Links 1/27/15

Links for you. Science:

The Fashion Challenges of the Emperor of Hepatitis C Treatment – Now in the BMJ, but Who Will Notice?
The Disneyland measles outbreak and the disgraced doctor who whipped up vaccination fear (most public health problems aren’t technological, but due to human stupidity)
Fast-tracked Ebola vaccine offers fresh hope
Fast Track on Drug for Ebola Has Faltered
Urban Ecologists Are Studying How Wildlife Have Evolved to Fit Their City Environment, Block by Block


Why people hate economics, in one lesson
No New Companies Stepped Up to Sponsor the MBTA’s Late-Night Service (because maybe government should do this?)
Metro: Radio issues with firefighters slowed communication in fatal train incident
Mercedes imagines passengers in driverless cars never interacting with the world outside (except for the traffic jams…)
When did letting your kids walk home alone become a crime?
The Lesson That Market Leaders Are Failing To Learn From Xerox PARC
The American decline in driving actually began way earlier than you think
America’s best-selling cars and trucks are built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise
The Trials Of Louie Gohmert, Congressman
The Poor People’s Campaign: the little-known protest MLK was planning when he died
The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership
Your Home Is Your Prison: How to Lock Down Your Neighborhood, Your Country, and You
What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
If you were trapped in a smoke-filled Metro train, what would you have done?
The Race Card, circa 1871
Why we fear and admire the military sniper: Since long before ‘American Sniper,’ we’ve had deeply conflicted feelings about the man who shoots to kill
Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

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Why Mayor Bowser Is Reluctant to Criticize WMATA

A couple of weeks ago, there was a horrible fire in the D.C. Metro, causing one death and dozens of hospitalizations. It’s unclear if this was a result of poor maintenance and safety inspection or just bad luck, but the emergency response was awful.

What noticeable is that almost of all of the local officials have made the appropriate pissed-off noises and called for investigations (that many of these same politicians are responsible for underfunding the Metro…well, no reason to be rude): congressmen and senators from Maryland and Virginia (as well as our non-voting D.C. Congressman) along with state governors.

The one glaring exception is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (boldface mine):

As questions have mounted and the volume of the blame game has grown louder over last week’s fatal smoke incident on Metro, one public figure has struck a notably cautious, nonconfrontational profile: D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser….

Bowser (D) has said that drawing conclusions would be “premature,” that commenting with a federal investigation underway is “irresponsible.” She considers it a duty not to rush to judgment — even as Metro riders are clamoring for answers, as well as some assurance that the region’s subway system is safe.

The crisis has provided an early test of Bowser’s leadership style and, by some accounts, it has defined the outset of her term. Nearly every day since the incident on Jan. 12 — Bowser’s 11th day in office — has brought a new example of her measured approach….

Bowser appeared to defend Metro when, the day after the incident, she said that “the safety culture has dramatically improved” — a remark that prompted critics to say that she was speaking as a former Metro board member and not as the District’s mayor.

She declined to blame Metro even when her administration concluded that after Metro’s initial call for help, 20 minutes elapsed before Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials told firefighters that there was a train carrying passengers stopped in the smoke-filled tunnel.

And Bowser declined to comment when the National Transportation Safety Board said it took 35 minutes for Metro to cut power to the tunnel’s dangerous third rail, perhaps delaying firefighters’ rescue of passengers.

This isn’t an issue of style. I write this as someone who voted for her: one of her biggest liabilities is that she was a former Metro board member. Metro is very poorly run and administered*. It’s pretty clear that many of the members, Bowser included, don’t use it on a regular basis–and it shows. It was a reflection on her abilities, though as part of a large board, there’s enough blame to go around.

It’s not a management style, it’s one part covering her ass and one part placing institutional loyalty above the needs of her constituents.

Mayor Bowser really hasn’t done well with crises so far.

*Compared to D.C., Boston’s MBTA does far better with much older stock and being saddled by the state with crippling debts. D.C. Metro does build themselves some damn fine offices though.

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Conservative Parsing of Rape and Misidentified Moral Agency

There’s an article at Politico about the knots conservatives are tying themselves into over abortion. Nothing particularly new, but this bit with ‘reformicon’ Ramesh Ponnuru is very telling (boldface mine):

“The lengthy history of this debate makes pro-lifers nervous about loopholes,” said Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at the National Review and author of “The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.” “They’re concerned that you could just have a situation where the abortionist just says, oh, that’s a rape and that’s a rape and that’s a rape.”

I don’t know if Ponnuru is speaking for himself or portraying a conservative view, but either way, his response is remarkable. Why? Well, can you figure out who’s missing in his explanation?

The woman.*

It’s not like ‘abortionists’–that is, ob/gyns who perform legal and safe abortions–are bamboozling women into having abortions. Considering that sixty percent of women who have an abortion are already mothers, women who have abortions know what they’re doing. The women are the moral agents here. They choose to have the abortion (and run the gauntlet of asshole anti-legal and safe abortion protestors).

You don’t have to be the kind of idiot who believes that Planned Parenthood has an ‘abortionplex’ to harbor the erroneous belief that ‘abortionists’ are driving this. After all, if the ‘evil’ stems from a handful of doctors, that’s one thing. But if the ‘evil’ is laid at the feet of every woman who has an abortion–especially when so many are Blessed Mothers, not Slutty Sluts Slutting Around (who ranks quietly include a fair number of conservatives)–that’s a challenge to their beliefs: they aren’t the Moral Majority (to use a phrase), but a minor minority. Maybe even an immoral one.

Conservatives won’t be able to untie the knots they twist themselves into until they recognize that, when it comes to abortion, women are active moral agents.

*Interestingly, the author of story writes in the next sentence, “Others don’t worry so much about women manipulating loopholes” (emphasis mine). Note the switch of agency.

Posted in Blastocyst Liberation, Conservatives, Feminism | 3 Comments

Links 1/26/15

Links for you. Science:

Medieval Math Problems
The devastating impact of vaccine deniers, in one measles chart
Elizabeth Warren Proposes Big Pharma ‘Swear Jar’ To Fund Medical Research
How Anti-Vaxxers Ruined Disneyland For Themselves (And Everyone Else)
Machinery & the Mine, Quantitative Genetics & Genomics


Losing our collective nerve (very good)
What is Noah thinking? (you have to understand the limitations of your data)
Here Is the Latest Bold Lie From Thomas Friedman (conferences don’t solve many problems, but they are good for the Mustache of Wisdom’s bank account)
The Atrocious, Forgotten Style of the Planet Hollywood Era
Help wanted: Fast food cashier, $15 an hour
Blame Republicans, Not Madison, for Gridlock
Higher Education, Wages, and Polarization
The Air and Space Museum needs a new skin
“Yes Virginia, all that money printing did show up as inflation”
Inside the Stunning Mosques of Shiraz, Iran
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
Institutions Usually Beat Genius
Why The Test Debate Is About Politics, Not Education
U.S. education policy: Federal overreach or reaching for the wrong things?
Ben Carson Shilled Scam AIDS And Cancer Cures For 10 Years, Will Be Your Next President Obvs
‘Sure, People Are Talking About Prison Reform, but They Aren’t Actually Doing Anything.’
‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize
“If Reagan is Not Risen…”
What Would Martin Say?
Do New Parents Tend To Flee D.C.? The Numbers Point To ‘Yes’ (interesting in that if you can keep them until their kids are 4 years old, they stay)

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Church Moderne

First Trinity Lutheran Church, Judiciary Square, D.C.:

First Lutheran

Side view:

<First Lutheran

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Education Spending Does Matter

We’ve discussed Kirabo Jackson’s important work that demonstrated how the long-term effects of teachers on ‘life outcomes’ is very poorly correlated with subject matter scores–something that education ‘reformers’ seem to not discuss (odd that). Well, he’s back with a new study looking at the effects of spending on long-term outcomes (boldface mine):

A new paper from economists C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson and Claudia Persico suggests that it is. To disentangle correlation from causation, they look at periods from 1955 through 1985 when courts ordered governments to spend more on schools, from kindergarten through 12th grade. They then track how students in those areas did, up through 2011. The result is a very detailed long-term picture of the effect of spending more money on education.

The economists find that spending works. Specifically, they find that a 10 percent increase in spending, on average, leads children to complete 0.27 more years of school, to make wages that are 7.25 percent higher and to have a substantially reduced chance of falling into poverty. These are long-term, durable results. Conclusion: throwing money at the problem works.

Here’s the hitch: The authors find that the benefits of increased spending are much stronger for poor kids than for wealthier ones. So if you, like me, are in the upper portion of the U.S. income distribution, you may be reading this and thinking: “Why should I be paying more for some poor kid to be educated?” After all, why should one person pay the cost while another reaps the benefits?

To answer Noah’s question (though he makes some good enlightened self-interest appeals), we should do this because we shouldn’t be assholes. Seriously, if you have to ask why you help an underprivileged child (to be clear, Noah is asking a rhetorical question), then you’re missing circuits in your fucking head. We flush toilets with laser beams, we can do this.

The other point worth noting is that all of the ‘throwing buckets of money at problems doesn’t work’ bullshit is, well, bullshit. Lots of children in the U.S. simply don’t have access to the same level of resources other children do. Oddly enough, this is reflected in their educational and long-term outcomes. If we refuse to harden our hearts, we can do something about that.

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Links 1/25/15

Links for you. Science:

This is what happens when a paleontologist attacks Kesha on Twitter
U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit: Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry (I once applied for a job at the USDA Clay Center facility. Glad on many levels to not have been offered it)
Chimps and gorillas desperately need Ebola vaccine too – virus has wiped out a third of them
First DNA tests say Kennewick Man was Native American
Do 80% of Americans not know there’s DNA in food?


After the State of the Union (excellent)
Hey France, Don’t Do What We Did After 9/11 (must-read)
High test scores at many charter schools may actually be “false positives”
Here’s how Obama’s capital gains tax plan hits the 1% where they live (better late than never I suppose…)
The Many Lives of Hazel Bryan: In the most famous photo of the civil rights era, she was the face of white bigotry. Here’s what she did with the rest of her life. (even in the pre-internet era, you couldn’t always outrun a bad picture)
What went wrong with Metro’s emergency response?
The red stars and stripes of D.C.’s flag lend themselves to all sorts of creativity
Comic Book Readers, New York City, 1947
American Sniper makes Tarantino’s over-the-top movie our sad reality
New SAT, New Problems: The questions, particularly those in the math sections, could put certain students at a disadvantage.
The Museum of the Future Is Here: Some things belong in a museum. But at the Smithsonian’s recently reopened museum of design, a team has been rethinking what a thing is in the first place.
Hacker Mythologies and Mismanagement: Myths about engineering management harm projects. This makes them annoying and expensive. They also harm people. This makes them dangerous.
A new way for insurers to give doctors headaches
WBUR Poll: Bostonians Back Olympic Bid, But Also Want A Referendum
New York Winter from Above

Posted in Lotsa Links | 3 Comments