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Name: David Allen
Gender: Male
Hometown: Washington, DC
Home country: USA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 63,075

Journal Archives

The Accidental Swiftboater

I suspect some of you may have heard about a discussion thread I started yesterday regarding this photograph of Bernie Sanders during the civil rights movement which was alleged to not be Bernie Sanders. It seems that I inadvertently stumbled into something much bigger than I was aware at the time. Here's what happened.

Obviously many of you are news junkies and DU junkies and you have a totally up-to-the-minute awareness of the latest controversies and where they stand, particularly when it is related to politics and the Democratic presidential primary in particular. When I am on DU I usually have a pretty good handle on what is going on, but if I am not on DU I don't actually spend my leisure time following politics. I rarely if ever watch cable news.

And it just so happens that when I posted my infamous thread about the Bernie photo, I was completely unaware of the larger context which the discussion was taking place.

On Thursday I was on DU a fair amount in the early afternoon, and I even participated in some of the discussions about John Lewis and the CBCPAC. My last post was probably midafternoon, and then I logged out for most of the rest of the day -- stopping back in around 11pm to post a little and then go to bed. As far as I'm aware, the story alleging that Bernie Sanders was not the person in the widely circulated photo from the civil rights era broke sometime in the evening, and I totally missed it.

I woke up on Friday morning and briefly stopped into DU, adding some stuff to the homepage, maybe posting a little and then logging off. I had an important conference call at 11:30am that I needed to prepare for, so I didn't spend much time on DU that morning and I didn't have any clue what the controversy du jour was.

After I finished my conference call I logged onto DU and if my memory serves that was when I first heard about the two posts that had been hidden by juries because they referenced this photo controversy. In both cases I thought the posts were fairly innocuous -- they were reporting that there was a story reported by Chris Matthews on MSNBC and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post alleging that there was a photo from the civil rights era previously believed to be Bernie Sanders, which might not have been him after all.

This was the first I had heard about this issue.

I looked at the hidden posts and I thought the hides were pretty dubious. I've certainly seen some questionable hides before, but I very rarely if ever see posts hidden simply for sharing (in a relatively civil manner) some information gleaned from a reputable mainstream news source. This troubled me.

In both cases the alerts characterized the posts as vile smears which (at the time) seemed over-the-top for what I thought was a just a case of mistaken identity. Big deal, right? One of the alerts referenced a debunking of the vile smear, which I checked out. It seemed pretty compelling -- similar looking clothing, hair, and glasses -- but not a slam dunk because it did not address why the wife and friends of the guy alleged to be in the picture (someone named Bruce Rappaport) seemed to think that this was their friend Bruce. I checked the Capehart article and an article at Time Magazine and the picture on the University of Chicago website and at the time I checked none of them had updated their stories to indicate that any of the facts of the story might be in dispute.

So this looks to me like some jurors just straight-up voted to hide a legit news story because they didn't want to hear what it said, which would be pretty lame. Keep in mind that at this point as far as I am aware the only thing going on here is that people are trying to figure out who's the dude in the picture. Perhaps the over-the-top alert messages should have been a clue, but I've seen over-the-top alert messages plenty of times before so I tend to discount them.

So, as I said, this troubled me. There had been another thread a couple weeks ago where a jury had voted to hide a legit news story about Jane Sanders' tenure at Burlington College that didn't cast her in a positive light, and that was somewhat eyebrow-raising but I figured it was removed under the unofficial don't-attack-family-members (unless they're public figures) principle. But here it was happening again, people voting to hide a legit news story simply because they didn't like what it said. I was getting concerned that this was now a trend, and we had entered a new phase of primary season in which people were using the DU juries to just censor news stories from reputable mainstream sources because they paint their candidates in a less-than-favorable light.

After thinking about it for a moment I decide to just go ahead and start a thread to ask about this allegedly misidentified photo. My intent was twofold: 1) to find out if there was more to the debunking than I was aware of, and 2) to express my concern that people might be using the juries to straight-up censor stuff for no good reason. I knew there would be some pushback, maybe some people would call me biased or complain about the jury system, but I figured most people would not quibble with my points 1 and 2 above so I went ahead and wrote up the post. I called EarlG to get his opinion before I posted, but he didn't pick up the phone so I just went ahead and posted it.

Again, keep in mind: At this point I still think we're just talking about some old picture and whether the person in the photo is Bernie Sanders. I have not seen any of it on cable news, nor have I read many other threads on the topic. The issue of the mis-identification does not seem like a a particularly big deal to me, except for the fact that some people were getting their posts hidden.

But based on some of the replies I am getting, it slowly starts to dawn on me that everyone else thinks this is some kind of swift boat situation. The reason why everyone else is so invested in the identity of the person in the photo is because they believe this is an effort to cast doubt on Bernie Sanders' history of civil rights activism.

By midafternoon my three boys come home from school. They bring along one friend from school for an impromptu playdate. Then a neighbor brings over her three kids so I can watch them while she runs errands. Then another boy from across the street comes over to play, because our house is the one where all the neighborhood kids come to play. Then I get a last-minute phone call from a neighbor asking if I can watch her daughter because her mother is having complications related to breast cancer. So here I am babysitting nine children between the ages of 3 and 11, entirely by myself, while I've got nearly the entire membership of my website piling on to tell me what an awful person I am. The whole situation is totally surreal.

By dinner time all the children leave and I can focus back on DU and it's totally nuts. It was right around the time when somebody called me a "COWARDLY SCUMBAG" that I decided to call EarlG -- which is what I do when DU is blowing up in my face -- to get his feedback and also to just vent. He has of course already seen the whole thing. And as I'm on the phone monologuing and wondering what the hell is happening, he tells me:

"Dude, don't you realize what's going on? They think you are trying to swift-boat Bernie."

He's actually laughing when he says it, even though he knows it's not funny and I know it's not funny. But maybe it is kind of funny in a way. It's a complete clusterfuck and I feel like crap but at least now it all kind of makes sense. I barely slept at all last night, and I spent most of today obsessing over what happened.

Which is a long way of saying that I think a number of you might have gotten the wrong idea about my post. I was actually trying to find out to find out how (and if) the story had actually been debunked, and to express my concern that people might be using the juries to straight-up censor stuff. I totally didn't get why it seemed so important to some of you that I give you my verdict asap, and then go back and edit my OP to make clear. The whole thing just seemed so surreal and over-the-top.

So, in case anyone still cares at this point, yes, I am convinced that it is Bernie Sanders in the photo. And yes, I understand why some people do actually think this might be a coordinated attempt to swift-boat him. And yes I now understand why this was such a big deal. But no, I am not involved.



The CBC PAC works to increase the number of African Americans in the U.S. Congress, support non-Black candidates that champion our interests, and promote African American participation in the political process-with an emphasis on young voters. There are currently 46 African Americans in Congress comprising the largest Congressional Black Caucus in history. With your financial support we will continue to grow, and expand our voice in key campaigns throughout the country.



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Congrats to Bernie Supporters on your New Hampshire victory

Nicely done.

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Marco Rubio crashes and burns: Repeats himself four times in GOP debate (Video)

I didn't see this video posted on DU over the weekend. I wanted to make sure nobody missed it.

Bernie Sanders on a Steam Ship to America on SNL

I looked and I couldn't find this one posted anywhere. If it's a dupe let me know...

A slightly more nuanced take on whether Hillary Clinton is "establishment"

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders can be called "establishment" in the sense that they are both career politicians who served in perhaps the most exclusive club in the world: the United States Senate.

On the other hand, both Clinton and Sanders represent groups of people that have been historically excluded from the establishment generally and the presidency in particular. As president, both would be history-making trailblazers: Sanders as the first Jewish president, and Clinton as the first woman president.

For whatever reason, Bernie Sanders has chosen not to emphasize his religion in his campaign. Perhaps it is because his campaign is concerned that lingering anti-Semitism would put him at a disadvantage. Perhaps it is because he is laser-focused on his campaign message of the people-versus-the-billionaire-class to the exclusion of everything else. But whatever the reason, the fact that Sanders has not emphasized his religion has the real-world effect of limiting its discussion as an issue in the Democratic presidential primary. As a liberal and as a person who values diversity, I think electing our first Jewish president would be a great thing for this country, and it is one of the many benefits I see of a Sanders presidency.

On the other hand, as the administrator of this website, I must admit some small amount of relief that his religion is not an issue because I cannot stomach the thought of reading post-after-post about "I would like to have a Jewish president, but not just any Jew!" For one thing, it just sounds bad. On its face it's a totally non-controversial thing to say but scratch the surface and it has a certain smell to it ifyouknowwhatImean. For another thing, Duh. Nobody here wants Eric Cantor to be president of the United States.

Unlike Sanders, Hillary Clinton has chosen to emphasize the historic nature of her campaign. She does mention frequently that she is a woman, and that is important because there has never been a woman president before. I am not ashamed to admit that one of the reasons (but not the only reason) I support Hillary Clinton is because she is a woman and I believe it is well past time that this country elects a woman as president of the United States.

If I were a Sanders supporter -- and if he wins the nomination I will be -- then one of the reasons why I would enthusiastically support his candidacy is that I think it is well past time that this country elects a Jew (or any non-Christian) to be president of the United States. So ultimately the point I am trying to make would hold for Sanders as well as Clinton.

Which brings me to my point.

We all know that Hillary Clinton has used her gender to argue that she is not part of the establishment. This argument is dismissed out-of-hand by many people here. I do not think it should be. (And again, in case it isn't obvious by this point in my post: if Bernie Sanders were pointing to his religion as evidence that he is not part of the establishment, I do not believe that argument should be dismissed either. But he is not pointing to his religion, perhaps because he does not need to convince anyone that he isn't part of the establishment.)

Now, allow me to state outright: The Clintons are part of the establishment, full stop. It is so obvious that it does not even need to be justified or explained. But if you are going to quote me on this you had better give the full context and provide a link back to this post so people can read my entire argument, otherwise you are being disingenuous.

Hillary Clinton is part of the establishment, but because she is a woman she does not have full access to the privileges that accrue to the establishment. If you think that's wrong, take a look at the long history of female Presidents of the United States. Oh wait a second, there haven't been any female Presidents of the United States.

That is the very definition of sexism. This should not be controversial here on DU -- everyone here knows it to be true. If we lived in a level gender playing field, then by now there should have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 men and 22 women presidents. Or, if we assume a slow move in the direction of equality, then we should at least see some gender parity in the last, say, four presidencies. But no. It's dudes all the way down.

It is a well-known fact that members of traditionally excluded groups need to be better than their white male counterparts in order to be taken seriously -- or even considered -- as candidates for employment. It's not enough for a woman or an African American or a Latino to be as good as the white dudes they are competing against. They need to be much better. They need to prove themselves again and again, whereas white guys are assumed, by default, to be competent.

So, if a woman is going to get ahead -- if a woman is going to climb to the absolute HIGHEST LEVEL of power on the entire planet -- SHE WILL FAIL IF SHE DOES NOT USE EVERY ADVANTAGE AVAILABLE TO HER.

There is a reason why the first credible woman candidate for President of the United States has strong ties to the establishment: Because she would not be the first credible woman candidate for President of the United States if she did not. Period. Full stop.

Hillary Clinton is, on paper, the the single most qualified human being on the planet at this moment in time to be President of the United States. Nobody else comes close. Her resume could be put next to the resumes of almost any man who has aspired to the office of President of the United States, and would not be found lacking.

That resume is evidence that she is part of the establishment. But here's the thing: She wouldn't be taken seriously as a candidate without that resume. It is a Catch 22. A woman needs to be better than everyone else in order to get the job. She needs to take advantage of EVERY advantage available to her in order to be taken seriously. She needs to forge deep ties to the people who hold the power. Otherwise, she would have NO CHANCE. Hillary Clinton has done everything necessary in order to become the first woman President of the United States. But now she is getting penalized because of it. Sorry, lady -- I know you needed those establishment ties to get where you are, but now we are going to penalize you for it. Maybe next time you can try to be the first woman President of the United States but do it without any of the traditional advantages that every previous president has enjoyed. Sucks to be you.

I totally get that we are in an anti-establishment moment, when many people are fed up with the people in power. But I think it is unrealistic to believe that we will ever have a first woman president in this country if we expect that first woman president to be handicapped by a lack of establishment ties. Imagine if Hillary Clinton was from a tiny blue state and called herself a socialist and had Albert Einstein hair...

No... F*cking... Way... would she ever be taken seriously as a possible first woman president. No way.

Hillary Clinton is this close to the presidency. But like so many women who have ever aspired to rise to the top of their chosen profession, she knows that she is still a million miles away. She may be part of the establishment, but she hasn't made it to the top. No woman has. Not yet.

About those coin flips: There are delegates and then there are delegates.

There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about these coin flips which decided some delegates in Iowa. But I think some people don't realize there are two types of delegates that were chosen last night: one kind which is really important, and another kind which isn't nearly as important.

(Disclaimer: This is something I just learned today. Any Iowa caucus experts who wish to add additional clarifying information are encouraged to do so.)

The kind of delegates that are really important are pledged delegates. Iowa will allocate 44 of them based on yesterday's caucuses: Clinton will get 23 and Sanders will get 21. These are the delegates that count when we choose our eventual nominee. These were not decided by coin toss.

The kind of delegates that are much less important are precinct delegates. A facebook commenter over on fivethirtyeight explained this pretty well:

The coin flips determined precinct delegates, of which there were about 11,000. those in turn elect the 1,600 county delegates, which in turn go on to nominate the actual 44 delegates from iowa for the national convention.

So the coin flips did not affect who won or lost last night. The coin flips did not affect the number or allocation of pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention that will come from Iowa.

I want to make sure this accomplishment doesn't pass by unnoticed and unappreciated.

As most of you know, a week ago we shut down Democratic Underground for a day and a half in order upgrade our web servers. We had been running the site on the same old web servers for about a decade, and they served us well for a long time, but it was clear that they were nearing the end of their useful lives as we experienced ever more frequent glitches and instances of degraded performance. The limitations of our old servers were most obvious during times of especially high traffic that occur during big news events.

The upgrade was many months in the making, but it seems that we pulled it off just in time. Over the weekend we saw a big news double-whammy, with the DNC server breach and the Democratic presidential primary debate both occurring over a two-day period. Democratic Underground is already significantly busier now than it was a year ago but this past weekend really pushed us over the edge -- in fact, measured by number of posts, Saturday was our single busiest day since general election day in 2012.

In the past, this is the type of thing that would have crippled the site, and we would have been forced to systematically remove functionality from the site in order to deal with the stress on our servers and maintain access for our members. But this past weekend we were prepared for the massive spike in traffic -- the new servers held up beautifully without needing to resort to any emergency measures.

I know that people generally don't notice when an emergency fails to happen, so I wanted to make sure that you all were aware of it. I especially want to express my appreciation for all of the behind-the-scenes work that my fellow DU administrator Elad has put into this server upgrade. It was an enormous task with a huge learning curve and many sleepless nights, and it's not over yet. I am grateful for and extremely impressed by all of his hard work.

And while we're on the topic of things that happen behind the scenes that go unnoticed...

Back in October of 2014 Google changed their search algorithm and over the following three months DU saw a 41% decline in search traffic and a related 38% decline in ad revenue. The good news is that we have spent much of 2015 clawing our way back up, and for the first time in a long time we we have seen both our traffic and our ad revenue gradually increasing over the course of an entire year. (Yay!) The bad news is that we started from a significant deficit, and for the first time ever we will not break even for the year.

That means that 2015 is the first year that Democratic Underground cannot afford to pay a year-end bonus to Elad, who worked so hard on the server upgrade, or to EarlG who works just as hard but on more obvious things like the Pic of the Moment and various forum administration duties.

So I am asking you, in the spirit of the season, to please consider re-upping your DU subscription a little early this year or maybe kicking in a couple extra bucks.

Just click here to help out: http://www.democraticunderground.com/star

Thank you, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.

David Allen
DU Administrator

Artificial intelligence passes the Turing test of penmanship

The learning gap between humans and machines is closing.

Sanskrit, Tibetan, Gujarati, and Glagolitic were among 50 handwritten languages researchers used to test a computer program that proved to be as good, or better, than humans at recognizing the figures – a cognitive step for machines, and a leap forward for the potential that coders could build more sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the future.

The program, developed by three researchers whose findings were published last week in Science, can recognize handwritten drawings after only viewing the figures a few times and also passed a basic Turing test.

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