent helpfully eventually become valuable members of the community.

(3) Use soft power until you have reached its limits. If the community has a disruptive member who disagrees with you, see if you can get someone who agrees with the disruptive person to intervene on your behalf. It will seem less like you're punishing dissent.

(4) There is no reason to be rude or cruel to someone whom you will not have a continuing relationship with. If you need to exercise hard power -- banning, reporting, excluding -- decide that that's what you need to do, do it, and don't comment on the subject.

(5) Try to be epistemically multilingual. If you can explain a position using only assumptions that you and the other person share, don't try to force a new set of assumptions down their throat. More than likely, they'll just reject your position outright, and you will no longer have anything interesting to talk about.

(6) The most difficult problem an ideological diverse community faces is not antisocial disagreement, but antisocial agreement. It is difficult to convince people that any such thing exists, but community punishment of people who operate outside the editorial consensus can stifle dissent and cause the community to go wildly awry.

(7) Hard apriorists are not a useful part of most conversations. If someone believes he can determine the appropriate federal funds rate from I Think, Therefore I Am, you will probably not have a productive conversation with him, and it is best to politely tell him that he is being ignored.

(8) Biographical details are important. They are anecdotal, but not peripheral. If someone believes they have insights into their own region, ethnicity, profession, gender, government, family, or life experiences, this is likely to be true. What's more, people demand more respect for their own lived experiences than for beliefs which they hold for other reasons.

It is fair to demand that people tread carefully around biographical details and lived experience.

(9) People overgeneralize from their own biographies. Anecdotal experience derived from lived experience is important. It is, however, still anecdotal. If you are inclined to make a strident point based on a biographical argument, it would help if you also went and found some data to support it rather than simply demanding concession from the person you're arguing with.

If you see someone genuinely trying to make a fair argument against your biographical details and lived experience, try to assume that it was made in good faith. 

(10) If you find yourself looking at a Wikipedia page to construct an argument against someone whom you believe to be better-informed on a subject than you, stop. At best, you are denying yourself the opportunity to learn something from a subject matter expert -- even one who turns out to be wrong. At worst, you are about to embarrass yourself. 

(11) Argument about rules of evidence, especially in the middle of another argument,  is seldom productive. If you are aware of the rules of evidence generally adhered to by the people you're arguing with, try to produce evidence which at least meets that standard, and table the argument about evidentiary rules until it can be addressed separately.

(Note: If you have seen this before, and you are seeing it again now, it's because I've pinned the rules for my space to the top of my profile.)
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In short form. Keep a good attitude. Do research your opinions or they are just assumptions. Think before you speak and it won,t feel so out of the blue. Be community minded and stay communicate.
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Andreas Schou

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Dammit, Bernie. I had hopes for this.

But Jeff Weaver is the reason that the last part of the Sanders campaign was such an utter damp squib: he, like Sanders, had a vision of a completely colorblind Democratic party which (by not-really-coincidence) is run entirely by elderly white men. He could not understand why he was losing despite winning the white part of the Democrats.

That coalition is dead, and will never occur again.

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, up until the first Jim Crow laws were established in the 1880s, black voters were solid Republicans. But it was always a weird fit: the Republicans were a sectional, mercantile party, while the Democrats were the party of basically farmers, immigrants, slavery, the poor, and the South. So, where black people could vote (the North, some Southern counties), they started voting for Democrats.

By the 1920s, the majority of the black vote, even in the South, was Democratic. It's easy to caricature this as being "voting against their own interests," but it really wasn't; their interests were very similar to those of the immigrant parts of the party as a whole. The rest of the party was what you might call "white working class," although white identity had not yet encompassed people like (for instance) the Irish and Italians.

This would have been completely stable except for the issue of civil rights. Which white voters in the South, and many in the north, were deeply, fundamentally opposed to. Everywhere but the South, elites were for it, rank-and-file voters were against it. And so in order to avoid breaking the party, the Democrats systematically blocked everything which might benefit black voters, all while pushing the most economically-left social policies in American history.

In 1968, when civil rights finally passed (with an extremely bipartisan vote) the party started rapidly shedding the white Southern voters which formed the core of its support. In 1964, Goldwater had explicitly made a play for racist Southerners. He didn't get them then, though. From that point forward, the Democrats began to lose the core of their support in the South.

The economic policy of the latter half of the 20th century is a direct result of poor white voters abandoning the Democratic Party because of civil rights. This came to a head much later than you might imagine: though the South started to switch to Republican control in 1968 (in terms of presidential elections), its House seats didn't fully switch over until 1994.

Minority voters have basically two choices given the present alignment of American boting vlocs: become an indispensible part of a majority-minority coalition with a relatively small number of college-educated white voters, or become a disposable part of a white-working-class populist coalition which might turn on them at any moment, and which historically has. Frequently.

This is not an enviable position to be in, but note that a white-working-class-based Democratic coalition would be as likely or more to elect a candidate like Trump than a candidate like Sanders. This is not a long-term recipe for tolerable policies.

Jeff Weaver was made president of Our Revolution, leading to five people leaving the group.
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Q: So, Andy. Why are you so concerned with a Cayman Islands lawsuit between Paul Manafort and a Ukrainian joint venture incorporated there?

A: This article, basically.
Between 2010 and early 2014, organized criminals and corrupt politicians in Russia moved US$ 20 billion in dirty funds through this laundromat's complex cleanse-and-spin cycle made up of dozens of offshore companies, banks, fake loans, and proxy agents. The process was then certified as clean by ...
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Steve S
On a side note, "сила" translates to "strength", so "strongman" is a very good, if somewhat literal, translation. Just my $0.02.
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Because National Journal is so heavily locked down -- you literally have to fill out an application in order to get a subscription -- this 2014 article about Bernie didn't really make the rounds during the election. But I think this is a really good overview of the things which made his candidacy what it was -- both the things which I loved about him as a candidate and the things which I was deeply suspicious about.

+Ahmed Amer, +John Wehrle, +Irreverent Monk
Untitled documentShortly after 9 a.m. on the second Sat­urday in May, at the al­tar of a massive, or­nate church in Northamp­ton, Mas­sachu­setts, a lanky, white-haired rev­er­end named Todd Weir as­sumes the pul­pit. His con­greg­a­tion is host­ing a con­fer­ence cel­eb­rat­ing the 10th an­niversary of the grass...
Jesse Alford's profile photoPat Gunn's profile photoVik Arya's profile photoAndreas Schou's profile photo
+Vik Arya​ On #2:

Normally, a politician will dogwhistle to wonks by including detail on subjects which imply deep knowledge. As in: "yes, I know that some of these points will be negotiated away, and here are the concessions I'll make once I'm forced to." But Sanders didn't do that. Nor did his advisors reduce my concern: his formal advisors were undistinguished, and his informal advisors were extremely ideological labor economists. This despite the fact that there were a lot of good economists backing him.

Second, the "propose the unreasonable to compromise at your preferred position doesn't work" has been Sanders' theory of politics his entire career. It has not been particularly successful: his only ideological legislative success has been auditing the Fed.
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That is, I think, one of the top five most inexplicable media things I have ever seen.
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(Also, I note that Putin was (is?) a KGB officer. Putin is known for yuge sense of yumor, no?)
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Capsule Review, No Man's Sky: Minecraft and Elite: Dangerous, as filtered through Borges' The Library of Babel.

I have already named a planet Axaxaxas Mlö.
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My thoughts so far:
I played very briefly Friday afternoon, then waded in deep on Sunday. Maybe 10 hours total.

1) This has a ton of potential.

2) My number one complaint is the movement speed, on foot. "Sprint" feel like "Walk"... and even then would be too slow. "Walk" feel like "Encumbered". This is really close to ruining the game for me. Movement on foot is just simply way, way too slow, and needs to be patched to be more quick.

3) Movement speed when flying is OK, though there should be an equivalent of "Sprint" here as well. But the controls feel sluggish, and the view from the cockpit isn't great. Being able to look down more would be nice. Landing kinda sucks and seems to be a random guess, putting me anywhere from 10m to 1km away from where I want to land.

4) Constantly having to repair Life Support and Armor/Shield/Whatever is just annoying. Having no way to turn off the robotic voice prompts at 75%, 50% and 25% is annoying.

5) Perhaps this one gets better, but storage space is too limited. I think I am up to 10 slots in my suit and 19 on my ship, and that just leads to me having to make a short run to get 1 thing, and inevitably having to discard something I'm going to need in a few minutes. Not even being able to, for instance, drop a stack of Carbon, pick up the thing you need, use it, then re-pick up the dropped Carbon is just weak. Drop should not = Destroy. I'd also like to see stationary places where we can store stuff for the time we are on a given world. Let me stockpile some Plutonium and Thalium9, and come back to use it when I want.

6) For such huge worlds... I still haven't found any "Whoa, that's cool!" things. I'm hoping this changes, but right now it seems that once you find one Ruin or Shrine... you've seen them all.

7) Maybe I've just had bad luck with planets, but so far I am not impressed with the graphics. I have a brand new gaming PC, and it should be able to handle anything I can throw at it... right now it just looks bland. It took me until my 3rd system to see a tree, FFS. I'm also seeing a weird cubical grid display around large element formations, like Gold. I don't know if this is intended or not. It feels like a glitch to me.

8) Too many "Journey Updates". In fact, anytime something happens, it transitions (too slowly) to letterbox, then gives me a useless notification that I've Done Something. The whole time, the game itself is basically unplayable. A simple text update scrolled across would be fine; the way they do it now feels intrusive and takes me out of the world.

9) The language system is kinda cool.

10) No local world map sucks. I want to be able to mark points, add waypoints, etc. Randomly wandering gets old fast.

11) Off planet, but in-system navigation is a pain in the ass.

12) Please tell me all the Space Stations aren't going to be the literal exact same thing every single time.

13) I love being able to name things I discover. But with the chances of anyone ever seeing the same worlds I do so infinitesimally tiny, what's the point? I've started just accepting the default names because taking the time to name things seems pointless.

It has a lot of potential. It seems like it could be really pretty, but so far, isn't. Controls are barely adequate, and can't be modified to any real extent. I am hoping a combination of patching and mods come quickly enough for me not to lose interest and uninstall.
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Andreas Schou

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Ghostbusters: "We need to keep operating this unlicensed homemade nuclear reactor so we can store ghosts."

Okay, so, in what possible world does the EPA guy respond, "Oh, yeah, that sounds reasonable; let me just write you a permit so you can continue to store your ghosts in that reactor?" Like, why is he the bad guy in this scenario?
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IANANP but I don't think that Nuclear reactors run off grid power. If you've got a high power field generator running, it's probably more interesting to the FCC than the EPA. Especially in 2016. 
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As it turns out, we now have the answer to where Trump's campaign donations are going. And it wasn't to his campaign: after admin and fundraising costs, the Trump campaign's largest expenditure was hats. From a financial perspective, his campaign seems weirdly like a hat website which advertises by running a guy for president.

But that's only 1.8m. Where did the rest of it go? As it turns out, he isn't repaying his loans. He's just being dishonest about how many donations he's gotten.

Partisan political campaigns in the United States can set up what's called a JFC: a joint fundraising campaign. These are almost always split down the middle. But Trump's are unusual, and I suspect the reason was to make his campaign look more healthy than it actually is. That money is being split 80/20 between the RNC and the Trump campaign, but because the JFC funds are attributed to the presidential campaign until they're disbursed to the party, 100% of those funds were attributed to Trump on last month's fundraising reports.

Of the 20% which Trump keeps, the vast majority is being spent on more fundraising. Bizarrely, his main fundraising contractor is a web design firm which has previously done work for the Trump Organization, and they appear to be taking an almost 30% (!?!?!?!) commission on all fundraising done for the campaign.

So, TL;DR: Trump wasn't lying about how he's spending the money. He was lying about having it to begin with.

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So, I got in a little tiff the other day about whether Democrats could have done substantially better, over the past six years, by paying attention to George Lakoff's political theories. The short answer: no. The longer answer: also no, but more emphatically. Lakoff is essentially a fraud.

For those of you who are familiar with Lakoff, here's the basic framework he proposes: that metaphors are the basis of human cognition, and that political success is essentially a function of deploying the right metaphors. In order to succeed in electoral politics, you only need the right metaphors, not the right policies: once politicians adopt the correct metaphorical frame, everyone will come around to their view.

This is nonsense. But it's not nonsense simply because it contradicts some deeply-held empirical results in political science (particularly, the median voter theorem). It's nonsense even on its own terms.

(1) In Lakoff's CMT, metaphorical frameworks are found intuitively and unsystematically; there is no methodological regularity in how metaphors are found, nor is there methodological regularity in determining which metaphors are primary. They are arrived at on an ad hoc basis and determined to be causal on an ad hoc basis.

(2) CMT presumes metaphors to be foundational: that is, the mapping of physical objects to abstract concepts is the basis of cognition.

There is one major problem with this, of course: the existence of multiple disjoint sets of metaphors for particular abstractions. Lakoff handwaves away this problem by saying that the brain encodes one (and no more than one) object-to-abstraction metaphor at any one time; the remainder, he claims, are mere results of the cultural imposition of nonbiological frames onto an underlying neurological framework.

This implies that it is literally impossible to simultaneously believe in Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam; even more weirdly, it implies that Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam are the actual underlying representations of national character, rather than a mere synecdoche for a set of characteristics for the underlying abstraction.

(It bears noting that the neuroscience does not support Lakoff's position on this: cognition about abstract concepts occurs in parts of the brain which appear to be fairly well-segregated from the parts of the brain that reason about concrete objects.)

(3) CMT makes very loose guarantees about the schematicity of metaphorical frames, meaning that it can retroactively explain metaphors, but never proactively predict them.

For instance: arguments have foundations and other characteristics of objects; therefore, in CMT, arguments are buildings. In a strictly schematic implementation of CMT, that would imply that arguments, like buildings, also have windows. That they have doors. That some arguments have people inside them.

Not even Lakoff would claim that this is true, however. By allowing schematic elasticity, he can claim that arguments are buildings, but that arguments nonetheless do not have most of the relevant characteristics of buildings. No windows, no doors, no people inside them. Could we have predicted this ahead of time using CMT? No. The extent to which the metaphorical schema applies is a purely post-hoc determination.

If we assume that metaphors are not a first-order characteristic of human cognition, though, we have a relatively simple explanation for the idea that arguments have foundations: that the relation between an argument's evidence and its conclusion is similar to the relation between a building's foundation and the structure. That is: if a foundation fails, then the structure it supports also fails.

In this case, a completely atheoretical approach which assumes that abstractions are first-order concepts in human cognition -- the idea that we can conceive of an argument without first conceiving of buildings -- is clearly superior to a CMT approach with schematic elasticity, which predicts nothing and is capable of concluding anything.

(4) CMT also proposes that metaphors require embodiment: that is, that there is some physical correlate of every abstraction, and that that physical correlate is used as a token representing an abstraction in abstract cognition.

This is key to the entire theory, which is grounded -- at least in part -- in the theory that human abstract cognition results from the evolutionary generalization of cognitive modules designed for motor and sensory behavior. But there are two major problems with this.

First, the problem of generalization. The concepts involved in metaphorical frames are already abstractions: there are no general "mothers" and no general "fathers," just the mothers and fathers which exist in the world. If abstract thought is not a first-order capacity of the human mind, then how do we generalize all mothers together into a single personality and then attribute those mothers to an abstraction?

Second, the problem that, if all metaphors are embodied, are we really building hierarchical chains of embodiment in order to create metaphors for complex abstractions? For instance: war is a common metaphor, and a common frame used in politics. But war is, itself, an abstraction, and an apparently first-order abstraction: we do not make a lot of metaphors for war (certainly, no embodied metaphors), but we use war as a metaphor for other abstractions as well. ("War on drugs," "war on poverty.")

Worse for Lakoff's theory, we use war as a metaphor for embodied acts! So, for instance, I might describe a series of fistfights as a war between myself and someone else, thereby using an apparently high-order abstraction for a concrete, embodied acts. Strictly construed, in CMT, this would seem entirely impossible.
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+Anne-Marie Clark good article. But it is interesting to note how they point out that trump speaks in fragments, fragments that evoke general, shared experience semantic objects or frames or learned association nets of some sort. That part they agree is effective rhetoric. Trump's failure is his incoherence when doing so, though that incoherence, they claim, is coherent to his followers because they fill in the blanks for themselves, just like all of us do when we listen to someone we strongly believe in.
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So, Paul Manafort needed that 12 mil in RUS cash. He's working for Trump pro bono.

Sorry, cui bono. I get those two confused sometimes.
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They're all crooks
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BONUS: Right now, Ivanka Trump is literally vacationing with Putin's new girlfriend, Wendi Deng.
Popcorn time begins!

The NYT has a story today revealing how a ledger, seized when Ukraine's "pro-Russia" President Yanukovich was removed in a 2014 revolution, includes $12.7M in cash for one of Yanukovich's trusted advisers, Paul Manafort. It goes into the rather fascinatingly twisty web of shell companies, Russian oligarchs, mafiosi, and fairly overtly corrupt and criminal deals which Manafort appears to have specialized in facilitating.

Not that this is a huge surprise; before Yanukovich, Manafort did much the same for Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. He's essentially a career specialist in assisting corrupt regimes – not corrupt in the "does campaign finance law create a conflict of interest?" sort of way, but corrupt in the "get this suitcase full of cash on the next plane to the Cayman Islands and no questions" way.

Manafort's closest business partner in his Yanukovich-era operations appears to have been Oleg Deripaska, a noted Russian oligarch and close ally of Putin's.

But the popcorn time is likely to really step up this week. Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump's former campaign manager – until he was dismissed, moved over to CNN to become a talking head, but seems to have still kept at least some amount of role as a Trump advisor – was one of the first to retweet this NYT article. Which is interesting, as Manafort was his replacement and is currently Trump's top "aide."

Adam Weinstein, senior editor at Fusion, responded to the NYT article with something even more interesting: "Speaking as someone who has a story coming this week: This is just the beginning for Manafort. It gets worse."

Several people have speculated that the really interesting story is going to involve Deripaska, and just how felonious all of these activities really are.

And while some have speculated that this may cost Manafort his job either with Trump or with the SVR, I think both are unlikely, at least in the near term. On the one side, Trump probably knows Manafort pretty well, having no small number of Russian deals (which Manafort likely brokered) in his own past; I can't imagine any of this surprising him. On the other side, Manafort is presumably a stringer rather than an actual officer of the SVR – both because his work tends towards the very "unofficial," and because I can't imagine any intelligence professional wanting to run Trump as an agent. He may be very useful to Putin, but he's not the sort of person that you could run in a traditional way; he's far too unpredictable, and frankly stupid, to be any good at that.

Instead, you would want an experienced grey-ops handler, run in turn by someone close to you, that you can trust, and who knows both grey and black ops well, but entirely off the books of a large bureaucracy that you can only partially trust. Know anyone like that?

(Ah, how standards have fallen! Back in the day the First Directorate would never have let an operation run like this; his handler would have been an experienced officer with no particularly interesting-sounding background, and nobody would have noticed him. "This agent is an idiot and dangerous to the cause" would have been recognized and overruled; his value clearly outweighs the danger.)

Anyway. The short version is that it looks like Trump's lead Russian handler may have just gotten blown in a rather embarrassing fashion, and there are a bunch of more interesting news stories to follow.

Get out the popcorn, folks! This one promises to be interesting.
An examination of the activities of Paul Manafort shows how he benefited from powerful interests that are now under scrutiny.
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Steve S
+Adam Bliss Yes: we care because these people retain their loyalties (and their business relationships).
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Somehow, this post didn't make it into a collection when I posted it. I think it still stands up, so I'm putting it in this one.
Here, a post by the excellent +Xavier Marquez, concerning Aztecs: an Interpretation:

[Sacrificial] rituals should not, I think, be understood as promoting an “ideology” of submission – in the sense of stories told by ruling classes to preserve their privileges. No “private” privileges could compare to the intensity of these manufactured collective experiences, for one thing; and, as Clendinnen notes, the rituals at Tenochtitlan did not help to compel acceptance of Aztec supremacy among subject peoples either. Though it is true that in their thoroughgoing embrace of submission to and dependence on the god, Mexica rituals did dramatize the microcosmic hierarchy as an instance of the macrocosmic one, that hierarchy is not presented as just, or fair, or otherwise as "justified" in any sense we could recognize; the power of such practices was in their sacralization of social life through extraordinary emotion, not in their "justificatory" content. At the end of the day, their deep “message” could hardly serve to legitimize anything in the sense of persuading the subjects of the ruling elite’s “right to rule.”

This is an ingenious description of the inward-facing purpose of sacrificial ritual in the Aztec state: to demonstrate the power or of the forces to which the Mexica people were enslaved, and to both demand and allow public participation in those forces. But if the outward-facing purpose of that ritual did not demonstrate the Mexica right to rule, what purpose did it serve with respect to the outside world?

The answer, I think, hinges on the source of Aztec sacrificial victims.

Throughout much of the ancient Western world, among chiefdoms, and among states bordered by chiefdoms, the concept of total war is basically unfamiliar. No individual warring party can afford to lose a significant portion of its population to its neighbors, there are few types of rare goods, and the institutions of the state are not so firm that they can be seized without evaporating. Warfare, insofar as it exists, tends to be highly formal, ritualized, and rulebound. For further examples, consider the practice of counting coup in North America, or Maori war dancing.

Beginning at 1450 at the latest (and probably before), Aztec warfare was similar. Structured warfare between the Triple Alliance and its subject states and chiefdoms served as both a replacement for taxation and a source of slaves and sacrifice: the Aztecs would have a right to take tribute from the loser, and both sides would fulfill their need for sacrifice.

This did not, in a Weberian sense, serve as a source of legitimacy for the Aztec state. The treaties which governed xochiyaoyatl were generally the result of a decades-long cycle of conquest and revolt, and steady attrition from the vassal states meant that the Mexica could field a young and healthy army of elites, whereas partners could field only those remaining after the previous cycles of xochiyaoyatl. In addition, Aztec demands were erratic and escalating.

It is possible to view xochiyaoyatl as a purely political phenomenon, designed to subjugate and suppress rebellion. But it was intricately bound into the system of ritual and sacrifice which existed at the center of the Aztec state: captives from the Aztecs' eternal war against their subjects were the primary focus of national attention, and the driving force behind the expansion of the state.

To the outside world, Aztec sacrificial ritual (and the warfare which fed it) consisted of rituals of subjugation: symbolic acts which both entail oppression and demonstrate that the fates of the oppressed were entirely subject to the whims of a capricious outside power.

Among the Aztecs, it occurs in stark contrast. But they were not uniquely barbarous. There are clear analogies elsewhere. In Sparta, the krypteia: a coming-of-age ritual  wherein young warriors were given permission to kill any serfs they came across. In Assyria, the practice of constructing public artwork declaring and demonstrating kings' brutality.

In the American South and elsewhere, lynching for offenses which would not rise to the level of a crime in any other society on Earth.
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Steve S
+John Hardy not a Turnbull fan The key to building a tall hierarchy is to get the people in the middle involved in bullying the people below.

I'm not talking just about Aztecs, or even the Confederacy and how it encouraged white trash to abuse black slaves. I'm talking about guard labor.
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