Politics Potpourri

Dated Dec 15, 2020; last modified on Mon, 06 Sep 2021

State Surveillance

In the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, FBI was contacting people whose cellphones pinged cell towers near the Capitol during the riots.

A powered mobile phone always sends signals to one of the closest base stations. Given multiple base stations, the angle and time of arrival, and location signatures of each cell location can be used to locate a mobile device. The higher the density of cell towers, the more precise the calculated location.

LAPD requested Ring footage of BLM protests. Ring has partnerships with law enforcement, e.g. enabling them to make bulk requests to Ring users. Despite the requests being optional, users may be coerced into cooperating. Propositions: LEO must have reasonable suspicion & the request must be specific to a time and place, LEO must publish stats about their consent searches of electronic devices, a person’s consent should be as narrowly construed as possible, and LEO must notify the person of their legal right to refuse.


There exist datasets for how legislators vote in Congress. Intellectual puzzles abound, e.g. # dimensions needed to meaningfully predict voting, party loyalty of members, etc.

The outgroup is better defined as proximity + differences. If you’re part of the Blue Tribe, your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or atheists - it’s the Red Tribe. Actual tolerance is hard, because it requires tolerating the out-group. Discrimination based on partyism was found stronger than that of race (but racism is still worse because of the imbalance in numbers and in resources).


  1. Interpretational Challenges with Ideal Point Models. John Myles White. http://www.johnmyleswhite.com/notebook/2019/01/20/interpretational-challenges-with-ideal-point-models/ . Jan 19, 2019.
  2. LAPD Requested Ring Footage of Black Lives Matter Protests. Guariglia, Matthew; Maass, Dave. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2021/02/lapd-requested-ring-footage-black-lives-matter-protests . Feb 16, 2021.
  3. I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup. Scott Alexander. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/30/i-can-tolerate-anything-except-the-outgroup/ . Sep 30, 2014. Accessed Sep 6, 2021.