Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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Assorted Election Stupidity

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As some of you may have noticed, the United States had an election the other day. The party not led by Donald Trump made significant gains, and now controls the House of Representatives. The party that is led by Donald Trump added a few seats to its Senate majority, but also it is still led by Donald Trump.

Here are some other things that happened.

  • In Nevada’s 36th Assembly District, Dennis Hof easily defeated Lesia Romanov by a 26-point margin (63–37). Hof will not serve in the state legislature, however, because he has been dead for almost a month. It appears that in Nevada, being dead is not a reason to remove the dead person’s name from the ballot.
  • Notably, nothing in the Nevada Constitution specifically prohibits a dead person from serving in the state legislature, but it is possible to infer this from the requirement that all legislators must be “duly qualified electors….” Nev. Const. art. 4, § 5. Qualified electors include “[a]ll citizens of the United States” who are 18 or older and “resided in the state six months, and in the district or county thirty days next preceding any election….” Id. art. 2 § 1. Hof stopped living in Nevada on October 16, and if he “resided” there in any form for the remainder of the required period, there is no evidence of it.
  • Also notable: Dennis Hof was a pimp. Or, if you prefer, a “brothel owner,” who owned a number of brothels in Nevada, where that is legal (in most of the state). Hof was, in fact, the most famous brothel owner in America, as one of his establishments was featured in the HBO series “Cathouse.” He first ran for office in 2016 as a Libertarian Party candidate, but lost. This year, he ran as a dead Republican, and won.
  • Also dead: the gubernatorial dreams of Lowering the Bar non-favorite Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State whose official Kansas Secretary of State page currently displays both his smiling face and election results showing that he lost by 56,000 votes (48–43%), despite having driven around the state in a car with a fake machine gun mounted on top, which is usually a sure thing. Kobach’s official biography describes him as a “nationally recognized litigator,” which is true but not in the way his official biography means it.
  • Then there’s U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who is recognized both nationally and by the Justice Department as someone who probably committed insider-trading fraud. Following his indictment in August, Collins insisted he would stay on the ballot and seek re-election anyway, but then he didn’t. But then he did, and then he won. Which raises the question: Can a convicted felon serve in Congress? Experts say yes. See Can a Convicted Felon Serve in Congress?” Lowering the Bar (Dec. 24, 2014). But they usually don’t.
  • Such as the subject of that 2014 post, former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (also R-NY), who was also re-elected while under indictment, but who later resigned after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion, thus allowing Congress to avoid yet again the embarrassment of having a sitting member serve while sitting in jail. Grimm, of course, ran again this year, having been paroled. But he lost in the primary to the non-felon who had replaced him.
  • The question above may also be relevant to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who was indicted in August for misusing campaign funds. Sorry—allegedly misusing campaign funds. See Campaign Funds [Allegedly] Used for Rabbit Travel,” Lowering the Bar (Aug. 27, 2018). Hunter, too, decided to seek re-election despite the indictment, and earned bonus points for awfulness by accusing his opponent of being a Muslim with a terrorist grandfather, though he is actually a Christian whose grandfather died long before he was born (but was, in fact, a terrorist). Since he ran a campaign like that, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Hunter also won.
  • Any indicted Democrats? Yep! Or, at least, the until-recently-indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who survived a trial last fall on bribery charges, courtesy of a hung jury. In January, the DOJ said it would not retry the case. According to the Senate Ethics Committee, Menendez did not dispute that he had “accepted numerous gifts” from someone and then “took official actions related to [that person’s] interests,” but I guess the jury decided that was something other than “bribery.” The Committee “severely admonished” Menendez, though, and if there’s one thing we know about legislators, it’s that they’re always deterred by the prospect of a severe admonishment. The New Jersey race was considered a toss-up, but Menendez ended up winning by about 10 points.
  • Finally, “congratulations” also to Inmate No. 232573 (D-TX), a.k.a. Rep. Ron Reynolds, a Democratic member of the Texas House. Reynolds won re-election on Tuesday even though his campaign headquarters were then located in Pod 2 of the Montgomery County jail. Reynolds had reported there on September 7 to start serving a one-year sentence resulting from five misdemeanor convictions, and that’s where he was on election night when voters overwhelmingly chose to send him back to the state house. Sometime in 2019, that is, or maybe earlier with good behavior. Reynolds was unopposed, but 47,305 voters still chose to mark their ballots for a guy who was in jail at the time.
  • Reynolds was the incumbent, and did not have to resign from office under Texas law because the charges were misdemeanors. It appears that the Texas Legislature is currently out of session, but according to the report, “[u]nless Reynolds’ sentence is reduced, he will likely be sitting in a jail cell when the legislature reconvenes in January 2019,” and could miss the entire first year of the session if not released before next September.
  • Special Lowering the Bar bonus points go to Reynolds because of this detail: he was convicted on five counts “of using a middleman to chase ambulances in order to solicit clients for Reynolds’ law firm,” also known as “barratry.” His law license has been suspended. Wait—double bonus points because he was also recently fined $52,000 for failing to properly file campaign-finance records, but mainly because Reynolds was a member of the House’s campaign-finance committee at the time.

“Congratulations” to all!

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hannahdraper
5 days ago
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mareino
5 days ago
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"He first ran for office in 2016 as a Libertarian Party candidate, but lost. This year, he ran as a dead Republican, and won."
Washington, District of Columbia

What Did This Mosque Sound Like Thousands of Years Ago?

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When a building is slated for an addition or a renovation, preservation-minded architects often look for ways to keep the aesthetics visually consistent. They are less likely to consider the acoustic landscape inside. In many cases, though, sounds are a key part of what makes a place feel like itself.

Recently, Rafael Suárez and collaborators at the Higher Technical School of Architecture at the University of Seville wondered what the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba would have sounded like thousands of years ago, during the age of Abd al-Rahman I. Construction began on the Moorish structure in the 780s. It was enlarged a few times during its life as a mosque—more naves were added to the prayer hall, and more arches soared. Then, in the Renaissance, it was renovated as a Roman Catholic church.

Unlike fragments of tools or shards of pottery, sounds don’t lodge themselves in the soil. They don’t linger. But archaeologists specializing in acoustics, also known as archaeo-acousticians, can model what particular environments may have sounded like to people who passed through long ago.

To approximate the acoustic environment of past iterations of the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, Suárez and his team worked backwards. They started with a present-day measure of impulse responses around the space. They placed the source of the sound near the mihrab and minbar, where sermons were recited. (To control for other, unrelated sounds, they measured after hours, when the space was empty.) From there, they used software to reconstruct the internal architecture of the mosque during four different phases of construction and renovation. They set up receivers throughout the space, and considered the absorption or scattering effect of various surfaces. Next, they produced auralizations, or sound files replicating what worshippers would have heard.

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They describe their findings in a new paper in the journal Applied Acoustics. In the 780s configuration, the researchers found, the sound was easily intelligible from the nave all the way around the prayer room. Subsequent construction added more depth, and also moved the sermon space off-center. That led to reverberations. Later, more construction created what the authors describe as “acoustic shadow zones”—places where little direct sound arrives.

What would these changes have sounded like to worshippers? To find out, the researchers used software to model how the architecture would change the same snippet of a recorded salat, or daily prayer. In the first configuration, the prayer sounds full-bodied and sonorous; in the model that reflects the mosque's last renovation, the same prayer echoes as though it was recited deep inside a cave.

Visually, a lot has stayed the same in Córdoba over the past 1,200 years. Gilt calligraphy and intricate tiles still decorate prayer spaces, and hundreds of columns—made from jasper, onyx, marble, and other stones salvaged from Roman ruins—continue to stand in the hypostyle hall. Sonically, it’s a different story. “The increase in area and, consequently, in the volume of the temple, has generated significant deterioration of the acoustic conditions,” the authors write. “The enlargement interventions failed to take the functional aspect of the mosque and gave the highest priority to mainly the aesthetic aspect.” Identical words, delivered today, wouldn't sound exactly the same.

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hannahdraper
10 days ago
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Uhh, nothing, because it's only about 1200 years old?
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“I have nothing to complain about.  I’m originally from Sudan....

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“I have nothing to complain about.  I’m originally from Sudan.  I love it there.  So many happy memories.  I got so much love from my family because I was the youngest.  Since then I’ve lived in five different countries and I’ve enjoyed every single one.  I don’t have a partner, but I have plenty of great friends.  I don’t have children, but I’m a lovely uncle.  I don’t take any medicine.  I sleep well.  I can walk around.  I don’t know what to say.  Every time I think about it, I conclude that I’m happy.  I wake up smiling.  I lived in Germany for several years.  And they have these cameras along the highway that photograph you when you’re speeding.  I’ve got a huge collection of photos because I love to speed.  It’s always just me alone in my car.  And I’m smiling in every one of them.”
(Johannesburg, South Africa)

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hannahdraper
18 days ago
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A Dissent

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https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milgram_experiment_v2.svg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the famous “Milgram experiment” at Yale in 1961, an experimenter directed each subject (the “teacher”) to give what she believed were increasingly painful electric shocks to an unseen “learner” (really an actor). Psychologist Stanley Milgram found that a surprisingly high proportion of the subjects would obey the experimenter’s instructions, even over the learner’s shouts and protests, to the point where the learner fell silent.

Milgram wrote, “For the teacher, the situation quickly becomes one of gripping tension. It is not a game for him: conflict is intense. The manifest suffering of the learner presses him to quit: but each time he hesitates to administer a shock, the experimenter orders him to continue. To extricate himself from this plight, the subject must make a clear break with authority.”

As it happened, one participant, Gretchen Brandt, had been a young girl coming of age in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power and repeatedly exposed to Nazi propaganda during her childhood. During Milgram’s experiment, when the learner began to complain about a “heart condition,” she asked the experimenter, “Shall I continue?” After administering what she thought was 210 volts, she said, “Well, I’m sorry, I don’t think we should continue.”

Experimenter: The experiment requires that you go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly.

Brandt: He has a heart condition, I’m sorry. He told you that before.

Experimenter: The shocks may be painful but they’re not dangerous.

Brandt: Well, I’m sorry. I think when shocks continue like this they are dangerous. You ask him if he wants to get out. It’s his free will.

Experimenter: It is absolutely essential that we continue.

Brandt: I’d like you to ask him. We came here of our free will. If he wants to continue I’ll go ahead. He told you he had a heart condition. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be responsible for anything happening to him. I wouldn’t like it for me either.

Experimenter: You have no other choice.

Brandt: I think we are here on our own free will. I don’t want to be responsible if anything happens to him. Please understand that.

She refused to continue, and the experiment ended. Milgram wrote, “The woman’s straightforward, courteous behavior in the experiment, lack of tension, and total control of her own action seem to make disobedience a simple and rational deed. Her behavior is the very embodiment of what I envisioned would be true for almost all subjects.”

Asked afterward how her experience as a youth might have influenced her, Brandt said slowly, “Perhaps we have seen too much pain.”

(From Thomas Heinzen and Wind Goodfriend, Case Studies in Social Psychology, 2019.)

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hannahdraper
18 days ago
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Wants

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
BUT THIS TINY BLIP ON AN ELECTION PREDICTION GRAPH IS REALLY IMPORTANT


Today's News:

Thanks for buying, geeks!

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hannahdraper
18 days ago
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This is too close to home.
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jlvanderzwan
19 days ago
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Speaking as someone who does not have the "immediately forget" part: amnesia is underrated.

Lot going on here.

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catSTUPIDEST

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hannahdraper
20 days ago
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