Links 9/29/16

Links for you. Science:

Report on drug resistance in Canada shows some declines
Is Cold Fusion Feasible? Or Is It A Fraud?
Pugs are anatomical disasters. Vets must speak out – even if it’s bad for business
How the FDA Manipulates the Media
Horses Can Learn To Communicate Specific Needs To People


To understand Charlotte’s rage, you have to understand its roads (this transportation stuff really does matter)
Bernie Sanders: The ‘Nation’ Interview
The Bangladeshi Traffic Jam That Never Ends
The Obama Administration Must Prosecute Wells Fargo
A Toilet, but No Proper Plumbing: A Reality in 500,000 U.S. Homes
The Four Donald Trumps You Meet on Earth
10 obscene displays of wealth that shock average Americans
Asymmetry between the major parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press
Trump’s new head of EPA transition said global warming is ‘nothing to worry about’ (James Watt all over again)
Economics Has a Major Blind Spot
The Lead-Crime Era Is Now Firmly Behind Us
Frederick Could Be an Urban Suburb of DC–Unless Its Good Ol’ Boy Past Gets in Its Way
Want to Make Ethical Purchases? Stop Buying Illegal Drugs (excellent)
An Ivy League professor on why colleges don’t hire more faculty of color: ‘We don’t want them’
Councilor honking mad about all those goddamn geese (hero!)

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However Tough Trump Thinks He Is, He Wouldn’t Last Ten Seconds in D.C.’s ANCs

This is surreal (boldface mine):

For unpaid positions with little real political power, the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions inspire a surprising amount of violence, including a 2014 shoving match. Now, in what may be the most notable instance of ANC-related brutality, a Ward 8 ANC member was arrested today after allegedly throwing a brick at a political rival.

One-time Ward ANC8E02 hopeful Joshua Johnson was walking on Alabama Ave. SE on Sept 15, according to a police report, when he encountered incumbent commissioner Anthony Muhammad.

Muhammad, a failed 2015 Ward 8 D.C. Council candidate and a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, had already foiled Johnson’s bid for the ANC seat by challenging his residency…

“Looky, looky here,” Muhammad told Johnson on Sept. 15, according to police files first reported by NBC4’s Mark Segraves. “Didn’t think I’d see you here again anymore after I knocked you off the ballot.”

“OK, you knocked me off, so what?” Johnson recalls telling Muhammad.

Rather than leave their dispute to the D.C. Board of Elections, though, Muhammad allegedly responded by throwing a brick or rock at his former foe, an attack corroborated to police by a witness. Police arrested Muhammad today on a misdemeanor assault charge.

This isn’t the first time Johnson and Muhammad have allegedly come close to violence. In an August lawsuit, later dismissed by a judge, Muhammad claimed that Johnson threatened him with a knife.

For his part, Johnson tells LL that Muhammad warned him that he “would die” if he pursued the ANC seat.

By the way, Muhammad’s defense is that he missed with the brick.

This is a tough political system.

And no possibility of a failure of governance here, not at all….

Posted in DC, Fucking Morons | Leave a comment

The Wages Of Moderate Policy Wonkishness

Or is it wonkery? Anyway, one of the things that rattled around the Democratic primary was what would any Democratic president would be able to accomplish, at best (certain from today’s vantage point), a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. The honest answer–which none of them gave–would have been, “Not a whole hell of a lot”, followed by “That’s why we need to draw clear distinctions between Democratic policies and Republican policies.” That’s why this piece by Ed Kilgore discussing a Huffington Post piece about Clinton’s policy wonk shop is so discouraging (boldface mine):

Aside from the dynamics of the campaign, though, the other big question Cohn addresses is the relevance of Clinton’s policy agenda to the realities she will face if she is elected president. She will very likely face a Republican-controlled House (and possibly a Republican-controlled Senate) that will not be any more interested in helping her rack up accomplishments than they were when Barack Obama was reaching out to them in the name of an increasingly anachronistic bipartisanship. And to the extent she does try to work with Republicans, she and her administration will have to deal with a revived and vigilant progressive wing of the Democratic Party alert to any signs of a centrist sellout.

The people in Clinton’s close orbit understand all this. They know that their boss has been preparing herself for this job for much of her adult life. They are confident that she will achieve progress in the White House by drawing on the qualities they admire about her the most: her belief in the potential of public policy to change lives, her tenacity. And they believe that advancing her agenda piece by hard-fought piece, laying the foundation for bigger legislation at some future point when the politics permit it, is a deeply meaningful accomplishment.

“When the politics permit it” is a pretty important proviso for Clinton’s ability to win policy achievements. The intra-party tensions that represent one horn of the dilemma on which she might founder are actually growing less severe; one of the important phenomena Cohn explains is the recent movement of centrist economic thinkers toward positions once thought to be left-wing (misunderstood by conservatives and mainstream journalists as a purely political rather than intellectual development). But the vast gulf between the two parties has not shrunk at all, and a post-Trump GOP trying to rebuild itself is very likely to make total obstruction to a Clinton administration its unifying touchstone.

This actually presents an opportunity–though one the New Democrat wing of the party would never seize–as Rick Perlstein explains (boldface mine):

For decades, the Democrats’ Achilles’ heel has been an obsession with strategizing to win this election, often at the expense of building strategic capacity to keep winning elections and control the agenda for the next several elections—and decades—to come…

Democrats, meanwhile, are just glad to pull off the next presidential election. The fact that the presidential victory is often followed by an agenda-crushing defeat two years later always comes as a surprise.

This year, we see the same short-term thinking in the celebration over the Republican apostates pledging their hearts to Hillary…

The flaw in this argument is that it overlooks something: the potential problems come in the longer term. Large numbers of supporters of only glancing or provisional commitment to your governing agenda, shoehorned into your tent in time for Election Day, can become quite the liability for effectuating that agenda when it comes time to govern…

As a [Clinton] campaign senior strategist said, “Campaigns are always looking for ways to build your coalitions of voters. To the extent we can add to that by appealing to some moderate Republicans and some Republican-leaning independents—that’s worth some energy. It’s not going to consume the campaign, but it is worth the energy.” You know when it’s not worth the energy? When it weakens your party in the long term.

Or, if it attenuates the coalition of legislators on Capitol Hill that will be needed to get done what Hillary Clinton says she wants done—if not in 2017, perhaps in 2019, when a Democratic House majority might be within more realistic reach. That was the fear expressed by the DNC’s communication director in the May 2016 email I wrote about in August: efforts “to embrace the ‘Republicans fleeing Trump’ side, but not hold down ballot GOPers accountable” might be great for getting more votes for Clinton, but these come at the price of fewer wins for Democratic congressional candidates….

People will say this is an argument for purity. It’s actually a plea for practicality. Hillary Clinton will almost certainly win the presidential election on November 8. That’s merely the battle for today, when anti-Trump votes come cheap. But this election is not just about rescuing the nation from Trump. It’s about rescuing the nation from conservatism. That’s the long march. It cannot be won with conservatives in tow.

Like I noted at the outset, this is par for the course for the New Democrat wing:

For anyone who actually remembers the 1990s, this is textbook (Bill) Clinton–it’s just the 2016 version of triangulation, at the expense of the Democratic Party as a whole. This strategy should shock absolutely no one.

As I often point out, Clinton is obviously better than Trump. But Democrats need to view the aftermath of a likely Clinton win with our eyes wide-open.

And non-New Democrats (‘New New Dealers’? Dunno) should realize the real fight begins Nov. 9.

Posted in Democrats | 1 Comment

Links 9/28/16

Links for you. Science:

I named a parasite after Barack Obama. It was meant as a compliment.
Bring back the 2-3 year Developmental R01
America’s Wildlife Body Count
Bacteria Evolving Resistance
Can the Cancer Moonshot do what its advocates promise?


Blame the Banks for All Those Boring Chain Stores Ruining Your City
Trump’s Ohio Campaign Chair Believes Racism Didn’t Exist Until 2008
Police Sex Abuse Case Is Bad News for Mexico’s Leader
Public Squares, Private Money: Considering Harvard Square’s Glittering, Empty Future
Hillary Clinton’s email misdemeanor might actually hand Donald Trump the presidency
4 ways commuting in the Washington region has (or hasn’t) changed over the last 3 years
Whom Should We Blame for Our Deranged Democracy?
Don’t Blame Millennials for This Scarily Close Election. Blame Baby Boomers.
Living History: Members Of Shaw Checkers Club Find Their Place At NMAAHC
In America, gun rights are for whites only
It Happens All the Time
At Abortion Hearing, Congressmen Compare Women Of Color To Dogs
The Road Ahead: I have always been deeply proud to be an American. In the time I have left, I pray that will never change
The Forest Guardians Who Beat Back Mexico’s Cartels
A Law Professor Explains Why You Should Never Talk to Police
Young Rural Women in India Chase Big-City Dreams
Yes, it was torture, Part XXIV

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Is NIH Purchasing Risk-Free Science?

Drugmonkey, building on a comment left at his blog, claims the following (boldface mine):

This comment from dsks absolutely nails it to the wall.

The NIH is supposed to be taking on a major component of the risk in scientific research by playing the role of investor; instead, it seems to operates more as a consumer, treating projects like products to be purchased only when complete and deemed sufficiently impactful. In addition to implicitly encouraging investigators to flout rules like that above, this shifts most of the risk onto the shoulders of investigator, who must use her existing funds to spin the roulette wheel and hope that the projects her lab is engaged in will be both successful and yield interesting answers. If she strikes it lucky, there’s a chances of recouping the cost from the NIH. However, if the project is unsuccessful, or successful but produces one of the many not-so-pizzazz-wow answers, the PI’s investment is lost, and at a potentially considerable cost to her career if she’s a new investigator.

…this is absolutely the right way to look at the ever growing obligation for highly specific Preliminary Data to support any successful grant application. Also the way to look at a study section culture that is motivated in large part by perceived “riskiness”…

NIH isn’t investing in risky science. It is purchasing science once it looks like most of the real risk has been avoided.

I think this is confusing cause and effect (and, no, we are starting a philosophical debate on the true nature of causality. You want to do that, go start your own blog). What I mean is that I don’t think this is NIH’s goal at all. Instead, this stems from a very simple dynamic: for every grant that is funded, two to five ‘good’ proposals do not get funded*. In other words, reviewers have to come up with reasons to deny funding to perfectly good proposals. In that environment, things like ‘riskiness’ and Prelimary Data become much more important–arguably more important than they should be.

While the result is the same as Drugmonkey describes (risky science is less likely to be funded), I think the causal mechanism is far more banal: reviewers are trying to distinguish among proposals. One thing that could be done would be to downweight Preliminary Data (though whether reviewers could be trained to do that in terms of their overall impressions is unclear). This, however, could ‘bunch up’ more proposals (i.e., more would have ‘good’ scores), placing more power in NIH’s hands in terms of what should be funded.

Given underlying budget constraints, I can’t see this situation improving.
*The upper bound depends on how you want to define good, as well as the funding rate of the panel.

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Links 9/27/16

Links for you. Science:

What has happened down here is the winds have changed (must-read; accessible to non-scientists)
Patients Turn To San Diego Stem Cell Companies For Costly, Unproven Treatments
In First, UN Will Consider Antibiotic Resistance
Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis? (much work to be done, etc…)
A terrific site for archeology, except for all the things that could kill you


The Wells Fargo Scandal Was By Design
How can anyone take standardized test scores seriously when stuff like this happens?
Magician Penn Jillette worked with Trump—’However bad you think he is, he’s worse’
How Trump winks at political violence
On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. continues to push white supremacist themes
Did Trump Get Sued for Staging an Un-Winnable Hole-in-One Contest?
Show Up, Enroll, Drop Your Kid Off
I Went to D.C. to Watch Elizabeth Warren Stand Up for Our Country Today: And I also got a reminder that the financial industry’s business model is fraud
Japan has a worrying number of virgins, government finds
The NRA Wants You to Be Afraid, So They Tell You Lies
The Death of ‘He Said, She Said’ Journalism
How Tech Companies Disrupted Silicon Valley’s Restaurant Scene (by “disruption”, they mean spiraling rents)
Charlotte Is Just the Latest City to Explode. There Will Be Others.
Robert Reich: A Donald Trump supporter learns his candidate is a con man
The five most ridiculous fitness trends ever
Beaver comes out of water, bites man’s shoe. Man punches beaver in head.
Sam Bee Is at the Top of Her Game, So of Course a Columnist Tries to Take Her Down: Ross Douthat also neglects to understand that bathroom rights are human rights
‘You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake.’ Fliers like these are showing up on lawns across the U.S.
Swampoodle, D.C.’s hidden neighborhood

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Some Post-Debate Thoughts

In no particular order. Here we go:

1. This probably didn’t sway any partisans’ opinions. To Trumpists, Clinton was probably fake, hectoring, and shrill, while Trump hit the regular high notes they’ve come to expect. To Clinton supporters, Trump was a disaster.

2. Having said #1, this debate hurt Trump. BIGLY. First, any Democrats/leaners on the fence were scared shitless by Trump–when they didn’t think he was being a mansplaining asshole (I’m a straight guy and Trump reminded me of an ex-husband). Second, ‘Team Clinton’ needed a victory of sorts and they got one. Will this move polls? Not very BIGLY, but it will bring Democrats back home.

3. Donald Trump has the sniffles. He should probably see a neurologist.

4. Final theater criticism point: I’m still amazed that Clinton has so little stage presence. It makes you realize the importance of an arts curriculum in school. Before you say this doesn’t matter, that’s sort of like saying that you’re a really good extramural PI researcher, except that you can’t write grants very well. That’s a huge part of the job (a BIGLY part, if you will…). It is a problem.

5. Donald Trump was a disaster. Incredibly rude and pushy. Leaving aside his BIGLY temperament, he was ridiculously unprepared. I was embarrassed to watch. He really thought he could just bullshit his way through the debate in front of 100 million people. Whatever one thinks about Clinton’s style, this was like watching someone pick on the slow kid. After thirty minutes, they should have created a mercy rule and just called it.

5a. Gish Gallop? Nope. Gish Warp Drive.

6. On the policy front, one bad point for Clinton: when pressed, she reverted to New Democrat, balanced budget form. Doesn’t bode well after Nov. 8…

7. On the policy front, Clinton did well with both the notion of structural racism and for-profit prisons. Overall, she did explain her policies well.

8. Regarding Trump policies, other than regurgitating his campaign speeches, he was too incoherent to make any sense.

9. The debate probably won’t have much effect, but it’s close enough that this might matter. Again, the key take home is that this debate probably encouraged Clinton’s supporters and consolidated some Clinton leaners.

Posted in Democrats | 8 Comments