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Won’t Get Foiled Again

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The Trump administration has just put crippling tariffs (97-162%) on the import of aluminium foil from China. Making America great again? It’s doubtful. Far more American firms use aluminium foil than make it. Indeed, only two US-based firms make it and one of them is owned by Swedes. Virginia Postrel has the details:

Only two companies have U.S. mills making the thin-gauge foil affected by the duties. The ones owned by Sweden-based Gränges are already selling all they can produce; the company has announced plans to expand capacity at its Tennessee mill by 2019. Converters say that JW Aluminum Co., the Mt. Holly, South Carolina-based company that lobbied strongly for the duties, isn’t offering them much, if any, additional supply.

Most of the ex-Chinese sales won’t even go to US firms but to firms in countries not affected by the tariffs, including Russia, Bulgaria, South Korea and Taiwan. Yes, Russia.

Conspiracy or coincidence? I want to say coincidence. On the other hand:

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is under investigation for involvement in an alleged plot to kidnap a Turkish dissident cleric living in the US and fly him to an island prison in Turkey in return for $15m, it was reported on Friday.

So who can say anymore? Excuse me while I go put on my hat.

The post Won’t Get Foiled Again appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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duerig
2 days ago
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This is the reality of how tariffs impact business. As a manufacturer, my biggest advantage in the US is that I have access to suppliers all over the world for parts. I can get the cheapest parts at the best quality. Trump's policy directions strangle my business by threatening that key advantage. I don't use a lot of aluminum foil, but to the extent that prices on my raw goods go up to benefit some crony or other in his inner circle, my manufacturing business becomes less competitive.
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brutereason: I wonder from where so many Americans get the idea that voting is supposed to be some...

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brutereason:

I wonder from where so many Americans get the idea that voting is supposed to be some expression of your deepest, most beloved values and virtues rather than a pragmatic, political move meant to shift your country as much closer to your ideal as possible. This strikes me as another example of extreme individualism. Voting isn’t about *you*. It’s about your city, state, and/or country. It doesn’t have to feel transcendently good deep down in your bones. It just has to *do* as much good as you can do, in this particular moment in time.

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duerig
4 days ago
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This is a good question. I think it is because voting is a civic ritual that affirms an emotional attachment to our community rather than a pragmatic act. Not voting is usually the pragmatic answer. The real world impact of a single vote is negligible. You will create more of a visible impact on the world by petting a cat than by voting.

Instead, voting maintains the connection that we have to our government and society. It legitimizes government action because it is done in our name. It amounts to a consent to be governed, not in a legal sense, but in a personal sense. It is a symbol of our ideals.

So perhaps it is not surprising that when people vote, they do so based on their ideals more than on their pragmatic self-interest or pursuit of concrete policy. Because voting is a statement of connection with both the broader community and with the particular party you most connect with.

This idealism can lead to manifestly bad outcomes (like if a senile rapist becomes president, for example). But the act of voting together, binds us into a society and makes democracy work in a way that no amount of technocratic pragmatism can achieve alone.
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Don’t Treat Face ID as an Extra Step

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Mark Spoonauer, writing for Tom’s Guide:

I’ve been using Face ID on the iPhone X for more than 24 hours, and I don’t need a stopwatch to tell you that it unlocks my phone slower than when I was using Touch ID on my older iPhone 7 Plus. I used a stopwatch app anyway to prove my point.

With Face ID on the iPhone X, it took 1.2 seconds from pressing the side button to the iPhone X’s screen turning on and for the phone to recognize me and unlock the device. And it was another 0.4 seconds to swipe up to get to the lock screen. Total time: 1.8 seconds.

On my iPhone 7 Plus, I could get to the home screen just by pressing and holding my thumb on the Touch ID sensor in an average of 0.91 seconds. That might not seem like a lot of time, but it adds up quickly when you’re unlocking your phone dozens of time a day.

There is a workaround of sorts, though. You can swipe up from the bottom of the iPhone X’s screen even while the iPhone X is looking for your face. Sometimes you might briefly see the word “Face ID” flash as the iPhone X transitions to the home screen, but you will still get to start using your phone faster.

This is not a “workaround”. This is how you’re supposed to unlock iPhone X. Starting with a tap of the side button is not how you’re supposed to do it — you’re creating a two-step process where you only need one.

If raise-to-wake kicks in and turns on the display, all you need to do is swipe up from the bottom. Don’t wait for the lock icon to change — don’t even worry about it. Just swipe up. If raise-to-wake hasn’t kicked in, and you’re holding your iPhone X in your hand with the display off, just tap the screen near the bottom and immediately swipe up. The best way to use Face ID is to pretend it isn’t even there, and just swipe up from the home indicator.

Tapping the screen to wake the display is one of my favorite features so far. There’s really no reason to use the side button to wake the phone.

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duerig
16 days ago
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If you add a power button, they will press it. If the power button is the 'wrong way' to unlock the phone, then Apple should change things so that it is the right way (or at least one of multiple right ways). This is design 101: affordances.
sirshannon
16 days ago
"If you add a power button, they will press it"... every damn time I try to use the hardware buttons to trigger the shutter in the camera app.
freeAgent
16 days ago
Apple needs to just go all the way and make a phone with zero buttons.
duerig
16 days ago
@freeAgent, that is coming in 2020: The all new iPhone Zero. Zero ports. Zero buttons. And since it solar charges, it will have zero emissions.
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The Broken Check and Balance

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Only a country with as much going for it as the United States—scale, resources, location, historic openness to energy and ambition and change—could withstand a national governing structure as ill-matched to current conditions as America’s has become.

The intricate trade-offs and compromises behind the constitutional structures of the 1780s may have suited the fledgling United States of that era—which had a smaller total population than today’s Los Angeles, which ran only from the Atlantic coastline to the Appalachians, which had few international ambitions beyond survival, and which uneasily spanned both free and slave states. Almost every circumstance of today’s United States is different, except, of course, for the ambition of creating an ever-more-perfect Union.

What has kept the country going through these centuries of change is not the superbness of its original rules—which, significantly, have been adopted by few of the hundreds of new governments that have come into being since the American founding. (The closest comparison among surviving governments would be the Philippines, and then Liberia. Mexico tried a similar constitution in the mid-1800s. I argued this point in more detail back in 2010.)

Rather the United States has coped, and overall thrived, through a variety of non-constitutional advantages. These include its favorable placement on Earth, its early creation of mass-education and higher-education networks, its providentially most gifted leaders at times of its greatest crisis—Washington, Lincoln, FDR—and a long list of other factors. Among the latter has been a willingness by most political participants, most of the time, to observe the unwritten rules necessary for a democracy’s survival. The losing parties in presidential campaigns have complained, but have let the winners take office. The losing parties in big judicial battles have complained, but complied. The big crises in American governance have occurred in the moments when written-and-unwritten rules have been defied, from many Southern states’ refusal to accept the outcome of the 1860 presidential election, to some Southern states’ refusal to accept judicial rulings on desegregation under presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy.

* * *

The boring name for these unwritten rules is “norms.” Boring or not, they’re at the center of the potential crisis over Donald Trump’s performance in office. By the letter of the Constitution, and by the unwritten norms of American separation-of-powers governance, the main restraint on an over-reaching, dishonest, or incompetent executive is a resolute legislative branch. But today’s legislative leaders—Mitch McConnell and his slim Republican majority in the Senate, Paul Ryan and his large Republican majority in the House—are ostentatiously refusing to play that check-and-balance function. They are operating as members of a tribe, the Republican tribe, rather than as components of a branch, the checks-and-balances legislative branch. Ryan has not “had time to read” the indictment of Donald Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort. McConnell wants to concentrate on the “real issues,” namely a tax-cut plan. (As I’ve been typing, I see that Ezra Klein has made a similar argument, on “The Cowardice of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.”)

Because the legislative majority is choosing a tribal rather than a governing role, the checks and balances necessary for democracy have fallen to an ad-hoc group of others. For instance:

  • The Generals: The positive news about foreign policy is supposed to be that a group of flag officers stands between Donald Trump and the next reckless military move. They are of course retired four-star General James Mattis of the Marine Corps and active-duty three-star General H.R. McMaster of the Army, heading the Pentagon and the National Security Council, respectively, and retired four-star Marine Corps General John Kelly as White House chief of staff.

    Mattis—whom I’ve known for decades, and liked and respected—is civic-minded, broadly informed, historically aware. Among all Trump appointees, he has best maintained his pre-Trump reputation and dignity. McMaster, who came to fame with his book about the career military’s failure to live up to its values during the Vietnam War, has walked a fine line, too often dragooned into service to explain away Trump’s lies, threats, or mistakes. With his recent comments, Kelly is either revealing himself as, or under Trump has become, a figure of crude Bannon-style divisiveness.

    But despite their differences, they’re all assumed to be the buffer that stands between the world and a Trump outburst that could lead to war with North Korea, with China, with almost any country you could name except Russia. In the short term, I’m glad they’re on the job. In the long term, their presence and importance is quite an unhealthy sign. This is not how “civilian control of the military” has usually looked.

    Remember why they’re playing this role: “The generals” are on guard against militaristic excess, because Congress has refused to play that role. Ryan in the House and McConnell in the Senate could hold hearings, pass resolutions, put on budget restraints, and in other ways set guidelines to guide and limit most of what a president can do. But they haven’t. They won’t. Thus for now we have the generals—better than nothing, much worse than Congress doing its job.
      
  • The Judges: The judiciary is of course a written-and-unwritten part of the checks-and-balances system. But federal courts work best and most sustainably when they are not the first resort for bitter political arguments but rather an ultimate referee.

    Many members of Congress, including many Republicans, know that the crude overreach of Trump’s travel bans and other executive orders will eventually force the courts to throw the orders out. (How can I say this? Because I’ve heard it from Republican legislators, as other reporters have. Not for quotation, of course.) But because they’d rather spare themselves the political heat of challenging Trump or making realistic immigration- or environmental-policy compromises, they deflect that political pressure onto the federal judiciary. They know full well that this will deflect the political backlash onto the judges, complete with Trump tweets and Fox segments on the “out of touch” and “unelected” judiciary. That is bad for the country but convenient for the Congress.
      
  • The Press: The investigative and analytic press is overall rising to the strange challenge of these times. And even in the best of times, the press should have an arm’s-length critical posture toward centers of political power. From the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts onward, government leaders have generally been steamed about the press.

    But most Republicans in Congress know—and those like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake who’ve decided not to run again have suddenly become willing to say, that on the main axes of Trump-press contention—the press is right and Trump is wrong. He does endlessly tell lies. He is temperamentally uncontrolled and intellectually unprepared for the office he holds. Those around him are not “the very best people” and are entangled in clouds of financial conflicts.

    Because Flake’s and Corker’s colleagues mainly remain silent, they abet Donald Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the press and promote his siloed, tribal version of Fox News reality.
      
  • The Prosecutor: Robert Mueller’s investigators and prosecutors clearly know what they are doing. But relying on governance-by-investigation is not a good long-term democratic model.

    The only thing that could make it worse is Republican equivocation about whether the investigation will be allowed to run its honest course. Paul Ryan minimized his short-term pain by pleading ignorance about the Mueller case. But everyone knows what he is doing (notably including John Boehner, as shown in this delightful new Politico profile). And as David Frum argued yesterday in The Atlantic, any calculation of self-interest beyond the next micro-second should lead Republicans to a more critical approach to Trump:

You need to wonder whether the avoidance of blowback from Fox News in November 2017 is worth the risks hurtling at you in the weeks ahead. The Trump administration’s authoritarian moment is on the verge of materializing. The president seems likely to openly stake a claim to use his position as head of the executive branch to exempt himself from all law enforcement. If the president can never obstruct justice, he can use the pardon power to protect himself and his associates from any investigation into criminal wrongdoing.

By speaking out today, you may dissuade the White House from staking the whole Republican Party to an authoritarian, anticonstitutional position. At a minimum, you protect yourself from answering for it. Nobody’s asking you to be a hero. Just think ahead beyond the next 10 minutes and 10 days to your own interests and future.

* * *

We all live in the here and now—for me, here is London, now is Halloween 2017. But people will look back on this now in a year, in a decade, in a century. Looking back on other times of democratic crisis—on the 1860s,  on the 1880s, on the 1930s, on the 1960s—historians come to harsh judgments of who met an obligation, and who shirked or looked away. The Republicans in Congress have made themselves willfully blind. They will be held culpable for this. It is time for them to see.

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duerig
16 days ago
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Some of this gets to the heart of the true nature of our national crisis. To the extent that our institutions resist Trump's madness, they become independent of any democratic control. To the extent that they succumb, they are part of the problem. Heads we lose, tails democracy loses.
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Bottom-up teaching

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We’re told that the core idea in computer programming is problem-solving. That one of the benefits of learning about computer programming (one that is not universally accepted) is gaining the skill of problem decomposition.

If you look at real teaching of computing, it seems to have more to do with solution composition than problem decomposition. The latter seems to be background noise: here are the things you can build solutions with, presumably at some point you’ll come across a solution that’s the same size and shape as one of your problem components though how is left up to you.

I have many books on programming languages. Each lists the features of the language, and gives minimally complex examples of the use of those features. In that sense, Kernighan and Ritchie’s “The C Programming Language” (section 1.3, the for statement) is as little an instructional in solving problems using a computer as Eric Nikitin’s “Into the Realm of Oberon” (section 7.1, the FOR loop) or Dave Thomas’s “Programming Elixir” (section 7.2, Using Head and Tail to Process a List).

A course textbook on bitcoin and blockchain (Narayanan, Bonneau, Felten, Miller and Goldfeder, “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies”) starts with Section 1.1, “Cryptographic hash functions”, and builds a cryptocurrency out of them, leaving motivational questions about politics and regulation to Chapter 7.

This strategy is by no means universal: Liskov and Guttag’s “Program Development in Java” starts out by describing abstraction, then looks at techniques for designing abstractions in Java. Adele Goldberg and Alan Kay described teaching Smalltalk by proposing exploratory projects, designing the objects that model the problem under consideration and the way in which they will communicate, then incrementally filling in by designing classes and methods that have the desired properties. C.J. Date’s “An Introduction to Database Systems” answers the question “why databases?” before introducing the relational model, and doesn’t introduce SQL until it can be situated in the context of the relational model.

Both of these approaches, and their associated techniques (the bottom-up approach and solution construction; the top-down approach and problem decomposition) are useful; the former leads to progress and the latter leads to understanding. But both must be taken in concert, because understanding without progress leads to the frustration of an unsolved problem and progress without understanding is merely the illusion of progress.

My guess is that more programmers – indeed whole movements, when we consider the collective state of things like OOP, functional programming, BDD, or agile practices – are in the “bottom-up only” group than in the “top-down only” or “a bit of both” groups. That plenty more copies of Introduction to Programming in [This Week’s Hot Language] have been sold than Techniques for Making Your Problem Amenable to Computation. That the majority of software really does comprise of solutions looking for problems.

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duerig
23 days ago
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Hmm. This is a bit odd to me. The author is absolutely right that there are two kinds of manuals. But the reason is that there are two audiences.

A new programmer needs to learn both what tools are available and how to apply those tools. So it would not be appropriate to hand a new programmer a K&R and expect them to pick up C in a few days.

On the other hand, a veteran programmer already has a mental toolkit available for how to break down problems. They know other languages. And learning a new language is about mapping their internal toolkit to this new syntax and semantics. Handing a veteran programmer a 'Learn problem decomposition with examples in C' book would not be useful.

It does not strike me as particularly correct that the C community has solutions in search of a problem while the Java commmunity is very problem-focused instead. Or vice versa. K&R and 'Program Development in Java' are speaking to two very different audiences. And there are other C books that focus more on problem solving while other Java books focus more on presenting the bare structure of the language.
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acdha
23 days ago
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I think about this every time I see some breathless optimization guide: how often would the reader have benefited from instead reading advice about making sure they solved the right problem or did so correctly?
Washington, DC

By You Can't Tip a Buick in ""He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation"" on MeFi

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Deep upthread someone asked how you win a debate against people who willfully disregard facts and reason.

If I have a political project in my participation in these threads, it's in observing the ways that people presume that political disputes are resolved through debate and reason, and then observing how in all of those cases those disputes are instead resolved through organization and action. All of those cases — I stand by the strong universalizing claim here.

So the way you beat them is by out-organizing them, by getting more people on our side than theirs, by denying them space in the room where decisions are made, through materially demonstrating that our side can beat their side, not in the domain of reasoned dispute but in the domain of who can get there the first with the most, in the domain of who can be sneakiest when being sneaky matters, in the domain of effectively disorganizing and demoralizing everyone not on our side.

Debate plays almost no role in this. Rhetoric, now rhetoric plays a huge role, as does propaganda, and effective knowledge of human psychology, and material resources — money, media outlets, control of institutional processes. Debate is a sideshow. Facts matter insofar as having the right facts can point you toward the most effective organizational strategy and the most effective way to disorganize your opponents, but simply having more accurate facts than the other side means nothing.

The reason why I am insistent on railing against liberal Enlightenment ideology is that it leads to miserable, ineffective tactics. There's a liberal idea, baked deep into our pre-2016 culture, that says that reasoned debate between formal equals is the best way to resolve disputes, and that therefore the best decision making processes involve constructing a sandbox where we pretend that reasoned debate is how disputes are resolved, and then act according to what we decide on within that sandbox. This idea was so deep in our culture that we forgot that the sandbox was a sandbox; we started to think that that was how the world really worked. And so, just like in 1933, we were helpless when people who recognized the sandbox was a sandbox walked over to the sandbox, took a healthy shit in it, then flipped the whole thing over.

The thing is, it's not just that the sandbox is susceptible to sudden major attack from outside, from people who are like "fuck debate I'm taking what I want." It's that the reality outside the sandbox of reasoned debate is always intruding, and reasoned debate is never determinative of decision-making processes, no matter how intent you are in establishing an abstraction that lets you think that reason rules. The bosses and the capital-owners always put their thumbs on the scale of reasoned debate by buying the participants and the judges, the cops always abuse their position as enforcers of law derived by reason to their own unreasoned benefit. The sandbox is a leaky abstraction; there's always buffer overruns and always people ready to exploit them.

This is why I'm always dismissive of people here and elsewhere who are like "well we just gotta fix our processes by [reforming campaign finance laws/doubling the size of the house of representatives/whatever weird shit Lessig is on about these days]. It's not about processes. It's about organized power. It's about who owns what. It's about who can convince whom of what, not about what's true or what's right. This is the distinction between left and liberal: liberal solutions involve funding fair processes — about trying to patch up the sandbox so we can go back to pretending reason rules — while left solutions are about acknowledging that the sandbox is impossible and (governed by our collective senses of fairness, justice, reason, empathy, and love) making those solutions real in the world.

This is a hard grim thing, though, because if you're coming from the liberal position you can pretend there's a rock-solid foundation for your actions. You can say "well, we have a process, and that process allows for decision making based on reasoned debate, and we followed that process and here's the result it yielded, so we know we have good reason to do what we're doing." If you admit that that foundation, which seems rock-solid, is built on sand, you have no way whatsoever to be certain that what you're doing is right. And because you can't rely on a process to ensure that the conditions you want remain extant, there is no end to the process of struggle — struggle informed by reason, but never governed by it, because reason can't govern, and if you trick yourselves into thinking reason can govern you've gone and made yourself susceptible to attack by nazi thugs who are quite eager indeed to show you your error.


It's a hell of a world we're living in. But living in it beats the alternatives.
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duerig
29 days ago
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It can be a useful corrective when somebody points out the implicit power relationships in society. Because it is easy to conflate the status quo with 'good' or 'just' or even 'neutral' and 'equal'. But every society has a pattern of power relations and we need to inspect the relations of our society and not blind ourselves to power imbalances.

On the other hand, it seems easy for people who think a lot about power relations to start thinking they are the only thing that matters. Reading this article, I'm left with no reason to ally with the 'left'. If the world really is just different groups competing for power, why should I root for one over the other? The only wise course of action in such a world is to ally with the side that will grant me the most power in exchange.

In order to have a reason to pick one side or another, I have to have more than the knowledge of power relations. I have to have a standard of truth and a standard of justice. If these are discarded in favor of the pursuit of organized power, then it doesn't matter who wins any more.

And this is where defending the process and the sandbox comes in. Because the institutions and processes of society aren't just imaginary, though they do depend on most people following them most of the time. They are also real. They are embodied in our law enforcement services (however flawed) and our elections (even if they don't go our way) and our property (even when unequally distributed). The sandbox isn't an automatic thing. And we have to recognize that it can be threatened and be willing to defend it. But it is a real thing that is worth defending.

The sandbox has been overturned many times in our history. Many of the people who did it had righteous causes and they were filled with a deep sense of fairness, justice, reason, empathy, and even love. But each time it happens, the blood of the tyrants is spilled, the blood of the weak is spilled, the blood of the powerless is spilled. And the new sandbox that was created still had power relations and injustice and unfairness and corruption. And the new tyrants oppressed the new weak and powerless.

The world is better now than it has been in centuries past. But it is not because of those who overturned the sandbox. It is because of those who spent years or decades slowly improving the sandbox they already lived in. Sometimes with better laws. Sometimes with new ways to prevent corruption. Sometimes just with a new way to till the land.
gazuga
24 days ago
This is what I mean about truly not knowing if the social justice left is ready for the power that arguably awaits them. Do they have a theory of power, actual honest-to-god political power, as opposed to the "etiquette of perfected gestures" (to quote Timothy Burke) many of them are so absorbed in? Can they hold together a coalition and get it pointed in the same direction? Many of these people are my friends, so I should be excited if the answer is yes. Then I read stuff like this and half root for them to keep screwing up.
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CrystalDave
29 days ago
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Which, not that I'm :100: down with this (I suspect the illusion-of-sandbox & trying to reinforce it as an ideal holds some value), but it's a hard thing to avoid grappling with, because the core point holds fairly well.

It's all well and good to hold to sandbox rules until someone comes along who wants their goal more than they want to avoid upsetting the sandbox, and forgetting the map/territory distinction there means getting blindsided.

See also: Yonatan Zunger's Tolerance as Treaty, not Moral Precept article & similar.
Seattle, WA
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