I’m famous! (Urban vs. rural vaccine edition)

So, this was kind of cool.  I wrote to an N&O reporter about my frustration with the lack of vaccine access in urban NC areas, she passed me onto a colleague already working on it, and my attempts to find a shot for my son Alex were actually the frame of the story!  A rare media appearance as concerned dad/frustrated citizen instead of expert political science professor:

Steven Greene started trying to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for his son on March 17, quickly growing frustrated with a process that he said would be easier if he were willing to drive an hour or more to find a shot.

“It would drive me crazy,” Greene told The News & Observer, “because it was like you could walk into Rocky Mount right now or walk into Dunn or walk into Fayetteville — and there was nothing or one appointment in North Raleigh.”

Greene’s 18-year-old son, Alex, has been diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis, a condition that causes moderate intellectual disabilities and leads to the growth of benign brain tumors. To keep the tumors at bay, Alex takes medication that suppresses his immune system, leaving him at higher risk from COVID-19.

“We worry for him,” Greene said.

Greene and others have questioned how some providers in rural parts of North Carolina are able to open vaccine eligibility to everyone who lives there while many in larger counties still need to register on a waiting list or hope that they log onto a web page at the right time.

The answer comes down to demand. Several providers who moved forward into new vaccination groups told The News & Observer that they did so once they saw people in open vaccination groups start to make fewer appointments. In the Triangle, both Wake County and UNC Health officials said their appointments are still booked, even as supply has increased.

As of March 31, anyone who is an essential worker or has a health condition that leaves them at higher risk from COVID-19 will be eligible for a vaccine in North Carolina. Anyone who is 16 or older will be eligible on April 7.

During the week of March 22, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services shifted the formula it uses to decide where to send the bulk of available vaccine doses.

For about two months, the state largely used county populations to decide how much vaccine to send to each place. Now, 97% of doses will be based on the number of unvaccinated adults who live in a county, an effort state health officials hope will help it better account for people who cross county lines and those who are vaccinated in some federal programs…

Wake County saw its baseline vaccine allocation — the number of doses it is guaranteed to receive each week until April 10 — jump from 13,500 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during the week of March 15 to 19,280 doses the week of March 22.

Much of that increase went to Wake County Public Health, which saw its baseline supply jump from 4,680 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 9,360 first doses. The county health department also received an additional 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine and 100 doses of Johnson & Johnson last week.

“Our mass vaccination sites are regional vaccine programs. And we do know that we vaccinate other counties or we vaccinate residents from other counties,” Ryan Jury, who oversees vaccine operations for Wake County, told The News & Observer.

About 10% of the people who are vaccinated at a Wake County Public Health vaccination site come from outside the county, Jury said.

Demand for a COVID-19 vaccine is still outpacing the health department’s supply.

“We have seen strong, filled schedules for the last couple weeks,” Jury said, “and we predict that into the coming weeks.”

Alex Greene will end up being one of those people who is vaccinated in the community where he lives. His family signed him up for Wake County’s vaccination list on March 17, the first day he was eligible. They also put him on Duke Health’s list. Steven Greene continuously checked UNC’s Your Shot vaccination scheduling tool, but was dismayed to discover that the only available appointments were hours away.

“They never tell you anything,” Steven Greene said about the wait lists. “It’s just, you hope you hear something all of a sudden.”

Greene finally did find an appointment for his son — at Wake Tech’s southern campus later this week. That, he said, left him “super excited.”

The article includes lots of stuff about the surplus in rural areas and the scarcity in urban areas and it appears the March 22 shift in formula has genuinely helped, but there’s still clearly a major imbalance and I’d like more explanation from the state.  Maybe people will care now that Nate Silver is on the case?

Also… “at some point”?  No, we’re already well past the point where this is clearly a massive policy failure.  

Oh, and about that vaccination for Alex:

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With big thanks to his little sister who helped him overcome his vaccination fear/anxiety by practicing vaccinations with him on her stuffed animals.  

DC Statehood

Jonathan Bernstein had a really good column on DC Statehood last week (and on just how bad the Republican arguments are):

Indeed, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote a column detailing some of the sillier Republican objections to statehood, and pointing out that many Republicans actually supported statehood not long ago.

Blake missed the mark, though, when he wrote, “There are valid, philosophical reasons to argue that Washington, D.C., should not be a state or have voting rights in Congress.” But really, there aren’t. It’s pretty straightforward: Citizens in democracies get to vote and to be represented in the legislature. That’s it. Nothing complicated.

No democracy scholar I’m aware of has ever advanced any argument that citizens should be disenfranchised if they live in a capital city. People who live in Phoenix and Albany and Sacramento are represented in their state legislatures (and in Congress). No one to my knowledge has ever suggested that they shouldn’t be, and if any state tried to take away their representatives, the courts would presumably toss the effort out.

The Constitution’s framers just got this one wrong — presumably, at least in part, because they didn’t envision the capital as a significant city. It doesn’t matter why. We’ve corrected many mistakes in the original Constitution. There’s no good reason to defer to the framers on this one.

If citizens in Washington deserve representation, the only real question is how to give it to them, and the only viable answer is statehood. Yes, returning the District to Maryland would also solve the problem, but it runs into the fact that Maryland doesn’t want it and the District doesn’t want to be part of Maryland. That leaves only statehood.

Don’t even start with complaints that the new state would be too small; it wouldn’t have the lowest population currently, let alone historically. As for the compact geographical size, that’s basically irrelevant to the case for statehood. But there’s a strong case that a fully urban state would repair some of the damage caused by the malapportionment of the Senate, which has a strong rural bias. And no, this would certainly not be the first state created in part to help a political party; partisanship has always been involved in statehood politics.

The only real argument against D.C. statehood is partisanship: Why should Republicans vote to create a state that would put two new Democrats in the Senate? And let’s not pretend that Republicans could simply shift toward the center to try to compete there; the Democratic advantage is far too lopsided for that. It’s a Democratic city and would be a Democratic state, and I can’t blame Republicans for voting their party’s self-interest.

But the flip side of that is that Democrats can vote their own party’s self-interest — and, in this case, they would be on the side of democracy and justice. They should have done it in 2009 when they could defeat Senate filibusters; they should at least consider doing it now even if it forces them to limit the filibuster to get it done. And while they’re at it, they should do the same for Puerto Rico, where the partisan divisions are much less rigid. Assuming that citizens there want it.

Yes, there’s a huge partisan benefit to Democrats for DC statehood.  And, historically, there was a huge partisan benefit for a bunch of states admitted at earlier times (it is quite rich to have the 4 Republican Senators from the former Dakota territory– rather than 2– mounting these objections).  So, yeah, it will benefit Democrats.  But, you know what else?  It’s the right thing to do.  

Intermittent fast update

So, just about 13 months ago I decided to start a 16-8 intermittent fast.  Huge confound, of course– pandemic!  I find it so much easier to not think about food all the time when I’m at the office rather than at home and I’ve spent a lot more time at home.  Nonetheless, for the most part, I’ve been very pleased with the diet because I simply spend way less time feeling hungry.  Used to be that I’d spend most evenings having a huge battle between me and my willpower over how much I would eat after dinner.  That’s totally gone now.  I shut it down with some fresh fruit  around 7:30 and I’m pretty much never hungry the rest of the evening.  And I’ve never been one to be all the hungry in the mornings (I’ve always eaten breakfast just because it seemed like the thing to do) so on most days, it’s also really easy to hardly think about food until noon.  So, psychologically, it’s been a huge success.  

“But the weight issue?!” you are surely asking.  Well up until this Fall, I was quite happy on that score.  Did not count calories at all.  Ate pretty much what I wanted.  And held steady around 170 pounds.  To eat as I was and not gain any weight felt like a huge victory– especially with the pandemic.  I stopped weighing myself for a while, stuck with the fast, and then a particular lifestyle change really did me in.  That’s right– no running due to the Achilles tear.  Chair aerobics and exercise bike clearly just weren’t burning up the same calories.  I got back on the scale again for the first time in several months at the beginning of March and– yikes, 180!  So, yeah, you can definitely gain some weight while on an intermittent fast if you just eat whatever you want.  Not to mention, there’s now been some research that definitely throws some cold water on this approach for weight loss.  

Anyway, with the weight gain, I decided I better make a concerted effort to lose some weight (which nicely, almost perfectly coincided with my return to Achilles-substantially-healed running) and I’m back with the tried-and-true calories in; calories out approach (just logging every day).  So far, it’s working like a charm.  And I’m doing it on a 16-8 schedule.  When I started the 16-8 I would tell people I have the willpower to limit calories or to limit when I eat, but not both.  But, the amazing thing about this approach, at least for me, is that when I restrict my eating to 8 hours, it actually takes dramatically less willpower to eat fewer calories– a pretty big win-win.  So, long term, looks like breakfast is out except for special occasions (literally, the only day I have not followed the schedule in the past 13 months is for the Belgian waffles my wife made for Christmas breakfast).  I recognize these psychological benefits may be largely idiosyncratic as I’ve not read about other people experiencing such a dramatic benefit in decreased food cravings, but I’m honestly just so much happier on this diet as I simply spend way less mental energy thinking about food and how much I’m consuming and that’s awesome.  And as long as I keep running and don’t over-indulge in bread with dinner (my daughter recently discovered baguettes and I think this was part of the weight gain, too), I feel like this is a great long-term pattern.   

Upshot– no, you cannot just eat whatever you want on a 16-8 fast and not gain weight, but it may actually make for an easier ongoing lifestyle diet than you’d think.  



Manchin explained

As mentioned many times here and elsewhere, policy-wise, it’s Joe Manchin’s world and we’re all just living in it.  Paul Waldman with the best explanation/analysis I’ve yet seen of Manchin’s approach to politics and I honestly think the upshot it pretty good.  The short version is that Manchin is clearly comfortable taking votes in a divided 50-50 Senate, but he really believes in a bipartisan process and if not outcome.  And he does seem to relish being the center of the action.  Waldman:

This week, Manchin disclosed new details on what he wants on two of Democrats’ most immediate priorities. On infrastructure, he came out for a much bigger bill than many expected. On election reform, he called for something much less ambitious than many Democrats want.

On the surface, Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, can seem hard to read. Sometimes he seems like a Republican and sometimes like a more traditional Democrat. Often we don’t know which way he’ll come out on a given controversy until he makes it clear.

But if you look closely, you can find a modus operandi.

Manchin always begins by saying that this time, it’s imperative that legislation proceed in a bipartisan fashion. But while that often frightens Democrats who know Republicans want to undermine the entire Biden agenda, Manchin isn’t actually being as categorical as he appears.

For him, bipartisanship is a process, but not necessarily an outcome. He’ll reach out and negotiate with his Republican colleagues to make sure they’re involved in the debate. His position on the details may be influenced by the things they advocate, as it was when he forced the stimulus checks in the American Rescue Plan to phase out more quickly for those at higher incomes.

However — and this is critical — in the end, Manchin voted for that bill even though no Republicans in either chamber joined him. He wouldn’t single-handedly kill an important piece of legislation for no reason other than that no Republicans voted for it

So when Manchin starts talking about the need for bipartisanship, the best way to understand it is not as an immovable stance but as an opening gambit. He knows he sits at the fulcrum of a 50-50 Senate, and his position on any legislation may have to adjust as Republicans and other Democrats shift around him.

What matters for him is that he be seen as the moderating force, the one restraining his Democratic colleagues while looking out for his constituents

This week, Manchin also released a statement on the For the People Act, the Democrats’ main electoral reform bill…

He will inevitably oppose some provisions, but he didn’t say which — so anything he didn’t bring up should be seen as still on the table. And note that he didn’t say he’d vote against the bill if it doesn’t have any GOP backing. That means he can still support the bill in the end if he decides the process has been sufficiently bipartisan.

In other words, Manchin is keeping his options open. And however the fate of the For the People Act plays out — if it becomes the vehicle for filibuster reform, if it passes in nearly its entirety, if it gets whittled way down — it’ll be largely up to him.

That will be the story of nearly every piece of major legislation in the next two years at least. Sometimes that may work out just fine for Democratic goals, and sometimes it may not. But Joe Manchin is going to make sure that he’s in control, whether anyone else likes it or not.

So, this means I’m going to continue to be cautiously optimistic on Manchin– he’s already shown us he’s fine with 50-50 votes on some important things Democrats care about.  And, I’m going to be cautiously optimistic that he actually believes in functioning democracy more than the current version of the filibuster and find some way to help make democracy-protecting legislation happen.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Interesting take on the Ever Given from David Graham:

When a big jet airplane crashes, it almost always makes headlines around the world, and for good reason: Fatal passenger accidents are extremely rare. Right now, though, the eyes of the world are on the Ever Given, the massive container ship still stubbornly lodged between the banks of the Suez Canal.

The Ever Given’s predicament is both highly unusual and typical: Seldom does a ship get stuck in the Suez (though it does happen every few years), and seldom does a maritime disaster attract such attention. But even though the world is incredibly dependent on ships like Ever Given—a reality that pandemic-related disruptions have suddenly made visible—major maritime incidents are surprisingly common. According to the insurer Allianz, 41 large ships were lost in 2019, and 46 in 2018. Over the past decade, about 100 big vessels have been lost annually.

Why does this keep happening? Every maritime accident, like every plane crash, has its own unique failures. But one key to the improvement in aviation safety was the advent of a radical new approach to safety and training, known as cockpit resource management or crew resource management. Airplane failures still occur, but they rarely become fatal catastrophes. The shipping industry has tried to learn from aviation’s success, dubbing its equivalent “bridge resource management,” but the implementation and modernization of the approach have largely failed.

2) One of the most incredibly shameful moral failures of our government over the past twenty years is how we have abandoned so many of the native Iraqis and Afghans who have literally put their life on the line for the U.S.  George Packer on this ongoing failure.  

3) Thanks to BB for sharing this with me, “After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions”

Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus.

And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city’s criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby’s office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes.

So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car.

“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore,” Mosby said in an interview, describing steps she took after consulting with public health and state officials to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus, including not prosecuting nonviolent offenses. “What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people.

“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.” In a city that still struggles with a high homicide rate and gun violence, even with the decline in crime,she said the policy shift will enable more prosecutors to be assigned to homicides and other major cases instead of misdemeanor court.

This is damn good stuff and so encouraging to see that it appears to be working.  Of course, the article is full of quotes from the haters for whom insist on maximally punitive criminal justice policy while blithely ignoring how poorly that is working for our country.

4) Speaking of crime, I love reading Yglesias on the subject because he absolutely refuses to simply fall for the dogmas of either side.  Here he is on the genuinely concerning rise in homicide:

And to understand that argument, you need to see that no matter what you make of the Atlanta mass murders, there was a large increase in the overall number of murders in the United States last year, and that rise in murders calls for a political and policy response.

The 2020 murder surge

Murder data in the United States, unfortunately, reports with a lag, so while it was clear last year that killings were going up in most big cities, we didn’t have a definitive read on the national picture — most people don’t live in big cities. And it’s going to take all the way until September 2021 to get the government’s final official count of how many people were murdered in 2020. But last week, we did get the official preliminary numbers, and it’s a lot of murders.

We’re back up to levels last seen midway through the 1990s crime drop…

This is bad both because it’s sad when innocent people die, and also because high levels of murder cause a lot of secondary problems. For example, we have made some tentative progress in recent years in getting jurisdictions to adopt less exclusionary zoning rules. People aren’t going to want to do that if they think that a more economically diverse neighborhood means a significant increase in the chances that their kid will be killed by a stray bullet.

Children who are proximate to murders are traumatized and do worse in school. If you’re a business owner, the need to take defensive measures against crime raises your cost structure. It’s harder to invest in publicly provided club goods like parks and libraries when there are safety concerns.

And of course, the burden of these crimes does not fall equally…

The good news for people who don’t feel comfortable making definitive pronouncements based on ambiguous data is that there clearly has been a huge surge in people getting shot and killed.

If you accept the racists’ view that the only way to express concern about the rising tide of murder is to embrace racism, then this leaves you with a problem. But I think it is in fact not racist to express concern about a rising surge of murders. Now as I have been saying since last summer, the real problem was deciding that police play no role in reducing crime, which led a lot of progressives who think racism is bad (I agree!) to express that view last summer by indulging the idea that we should defund or abolish police departments.

The current state of the art on this debate in this takesverse is that people do backward-looking analysis and ask why did murder go up so much in 2020? Was it the pandemic? Was it the protests?

And if you think it was the protests, you can parse that in two ways. One, the pro-cop way, is to say that city officials were so critical of police departments that they became unable to use their best crime-fighting techniques. Another more cop-skeptical take is that police departments staged a de facto strike — throwing a fit at the slightest hint of accountability.

I’m a solutions guy. We can certainly hope that the waning of the pandemic leads to less murder in 2021. And I can think of some reasons to believe that it will. Idle young men are tinder for violence, and having tons of stuff closed and nobody in school for months and months at a time seems like bad news. Get teenagers back in school; get more people working; give people more stuff to do for fun; and you may well see less crime. On the flip side, though, crime tends to be somewhat “sticky.” Violence begets more violence as people seek vengeance for past wrongs. Overwhelmed police departments can’t solve cases, and impunity sets in.

Conversely, if you’re a “Blame BLM” guy, then what is the solution here? Next time we see a video of an unarmed man being strangled to death, don’t mention anything? George Floyd wasn’t killing anyone. And the officers who killed him weren’t making split-second life or death judgment calls under duress.

Whatever you think caused the rise in crime — and to whatever extent you think the Asian subset of the increased crime victimization is due to Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric — the overall problem is crying out for solutions…

As I’ve now written many times, the evidence is genuinely very strong that if you have more police officers just patrolling around in high-crime areas, that reduces crime. To be clear about something — that doesn’t mean arresting more people. And it doesn’t mean stop-and-frisking them. It means literally just be present so people don’t commit crimes.

But I am tired of repeating myself on that point. What I would really like is for progressives to decide that not only is it not racist to want a reduction in the murder rate, it doesn’t even have to mean embracing the idea of increasing police patrol volumes.

Princeton sociologist Patrick Sharkey’s book “Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence” was really prophetic.

He argues that the fall in urban violence was closely linked to the rise of more intensive policing. He also argues (in retrospect, correctly) that there would be a backlash to over-policing that could potentially generate a rise in crime. His call is to recognize that the basic helpful thing cops can do — monitor the situation and stop crime before it starts — can be done other ways. Better streetlights reduce crimeCCTV cameras reduce crime, especially when they are actively monitored.

5) I really enjoyed Frederick de Boer’s Cult of Smart, but don’t think I ever wrote about it.  Just came across this nice summary/interview:

You call this book “a prayer for the untalented.” What does that mean?

When both conservatives and liberals discuss a just society, they tend to use language like “everyone should get what they deserve” or “everyone should be able to maximize their own potential.” That they should not be held back by outside factors that we consider illegitimate, like how rich their parents are. My position in the book is, why do we stop there? 

In other words, if your natural talent is something that you have incomplete control over, then that’s no more of a natural or just reason to restrict someone from living the good life than anything else. I want us to peel back that onion one more level and look at those who just lack natural talent in things that happen to be marketable in today’s economy and ask, “Why should they suffer?”

You wrote that the conservative point of view is focused on grit. Something like, “grit will get you through hardship and toward success.” And you wrote that the liberal point of view is focused on opportunity and equity. 

In the book, you say sometimes it just doesn’t matter. Some kids just don’t have what it takes to succeed at school. Why do you think people can’t accept that? What makes it so controversial? 

Conservatives tend to really be invested in this notion of the self-made man. They want to believe that what they have, they have because they’ve earned it. In order to preserve that belief, you have to minimize the influence of factors that are out of your control. 

Liberals want to preserve a sort of naive vision of human equality. Of course, I believe in human equality, but I believe in equality of dignity, equality of rights, and political equality. But I don’t believe that everyone is equally good at all things. And it’s important to say that part of what people are trying to preserve is an economy where what is valued at what time is a somewhat arbitrary distinction.

There was a time in human affairs when just being a big strong guy made you someone who was able to secure more for yourself and other people. If you were someone who was able to be a really effective laborer, if you were someone who was able to haul a lot of wood, if you were someone who was able to be physically imposing on a battlefield — those talents were things that were highly sought after and resulted in a high level of compensation. Now, a person like that is just as likely to be unemployed as he is to be someone who is doing well in the economy. And in fact, the jobs that really depend upon your physical attributes are ones that — with the exception of professional athletics — tend to be low-paying. 

We can’t underestimate the fact that liberals tend to talk a really good game about the injustices of the economy, but a lot of the liberals who do that talking are people who have succeeded in this economy. And so to a degree that they don’t like to admit, they have a vested interest in preserving the economy as it stands.

Some kids just aren’t good at school. They need a better path.

You recount a story in the book of a student that you spent hours and hours working with, who tried as hard as he could, and he just couldn’t learn in school. Can you talk a little bit about that student and how it informed your perspective here?

He was a student in a special program for kids with severe emotional disturbances. And you would never have known it, but by the time I got there, the staff there and the teachers there had done a really wonderful job with him and his behavioral problems that got him sent to juvenile detention were almost nonexistent at that point. He had made tremendous improvement, but his improvements were not showing up in his grades. 

The behavioral stuff helped with his ability now to attend a class, not to attempt to hurt himself, not to throw his desk around, that sort of thing. That’s not the game in terms of what school was meant to inculcate in people. You need to have academic skills. And this was a kid who just struggled so hard, particularly in math, and his teachers worked so hard with him, and I worked hard with him as a paraprofessional. But he just could not do long division. If there was a remainder, he just could not function. 

And it occurred to me watching this kid that there’s a certain degree of cruelty to what we were attempting to do, because it didn’t seem to matter. He certainly was working very hard at it. And, it struck me that a system that really cared about a kid like him is one that knows what to do with kids who can’t do long division with remainders. It’s a system that has a more expansive vision of what success looks like. That has pathways for people who aren’t ever going to be good at math or science, and that could see something other than failure in him.

One thing you touch on is the concept of inherited intelligence, which is controversial because it’s sometimes conflated with race science. You take great pains to reject race science in all forms while also saying inherited intelligence exists.

I understand why everybody is so touchy about this. The education research people would prefer to say “baseline ability” rather than “inherited ability.” I don’t care about the language that you use. We are all good at some things and not good at other things. And it just so happens that school is one of the things that we are all good at or not good at. 

In other words, no one has any problem with me saying that I lack natural ability in sprinting. It doesn’t matter if I had decided in middle school that I wanted to be a world-class sprinter. It wouldn’t have mattered. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how good the coaching that I had, no matter how expensive the equipment I used, I would never become a world-class sprinter.

No one pretends everybody has the same athletic gifts. And in fields like music, there is also a sense that it’s common for some people to have natural talent that others do not. But it’s only with school that we become incredibly sensitive to the perception that we’re saying that some people lack natural ability. 

I didn’t quite realize the way it had become dogma in some liberal quarters that there’s no innate/inherited differences in intelligence.  That is, of course, transparently ridiculous.  But de Boer’s point is that we need to stop pretending like this is true in our public policies.

6) And while I’m on de Boer, loved his take on journalism and the Substack controversy:

Displacement – Displacement is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person redirects a negative emotion from its original source to a less threatening recipient. A classic example of the defense is displaced aggression. If a person is angry but cannot direct their anger toward the source without consequences, they might “take out” their anger on a person or thing that poses less of a risk.

Media Twitter does not hate Substack because it’s pretending to be a platform when it’s a publisher; they don’t hate it because it’s filled with anti-woke white guys; they don’t hate it because of harassment or any such thing. I don’t think they really hate it at all. Substack is a small and ultimately not-very-relevant outpost in a vastly larger industry; they may not like it but it’s not important enough for them to hate it. What do they hate? They hate where their industry is and they hate where they are within their industry. But that’s a big problem that they don’t feel like they can solve. If you feel you can’t get mad at the industry that’s impoverishing you, it’s much easier to get mad at the people who you feel are unjustly succeeding in that industry. Trying to cancel Glenn Greenwald (again) because he criticizes the media harshly? Trying to tarnish Substack’s reputation so that cool, paid-up writer types leave it and the bad types like me get kicked off? That they can maybe do. Confronting their industry’s future with open eyes? Too scary, especially for people who were raised to see success as their birthright and have suddenly found that their degrees and their witheringly dry one-liners do not help them when the rent comes due.

Things are bad, folks:

You think the writers complaining in that piece I linked to at the top wanted to be here, at this place in their career, after all those years of hustling? You think decades into their media career, the writers who decamped to Substack said to themselves “you know, I’d really like to be in my 40s and having to hope that enough people will pitch in $5 a month so I can pay my mortgage”? No. But the industry didn’t give them what they felt they deserved either. So they displace and project. They can hate Jesse Singal, but Jesse Singal isn’t where this burning anger is coming from. Neither am I. They’re so angry because they bought into a notoriously savage industry at the nadir of its labor conditions and were surprised to find that they’re drifting into middle age without anything resembling financial security. I feel for them as I feel for all people living economically precarious lives, but getting rid of Substack or any of its writers will not do anything to fix their industry or their jobs. They wanted more and they got less and it hurts. This isn’t what they dreamed. That’s what this is really about.

7) Three big cheers to SSQ for getting me published so damn fast.  And credit to Laurel for a great title, “A Recipe for Madness: Parenthood in the Era of Covid‐19”



This article seeks to understand the economic, mental health, and political impacts on American parents in the era of Covid‐19.


We draw on survey data from a diverse national sample collected in September 2020 and employ multivariate analysis to explore how Covid‐19 has uniquely affected the attitudes and life experiences of American parents.


We find that Covid‐19 has been unusually burdensome for parents as they are more likely to have experienced negative physical and mental health outcomes and suffer more negative financial impacts. Despite the challenges parents face, they also remain cautious about in‐person school and vaccinations. Although mothers have been the focus of much news coverage, we find that both mothers and fathers have been similarly and negatively impacted by Covid‐19.


American parents are suffering at distinctively high levels during this pandemic. In order to recover, policymakers will need to target outreach and support tailored to the needs and issues facing parents.

8) If you follow political polling at all, you definitely need to read Nate Silver’s latest, “The Death Of Polling Is Greatly Exaggerated.”  Quite noteworthy, I think, is the conclusion that live-interviewer phone polling is simply no longer the gold standard and that the most effective polls seem to rely on a mix of modes.  

9) Missed this from Clark Neily late last year, but it’s damn good.  You should read it.  “Why Are People So Mad at Police?”

Police represent the front line of our criminal justice system. If, as I have argued here before, that system is fundamentally rotten and in certain respects morally indefensible, then people will naturally direct their ire towards those most responsible for dragging people into it. Human beings come hardwired with various cognitive biases and moral intuitions. Among the most powerful of those is the tendency to condemn those who violate certain taboos, including particularly the rule against harming other people without sufficient justification. If a strong case can be made that police officers regularly transgress fundamental moral precepts—while disclaiming any responsibility for doing so—then continued loss of confidence and corresponding anger towards them becomes much easier to understand…

So, is it reasonable to perceive that police too often violate the moral precept against harming other people without sufficient justification? Unfortunately, the answer is plainly yes. And that’s not all. Besides inflicting unjustifiable harm, police are widely perceived as being frequently deceitful and unwilling to take responsibility for their misdeeds—more taboos that have been universally condemned throughout recorded history. Members and supporters of law enforcement who wish to restore public confidence in and esteem for police should stop dismissing these perceptions out of hand and instead consider whether they might have some basis in fact.

1. Harming others without sufficient justification and/or using disproportionate force.

There is a raging debate about how often police violate people’s legal rights by using excessive force. Some people claim it happens relatively infrequently and represents only a tiny fraction of interactions between police and the public. Others, myself included, argue that police employ force—including lethal force—far more often than they should, and that it makes little sense to try to calculate the number of times police use excessive force as a percentage of total encounters. Among other things, when the law enforcement community doesn’t even keep careful track of how many people they shoot, how on earth could we ever feel confident of either the numerator or the denominator with respect to all uses of force during police encounters?

But we needn’t resolve that debate here because there are two other deeply problematic features of modern policing about which the only debate is philosophical, not empirical. These are, first, the use of police to enforce morally unjustifiable laws; and second, the use of police to inflict harm on people that is vastly disproportionate to the magnitude of the wrong (if any) they have done. Both categories of behavior are morally condemnable and American police spend a considerable amount of time doing each.

a. Harming others by enforcing morally unjustifiable laws

Consider a law that allows children who are deemed to be feeble-minded or mentally defective to be sterilized so they can never reproduce. Even if the Supreme Court upheld that law (which it did in the notorious 1927 case Buck v. Bell), it would still be immoral to help enforce it—whether by tearing children away from their grief-stricken parents, transporting them to state-operated sterilization facilities, defending the policy in court, or by actually performing those procedures oneself. The same is true of a law that purported to authorize the ownership of human beings and required police and other citizens to assist in the capture and return of those who escaped from bondage: It would be immoral to enforce that law even if the courts held that it was constitutionally permissible—as they routinely did before the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing chattel slavery in America.

Defenders of our current criminal justice system rarely if ever ask whether any laws on the books today are morally indefensible. Instead, they seem to embrace the idea that: (a) that which is deemed to be legal must also be moral; and (b) people are absolved of any duty to consider the morality of their behavior the moment they put on a uniform or pick up a badge. Both propositions are false, and people who embrace them—whether explicitly, as a matter of conscious choice, or tacitly, by simply not bothering to consider the morality of their official acts—should not be surprised to find themselves condemned by people who disagree.

10) Well, we’ll continue with a criminal justice heavy quick hits (we’ll consider this BB’s punishment for suggesting that #3 might not be up my alley).  This was a terrific interview on Fresh Air.  After listening to it, I probably mentioned it in class a good 3-4 times the next day.  “Out Of Prison But Still Trapped: Examining The ‘Afterlife’ Of Incarceration”

11) Loved Will Wilkinson on DC Statehood:

This voter-suppression frenzy is going on while Congress debates HR1, the big Democratic voting rights and electoral reform bill. At the same time, the Senate is throwing down over the future of the filibuster. But that’s not all! The contentious prospect of DC statehood — and two new Democratic senators — is in the air. These are all obviously related. I think it’s fair to say that the future of American democracy hangs in the balance.

This whole package is profoundly important becausethepolitical/legal/procedural status quo lends an enormous advantage to the Republican Party. This substantial, systemic pro-GOP bias makes it possible for a shrinking minority of mainly older, white, Christian, suburban and rural voters to politically dominate the vastly larger multicultural urban majority. But even when the Democratic Party manages to mobilize its immense numerical advantage to achieve control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the filibuster combined with entrenched knock-on effects of Republican over-representation in the Senate and Electoral College — such as the GOP’s secure, partisan stranglehold on the Supreme Court — make it exceedingly difficult for Democrats to pass legislation, even when it has overwhelming public support.

Democrats have a very tenuous window of opportunity to patch our fractured democracy. The stakes are so high because, if they fail, it’s not obvious that they’ll get another crack at it. Lee Drutman, a political scientist at New America, puts it in bracing terms:

First, we need to understand the urgency of the problem. By international standards, the current Republican Party is an illiberal anti-democratic nativist global outlier, with positions more extreme than France’s National Rally, and in line with the Germany’s AfD, Hungary’s Fidesz, Turkey’s AKP and Poland’s PiS, according to the widely respected V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute.

This is not a new problem. The GOP has been sliding into authoritarianism over two decades, using increasingly demonizing rhetoric against its opponents. But it got worse under Trump’s leadership, and the failure of center-right factions to push back. We are running out of time. What happens in a hyper-polarized party system when a major party turns against the entire system of legitimate elections? Historically, democracy dies...

The success of authoritarian parties depends on unrelenting dishonesty and hyperbolic propaganda to delegitimize their political rivals, discredit reliable sources of information, and deceive their own followers. The main strategic advantage of consistent contempt for truth is that it allows authoritarian parties to bootstrap its supporters’ ordinary, initial partisan trust into a state of crippled judgment and epistemic dependency. This not only ensures that their supporters will not accept the truth about the party but will regard it as confirmation that those telling the truth are the real authoritarian purveyors of unrelentingly dishonest, hyperbolic propaganda. The more successful authoritarians are in cultivating this sort of contemptuous distrust in their followers, the more futile it will seem to try to get through to them. Eventually a bunch of honest people tire of banging their heads against the wall and stop trying to get through, which only makes it easier for authoritarians to recruit off now less-contested margins…

Of course, the Founding Fathers never intended for Congress to grant statehood to one underpopulated Dakota, much less two. Republicans saddled us with double Dakotas to offset the mass disenfranchisement of Republican voters by conniving Democratic Southern slavers and corrupt urban Democratic political machines. Let’s come back to the balancing role that the admission of new states has historically played in the de facto, unwritten constitution. First, I think it’s worth conceding that the crazy partisan imbalance of DC’s population does make Rounds’ second claim — that DC statehood is really about adding Democrats to the Senate — pretty plausible. Indeed, that’s the best reason to make DC a state.

Republicans aren’t wrong that Democrats want to create a new Democratic-majority state. But they are wrong that it is a raw partisan “power grab.” Last night, Windsor Mann, one of my Twitter DM buddies, asked me a couple of questions that helped clarify this point for me.

“Would you still be for DC statehood if 90% of DC residents were hardcore Trumpists?” Windsor slides into my DMs to inquire.

“Yes,” I over-hastily reply. “Citizens should have legislative representation, period.”

Now, I’m adamant that everyone should be represented — and more or less equally. But that doesn’t actually imply a “Yes,” to Windsor’s question, as his follow-up made me see.

“Say the residents aren’t Trumpists,” he clarifies, “but, for whatever reason, the two Senate seats would go to Republicans. In other words, are you for enfranchisement if it means giving power to people who will disenfranchise others?”

I saw my mistake right away. I do not actually support new Republican-majority states. I’m very much against them! But that’s because I’m a democrat, not because I’m a Democrat. This info-packed table from Daily Kos elections vividly illustrates one of the most serious problems besetting American democracy: an indefensible surfeit of Republican senators!

(Credit: Daily Kos Elections)

In our current 50/50 Senate, Democrats represent states containing 56.5 percent of the population while Republicans Represent states containing 43.5 percent of the population. That’s a difference in the neighborhood of 42 million people! (For scale: the population of Canada is about 37 million.) Senate Democrats have represented more than half of the population for all but two of the last 30 years but have had a majority in the Senate less than half of that time…

South Dakota is a kludge. DC statehood is a kludge, too. But it would be a good idea, just like double Dakota was a good idea. If Rounds is glad that his state exists, he should honor the precedent of its creation and acknowledge that the partisan balancing function of new states is a part of our de facto, only partially writtenconstitutional system. Constitutions don’t survive because they define a perpetually stable equilibrium. That’s impossible. Politics under conditions of unceasing and unpredictable technological, economic, cultural, and demographic change sooner or later start to devolve into a fucking mess. It’s a political principle of entropy. Constitutions survive because we fight the entropy and shore up the system. They survive because citizens notice when the system they’re embedded in starts to spin out of equilibrium and manage to creatively deploy the resources that the law does provide to set the system back into a stable groove.

Given the current relationship between population density and party vote share, the only way to move toward stable, balanced partisan representation is to admit Democratic states. This is obviously good for Democrats. But it’s not a “partisan power grab.” Partially rectifying the massively unequal representation of Democratic-majority states in the Senate is only incidentally partisan. Defending this indefensible inequality is unprincipled, partisan power hoarding. After all, the principle that parties shouldn’t split the Senate 50/50 when one of them represents 41,549,808 more people than the other is pretty hard to dispute in democratic terms.

Of course, that’s not going to stop Republicans from disputing it. Once you’ve come to feel entitled to unpopular sovereignty, democracy seems awfully unfair.

12) I like to joke that when it comes to the newest White House Deputy Press Secretary that “I taught him everything he knows.”  In fairness, I did actually teach him Campaigns & Elections and American Political Parties:

The White House is beefing up its press staff by adding campaign veteran Andrew Bates as a deputy press secretary. He’s scheduled to start Monday.

Bates spent the past few months handling media relations for President Biden’s Cabinet nominees as they went through the Senate confirmation process and, before that, worked for two years on the Biden campaign, joining before it officially launched.

“Andrew Bates is one of the smartest, most committed and most strategic media professionals in the business,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “He brings invaluable experience to the job.”

Bates will join a media team that includes Karine Jean-Pierre, who is principal deputy press secretary, and Chris Meagher, also a deputy press secretary.

During the campaign, Bates earned a reputation as a forceful and competent spokesman who handled questions about some of the most sensitive issues, including the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter
Bates graduated from North Carolina State University, taking time off to work for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He landed a job in the White House — his office was in the Old Executive Office Building — as a press assistant and researcher.


13) I’m still really missing my daily dose of Pesca, but, on the bright side it has led me to expand my podcast horizons and Steven Johnson’s “American Innovations” podcasts are just absurdly entertaining and enlightening.  

14) OMG, my only Covid reference was my own research!  What’s going on here?! 

Quick hits (part I)

1) Bernstein on election reform rhetoric:

Democrats could also be doing better. Their position tends to be a lot more tethered to facts than the Republican one, and using sloppy logic in defense of democracy is not morally equivalent to using wild accusations and false statements against it.

But they should be making a distinction between minor attempts to make voting harder and extraordinary efforts to undermine democracy. Opposing both is legitimate (and in my view, good policy). Still, it’s hardly unusual for parties to mess with voting rules in order to obtain advantages, and doing so doesn’t immediately threaten popular rule. Indeed, I’ve seen Democrats, too, claim that if absentee voting and other such things are cut back that they’ll never win another election. In fact, as Harry Enten points out at CNN Politics, it’s not clear that Democrats would be hurt at all by some of the Republican efforts.

House Democrats passed a bill that contains a wish list of election reforms without any apparent effort to narrow it either to their highest priority items or to those items with a chance of drawing Republican support — or even strong support from all Senate Democrats. Election law expert Rick Hasen made that argument last week, and he’s correct. In fact, I suspect his suggestion of what Democrats should try to pass is probably still too broad.

There’s nothing wrong with going big when the voters are behind you, as was the case with the pandemic relief act. And it’s at least possible that Democrats are going big on voting rules as part of a bargaining strategy. But my complaint isn’t really about the legislation as much as it is about the rhetoric suggesting democracy is on the line unless every Democratic preference is enacted. That’s simply not the case, including on some reforms — automatic voter registration, for example — that I strongly support and which would make democracy healthier.

Again: There’s no equivalence here. Democrats could do better; Republicans should entirely change course. But it’s leaving us with a debate that hasn’t matched the importance of the topic.

2) Enforce the damn tax code, already.  Catherine Rampell, “For every extra dollar invested in the IRS, the government could be getting $6 back.”  So, why aren’t we?  Oh, come on, you know:

IRS budget cuts over the past decade were driven by Republican politicians, but Republicans, too, should support increasing IRS resources, regardless of whether Biden’s spending plans ever become law. After all, funding the IRS could help shrink deficits without raising taxes on any law-abiding taxpayer. It could also restore greater faith in the fairness and efficiency of our federal government.

Republicans have shown great interest in rooting out “waste, fraud and abuse” when it comes to food stamps and other programs used by the poor; one hopes they would demonstrate symmetric interest when those ills are practiced by the wealthy.

3) The NYT Editorial Board is on it, too, “How to Collect $1.4 Trillion in Unpaid Taxes: Wealthy Americans are concealing large amounts of income from the I.R.S. There is a straightforward corrective.”

When the federal government started withholding income taxes from workers’ paychecks during World War II, the innovation was presented as a matter of fairness, a way to ensure that everyone paid. Irving Berlin wrote a song for the Treasury Department: “You see those bombers in the sky? Rockefeller helped to build them. So did I.”

The withholding system remains the cornerstone of income taxation, effectively preventing Americans from lying about wage income. Employers submit an annual W-2 report on the wages paid to each worker, making it hard to fudge the numbers.

But the burden of taxation is increasingly warped because the government has no comparable system for verifying income from businesses. The result is that most wage earners pay their fair share while many business owners engage in blatant fraud at public expense.

In a remarkable 2019 analysis, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that Americans report on their taxes less than half of all income that is not subject to some form of third-party verification like a W-2. Billions of dollars in business profits, rent and royalties are hidden from the government each year. By contrast, more than 95 percent of wage income is reported.

Unreported income is the single largest reason that unpaid federal income taxes may amount to more than $600 billion this year, and more than $7.5 trillion over the next decade. It is a truly staggering sum — more than half of the projected federal deficit over the same period.

The government has a basic obligation to enforce the law and to crack down on this epidemic of tax fraud. The failure to do so means that the burden of paying for public services falls more heavily on wage earners than on business owners, exacerbating economic inequality. The reality of widespread cheating also undermines the legitimacy of a tax system that still relies to a considerable extent on Americans’ good-faith participation.

Proposals to close this “tax gap” often focus on reversing the long-term decline in funding for the I.R.S., allowing the agency to hire more workers and to audit more wealthy taxpayers. But Charles Rossotti, who led the I.R.S. from 1997 to 2002, makes a compelling argument that such an approach is inadequate. Mr. Rossotti says that Congress needs to change the rules, by creating a third-party verification system for business income, too.

4) Love Arthur Brooks‘ pieces on happiness, “Here’s 10,000 Hours. Don’t Spend It All in One Place.: Evidence shows that hyper-specialization is not the best strategy for happiness.”

To be sure, fixating on a single activity might be a decent formula for maximum output. But the story of Charles Ives—along with a good deal of scientific evidence—shows that hyper-specialization is not the best strategy for our well-being. We can find greater happiness by instead cultivating a variety of serious interests and activities.

Maintaining multiple skills and interests is different from trying to do multiple things at once, or multitasking. Multitasking has been consistently found to lower productivity and work quality. (Contrary to stereotypes, it is just as bad for women as it is for men.) You have probably experienced the frustration of a workday in which you are busier than ever but constantly interrupted and thrown from task to task, and at the end of the day you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

Not surprisingly, multitasking has negative consequences for happiness. In one 2017 paper, researchers monitoring human subjects found that performing work designed to imitate multitasking made people less calm, less content, and more anxious. Similarly, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2015, scholars at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University found that over relatively short periods of time—a few minutes or an hour—changing tasks lowered happiness and made people feel less productive.

But when the UPenn and Duke researchers extended the time people could devote to each task, they found that the happiness effect reversed. As they increased the experiment window from an hour to a full workday, the participants began to derive greater happiness as task variety increased. The researchers’ conclusion: “Start by scheduling more varied activities into your days, weeks, and months and removing variety from your hours and minutes.”

What happens when we add variety not just to months or years, but to an entire career? In his 2019 book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein shows that people with varied skills are becoming more valuable in the modern economy, and tend to have the most fulfilling work lives. This has led some academics to question the value of the doctoral degree, and some firms that employ knowledge workers to look specifically for polymaths—or, as the writer Emilie Wapnick calls them, “multipotentialites”—who weave many interests and skills together to form a rich, fun life.

5) Interesting discussion on “cancel culture.”  I like Robbie Soave’s summary and points about it in a separate post:

The Teen Vogue cancel culture news cycle reached its inevitable denouement earlier this week after social media sleuths discovered that Christine Davitt—a staffer at the publication who was involved in the successful effort to oust incoming editor-in-chief Alexi McCammond due to her decade-old insensitive tweets—had also tweeted bad words a long time ago.

While McCammond had profusely apologized for offensive and racist remarks she had made about Asians at the age of 17, she was nevertheless forced to resign—something that prompted Davitt to exhale “the deepest sigh I’ve ever sighed.” But now it’s Davitt’s turn in the hot seat.

This is utterly unsurprising. Attempted cancelation of the person involved in the initial cancel mob has become a recurring feature of these stories. People who rejoice that their least favorite celebritymedia figure, or children’s book author is finally being held accountable for some past wrongdoing are soon forced to remember that they, too, have done and said things they regret.

A facilitator of this phenomenon is the recent, relative ubiquity of social media. When I was 17 years old, in 2005, it was unlikely that any offensive comments I might have made would be preserved for later embarrassment. But just a few years later, it became the case that virtually every teenager had a smartphone, and their insensitive utterances would exist forever in text, tweet, or snap form.

This is one of the few points of agreement between myself, Will Wilkinson, and Jane Coaston, with whom I engaged in a spirited debate about the existence and extent of cancel culture for a recent episode of The Argument, the podcast of The New York Times’ opinion pages. Coaston, formerly of Vox, is now the host of the podcast; Wilkinson was a senior staffer at the Niskanen Center until he tweeted himself out of a job.  Wilkinson is arguably a victim of cancel culture, but doesn’t believe the concept has tremendous merit; I nevertheless defended him when he was fired. It made for an interesting conversation, yet we both expressed concern that social media has made it harder for teenagers to escape their worst moments.

Our major disagreement, on the other hand, is that Wilkinson believes the phenomenon we are broadly referring to as “cancel culture” is a method for historically marginalized groups to shift social norms such that people who malign them are held accountable. I’m skeptical of this claim, and the Teen Vogue incident does not make me less so. It is simply not true that the people who canceled McCammond—the progressive staffers at Teen Vogue—are obviously engaged in good faith anti-racism but the people now trying to cancel Davitt—various folks in the media who find the irony newsworthy—are engaged in bad-faith trolling. Rather, both sides have weaponized a new form of social sanction—one made more convenient by social media, but ultimately deployed not by bots or algorithms but by real human beings—to punish someone for a slight.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that this weapon does not belong to progressives: People on all sides of the political spectrum are capable of using it; indeed, cancel culture even occasionally strikes at people for reasons that aren’t particularly ideological. We are currently witnessing a vast co-opting of the very term “cancel culture” by conservatives, who have described everything from the second impeachment of Donald Trump to the criticisms of QAnon-interested Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) as cancel culture run amok. Even South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whose rising star among the MAGA set came crashing back to earth after she irritated religious conservatives, lamented that she is a victim of “conservative cancel culture.”

I suspect that part of the reason the right is leaning so hard into appropriation of the term is that the American public is broadly sympathetic to those who are canceled, and Republicans want to associate themselves with the objects of such sympathy. This circular firing squad—where the leader of the mob follows the victim to the gallows—only creates more opportunities for them to do so.

6) An oldie (but updated and oh-so-relevant goodie), Kristoff, “How to Reduce Shootings”

We have a model for regulating guns: automobiles

Gun enthusiasts often protest: Cars kill about as many people as guns, and we don’t ban them! No, but automobiles are actually a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting.

We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921.

The liberal approach is ineffective.
Use a public health approach instead.

Frankly, liberal opposition to guns has often been ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive. The 10-year ban on assault weapons accomplished little, partly because definitions were about cosmetic features like bayonet mounts (and partly because even before the ban, such guns were used in only 2 percent of crimes).

The left sometimes focuses on “gun control,” which scares off gun owners and leads to more gun sales. A better framing is “gun safety” or “reducing gun violence,” and using auto safety as a model—constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access by people who are most likely to misuse them.

What would a public health approach look like for guns if it were modeled after cars? It would include:

Background checks
22 percent of guns are obtained without one.
Protection orders
Keep men who are subject to domestic violence protection orders from having guns.
Ban under-21s
A ban on people under 21 purchasing firearms (this is already the case in many states).
Safe storage
These include trigger locks as well as guns and ammunition stored separately, especially when children are in the house.
Straw purchases
Tighter enforcement of laws on straw purchases of weapons, and some limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month.
Ammunition checks
Experimentation with a one-time background check for anybody buying ammunition.
End immunity
End immunity for firearm companies. That’s a subsidy to a particular industry.
Ban bump stocks
A ban on bump stocks of the kind used in Las Vegas to mimic automatic weapon fire.
Research ‘smart guns’
“Smart guns” fire only after a fingerprint or PIN is entered, or if used near a particular bracelet.

7) The way we use solitary confinement in this country is an absolute moral abomination, “I Survived 18 Years in Solitary Confinement: The harrowing injustice I suffered as a boy should never happen to another child in this country.”

8) More of this, please! “A newspaper has a novel strategy for covering one politician’s falsehoods: Don’t”

Ohio’s biggest newspaper is taking an unusual tack toward covering falsehoods from a U.S. Senate candidate: It doesn’t plan to do so at all.

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland said its journalists intend to ignore inaccurate statements from Republican Josh Mandel that they consider to be ploys for attention.

“Mandel is pretty much a nobody right now, a nobody begging for people to notice his Tweets a year ahead of the Senate primary,” Chris Quinn, the Plain Dealer’s editor, wrote in an opinion piece published Saturday. “Just because he makes outrageous, dangerous statements doesn’t mean it is news.”

Quinn’s decision is a marked departure from conventional journalistic wisdom that politicians’ statements inherently deserve coverageand that every story has at least two sides. Newsrooms across the country have increasingly reevaluated that approach because of President Donald Trump’s more than 30,000 false or misleading claims, many of which dominated the news cycle and helped him amass a following.

In Ohio, Quinn argued that Mandel is different from most political candidates the Plain Dealer has covered. He’s shown a willingness to “say just about anything if it means getting his name in the news,” Quinn wrote — a gambit that he characterized as unprecedented at the state level.

9) My favorite person to read on the presidency?  John Dickerson, “A Better Way to Judge Joe Biden: Some of the qualities that produce a successful presidency don’t receive the attention they should.”

In 2019, I wrote a book about the presidency, The Hardest Job in the World. To say the job is difficult is not an excuse; it’s a warning. Presidents face high-stakes surprises and must prepare for them. I argued that we should think about this more than we do. After the book went to press, reality became its co-author: a global pandemic, an economic collapse, the largest protests in American history against racial inequality, and the nation’s biggest cyberattack. Each crisis was too big and too real, impervious to diversion.

We are supposed to discuss what it means to be prepared for the presidency during campaigns, but we talk about other things. In the primaries, the conversation revolves around party litmus tests. The Democratic primary this past election, for example, was weighted toward skirmishes over small differences on health-care policy, and gave only cursory attention to national security, or the leadership and organizational skills needed to fight a pandemic or distribute a vaccine…

So what should we be thinking about in this short window? I’ll pick just three attributes, that don’t receive much attention. The first quality inspired this article: perspective. The American presidency is overwhelming. We ask too much of it, presidents try to do too much with it, and the number and complexity of its challenges keep growing. A White House team, led by the president, must set priorities.

We should ask whether a president, or someone who wants the job, has their eye on the most urgent issues of the moment—not just on what pundits, the opposition, or the most vocal members of their base want. Then, following Dwight Eisenhower’s advice not to let attention to urgent matters crowd out the ability to think about important ones, we should ask whether a president or candidate has a system in place to tend to the important issues that require long-term thinking, because if that thinking doesn’t take place, it can’t be conjured up in the moment when a crisis hits.

The second attribute is related to the first. Does a president, or presidential candidate, know how to build a team? The presidency is not a solo job; it’s an organization. The quality of the people a president hires shapes the quality of the decisions that a president will make, because they frame the options for those decisions. But a strong roster is just the start. A presidency requires an atmosphere in which bad information doesn’t get buried, course correction is not considered a sin, and egos don’t get out of control. This requires a president to be what Apple’s Tim Cook calls a “heat shield” for employees: encouraging them to take risks, and taking the heat if a constituency is upset or something goes wrong. When a crisis hits, the habits of mind created during relatively placid periods will be vital. They can’t be drawn upon if they don’t exist.

Finally: restraint. Our campaigns and media demand action. When the 100-day assessments start, we’ll spend a lot of time on what’s immediately visible. We should think more about what we don’t see, and the actions a president does not take—a partisan dig not made, a slower approach on one issue that allows attention and progress on another. Restraint is the key to prioritization.

10) Frank Luntz has ideas on how to convince vaccine-skeptical Republicans.  I’ve got a really smart colleague who is far from convinced he’s right, but interesting stuff to think about:

Republican pollster Frank Luntz this month undertook a focus group and a poll of 1,000 Republicans who voted for former President Donald Trump on behalf of a group of public health nonprofits in an attempt to help determine the best message for those who are reluctant to roll up a sleeve.

As vaccines become more widely accessible, the federal government and outside groups are preparing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a public relations campaign to encourage immunization. Luntz’s research could aid those efforts.

Like other recent surveys, Luntz found that about a quarter of Trump voters said they “definitely will not” get vaccinated, while another 21 percent said they wanted to wait more than a year.

Of particular concern were younger Republican women, people without a college education and residents of small towns and rural areas. Rural and young Republicans (between the ages of 18-49) both split almost exactly evenly, 49-51 percent, when asked if they were more afraid of getting Covid-19 or getting the vaccine.

But the good news, according to Luntz, is that these Americans trust their doctors and can be convinced with a positive message about the benefits and safety of the vaccines, not the risks of skipping it.

“The most impactful message is how the vaccine will reduce the government’s restrictions on our lives and our freedoms,” Luntz wrote in a polling memo. “Without widespread vaccination, mask mandates and personal lockdowns will continue.”…

That includes Trump. When asked if they’d be more likely to get vaccinated if their doctor or Trump recommended it, 81 percent said their doctor.

Still, Trump and conservative media figures can play an important role.

The former president is easily the most trusted political figure on the right on the vaccine. And respondents were more favorable to the vaccines when reminded that they were developed under his presidency and that he got the shot himself (though he kept that secret for months).

Fox News, meanwhile, was the most common news source among Republicans. While the network has produced some PSAs promoting vaccination, primetime host Tucker Carlson — who was second only to Sean Hannity on respondents’ list of trusted media figures — has used his platform to raise doubts about the vaccines.

11) Good stuff from Conor Friedersdorf on when anti-racist education in schools clearly goes too far:

In Evanston, parents are asked to quiz their kids on whiteness and give them approachable examples of “how whiteness shows up in school or in the community.” In its focus on “whiteness” and its invitation to readers to challenge racism by interrogating and rejecting it, the worldview of Not My Idea is similar to that of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, now a staple of diversity-and-inclusion programs and anti-racism training. Not My Idea is also a jarringly didactic assignment for kindergartners.

The BLM at School movement is gaining momentum in Democratic strongholds around the country, where millions have felt impelled to respond to the high-profile police killings of Black Americans and the inequities that such incidents expose. Parents and educators in these enclaves are largely united in believing that Black lives matter, and that schools should encourage students of all ages to reject racism and remedy its injustices, much as previous generations of schoolchildren were taught to “Just Say No to Drugs” and to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

In all such campaigns, a distinction can be drawn between the galvanizing slogan, which by design is popular and difficult to oppose, and the ideological and policy goals of the people promoting it. In other words, people might believe deeply that Black lives matter while disagreeing with Black Lives Matter organizers about specific claims. But for the BLM at School movement, agreeing with the broad slogan implies a particular approach to anti-racist activism—one that draws on academic approaches such as critical race theory and intersectionality; rejects individualism and aspirational color-blindness; and acts in solidarity with projects including decoloniality, anti-capitalism, and queer liberation.

Indeed, with the educational resources it creates and curates, the national BLM at School coalition unapologetically aims to create a new generation of allied activists…

12) I should have linked to David Shor’s latest political thoughts a few weeks ago.  Not bothering with the excerpt.  It’s always worth reading Shor’s take, so just do it.

13) Zack Beauchamp, “The stimulus shows why the left should stop worrying and learn to love the suburban voter: Contrary to the left’s fears, the road to redistribution runs through the suburbs.”

So yes, the Democratic Party is becoming beholden to college-educated white suburbanites, and in the past, that may have weakened the party’s commitment to redistributive politics. But things have changed.

“I’ve seen a lot of speculation that college-educated whites are just too affluent or maybe even selfish to support redistribution. I don’t think that’s the case,” says John Sides, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt.

The surprisingly progressive economic views of white educated suburbanites

White college graduates and white suburbanites are wealthier than the average American and were, for a very long time, heavily Republican. Between 1956 and 2016, Republicans won a majority of whites with college degrees in every single presidential election. Historically white suburban areas like California’s Orange County, birthplace of Richard Nixon, provided some of the most reliable Republican seats in Congress.

Yet the Republican edge in these two groups has decreased gradually over time, tracking with a broader national shift away from class-based voting. This decline accelerated in recent election cycles — and the rise of Trump — with striking results.

In 2018, Democrats defeated House Republicans in Orange County. In 2020, Biden won an outright majority of white college-educated voters nationwide — a critical factor in his victory in states like Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia.

Historical trends would suggest this is bad news for progressive economic policies. Over the decades, wealthier white voters have tended to be more hostile to redistribution; it’s a big reason they were such staunch Republicans for so long. An influx of white educated suburbanites into the Democratic Party — driven there by cultural liberalism and a backlash to Trump — should, per analysts like Karp and Geismer and Lassiter, make Democratic politicians beholden to voters who oppose higher taxes and social welfare spending, thus weakening the party’s commitment to those ideas.

There’s one big problem with that argument. Recent polling trends find that today’s white educated voters in general, and white college-graduate suburbanites in particular, are more progressive on economic issues than is widely appreciated.

The Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) is a regular survey of 50,000 Americans, a large sample useful for looking at the views and attitudes of specific subgroups. In 2008, the CCES found that 50 percent of white college-educated suburbanites supported paying down the federal deficit by cutting domestic spending. But in 2017, just 35 percent did (while 65 percent would prefer to fund deficit reduction by either cuts to defense spending or tax hikes).

A graph showing how white college-educated suburbanites increasingly opposed federal welfare cuts between 2008 and 2017.Christina Animashaun/Vox

Some shifts in opinion are even more recent.

In 2014, white college-educated suburbanites solidly preferred that their state legislature cut welfare spending rather than increase it (46 percent to 19 percent, with the remainder preferring to maintain current spending).

In 2018, those numbers were basically even (35 percent to 31 percent).

A graph showing how white college-educated suburbanites increasingly favored state welfare spending between 2014 and 2018.Christina Animashaun/Vox

The CCES also finds that, in 2018, 63 percent of these voters supported states mandating higher levels of renewable energy use even if this causes their personal energy bills to go up.

A similarly large majority, 58-42, opposed repealing Obamacare…

So if white college-educated suburbanites really are turning to the left, why might this be?

The simplest and best explanation appears to be partisanship.

In their book Open Versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution, scholars Christopher Johnston, Christopher Federico, and Howard Lavine take a close look at the psychological underpinnings of people’s views on economic policy. What they find is surprising, and more than a little counterintuitive: Economic policy has become, to an extent, an annex of the partisan culture war.

Increasingly, Americans pick their party on the basis of cultural affinity: whether people like them, who share their cultural values on topics like race and immigration, are in one party or the other. This is why college graduates, who tend to be culturally progressive, are an increasingly Democratic bloc, and non-college whites, who have conservative cultural views, are increasingly voting Republican.

In contemporary America, identification with one of the two major parties is an exceptionally powerful psychological force. People who care about being a Democrat or a Republican tend to feel strong psychological pressures to adopt the entire policy slate of their party.

For this reason, Johnston and his co-authors argue that economic policy preferences flow downstream from partisan identity. Democratic partisans who are highly engaged in politics will tend to adjust their economic views leftward to fit more comfortably in the Democratic coalition, perfectly explaining the counterintuitive rise of the progressive white suburbanite.

“Individuals identify with the cultural liberalism of the Democratic party and adopt its approach to economic matters as a package deal,” they write. “Economic preferences [are] an expression of a more basic cultural division in the electorate.”

Open Versus Closed’s thesis fits in with a significant body of political science literature documenting that most ordinary citizens are only weakly attached to their policy preferences, and frequently adjust them based on cues from political elites.

And the core argument that educated voters will hold more down-the-line partisan views as polarization increases is supported by other studies.

14) Given that people are always making some version of “if only the American public had better civic education…” I really like this needed corrective from Seth Masket:

We should also keep in mind that increased knowledge of politics is hardly a panacea for what ails the country. As the research of political scientist John Zaller has shown, political knowledge tends to polarize us, rather than lead us toward consensus. The people most divided on questions of whether climate change is real, firearms protect liberty, or masks save lives during a pandemic are generally the most informed among us — education and news programs reinforce the positions they originally held.

As writer Adam Serwer noted, the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were hardly a mass of uneducated illiterates; they included “business owners, CEOs, state legislators, police officers, active and retired service members, real-estate brokers, stay-at-home dads” and more. They were motivated to prolong the rule of a billionaire with a University of Pennsylvania education, and were egged on by the likes of Senators Josh Hawley (Yale Law) and Ted Cruz (Harvard Law). There were no shortages of prestigious educations to go around.

15) Dr Oz really shouldn’t peddle snake-oil on his TV show.  But he’s actually a really good Jeopardy host.  Also, this USA Today article is ridiculous because it’s just a bunch of tweets!

16) Mitch McConnell had the chutzpah to claim that the filibuster is historically not about slavery.  And this blog is not about Steve Greene’s takes on politics.  Sarah Binder with the disgusting racial history of the filibuster.

17) Loved John McWhorter on translating inaugural poet Amanda Gorman:

Our racial reckoning has put many new ideas afloat. One of them is that a black female poet’s work should only be translated by other black female people. Or at least black people.

And so, a Dutch translator had the assignment of translating new American youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman’s work withdrawn, and now a Catalan translator has had his translation of her Inauguration poem, which he had already completed, denied publication.

The logic is supposed to be that only someone of Gorman’s race, and optimally gender, can effectively translate her expression into another language. But is that true? And are we not denying Gorman and black people basic humanity in – if I may jump the gun – pretending that it is?

After all, we all know that overall, a vast amount of translation is happening all the time, and always has, by people quite unlike the original authors. The Anglophone experiences Tales of Genji as rendered by someone not Japanese. We experience the Bible through the work of people quite thoroughly un-Mesopotamian.

Notice I didn’t mention Shakespeare translated into other languages. According to the Critical Race Theory paradigm that informs this performative take on translating Gorman, Shakespeare being a white man means that white translators of his work are akin to him, while non-white ones, minted in a world where they must always grapple with whiteness “centered,” are perfect bilinguals of a sort.

But Murasaki Shikibu and the authors of the Bible were not “white,” and yet we see no crime in experiencing their work mediated through whites’ translation. And no, it isn’t that those books are from the past but that now we are walking on into a brave new world. When the next white scholarly specialist in China offers a translation of Confucius or even a modern Chinese work of fiction, we will hear not a thing about “appropriation.”

Yet a Dutch or Catalan translator of Amanda Gorman cannot be white. To highlight what a very right-now pose this is, recall that Alice Walker’s The Color Purple has been rendered in 25 languages including Chinese, and no one has batted an eye.

Again, some will try that even this needs to be revisited (i.e. a black spoken-word poet daughter of African immigrants in Berlin should do a new German translation of The Color Purple because it would sound more like what Alice Walker, um … wrote? … felt? … is?) and that Gorman provides us with an opportunity to start doing things the right way.

But the question is this: why is it that being black American renders one especially untranslatable by whites?

The idea is that American blackness is a special case here. The legacy of white racism, and manifestations of white supremacy still present, mean that the rules are different when it comes to who should translate a black person’s artistic statements. Our oppression at the hands of whites is something so unique, something so all-pervasive, something so all-defining of our souls and experience, that no white person could possibly render it in another language.

This is a fair evocation of what our modern paradigm on blackness teaches us. Power differentials, and especially ones based on race, are all and everything, justifying draconian alterations of basic procedure and, if necessary, even common sense.

However, note how much this portrait diminishes, say, Gorman. To her credit, she was not the one who suggested the Dutch translator be canned. After all, are we really to say that this intelligent young human being’s entirety is the degree to which she may experience white “supremacy”?

Watch out for the “Nobody said that” game. No, no one states that experience of white supremacy is all she is, but if we insist that her poetry can only be translated by someone who has experienced it, this means that the experience of white supremacy is paramount in our estimation of her. Example: we presumably don’t care if a white translator might be better at evoking other aspects of her such as her youth, her sense of scansion – what matters most is her oppression.

Racism exists and it’s really, really bad.  We should take meaningful, concrete steps to do something about it.  This sort of mess with poet translators is so decidedly not it.  I really do get that I cannot fully understand the Black experience in America, but, I really don’t like ideological approaches that insist on defining us by our differences instead of our shared humanity.

18) Great David Leonhardt on the negativity bias in the media.  Loved this because it’s so on-point for my current class.  Negativity draws more eyeballs and it fits in with the culture of journalism:

The coverage by U.S. publications with a national audience has been much more negative than coverage by any other source that the researchers analyzed, including scientific journals, major international publications and regional U.S. media. “The most well-read U.S. media are outliers in terms of their negativity,” Molly Cook, a co-author of the study, told me.
About 87 percent of Covid coverage in national U.S. media last year was negative. The share was 51 percent in international media, 53 percent in U.S. regional media and 64 percent in scientific journals…

Sacerdote is careful to emphasize that he does not think journalists usually report falsehoods. The issue is which facts they emphasize. Still, the new study — which the National Bureau of Economic Research has published as a working paper, titled, “Why is all Covid-19 news bad news?” — calls for some self-reflection from those of us in the media.
If we’re constantly telling a negative story, we are not giving our audience the most accurate portrait of reality. We are shading it. We are doing a good job telling you why Covid cases are rising in some places and how the vaccines are imperfect — but not such a good job explaining why cases are falling elsewhere or how the vaccines save lives. Perhaps most important, we are not being clear about which Covid developments are truly alarming.
As Ranjan Sehgal, another co-author, told me, “The media is painting a picture that is a little bit different from what the scientists are saying.”…

To put it another way, the stories that people choose to read skew even more negative than the stories that media organizations choose to publish. “Human beings, particularly consumers of major media, like negativity in their stories,” Sacerdote said. “We think the major media are responding to consumer demand.”
That idea is consistent with the patterns in the data, Sacerdote added: It makes sense that national publications have better instincts about reaching a large audience than, say, science journals. And overseas, some of the most influential English-language media organizations — like the BBC — have long received government funding, potentially making them less focused on consumer demand.
All of that sounds plausible to me, but I don’t think it is the full explanation. I have worked in media for nearly three decades, and I think you might be surprised by how little time journalists spend talking about audience size. We care about it, obviously, but most journalists I know care much more about other factors, like doing work that has an impact.
In the modern era of journalism — dating roughly to the Vietnam War and Watergate — we tend to equate impact with asking tough questions and exposing problems. There are some good reasons for that. We are inundated by politicians, business executives, movie stars and others trying to portray themselves in the best light. Our job is to cut through the self-promotion and find the truth. If we don’t tell you the bad news, you may never hear it.
Sometimes, though, our healthy skepticism can turn into reflexive cynicism, and we end up telling something less than the complete story. I am grateful to Sacerdote, Cook and Sehgal for doing to us journalists what we normally do to others — holding up a mirror to our work and giving us a chance to do better.

19) This is really good from Brookings, “How misinformation is distorting COVID policies and behaviors”

20) This is just amazing.  Trust me and just watch it.

Rural vs. Urban vaccinations

Just because that’s the kind of person I am, every couple of days I’ve been checking the Walgreen’s vaccination website to see where shots were available.  Probably about 8 times out of 10 there were not shots within an hour of NC’s largest metro areas (Raleigh and Charlotte) and plenty of appointments once you were willing to drive an hour or more into rural America.  About 1 in 10 times, there were actually shots in my area.  And the other times?  Shots nowhere.  Somehow, though, I was really late to the game in discovering vaccine spotter, which actually gives you maps like this:

And when I went for the screenshot last night, NC was not working, so I went with Texas.  As you can, see, same story I saw when checking NC and VA– major population centers pretty much completely lacking available vaccination appointments with plenty of appointments in rural areas and small towns. 

I haven’t read anything about this, but it really bothers me.  I know lots of upper-SES friends and colleagues who have driven an hour away to get a shot, but the real victims here are the urban poor who may not be able to easily up and drive an hour each way for a vaccination.  I was complaining about this to a friend today who managed to get a local shot and she said, “I’m not going to take a shot from a rural person.”  I said, “no, they’re taking them from us!”  Not literally, obviously, but this is absolutely a pretty substantial maldistribution of our vaccination resources. 

Maybe it’s the greater vaccine hesitancy in rural areas?  Maybe there’s actually more Walgreen’s and Walmart’s per capita to give shots?  But, whatever it is, the system should absolutely be working more equitably.   


Forgiveness is under-valued

One thing I’ve gotten a lot better at with age is forgiveness.  I used to be far more judgmental and far more likely to be very negative about the mistakes people have made.  I think the fact that I have gotten so much better at this and appreciated that is quite doable to simply be more forgiving, makes me very frustrated when I see such a decided lack of forgiveness and compassion.  And where is that?  That’s right, I’m going there, the woke warriors.  Great piece from Graeme Wood in light of the Teen Vogue editor being fired for tweets she made when she was 17!  Damn, do I sure as hell hope people would not hold me to full account for the stupid things I said and did when I was 17.  It’s just so profoundly ungenerous and, of course, in complete denial of the brain science that says we’re not really all there, judgment-wise, till about 25.  Wood:

Yesterday afternoon, Condé Nast, the publisher of Teen Vogueannounced that Alexi McCammond, a 27-year-old former reporter for Axios, would not be taking over as editor of the magazine after all. She had been done in by her own social-media posts, little time bombs she’d unwittingly armed when she tweeted them at age 17. Those posts groaned about her “stupid asian T.A.” and mocked Asians’ “swollen eyes.” She apologized for the tweets in 2019. The Teen Vogue staff discovered these comments, spurned the apology, and revolted

If Teen Vogue, even in its current woke incarnation, does not exist to celebrate this period of still-expungeable error, then it may as well be calling for the abolition of the teenage years altogether. Its staff, as well as many of its advertisers, evidently think its readers deserve no bonfire, no sin jubilee, and should be hounded eternally for their dumbest and most bigoted utterances. This suggests an intriguing editorial mix of beauty tips, celebrity news, and vengeance. Who wouldn’t want to read what a modern 20-something Torquemada thinks about Zayn Malik’s Netflix queue or a new brand of facial cleansers? Because I am no longer a teenager, I have no teenage years to lose. Although if Teen Vogue has its way, I suppose I should consider myself hostage to the idiocy of my wayward teenage self until I am safely dead.

Teenagers lose from this decision. Asian Americans do too. I know nothing about the racial composition of the staff of Teen Vogue, but the policing of anti-Asian tweets, no matter who does it, is a cheap exercise in identity construction. In an interview published Wednesday, the writer Cathy Park Hong told The Atlantic that fixing political problems requires that we “talk about our racial identity, because people feel intimately close to that.” The solution is to “build an Asian American identity that’s beyond loving boba tea and K-pop.”…

The coup d’état at Teen Vogue is the result of a debased form of identity building—one that mistakes an identity worth having for one founded on the pitiless prosecution of offenses by members of other races regardless of whether they are large or small, intended or unintended, ongoing or long-disavowed. I see little harm, and some good, in the various Asian-hyphenated Americans celebrating their communities, and even their wider pan-Asian community. Like everyone, Asian Americans should meet racism and violence with the contempt they deserve. But they should decline to model their outrage on the vindictive excesses that have become commonplace. They should do so independently of existing structures, which originated in categories of Black and white, and don’t work very well for discussion of those races either. Nor is it any failure of allyship with Black people, or for that matter white people, to opt out of these structures. Black identity and white identity are lamentable realities, difficult to unravel because they are legacies of America’s original sin. If, as Hong says, Asian identity is something still being built, a real act of allyship would be to reject the defective templates of its predecessors. No one wants to be stuck in a prison of racial identity, but the prison walls do not crumble because some people volunteer to be inmates with those who have no choice…

The strongest argument for McCammond’s ouster is that she has not been especially gracious in accepting the apologies of others. (This is Wesley Yang’s “Dexter rule,” named for the TV serial killer who kills only other killers: Cancel only the cancelers.) But let’s grant her maximum charity. A world in which McCammond apologizes for her old tweets is better than one in which she sees nothing wrong with them. Possibly worse than the latter, though, is one in which the highest aspiration of racial pride is to slam the doors of repentance permanently in the faces of your enemies. In many religious traditions, expiation of guilt is an earthly process; you can confess your sins to a priest, or wander Earth in sackcloth and ashes. For the sake of today’s Teen Vogue readers, I hope that by the time they are McCammond’s age, the current culture has developed its own process of expiation. Most people were 17 once, and those who haven’t gotten there yet will be 17 someday, and 27 too.

Now, if McCammond was in any contemporary way actually anti-Asian, this would be a different story.  But, far as I can tell, nobody is made that argument at all.  As a full-grown adult she’s being punished for the stupidity of her adolescence which she has explicitly rejected.  Why do I care so much about this excessive woke stuff?  Because, I really don’t want to live in the society where it is commonplace to fire 27-year olds for the stupid things they did when they were 17.

Photo of the day

This is so cool.  Not a doctored photo at all, but, a very cool atmospheric phenomenon!

 The cruise ship Anthem of the Seas appears to hover in mid-air on Wednesday evening close to Bournemouth Pier. Photograph: Triangle News/Ryan Rushforth

If the sight of a ship apparently hovering above the sea is a very rare event in the UK, then two in a fortnight must be an even more unlikely occurrence.

But 13 days after a giant tanker was pictured floating above the water off Cornwall, the effect of an optical illusion known as a superior mirage, similar images emerged of the cruise ship, the Jewel of the Seas, off the Dorset coast.

When the Cornwall illusion occurred, the BBC meteorologist David Braine said it was common in the Arctic but can appear “very rarely” in the UK during winter.

It is caused by a meteorological phenomenon called a temperature inversion. Normally, the air temperature drops with increasing altitude, making mountaintops colder than the foothills. But in a temperature inversion, warm air sits on top of a band of colder air, playing havoc with our visual perception. Both the Cornwall and Bournemouth instances were caused by chilly air lying over the relatively cold sea, with warmer air above.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to cruise ships that would usually be in far-flung locations being anchored off the English coast.

Are the media learning?

Just maybe, says the ultimate political media critic, Jay Rosen:

Thirteen days after the 2020 election I published, “Two paths forward for the American press.” One path, I said, was “a restoration of order as a more normal president takes office.” This was (and remains) the most likely course. The other possible path was to extend and institutionalize what I called “a democratic breakthrough in journalism.” 

The breakthrough happened during the tense days after November 3, when an autocratic leader, Donald Trump, tried to reverse the results of a free and fair election. His attempt was defeated, in part by journalists who made it clear that he had no case. His claims of election fraud were themselves fraudulent. 

In my view this was a shattering experience for the American press— shattering in a good way. No refuge in false equivalence, no retreat into “both sides” reasoning, no fantasies of remaining neutral in the fight could withstand the experience of reporting on Trump’s furious battle to retain power after losing the 2020 election. Journalists came face to face with an attempt to subvert democracy, led by the president of the United States. Instantly every bromide they had ever uttered about the role of a free press in a healthy democracy turned frighteningly real. 

What the lasting effects of that moment will be on journalism’s political imaginary we do not yet know. But I know what they should be: We can lose this thing if we don’t learn how to defend it. That’s the attitude the press ought to have toward American democracy. Since the election, I have tried to keep watch for any sign that journalists understand this. Here and there I find them. And that’s what this post is about. Signs of a shift in thinking that could spread to more people in journalism. Ready to hear about them? 

If you want to know, you can click through to most of the examples.  I really like this idea:

“Journalists should have a bias…” That’s what Mehdi Hassan said recently on his show that airs nightly on Peacock, NBC’s new streaming network. “…A bias towards democracy.” 

That journalists should have a bias is not something you hear very often from people who have shows on American news networks. So I asked Mehdi Hasan to elaborate on that idea. Here is our exchange: 

What does a “bias toward democracy” mean to you? What sorts of things are involved in that? Beyond “three cheers for democracy!” and “democracy is great!” what does it require of you?

A “bias towards democracy” for me means: 1.) acknowledging and documenting how American democracy is under attack and not pretending there is anything normal or unremarkable about our current predicament, and 2.) recognizing that journalists are not bystanders in all this. We are not neutral chroniclers of this descent into authoritarianism.

A “bias towards democracy” has to trump the old “view from nowhere” theory of journalism. We are very much *somewhere*— ensconced within a constitutional democracy, operating with the protection of the First Amendment. So we have skin in the game. For journalism to survive, democracy must survive – the two need each other.

You said, “As voter suppression laws proliferate, here’s my ‘mission statement’…” As you know, attempts to make it harder to vote are moving through state legislatures now. What will be the mission of your show on this subject? Are you simply saying, “we’re going to cover it and keep covering it,” or are you saying something a bit more than that?

I am saying we are going to cover it and keep covering it, for a start. And I would not be dismissive of such a starting point, given that lawyer Marc Elias has rightly referred to it as an “under reported story right now” that “the media is unequipped to cover this in clear moral terms.” I plan to use my platforms on Peacock and MSNBC to highlight the attacks on democracy and voting rights at a federal, state, and local level. But it is not enough to only “cover” the voter suppression story. I want us as a media to prioritize it, in terms of our resources, guesting, news agendas, and to also help our viewers, listeners, and readers to join the dots (racism! authoritarianism! minority rule!).

Journalists should have a bias toward democracy, you said. I agree with you on that. Toward what other things should journalists have a bias?

Above all else, a bias towards reality, without which democracy cannot endure. There are not two sides to climate change, or Covid, or election results. As one of our two major political parties continues to retreat from reality, it is the job of journalists to cling to reality, not some imaginary mid-point between the two parties.

bias for democracy.  Now, that I love.  That’s a bias all journalists could get behind.  Of course, the danger here is journalists convincing themselves that everything they believe (“Medicare for All is pro-democracy!” “Legal abortion is pro-democracy!”), but, if they can be responsible about it– and Rosen points to some good examples– this is a good thing.  Rosen’s conclusion:


WITF says it will not forget who backed the Big Lie, or those votes to overturn a free and fair election. The Cleveland Plain Dealer refuses to amplify a candidate’s baseless charges. (“We don’t knowingly publish ridiculous claims.”) ProPublica carves out a democracy beat. VoteBeat tries to make the press as a whole smarter about voter suppression. Meanwhile, Mehdi Hasan says on air: “Journalists should have a bias. A bias towards democracy.” 

My point in highlighting these small signs is not to suggest that a wave of reform has suddenly struck American journalism. It has not. But make a note of this: No wave of protest forced the journalists at WITF to back down. (“The public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” they told me.) Chris Quinn of the Plain Dealer didn’t hear from his corporate bosses that he really ought to be fairer to the demagogue Josh Mandel. Mehdi Hasan is on TV every night, even after proclaiming his pro-democracy bias. 

They have learned from the Trump years. Others could start to follow them. 

No, I’m not predicting it. But I’m not ready to say it could never happen, either. For by comitting to the Big Lie — and its derivative, making it harder to vote — the Republican Party has, in effect, withdrawn from the unspoken deal it had with mainstream journalism in the United States. The deal said: just don’t embarrass us and we’ll both sides everything. With Stop the Steal, the Big Lie about voter fraud, and, now, a national campaign to make voting harder, the GOP has broken faith with a form that gave it huge advantages: both sides journalism. 

The consequences of that reckless act are unpredictable.

What the BLM protests revealed about the failures of policing

This was great from the NYT.  Basically ends up reaffirming everything I’ve been teaching in Criminal Justice Policy this semester about police forces that is very much in need of reform.

Now, months after the demonstrations that followed the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police in May, the full scope of the country’s policing response is becoming clearer. More than a dozen after-action evaluations have been completed, looking at how police departments responded to the demonstrations — some of them chaotic and violent, most peaceful — that broke out in hundreds of cities between late May and the end of August.

In city after city, the reports are a damning indictment of police forces that were poorly trained, heavily militarized and stunningly unprepared for the possibility that large numbers of people would surge into the streets, moved by the graphic images of Mr. Floyd’s death under a police officer’s knee…

The mistakes transcended geography, staffing levels and financial resources. From midsize departments like the one in Indianapolis to big-city forces like New York City’s, from top commanders to officers on the beat, police officers nationwide were unprepared to calm the summer’s unrest, and their approaches consistently did the opposite. In many ways, the problems highlighted in the reports are fundamental to modern American policing, a demonstration of the aggressive tactics that had infuriated many of the protesters to begin with.

The New York Times reviewed reports by outside investigators, watchdogs and consultants analyzing the police response to protests in nine major cities, including four of the nation’s largest. The Times also reviewed after-action examinations by police departments in five other major cities. Reports in some cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, are not yet completed. In Minneapolis, the city that sparked a national reckoning over policing, the City Council only agreed last month to hire a risk-management company to analyze the city’s response to the protests, despite months of pressure.

Almost uniformly, the reports said departments need more training in how to handle large protests. They also offered a range of recommendations to improve outcomes in the future: Departments need to better work with community organizers, including enlisting activists to participate in trainings or consulting with civil rights attorneys on protest-management policies. Leaders need to develop more restrictive guidelines and better supervision of crowd control munitions, such as tear gas. Officers need more training to manage their emotions and aggressions as part of de-escalation strategies…

The reports are strikingly similar, a point made by the Indianapolis review, which said that officers’ responses “were not dissimilar to what appears to have occurred in cities around the country.” Of the outside reviews, only the police department in Baltimore was credited with handling protests relatively well. The department deployed officers in ordinary uniforms and encouraged them “to calmly engage in discussion” with protesters, the report said.

Reviewers more often found that officers behaved aggressively, wearing riot gear and spraying tear gas or “less-lethal” projectiles in indiscriminate ways, appearing to target peaceful demonstrators and displaying little effort to de-escalate tensions. In places like Indianapolis and Philadelphia, reviewers found, the actions of the officers seemed to make things worse.

To be fair, it’s got to be damn tough for police officers– with too little appropriate training– to confront protests where they are the target of the protests.  But, sadly, so much of what was revealed was the inadequate training, culture of impunity, us vs them mentality, that bedevils many police forces.  We can and must do better.  

Quick hits (part II)

Short– sorry.  

1) Leonhardt on partisan biases (both parties!) in perceptions of Covid

More than one-third of Republican voters, for example, said that people without Covid symptoms could not spread the virus. Similar shares said that Covid was killing fewer people than either the seasonal flu or vehicle crashes. All of those beliefs are wrong, and badly so. Asymptomatic spread is a major source of transmission, and Covid has killed about 15 times more Americans than either the flu or vehicle crashes do in a typical year.

Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to exaggerate the severity of Covid. When asked how often Covid patients had to be hospitalized, a very large share of Democratic voters said that at least 20 percent did. The actual hospitalization rate is about 1 percent…

Democrats are also more likely to exaggerate Covid’s toll on young people and to believe that children account for a meaningful share of deaths. In reality, Americans under 18 account for only 0.04 percent of Covid deaths.

It’s true that some of these misperceptions reflect the fact that most people are not epidemiologists and that estimating medical statistics is difficult. Still, the errors do have a connection to real-world behavior, Rothwell told me.

Republicans’ underestimation of Covid risks helps explain their resistance to wearing a mask — even though doing so could save their own life or that of a family member. And Democrats’ overestimation of risks explains why so many have accepted school closures — despite the damage being done to children, in lost learning, lost social connections and, in the case of poorer children, missed meals.

The states with the highest share of closed schools are all blue states: California, Oregon, Maryland, New Mexico, Hawaii, Nevada, Massachusetts and New Jersey. “I think in many ways it’s based on the fact that these voters are misinformed about the risks to young people and they’re misinformed about the risks generally,” Rothwell said.

2) Michael Grunwald, “The GOP’s Political Nightmare: Running Against a Recovery”

3) This is interesting, “How Media Coverage of Congress Limits Policymaking”

Matt Grossmann: How media coverage of Congress limits policymaking, this week on The Science of Politics. For the Niskanen Center, I’m Matt Grossmann. Advocates and legislators often want to generate media attention for their preferred legislation, but that doesn’t mean the media coverage helps pass bills in Congress. Instead, congressional media coverage may turn off the public, with stories of conflict-ridden sausage making, and disrupt internal consensus-building. This week, I talked to Mary Layton Atkinson, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, about her Chicago book, Combative Politics: The Media and Public Perceptions of Lawmaking. She finds that media coverage focuses on legislation with partisan conflict, and emphasizes process over policy substance. That tells voters that Congress is dysfunctional and full of extremists. I also talked to John Lovett of Wake Forest University, about his new Michigan book, The Politics of Herding Cats: When Congressional Leaders Fail. He finds that media coverage leads to more intervention by backbench legislators, creating a spiral of increasing salience that makes it harder for leadership to pass bills. Both books are multifaceted. Atkinson finds that congressional reporting is overwhelmingly about process and that negatively affects public views.

4) Okay, maybe this sounds esoteric, but it’s really important.  Jesse Singal has written measured, fair, articles about transgender people that don’t necessarily support their ideology (he has written about the fact that a good number of transgender people actually de-transition, but he is fair and nuanced, and in no meaningful way “anti-trans”) and he has been mercilessly slandered, “The Campaign of Lies Against Journalist Jesse Singal—And Why It Matters”

On the issue of gender, a particularly interesting case study centres on Jesse Singal, a mild-mannered and amiable (I’ve met him) New York-based journalistbook author, and podcaster whom Quillette readers may remember from his 2019 appearance on our own show. As early as 2016, well before the culture war over trans rights reached its crescendo, Singal authored a ground-breaking New York magazine exposé on the cynical takedown of eminent Toronto psychologist Dr. Kenneth Zucker (who was subsequently paid more than half a million dollars by his former employer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, as part of a legal settlement relating to its part in that smear campaign). Two years later, Singal wrote an impeccably researched cover story for the Atlantic titled “When Children Say They’re Trans”—one of the most widely discussed features in the magazine’s recent history. In these articles, and on social media, Singal has dealt with the issue of gender dysphoria with care and sensitivity, documenting the challenges faced by those experiencing the condition. And while he is the furthest thing from an actual transphobe, he acknowledges the plain fact that some children who present as trans later “desist” to an identity that accords with their biological sex.

As anyone who follows this issue closely can guess, Singal’s measured approach doesn’t always sit well with progressive activist and journalistic subcultures, wherein the approved view is that any child’s expression of trans identity must summarily be “affirmed” by parents, educators, and therapists. Within these circles, Singal himself has written, “desistance isn’t viewed as a phenomenon we’ve yet to fully understand and quantify but rather as a myth to be dispelled. Those who raise the subject of desistance are often believed to have nefarious motives—the liberal outlet ThinkProgress, for example, referred to desistance research as ‘the pernicious junk science stalking trans kids’… But the evidence that desistance occurs is overwhelming.”

We know from experienced psychotherapists in this area that children can present as trans for all sorts of reasons, sometimes related to trauma, sexual anxieties, or comorbid mental-health conditions. In some cases, the dysphoria is permanent, but in other cases, it isn’t (which is why the analogy with sexual orientation is misleading). Certainly, the idea that desistance is some kind of transphobic “myth” has now itself been shown to be a myth: In late 2020, British jurists upheld desister Keira Bell’s claim that the country’s Gender Identity Development Service had improperly rushed her through a medical reassignment process, at age 16, without proper safeguards. At the age of 23, Bell now is recovering from the after-effects of these treatments—including a needless double mastectomy—and confronts a lifetime of possible medical complications.

As we wrote in a recent Quillette editorial about Bell, it won’t just be doctors and politicians whose actions will be judged in relation to the excesses surrounding the transition of young people, but also those many journalists who’ve chosen to prioritize political fashion over journalistic integrity. Singal stands out as one of the few honourable exceptions. Indeed, Bell’s case is exactly the sort of tragedy that he’s consistently warned about over the past five years. To a certain kind of ideologue, such prescience is unforgiveable.

Atlantic and New York skew editorially toward the progressive camp. And every word of Singal’s articles in these publications was combed over rigorously by fact checkers. Yet from reading the social-media abuse directed at Singal, one might think these were self-published transphobic rants. A blistering attack on Singal published by an author who self-describes as an “agendered asexual radical feminist transwoman in a poly relationship,” for instance, went on for an astounding 12,000-plus words, accusing Singal of everything from being “harmful to trans kids” to peddling “bigoted nonsense.” Google Singal’s name and you will find dozens of screeds of this nature.

So desperate has this campaign of character assassination become that some critics now casually throw in flat-out lies about his personal behaviour…

As anyone who follows this issue closely can guess, Singal’s measured approach doesn’t always sit well with progressive activist and journalistic subcultures, wherein the approved view is that any child’s expression of trans identity must summarily be “affirmed” by parents, educators, and therapists. Within these circles, Singal himself has written, “desistance isn’t viewed as a phenomenon we’ve yet to fully understand and quantify but rather as a myth to be dispelled. Those who raise the subject of desistance are often believed to have nefarious motives—the liberal outlet ThinkProgress, for example, referred to desistance research as ‘the pernicious junk science stalking trans kids’… But the evidence that desistance occurs is overwhelming.”

We know from experienced psychotherapists in this area that children can present as trans for all sorts of reasons, sometimes related to trauma, sexual anxieties, or comorbid mental-health conditions. In some cases, the dysphoria is permanent, but in other cases, it isn’t (which is why the analogy with sexual orientation is misleading). Certainly, the idea that desistance is some kind of transphobic “myth” has now itself been shown to be a myth: In late 2020, British jurists upheld desister Keira Bell’s claim that the country’s Gender Identity Development Service had improperly rushed her through a medical reassignment process, at age 16, without proper safeguards. At the age of 23, Bell now is recovering from the after-effects of these treatments—including a needless double mastectomy—and confronts a lifetime of possible medical complications.

As we wrote in a recent Quillette editorial about Bell, it won’t just be doctors and politicians whose actions will be judged in relation to the excesses surrounding the transition of young people, but also those many journalists who’ve chosen to prioritize political fashion over journalistic integrity. Singal stands out as one of the few honourable exceptions. Indeed, Bell’s case is exactly the sort of tragedy that he’s consistently warned about over the past five years. To a certain kind of ideologue, such prescience is unforgiveable.

Atlantic and New York skew editorially toward the progressive camp. And every word of Singal’s articles in these publications was combed over rigorously by fact checkers. Yet from reading the social-media abuse directed at Singal, one might think these were self-published transphobic rants. A blistering attack on Singal published by an author who self-describes as an “agendered asexual radical feminist transwoman in a poly relationship,” for instance, went on for an astounding 12,000-plus words, accusing Singal of everything from being “harmful to trans kids” to peddling “bigoted nonsense.” Google Singal’s name and you will find dozens of screeds of this nature.

So desperate has this campaign of character assassination become that some critics now casually throw in flat-out lies about his personal behaviour.

5) I really don’t know much about the history of modern Turkey.  But this book review/extensive summary from Scott Alexander on the history and rise of Erdowan was really fascinating.  (I hope JDW reads this and gives me his take).  

6) More of this, please, “Breaking news: Utah becomes eighth state to prohibit cages for egg-laying hens.”  Can we please just pay a modest amount more for our animal-based food and not treat the animals horribly?

7) Given my well-established penchant for endocannabinoids, no wonder I like running (and am so happy to be able to do it again five months after tearing my Achilles).  “Getting to the Bottom of the Runner’s High: For years we’ve been crediting endorphins, but it’s really about the endocannabinoids.”

8) Paul Waldman, “The pressure to reform the filibuster is already working”

Democrats in the Senate are having more serious discussion about reform of the filibuster than they’ve had in a long time. And guess what: It’s working.

First, it’s clearly having a persuasive effect on many in their own party, who are newly expressing an openness to reforming the filibuster or just getting rid of it. Once you have to really confront it, it becomes almost impossible to defend.

There are two other vivid new ways in which the pressure for reform is working: Some Republicans are expressing a real desire for bipartisanship, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is squealing like a stuck pig.

Let’s consider the bipartisanship first. Politico reports that senators from both parties are coming together to see what they might accomplish:

Its meeting this week comes as the House prepares to pass immigration bills that will further reinforce the Senate’s gridlock on that issue without some bipartisan framework to break the impasse.
“It’s something the group of 20 of us, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, will discuss tomorrow and decide whether we take this up. Or whether instead we focus on the minimum wage,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in an interview. “But there are places we can come together.”

While we don’t know whether this will produce anything, it’s happening precisely because of the threat that Democrats might eliminate the filibuster and start passing the bills their party ran on.

As long as that threat is alive, the incentives for a moderate Republican push them toward working with Democrats. If you were one of them and you knew that 60 votes would be required on anything, and because of that the majority’s agenda was dead in the water, why bother negotiating? You wouldn’t care what legislation they passed in the House.

If, on the other hand, a Senate that runs by majority rule is a real possibility, you’d want to get in on the action. If bills are going to pass with 50 votes, you can work on them with Democrats and shape them to your liking, giving those Democrats the couple of extra votes they’ll need to have a margin of comfort.

In the meantime, by working with Democrats you might convince them not to get rid of the filibuster, by helping them get a victory or two that reduces the pressure to get rid of it entirely.

But there’s one person who is terrified that bipartisanship might break out: Mitch McConnell. Which is why he issued an over-the-top warning to Democrats on Tuesday, essentially threatening to burn the Senate down if they reform the filibuster:

9) This was cool, “17 Reasons to Let the Economic Optimism Begin” Here’s the first two:

1. The ketchup might be ready to flow

In 1987, the economist Robert Solow said, “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” Companies were making great use of rapid improvements in computing power, but the overall economy wasn’t really becoming more productive.

This analysis was right until it was wrong. Starting around the mid-1990s, technological innovations in supply chain management and factory production enabled companies to squeeze more economic output out of every hour of work and dollar of capital spending. This was an important reason for the economic boom of the late 1990s.


In the beginning, it may even lower productivity! In the 1980s, companies that tried out new computing technology often needed to employ new armies of programmers as well as others to maintain old, redundant systems.

But once such hurdles are cleared, the innovation can spread with dizzying speed.

It’s like the old ditty: “Shake and shake the ketchup bottle. First none will come and then a lot’ll.”

Or, in a more formal sense, the economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Daniel Rock and Chad Syverson call this the “productivity J-curve,” in which an important new general-purpose technology — they use artificial intelligence as a contemporary example — initially depresses apparent productivity, but over time unleashes much stronger growth in economic potential. It looks as if companies have been putting in a lot of work for no return, but once those returns start to flow, they come faster than once seemed imaginable.

There are several areas where innovation seems to be at just such a point, and not just artificial intelligence.

2. 2020s battery technology looks kind of like 1990s microprocessors

Remember Moore’s Law? It was the idea that the number of transistors that could be put on an integrated circuit would double every two years as manufacturing technology improved. That is the reason you may well be wearing a watch with more computer processing power than the devices that sent people into outer space in the 1960s.

Battery technology isn’t improving at quite that pace, but it’s not far behind it. The price of lithium-ion battery packs has fallen 89 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 2010, according to BloombergNEF, and is poised for further declines. There have been similar advances in solar cells, raising the prospect of more widespread inexpensive clean energy.

10) Good stuff from Zeynep on vaccinating the world:

Perhaps we can and we should argue that the many billions of people in the world are worth vaccinating simply because they are fellow human-beings whose lives are as worthy as anyone else’s—including ours. Casting them as threats may seem like a short-term nudge, but I doubt it’s very convincing to people who do not see them as worthy. Worse, it can potentially  further the vision of a segregated world where we protect ourselves from the dangerous masses out there. A lot of such periods in history have come with casting immigration and other people over there as dangerous disease vectors

Maybe we don’t need to cast billions of people as if they were vague threats to us, or exaggerate the risk of vaccine failure because of them

How about simply this: we should vaccinate the world because every human being deserves being protected against a disease for which we have safe and efficacious vaccines. 

Maybe the hippie dippy argument is just fine. 

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