Links 9/16/14

Links for you. Science:

We Could Have Stopped This: Public health officials knew Ebola was coming. They know how to defeat it. But they’re blowing it anyway.
Giant shrimp as long as your arm caught off Florida coast
Goodbye Latin, hello English for science papers (this is not a gag)
Multi-sample SNP calling circa 1994

Other:

Raising the minimum wage without raising havoc
On the Abuse of ‘Bro': The most important word of our time for now
What Every High School Junior Should Know About Going to College (the real issue is that college is so expensive, failing to finish is crippling)
When people ask rape victims “why didn’t you report it/why didn’t you go to the hospital?
Where is my future? I want static analysis and I want futuristic women
Amazon Warriors Fight for Their Trees
Civility, Outrage
Miscarriage Isn’t Illegal, But It’s Increasingly Treated With Suspicion
Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks
Good bosses aren’t good enough
When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2
Why not kill them all?
Meet The Press – September 7, 2014 – the Bobblespeak Translation Edition

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This Defines Toothless Regulation

Those from the mighty heights of American bidness are always quick to sound the alarm of ‘Too Much Regulation.’ And then we read this about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (boldface mine):

The agency has also not made full use of its legal powers in investigating automakers, which include an ability to force the recall of vehicles and to issue subpoenas to obtain information and documents. In congressional testimony this spring, Mr. Friedman, the agency’s acting head, appeared to have limited knowledge of some of the agency’s legal powers and its history of exercising them. Under questioning by senators, Mr. Friedman indicated he did not realize the agency could issue subpoenas.

Asked by The Times how many subpoenas the agency had issued over the past 10 years, the agency did not offer a direct reply. The agency “routinely issues information requests and special orders” under federal law “to demand information and documents from auto manufacturers and automotive equipment suppliers,” it said.

But too much regulation, BARGLE, BARGLE….

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The Definition of Insanity, Also Known As the U.S. Foreign Policy Establishment

The old saw “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results” certainly applies to our Middle East foreign policy. Regarding the increasing drumbeat for another war in Iraq, Lance Mannion asks:

Should we do nothing? Why or why not? What should we do and how would that work? And what I want to know, more than that you were right about Iraq in 2002, is if you think Bill Clinton failed morally and geo-politically when he did nothing about Rwanda.

Also what are your thoughts on Kuwait, the Kurds, Kosovo, Tora Bora, killing bin Laden, and Libya?

So I’m going to build on a comment I left over at Lance’s joint. Over the last 20 years, every time (with one exception) we have intervened militarily (and airstrikes are an intervention–just ask those on the receiving end), we have ended up making things worse, especially over the long-term (Kuwait*, Iraq, Syria, Libya). The one exception to this was piracy in Somalia, where our allies were sincerely on-board (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) with stopping piracy–that is, our allies were allies, not ‘allies’ (nobody really liked those guys). In that limited situation, we were successful in stopping piracy, even though Islamic militancy can still be found there). Might be a lesson in there somewhere.

Our long, glorious epic of failure suggests that our foreign policy establishment, including government officials, the chattering classes, and many foreign policy ‘experts’has no #$%^&! clue as how to conduct a foreign policy initiative with a military component. Since this establishment has a cycle time far longer than than a presidential term, to a considerable extent, Obama isn’t the issue here.

Obama, to his credit, has had a notable success in removing weapons of mass destruction (gas weapons) from Syria–just in time it would appear. But that was mostly a diplomatic initiative, not a military one.

At some point, we need to realize that our foreign policy establishment simply can’t ‘win a war’–or at least the wars they want to fight. I want to repeat that key point: even though the average U.S. battalion, with appropriate air and artillery support, can unleash far more devastation than the Roman Legions could have ever dreamt of, we have failed spectacularly in the Middle East. Even when we have been successful in the short term (‘militarily’), in the long-term, the consequences have been disastrous.

Why would we expect the same foreign policy establishment to be right this time? We should recognize that it is fundamentally incapable of advancing U.S. interests (I’m working under the naive assumption that perpetual war is not a U.S. interest…). Leaving aside the various moral and ethical questions, there is no evidence that suggests we will be any more successful this time.

Perhaps then, we should stop fighting these wars?

*As a result of the first Gulf War, the U.S. stationed troops in Saudi Arabia which greatly angered Wahabiists, including a guy named Osama bin Laden.

Posted in Iraq, Libya, Syria | 2 Comments

Links 9/15/14

Links for you. Science:

So You Want to Understand Bayes’ Theorem and/or Look at Photos of Cats
California blue whales, once nearly extinct, are back at historic levels
Are YOU Jack The Ripper? No. And neither’s Aaron Kosminski
Climate change could leave sharks unable to hunt
Animal Traffic

Other:

Between the Peacekeepers and the Protesters in Ferguson
The Treasonous 32: Four-Fifths of Black Caucus Help Cops Murder Their Constituents
Dignity: Fast-food workers and a new form of labor activism.
Lies, damned lies, and abortion statistics
Has Apple Pay Just Put Apple in the CFPB’s Crosshairs?
Settlements, lies and land grabs: Israel’s government lied to the U.S. 47 years ago when it set up Gush Etzion’s first settlement. Will the U.S. response to a massive new land takeover remain as ineffectual as back then?
Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent (in my experience, this isn’t surprising at all)
Friends of Israel: The lobbying group AIPAC has consistently fought the Obama Administration on policy. Is it now losing influence?
A Wee Question About the Residual Force Everyone Keeps Blathering About
Understanding Piketty, part 5 (conclusion)
The Fatal Flaw Of Education Reform
The Washington Post pretends to report on Connecticut’s public schools
Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness
Price Tag on Old Insulin Skyrockets
Sweater boys and the failure to serve
On Truth and Burning Bridges
Chipotle Workers Quit, Shut Down Store, Because That Job Sucks

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Freedom Place

Observed on S Street, Kalorama, D.C.:

Freedom court

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Make Those Who Govern the Metro Ride the Metro

Over the last week, as I was dealing with DC’s creaking Metro rail system (aka ‘the Metro’), I thought to myself, “I wonder how many of the fuckers charged with the Metro’s oversight actually use it?” Related to that scintillating insight, we bring you this story about Houston’s Metro (boldface mine):

“There are way too many people working on transit who don’t actually ride transit,” he says. “If you’re going to be making decisions about transit, you really need to know what it’s actually like. Not what it’s like in theory, but what it’s actually like. “

The problem is familiar to transit leadership across the country. In August, a San Francisco Examiner op-ed challenged the people who run Muni to “actually ride Muni.” Last year, an analysis of Chicago’s CTA found that the board chair rode the system only 18 times in 2012, and a Washington Post survey found many D.C. Metro board members either couldn’t or wouldn’t “name the exact bus lines or rail stops they used regularly.” In 2008, the vice chair of New York’s MTA board famously asked: “Why should I ride and inconvenience myself when I can ride in a car?”

Such a practice would be unimaginable in private industries—think of an Apple employee using a PC—and Spieler thinks the same should go for public transportation. The importance of service frequency, or rather the immense frustration of infrequency, is hard to grasp for someone whose car is always ready and waiting. The mindset that agencies should only care about customers when they’re on a transit vehicle, but not during their walk to the station, is also an artifact of inexperience, he says….

Metro cemented this new leadership culture by establishing a policy that required senior management to ride the system at least 40 times a month. Spieler believes all city agencies and transit boards and even design firms should self-impose similar mandates. That’s not just to improve the system; it’s also a credibility thing, both among lower-level staff and the public. Spieler recalls a time when he introduced himself to a bus rider and got the following response: “A board member on a bus? I thought you only did this for photo opps.”

Not only are the D.C. Metro board members keeping quiet, but it would appear, based on their biographies, that most of them aren’t using the Metro at all. As the Atlantic article notes, it’s really important to use the system on a regular basis. You discover all sorts of quirks, like being told that the Dupont Circle up escalators at the South exit (where’s there are no elevators either) are broken (‘out of order’ seems too civil) only after you pass through the gates. This sounds only mildly annoying until one realizes that these escalators are 188 feet long (319 steps). I usually walk up the escalator anyway (though it’s a lot harder when they’re not moving), but I’ve seen middle-aged and elderly people have real difficulty.

Board members who had to experience this might give a damn.

Posted in Transportation | 1 Comment

Links 9/14/14

Links for you. Science:

Oxford Takes Some Flak, Fires Back
Long Term Direction of Nanopore Sequencing – Three Ways from Here
Reanalysis Lays Bare MinION Review’s Spectacular Flaws
Thoughts on Oxford Nanopore’s MinION mobile DNA sequencer
Don’t Pet the Fuzzy Caterpillar

Other:

Gene Simmons: ‘Rock Is Finally Dead’. The Kiss rocker expands on his thoughts about the past, present, and future of recorded music (this is really good. No, really)
10 Reasons Young Women Absolutely Need to Vote in the Midterms
When Neighborhood Re-Branding Celebrates What’s Disappearing: “Branding” revamped neighborhoods for a barely past history can feel like a backhanded homage.
The American fear-mongering machine is about to scare us back into war again (related thoughts here)
OH NO KEVIN SORBO!
How your new smartwatch will work
The college degree has become the new high school degree
Doubts cast on witness’s account of black man killed by police in Walmart (frightened white man sets off tragic chain of events)
It’s Open Carry for Whites and Open Season on Blacks
This is the speech Obama would give on ISIS if he were brutally honest
New College Rankings Remind Us Of What’s Wrong With American Higher Education
Senator: Arlington Is a ‘Soulless Suburb’ (she shouldn’t have apologized; she’s right)
On Sunday, 3rd September 1967, Sweden changed from driving on the left to driving on the right. This is what happened
The dream behind Boston’s forbidding Government Service Center: Architect Paul Rudolph’s love of the sublime ended up creating a downtown fortress — but may yet offer a new vision for the city
Southern secessionist group forming paramilitary unit called the “Indomitables” (traitors)

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