Links 11/14/18

Links for you. Science:

We Need an FDA For Algorithms
The Problem Behind a Viral Video of a Persistent Baby Bear
The Key to a Long Life Has Little to Do With ‘Good Genes’
Spider scare sends federal government workers home — twice
mlplasmids: a user-friendly tool to predict plasmid- and chromosome-derived sequences for single species


Republicans attack Jewish candidates across the U.S. with an age-old caricature: Fistfuls of cash (never forget this)
The Golden Age Of Movie Access
Nearly A Dozen D.C. Residents Sue The United States For The Right To Vote
‘The Federal Government Does Not Need Revenue’
DC will allow more dockless bikes and scooters, but v-e-e-r-y s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y
Five True Things About Mike Pence
How big of a deal is Amazon HQ2 for the DC Metro Region?
Democrats Are So, So Bad at This (professional Democrats suck at their jobs)
I deliberately sent myself to prison in Iceland – they didn’t even lock the cell doors there
The Real Reason Why Republicans Fear ‘Medicare for All’
Why Doctors Hate Their Computers
The Conservative Case Against the Suburbs
Voting Machines: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Kamala Harris’ Big Policy Idea Is Even Worse Than I Thought
‘It’s depressing as hell’: Dem win would spell misery for Trump White House aides
‘Totally unacceptable’: Polling problems in Maryland leave voters waiting for hours (strikes me less as intentional and more as incompetent and underfunded)
The Resistance Is Not a Call for Restoration

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They Will Not Lose Gracefully

And that’s an understatement. Watching how most Republicans are reacting to the ongoing counts and recounts taking place around the U.S., it’s pretty obvious if Trump is knocked out, they’re not going to concede gracefully–or at all. Which brings us to this depressing, if likely accurate prediction by David Watkins (boldface mine):

Perhaps the most concerning element of all this is that this violence born of bigotry and misogyny and fueled by an endless barrage of conspiracy theories and hateful rhetoric blared by Republican-aligned media organs, is occurring at a time when conservative white men should be feeling ascendant in institutional power. The most openly far-right defender of the privileges of white men since the early 20th century sits in the Oval Office; conservatives just cemented a majority lock on the Supreme Court through the confirmation of a hot-tempered hardcore conservative credibly accused of sexual assault; and a Republican party farther to the right than it has been in decades is in total control of the federal government and dominates a clear majority of governor’s offices and state legislature.

they know this ascendancy is short-lived. Donald Trump was not expected to win the presidency, and in fact lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Republicans maintain control of Congress largely through the anti-majoritarian nature of the Senate and through voter suppression and gerrymandering in the House and many state legislatures. With each passing year the nation’s electorate is increasingly urban, better educated, more liberal, more secular and more diverse. Despite its temporary political dominance, social conservatism is ever more broadly mocked and disrespected in larger society, and conservative economic orthodoxy has long since lost credibility even among Trump’s voting base. The #MeToo movement is, at long last, holding abusive men to account for their predation on women since the courts have proven incapable of doing so. Every day the country looks, thinks and behaves far more like California than like Idaho, regardless of the reactionary temperament of its elected officials.

But all of this raises a terrifying question: if this horrific wave of right-wing terror is rising when these deplorable men are at the height of their political power, what happens when even that power is wrested from their control?

…What happens when these hateful men discover that even politically, the country is finally irrevocably lost to them? What kind of asymmetric violence and terrorist insurgencies will we see from them when they don’t just feel disempowered despite all their power and privilege, but actually do find themselves truly out of power?

And what will we be prepared to do about it as a society to hold to account those who radicalize these extremists?

It’s that last sentence which is critical. Republicans–and at this point, distinguishing between Republicans and Trump is a mug’s game–have faced few consequences for radicalizing conservative white men. Yes, they lost the House (which is a good thing), but they likely kept the Senate. Fox News isn’t seeing their ratings decline, and the bugshitcrazytarians on the Internet, by and large, seem to be doing alright (with some notable exceptions). To date, I see no reason why Il Trumpe, were he to lose in 2020, would not attempt to call the validity of the election into question. In his personal case, that’s as much narcissism as anything else, but for his followers and for Republican apparatchiks, they are deeply invested in him, and will not go quietly, unless there is a cost to that bad behavior. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what that cost could be to discourage this.

Posted in Conservatives, Resistance Rebellion And Death | 2 Comments

Links 11/13/18

Links for you. Science:

No, A Study Did Not Find That Cellphones Can Give You Cancer
I reviewed all 161 of GOOP’s wellness products for pseudoscience. Here’s what I found.
Graduate Student Solves Quantum Verification Problem
Closing the High Seas to Fishing Probably Won’t Hurt Global Food Security
Why are humans killing 100 million sharks every year?


A house divided
In Mexico City, good transit service matters more than new technology
NYT gets punked pursuing “both sides” and “Women for Trump”.
Stop blaming millennials for not voting. Blame America’s screwed-up system — and fix it!
‘I’ve never been so scared’: D.C. fire crews forced to serve on run-down rigs (it’s the mayor’s job to make sure things aren’t broken. Good job Bowser…)
Native Americans Aren’t Fighting For Democrats In North Dakota — They’re Fighting For Their Voice
Republicans Undertake Last-Minute Wave of Voter Suppression
The Trump Administration Flunked Its Math Homework
The White House’s Deceptive Pickup Truck Math
Max Boot Is Very Sorry for Backing the GOP and the Iraq Invasion. Why Is He Being Praised for This?
Stop pretending everything is okay
The Clash opened for the Who at Shea Stadium and they rented a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible to take them there. I was driving my Rambler convertible next to them so Don Letts could shoot film of their trip and I took this photo
Why Do Candidates Ignore Mass Transit?
We now have a dollar value for one of oil’s biggest subsidies
Dutch People Are Dicks. Here’s Why Americans Should Try It.
The Mansion of the Kavanaughs
Tell Me It’s Going to be OK

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You Maintain Power By Using It

Alex Pareene, in a very good column about using and losing power, misses something important. Before we get to that, Pareene (boldface mine):

When Americans overwhelmingly voted to give Congress to the Democratic Party in 2006, party leaders had a reasonably ambitious agenda. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that the 110th Congress would be “the most honest and open Congress in history” and announced a “100-Hour Plan” to pass a slate of bills before the president even had a chance to deliver his State of the Union address.

The biggest enduring legacy of the plan would be raising the federal minimum wage to its current level, $7.25 per hour. But bills requiring Medicare to negotiate drug prices and cutting interest rates on student loans died in the Senate, even though Democrats controlled it, too. No matter: Democrats acted like they had all the time in the world to achieve their bolder goals, if they only waited out the lame-duck George W. Bush administration. After all, the theory went, demographics meant they were on the way to a permanent majority.

That majority would be over and done with in four years, halfway through the first term of a Democratic president elected with the largest share of the popular vote in a generation. The window closed. Republicans became an older, whiter and somehow much angrier coalition, and they used the serendipity of taking power in a census year to rig legislative maps wherever they could, to stay in power by any means necessary. Action and (sometimes brutal and rapid) reaction is the story of our era.

With Democrats about to control the House of Representatives again, I have been thinking about that last majority: what it achieved, what it was too cautious to attempt and what that caution actually bought. Because we may be asking the same questions about the next Democratic majority sooner than we think. The lesson of the careful restraint that Democrats showed the last time they controlled either chamber of Congress — and of the Republican ferocity since then — is simple: Your job is not to win power and then maintain it. Your job is to win power and then use it, with the knowledge that you won’t have it forever or even, most likely, for very long at all.

Everything Democrats pushed through between 2007 and 2011 was rendered less effective by their cautious impulses. This is not to say that better results would have been achievable if President Barack Obama or Democratic leaders had simply wanted them more or “pushed harder”; the limited political imaginations of centrist and moderate lawmakers, and of the party strategists looking forward to the next election, were to blame. Determined to slow things down to protect their majority, Democrats ended up losing that majority without addressing some of the most pressing problems the nation faced…

Here’s what Democrats didn’t even send to Obama’s desk: bills to reduce carbon emissions, or make voting easy and universal and secure, or grow union membership and support workers looking to organize. Obviously, there’s more they didn’t get to, but carbon emissions and union support were on the agenda until they were abandoned by skittish Democrats, and voting reform should’ve been part of every Democrat’s Day One platform since Nov. 8, 2000. We’ll face the consequences of their caution for years to come

But it was just backlash, period, to this new coalition, led by a black president, using its power in any way. The backlash would’ve raged across the country if the stimulus had been half the size and if Obamacare had no individual mandate. The political result would’ve been the same with a larger stimulus, a public option and a carbon tax, too, except that after the 2010 bloodbath, we’d have had Republicans in control of Congress and … a stronger economy, a public option and a carbon tax.

While Pareene is right, one thing Democrats need to do is to plan to make structural changes that make losing power harder, and make it harder for Republicans to change things once Republicans regain power, such as:

  1. Packing the federal courts (not just the Supreme Court). We have witnessed much of Il Trumpe’s agenda be stimied, so far anyway, by federal judges. Shifting the balance to Democratic* judges matters.
  2. Statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. For D.C., it’s an absolute no-brainer: multiple referenda have overwhelmingly supported statehood, and there’s legislation in the can, ready to go. Puerto Rico is a little more complicated, as during the last referendum, independence supporters boycotted, but, still, those who wanted to remain U.S. citizens strongly supported statehood. This gets Democrats four Senate seats and seven House seats. The U.S. is in a very different place with four more Democratic senate seats.
  3. Union card check and other union-strengthening policies. It’s simple: white people who are in unions vote Democratic (yes, #NotAllUnions, especially internal security and some of the building trade unions on the East Coast). But overall, this is good policy and good politics. Republicans understand this, which is why they try to crush unions every chance they get.
  4. Campaign finance reform. This weakens the power of wealthy people relative to small donors and volunteers. Serious efforts in this area need to happen.
  5. Voting rights reform. We need to make it easier to vote and to spread the franchise (e.g., the reenfranchisement of former felons in Florida). Thanks to our criminal justice policies from 1980 on, multiple cohorts of black men are unable to vote. Restore their votes. We also need to make it easier, especially for younger, more mobile voters to participate. That includes both voting and registration, which is a mess.

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s a start. Democrats, as Pareene notes, need to recognize they will lose power at some point, but they also need to make that harder, and easier to reverse when they do lose power. Enough of the Jed Bartlett-West Wing mentality. Deal with the world as it is.

*Let’s just dispense with the silliness that judges are ‘calling balls and strikes.’ They have morphed into what the nineteenth century Senate used to be: a de facto legislative body (with some weird constraints) that is elected by other parts of government.

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Links 11/12/18

Links for you. Science:

My Grandfather Thought He Solved a Cosmic Mystery
Scientists may have found the key ingredient for a universal flu vaccine, and it comes from llamas
In America’s Science Classrooms, the Creep of Climate Skepticism
The Spanish flu killed quickly, and it killed in huge numbers. Other flu pandemics in modern times have been far less deadly. Why?
The EPA’s Climate Change Page Is Just Gone Now


The caravan “invasion” and America’s epistemic crisis (must-read)
U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. (‘Thanks for that stuff on Al Qaeda, but what I really need to know is how to handle the Hammerskin population in my jurisdiction.’)
This group of lawmakers has a new plan to bring down insulin prices, and it takes clear aim at drug makers
Current And Former Chicago Police Officers Are Spewing Racist Hate On A Facebook Page
How Sears Was Gutted By Its Own CEO
Do We Really Need a Second Earned Income Tax Credit?
“Tech People Are the Last People I Would Trust to Regulate Speech”
Trump floats a new absurdity to support his latest hate narrative
Research on gun suicides shows: The enemy is inside the house
The CIA’s communications suffered a catastrophic compromise. It started in Iran.
Will The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party Pick The Next Speaker?
My Jewish wedding was the day of the Pittsburgh shooting. Anti-Semites threatened it.
A Time To Compromise
Washington state lawmaker Matt Shea defends advocacy for ‘Holy Army’ as Spokane sheriff refers his writings to FBI
How many of Trump’s Redhats are law enforcement?
Bolsonaro’s election is catastrophic news for Brazil’s indigenous tribes
The old folks at home in the party of Trump

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The Left Is Still Misunderstanding How (Some) Racists Vote

At this point, I realize I’m having as much effect as shouting at clouds, but until the left, construed broadly, begins to understand that Democrats win 25% – 35% of the white racist vote, we’re going to continue to get maudlin pieces about how Americans didn’t reject racism in the 2018 election. The problem is not said maudlinitude, but that the inability to realize that some white racists vote Democratic in spite of and in opposition to their racism means we fail to comprehend why some people, racist or not, vote Democratic.

By the way, if you don’t believe what I wrote in the first sentence, take a gander at this figure from around May 2016 (for those keeping score at home, Sanders supporters inexplicably weren’t included, but they clocked in slightly lower than Clinton supporters). And remember–this is all supporters, not just white ones (so Clinton’s numbers are probably pretty close to the non-Trump Republicans):


Other surveys with different methodologies have similar results. The point is this: white Democratic racists are an integral part of the Democratic coalition (e.g., there are probably as many Democratic white racists as there are Democratic Latinos, possibly a few more). Yet they aren’t voting based on their racism (which is good!). My point isn’t to welcome racism with open arms, or argue that Democrats should try racist appeals–not at all.

It would have been wonderful if Republican Iowa congressman and elite racist Steve King had lost, but I think a large fraction of the white Democratic vote, and not just the racists, didn’t view this election through that prism. Do I like how ‘bigotry adjacent’ too many white people are? Of course not, it’s despicable (maybe even deplorable?). But you work with the electorate you have, not the electorate you wish you had. Many of them responded to something else–racism was orthogonal to their decision. Figure out what that is (I have ideas about that!), and do more of that. If a racist wants to back candidates who would do things to mitigate racism (and a bunch of other bad -isms), why shouldn’t we encourage them to do so?

Posted in Democrats, Racism | 6 Comments

Links 11/11/18

Links for you. Science:

NASA searches the stars but can’t keep track of all its earthly goods
Want to avoid the flu? Wash hands, clean counters, crack a window, consider a surgical mask.
What a massive database of retracted papers reveals about science publishing’s ‘death penalty’
The Biggest Organism on Earth Is Dying, and It’s Our Fault
Oldest fossils or just rocks? Scientists at odds over 3.7 billion-year-old structures.


This Indiana City’s Vacant Homes Show The Other Side Of The Housing Crisis
Harvard’s affirmative action case isn’t just about race. This young woman explains why.
Bernie Sanders: ‘Trump Is Somebody Who Clearly Does Not Respect Democracy’
Meet the Navy man who fought anti-Semites and flogging — and saved Monticello
Defensible Space
GOP Senator Pushed VA to Use Unproven “Brainwave Frequency” Treatment
I Bought Used Voting Machines on eBay for $100 Apiece. What I Found Was Alarming
Complete Mystery How To Make Voting Easy
Erasing Economics and Economic Policy from Politics: The Race and Xenophobia Sideshow
Barack Obama’s Great Tower of Nothing: Gentrification on a Presidential Level
Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe. (noncompete contracts are an indication you have a fragile business model)
Having it Both Ways
The Essential Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
Donald Trump Didn’t Start the Fire: Here Are Things the Midterms Can’t Fix
Pentagon Wants to Predict Anti-Trump Protests Using Social Media Surveillance

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