Friday links! Cheat to win edition

Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics celebrate before tipping over a car.

Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics earn their families’ freedom.

We all know that it’s “cool” to work hard and play by the rules. That’s what our heroes do, from Captain America to Hillary Clinton. But what if hard work and rulesmanship were not, in fact, what we admire about those two fictional characters? What if winning were actually the coolest thing a person can do? Obviously I’m being facetious, since our society remains deeply committed to ethical behavior. But perhaps someday, in the distant future, cheating might become not accepted, per se, but so widespread that it no longer provokes outrage. Today is Friday, and cynicism benefits the crooked. Won’t you pretend it’s a big deal to catch ’em with me?

First, the good news: Russia is still doing hilariously Russian shit. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, has told the New York Times that he helped provided dozens of Russian athletes with performance-enhancing drugs and helped them circumvent testing. Shortly after he fled the country, two of his co-conspirators died suddenly, which is also very Russian. But perhaps the most Russian detail of this whole saga is that, even though they were working with cutting-edge synthetic hormones in a conspiracy that reached the highest levels, the whole thing depended on a hole in the wall:

In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said.

Someday, Russia will land on Mars in a coal-powered space train. Meanwhile, among people who never cheat and will start winning just as soon as the rest of us stop voting against our own interests, Hillary Clinton assures us that “America never stopped being great.” Are you unable to afford a home even though you work full-time? Shut up and vote Clinton, because the alternative is to deport Muslims. Over at the Guardian, Thomas Frank wonders why the alternative to Donald Trump must be “self-satisfied, complacent Democrats.” The Republican Party is nominating a repellant buffoon. Democrats should seize this opportunity to bring the American people along, to advance a progressive agenda that calls disappointed working-class voters back into the party. Instead, they’re running on the idea that everything is just ducky, and those who complain that the work economy never recovered from the financial crisis are peddling a “pernicious and unsupportable lie,” as Charles Blow had it.

Here is your American politics: one party for the investor class that is socially conservative, and one for the investor class that is socially liberal. For 90% of American households, Republicans and Democrats have been economically indistinguishable since Reagan. Behold:

Real income since 1980

I got that graph from following Carl Beijer on Twitter. At his blog, the Baltimore Post-Examiner columnist wonders whether what Clinton supports describe as “oppression” isn’t just normal disagreement about politics. He cites several articles by Clinton supports claiming other people have attempted to “silence” their views, only briefly snarkily noting that the authors are relatively privileged. He continues:

Overwhelmingly, the grievance outlined by Clinton supporters in these articles is that people support Sanders, refuse to support Clinton, disagree with her politics, and insist that supporting her reflects poorly on people who do so. This is not a description of oppression or being silenced—this is a description of what happens when people have the audacity to think that you are wrong.

The left side of American politics is becoming a realm of certainty without argument. In Colorado, two young men from Brooklyn have started the Can You Not PAC, which calls on white men to stop running for office. Way to simplify complex theories of race and representation for a performance of your own rectitude, bro. At press time, the Can You Not PAC had raised $120, so maybe this movement will take a while to get going. I link to it here because of founder Jack Teter’s description of our beloved Dunning-Kruger Effect, which he calls the “Donald Kruger Effect.” I quote the transcript:

Warner: What do you base this assertion on that white men are overly confident, Jack? Do you have anything to back that up?

Teter: Yeah. There are some amazing studies that tell us this actually. The Donald Kruger Effect [sic – “Dunning-Kruger Effect” is the correct term] tells us that men disproportionately to their confidence are more confident.

You mean “disproportionately to their competence,” Jack, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect occurs in people generally, not just men. I think there might be irony here, but watching so many other people identify irony where it doesn’t exist has caused me to rate my own competence disproportionately low. I’ll just ask you to look something up on your phone while I glance at the answer key.

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  1. I’m actually in a couple of the secret Clinton groups (one all women, another coed). I have not had too many negative interactions, because my friends who support Sanders are largely sane and reasonable, but one reason people are retreating to talk about this behind closed doors is that a lot of the commentary on their HRC posts actually is out of the realm of normal political disagreement. I was skeptical about the harassment narrative until I began talking to people and seeing screenshots of their online interactions, many with people who have hopped entirely on the HRC hate train. I’m totally willing to debate her policies; I am not willing to debate whether she killed Vince Foster, looted the White House, blackmailed Obama to make her SoS, engineered voter fraud in every state where she won (but not where Sanders won), or to discuss articles by HA Goodman, who literally thinks she is going to Guantanamo over the emails. The hate/derangement is strong, and it makes actual debate pretty difficult. Twitter is another place where the facts go to die. At the extreme end, some friends have received racist threats and rape threats for writing publicly about Clinton support. I would say I’ve moved from seeing this stuff as possibly overblown to recognizing it as a very real thing.

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