Quick hits (part II)

1) Love the “helper T cells.”  Wired, “Covid-19 Immunity May Rely on a Microscopic Helper: T Cells”

But antibody levels are only part of the immunity story. While antibodies may wane past the limit of detection, that doesn’t mean they go away entirely. And even a very low level could be protective. “What‘s important when you’ve been exposed to the virus is how quickly you can ramp up those antibodies,” Permar says. That involves a whole army of cells, which store knowledge of each new pathogen they encounter. There are B cells, which help coax those virus-specific antibodies into existence, plus killer T cells, which can learn to obliterate infected cells. Helper T cells help orchestrate the whole process. “You have multiple arms of the immune response,” says Donna Farber, an immunologist at Columbia University who studies respiratory viruses. “It’s like the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.” If one branch stands down, the body hasn’t necessarily lost its germ-fighting capacity.

For vaccine researchers, those helper T cells are of particular interest. They’re the ones that rally the troops, kicking off the process that leads to antibody production. But so far, there hasn’t been evidence that that’s how the body is actually primed to fight SARS-CoV-2, says John Wherry, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s because T cell responses are much harder to measure than antibody levels, requiring a lot of blood and fine-tuned instrumentation to wrangle the right kinds of immune cells. “We’ve lacked data on which cells—especially B and T cells—are truly recognizing the virus,” Wherry says. “There’s a lot of noise.”

That makes it difficult to know if vaccine developers are really on the right track. Their hunch is based, primarily, on how the immune system responds to other pathogens. But some viruses evade the typical patterns. They short-circuit the immune response. The most infamous example of that is HIV, Wherry says, which attacks the very T cells that would coordinate the immune response to the virus. SARS-CoV-2 has already offered its own twists and turns, like its propensity to prompt runaway immune responses. For Covid-19, “there’s no prototypical immune response, especially in severe cases,” Wherry says.

Lately, though, systematic studies of T and B cell responses to SARS-CoV-2 have begun to elicit some patterns. Recently, researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology looked at T cell responses in what they considered “average” cases of the disease—people who got sick but didn’t need to be hospitalized. In a study published in Cell in May, they found that all of their subjects developed helper T cells, and 70 percent had killer T cells. The level of the T cell response, they found, roughly corresponded with levels of neutralizing antibodies. Other studies, including a recent preprint from a team at Oxford, have come to similar conclusions.

2) This is great.  James Fallows uses his experience/perspective as a pilot to evaluate the Trump Administration’s disastrous Covid response, “The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything
Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

Controlling the risks of flight may not be as complex as fighting a pandemic, but it’s in the ballpark. Aviation is fundamentally a very dangerous activity. People are moving at high altitudes, at high speed, and in high volume, with a guarantee of mass casualties if things go wrong. Managing the aviation system involves hardware—airframes, engines, flight control systems—and “software,” in the form of training, routing, and coordinated protocols. It requires recognition of hazards that are certain—bad weather, inevitable mechanical breakdowns—and those that cannot be specifically foreseen, from terrorist episodes to obscure but consequential computer bugs. It involves businesses and also governments; it is nation-specific and also worldwide; it demands second-by-second attention and also awareness of trends that will take years to develop…

The modern aviation system works. From the dawn of commercial aviation through the 1990s, 1,000 to 2,000 people would typically die each year in airline crashes. Today, the worldwide total is usually about one-10th that level. Last year, before the pandemic began, more than 25,000 commercial-airline flights took off each day from airports in the United States. Every one of them landed safely.

In these two fundamentally similar undertakings—managing the skies, containing disease outbreaks—the United States has set a global example of success in one and of failure in the other. It has among the fewest aviation-related fatalities in the world, despite having the largest number of flights. But with respect to the coronavirus pandemic, it has suffered by far the largest number of fatalities, about one-quarter of the global total, despite having less than one-20th of the world’s population.

Consider a thought experiment: What if the NTSB were brought in to look at the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic? What would its investigation conclude? I’ll jump to the answer before laying out the background: This was a journey straight into a mountainside, with countless missed opportunities to turn away. A system was in place to save lives and contain disaster. The people in charge of the system could not be bothered to avoid the doomed course…

What happened once the disease began spreading in this country was a federal disaster in its own right: Katrina on a national scale, Chernobyl minus the radiation. It involved the failure to test; the failure to trace; the shortage of equipment; the dismissal of masks; the silencing or sidelining of professional scientists; the stream of conflicting, misleading, callous, and recklessly ignorant statements by those who did speak on the national government’s behalf. As late as February 26, Donald Trump notoriously said of the infection rate, “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down close to zero.” What happened after that—when those 15 cases became 15,000, and then more than 2 million, en route to a total no one can foretell—will be a central part of the history of our times…

In a resigned way, the people I spoke with summed up the situation this way: You have a head of government who doesn’t know anything, and doesn’t read anything, and is at the mercy of what he sees on TV. “And all around him, you have this carnival,” an intelligence officer said. “Pompeo is very ambitious to take the reins of the anti-China campaign. Mnuchin and [Commerce Secretary Wilbur] Ross are thinking about their trade deals. You end up thinking that the voice of reason is … Jared”—Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, whose many areas of responsibility in the administration have included the China relationship.

One truth through the decades, under presidents Republican and Democratic alike, is that what the president cares about, everyone else cares about too. “As the president said in his State of the Union address” is the way White House staffers begin a typical conversation with staffers of Cabinet departments. Or “As I heard directly from the president.” This president was saying that the disease didn’t matter, or would solve itself. No one was capable of attracting his attention, or changing his mind, or even using his indifference as a shield for behind-the-scenes preparation for a response.

A military official told me, “I have wondered, as a thought experiment: If the outbreak had been in Tennessee rather than Wuhan, would the outcome for the world have been worse, better, or the same?” This person said that he thought the disease might have spread even more rapidly. Why? “I think it would have been harder to convince Trump to lock things down here, than to throw a ban on China.” Blaming the “Chinese virus” (or, as Trump put it in Tulsa, the “kung flu”) and imposing an ineffective and even counterproductive “ban” was rhetorically and intellectually easy for Trump, after the trade deal had been signed. But the man who has refused ever to be photographed wearing a mask would have been—and has been—slow to impose any domestic controls…

6. The Crash Landing

Today, six months after the president was given his first warnings, more than 2.3 million Americans have been infected by the coronavirus. More than 120,000 have succumbed to the disease. New infections are being reported at the rate of thousands per day—as many now as at what some saw as the “peak” two months ago.

The language of an NTSB report is famously dry and clinical—just the facts. In the case of the pandemic, what it would note is the following: “There was a flight plan. There was accurate information about what lay ahead. The controllers were ready. The checklists were complete. The aircraft was sound. But the person at the controls was tweeting. Even if the person at the controls had been able to give effective orders, he had laid off people who would carry them out. This was a preventable catastrophe.”

The summation by a former senior official was less dry and less clinical. He said to me, “Here we stand, on a mountain of dead.”

3) I was pretty obsessed with the (in)famous “cancel culture” letter earlier this week.  You will be unsurprised to learn that I was quite supportive.  To a stunning degree, the intellectual shallowness of so many of the attacks really proved the point.  I thought all the guilt by association (“well, JK Rowling is anti-Trans, and she signed this letter, so…”) was absolutely pathetic.  And so many people complained about various empowered white men who signed the letter and ignored the fact that it was signed by the likes of Michele Goldberg, Dahlia Lithwick, and Atul Gawande.  Signatory, Jesse Singal (whom I’m also a fan of– he follows where the data/research takes him on Trans– and other issues– which makes him anti-Trans to some) summed up in Reason:

I’m not usually a fan of the saying “a hit dog will holler,” which basically boils down to “if someone responds angrily to an accusation, they are probably guilty.” Sometimes, when someone is unfairly attacked or wrongly accused, they respond to it with vitriol or other intense emotion—it’s only natural.

That said, sometimes the expression is useful. If you accuse someone of having an anger-management problem and they fly into a terrifying rage, well: A hit dog will holler.

I kept thinking about this expression as I watched a sizable subset of the online progressive intelligentsia respond with intense fury, disbelief, and indignation to an open letter published online yesterday by Harper’s magazine. The letter, which will also appear in the magazine’s October issue, was simply a stout defense of liberal values from people primarily on the left at a time it feels like these values are under threat. It made no bones of the fact that President Donald Trump and right-wing authoritarianism in Europe are both major threats to liberal society. It simply said that in addition to these threats, it’s probably time to get our own house in order. “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” the letter reads, in part. “While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

The letter was crafted with sufficient care that it attracted a large number of signatories who one might not usually associate with concerns about “cancel culture” and the like—and it also bridged certain ideological lines. Both J.K. Rowling and New York Times writer and English professor Jennifer Boylan (who is transgender and recently wrote a column critical of Rowling’s views on trans issues), for example, added their names to the list, as did famous figures like Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, Steven Pinker, Salman Rushdie, and Garry Kasparov, and some less famous ones—like me.

Because the American left is basically a war zone at the moment—or online it is, at least—what happened next shouldn’t surprise anyone: A group of us posted the letter and celebrated it, while another much angrier group denounced it and held it up as proof of…well, whatever it is they hate about us and want to get us fired over (this crowd likes calling the manager). Now, it shouldn’t have surprised me—I have been through multiple rounds of this stuff—but I have to admit it did.

One such reaction came from Parker Molloy, a staffer at the left-leaning Media Matters, who insisted, of a letter that includes Rushdie and Kasparov, “not a single one of them have been censored anytime in recent history.” In the subsequent tweetstorm, she said of the signatories:

“They want you to sit down.
They want you to shut up.
They want you to do as you’re told.
By them. Specifically.”

“They are totalitarians in the waiting,” she wrote. “They are bad people.” (Disclosure: Molloy disagrees with some of my work on gender dysphoria, particularly these two stories, and publicly called for me to be fired from my then-job at New York magazine in 2017. After I asked her to take the tweet down, because losing one’s job is serious business, she agreed.)

All this in response to a letter saying people shouldn’t be punished too harshly over disagreement or missteps! There’s just no sane connection between the text of the letter and such a reaction. The leftist writer Freddie de Boer’s take nicely clarifies the obvious: The people furious at this letter largely have genuine ideological problems with liberal norms and laws regarding free speech. “Please, think for a minute and consider: what does it say when a completely generic endorsement of free speech and open debate is in and of itself immediately diagnosed as anti-progressive, as anti-left?” he wrote. (Emphasis his.) “There is literally no specific instance discussed in that open letter, no real-world incident about which there might be specific and tangible controversy.” He goes on to explain, accurately: “Of course Yelling Woke Twitter hates free speech! Of course social justice liberals would prevent expression they disagree with if they could! How could any honest person observe our political discourse for any length of time and come to any other conclusion?”

Hit dogs holler, in other words. The reason people are so mad at the pro-free-speech letter is that they aren’t really in favor of free speech. Not when it comes to anyone who isn’t their ally, at least. They can make up other reasons to be mad, of course; they can complain that people they view as transphobic signed it (Rowling, to take the most obvious example, though a subset of people have also lobbed that accusation at both myself and my podcast co-host, Katie Herzog, who is also a signatory), or that it’s unfair Harper’s published a letter about free and open speech while not paying its interns (a separate issue)—but at root, their beef is ideological.

Another example of the hit-dog-hollering principle in action yesterday: “i really wonder if some of the people who signed this thought long and hard about whose names they’d appear next to,” tweeted Matt Gabriele, who teaches medieval studies and chairs the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech.

Again, the amount of stuff being revealed, right in the open, if you only care to look, is surprising: Gabriele, who holds an important, gatekeeping position at a major American university, wants people to think “long and hard” before putting their names on an unobjectionable expression of liberal values, lest someone come along and wrongly judge through the lens of some ridiculous guilt-by-association standard. The writer Oliver Traldi calls this style of discourse “rhextortion“: It would be a shame if someone unfairly judged you as a result of the names on this letter rather than the content of its text itself.

4) And good stuff from Oliver Traldi, that Singal linked to:

The first view on “cancel culture” is that it doesn’t exist. Evaluating this depends on answering the question: what is a “culture”? Is it sufficient for the existence of a “cancel culture” simply that more cancellations happen than we’d like? In that case, we also live in a “murder culture,” a “robbery culture,” and so on. I try to stay away from the phrase “cancel culture” myself. I prefer to just talk about the phenomenon of cancellation and argue that it’s generally a harmful one. If what’s meant by “there is no cancel culture” is that there are no cancellations, that nobody ever loses their livelihood or their life as a consequence of expressing their views, that’s obviously false, as Yascha Mounk has shown in The Atlantic. If what’s meant is that everyone deplores these things when they happen, that’s not true either. In fact, there are always powerful people willing to defend them publicly.

The second view is similar. It goes something like: “All cultures are cancel cultures.” The idea is supposed to be that in every culture, some view or another is outside the bounds of acceptable expression; there’s no way to have a culture without this. Okay, maybe. Again, I don’t know much about what makes something a culture. But that doesn’t mean that a given culture can’t be criticized for placing too much, or the wrong things, outside the bounds of acceptable expression, or for having the wrong kinds of consequences for unacceptable expression. All cultures have norms against certain kinds of sex (nonconsensual, incestuous, and so forth). But that itself does not mean that any norm against any particular kind of sex is justifiable. An individual norm must be justified on its own terms, not through some sort of transcendental argument for the necessity of having some norm or another. It’s as if a parent decided to let their children decide what to eat for dinner, and someone said to that parent, “You wouldn’t let them eat out of the garbage. So it’s just disingenuous to pretend you’re really giving them the choice at all.” A lot of critiques of liberal principles are shot through with this kind of error.

A third view has it that cancellations are real and bad, but they’re not that important. “Why do you care about this?” says the person expressing the view. “There are so many bigger problems in the world.” Well, this is a fair point. I think there is space for reasonable disagreement about how important cancellations are in the grand scheme of things. I am mostly motivated by personal animosities and vague aesthetic commitments. I suspect most “political” writers and tweeters are like me. And this explains not only why there is so much furor against cancellations, but why so much energy goes into defending them: there is enmity between the sides and this is the staging ground that has evolved to channel it. If cancellations are bad and there are bigger problems, then surely the people breathlessly defending cancellations are even more worthy of chastisement than the people breathlessly attacking cancellations— and yet it is the latter at whom this critique is aimed.

A fourth view was expressed recently by commentator Will Wilkinson on Twitter. Wilkinson takes the view that “‘cancel culture’ is what you get when people can’t do politics through a broken political system.” But this really misunderstands what cancellation is. Most cancellations have nothing to do with politics, and in particular it is a mistake to think of the outcomes they think of as political. When Alison Roman was let go from The New York Times for saying something about Chrissy Teigen being rich or whatever, that had nothing to do with politics in any real sense. When The Washington Post got someone fired by reporting a story about a Halloween costume they’d worn to a private party two years prior, that had nothing to do with politics either. When a man was fired for something he wrote in 1987, that wasn’t political. Cancellation in these cases is either social — a way of hurting someone you don’t like — or psychological — a way to feel powerful and participate in something that has a tangible effect on the world — or economic — a way to further your own interests by removing a competitor in your industry. If cancellation is a replacement for politics, it is a pretty bad one!

5) For my money, Brian Beutler, who pushes me smartly from the left about as well as anybody, makes the best case I’ve read against the letter.  I’m still not convinced, but I think he makes a reasonable case:

No actual liberals—whether they signed the letter or agree with the letter or think the letter is terrible—disagree with the notion that certain ideas merit some level of social and professional censure. I work for a progressive media company that abjures true censorship, but if I started writing articles about how Donald Trump’s view of immigrants is actually good, I would expect to lose my job. The boundaries are wider at mass media organizations, where columnists can and frequently do endorse polite versions of the Trump worldview without retribution, but if they began advocating for IQ-based sterilization, they’d also be fired, unobjectionably (and would then probably make a fuss about free speech and the censoriousness of liberal elites in the esteemed pages of Breitbart).

So when someone or a group of prominent writers organizes a letter consistent with the notion that this form of censure is always wrong, it’s easy to understand why some progressives see a stalking horse. That this isn’t about ‘robust debate,’ but about making it anathema to call out intellectual tormentors for bigotry.

When I wrote about an earlier iteration of this same controversy a couple weeks ago, I made a point of noting that the way we argue among ourselves is as important as our premises and that “we have to be clear eyed about our terms and about what the real threat to liberal values is the whole way through.” And here we see why. The Harper’s letter includes signatories whose commitment to the equal dignity of all people I would never doubt, genuine intellectual lions, and others whose work product I’d happily boycott, and I don’t believe for a second that these very different kinds of writers mean the same thing when they decry “an intolerance of opposing views,” or the “steadily narrow[ing] boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal.” And yet here they are, endorsing the same text as if “Open Debate” were immutable, and as accessible to everyone as foamy beer. As if going to bat for young intellectuals who are scared to say they disagree with the farthest-reaching demands of the Movement for Black Lives means you can’t also support deplatforming Charles Murray.

I became aware of the letter only after Harper’s published it, wasn’t asked to sign it, and wouldn’t have if asked, because I disagree with both its framing and premises. I don’t believe that speech norms, as haphazardly as they sometimes evolve on the left, are anything like the genuine censoriousness of the authoritarian right. I also think this sentiment—“the way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away”—while correct in most instances, isn’t a truism and that it’s lazy to treat it as one. Undemocratic ideas can’t be “defeated” because their adherents don’t accept defeat. The most extreme of those ideas should be rendered absolutely toxic, even as the Constitution rightly protects them from being illegalized.

There’s a version of a letter like this I could imagine signing, one that implores civil society leaders to exercise tremendous caution before censuring nonconformists, while cautioning them to be wary of those who argue that free speech means being able to say anything at all, without fear of boycott, in the name of “Open Debate.” Free speech, open debate, these should be our terms, and we should guard them just as jealously from real, illiberal left-wing speech policing as we do from those who brandish them to smuggle dangerous ideas out of the ash heap and back into respectable discourse.

But until we establish guardianship over those terms, we have to be aware that they aren’t one dimensional or static in meaning. When some people take a stand for free speech, they do so as earnestly as Kavanaugh and I might stand up for the virtues of beer; when others claim the same mantle, they do so with all the sincerity of Norman Bates trying to convince the world he wouldn’t harm a fly.

6) I was far less convinced by Osita Nwanevu’s long defense of cancel culture and appreciated that Traldi so effectively took it on.  But, it seems worth sharing, too.

7) We should so be massively gearing up (and testing!!) indoor UV light systems that kill viruses and bacteria.  They are moderately expensive.  You know what’s way more expensive?  An uncontrolled pandemic and people afraid to gather anywhere.

8) Zack Beauchamp on the rotten culture in so many police departments.  The bad apples have ruined the whole barrel and until we understand that and change that, we’ve got a problem.

Arthur Rizer is a former police officer and 21-year veteran of the US Army, where he served as a military policeman. Today, he heads the criminal justice program at the R Street Institute, a center-right think tank in DC. And he wants you to know that American policing is even more broken than you think.

“That whole thing about the bad apple? I hate when people say that,” Rizer tells me. “The bad apple rots the barrel. And until we do something about the rotten barrel, it doesn’t matter how many good fucking apples you put in.”

To illustrate the problem, Rizer tells a story about a time he observed a patrol by some officers in Montgomery, Alabama. They were called in to deal with a woman they knew had mental illness; she was flailing around and had cut someone with a broken plant pick. To subdue her, one of the officers body-slammed her against a door. Hard.

Rizer recalls that Montgomery officers were nervous about being watched during such a violent arrest — until they found out he had once been a cop. They didn’t actually have any problem with what one of them had just done to the woman; in fact, they started laughing about it…

Something about the way police relate to the communities they’re tasked with protecting has gone wrong. Officers aren’t just regularly treating people badly; a deep dive into the motivations and beliefs of police reveals that too many believe they are justified in doing so.

To understand how the police think about themselves and their job, I interviewed more than a dozen former officers and experts on policing. These sources, ranging from conservatives to police abolitionists, painted a deeply disturbing picture of the internal culture of policing.

Police officers across America have adopted a set of beliefs about their work and its role in our society. The tenets of police ideology are not codified or written down, but are nonetheless widely shared in departments around the country.

The ideology holds that the world is a profoundly dangerous place: Officers are conditioned to see themselves as constantly in danger and that the only way to guarantee survival is to dominate the citizens they’re supposed to protect. The police believe they’re alone in this fight; police ideology holds that officers are under siege by criminals and are not understood or respected by the broader citizenry. These beliefs, combined with widely held racial stereotypes, push officers toward violent and racist behavior during intense and stressful street interactions.

In that sense, police ideology can help us understand the persistence of officer-involved shootings and the recent brutal suppression of peaceful protests. In a culture where Black people are stereotyped as more threatening, Black communities are terrorized by aggressive policing, with officers acting less like community protectors and more like an occupying army.

9) This is true, “Reopening U.S. Schools Is a Mess—Whether Kids Can Spread It or Not”

10) How Scotland handled the pandemic much better than England, to its great benefit.

11) Toobin on Trump’s commutation of Stone:

In light of the long relationship between Trump and Stone, the commutation represents a consummate act of cronyism; and yet it is far worse than that. Trump has already exercised his clemency powers to reward political allies who have run into trouble with the law, pardoning the likes of Joe Arpaio, the racist sheriff from Arizona, and Dinesh D’Souza, the right-wing propagandist. (According to a count by Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, thirty-one of Trump’s thirty-six acts of clemency have been based on personal or political connections.) But Trump had not, until now, used pardons and commutations to reward defendants who possessed incriminating information against him. The Stone commutation isn’t just a gift to an old friend—it is a reward to Stone for keeping his mouth shut during the Mueller investigation. It is, in other words, corruption on top of cronyism. As Amy Berman Jackson, the judge in Stone’s case, said, in sentencing him, “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.” And now Stone has been rewarded for covering up for the President.

One of the touchstones of authoritarian political cultures is the use of the criminal-justice system to reward friends and punish enemies. To put it another way, in healthy societies, the work of law enforcement is conducted according to neutral principles, applied equally. The Stone commutation represents a culmination (if not, necessarily, the final one) of Trump’s efforts to dismantle the legacy of the Mueller investigation. The Attorney General, as Trump’s loyal vassal, has moved to undo Mueller’s prosecution of Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-tenured national-security adviser. (In a case brought by Mueller, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying in an interview with F.B.I. agents.) In the same vein, Barr has launched a criminal probe of the initial F.B.I. investigation into the ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interests. These actions are not the even-handed application of criminal law, but rather the indulgence, by the Department of Justice, of the President’s grievances with his enemies. The power to prosecute (and withhold prosecution) is among the most formidable that belong to any government, and the exercise of that power is a fair test of the legitimacy of any ruling authority. Here and now, Trump and his enablers are failing disastrously.

12) And Frum, “Stone Walks Free in One of the Greatest Scandals in American History: The amazing thing about the saga is how much of it happened in the full light of day.”

An American private citizen worked with foreign spies to damage one presidential candidate and help the other. That president accepted the help. When caught, the private citizen lied. When the private citizen was punished, the president commuted his sentence.

It’s all there: as bold as the spats on Roger Stone’s shoes, as ugly as the 130,000 Americans dead, and daily rising, because of the malign incompetence of the president assisted into the Oval Office by Stone, Manafort, and the Russian spy services.

13) This Paul Waldman twitter thread perfectly captures the frustration I’ve been feeling:

14) Okay, this is why there’s the letter about cancel culture.  UNC students wanted to fire a professor who had students engage in role play of historical figures, comparing it to minstrelsy and blackface.  So wrong.  I haven’t done this, but I actually went to a seminar about this approach once.  There’s a whole “Reacting to the Past” curriculum full of historical simulations.  So, according to the complaining students, they should only assign students to reenact historical figures who match their race and gender?  Something tells me that might be problematic, too.

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