Links 5/22/15

Links for you. Science:

Tiny Frogs and Giant Spiders: Best of Friends
Evolution, the Environment, and Religion
Everybody Else Is Doing It…
How Three Scientists ‘Marketed’ Neglected Tropical Diseases And Raised More Than $1 Billion
Highly Contagious, Antibiotic-Resistant Food Poisoning Establishes U.S. Presence (wrote about this here)


How a Fish Sandwich Became a Symbol of Shaw’s Changes: Fishnet’s $12 sandwich reminded its owner of his youth in Turkey. It reminded longtime residents of something else. (very interesting)
Squaring The Circular Firing Squad
Notes on the [UK] election
Why Radicals Like Bernie Sanders Should Run As Democrats, Not Independents
Go ahead, tick off the Saudis (and the Israelis, too)
What Do Rich Countries Have in Common? Big Government
No, the GOP Has Not Lost Its Lust for War
How D.C. pot legalization has become ‘the dealer-protection act of 2015’
In early power struggle with council, D.C. mayor could win battle, lose war
Consuming wealth without spending a dime
Assault on Justice
Why your cubicle should become your bedroom in D.C.
The In-State Tuition Break, Slowly Disappearing
The bad math
DCPS’ Biggest Challenge, in One Chart
Stopping some military equipment transfers to police is a start, but only a start

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Links 5/22/15

Links for you. Science:

We’ve been imagining mountains all wrong, say scientists
Senators create new caucus on NIH funding
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen
A Way to Brew Morphine Raises Concerns Over Regulation
Reproducibility crisis: Blame it on the antibodies


Jeb Bush Says His Brother Was Misled Into War By Faulty Intelligence. That’s Not What Happened. (must-read)
After 25 years, the verdict is in: Drug courts embolden judges to practice medicine without a license—and they put lives in danger.
Wild West Warfare in Waco
Why race is the main reason the murderous bloodbath in Waco was handled with velvet gloves (though part of the reason is that the cops are outgunned)
Bright Young Flacks: “Cameron’s Cronies” now drive Silicon Valley’s most sinister propaganda machine
The Middle School Effect
Campaign reporters: you are granted no “role in the process.” It is your powers against theirs.
How one politician wants to quiet down D.C.’s noisy bars
Biker Arrested Following Waco Bloodbath Lobbied At Texas Capitol For Looser Gun Laws
Ala. Reading Intervention Stands Test of Time (the one potential confounding factor is that parental education matters, and NAEP doesn’t provide that information for Reading scores)
Lesson for Bill Daley, TPP Promoter, the United States is a Big Country
Greek Mayor Flip-Flops Over Holocaust Memorial Unveiling (“On the bright side, only 38% said “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.””)
Imports Displace Domestic Jobs: Why Do Proponents of Trade Agreements Have So Much Trouble Acknowledging This Fact?
Restoring the Public’s Trust in Economists
When The Gang-bangers Are White Guys
Marriage Is About To Hit An All-Time Low. That’s A Good Thing.
Paid Leave and Silicon Valley’s Culture of Disregard for Workers’ Rights (the last sentence is key)

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Sadly, Our Libertarian Overlords Will Not Be Going Galt

More’s the pity. A while ago, I noted the inherent problems with the libertarian dream of starting their own artificial island countries:

First, they live in apartment buildings. Like it or not, they’ll need housing codes. For instance, can you smoke in the building? Smoke in apartment buildings, even nice ones, tends to enter other apartments. What constitutes a disturbance? One person’s annoying racket is someone else’s late night beautiful tuba serenade. Keep in mind, this will be a self-selected community of people who hate being told what to do. Then look at the park in the front left corner. Will dogs be allowed in it? Will owners have to clean up after the dogs? Will dogs be kept on leashes? What if people damage the grass? And let’s think about the swimming pool. Will people be allowed to listen to radios while sitting next to it? Kinda annoying for the people who live surrounding the pool. Will late night cannonballs be allowed?

…The real question is what happens to rule breakers, or, even those who simply are on the ‘losing side’ of a decision. You will need some kind of enforcement mechanism to expel lawbreakers anti-Galtian personalities.

This all sounds kinda like gummint. AAAIIIEEE!!!

Well, it appears that some libertarians have grown up a little (boldface mine):

Building a government, it turns out, is a more complex challenge than much of Silicon Valley would have you believe. Now, Thiel and other high-profile Silicon Valley investors are carefully taking stock of the anti-government view they helped popularize. For all Thiel’s open criticism of elected officials, he sounded remarkably like a politician recanting false promises on the stage at George Mason. Toward the end of the talk, he reflected for a moment on his early essay on seasteading. “Writing is always such a dangerous thing,” he said. “It was late at night. I quickly typed it off.

This should probably serve as a warning to those who hang on every pronouncement by tech titans. Let’s continue:

Some investors see tech culture’s popular stance against regulation as counterproductive. Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, says, “I hope all of these people who want to live in an unregulated island paradise get their island, because then they’ll stop complaining so much.” To Altman, regulators are too quickly dismissed as an obstacle to innovation, which overlooks the role of government in helping startups succeed. This outlook contrasts sharply with the dominant narrative that defines billion-dollar-plus startups such as Uber and Airbnb. Their rise is understood as a function of their willingness to defy government. In this storyline, regulators are purely adversaries.

But such a view discounts the essential support that government provides, says Jim Dempsey, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. Dempsey argues there should be greater recognition of the extent to which startups benefit from government infrastructure. “I can guarantee that if you don’t have a legal structure you will not have innovation,” he says. “Instead you will have chaos.” In every sector of technology, bodies of law allow entrepreneurs to thrive, Dempsey points out. “Why do people feel perfectly comfortable forming a startup when they know that 90 percent of them fail? Because they know that corporate laws and bankruptcy laws protect them from personal liability. They know that they won’t lose their house if the company goes bust.”

Some of the most explosive tech companies today benefit intensely from various pockets of regulation: Spotify and Netflix (without copyright law, for instance, no one would pay for those services); Lyft and Uber (ever been to a country without paved roads?); Stripe, Square, and even much of Mr. Thiel’s early success at PayPal (without SEC regulations to limit our financial losses on identity theft, who would so freely hand out their credit card information?). And don’t forget the Internet itself, which began as a scientific communications network started by the government.

Amazing what a little personal maturity will lead to.

Posted in Conservatives, Fucking Morons | 3 Comments

When Palinism Collides With Infrastructure

I suppose collides isn’t the best choice of words. Anyway, Adam Gopnik has an excellent piece in the New Yorker that points out what drives much of the opposition to mass transit infrastructure, including trains (boldface mine):

“The reason we don’t have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; it’s that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply symbols of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal.” The ideological rigor of this idea, as absolute in its way as the ancient Soviet conviction that any entering wedge of free enterprise would lead to the destruction of the Soviet state, is as instructive as it is astonishing. And it is part of the folly of American “centrism” not to recognize that the failure to run trains where we need them is made from conviction, not from ignorance….

What we have, uniquely in America, is a political class, and an entire political party, devoted to the idea that any money spent on public goods is money misplaced, not because the state goods might not be good but because they would distract us from the larger principle that no ultimate good can be found in the state. Ride a fast train to Washington today and you’ll start thinking about national health insurance tomorrow….

Trains have to be resisted, even if it means more pollution and massive inefficiency and falling ever further behind in the amenities of life—what Olmsted called our “commonplace civilization.”

As I’ve noted before, movement conservatism has completely surrendered to this impulse–what I call Palinism (boldface added):

While people have described Palin as engaging in identity politics, that sells identity politics short. Palin along with the proto-movement surrounding her–Palinism–practices what could be call ‘politics of the blood.’ It’s derived from Giovanni Gentile’s description of fascism: “We think with our blood.” …In Palin’s case, it’s an emotional appeal to a romanticized, mythical past of “real America.” And that’s why I think the fixation people have on Palin’s complete policy incoherence and ignorance is missing the point.

Her policy ignorance isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Palin is conceptually and intellectually poor because her politics are not about policies, but a romantic restoration of the ‘real’ America to its rightful place. The primary purpose of politics is not to govern, not to provide services, and not to solve mundane, although often important, problems. For the Palinist, politics first and foremost exists to enable the social restoration of ‘real’ Americans (think about the phrase “red blooded American”) and the emotional and social advantages that restoration would provide to its followers (obviously, if you’re not a ‘real’ American, you might view this as a bad thing…). Practicalities of governance, such as compromise and worrying about reality-based outcomes, actually get in the way. Why risk having your fantasy muddied by reality?

In this way, symbols and short phrases are the goal, not a means (although others, such as corporations and lobbyists, are willing to co-opt the emotions these symbols generate to further their own agendas).

And thanks to these bozos, our public transportation is awful.

Posted in Conservatives, Transportation | 4 Comments

Links 5/21/15

Links for you. Science:

U.S. Introduces New DNA Standard for Ensuring Accuracy of Genetic Tests
London Calling Day 1: Highlights
When Humans Declared War on Fish
The Cro-Magnons Have No Descendants in Europe Today
Did sexual equality fuel the evolution of human cooperation? (as best as I can tell, the ‘men luvs the boobeez!’ pseudo-evolution crowd isn’t touting this, as odd as that might be…)


Poor Little Rich Women (one more reason to crank up the marginal tax rate)
How Jeb Bush Triggered an Iraq War Watershed
White Out: Why integrating America’s neighborhoods and cities is harder than we think.
Highways gutted American cities. So why did they build them?
Amtrak’s Failure to Gain Wireless Spectrum Rights Stymied Safety Technology
Bernie Sanders to Introduce Bill to Make College Tuition-Free
Neighbors of CrossFit Gyms Strain for the Sound of Silence
Is Gentrification Fueling Police Brutality in San Francisco?
Congressman who advised ex-wife to seek abortion votes for late-term abortion ban
Emily Farris Is Not Running for President
Have We Wasted Over a Decade?
Progressives can’t trust Hillary Clinton: What’s behind her bizarre alliance with the Christian right?
Mistakes made with teacher evaluation scores, CPS admits
Let the Kids Learn Through Play
Canada Just Threw A Grenade Into Elizabeth Warren’s Trade Fight With Obama
Clinton’s Unethical Behavior Has Already Been Well Established–And It Has Nothing To Do With The Right

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Paradise Wet

Strelitzia reginae observed on Corcoran Street, between 13th and 14th, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Wet paradise

Posted in DC | 2 Comments

The Master of Humility Shifts the Iraq War Goalposts

Very humbly, of course.

Recently, David Brooks scribbled a mea culpa about his support for the Iraq War that was heavy on the mea and very light on the culpa. While many people have taken apart Brookscolumn, there’s one (more) disturbing part that hasn’t received much attention:

These are all data points in a larger education — along with the surge and the recent withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wind up in a place with less interventionist instincts than where George W. Bush was in 2003, but significantly more interventionist instincts than where President Obama is inclined to be today.

I, for one, think the deaths of many thousands of people is worth it if Brooks receives “a larger education.” (Is our pundits learning?) But that’s not worst thing. It’s how Brooks attempts to position himself as a moderate between the supposed poles of Bush and Obama. Which is to say, Brooks is implying the only ‘serious’ positions are either full-scale invasion or (imprecisely) targeted assassinations–and I’m old enough to remember when it was considered taboo for a president to openly argue for assassination (international law ‘n shit).

Maybe there’s a third policy option here, one that doesn’t primarily revolve around blowing shit up? What’s really insidious about the op-ed is that Brooks is attempting to ‘define out’ diplomacy: we can have little military strikes or big ones, but those are the only two options.

Brooks hasn’t learned a fucking thing at all.

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