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10:26 AM, Nov 22, 2022 tweet this
tagged with internet
Watching a Ship Sink in Real Time
Elon Musk has a big ego. He appears to think he can manage a company that offers a low-latency, highly-available service to a billion daily active users, with no greater qualification than his own hubris. To whit, he's ransacked the company's staff, laying off valuable employees by the thousands, and chasing off the rest with threats about everyone having to be a hero to work there. As such, all the best people have taken their years of expertise, and promptly gotten jobs elsewhere. The platform is a colossal mess now, with content moderation thrown out the window, and lifetime bans lifted for dangerous sociopaths. In short, it will soon become clear that Musk is unable to keep the lights on at Twitter, favoring his ego over the stability of the platform. He's fired entire departments, alienating revenue-generating ad buyers, many of whom are telling their story about how the company is too volatile to do business with anymore.

By firing or driving off everyone who handles high-value advertising accounts, Musk has choked off the platform's ability to make money. By firing or driving off everyone who handles the extremely sophisticated technology that keeps the platform up and running, Musk has ensured that it's only a matter of time before technical issues will be an everyday occurrence-- from slowdowns to full outages. By eliminating content moderation and inviting dangerous people back onto the platform, Musk has ensured that the content that is created will be hostile to most non-extremist users.

Given the importance of the platform to worldwide news, marketing, politics, philanthropy, community engagement, charity, academia, culture, art, music, and basically anything else that involves people communicating with people, it's a real accomplishment to destroy it as quickly as it appears Musk is doing.

10:41 AM, Nov 15, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics
Unclogging the Senate
If Raphael Warnock gets reelected, what happens to the Senate filibuster? One of the promises of John Fetterman's campaign was to "be the 51st vote" against the filibuster. Joe Manchin has made it abundantly clear that he will not side with his party on this matter, and this position is enormously popular among voters in his home state, so he really has no reason to deviate from that.

There is another potential barrier to the elimination of the filibuster, in Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. It has been thought for a long while that she fears upsetting Republican voters in what has long been thought to be a red state. But when she woke up this morning, MAGA extremism had a big black eye in Arizona, fresh off a sharp working-over by the electorate. She may now find that Arizona is a safe place to be a Democrat. Also, having been condemned by her party for her opposition even to filibuster carve-outs for various things she supports, she has to be looking to 2024, an election in which she will have to survive a Democratic primary set against her past intransigence. Will she get on board to end the filibuster? What about Lisa Murkowski? Mitt Romney? Susan Collins? What about J.D. Vance, who in his victory speech never mentioned Trump once among the dozens of people to whom he was grateful for his success? A strong message to herald a new era of bipartisan compromise and cooperation would be a willingness to reach across the aisle.

Dream with me for a bit, about a Senate without the filibuster.

The filibuster has for years protected Republican Senators from the political consequences of their positions. For example, there are currently enough votes in the Senate to codify abortion rights and bodily autonomy, but without 60 Senators in support, it cannot come to a vote. Those who might vote against it are protected by the filibuster, so they never have to show their constituents what their position is. In this way, they can stump for both sides, getting greater electoral and financial support for remaining in office, without having any legislative evidence of basically anything other than renaming post offices and funding the military.

If the filibuster is removed though, that game of playing to both sides is no longer possible. Just like in real life, Senators would be politically liable for the things they say. For the first time since our grandparents' grandparents walked the earth with Giant Sloths and Woolly Mammoths, Senators would be answerable to their constituents for their on-the-record positions. Voters who disagree with them would have concrete data about their Senators to better inform their ballot-punching. In short, the end of the filibuster would usher in a new era of accountability, cooperation, and bipartisan coalition-building.

If Raphael Warnock is reelected, the barrier to removing the filibuster drops to a single Senator. The GOP needs to find its feet, and in so doing, could produce some "mavericks," who might work toward the future I described. We can only hope and watch.

9:14 AM, Nov 14, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics
The Future of the GOP
The only way I can think of for the GOP to remain under Trump's control, is for the Republicans who just won elections by distancing themselves from him to go back on their campaign promises, and for most/all of them to do it. I don't see that as a realistic possibility. It's possible, but he doesn't provide a lot of value to the Party. He delivers a block of active, engaged, reliable extremist voters, but that block is 1) shrinking, and 2) contaminates the discourse with its toxicity, and so chases moderates from the Party and ensures they don't return.

This is the GOP's biggest problem right now. They are beholden to a man who is marching them into the sea. Kevin McCarthy wants to be the House Speaker if his party takes control of the House, but as the margin the GOP would enjoy is far smaller than the number of Trump-loyal Freedom Caucus members, he will have a very difficult time leading the GOP in the House.

For the sake of having it both ways(ie: having the support of both moderates and Trumpists) McCarthy would probably like to avoid the topic and just quietly take over, without having to address the orange elephant in the room, and say no to anyone. But outgoing conservatives Kinzinger and Cheney are going to force the question before the new Congress is seated on Jan 3.

After Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol, we all thought that would be the end of Trump too-- but it wasn't --and his brand of grievance and score-settling politics reigned supreme, until voters confirmed for a third time in a row that they don't want a government influenced by Donald Trump.

In 2021, the GOP had just lost the Senate and the White House, but they had picked up a couple House seats. In 2022 they failed to take the Senate, but stand a very good chance of taking the House. I think the margin in the House that will produce enormous difficulty for any GOP Speaker will set this time apart from the post-insurrection period, as distinctly difficult for the GOP, and specifically because of Trump's influence.

9:44 AM, Nov 10, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics
Removing the Cancer of Trump
The electorate has spoken, and it seems likely that in so doing, they have decided that the House should be controlled by the Republican Party, even if only by a hair's breadth. This is not a mandate for Republican policy, nor is it a rebuke of Democratic policy. The message both parties should take from this is that more than anything, the electorate wants the Republican Party to work with the Democratic Party, and achieve compromise between their ideological differences.

Another word for this is "legislating." Still another is "governing." It's not easy. It requires leadership and communication skills, humility and respect, as well as deep, comprehensive intelligence. That's why in the times before political ascension only required populist applause, the term, "qualified for office," was used, and had real meaning.

Members of Congress are elected by their constituents to serve the people, regardless of which party controls the chamber. Members of the party that is not in control are not elected to sit sullen in the corner with their arms folded. They're elected to temper and check the positions of the opposite party, to produce valuable, impactful legislation.

I say all this, because Donald Trump's GOP has branded this behavior as cowardly. Only losers cross party lines to give an inch to the other side. Willingness to work with the Democrats has become cause to be exiled from the party and removed from office at the next electoral opportunity. More than anything, the unifying thread of the GOP became fealty to the man himself. If you opposed him or spoke ill of him on the campaign trail before your primary, the MAGA base would make sure you don't make it to November.

So most GOP members of Congress had to pretend to be crazy to stay in office. They had to hail the fuhrer and grit their teeth, in the longshot hope that they could outlast him. It appears that some of them did, after he lost the GOP the House in 2018, the Senate and the White House in 2020, the nation's dignity in 2021, and failed to have a red wave in 2022 despite all indicators pointing to it.

The electorate doesn't want Donald Trump. They will not greet his announcement of candidacy with cheers, outside his own shrinking extremist MAGA constituency. Donald Trump has proven many times now to be bad for the Party. Launching Congressional investigations into Joe Biden and his family with no basis other than conspiracy theories is bad for the Party. The Supreme Court overturning precedent with impunity is bad for the Party.

The GOP has a very hard choice ahead of it. Will they continue to embrace Trump and his extremism, knowing that doing so will almost certainly cause a blue wave in 2024 and blow any chances of retaking the White House? Or will they take the short-term hit of the potential loss of the support of Trump and his extremist supporters?

The smartest thing for the GOP to do is to publicly disavow and condemn Donald Trump. MAGA will leave the party, possibly rallying in a new far-right party under Trump, but more likely just fading back into the bushes. But more importantly, a centrist GOP that doesn't argue against majority positions will do something the party hasn't done since the 2010s: grow. Moderates and conservatives will come home by the tens of millions.

Majority positions like women having autonomy over their bodies, real action against climate change, real action against authoritarianism around the world, criminal justice reform and a re-evaluation of how we deal with crime, immigration reform, meant to make the process of becoming an American accessible, safe, and fast. Pay equality. Increasing the minimum wage. Ballot access and the protection of voting rights, and the abandonment of the veiled bigotry of passing restrictive laws to "fight fraud." The end of gerrymandering. Gun safety, accountability, and training.

Resolving these outstanding issues will not hurt the GOP one iota, and will allow both parties to focus their collective effort on finding compromises and solutions.

10:33 AM, Nov 9, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics midterms
A Softer, More Sensitive GOP
While it's possible the Democrats will hold one or both chambers of Congress, the lack of a red wave in this election still sent some important messages to the GOP.

First: America is not interested in MAGA extremism. Across the country, election deniers, anti-semites, and opponents of bodily autonomy either won by razor-thin margins, or lost. This is especially true at the state level, with secretaries of state and attorneys-general who the GOP had counted on replacing to make a 2024 election easier for them. All four ballot questions that concerned abortion came out in support of abortion rights, including in Kentucky and Montana. That indicates that the GOP has been under the false impression that the electorate is on their side, regarding abortion.

Second: The GOP is sending signals this morning that they are coming back to the center. VA Governor Glenn Youngkin apologized to Nancy Pelosi for his comments about the attack on her husband. Mehmet Oz and many other defeated GOP candidates gracefully conceded. Kevin McCarthy said in his speech last night that he was committed to working with "whoever we can" to accomplish GOP goals, indicating an intent to reach across the aisle that hasn't been seen in the Trump era. None of these things would have happened in the event of a red wave. If there had been a red wave, no Republican would be compelled to apologize or cooperate with Democrats in any way. They would have taken a red wave as a signal that America wants a take-no-prisoners bully party. But the voters have clearly stated that they would rather have two parties that work together. The GOP will have to take this to heart.

Third: If the GOP takes the House, it will be by a number you can count on your hand. A margin so thin that the chamber's control could potentially change hands before the next election. As such, the Republican House leadership has an exceedingly difficult job ahead, building a coalition. There are still many MAGA representatives, and regardless of the winds of change they will not be willing at all to work with a new center-right GOP. This means the selection of a new Speaker of the House will be a long and contentious process, with great damage done to the legitimacy and unity of the GOP.

Fourth: This election, more than any other event in the last two years, shows Donald Trump to be irrelevant and powerless. He said he was going to make a big announcement next week, but at this point, for him to do that is like someone doing the Macarena on a competitive dance show. It's just too late for him.

The 2022 election was not a blue wave or a red wave. It was a mandate though. America demands sanity and moderation. Let's hope the GOP listens.

10:25 AM, Nov 3, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics midterms
Guide to the Great Election Spreadsheet
For the last few months, I've been working on a spreadsheet-- first in LibreOffice, then on google docs --that shows what I consider to be the top elections happening next week in the US. It includes(or at least intends to include) details about all the elections for the US House of Representatives, the US Senate, and all state Governors.

The sheet currently has four sub-sheets: House Swing View, Senate, Governor, and Polls Close. I'll explain these below.

House Swing View: First some background. Skip to the TLDR paragraph if you don't feel like reading all this. The Partisan Voting Index, compiled in July by the Cook Political Report, is widely regarded as a reliable source for the political leaning of any given Congressional district. My district for example, Colorado's 1st, has a rating of D+29, meaning that it is believed that an election in my district would most likely end with the Democratic candidate winning by 29 percentage points over the Republican candidate. Most districts are not nearly that one-sided though. As this sheet details, over 100 are +/- 10 points. After every national census, every Congressional district is evaluated, and often redrawn, based(ideally) on population change since the previous redrawing. This process was completed in 2022, following the 2020 census. When it was completed, or at least when it looked much like it does today, the Cook Political Report predicted the Republican Party would retake the House of Representatives simply by virtue of the redrawing that had taken place. The PVI was released in July, substantiating the claim that 220 districts lean toward the GOP, while only 208 lean toward the Democratic party, with the remaining 7 districts in a statistical tie.

However, something happened between redistricting and the release of the 2022 PVI. Something big. Something seismic. The Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade, eliminating the federal protection of abortion rights in the US. The PVI did not reflect this at all in the July report-- or possibly just assumed it would have no effect on the landscape. I think that was a critical oversight, and it is my strong belief that the Dobbs decision(the case that overturned the aforementioned precedent) changed everything in the political landscape, and that the numbers reported in the PVI, and composed before the Dobbs ruling(and before the leaked draft a month earlier) should be about 7-8 points bluer, on average. For the sake of conservatism though, I am holding to an aggregate move of 5 points.

TLDR, for the skippers: The first sheet shows every district's PVI rating, with D being positive and R being negative(for purposes of being able to give the cells a color scale from red to blue), 0 indicating it doesn't lean D or R. Each column from there shows the districts' standing in the event of a swing by the number at the column header, from 1 to 5, then 10 and 15, for some crazy wishcasting. In the frozen rows at the top, totals are computed for how the House outlook is affected by these swings. In addition, there is a small ranking near the top-right that shows the number of districts each party has by margin.

Senate and Governor: These are fairly straightforward, with related links for applicable campaign and analysis information. There are also some artifacts in them from when I built the next sheet.

Polls Close: This sheet shows, in chronological order, the individual elections by the time the polls close and when results can start to be counted and reported. This, along with the House Swing View, is where the lion's share of the effort of building this spreadsheet went. I've labeled, where possible, which candidates are incumbents and party-incumbents. Pursuant to my aforementioned prediction, I have highlighted the candidates in all the races I think the Democrats will win-- which is to say I have highlighted all the races with a PVI of "-5"(R+5) or better. I put totals of all districts with PVI ratings of greater than 15 points for either party in the frozen rows, to give some deference to the more-or-less established districts. The remaining 249 districts are less predictable. As of the moment of writing this blog post, no major news websites have links accessible yet to state-based results, except NBC News, so that link is in there now. More will be added on the day of the election, as link structures become available.

I will be tracking results from ballotpedia, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the AP, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, and any other sources that might have something distinctive and reliable, and I am open to reasonable suggestions. Just to be clear, and upfront, I will not be checking any far-right sources, except for novelty purposes, as they have worked very hard to give the false impression of what Americans really care about this cycle by spamming the information space with sham polls.

I will add a column to the Polls Close sheet to show actual results in the same format as the PVI listing, and I'll find some way to indicate whether a particular race has been called and confirmed. I will be making these updates, god-willing,m in realtime on election night, and probably for the duration of the counting, which is expected to last for several days.

1:16 PM, Oct 31, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics midterms
The Case for Pieces of Shit
J.D. Vance famously said he doesn't care about Ukraine, because "Mexican Fentanyl" is entering the country and killing Americans. Let's leave aside that he's probably courting or placating the GOP faction that's loyal to Putin, or perhaps Putin himself. Let's also leave aside the disgusting inhumanity of dismissing the genocidal suffering of literal millions of people as being subordinate to Vance's own political concerns.

Let's talk about Fentanyl. It's a opioid painkiller that is extremely potent. A slight miscalculation in measuring doses can be fatal to the patient. This is how we lost Michael Jackson, Tom Petty, and Prince. Fentanyl overdoses account for a large number of other high-profile untimely celebrity deaths. One complicating factor is that the body's natural processes make the drug less effective on each use, meaning that people often step up the dosage when they're in pain, to their intense peril. In addition, it's exceptionally addictive, and withdrawal symptoms are universally miserable and agonizing.

A clip has recently surfaced:



The man with the mic makes a really good point when he says that drug dealers want to sell their drugs, and not give them away to children for free. The woman he's interviewing defends her position, saying, "just watch an episode of Fox News!" On the surface, it sounds ignorant, as Fox News isn't a show. But it occurs to me that the sentiment that illegal immigrants from Mexico are actively trying to destroy the US through the use of narcotics disguised as candy, delivered to unwitting children on Halloween, is pretty well in-line with the overall tone of just about any persuasion show on that network.

If you can convince your viewers of this, then you can pretty reliably count on them to vote for pieces of shit like J.D. Vance, despite the fact that he is a miserable, bootlicking, worthless piece of shit.

Fentanyl is expensive. If you're out from under the blanket of insurance and prescription, it can be purchased through illicit channels, the internet reports, for a minimum of about $60 for a gram, but more likely well over $100 and well into the hundreds. In short, it is to the 2010s and 2020s as cocaine was to the US in the 1980s. Expensive, potent, dangerous, and widely trafficked for enormous profit. But there is no profit in handing thousands of dollars worth of this to children. Illicit Fentanyl, sold on the black market from Mexican and Chinese sources, is responsible for, or at least involved in, roughly 70% of all overdoses in the US. But roughly 99.99% of those overdoses happened because people consciously decided to use Fentanyl.

Nevertheless, there is a large population in this country, apparently residing almost entirely within the MAGA movement, in which the common belief is that Joe Biden wants to destroy the country by keeping the Mexican border "wide open"(note: it's not), so "illegals" can bring Fentanyl into the US to trick people into taking too much of it and dying. Jerry Bruckheimer couldn't concoct a more embarrassingly bad plot.

3:19 PM, Oct 28, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics midterms
Too Petulant to Lose
The American far-right is objectively dangerous, and is now more powerful than it has been at any point in my lifetime-- and probably the lifetime of any living person. I have heard many times, as a counterpoint to the sentiment I just expressed, the argument that there is a "far-left" that poses an equivalent danger to democracy, economy, and freedom. Thing is, that just isn't the case. I will happily admit that there is a far-left fringe of American politics, but a glaring difference between it and the far-right is that it is not represented in mainstream media, popular policy, or any elected federal office. It's true that Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pramila Jayapal sit resolutely to the left-of-center, but the policies they work to promote are supported by a majority of Americans, and more than a supermajority of their own constituents. That isn't extremism. That's majority rule. That's representative Democracy. That's a reflection of the fact that ours is a center-left country.

In 2020, Steve Bannon said that Trump would take advantage of the fact that mail-in, absentee, provisional ballots, and just slow-to-count districts produce a delay in knowing the election's outcome with certainty, and declare victory well before the votes had all been sufficiently counted. From signs I'm seeing this time around, this is going to be an increasingly important part of far-right strategy. This is a hard and resolute strategy now for the GOP: Leverage the natural mistrust MAGA voters have of poll workers who don't fit the mold of straight, white, and Christian. MAGA-adherent candidates, elected officials, and pundits are already calling into question the validity of votes in major cities, where votes are overwhelmingly to the left-of-center, before any are even counted or in many cases, cast.

On election night, I fully expect to see victory declarations by Doug Mastriano and Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Brian Kemp and Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters and Kari Lake in Arizona(especially Kari Lake), Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Adam Laxalt in Nevada. There will be abundant press coverage, but no major networks will call the elections, except perhaps Fox News, as they will be terrified of losing extremist viewers to OAN and Newsmax's coverage, where they will absolutely be falling in line with GOP candidates' premature declarations of victory.

It's extremely likely that we will not have a good picture of the election's overall outcome when we go to bed on Tuesday night. Just like in 2020, counting will likely continue across the country for several days, as red mirages fade to blue in a way that seems to be just about the most effective way to outrage Republicans in existence. But I do guarantee one thing: if any of the candidates(and many others) lose, they will gather their supporters to claim it was rigged. Jonathan Last said on a recent podcast that Republicans are scared of fraud and election rigging, so certain are they of their majority that the only possible explanation for a loss is foul play. The Democrats are scared of losing to the Republicans.

3:49 PM, Oct 26, 2022 tweet this
tagged with ukraine putin
Putin's Plan
Putin is losing. He cannot accomplish any military goals in Ukraine. Simple as that. Even when his army was fresh, well-equipped, and composed almost entirely of well-trained(compared front-line soldiers fighting for Russia now) professionals, he failed to penetrate to Kyiv, so outmatched was he by Ukrainian forces with far superior training and leadership. There are many column-inches that can be devoted to this single topic, so I will just summarize: Putin was never winning. He conducts combat operations in Ukraine with forces as exhausted, low in morale, poorly equipped, poorly trained, poorly led, and as poorly supplied as any there have ever been. They are well aware that the role of new soldiers on the battlefield is to get killed, for the sole purpose of revealing Ukrainian firing positions to Russian artillery teams.

While Putin cannot win, he is not yet defeated. He has one last trick up his sleeve. He has shifted his focus largely from military achievement to terrorism, and has stepped up the rhetoric about the use of tactical nuclear weapons. The latter component of his strategy is to frighten the West into forcing Ukraine to accept Putin's current occupied positions in five Ukrainian oblasts(Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, and Crimea) so he can stand down from his unsustainable military commitment, re-establish commercial goodwill with Europe and get the money flowing again, and regroup his forces for another push sometime in the future. To aid in this, honorless American media personalities like Gutfeld, Bongino, Carlson, and Ingraham have been carrying water for him since before day 1, and have been steadily turning the war into a Republican-versus-Democrat issue.

Putin's levers of influence in American politics are connected to the Republican Party, and hard-right extremist channels. As such, it's difficult to estimate how these entities would behave without his influence. Using these levers, Putin is arguably highly culpable for the level of political division in this country, through his influence on right-wing officials and media. But the point is that he has tremendous influence on them, and he is using it to try to sell appeasement to the West as peace.

Most people in the US and elsewhere are of the opinion that a Russian nuclear strike would equate to and diplomatically require a retaliatory nuclear strike from the US, NATO, or some other Western country, with the strikes escalating to the point of the effective end of modern civilization as we know it. This opinion doesn't account for two very important things. First, nobody in a position to make decisions like that for Russia or the West thinks that robotically, or that fatally. If a nuclear strike is executed against them, they know that a nuclear response will just prompt further escalation. They know this, so their policy is not to end civilization if a strike occurs. Second, and most importantly, the world isn't fully aware of the gargantuan imbalance of military power between NATO and Russia. The world has never known a military force with even a fraction of the might of NATO. If Russia executed a nuclear strike anywhere in the world, NATO would eradicate Russia's military within days, starting with its nuclear capabilities, within minutes.

Putin and all of his inner circle are well-aware of this. But they also know that most people are not. So Putin can use fear on the world stage, and terrorism in Ukraine, to try to break the will of the West to continue to support Ukraine. I support peace. But there can be no peace with Putin.

1:01 PM, Oct 25, 2022 tweet this
tagged with politics midterms
Early Voting
I read this tweet earlier today. Early voting has not only been dominated by Democrats, as it typically is, but is quite measurably moreso than in previous midterms.



The numbers we're seeing are not a result report. They're simply the party affiliation of the people who've cast their ballots so far. But they are very encouraging. With 15-16% greater quantity of ballots cast by this time in 2020, we're also seeing a trend even more into the favor of Democratic candidates and issues. That's encouraging, but I think another statistic is hiding in plain sight.

The House of Representatives, according to the Cook Political Report's "Partisan Voting Index," or PVI, states that after the decennial census-based redrawing of Congressional districts in 2022, the GOP enjoys a one-point advantage nationwide, producing a forecast Republican takeover of the House by 11 seats in the upcoming election. By this time in early voting in 2020, the Republicans were down by 15 points. Obviously they made that difference up with in-person, absentee, provisional, and mail-in voting that was counted on and after election day. When the dust settled, the GOP's win/loss map pushed their share of House seats to within about ten seats of the Democrats, who managed to hang onto a slim majority, indicating that the GOP was underwater by about one point, an improvement over their standing in 2018.

With 15-16% more votes registered, the deficit the GOP faces in 2022 is 18 points. So not only do the Republicans have a greater deficit to overcome than they did in 2020, but they have fewer uncounted voters left to do it with. It occurs to me though that the tweet is talking about two previous elections: 2018 and 2020. The 2018 election ended with a Democratic lead in the House by 3-4 points, and that lead was reduced to about 1 point in 2020. Whether the GOP deficit at this stage of early voting was 15 points in 2018 or 2020, the fact that the GOP's lag is now 18 points(ie: 3 points worse than either of two losing years) does not bode well for their supposed "lock" on retaking the House.

This also does not take into account the votes of unaffiliated voters. 11% of votes cast by this time in 2020 were unaffiliated, compared to 10% as of now, in this election. The direction they will lean is a subject of great disagreement, but I personally think most unaffiliated voters are turning out to vote for the rights the GOP plans to take away if they take power again. This information is all very early, but the signs are nonetheless consistent with my blue-wave-adjacent predictions.

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