Music Mondays: Videos with Continuous Motion

Last Monday I dug up this video of a Take On Me cover by Reel Big Fish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s just them “walking” through some tunnels with the illusion of mostly forward motion. And…I really love it. It made me thing of Supergrass’s Alright video:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(For UKers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

)

The forward, linear motion isn’t quite as continuous but it does dominate.

The Pretty Reckless’s Make Me Wanna Die has the lead singer walking forward with the camera while taking off her clothes and a bunch of other generic hard rock stuff (flames, etc.)

 

 

 

 

 

I tend to think that the simple walking while singing was the effective bit! (The Pretty Reckless have a bunch of interesting videos, but often kinda overdo it.)

In the Letter From an Occupant Video, none of the New Pornographers move much, but the camera does in an infiniteish zoom:

 

 

 

I could have sworn that the Dead South had some moving, but they just walk in place while the background shifts. It gives the feel of linear motion though:

Ingrid Michaelson’s Still the One doesn’t quite fit in this mold as we get a lot of different views and the motion is rarely into the camera, but the spirit seems similar. There’s nearly always forward motion of some kind. I think it’s pretty neat. The dancer is just so into it.

In comments on such videos there’s the complaint that some such videos are “low budget” which is maybe true? But the technique is effective and relatively few of these are truly super low budget or as low budget as people think. The Reel Big Fish probably had several takes and had to get folks like the flipping mascot on board. More to the point, who cares? It’s fun and feels “in tune” with the performance.

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Sunday Baking: Chocolate Buckwheat Chiffon and Pepita Spice Caramels

Buckwheat chiffon v. 3 had 100% buckwheat flour, olive oil, and finely chopped dark chocolate. (This is sometimes known as a “confetti chiffon”)

It has great structure, though may be a bit less floofly than normal. This could be due to the chocolate itself or because I had to fold it a bit more to incorporate the chocolate. It tasted great. I could catch a bit of the olive oil but the buckwheat is lost for me. This would be terrific if the goal were a gluten free chocolately cake. I’m looking for something where the buckwheat stands out a bit, so I’ll be trying again.

My mom’s birthday is this month and Zoe left for the US last week. So I made some birthday caramels. I’ve been wanting to try these spiced, pumpkin seed caramels for a while. The caramel recipe itself is pretty standard though with an interesting mix of sugars. They came out beautiful with a good bit, though a little sticky when unwrapping (or cutting). Definitely aim at the higher end of the final cooking.

Zoe did a beautiful job of wrapping them, per usual.

My current 5min bread is the mostly wheat with white dough that overflows my container. I didn’t touch it all week so I really wanted to bake off a bunch. The baguetting/sub rolls worked out ok but 1) are a bit of a PITA to shape and 2) tend to have a high crush to crumb ratio. So I thought I’d try round rolls.

I definitely need to make them rather smaller! But they came out nice.

They are tasty!

Insect Farming

I’ve eaten insects, deliberately. During the Brood X rising of 2004, I grabbed some and toasted them. They were fine! For a while, I would order different insect combos for my mom’s birthday (including a baked tarantula—”remove fangs before eating”!).

Insects are an interesting future food (though, of course, many cultures already eat them). High protein, often generally nutrient rich, and low resource to grow, they seem like a good choice for agriculture.

Back in 1991 we had a wormy in our apartment and we’ve had another since around 2014 in our new house. Of course, the goal there is compost, not the worms as foodstuff.

Food insects are fricking expensive, even bought online. Given the small scale of production this isn’t too surprising. Most, I imagine, are intended for pets (we used to buy crickets and superworms for our hedgehogs) so large scale wasn’t needed.

BUT! Just as with wormries, you can grow mealworms for food in your own home! I’ve seen two kits: The open source, TinyFarm system and the patent protected Livin Farms hive. The TinyFarm one is definitely low budget (even the kit only costs $154 and if you did it all yourself from found or bought pvc, it’d probably be a lot less). The big downside is that the farming process requires more effort. It’s also something more for the shed than the kitchen counter.

The Livin Farm hive is a lot pricier at $699 but it maintains correct temperature and does harvest monitoring and sorting (I’m not 100% clear how that works, but it involves LED indicators and buttons! Technology! Ok, the harvesting works by vibration and sieves. Fine.).

Zoe is not on board. Not yet anyway. She was not happy with the wormy the first time around but loves our current one. So, maybe. Someday.

$700 for a mealworm farm is pretty damn yuppie though.

 

Non Violent Resistance Follow Up

There were some nice questions asked on Facebook in response to my post on the effectiveness of non-violent resistance. I’ll note that most of these are genericish “did the authors control for” like questions.

Peter asked:

Did the authors control for magnitude of desired change or a priori likelihood? Nonviolent is likely to perform far better if it tends to be used on the easier cases.

From the paper:

6. Our use of “resistance” designates major nonstate rebellions, either armed or unarmed. Instead of using event count data, we identify campaigns—a series of repetitive, durable, organized, and observable events directed at a certain target to achieve a goal—as the main unit of analysis. We measure “effectiveness” by comparing stated group objectives to policy outcomes (e.g., states’ willingness to make concessions to opposition movements). This analytical distinction is imperfect, but others have used it with success. See Abrahms, “Why Terrorism Does Not Work.”

That, plus their case studies in the paper, give me some confidence that they aren’t looking at “easy vs hard” rather than “nonviolent vs. violent”. In the description of an earlier version of the dataset we get this nice discussion:

Especially among the nonviolent campaigns, there is real concern that the campaigns included are biased toward success, since it is the large, mature campaigns that are most commonly reported. Other would be nonviolent campaigns that are crushed in their infancy (and therefore fail) will not be included in this dataset. This is the major limitation in this study, and it is difficult to avoid. However, we did attempt to mitigate the effects of underreporting bias in several ways. First, we chose to compare nonviolent campaigns with their comparable counterparts in violent campaigns rather than to view nonviolent campaigns in isolation. We did this because there are many “non-starters” among violent campaigns as well as nonviolent ones, and the same underreporting bias exists within the study of violent insurgencies as with nonviolent insurrections. Therefore, we only investigate the outcomes of major nonviolent and violent campaigns — those that are already “mature” in terms of objectives and membership. We only included cases where the objective was at some point maximalist (i.e. regime change, secession, or self – determination) as opposed to limited (i.e. greater civil liberties or economic rights). Such limited goals (greater autonomy and significant institutio nal reform) are coded only when campaigns’ goals were less than maximalist for certain campaign years. Additionally, we only include nonviolent and violent campaigns where we were certain that more than 1,000 people were actively participating in the strug gle. For the nonviolent campaigns, we gleaned this information from the sources mentioned above. For violent campaigns, the information was implied from the 1,000 battle – death criteria for inclusion in the various datasets we accessed. Using this strict criteria or comparing major campaigns allows us to address questions of the relative effectiveness of resistance type among comparably developed mass movements. Critics may still be skeptical of the case selection, especially in the case of nonviolent conflict. Most concerning is the potential omission of failed nonviolent campaigns, which may not be captured in the dataset due to extreme repression or poor news sources. To address this concern, we made certain that the dataset reflects a consensus sample, which was circulated among the world’s leading authorities on nonviolent conflict to make sure we accounted for known failed campaigns. Unknown, failed, nonviolent campaigns are necessarily omitted from the dataset, just like unknown, failed, violent campaigns.

I think this raises my confidence that they are comparing likes to likes, but it highlights the threats to external validity. Without good data on early squashed campaigns, it’s a bit hard to say too much about what strategy people should consider when trying to get going. I suspect that growing a campaign has a suite of challenges all its own.

Several people suggest that the coding is wrong or distorted by rose colored glasses:

Not sure I buy the methodology here. Many of the peaceful examples they’re looking at had violent campaigns running in parallel or were themselves sometimes violent. The authors note this, but decided to call campaigns peaceful if they are historically viewed as being peaceful (using encyclopedias and biographies as evidence).

I think what they actually proved is that we’re more likely to view successful campaigns as less violent.

I’m not sure where the “many of the examples” is coming from. But let’s look at the actual methodology:

Labeling one campaign as “nonviolent” and another as “violent” is difficult. In many cases, both nonviolent and violent campaigns exist simultaneously among different competing groups. Alternatively, some groups use both nonviolent and violent methods of resistance over the course of their existence, as with the African National Congress in South Africa. Characterizing a campaign as nonviolent or violent simplifies a complex constellation of resistance methods.
To address these difficulties, we established some standards of inclusion for each of these categories. The list of nonviolent campaigns was initially gathered from an extensive review of the literature on nonviolent conflict and social movements. Then we corroborated these data using multiple sources, including encyclopedias, case studies, and a comprehensive bibliography on nonviolent civil resistance by April Carter, Howard Clark, and Michael Randle. Finally, the cases were circulated among experts in nonviolent conflict who were asked to assess whether the cases were appropriately characterized as major nonviolent conflicts, and also which notable conflicts had been omitted. Where the experts suggested additional cases, the same corroboration method was used. The resultant data set includes major resistance campaigns that are primarily or entirely nonviolent. Campaigns that committed a significant amount of violence are coded as violent. The data on violent campaigns are derived primarily from Kristian Gleditsch’s 2004 updates to the Correlates of War database on intrastate wars (COW), as well as from Kalev Sepp’s list of major counterinsurgency operations for information on conflicts after 2002.

This seems…reasonable. Saying that history is written by the victors and that people remember violent campaigns as non-violent is not very convincing. First, given how positively people seem to feel toward successful violence, why would they distort away from non-violence? Second, we’re not talking about victors per se, but scholars of nonviolent conflict. If we think these people are going to systematically get which conflicts are nonviolent wrong, well, that’s a pretty big indictment of the field. It’s, of course, possible, but I’d like to see at least a little more than bare assertion (esp when the fact of expert review is conveniently elided).

That being said (and being aware of some confirmation bias on my part) the basic concern (e.g., roughly, mixed or parallel campaigns might muddle causality or cause biased classification) is reasonable. I’m not too worried about it given their discussion above, but it’d be nice to get some direct reassurance on this.

Perhaps we can peek at the data to get a sense of how many coded ambiguous campaigns there are. Alas, the online browser is rubbish for this purpose. (No counts for searches and why people think horrible plotting on maps is a good thing eludes me.)

Fortunately, the data is available for download as an Excel spreadsheet of doom. (112k rows! Yay!) Unfortunately, afaict, it’s all event level data. I don’t see how that the campaigns were identified in the dataset (rather than by some external derivation). So, boo! I’m not able to immediately napkin this off. So, there’s an IOU!

I do think I was a little too bullish on the results. I still believe them, but I didn’t state the limitations. Yay for pushback!

Update:

While trying to figure out how to extract campaigns from the dataset (ongoing) I found some related stuff in the paper, Unpacking nonviolent campaigns: Introducing the NAVCO 2.0 dataset:

Scholars typically characterize campaigns as nonviolent or violent based on the primacy of resistance methods employed (Chenoweth & Stephan, 2011). To qualify as a nonviolent campaign, the campaign must have been prosecuted by unarmed civilians who did not directly threaten or harm the physical well-being of their opponent. Sharp (1973) has identified nearly 200 nonviolent resistance tactics, such as sit-ins, protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, mass noncooperation, and strikes. When a campaign relies almost uniformly on nonviolent methods such as these (as opposed to violent or armed tactics), we characterize the campaign as primarily nonviolent. The First Intifada, for instance, is often remembered to have been violent, due to youths’ rock-throwing and the bloody intra-Palestinian infighting that characterized the Intifada’s final two years (1992–94) and those afterward. However, the IDF’s figures on the First Intifada report that over 97% of Palestinian activities through 1992 were nonviolent or ‘unarmed’ (Pearlman, 2009). As such, it would be empirically accurate to call the 1988–92 phase of the First Intifada primarily nonviolent.

There’s definitely a possibility for recall distortion, but I’d guess ex ante that it was in favor of calling campaigns violent when mostly no. Small bits of violence get a lot of coverage (cf Seattle and black bloc generally) and are a standard way to disparage a campaign). Also:

NAVCO 2.0 also allows for mixed characterizations. It reports data on changes in primary resistance method, which codes whether nonviolent campaigns adopted violence in certain years (as the Defiance Campaign did in the 1960s in response to repression from the South African apartheid regime), and whether violent campaigns began to rely on mass civil resistance (as the Second Defiance Campaign later did in the early1990s). We also identified years where nonviolent campaigns coexisted with, tolerated, or adopted armed wings for self-defense or offensive purposes. These variables allow researchers to further investigate the role of strategic choice and identify periods in a campaign where the movement relied on both nonviolent and violent resistance, which occurs in about 30% of the campaign years.

I think if you are going to jump on them for the mixed bit, you have to delve a lot more. They seem to be doing a fair job of teasing it out.

Re: easy vs. hard, there’s this fascinating bit:

For nonviolent resistance, however, one sees a clear divergence in the determinants of campaign onset. Perhaps the most striking is that violent and nonviolent campaigns share only one determinant in common: population size.

Otherwise, Fearon & Laitin’s (2003) predictors are either completely reversed or insignificant. The only significant correlates of nonviolent campaigns are flatter terrain and older, more durable authoritarian regimes.

This suggests that nonviolent and violent campaigns emerge in very different types of countries. The substantive findings are counter-intuitive and paradoxical: violent campaigns seem to emerge where resistance is ‘easy’, whereas nonviolent resistance is emerging where resistance is supposedly ‘difficult’. These results reveal that nonviolent campaigns are emerging under quite unfavorable circumstances from a mobilization perspective, challenging many assumptions about the supposed ineffectiveness of nonviolent resistance against durable authoritarian regimes

Cool stuff!

May the shade of Ashton Clark hover over your right shoulder and guard your left

Back in the day, I wrote for an online magazine/group blog called Monkeyfist. It’s long defunct, but I still like some of the things I wrote there, so I’m rescuing them. This was from February 2001.

February being Black History Month, I plan to spend a fair bit of time reading Samuel R. Delany. It’s likely that if you’ve spotted any of Delany’s books on the shelf they’ve been the Wesleyan Press releases of the Nevèrÿon series, plus Dhalgren and Triton (although, I’ve been seeing The Einstein Intersection around), which are mostly from his mid-1970s to 1980s period (except The Einstein Intersection). And these are indeed wonderful books (and I hope to write about them later this month). But there is lots of very cool stuff going on in his 1960s novels. Nova, in particular, is shot through with stimulating ideas, complex interplay between plot, characterization, emotional confrontations, and intellectual themes, and just plain wacky stuff. The prose isn’t as stylistically rich as the later works (which is no shame all things considered) but that’s in many ways an advantage for the beginning Delany reader.

Alas, Nova is out of print, but if you check out the reader reviews at Amazon, you’ll find a lot of focus on his “cyberpunk” ideas, in particular the use of neural plugs to connect with, control, and receive sensory input from machinery (e.g., “Man-machine interfaces abound in Delany’s books, a decade or more before William Gibson ever wrote or thought of Neuromancer”; “It also explores some territory that is now considered cyber-punk, ie man-machine interfaces and strange designer drugs”; “I’ve read it many times and am very fortunate to own a copy. It contains one of the first descriptions of complex man-computer-machine interfaces…”).

However, to make a great deal of Delany’s anticipation of certain cyberbunk themes runs the risk of missing just how different they are. After all, cyperpunk per se is as much about literary style and social organization as it is about “cyberspace” and jacking in. Gibsonian cyberpunk focuses on our machine-mediated interactions with an information-based mega-corp structured economy with a standard MOO/MUDesque, though primarily visual, representation. This is not at all what Delany is getting at in Nova. The following quotation both makes this point clear and is one of my favorites.

“May the shade of Ashton Clark hover over your right shoulder and guard your left.”

“Thanks.” After another while he asked, “Katin, why do people always say Ashton Clark whenever you’re going to change jobs? They told us back at Cooper that the guy who invented plugs was named Socket or something.”

“Souquet,” Katin said. “Still, he must have considered it an unfortunate coincidence. Ashton Clark was a twenty-third-century philospher cum psychologist whose work enabled Vladimeer Souquet to develop his neural plugs. I guess the answer has to do with work. Work as mankind knew it up until Clark and Souquet was a very different thing from today, Mouse. A man might go to an office and run a computer that would correlate great masses of figures that came from sales reports on how well, let’s say, buttons — or something equally archaic — were selling over certain areas of the country. This man’s job was vital to the button industry: they had to have this information to decide how many buttons to make next year. But though this man held an essential job in the button industry, was hired, paid, or fired by the button industry, week in and week out he might not see a button. He was given a certain amount of money for running his computer; with that money his wife bought food and clothes for him and his family. But there was no direct connection between where he worked and how he ate and lived the rest of his time. He wasn’t paid with buttons. As farming, hunting, and fishing became occupations of a small­er and smaller per cent of the population, this separation between man’s work and the way he lived — what he ate, what he wore, where he slept — became greater and greater for more people. Ashton Clark pointed out how psychologi­cally damaging this was to humanity. The entire sense of self-control and self-responsibility that man acquired during the Neolithic Revolution when he first learned to plant grain and domesticate animals and live in one spot of his own choosing was seriously threatened. The threat had been com­ing since the Industrial Revolution and many people had pointed it out, before Ashton Clark. But Ashton Clark went one step further. If the situation of a technological society was such that there could be no direct relation between a man’s work and his modus vivendi, other than money, at least he must feel that he is directly changing things by his work, shaping things, making things that weren’t there before, moving things from one place to another. He must exert energy in his work and see these changes occur with his own eyes. Otherwise he would feel his life was futile (pages 194 to 196 in my Bantam edition).

We are embodied, physical beings whose cognitive structures — and affective structures — are profoundly affected by the exercise of sensory-motor system. One worry that developmental folks express more often these days is that computer use (of the standard monitor, keyboard, pointing device setup) may interfere with child development by impoverishing the child’s sensory-motor explorations. Moving chess pieces on a physical board is kinesthetically very different from “moving” virtual chess pieces on a virtual chess board by clicking and dragging. Even more striking, the relation between our kinesthetic awareness of the chess piece in our hand and our visual tracking of it is enormously complex and getting it wrong or just different can have far reaching effects on our psychology.

A personal example: I have inner ear problems and have had so since I was fairly young, as far as we can tell. One problem I have is that in large, brightly lit, echoing, visually busy environments (parties, dances, Wal-Mart’s) I have trouble determining what’s foreground movement, backgrond movement, and my movment. Essentially, I don’t get enough feedback from my inner ear and the compensatory mechanisms in my visual and auditory systems get overwhelmed at a certain level of stimulus. What I experience is disjointedness, sometimes slight nausea, a lot of anxiety, and so on. If I remove myself from the environment, I feel better.

I didn’t discover the underlying condition until about five years ago. When I was younger, I quite naturally interpreted these feelings as feelings about the social situation. Thus, it seemed to me that I had a problem with, for example, parties, groups, people, and having fun. There are, in fact, many different things someone with my condition can do to compensate, including just saying, “Oh well, I need to cultivate different pursuits and make sure my friends and family understand why I tend to avoid the larger gatherings.” It’s a lot easier to convince folks that you’re not a grump and frump if you can explain why you look and act ill-at-ease.

Two points to derive from this example: 1) quite subtle disarrangments of our bodily systems can have significant and distressing effects and 2) lack of understanding of our own bodies and how they work in the world can greatly increase those effects.

We are social beings, too, of a fairly specific kind. Much of our sociality is connected with our bodies. I think this is what Delany’s Ashton Clark is getting at. It’s interesting that the solution wasn’t to go pre-industrial, though that may be a partial solution, but to reconfigure work so that it met our deeper needs.

“Had he lived another hundred years either way, probably nobody would have heard of Ashton Clark today. But tech­nology had reached the point where it could do something about what Ashton Clark was saying. Souquet invented his plugs and sockets, and neural-response circuits, and the whole basic technology by which a machine could be controlled by direct nervous impulse, the same impulses that cause your hand or foot to move. And there was a revolution in the concept of work. All major industrial work began to be broken down into jobs that could be machined ‘directly’ by man. There had been factories run by a single man before, an uninvolved character who turned a switch on in the morning, slept half the day, checked a few dials at lunchtime, then turned things off before he left in the evening. Now a man went to a factory, plugged himself in, and he could push the raw materials into the factory with his left foot, shape thousands on thousands of precise parts with one hand, assemble them with the other, and shove out a line of finished products with his right foot, having inspected them all with his own eyes. And he was a much more satisfied worker. Because of its nature, most work could be converted into plug-in jobs and done much more efficiently than it had been before. In the rare cases where production was slightly less efficient, Clark pointed out the psychological benefits to the society. Ashton Clark, it has been said, was the philosopher who returned humanity to the working man. Under this system, much of the endemic mental illness caused by feelings of alienation left society. The transformation turned war from a rarity to an impossibility, and — after the initial upset — stabilized the economic web of worlds for the last eight hundred years. Ashton Clark became the workers’ prophet. That’s why even today, when a person is going to change jobs, you send Ashton Clark, or his spirit along with him.”

It’s interesting that this explanation doesn’t come until near the book’s end, and that the main plot line involves a feud between two great houses and the potential economical turmoil of the galaxy. While I think the Ashton Clark doctrines are right on target about some of the problems with industrial and current semi-post-industrial societies, it’s important to note that Delany is not just a didactic utopian ranter (however elegant). This passage is embedded in a conversation that immediately explores some of the problems with the Clark/Souquet system both theoretical, “historical”, and from the characters own perspective, several of which we’ve observed in an incident long before we’ve get this discussion. And the events in the novel as a whole belie a too rosy interpretation of neural plug salvation.

(Katin, the over-educated expounder above, is trying, throughout the book to write a novel in the largely post-literate society. There are many passages where he expounds his theories of novels — since they are a lost form he must both reconstruct how they worked and try to transfigure them to fit his milieu. This commentary and meta-commentary on the form is woven deftly throughout the book at many, many different layers. It’s characteristic of Delany’s books I’ve read to take something so familiar and twist it into a completely alien artifact and then build it back into familiarity. The Nevèrÿon books are full of that.)

In the end, I find Nova to be a far more sophisticated social novel than, say, Neuromancer. In Neuromancer the social analysis, projection, and reflection are in the service of the toys, both technological and literary. In that way, Neuromancer is more like Tofflerian/futurist style writings than an attempt to explore who we are and might want to be.

It’s sad that the catch phrase we all know is “May the force be with you” rather than (some variant of) “Ashton Clark go with you”. I remember reading some Star Wars fan recounting “philosophical discussions” he had with his father over the nature of “the Force” and good and evil which I found sadly amusing, as the entire Star Wars story and universe is deeply impoverished in this regard.

It would be nice if some tiny fraction of the money that will go to making a computer facsimile of a lame character with an odd accent for Star Wars Episode II went instead toward getting Nova back in print. Unfortunately the voracious demands of spectacle-laden alienation from the physical and social worlds will, as usual, trump the modest needs of people striving to be real.

Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Effectiveness

We live in tricky times.

The governments of the US and the UK (two of my three citizenships…the third, as I understand it, is Iran which, to be sure, is extremely problematic, to understate) are not in good shape with strong bents toward less democratic to authoritarian behaviors, not to mention wildly reckless and incompetent policies and governance. Along with fair helpings of xenophobic evil. The UK just might have a combination of xenophobic enough electorate and broken opposition that the conservative grip on government is democratically justified, even if they grasp for more and just plain suck. In the US, the Republicans (and Trump administration) clearly have little democratic justification as they have power primarily through anti-democratic mechanisms like the electoral college, voter suppression, gerrymandering etc.

(These really are anti-democratic (not just countermajoritarian) both procedurally and substantively. They go strongly against majorities to enact plutocratic and racist/sexist/etc. policies. The anti-DREAMer bullshit is a great example: Majorities of the electorate want protection for the DREAMers, a majority of Congress wants DREAMer projection, and the nominal position of the so-called president is to protect them. And yet, here we are, on the verge of mass deportation efforts.)

How to resist all this? Elections are a ways off (with the presidential election veryfar off) and have various levels of compromise. One question that I see people ask (and I myself wonder) is at what point violent resistance is justified or, even, required. Resisting the rise of another Nazi like state seems to at least justify violent resistance and compel pretty vigorous resistance. We’re pretty far from that and probably will never hit straightforward Nazi levels of awful. (Let’s assume no Trumped up war, esp no nuclear one or attack on a nuclear state.) But we still have pretty bad, with lives ruined or lost. Turning into a Russia like state would be even worse, but it’s unclear this would be rebellion justifying.

One thing that should weigh in is necessity and efficacy. Violent resistance only makes sense if there aren’t equally (or comparably) effective alternatives. This is esp. true as violent resistance has lots of potential downsides including kicking us in to a far worse state. It could be worth it if the results were a net good (even then, we’d have to weigh the harms created and the risks taken).

We don’t ave to speculate about all this any more! Maria J. Stephan and
Erica Chenoweth have, in a paper and a book, quantified the relative effectiveness of violent and non-violent actions in achieving political goals:

Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.

There are two reasons for this success. First, a campaign’s commitment to nonviolent methods enhances its domestic and international legitimacy and encourages more broad-based participation in the resistance, which translates into increased pressure being brought to bear on the target. Recognition of the challenge group’s grievances can translate into greater internal and external support for that group and alienation of the target regime, undermining the regime’s main sources of political, economic, and even military power.

Second, whereas governments easily justify violent counterattacks against armed insurgents, regime violence against nonviolent movements is more likely to backfire against the regime. Potentially sympathetic publics perceive violent militants as having maximalist or extremist goals beyond accommodation, but they perceive nonviolent resistance groups as less extreme, thereby enhancing their appeal and facilitating the extraction of concessions through bargaining.

Nonviolent campaigns aretwice as effective as violent campaigns (you are vindicated Dr. King!). And a non-trivial twice! From 26% to 53%! That’s huge! (A big further on in the paper they cite Abrahms as showing that terrorism is effective only 7% of the time. In achieving policy goals, of course. In terms of fucking things up, it seems rather more effective).

This is astounding and really should settle the case for the US and UK.

Some observations:

  1. Even non-violent campaigns fail 47% of the time. Governments are powerful and, esp in largely democratic countries like the US and UK, if you can’t win the elections you are going to have trouble winning otherwise. Governments don’t just have power, they have legitimacy. US and UK governments have a lot of default legitimacy.
    Consider the Democratic battle for the DREAMers. It’s not clear that they can win. They could try to shut down the government for months  and still lose. It’s hard to win against the party which controls three branches of government.
  2. We don’t have any what-ifing, afaict. I.e., how well would alternatives have worked if they had been tried.
  3. They really are looking at campaigns against repressive governments. The UK isn’t engaged in any repression at scale at the moment and the picture in the US is mixed. A lot of repression is distributed and against relatively small subpopulations (or on individuals within subpopulations). Consider ICE…a lot of their actions are “straightforward” (they also go well beyond that) enforcement of current law. Most people think that deportation for people who are not explicitly permitted to stay (e.g., because undocumented, or visa expired) is reasonable. You can cloak it all in “normal” terms.
  4. Two interesting observations from the paper: “Second, the longer the campaign endures, the less likely the resistance is to achieve full success. This is especially true for nonviolent campaigns, although the substantive effects are not sizable. Violent campaigns are more likely to achieve partial success the longer the conflict endures, but duration does not influence their chances of full success.
  5. Third, nonviolent campaigns occurring during the Cold War were less likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns occurring prior to or after the Cold War. Conversely, violent campaigns have been increasingly effective against their state opponents during and after the Cold War.”
    This suggests that one needs to target a campaign fairly carefully.
  6. They publish and continue to develop their dataset. Which is awesome.

I think it’s safe to say that, in spite of the awfulness, we’re really far from a situation in the US or UK where violent resistance is likely to be effective. Given that, in the US, the current government’s violence tends to backfire  suggests we should be maximising that backlash. Violence would tend to blunt it.

Tip of the blog to djw who turned me on to this work and really should flesh out his LGM author page.

Scribd Regoes Unlimited

There were a number of entries into the “Netflix for books” arena (Oyster anyone?) but there are only two players left: Amazon and Scribd.

I’ve been a Scribd subscriber for a few years now and love it. Most of my reading these days is Scribd and it’s broadened my reading. There are a lot of great cookbooks on it. I’ve knocked things off my longtime list. It has both text and audiobooks and I’ve listened to a lot of a lot of audiobooks (with a ton of pleasure). At $10/month, it’s a bargain. That’s an Audible subscription which only gets you one audiobook a month (though the catalog is better and you “own” the books).

A few years back they moved from all you can eat to a credit system (3 book and 1 audio credit a month with an accumulation cap of 9 book and 3 audio credits). It was a blow somewhat mitigated by the “Scribd select” monthly offerings which, at the start, were quite varied month by month and very high quality. I listened to a bunch of Cormac McCarthy that I would never have done otherwise. Alas, it degenerated but by that point I still had more than I could read.

The rationale was that they were getting killed by a small percentage that of “superreaders” who would read on the order of 100 books a month (and high price stuff for them like romance novels). Moving to limited credits killed that but also hurt one use I had which was to skim a ton of tech books looking for good texts to recommend. I settled on a good model for me but that was a loss.

But it paid off! They are turning a monthly profit and are back to unlimited with throttles on superusers. This should be interesting!

They, as will all ebook anythings, still have the discovery interface of suck. And one big hole in their categories is philosophy which makes it nigh impossible to figure out their collection.

However, the catalog is pretty damn solid both text and audio. It’s a bargain. I highly recommend it.