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Ryan Strunk
Just in it for the Lulz
Just in it for the Lulz
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"The second Facebook goal is to keep you on the site at all costs, since this is where they can serve you ads. And this leads to another problem we can talk about more fully in another post. Your average news story — something from the New York Times on a history of the Alt-Right, for example — won’t get clicked, because Facebook has built their environment to resist people clicking external links. Marketers figured this out and realized that to get you to click they had to up the ante. So they produced conspiracy sites that have carefully designed, fictional stories that are inflammatory enough that you will click."

"In other words, the consipiracy clickbait sites appeared as a reaction to a Facebook interface that resisted external linking. And this is why fake news does better on Facebook than real news."

"To be as clear as I possibly can — by setting up this dynamic, Facebook simultaneously set up the perfect conspiracy replication machine and incentivized the creation of a new breed of conspiracy clickbait sites."

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There's a very real sense in which the Clinton email issue is just a giant shit-fight between DOJ/DOD and State coming to a head. Both have reasonable points: State's computer security practices are abysmal, but State couldn't do any diplomatic work whatsoever if it ran its classification practices the way DOD/DOJ wants it to.

Here's what's going on:

Every executive agency has the right to set its own classification practices, and the classification chain for every executive agency ends with either the civilian head of that agency or some other agency. But because classification policies vary so widely between different executive agencies, there's often internecine disagreement when information classified by one agency (say, Defense) is later handled by another agency (say, State). And these disputes tend to center very heavily on State, as opposed to every other agency.

Fights about classification between Energy, which has a very eccentric classification regime, and Defense, which has pretty much the center case, tend to flare up around delayed publication of apepers about, for instance, nuclear policy or secrets. Fights between Defense and DOJ tend to center around the disclosure of classified information in civilian trials.

State, on the other hand, regularly discloses information classified by other branches of government without first consulting the agencies which classified it for a formal classification review. This is because when a drone strike goes FUBAR and kills a dozen Pakistani soldiers, the government doesn't have the time to fiddle around for six months deciding whether to declassify the reason for the strike. Either the Secretary of State or the Pakistani head of mission is going to need to be on the phone in fifteen minutes, apologizing profusely to the senior diplomats of a nuclear power,, or heads will roll. This being Pakistan, this is only barely a metaphor.

Other executive agencies, historically, have not liked this very much. DOJ generally wants to go beyond the constitutional bounds of classification law, if only to persecute government employees who leak or otherwise embarrass them. DOD would like to micromanage State's classification process, if only to bring it in line with DOD's fussy, siloed, and hierarchical classification practices.

Viewed in that context, Comey's conclusion about Clinton's emails is part of a broader, standing conclusion by the US national defense community that State's classification practices are unacceptable. But this is not new, and there are perfectly valid reasons to take State's side over American security services: too much is classified, American classification law is barely constitutional as it stands, and the steep penalties are entirely out of line with the vagueness of the underlying legal regime.

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So, the 4th Circuit has struck down North Carolina's monstrous voter-suppression law. But I think the articles on how momentous this decision is -- and it's huge -- are understating its actual effect.

Because the 4th Circuit contains every plausible Southern swing state except Florida. 

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One diet is low-carb, the other is lower-carb. Is there anything else you need to know? You bet, ketobro!

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Chris "I've made a huge mistake" Christie yesterday appearing to actually listen to what Trump is saying
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Nice to see the data in this form.

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The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.

The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.
They aren’t necessarily superconservative. They often don’t think in ideological terms at all. But they do strongly feel that life in this country used to be better for people like them—and they want that older country back.

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This is pretty great.
The funniest chart I have seen in a while. The subjectivity chart in the tech workplace :)

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Pretty good explanation of the legal technicalities.
For those of you who are interested in the actual legal aspects of the Kim Davis case (rather than their political or moral aspects), Eugene Volokh gives a very solid and detailed analysis of the laws in play here, and more generally how religious objections are handled under US employment law.

The technical details here get pretty hairy, but the short version is that there's a resolution which will likely work, if Davis files suit in state court (the case against her being in Federal court) to request a declaration that the county may issue marriage licenses without her name on them (which is apparently the actual accommodation she wants, one which is almost certainly a fair request under Kentucky state law), instead either putting a deputy clerk's name or simply "Rowan County Clerk." That's different from the question of letting her deputies issue the forms, since they're still issuing forms with her name on them, which is apparently what she objects to, and she can't simply make this change on her own, because without that court order the resulting forms wouldn't be legal. But with that court order, the forms are legal, any of her deputies can issue licenses, she's apparently satisfied as well, and that should satisfy the Federal judge, so we can all go home.

If that last paragraph seemed confusing, it's not half as messy as the actual legal details come out to be. But the key point in it is that this case has been eaten alive by politics and the press, and there's actually a resolution that would make everyone happy. Davis isn't, apparently, actually demanding that no gay couples be allowed to marry in her county.

If it seems to you like I'm deliberately sidestepping the point, I'm actually highlighting a more subtle point, which is that these kinds of disputes have been a feature of American law (and European and Islamic law before that) for centuries, and we actually have a fairly well-structured system for resolving them. Generally, people can ask for "reasonable accommodations" for their religious beliefs, and reasonable does actually mean reasonable – it's defined in terms of the burden it would put on the person's employer, colleagues, customers, and so on. For example, courts have repeatedly ruled that "if you want [X], go to another town" is not a reasonable accommodation that people should have to make.

This is important, therefore, not just in this case, but in the much broader category of cases where individual beliefs clash with job responsibilities. This ranges from the vegetarian bus driver who didn't want to hand out hamburger coupons to the evangelical pharmacist who doesn't want to dispense birth control pills. The law already has a meaningful balancing test in it: the question is how best to apply it.

One important point which Volokh's article doesn't bring up directly is the ways in which different services will have different bars on reasonability. To take an extreme example, there's basically no kind of patient an EMT could reasonably refuse to treat in the field. A doctor may be more or less limited, depending on the ability of other equivalently capable doctors. The areas where this is most important are areas where there is a de facto monopoly on provision of services, with government services (which are a de jure monopoly) being the extreme case. Another point which this article doesn't mention (but which is relevant in other cases) is that in some states, certain bases for discrimination are per se illegal, with religious reason or not – but that varies a lot from state to state.

In practice, there are three kinds of cases involving this law which are of great importance right now.

The first involves pharmacists who refuse to dispense certain medicines, e.g. birth control. The key issue here is whether those medicines are treated as medical necessities by the courts or not; if a judge decides that this is a type of luxury, then a customer not being able to get it might be considered a far more reasonable accommodation than if it is treated like an ordinary medicine. 

The second involves health insurance, which under US law is mostly provided via employers. The subtle issue here, which many courts haven't touched, is that when a business does act as a provider of health insurance, it's doing so under sufficiently strict guidelines from Federal law (especially post-ACA) that it could be argued that it's acting not on its own behalf, but as an agent of the government. If that's the case, then the underlying service to be provided is the entire package of the insurance, and that provision is itself legally mandated; the business may then ask for reasonable accommodation in how that is provided, but not necessarily in what is provided. (This is an argument I was rather surprised didn't come up in Hobby Lobby)

The third case are the "cake baker" cases, which basically boil down to a business' right to discriminate among clients. This is actually a far more complex and subtle issue than it at first seems, and it probably merits an entire post of its own, so I won't start down that path here.
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