The liberal denial: ignoring the psychology of the right

Chris Mooney, writing for Mother Jones: 

So it is not that Schlafly, or other conservatives as sophisticated as he, can’t make an argument. Rather, the problem is that when Schlafly makes an argument, it’s hard to believe it has anything to do with real intellectual give and take. He’s not arguing out of an openness to changing his mind. He’s arguing to reaffirm what he already thinks (his “faith”), to defend the authorities he trusts, and to bolster the beliefs of his compatriots, his tribe, his team.

Liberals (and scientists) have too often tried to dodge the mounting evidence that this is how people work. Perhaps because it leads to a place that terrifies them: an anti-Enlightenment world in which evidence and argument don’t work to change people’s minds.

But that response, too, is a form of denial—liberal denial, a doctrine whose chief delusion is not so much the failure to accept facts, but rather, the failure to understand conservatives. And that denial can’t continue. Because as President Obama’s first term has shown—from the healthcare battle to the debt ceiling crisis—ignoring the psychology of the right has not only left liberals frustrated and angry, but has left the country in a considerably worse state than that.

How do we effectively run a country when half of its citizens won’t listen to reason? Do we follow China’s lead with their “special economic zones” and have “libertartian regions” where people are can have few government benefits, low taxes, the ability to teach their kids whatever they please, and legislate on any moral grounds they see fit while the rest of us enjoy a well-regulated market economy with a strong safety net and science-based education? At that point, would it even be worth it to stay united as one country?

Surprising success story: Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines, Flying Above an Industry’s Troubles –

Mr. Wahto retired six years ago, but not before seeing the transformation of flying in Alaska and of the airline where he spent his career. Alaska Airlines is puny compared to the major carriers: it has 124 planes, while United Airlines has more than 700 and four times as many passengers. But because of the state’s topography and extreme weather, it was the first to develop satellite guidance, a navigation technique that has transformed landing at Alaska’s tricky airports. The technique is now at the heart of the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to modernize the nation’s air traffic system, a project that is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars over the coming decades.


Alaska Airlines, in fact, had the industry’s best on-time performance for the third consecutive year in 2012, with 87 percent of flights landing on time, according to FlightStats, a data provider.


Megamergers, most recently of US Airways and American Airlines, have redrawn the boundaries of domestic carriers, concentrating the business as never before. Alaska Airlines, for its part, has cultivated staunch independence. Unlike carriers that have faced bankruptcy or acquisition, Alaska has turned a profit for 33 of the last 39 years. In 2012, it had a record $316 million in net income, up 29 percent from 2011.

Alaska Airlines uses more advanced technology to provide better service to their customers, and in exchange it has been far more successful at consistently turning a profit than its competitors. Funny how that works.

How did sexual reproduction first happen?

While we don’t know for sure, we can guess by looking at organisms that exhibit both sexual and asexual behavior:

IMO (this is educated speculation, as this is somewhat outside my realm of expertise) sexual lifestyle of the baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae actually gives us hints into how sex might have evolved. Both this yeast and the divergent fission yeast (they diverged 1.1MYA) have two sexes that are determined by the sequence of DNA at the MAT locus in the genome. Baker’s yeast have two genes that can be copied (through gene conversion) at the locus, the MATa or MATα (alpha) genes. They are encoded on the left and right sides of the MAT locus. When a yeast is MATα, for example, the MATα gene will be at the MAT locus, the MATa gene will be transcriptionally silenced, and the transcription of the MATα gene at the MAT locus will make that yeast appear to other yeast as a MATα. It does this by secreting the alpha-peptide and presenting an A-receptor, so it both tells other yeast that it’s an α through the peptide, and is able to recognize other alphas through its receptor. This ensures that during sex the yeast will always mate with the opposite type.

The reason I bring this system up is obvious: it’s a very simple and elegant way of thinking about how sex could have evolved as it’s a way of getting two subtypes of species with very little evolutionary change. In essence, it’s the yeast’s way of mixing and matching advantageous evolutionary traits throughout the population. In a nutrient rich and healthy environment, baker’s yeast predominately (though 1% will still mate) exists as asexually propagating diploid (2 copies of each of their 16 chromosomes) cells. However, in stressful/nutrient poor conditions, yeast will mate and sporulate, and produce 4 spores, 2 MATa, 2 MATα, and each mixed and matched for 1 of the original 16 chromosomes. Once conditions get better, they mix and match further, and create a new heterogeneous population. Presumably, these mechanisms exist to ensure survival through the obvious advantage of variation in a population, more specifically through: (1) spread of rare genes that may confer fitness advantages in the new environmental condition, (2) the elimination of mutated genes that occur in asexually reproducing populations by genetic drift and mutation.

The thread has plenty of discussion on the topic if you’re interested.

Corporate Cyber-Warfare begins between Google and Microsoft

From WMPowerUser:

I guess we missed the declaration, but it seems the cold war between Microsoft and Google has really warmed up.

Google has previously already said they will not be making apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8, but now they have taking things a step further by blocking Windows Phones (both 7.5 and 8) from accessing

And people thought Apple dropping the Google Maps data from it’s mapping API was aggressive.

Abraham Lincoln on the Iraq, err, Mexican-American War

More great anecdotes from Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln:

The following week, on January 12, 1848, Lincoln defended his spot resolutions and his vote on the Ashmun resolution in a major speech. He claimed that he would happily reverse his vote if the president could prove that first blood was shed on American soil; but since he “can not, or will not do this,” he suspected that the entire matter was, “from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.” Having provoked both countries into war, Lincoln charged, the president had hoped “to escape scrutiny, by fixing the public gaze upon the exceeding brightness of military glory … that serpent’s eye, that charms to destroy.”


The Democratic Illinois State Register charged that Lincoln had disgraced his district with his “treasonable assault upon President Polk,” claimed that “henceforth” he would be known as “Benedict Arnold,” and predicted that he would enjoy only a single term. Lincoln sought to clarify his position, arguing that although he had challenged the instigation of the war, he had never voted against supplies for the soldiers. To accept Polk’s position without question, he claimed, was to “allow the President to invade a neighboring nation … whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary.”

Sounds an awful lot like Paul Krugman and others who spoke out against President Bush during the first few year of the Iraq War. History really does repeat itself.

Could two people populate the Earth?

From an AskScience Reddit thread:

But keeping to the hypothetical, a fertility rate of six with 4 surviving to reproduce themselves on a similar basis would lead to exponential population growth; the survival of the species would be pretty much assured if they could keep this up for only a few generations simply due to force of numbers. A couple having four children survive to adulthood is a doubling of population each generation.

As a purely mathematical fiction, presuming an average generation gap of 16 years and that this average of four children per couple surviving to reproduce held solidly (it wouldn’t, of course) it would only take a little over 500 years for this original couple to have repopulated the earth to the present level of 7bn (that’s exponential growth for you.) Of course plenty would happen in between to slow the exponential growth.

Assuming no wars, famine, disease – yes, and in only 500 years. Of course, human history shows that many things do get in the way of humans rapidly multiplying like we theoretically could.