Links 7/28/14

Links for you. Science:

Why NGOs can’t be trusted on GMOs
Why Seven Hours of Sleep Might Be Better Than Eight
Scientific Misbehavior in Economics: Unacceptable research practice linked to perceived pressure to publish.
How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth


Charter Conversations (excellent)
After 10 years at work, teachers in some states make less than $40,000
We are Israeli reservists. We refuse to serve.
D.C. Region: Number One In Late Mail Delivery
The Undying Filibuster Myth
Halbig said it was applying the law as written. Don’t believe it.
S.C. tax rule creates a way to profit by funding private school scholarships
Hall of Mirrors: Wikileaks volunteer helped build Tor, was funded by the Pentagon
The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist
Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
Civil Conversations Are Honest Conversations
Deficit scolds are the most crazed ideologues in America: Ron Fournier’s economics are garbage. But that won’t stop him and his ilk from banging the deficit drum.
Conservatives Find Typo in Obamacare, Try to Kill People With It
The Siege of Detroit: A War of Black Urban Removal

Posted in Lotsa Links | 3 Comments

We Are a Nation of Stupids

By way of Kevin Drum, we come across a Gallup poll with the following results:


Look at the third and fifth statement. They are the exact opposite of each other, yet 63 percent favor the third and 56 percent favor the fifth.

How is this possible?

This explains a lot, I think.

Posted in Fucking Morons, Polling | 4 Comments

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan Wants to Create Massive Government Bureaucracy

Last week, supposed conservative intellectual heavyweight Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Let Them Eat Block Grants) released an anti-poverty plan in an attempt to humanize both conservatism and himself (good luck with that). It’s essentially libertarian business school dweeb meets compassionate conservatism. Anyway, it’s already been noted that it would hurt the poor, especially during economic downturns–when they and the economy as a whole need all they help they can get. The block grants to states is a time-honored way to weaken federal programs and to allow states where they believe life starts at contraception and ends at Honduran to screw the needy. Jared Bernstein channels my Uncle Harry (“rich or poor, it’s always good to have money”) and notes that the poor are poor because they don’t earn enough. But this is the part of Ryan’s plan that floors me (boldface mine):

The underlying thesis is that those who are closest to actual poor people will be best able to figure out how to help them. But Ryan fails to take this idea to its end conclusion: that poor people themselves, being the closest to their own situations, are the most knowledgable about what they need to improve their lives. Instead, his proposal calls for low-income people to meet with providers to create a “customized life plan,” a contract that includes goals and benchmarks, as well as penalties for missing any steps.

In describing what this would look like, Ryan outlines the minimum requirements:

• A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success

• A timeline for meeting these benchmarks

• Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract

• Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract

• Time limits for remaining on cash assistance

There would be bonuses for people who meet their goals ahead of time, such as finding a job before the time allotted, although the bonus wouldn’t likely come in the form of cash but in something like a savings bond. But if they miss those goals — say, in the current American economy where there are more than two job seekers for every opening, they struggle to find a job in that time period — the poor person would face consequences, “most likely immediate sanctions and a reduction in benefits,” Ryan writes.

An entirely different approach would take out the middle man of the providers and let poor people decide for themselves how best to improve their lives. This could be done by simply giving money, without strings attached, to the poor.

Essentially, what Paul Ryan wants to do is create a government bureaucracy to monitor these ‘contracts’ (or, maybe monitor the Social Contract?). Conservatives have spent the last forty years railing against this very thing. Of course, people will disagree about whether they hit these ‘benchmarks’, so we’ll need to hire people to adjudicate that process. More ‘big government.’ It also opens people up to the predations and whims of ‘petty government bureaucrats.’ Maybe some will be lenient and kind, others might not. Seems like there are plenty of opportunities for abusing and preying on the needy–which already happens.

When you look at the two of the most successful anti-poverty programs, Social Security and SNAP, they don’t involve a lot of monitoring (SNAP does have some limits on what can be bought). They just disburse money to those who need it. Ryan’s plan isn’t liberalism, it’s liberalism as designed by a fucking moron who hasn’t been paying attention for the last three decades. This idiocy is not a bug, but a feature–it is intentional (boldface mine):

Here’s the thing. There’s nothing in the plan and there’s nothing in anything he’s said about it that even hints that he’s changed his mind about why the poor are poor—dependency on government aid has made them lazy—and how they need to get out of their hammocks and get to work or work harder if they are working and be more like…well, Paul Ryan….

There’s enough that’s not awful in Ryan’s new plan to give Ezra Klein the opportunity to amuse himself imagining how it could work to actually help some people besides millionaires who want their taxes cut ifif it was administered by people Paul Ryan and his masters in the Republican-controlled house would die before they’d let get their hands on it—that is, technocratically-minded liberals with a mild fondness for the memory of Franklin Roosevelt. Truer-hearted liberals with a real commitment to the memory of FDR are likely to see it as the con it is and toss it back to Ryan with a thanks but no thanks.

It’s just kinder, gentler flim-flammery.

Posted in Basic Human Decency, Conservatives | 2 Comments

Links 7/27/14

Links for you. Science:

Sixth-Grader May Have Stolen Marine Biologist’s Lionfish Research (actually, the father; she might not have known)
How long was the average Roman foot, and what was their shoe size?
Bayesianism — a dangerous religion that harms science
Sequenced in the U.S.A.: A Desperate Town Hands Over Its DNA
Conducting a Microbiome Study


Affordable Chaos
ISIS Torches 1800-Year-Old Mosul Church After Expelling Christians
Yes, Robert E. Lee Supported Slavery, the Confederacy and Its Battle Flag
U.S. Officials: MH17 Missile May Have Been Launched By a “Defector from The Ukrainian Military Who Was Trained To Use Similar Missile Systems”
Do you believe Massachusetts tech is major league?
The most dangerous intersections in Washington
France’s Jews Flee As Rioters Burn Paris Shops, Attack Synagogue
An Open Letter to Boston’s Green B Line: Ode to the train of dissapointment
The VA scandal exposes the folly of metrics (wrote about similar healthcare problems here)
Cuomo’s Office Hobbled State Ethics Inquiries
Chilling Map Shows Boston With A 7.5-Foot Coastal Flood
Just when did America stop being America?

Posted in Lotsa Links | 2 Comments

Flour Power

Observed at Alberto’s Pizza, Dupont Circle (and they make a good thin crust pizza):

Flour power

Posted in DC | 2 Comments

Hi-Tech Meets High Broderism

Meet the new Compulsive Centrist Disorder, same as the old one (boldface mine):

It comes in handy as the San Francisco entrepreneur leads Brigade, the high-profile, highly funded civic engagement platform.

Sean Parker – the billionaire early Facebook investor – has contributed the bulk of Brigade’s $9.3 million in early funding, with venture capitalist Ron Conway and founder Marc Benioff chipping in undisclosed amounts. That’s about three times as much as other well-funded civic sites usually corral at this stage. The cash infusion has allowed Brigade to hire top Silicon Valley talent.

“We love to joke that the way to build the platform to revolutionize politics is to not make it about politics,” said Mahan, 31, as the CEO sat in the second-floor headquarters of Brigade’s South of Market office.

But there is a major challenge in trying to use technology to encourage people to get involved. A smartphone, it turns out, is a better platform for summoning a taxi than participating in a civil discussion about gun rights.

“The limits of technology in politics is politics,” said Brigade President James Windon. “There are exigencies and idiosyncrasies that go into the political process that are irrational. Technology usually doesn’t have to deal with those exigencies and idiosyncrasies.”

Brigade’s goal is to create a nonpartisan place that people would visit every day – not just during the two weeks before election day. It would be a place where they could discuss the issues of the day, share news stories and organize.

…Brigade would also provide what Mahan calls “feedback loops,” so users can see what their collective actions are doing and how decision makers are reacting….

Still, Windon is confident that idealism can be a money-maker.

“If we can capture people’s attention,” Windon said, “we will have a monetizable product.”

Nonpartisan? If the slow steady demise of ‘non-partisan’ news and the rise of Fox News are any indication, people want partisan news. Politics, at its worst (and not-so-worst-but-still-pretty-fugly), is mostly no-holds barred. Then there are the decision makers. The last thing they want to do is let other people see how they are reacting, unless those reactions paint them in a favorable light (at which point, the fuckers just don’t shut up).

A very silly waste of $9.3 million.

Posted in Compulsive Centrist Disorder, Fucking Morons | 1 Comment

Links 7/26/14

Links for you. Science:

They’re Here: Massive Mayfly Emergence in Wisconsin
Exciting findings in schizophrenia genetics – but what do they mean?
U.S. CDC says it ‘may never know’ how bird flu mishap occurred
An investigation of the false discovery rate and the misinterpretation of P values (I wrote about an earlier version of this here)


Failing the Third Machine Age: When Robots Come for Grandma. Why “caregiver robots” are both inhuman and economically destructive (it’s the Judge Dredd economy)
The waste of war (very good)
One more time: The Republicans have no incentive to moderate
Women Who are Ambivalent about Women Against Women Against Feminism
How Forbes got to $475 million
Harry Reid Might Have Saved Obamacare by Going Nuclear: The ACA subsidies decision likely will be overturned by the full appeals court
Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block: A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from to YouPorn. (Ghostery blocks it)
A look back at the early days of D.C.’s bicycling laws
Secrets of New York’s realtors: ‘All apartments are basically four walls': How to find the client, seal the deal and collect the broker’s fee? The training manual issued to realtors at one New York firm, seen by the Guardian, reveals all
‘Terror Reporting’ Has Gone Way Too Far
Limousine liberalism’s good works

Posted in Lotsa Links | 1 Comment