Links 3/17/18

Links for you. Science:

The 8 Million Species We Don’t Know
The Surprising Ways Tigers Benefit Farmers and Livestock Owners
World’s Largest Telescope To Finally See Stars Without Artificial Spikes
It’s official: Termites are just cockroaches with a fancy social life
Efficacy of Sterile Fecal Filtrate Transfer for Treating Patients With Clostridium difficile Infection (pdf)


The One Thing Democrats Should Learn From Conor Lamb
Bills cracking down on sex work won’t help trafficking victims, but more housing will
I posted a huge note for the thief who stole my bike. Then my doorbell rang.
A Cyberattack in Saudi Arabia Had a Deadly Goal. Experts Fear Another Try.
Correction: Trump’s Pick to Head CIA Did Not Oversee Waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah
Jay Clayton’s SEC Lets Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Get Away With Brazen Fraud
It’s Time To Get Real About Power in Silicon Valley
Asking Financial Advisers to Act in Their Clients’ Best Interest Is ‘Unreasonable’ Now
Trump’s CIA Has Set Up Teams To Kill Terrorists
In possible first, groups petition to have ICE walled off from Massachusetts courthouses
‘Bipartisan’ Does Not Inherently Mean ‘Good’
Colorized photographs show the everyday life of African Americans who lived side by side with immigrants in Jim Crow-era Nebraska
Gaming the lottery seemed as good a retirement plan as any.
These Dreamers Are 2 Of D.C.’s Best Foster Parents
A ‘Bright Light,’ Dimmed in the Shadows of Homelessness
If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? Turns out it’s just chance.
Trump is right, it is possible to win a trade war, if you have a well-defined goal and a clear strategy. Unfortunately, Trump has neither.
On Avoiding Kneejerk Politics
Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16

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In Case You Missed It…

…a week of Mad Biologist links:

Driverless Cars And Chauffers

Democrats Unveil A Good Infrastructure Plan


What Happened In West Virginia?

Absurdly Well

A Hypothesis About Why NY Times Op-Ed Writers Obsess About College Students

Open Debate When Words Have No Meaning

Advice For Trump

In PA-18, Everything Mattered

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Links 3/16/18

Links for you. Science:

Cold-blooded? Study finds female pythons care for their young
The unwelcome revival of ‘race science’
DNA Testing Forced Me To Rethink My Entire Racial Identity
These Crickets Can’t Sing Anymore—But They’re Still Trying
Did These Computer Scientists Solve the Cuban ‘Sonic Attack’?


‘The Trains Are Slower Because They Slowed the Trains Down’
Why it’s time for Democrats to ditch Nancy Pelosi (she’s a great parliamentarian, but she picks awful Congressional candidates)
Bowser Signs Bill Creating Public Financing Program For Political Campaigns — And Will Fund It
White nationalist leader Matthew Heimbach arrested on domestic battery charges (WILL STORMY DANIELS BE IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE?)
Leading DC Forward?
A Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola would fill a real hole in our transportation system. Is it worth it?
Should DC welcome new people, or try to turn back the clock?
When America’s Basic Housing Unit Was a Bed, Not a House
DC could lose the Funk Parade, but there’s still hope (you can donate here)
How Public Schools Became a Battleground in the Trump Era
On the Russian Presidential Campaign Trail in Siberia Part Two: Putin, Grudinin, Titov and the Meaning of Life
Reaching out to voters with disabilities had profound impact in Conor Lamb’s victory.
‘Bloody Gina’ Should Not Lead the CIA
Why Democrats Should Worry About Conor Lamb’s Victory: Dems pick up a House seat in Pennsylvania – but is Lamb the start of a winning strategy or the establishment sidelining the Trump Resistance?
The Worst Government Possible, on Purpose
Why Film Critics Were Blind to The Big Lebowski’s Brilliance
Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’
Donald Trump Is the New George W. Bush: The rehabilitation of the worst Bush-era offenders underscores that Trump represents a continuity—not a break—with the past.

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In PA-18, Everything Mattered

After any special election victory, various people are keen to claim that their one strategy worked–or would have worked better had the candidate not followed someone else’s strategy. We’re seeing the same thing happen with Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania, were a district that went 58-38 for Trump in 2016, was a toss-up win for Democrat Lamb (BAND NAME!), where there are arguments over how this massive swing occurred. Was it a Democratic rally, Republican discouragement, 2016 non-voters returning to the fold, and so on. Of course, as is usually the case (and annoying as hell), these are proxy arguments for policies and the direction of the Democratic Party.

The problem is, as best as I can tell, based on exit polling data, the answer is yes. In a trivial sense, this is always true in a close election. If you win a basketball game by one point, everything mattered: making that extra free throw, not throwing up that bad shot, that lucky call (or no-call). But it really does seem that there was no One Neat Trick that let Lamb win. It’s also clear that 2016 Trump supporters really didn’t show up, while, relatively speaking, 2016 Clinton supporters surged (though turnouts were lower overall).

The best way to see this is to use specific vote estimates based on an exit poll (pdf), and the 2016 and 2018 election results. Here are the figures on the 2016 and 2018 turnouts, as well as the estimated numbers of Clinton and Trump voters (note: don’t take the precise numbers too seriously; estimates from the exit polls and the vote totals differ by around 1,000, which is pretty good, as polls have a margin of error):

(“Trump 2018” and “Clinton 2018” refer to Trump and Clinton supporters who voted in the PA-18 election).

So Trump voters, in a relative sense, stayed home compared to Clinton supporters, who also turned out at very high rates for an off-year election. So people saying that strong Clinton voter turnout doesn’t explain much of the massive swing aren’t making much sense: most of Lamb’s votes came from Clinton 2016 voters. At the same time, Lamb’s ability to convince eleven percent of Trump 2016 voters to vote for him put him over the top. And Trump supporters didn’t show up–and that, too, put Lamb over the top. But so did Lamb’s ability to keep 94 percent of Clinton 2016 voters in line, as well as reach out third party/2016 non-voters (who went 70-26 Lamb). All of these things mattered in determining victory, if not the massive shift from 2016.

So what does this mean, in the sense of claiming victory for one strategy or another? First, rallying the base does matter: if one percent of Clinton voters who voted for Lamb stayed home, Lamb loses. Without base turnout, you can’t win. Shitting on your base isn’t helpful–which Lamb did not do. At the same time, if Democrats can pick off a few Trump voters, attract some previous non-voters, and convince a few Republicans to stay home, they can pick up seats in all but the most conservative areas; as we’ve discussed many times, elections are often won at the margins, so these voters matter too.

Realistically, there isn’t going to be one model or political strategy to do that in different districts. And Saccone did worse than expected in turnout–was that a general Trump effect, or a ‘I don’t like Saccone’ effect? Since non-voters weren’t polled, we don’t know.

Anyway, your favorite just-so story is probably correct in explaining why Lamb won, but so are many of the others.

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Links 3/15/18

Links for you. Science:

The Weird World Inside a Pitcher Plant
Forests Protect the Climate. A Future With More Storms Would Mean Trouble.
Congress Quashed Research Into Gun Violence. Since Then, 600,000 People Have Been Shot.
The Controversial Link Between Epic Storms and a Warming Arctic


Silicon Valley’s Gilded Cage (must-read)
Today Among Our Special Elite Media Snowflakes
Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions (this, not a 70% marginal income tax rate, is what confiscation looks like)
Dem senator: Why is Trump silent on Putin blaming Jews for election interference?
After Putin Cites Jews, Democrats Implore Trump to Extradite Russians
Betsy DeVos’s Investment in DC Distillery Draws Boycott Threats
Trump’s Towers Pale Next to Ultraluxury Buildings, Studies Show
D.C. Residents Set to Fight High Water Bills (don’t know what to make of this. We shouldn’t be slamming black institutions, but, at the same time, the parking lots need to be reduced)
Trump’s Order Stops ALL Foreign Takeovers of Large US Tech Companies
The Racial Dimension of Student Debt
What Elizabeth Warren Is In For: Trump will use Warren’s family history to stir up the dregs of the racial animus that got him to the White House in the first place. (though Il Trumpe will do this with any Democratic candidate)
The (Classist, Racist) History of Jaywalking
Trump’s Nominee For CIA Director: This Is What Happens When There’s No Justice For Torture
This would be a really good week for Senate Democrats to defeat a racist banking bill

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Advice For Trump

Observed at the Hirshhorn Museum, D.C.:

Hirshorn February 2018

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Open Debate When Words Have No Meaning

Or as we like to say, with apologies to Theodosius Dobzhansky, nothing in movement conservatism makes sense except in the light of creationism. I use the phrase ‘open debate’, as opposed to ‘free speech’, since there is very little good faith from those who seem upset about ‘no-platforming.’ Martin Longman, in an excellent piece about intellectual bubbles, explains (boldface mine):

…it’s inaccurate to say that debate is counterproductive because it dilutes passion and sows confusion. From my point of view, debate is something you engage in with a shared set of assumptions about the rules, and that includes what passes for a fact and what constitutes evidence. To be productive, there must be good faith from both parties, and that’s what broke down during the Reagan years. There’s really no point in debating Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter or Donald Trump because they don’t operate by these rules and they define bad faith. What the college students of today have internalized is that the conservative movement isn’t offering guest speakers on their campuses for the purpose of having a debate. They’re there to insult and create divisions. They’re there to question the entire intellectual process and the values that underpin academic discovery. What the youth don’t remember is a period of time when the right in this country could operate within the rules and when they were concerned to actually convince people of their views based on facts and evidence.

Personally, I think the comity and intellectual rigor of this bygone age is exaggerated in Brooks’s telling, but in my experience it did actually exist. It may have only existed in elite circles like Ivy League towns and the Acela corridor on the East Coast, but there was a brief period when we had debates in this country that were worth having.

The conservative movement put an end to that. And they keep pushing us further and further away from it. Rush Limbaugh becomes Fox News and Fox News becomes Breitbart. Reagan becomes Dubya and Dubya becomes Trump.

For college kids today, we’re asking them to pretend that provocateurs are intellectuals with some important ideas that will shake them out of their lazy assumptions and mental complacency. But that’s roughly like comparing Sean Hannity to Bill Moyer. These college speakers are coming to make a name for themselves by being rude, hateful, bigoted, and disrespectful. They seek praise, career advancement and book sales from an anti-intellectual movement. It’s a movement that made David Brooks who he is today, but he is only intermittently self-aware of this.

Put another way, consider intellectual fraud and elite racist Charles Murray. There are people who can speak intelligently about the genetic basis of IQ and behavior, both in the high- and low-heritability camps. They’re called population geneticists. Your local campus might even have a few! Were they to debate, students might learn some science! But Charles Murray is not the person to do this. He brings nothing to the table other than polemic and divisiveness (And that’s my job!). His words have no meaning, so why waste the university’s time and resources promoting charlatans and hate mongers?

And, yes, educational institutions need to make these decisions–it’s their job to do so, otherwise you end in up in a ridiculous place, typified by this satire (boldface mine):

I couldn’t agree more: If you think offensive speech shouldn’t be aired in certain contexts and venues, you don’t believe in free speech. Which is why it is incumbent on Weiss, and her bosses, to ask me to come to the offices of the New York Times and give a talk to the editors and columnists of the opinion page about how stupid they are.

It is absolutely necessary, for the sake of democratic ideals, that the staff attend my talk, and they must listen politely (and quietly) as I condescendingly dismiss their idiotic worldviews and personally insult them. They cannot yell at me or express indignation in any way. For them not to allow this to happen would be an alarming sign of the decline of liberalism in the West.

It’s not enough that I have the right to criticize Bari Weiss, James Bennet, and Bret Stephens here at the web publication I work for, or on Twitter, or really any other platform I have access to. The problem is that there is a platform I don’t have access to—the offices of the New York Times, specifically the opinion section—and, therefore, I have no way to personally and directly criticize the people I find objectionable. That is a clear-cut violation of the principle of open and lively democratic debate.

For example, I can call Bari Weiss a ridiculous hypocrite for posing as a champion of free speech on campus after spending her own time in college organizing a harassment campaign intended to deny or strip tenure from “pro-Palestinian” professors, but, absent that invitation, I have no way of making her listen to me say that, which has an obvious chilling effect. (Just ask my colleague Anna Merlan, who was shamefully silenced earlier this week, when Weiss didn’t respond to her tweet.)

I can criticize editorial page editor James Bennet as clearly not up to the task of running a vibrant and interesting op-ed section at a time when finding smart new voices has never been easier or more necessary, but I can’t also call him a pompous twit to his face, while he just has to sit there and take it, because it would be anti-speech of him to object.

How is that acceptable? How will the minds of the New York Times opinion section staff ever be expanded, how will they ever leave their ideological bubble, if they aren’t exposed to ideas that challenge them, like “all of you are charlatans”?

I’m a reasonable person. I am willing to compromise. If they don’t want to personally attend my talk, perhaps they can be allowed to skip it. But at the very least, someone at the Times needs to extend the invitation, and it needs to be well-publicized. The editors and writers of the opinion section must know that their colleagues chose to invite me to their place of work to insult them, as the people they work with sit in attendance at my talk, enjoying it a lot. The obvious contempt shown for the opinion page staff by their colleagues in inviting me in the first place would basically the most important part of the whole thing, speech-wise.

The kids are alright, but the adults, not so much when their words have no meaning.

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