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Profile Information

Name: David Allen
Gender: Male
Hometown: Washington, DC
Home country: USA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 63,177

Journal Archives

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 Ė 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.


Star Wars pancakes.

Will Ferrell as George W. Bush on SNL 12/13/15

*** DU will be down for an extended period of time starting Saturday 12/12 @ 8PM ET ***

Our long-awaited DU server upgrade is finally happening this weekend. Elad and the other admins have been working hard the last few months to prepare to move the site into a new, cutting-edge web server -- just in time for the 2016 presidential campaign.

We have a massive amount of data we need to move over to the new server, and a long list of other things to do, so you should expect the site to be offline for an extended period of time. Downtime will begin at 8PM ET (5PM PT), and will likely continue through Sunday and possibly into Monday.

We have made every effort to make the transition as smooth as we can. But once the site is back online we will undoubtedly encounter some unexpected glitches and bugs. Hopefully they will be minor (fingers crossed). We want to thank you in advance for your patience, and for your help identifying any problems.

Skinner, EarlG, and Elad
DU Administrators

Political parties: They exist for a reason.

Imagine, if you will, a hypothetical country with 100 people, all of whom are eligible to vote. They decide that they're going to have a government made up of exactly one person, called "The Big Cheese," and they are going to select The Big Cheese with a popular vote.

Out of the 100 citizens, 10 of them think that they would like to be the next Big Cheese, and enter their names as candidates. They campaign, tell their fellow citizens why they should be elected, and eventually there is an election. Ballots are printed with 10 names, and each voter gets to select one person.

Everyone votes, and when the 100 votes are counted, the results look like this:

Doug: 24
Hannah: 23
Bob: 21
Bree: 10
Matthew: 7
Jessica: 6
Tom: 2
Marianne: 5
Lance: 1
Jenny: 1

Doug gets to be the Big Cheese, because he got the most votes. His term lasts for one year, and then there is another election. The same 10 candidates want to run for office again. Their platforms are basically the same ones they ran on one year previously. And most importantly the overall makeup of the electorate has not changed much, so everyone pretty much expects that Doug is going to win again with his paltry 24 votes.

But then Marianne has an idea. She realizes that she's probably not going to win. But she also realizes that Hannah's platform is basically identical to her own platform. Marianne realizes that even though she can't be The Big Cheese, she is able to make her platform the law of the land if she steps aside and asks her supporters to vote for Hannah. Her supporters immediately realize the genius of the idea and go for it. So now there's an election with only 9 candidates, and here are the results:

Hannah: 28
Doug: 24
Bob: 21
Bree: 10
Matthew: 7
Jessica: 6
Tom: 2
Lance: 1
Jenny: 1

Math, Baby! Hannah is the new Big Cheese! She serves her one-year term, and it's election time again. Doug is pissed that he got beat last time through a dirty trick, so he teams up with Bree, who has almost the same platform as Doug. But Bree won't play ball unless she gets to be the candidate, so Doug drops out. Guess who wins this time?

Bree: 34
Hannah: 28
Bob: 21
Matthew: 7
Jessica: 6
Tom: 2
Lance: 1
Jenny: 1

After three elections, almost everyone has figured out that if you want to have a chance to control the government, you have to team-up with like minded people in order to do it. Unfortunately, it gets more difficult as the coalitions become larger and the participants' platforms are less similar.

Bob agrees to drop out when Hannah promises to give everyone free health care. Lance drops out when Hannah agrees to support the metric system. Matthew and Jessica (who share a similar worldview) agree to join with Bree and Tom (who share a similar, but more extreme worldview), but only if Matthew is their candidate. Jenny throws her support behind Matthew, then changes her mind and supports Hannah. Now they have their fourth election:

Hannah: 51
Matthew: 49

This all seems so obvious, right? We have a winner-take-all system, and if you want to have a shot at governing you need to enter into a coalition with like-minded people.

Not everyone in the coalition is going to be your ideological soul-mate. The chosen candidate of the coalition is not going to be your ideological soul mate. If you want to get to 50%+1, you have to share a party with people you do not entirely agree with.

But sharing a party is ok. Because parties are not The Prize. They are merely a means-to-an-end. They are a tool to increase our chances of affecting change. Nothing more, nothing less.

The American Constitution does not mention political parties. But the American political system as it currently exists naturally gravitates toward a two-party system. Relatively large third parties can arise in the short-term, but it is almost inevitable that they will be absorbed into the two party system. Because people realize they have more to gain from joining a coalition of like-minded people.

This is why as long as the Democratic Party is the more liberal of the two parties, its favored candidates will always get my vote.

And this is why if my favored primary candidate does not win, you can count on my support in the general election if YOUR favored candidate becomes the nominee.

I'm not taking a loyalty oath. I'm not signing on some dotted line in blood. And I'm sure as hell not sacrificing my principles. It's just simple common sense: We are more likely to win the general election if we stick together.

Mitt Romney: "Without Romneycare, I donít think we would have Obamacare"

Source: Vox

On Friday, Mitt Romney made a startling statement to the Boston Globe's Taryn Luna: He argued that without "Romneycare," the universal health care plan he signed into law as Massachusetts governor, Obamacare would never have become law.

Speaking after the death of his friend and political ally Tom Stemberg, the founder of Staples, Romney said that Stemberg encouraged him to pursue health care reform. That, Romney argued, led indirectly to Obamacare. Moreover, Romney argues that's a good thing: "So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn't have health insurance."

Read more: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/23/9604510/mitt-romney-obamacare-admission

Surprised that he's finally taking credit.

Whoever uses this as their official campaign song wins.

Love it.

First, decide who you think won Tuesday's debate. Done? OK, now vote in this poll:

Who do you think won Tuesday's debate?
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