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The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal | Politico

The drama in Lansing raised deeper questions about the health of our political system and the sturdiness of American democracy. Why were Republicans who privately admitted Trump’s legitimate defeat publicly alleging massive fraud? Why did it fall to a little-known figure like Van Langevelde to buffer the country from an unprecedented layer of turmoil? Why did the battleground state that dealt Trump his most decisive defeat—by a wide margin—become the epicenter of America’s electoral crisis? […]

Everyone here knew this had been a possibility, but it wasn’t until midnight that the urgency of the situation crashed over Republicans. Trump had built a lead of nearly 300,000 votes on the strength of same-day ballots that were disproportionately favorable to him. Now, with the eyes of the nation—and of the president—fixed on their state, Michigan Republicans scrambled to protect that lead. Laura Cox, chair of the state party, began dialing prominent lawmakers, attorneys and activists, urging them to get down to the TCF Center, the main hub of absentee vote counting in Detroit. She was met with some confusion; there were already plenty of Republicans there, as scheduled, working their shifts as poll challengers. It didn’t matter, Cox told them. It was time to flood the zone.

“This was all so predictable,” said Josh Venable, who ran Election Day operations for the Michigan GOP during five different cycles. “Detroit has been the boogeyman for Republicans since before I was born. It’s always been the white suburbs vs. Detroit, the white west side of the state vs. Detroit. There’s always this rallying cry from Republicans—‘We win everywhere else, but lose Wayne County’—that creates paranoia. I still remember hearing, back on my first campaign in 2002, that Wayne County always releases its votes last so that Detroit can see how many votes Democrats need to win the state. That’s what a lot of Republicans here believe.”

As things picked up at the TCF Center, with more and more white Republicans filing into the complex to supervise the activity of mostly Black poll workers, Chris Thomas noticed a shift in the environment. Having been brought out of retirement to help supervise the counting in Detroit—a decision met with cheers from Republicans and Democrats alike—Thomas had been “thrilled” with the professionalism he’d witnessed during Monday’s pre-processing session and Tuesday’s vote tabulating. Now, in the early morning hours of Wednesday, things were going sideways. Groups of Republican poll challengers were clustering around individual counting tables in violation of the rules. People were raising objections—such as to the transferring of military absentees onto ballots that could be read by machines, a standard practice—that betrayed a lack of preparation.

“Reading these affidavits afterward from these Republican poll challengers, I was just amazed at how misunderstood the election process was to them,” Thomas chuckled. “The things they said were going on—it’s like ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what was going on. That’s what’s supposed to happen.’” (The Trump team’s much celebrated lawsuit against Detroit was recently withdrawn after being pummeled in local courtrooms; his campaign has to date won one case and lost 35.)


The Million-Dollar Scammer and His Many Mormon Marks | Narratively

How an audacious con man with fake ties to the pinnacles of the church ran an epic scheme and swindled those who trusted him most.


2 stars

Using NBA Metrics to Scout Superstar Startups | Andressen Horowitz

What makes NBA player (and back-to-back MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo a bona fide superstar? And what would you look for in the numbers to spot the next Giannis? In fact, just as in tech companies, many sports franchises are trying to answer a basic question: what do the numbers today tell us about the possible outcomes of tomorrow — and what (or who) do we need to get to a winning outcome?

In basketball and tech in particular, a deeper understanding of efficiency — both in how to measure it and how to leverage that to build winning teams — and usage has changed the game in the last decade. Efficiency is essentially a snapshot view of how well a player or go-to-market team can perform, given some constraint such as cap space or advertising budget, while usage helps us understand how that efficiency will hold up over time. 

To mostly productive ends, NBA teams now use efficiency and usage as the metrics that dictate the way they use possessions and how they find superstar players and build their lineups around those superstars. Many tech companies are starting to use a similar framework when allocating capital against go-to-market (GTM) efforts, often measured as lifetime value (LTV) over customer acquisition costs (CAC).


How Close Is Humanity to the Edge? | New Yorker

In April, I shared this link from Slate Star Codex about Toby Ord’s new book and rated it 3 stars. If you’re going to read one link about Ord, read the Slate Star Codex one. If you’re interested enough to read two, here’s the New Yorker’s take:

Ord places the risk of our extinction during the twenty-first century at one in six—the odds of an unlucky shot in Russian roulette. Should we manage to avoid a tumble off the precipice, he thinks, it will be our era’s defining achievement. The book catalogues many possible catastrophes. There are the natural risks we’ve always lived with, such as asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions, and stellar explosions. “None of them keep me awake at night,” Ord writes. Then there are the large-scale threats we have created for ourselves: nuclear war, climate change, pandemics (which are made more likely by our way of life), and other novel methods of man-made destruction still to come. Ord is most concerned about two possibilities: empowered artificial intelligence unaligned with human values (he gives it a one-in-ten chance of ending humanity within the next hundred years) and engineered pandemics (he thinks they have a one-in-thirty chance of bringing down the curtain). The pandemic we are currently experiencing is the sort of event that Ord describes as a “warning shot”—a smaller-scale catastrophe that, though frightening, tragic, and disruptive, might also spur attempts to prevent disasters of greater magnitude in the future. […]

A concern for existential risk seemed, to Ord, to be the next logical expansion of a broadening moral circle. If we can learn to value the lives of people in other places and circumstances equally to our own, then we can do the same for people situated at a different moment in time. Those future people, whose quality of life and very existence will be intimately affected by our choices today, matter as much as we do; from the perspective of our species, they are us and we are them. Ord compares humanity’s current situation to adolescence, a treacherous period when strength and desire outpace wisdom and self-control, and when one’s future life seems remote and unreal. According to fossil records, the typical lifetime of a mammalian species is a million years. “If we think of one million in terms of a single, eighty-year life,” he writes, then today humanity would be “sixteen years old; just coming into our power; just old enough to get ourselves in serious trouble.”


How to Think for Yourself | Paul Graham

There are some kinds of work that you can't do well without thinking differently from your peers. To be a successful scientist, for example, it's not enough just to be correct. Your ideas have to be both correct and novel. You can't publish papers saying things other people already know. You need to say things no one else has realized yet.

The same is true for investors. […]

But this pattern isn't universal. In fact, it doesn't hold for most kinds of work. In most kinds of work — to be an administrator, for example — all you need is the first half. All you need is to be right. It's not essential that everyone else be wrong.

There's room for a little novelty in most kinds of work, but in practice there's a fairly sharp distinction between the kinds of work where it's essential to be independent-minded, and the kinds where it's not.

I wish someone had told me about this distinction when I was a kid, because it's one of the most important things to think about when you're deciding what kind of work you want to do. Do you want to do the kind of work where you can only win by thinking differently from everyone else? I suspect most people's unconscious mind will answer that question before their conscious mind has a chance to. I know mine does. […]

One difficulty here, though, is that people are often mistaken about where they fall on the spectrum from conventional- to independent-minded. Conventional-minded people don't like to think of themselves as conventional-minded. And in any case, it genuinely feels to them as if they make up their own minds about everything. It's just a coincidence that their beliefs are identical to their peers'. And the independent-minded, meanwhile, are often unaware how different their ideas are from conventional ones, at least till they state them publicly. […]

To go beyond this general advice, we need to look at the internal structure of independent-mindedness — at the individual muscles we need to exercise, as it were. It seems to me that it has three components: fastidiousness about truth, resistance to being told what to think, and curiosity.


The Birther Myth Stuck Around For Years. The Election Fraud Myth Might Too. | FiveThirtyEight

A significant number of Americans currently believe the 2020 election was stolen, even though it wasn’t. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last week showed 52 percent of Republicans believe President Trump “rightfully won” the election. But the only “evidence” of election fraud has been widely debunked.

An optimist might think the public will gradually drop this election fraud myth as the Trump campaign’s lawsuits are thrown out, recounts and audits are conducted, and, eventually, Joe Biden is sworn in as president. But we’ve seen Trump try to falsely claim a president is illegitimate before, as he spent years claiming without evidence that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and thus ineligible to be president. If this recent saga is anything like the birtherism movement, it’s not going anywhere.


After Admitting Mistake, AstraZeneca Faces Difficult Questions About Its Vaccine | New York Times

The announcement this week that a cheap, easy-to-make coronavirus vaccine appeared to be up to 90 percent effective was greeted with jubilation. “Get yourself a vaccaccino,” a British tabloid celebrated, noting that the vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, costs less than a cup of coffee.

But since unveiling the preliminary results, AstraZeneca has acknowledged a key mistake in the vaccine dosage received by some study participants, adding to questions about whether the vaccine’s apparently spectacular efficacy will hold up under additional testing.

Scientists and industry experts said the error and a series of other irregularities and omissions in the way AstraZeneca initially disclosed the data have eroded their confidence in the reliability of the results.


Why a Thriving Civilization in Malta Collapsed 4,000 Years Ago | Nautilus

The mysteries of an ancient civilization that survived for more than a millennium on the island of Malta—and then collapsed within two generations—have been unravelled by archaeologists who analyzed pollen buried deep within the earth and ancient DNA from skulls and bones. It’s part of a field of work that is expanding the use of archaeological techniques into environments where they were previously thought to be unusable.

The Temple Culture of the Maltese archipelago in the Mediterranean began nearly 6,000 years ago and at its height probably numbered several thousand people—far denser than the people of mainland Europe could manage at the time. The island people constructed elaborate sacred sites, such as the famous Ġgantija temple complex, and their buildings are among the earliest free-standing buildings known. But, after 1,500 years, they were gone.


Could Social Alienation Among Some Trump Supporters Help Explain Why Polls Underestimated Trump Again? | FiveThirtyEight

Donald Trump was once again underestimated by the polls.

On the one hand, this polling error is fairly normal. We’re not talking about huge polling misses, and the polls still “called” the election correctly: Joe Biden won. But that said, it does seem as if polls are still failing to capture some of Trump’s support.

There are a number of possible explanations for this, and no definitive answers, but one thing I’ve come across in my public opinion research is that the share of Americans who are more socially disconnected from society is on the rise. And these voters disproportionately support Trump.


1 star

Negative Reviews for Scented Candles Rise Along with COVID-19 Cases | Interesting Engineering

It seems that the negative reviews of Amazon's three best selling scented candles have increased along with COVID-19 cases. This correlation could of course be associated with the fact that the virus causes a loss of senses including smell.

This link was first noticed by affective and social psych/neuro student Kate Petrova who did more than just giggle at the fact; she straight up investigated it using mathematical analysis and graphs.


Rotating Circles Optical Illusion | Kottke

This is one of the best optical illusions I’ve ever seen: aside from rotating, these circles don’t move.


The case for geographically concentrated vaccine doses | Marginal Revolution

A central yet neglected point is that vaccines should not be sent to each and every part of the U.S. Instead, it would be better to concentrate distribution in a small number of places where the vaccines can have a greater impact.

Say, for the purposes of argument, that you had 20,000 vaccine doses to distribute. There are about 20,000 cities and towns in America. Would you send one dose to each location? That might sound fair, but such a distribution would limit the overall effect. Many of those 20,000 recipients would be safer, but your plan would not meaningfully reduce community transmission in any of those places, nor would it allow any public events to restart or schools to reopen.


The rise and fall of Tab – after surviving the sweetener scares, the iconic diet soda gets canned | The Conversation

Tab, the Coca-Cola company’s original diet soda brand, is headed to the soda graveyard, joining retired brands such as LikeLeed and Limette.

Coca-Cola has announced that it is discontinuing Tab after 57 years on the market, and fans of the drink will have until the end of December to purchase their last can of nostalgia.

From the beginning, Tab’s story has been one of perseverance. The brand survived initial low sales, the artificial sweetener scares of the 1960s and 1970s, lukewarm enthusiasm for the product at the corporate level and intermittent consumer availability to become – for a brief period – the most popular diet soda in America. Then, of course, Diet Coke came along.

While it never regained its lofty status as the top diet soda, loyal Tab fans kept the brand alive.


Their Patients Have COVID-19 and Still Think It’s a Hoax | The Cut

Nurses have been rated the most trusted professionals for almost two decades — now they’re punching bags for those who think they’re lying about the pandemic. Back in the spring they were applauded as heroes, but many have reached a breaking point and want to quit a job they love.

Like any nurse who works in ICUs and emergency rooms, LeToya Edmonds is used to dealing with people who are angry and in denial. But while those are normal emotional responses to a serious diagnosis, Edmonds says the hostility and disbelief from her COVID-19 patients in Lawton, Oklahoma, feels different.

“A lot of them make it into a political issue,” she said. “It’s really hard to care for patients like that.”

Gigi Perez, a nurse at a hospital in Lancaster, California recently treated a man for a non-COVID related injury who harassed her for wearing her N95. “You must be a Democrat or something,” he said and told her to take the mask off. “People are brainwashed beyond belief and choose to believe a politician over the people fighting the pandemic,” she says.


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