Links 11/22/17

Links for you. Science:

Discussing sexual misconduct in STEM in our post-Weinstein world (puts the Helgen-Smithsonian conflict in a very different light; odd how this wasn’t mentioned at all in contemporaneous news coverage)
Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left
How a Glass Terrarium Changed the World
Long-term stability in the gut microbiome over 46 years in the life of Billy Apple®
Study outlines ‘perfect storm’ that led to Colombia’s antibiotic resistance epidemic


Don’t Be So Quick To Expel Roy Moore from the Senate
Sorry. There’s no equivalence between Republicans and Democrats on sexual harassment.
How to Stop the Predators Who Aren’t Famous (what intersectionality really looks like)
Republicans Invent Creative New Way to Punish Liberals Via the Tax Code
The Morality of Politicians
Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Little-Known Forays Into Judaica
The Plot to Loot America’s Wilderness (a former colleague of James Watt’s)
Trump Judicial Nominee Brett Talley Appears to Have Defended “the First KKK” in Message Board Post
The IRS Is Building a Safe to Hold Trump’s Tax Returns
The F.B.I.’s Dangerous Crackdown on ‘Black Identity Extremists’
Models Lured Women to Wall Street Sex Dungeon: Lawsuit (note the enablers)
It Is Time to Impeach the President
Say It Together: Top Incomes Are Being Driven By Capital
The Kids Today
Papadopoulos claimed Trump phone call and larger campaign role (every damn one is a grifter. Every. Single. One.)
Obama Was Bad
Scuffle at Jerusalem’s Western Wall pits American Jews against Netanyahu
The Questionable Math Behind Manafort’s Extravagant Home Renovations
I know Roy Moore. He’s always been a con artist.

Posted in Lotsa Links | Leave a comment

Evening Red

Observed at the corner of 14th and S Streets NW, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Evening red

Posted in DC | Leave a comment

Class War Overreach

Oh, you thought I was talking about the left? Nope (boldface mine):

It’s honestly quite surprising to me that Republicans didn’t just figure out the biggest deficit increase they could get away with, hand almost all of it to the top 1 percent, and throw a couple of pennies to everyone else to claim it’s a “middle class tax cut.” That was the George W. Bush political formula, and it worked quite well.

The only possible conclusion is that the plutocracy is no longer satisfied with taking almost all the income growth. They now want to diminish everyone else’s share; as George Carlin once said, “they want more for themselves, and less for everybody else.” The most notable victims reflect the cultural enemies that the Republican Grievance Industrial Complex has been whipping its base up in a frenzy over for decades — college students, coastal elites, and comfortable liberals — but the pain will be broadly shared. As Mike Konczal details, in broad terms it is an assault on workers to benefit capitalists: people who own things instead of working…

We now know there shall be no quarter from the ultra-rich in their quest to take as much of the national income and wealth for themselves as possible. So they should be given no quarter either.

At the earliest opportunity, a left-wing economic reform bill should deliberately destroy the power of the plutocrats: Break up their monopolist corporations, sharply increase taxation on their capital gains and dividends, levy a confiscatory tax rate on income over $1 million and a 100 percent inheritance tax on estates over $1 million, and kneecap finance with burdensome regulations. Then, strengthen the lower class: Ban “right-to-work” laws at a national level, increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation, beef up the welfare state, and spend to achieve full employment.

Some of the wealthiest and most privileged people who’ve ever existed are attempting to loot the pockets of penniless grad students so they can have even more money to spend on stuff like $450-million paintings. They’ve forfeited any right to deference or consideration.

Which made me think of this piece (boldface mine):

Let’s not dance around. Your first steps will be breaking the power of current economic and political elites who are not willing to convincingly join you–or at least let you rule without trying to sabotage you

Let’s give a concrete example. Assume Obama was really a left-winger. He gets into power in 2009, and he really wants to change things. He needs to take out the financial elite: Wall Street and the Big Banks.

They’ve handed him the opportunity. Here’s part of how he does it: He declares all banks involved in the sub-prime fraud racket (all of the big ones and most of the small ones) conspiracies under RICO.

He then says that all the individual executives’ money are proceeds from crime and confiscates it. (This is 100 percent legal under laws as they exist). He charges them, and they are forced to use public defenders.

They are now powerless. This is the second law of purges: Anyone you damage, you must destroy utterly. If you take away half their power, and leave them half, they will hate you forever and use their remaining power to destroy you.

Leave them whole, or destroy them. The financial executives would have been destroyed, and win or lose in the courts, the next five to ten years of their lives would be consumed by personal legal nightmares.

Again, this is a Machiavellian dictum.

All of this will make many readers uneasy. It seems “mean.”

Get out of the game. You aren’t fit for it. This is all mean. Millions of people die every year and millions more are ruined by the current system. If you’re in this game to win it, rather than feel good about yourself, you will have to play real power politics by the actual rules of the game.

Too many left-wingers try to play by what they think the rules are. “We have a fair election every X years and the losers accept the result and don’t sabotage the winner (or start a coup).”

Those aren’t the real rules. If the right is really losing, they will cheat and cheat massively….

You directly threaten their wealth and power if you are a real left-winger. Even if all you want is a 50s style social democracy with racial and gender equality, that would destroy almost all of what they have. They remember what FDR did to them, even if you don’t. They remember all the lost power and fortunes.

It is not possible to have a fair, egalitarian, prosperous society, and have very rich and powerful elites. It cannot be done. Brandeis was exactly right when he said you can have democracy or great wealth in the hands of a few, but you can’t have both.

It might take years (sadly, I’ll be an old Mad Biologist by then), but eventually the worm will turn. If they hadn’t been so damn greedy, they could have kept a system very beneficial to them going. But if you screw everyone really hard, well, you won’t have any friends when things head south.

Posted in Bidness, Conservatives, Economics | 6 Comments

Links 11/21/17

Links for you. Science:

Save the sea squirts! Wait, what?
How the English language has evolved like a living creature
A Zombie Gene Protects Elephants From Cancer
The Grim Food Served on 17th-Century Sea Voyages Wasn’t All Bad
Global phylogenetic analysis of Escherichia coli and plasmids carrying the mcr-1 gene indicates bacterial diversity but plasmid restriction.


Why Dwell In The Past
The Price of Admission
Hand-Marked Paper Ballots and Virginia’s 2017 Elections
Now we see what happens when you lose majority rule (don’t know about Lewinsky, but Broadderick was a problem)
This Democrat Is About To Give Payday Lenders A Big Boost: A bill from Sen. Mark Warner envisions a future when anyone could get a predatory loan at 380 percent interest
After Al Franken and Roy Moore, We Are Dangerously Close to Botching the #MeToo Moment
Vinyl wraps won’t make Back2Good better, but these fixes will
Trump’s Panama Resort Took Money From FARC Money Launderer (been saying it’s the money laundering that will take him down)
Ban prisons
Democrats Are Doomed Unless They Start Listening to Millennials
When Does a Watershed Become a Sex Panic?
Breitbart’s Coming Exploitation of the Believe Women Movement
It’s Not Funny: President Trump joins a blood-soaked authoritarian in laughing at free speech
FCC Gives Sinclair Broadcast Group A Gift By Eliminating Key Media Ownership Rule
Lewinsky Is Not Why Clinton Should Have Resigned
Chicago’s Attack On The Homeless: After Tent City Evictions, People Are In Hiding

Posted in DC | Leave a comment

Sign Of The Times?

Observed at the corner of 18th St. and Massachusetts Ave. NW, Dupont Circle, D.C.:

Sign of the times?

Posted in DC | Leave a comment

The Republican Cure Is Always Worse Than The Disease: The Property Tax Edition

A common theme of Republican policy proposals, especially when Rep. Paul Ryan is involved, is that it’s like liberalism, but designed by fucking morons. That is, they identify a problem and then proceed to propose a solution that not only doesn’t solve the problem, but creates brand new problems too.

Which brings us to the Republican tax ‘reform’ proposal (as is the case with all proposals called reform, keep your hand on your wallet at all times). It would have a significant effect on the housing market (boldface mine):

Take, for instance, the proposed elimination of the deductibility of state and local taxes. That is obviously a cynical, politically motivated ploy on Donald Trump’s part to penalize voters who didn’t vote for him (for good reason) in high-tax blue states, such as New York and California, and to give a benefit to the red-state voters who did vote for him. (I get it, elections have consequences.) Eliminating the deductibility of state and local taxes is an incredibly divisive plan. “It’s a transfer to red-state wealthy guys,” said the executive, who lives in a blue state.

Worse, he says, it could lead to another housing crisis, just as the last one is (or should be) still fresh in our collective memories. Here’s his thinking (which is hard to refute): Since, generally speaking, one of the largest state taxes is on property—your home—eliminating the federal tax deduction for state property taxes will inevitably cause the cost of homeownership in states with high property taxes to go up. It follows, logically, that if the annual cost of home ownership goes up, then the value of the home—which is for most people their single most-valuable asset—must go down. The National Association of Realtors commissioned a recent study that predicted that the elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes could result in a decrease in home valuations of between 10 percent and 17 percent.

That would wipe out a huge amount of homeowner equity, with the usual expected consequences: the sick feeling that comes from knowing that suddenly you are poorer, which can then lead to lower consumer spending, kicking off a recession. Furthermore, if the value of homes goes down, then whatever equity has been built up in those homes will also go down, and the ability to unlock that equity—through home-equity loans or reverse mortgages—will also decrease. Lower home values could also lead to problems—again—for the government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that have guaranteed some home mortgages, which are secured by homes worth materially less. New problems for the G.S.E.s will make it harder for people to get mortgages, leading to a lower level of home ownership than already exists.

Once upon a time owning a home was the chief pillar of the American dream. (Home ownership rates reached a 50-year low in 2016.) It has proved historically to be a typical American family’s greatest chance for wealth creation. Poof goes the American dream, again.

I’ll confess my unpopular opinion: the massive subsidies for home ownership need to be unwound. Housing prices are artificially inflated because of these deductions. They represent a subsidy of owners by renters (who are disproportionately urban* or low-income). These tax breaks disproportionately target wealthy people with expensive houses and in high-income tax brackets. Given that the housing market is still, to this day, discriminatory, this increases wealth disparity between whites and minorities. And having your largest source of retirement funds and savings tied up in a single, incredibly illiquid investment is a stupid retirement/saving strategy for an entire country.

All that said, the Republican plan goes about this the wrong way (in part, because the change has nothing to do with housing policy). First, local municipalities–and the services they need to provide–will be hammered as the value of their property tax rolls drops, but the decrease in tax expenditures (the amount the government refunds you) isn’t doing anything to fix that (i.e., the ‘saved’ money won’t be spent on things local government does). Second, it’s not like the ‘savings’ will be spent on public housing for low-income and middle-income people, or to help struggling households stay in their homes (or for utility bill assistance, such as LIHEAP). Instead, the money will be used to give corporations, along with Qusay, Uday, and Ivanka, tax cuts. This is nothing new either: Little Lord Pontchartrain proposed doing this in 2007 (why some Democrats have decided to rehabilitate that asshole escapes me. He was fucking awful). Third, the money will be spent to increase Social Security payouts to help people in retirement.

So, once again, we have a Republican policy proposal that will make things worse, while not solving the problem that it’s putatively supposed to solve.

Same as it ever was.

*Urban isn’t code; I simply mean city-dwellers, regardless of ethnicity or race.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Links 11/20/17

Links for you. Science:

Scientists Start To Tease Out The Subtler Ways Racism Hurts Health
With cures in hand, a major city tries to eliminate hepatitis C — and build a model for others
Rural areas at risk as water levels drop in Ogallala Aquifer
Climate change upped the odds of Hurricane Harvey’s extreme rains, study finds
The First Climate Model Turns 50, And Predicted Global Warming Almost Perfectly


The fallout from Price’s private jet use continues at HHS
Apologies to Eric, But There’s a New Dumbest Trump
Pricing access to the Trump White House: the strange case of the Times social media policy
She Warned of ‘Peer-to-Peer Misinformation.’ Congress Listened.
“Jews, homosexuals and Roma should be gassed,” said an influential extreme right wing politician in Czech parliament
The DCCC Doesn’t Define The Democratic Party The Same Way Most Democrats Do– And That’s A Big Problem
Stunning Hyperrealistic Black and White Pencil Drawings That Seemingly Jump Off the Page
60,000 people march in massive Nazi rally in Poland
Most Americans Are Liberal, Even If They Don’t Know It
The Computer Scientist Who Prefers Paper
While Moore Runs For Senate, Women And Children’s Health Is Under Attack By GOP
The Proselytizers and the Privatizers
Free Money: The Surprising Effects of a Basic Income Supplied by Government
Notes on Roy Moore and his tribe
Trump’s New Shoot to Kill Drone Policy Breaks International Law

Posted in Lotsa Links | Leave a comment