Links 9/26/16

Links for you. Science:

How thinking about infinity changes kids’ brains on math
No, NASA Did Not Just Change Your Zodiac Sign
The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence
Miami Herald sues county for records disclosing location of Zika mosquitoes
New York State PTA Resolutions Earn an “F” in Science


Going to Work When You’re Sick Is a Very Dumb and Very American Idea
In the Safe Spaces on Campus, No Jews Allowed: College students have risen up to fight racism on campuses across the country. But it is often those very same students who subject Jewish students to anti-Semitism.
Google Is Transforming NYC’s Payphones Into a ‘Personalized Propaganda Engine’
Penn State doesn’t get to decide JoePa’s legacy: I know
Another Glorious Victory For Humanitarian Intervention
Under President Trump, Flint water crises could be commonplace
In Jim Cooley’s open-carry America, even a trip to Walmart can require an AR-15
Time to dismantle fraternities and the sexism, rape culture and binge drinking they encourage
A Cosmopolitan Defense of Snowden
The Beginning of the End of the World
The Border Wall
Greatness, Again
El Salvador’s “Abortion Lawyer”
Dangerous streets are the leading cause of death of our children. It’s time to finally make L.A. walkable
Colin Kaepernick and a Landmark Supreme Court Case
The interesting thing that happened when Washington state tried an 18th-century version of justice
The Shackling of the American City

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Be Prepared For The Gish Gallop At Tonight’s Debate

If there’s one near certainty about tonight’s presidential debate, it’s that Trump will do a whole lot of Gish Galloping because, as we like to note, nothing in conservatism makes sense except in the light of creationism (with apologies to Theodosius Dobzhansky).

For those who don’t know what a Gish Gallop is, it’s the form of argument used by creationist Duane Gish to argue against evolutionary biology. Here’s the best definition of the Gish Gallop I’ve found (boldface mine):

Named for the debate tactic created by creationist shill Duane Gish, a Gish Gallop involves spewing so much bullshit in such a short span on that your opponent can’t address let alone counter all of it. To make matters worse a Gish Gallop will often have one or more ‘talking points’ that has a tiny core of truth to it, making the person rebutting it spend even more time debunking it in order to explain that, yes, it’s not totally false but the Galloper is distorting/misusing/misstating the actual situation. A true Gish Gallop generally has two traits.

1) The factual and logical content of the Gish Gallop is pure bullshit and anybody knowledgeable and informed on the subject would recognize it as such almost instantly. That is, the Gish Gallop is designed to appeal to and deceive precisely those sorts of people who are most in need of honest factual education.

2) The points are all ones that the Galloper either knows, or damn well should know, are totally bullshit. With the slimier users of the Gish Gallop, like Gish himself, its a near certainty that the points are chosen not just because the Galloper knows that they’re bullshit, but because the Galloper is deliberately trying to shovel as much bullshit into as small a space as possible in order to overwhelm his opponent with sheer volume and bamboozle any audience members with a facade of scholarly acumen and factual knowledge.

There’s an additional point about how difficult it is to refute a Gish Gallop (boldface mine):

The tedium inherent in untangling a gish gallop typically allows for very little “creative license” or vivid rhetoric (in deliberate contrast to the exciting point-dashing central to the galloping), which in turn risks boring the audience or readers, further loosening the refuter’s grip on the crowd.

This is especially true in that the galloper need only win a single one out of all his component arguments in order to be able to cast doubt on the entire refutation attempt. For this reason, the refuter must achieve a 100% success ratio (with all the yawn-inducing elaboration that goes with such precision). Thus, gish galloping is frequently used (and particularly devastating) in timed debates, and in character-limited debate mediums, such as over Twitter or in newspaper editorials.

There’s one way to ‘beat’ a Gish Gallop, but it’s one that pundits don’t like: character attacks. If you make your opponent seem untrustworthy or out-of-control, you can defeat the messenger–the message is too convoluted to confront head-on. That’s not winning ‘on points’, but that’s the only reliable way to beat a Gish Gallop.

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Links 9/25/16

Links for you. Science:

An American tragedy: why are millions of trees dying across the country?
New U.S. Rule to Expand Requirements for Publication of Clinical Trials
The man who gave himself away: How discovering an equation for altruism cost George Price everything
DNA heist that wasn’t sparks data questions
Drug-Resistant Bacteria in Food Persists, Despite Safeguards: Nearly a quarter of chickens tested from U.K. supermarkets are infected with bacteria that is resistant to drugs important to human health


Clinton has detailed plan vs. Trump’s lame attempt, but will infrastructure spending really happen?
Don’t Believe the Charter School Hype: In the end, it’s about profits
Trump considering oil company executive for secretary of the Interior, because money
Then, a terrifying thought: what if he NEVER figures out who’s a good boy?
Donald Trump unveils plan to make abortion illegal again
That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Ireland)
Donald Trump’s New Anti-Abortion Letter Should Terrify You
NYT’s Public Pension Birtherism
A poverty, not education, crisis in U.S.
Elizabeth Warren wants the FBI to treat big bank CEOs the way they treat Hillary Clinton
Privilege, policing and living while black in Chicago’s white north side
How Washington Blew Its Best Chance to Fix Immigration (actually, it was mostly Republicans, not ‘Washington’. Shitty headline, good reporting)
How Arianna Huffington Lost Her Newsroom
The Inside Story of Why Arianna Huffington Left the Huffington Post
Do Charter Schools With Extreme Disciplinary Measures Cluster in Black Communities?
Elizabeth Warren’s Consolidation Speech Could Change the Election (probably not, but it’s a good speech anyway)
Did an Industry Front Group Create Fake Twitter Accounts to Promote the Dakota Access Pipeline?
The downside of upward mobility
Needing support from communities, builders pay for it (this happens far more in Boston that the story lets on; in Back Bay, a bunch of community groups backed off opposition to the new building on Exeter St. once they were bought; I won’t even bring up former Rep. Marty Walz)

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Pick-Up Artistry Versus Winning Over Voters

One of the baffling things to me since the primary season is how inept a subset of Clinton supporters have been at winning over former Sanders supporters and undecideds. Somehow, hectoring possible voters–voters Democrats needis supposed to convince them to vote for Clinton (boldface mine):

…the logic being advanced by many Democrats, which is that by criticizing Hillary Clinton, one supports Donald Trump, since criticism of Clinton makes people less likely to vote for her. Clinton-supporting pundit Bob Cesca has gone so far as to say that “any attack on Hillary must be taken as tacit support for Trump.” Others, like Paul Krugman, imply that any journalism that puts Clinton in a negative light deliberately provides aid and comfort to the Trump campaign.

Say we accept this logic. Whether or not someone supports Donald Trump is not dependent on their professed opinion, or on how they will vote. Rather, it is solely a function of how their actions contribute to the probability that Donald Trump will become the President. If a person’s actions increase that probability, they are supporting Trump, regardless of what they say. If their actions decrease that probability, they are supporting Clinton.

If that standard is applied consistently, Bernie-bashing, millennial-hating Democrats are openly supporting Trump. That’s because Clinton is currently struggling to retain millennial support. And in order to win the election she’ll not only need their support in public opinion polls, she’ll need them all to actually go to a polling place and case a ballot for her. In order to do that, she needs to be wooing them. And those who support her need to be doing the same. Instead, they’re reinforcing nasty prejudices about millennials (incorrect ones, too, because old people undermine the Democrats far more than millennials do). Or they’re criticizing the one person in their party that millennials have come to respect…

What has concerned me from the beginning of this election is this: Democrats seem to have a better thought-out plan for how to blame leftists for allowing Trump to get elected than they do for how to actually defeat Trump. They’re all set to cast blame on Bernie if they are defeated in November. It will be very satisfying for them.

But if you actually oppose Trump, which Democrats and leftists alike do, you need to think about how to get rid of him. It’s fun to sit around saying “Your actions make you a Trump supporter!” “No, yours do!” But it’s also pointless… A serious plan to defeat Trump involves not insulting the people whose votes Clinton depends on.

Part of this stems from behaving like the political equivalent of a pick-up artist, instead of treating voters with respect (boldface mine):

To this, I’ll just add that the there’s probably a good reason why discourse gamers overestimate their competence: hubris.

It is not, after all, as if Kevin Drum thinks that anyone who hears criticism of Clinton is going to vote Trump. That’s obviously untrue, since Drum himself heard what Sanders had to say, and simply found it unpersuasive. What Drum actually thinks is that while he can handle frank and open criticism, other people can’t. This is always a foundational assumption of discourse gaming: everyone else has to be shepherded and manipulated into conclusions that we were able to reach through basic judgment and reasoning.

When you have this kind of condescending view of everyone else’s intelligence, you’re obviously going to then proceed to make all kinds of stupid mistakes when you’re trying to manipulate their reactions. Here, the same hubris that inclines Drum to think of Millennials as dupes also keeps him from realizing that they might object to this. It reminds me of nothing so much as a pickup artist who thinks of a woman as a “target” who can be “gamed” – and who also thinks that she won’t notice. Both approaches routinely fail, and for many of the same reasons.

Having canvassed in four Democratic presidential elections, back in the dark ages no less when your list of addresses wasn’t microtargeted, you learn very quickly that being a condescending asshole doesn’t work. Winning elections occurs at the margins (and given Clinton’s predictable and predicted weakness as a candidate, those margins are much thinner than they should be), so every vote matters. Don’t be an asshole to those who should be casting votes for Democrats.

Posted in Democrats, Voting | 1 Comment

Links 9/24/16

Links for you. Science:

Compounds that select against the tetracycline-resistance efflux pump
Pit Bulls Are Chiller Than Chihuahuas (historically, pit bulls were seen as excellent pets for families with small children as they were viewed as friendly and fiercely loyal)
Can Reusing Spent Nuclear Fuel Solve Our Energy Problems? (actually, it’s not new, just the U.S. loves itself some plutonium)
Illumina, Secret Giant Of DNA Sequencing, Is Bringing Its Tech To The Masses
Gut Check: The Microbiome Game now available for purchase


‘I’m sorry’ for war and fear of terrorism: ex-US diplomat’s apology to daughter (must-read)
The ‘forgotten tribe’ in West Virginia; why America’s white working class feels left behind (this just can’t all be racism)
Bernie Sanders just might be the most popular politician in America
How Money Drives US Congressional Elections
How Democrats Can Overcome Their Self-Defeating Cynicism
The Kids Today
Barton Gellman Hits Washington Post’s “Passive Aggressive Critique” of Its Own Snowden Reporting: “It’s a good thing for the Post, and for journalism, that the opinion staff has no say in what counts as news.”
In Adams Morgan, a promise yet to be filled (Nadeau’s heart seems to be in the right place most times, but she doesn’t strike me as incredibly bright)
Why can’t Metro label escalators “walk left, stand right” or label where doors will stop on the platform? (“We have people like US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx insisting that safety is the only priority and that he’d sooner shut down the Metro than have any safety problem whatever. In that climate, doing something on escalators that could be a little less safe, even if the change is slight, is probably not wise.”)
The Broken Policy Promises of W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama
D.C. Council Delays Work Scheduling Bill Once Again
Trump Jr.’s Sick Skittle Analogy Will Be Familiar To White Supremacists
America is full of high-earning poor people (this is the new definition of middle-class, for me anyway)
Bowser, D.C. Council at odds on priority of public safety and labor legislation (again, there are class divides that too often go unmentioned)
Thomas Ferguson on how Money Drives Congressional Elections
McMansions 101 Revisited: Aesthetics Aside, Why McMansions Are Bad Architecture
Re Skittles, a personal tale.
Everybody Panic
D.C. Lawmakers Aim to Curb Arbitrary Rent Discounts
What the Election Will Mean for Schools

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At This Point, Testimonials Aren’t Going To Sway Voters

In which the haplessness of Clinton surrogates continues.

I see many stories like this one, “Hillary has spent her life fighting for the rights of Americans with disabilities“, which exemplify the problem most pro-Clinton appeals have. It’s not that this isn’t a good point–helping the disabled is a very good thing! (And good for Clinton).

But it’s written, like so many pieces, ultimately, not as an argument about how this will help people, but as a statement of what a good person Clinton is. At this point, if someone is either seriously considering sitting out the election or could truly hasn’t decided, testimonials about Clinton’s character aren’t going to work. If he or she thought Clinton was a decent, but flawed (like all of us) person, he or she would be voting for Clinton. Instead, this line of argument rings hollow–telling someone “X is a good person” when they don’t think so (regardless of how stupid that might be) is not persuasive at all.

Instead, focus on how Clinton, along with Democrats who will keep her honest, will do things that make people’s lives better.

Posted in Democrats | 2 Comments

Links 9/23/16

Links for you. Science:

The Detectives Who Never Forget a Face
American Whalers Killed Way More Than Just Whales
Watch this law professor try to convince a physicist that Greenland’s melt won’t raise seas
An Organic Chicken Farm in Georgia Has Become an Endless Buffet for Bald Eagles
More Linear Algebra, Please


Free Trade’s Unwilling Victims (excellent)
Donald Trump just summed up his entire despicable campaign in 30 seconds
Weapons Makers Hold Lavish Lovefest for Pentagon Official Who Manages Arms Sales
The Anniversary of Lehman and Men Who Don’t Work
Meet the Man Who Raised Millions Crafting D&D Dungeons
Hillary Clinton Offers Millennials A Misleading Look At Her Record In Op-Ed
Trump and Clinton react very differently to terror incidents. That tells us how they’d act as president.
‘More guns in fewer hands’: US study charts rise of hardcore super owners
Police Accidentally Record Themselves Conspiring to Fabricate Criminal Charges Against Protester
Why have classroom discussions anyway?
The Presidential Campaign Has Descended Into Madness
Vote as if It Matters
The Internet Is Killing You And You’re Begging For More
Bigotry Is Expensive
This incredible thunderstorm photo was taken from a plane over Panama City
New analysis shows that crime isn’t increasing — but that Chicago is making things look much worse
All the Rage

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