Quick hits (part II)

1) I think this might be an over-estimate.  Seriously.  “Outdoor transmission accounts for 0.1% of State’s Covid-19 cases”

The HPSC data, provided in response to a query from The Irish Times, was based on “locations which are primarily associated with outdoor activities, ie outdoor sports and construction sites, or outbreaks that specifically mention in comments that an outdoor location or activity was involved”. The HSPC said, however, that it “cannot determine where transmission occurred”.

Sports often use indoor locker rooms and construction workers regularly share automobiles, so, yeah, probably an over-estimate.

2) Thanks to my third-born for sharing this video of a monkey playing pong with just his mind (and a cool neural link).

3) A professor (admittedly a nutty Trump supporter) pushed back with some seemingly reasonable arguments, though unsurprisingly, rudely presented, against white fragility training at her community college.  The college investigated her for 9 months.  I’ll say right here that I think diversity training based on “white fragility” is a bad idea.  Hopefully, NC State will not decide I’m a problem. 

4) Really loved this Yglesias post, “Andrew Yang versus the unrepresentative activists”

The author of the piece, James Walsh, writes that “for many in New York’s Asian communities, his prescription — more police funding — reads like a glib response to a deep-seated societal ill,” and that the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crime Task Force is “contradictory to the nascent defund-the-police movement, which has been gaining momentum since the summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.”..

But the whole tone and structure of the article suggest its purpose is to criticize Yang for blowing off these activist groups. However, I think a more important point about Yang versus the activists here is that it reveals — and not for the first time — that progressive identity-oriented activist organizations often have very little connection to the groups they purport to represent. You can listen to these groups if you want to. But if your purpose in listening to them is to understand how certain communities are thinking about specific issues, you’re barking up the wrong tree…

Andrew Yang, similarly, has become the frontrunner in the New York City mayoral election, not despite criticism from activist groups, but precisely because he has adopted normal popular opinions like “groups suffering from rising crime need more police protection.”

He’s not just in first place overall, but he has a commanding lead with Asians and a sizable one with Hispanics as well…

Now is Andrew Yang a good choice for mayor? I have my doubts! He has no public sector experience, doesn’t strike me as having any particularly big ideas for solving New York’s big problems, and I all-around continue to feel comfortable thinking that the lesser-known Kathryn Garcia would be a better choice.

But what’s striking about Yang is how effortlessly the combination of “he’s well-known” and “he avoids toxically unpopular left-wing ideas” has let him leapfrog past people like Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley who’ve spent years (if not decades) trying to climb the greasy pole of progressive niche politics.

And the thing about this is we are talking about a primary election in New York City, not a statewide race in Pennsylvania or North Carolina or Florida. If this style of politics doesn’t have purchase there, where does it have purchase? 

5) And Noah Smith recently reshared his good take on “defund the police” from December:

Stone concludes that cops have been on a two-decade “riot against the republic”. Watching the hundreds of videos of police brutality from around the country during the George Floyd protests this summer, it’s hard to disagree…

But while the two-decade police riot in America needs to be put down somehow, abolishing the police is not the way to go about it. The reason is that police serve essential functions in society — deterring crime and preserving public order. If we abolished the police, someone else would start performing those functions. And it would probably not be someone we liked…

More generally, every complex society on the planet has some form of cops. Japan has cops. India has cops. Ghana has cops. Venezuela has the Policía Nacional Bolivariana (PNB).

When the PNB was set up, their wages were three times as high as police wages had been before; it was thought that this would help make the police more professional and less brutal.

The U.S. doesn’t have nearly as many cops per person as many European countries, in fact — 238 per 100,000 people in 2018, compared to 429 in France, 388 in Germany, and 295 in the Netherlands (though we do have more than Sweden, Denmark, or Canada!).

The problem is how American cops behave. Despite the fact that we have fewer police per capita than Germany, and a murder rate only about 5 times as high, our cops shoot civilians at a rate 25 times as high as cops in Germany…

To me, though, the most interesting reforms involve changing what functions the police are expected to perform in society. Many of the reforms involve taking cops out of schools. In Berkeley, cops will no longer handle traffic enforcement (an idea partly credited to the excellent activist Darrell Owens). San Francisco is taking police off of 911 calls involving mental health and drug addiction, and replacing them with unarmed responders.

To me, this seems like exactly the right thing to do. Time will tell, of course. But there seems to be no reason why armed police should be the people to issue traffic tickets or help calm down a mentally ill person. And cops in schools are just dystopian. By removing these functions from police departments, we reduce the chance for violent escalation, and thus remove opportunities for police violence. And hopefully police departments, chastened by this reduction in their duties, will work harder to crack down on brutality.

This is real police defunding, since the money that would pay police to perform these functions will now go to pay unarmed responders. It’s not police abolition (sorry anarchist friends!), but it is a partial de-policing of our society. Hopefully these programs will succeed and be emulated throughout the country. Joe Biden already thinks they’re a good idea.

So what should police do?

Police still need to arrest crime suspects. This is part of the essential deterrent function of cops, because people need to know that crime will be punished; there is plenty of evidence that the existence of police officers does deter crime.

But there’s probably another way for police to deter crime more peacefully, while also integrating themselves into the communities they serve — police boxes and foot patrols…

Even in June, while the George Floyd protests were still going strong, only 25% of Americans (and only 42% of Black Americans) favored cutting police budgets by even a little bit…

So police are here to stay. And because police are here to stay, it’s crucial to use a whole lot of different levers to make sure they protect and serve the community instead of beating it down. Defunding — by shifting police functions to unarmed responders — is one important lever. Changing police work from crisis response to foot patrol and community integration is another. Real change is possible.

6) Drum, “Everybody Wants More Police”

What do Black people think about crime and policing? According to a new Vox poll, they think:

  • Violent crime has been increasing.
  • Most police officers can’t be trusted.
  • Police are more likely to use force against African Americans.

And yet, there’s also this:

Everyone wants more police patrols. It’s true that white communities want them most of all, but 65% of Black respondents and 70% of Hispanic respondents want them too. They may think police can’t be trusted and are too quick to use force, but by a very large margin they still want them around.

Perhaps I’m misinterpreting this, but I’d say it speaks loudly for trying to reform the way police interact with the Black community rather than defunding them.

7) Apparently, not everybody actually thinks in words?!  For real.  Drum.

8) I found this from Gallup totally unsurprising, “Few Signs of a Catholic ‘Bump’ for Biden.”  As we’ve well-established here… PID > Jesus.  No reason to expect Catholicism to change that in any meaningful way.  

The answer, I believe, lies in the extraordinary power of partisanship in determining how Americans look at a president. Religious intensity and religious identity are highly correlated with party identification, and it appears that it is the latter variable that is the more powerful in determining views of a president. Trump’s personal religiosity and behavior did not seem to have a negative effect on the support he received from highly religious White Protestants, and Biden’s Catholicism doesn’t appear to be having a positive effect on the support he receives from Catholics. The most important factor is straightforward: Biden is a Democrat and Trump was a Republican, and it is difficult for other presidential characteristics, including religion, to alter the power of this core reality.

9) Kristoff, “How Do We Stop the Parade of Gun Deaths? :A first step: Biden should act urgently against untraceable “ghost guns.””

10) I don’t agree with everything Freddie deBoer writes in here, but it is a thorough and fascinating analysis of (overly) woke politics.  

Here are some basic observations.

  1. Social justice politics, like most political schools, is right about some things and wrong about others. The problem is that social justice politics also militate against criticizing people who express them thanks to ideas like standpoint theory; embedded in this school of politics is the notion that no one outside the movement (and few people inside) have standing to say that the movement is unhealthy. In a very basic sense this means that social justice politics lack the typical correction systems of other ideologies. When criticism becomes forbidden it is impossible to recognize and address serious internal problems. This meta-problem permeates everything that follows.

  2. This prohibition against criticism is enforced with the same instrument that the members of this community use to enforce everything: absolute social destruction. There is no probation in the eyes of the social justice world. The only penalty is the death penalty, the attempt to commit permanent character assassination. I suppose that some will call this claim inflammatory, but it seems to me to be far easier to find examples of people being forever shunned in the social justice world than to find examples of people who were gently educated and allowed to perform penance. This brutality is self-replicating: the executioners know that they could become the condemned with the slightest slipup. The most reliable way to prevent that is to be the most aggressive prosecutor you can. So the cycle actively rewards a never-ending escalation of vindictive punishment. This makes the social justice world, it’s fair to say, a somewhat unpleasant space.

  3. The desire to find fault in everyone and everything damages your basic perception of the world and make it harder to express your moral purpose. There are times when people are targeted for social exclusion because of perceived violation of social justice norms where many people react not with objection but with confusion; the alleged violation is premised on academic theories so complex and inscrutable that it’s hard for ordinary people to sort them out…
  4. An obvious conclusion one must draw from social justice politics is that most people are inherently bigoted, perhaps irredeemably so. It’s hard to see how someone could not derive that from the basic ideology. It is now perfectly common for people within that world to say that all white people are racist, in the interpersonal sense – that is, that all white people harbor animus and fear towards people of color. And those who do not go that far still see all white people as parts of a structurally racist system which they personally benefit from and uphold via their passive behavior at the very least. Similarly all cisgender people are assumed to perpetuate transphobia, again at least through participation in normal transphobic society and usually through active prejudice, patriarchy conditions the thoughts and behavior of all men and many unenlightened women, etc. Simply taking the basic texts and values of this tradition at face value leads you inevitably to the conclusion that almost everyone you encounter in contemporary society is a bad person.

  5. A consequence of the above item is profound fatalism. If these bigotries are so ubiquitous, so inevitable, and so pernicious, it becomes difficult to imagine how the world might ever become fixed. Social justice politics present themselves as revolutionary, but a minimum prerequisite of revolutions is a belief in the capacity for change.

  6. ..
  7. One problem with this fatalistic belief in the universality and inevitability of bigotry is that many or most people find it profoundly unattractive. The progenitors of this school of politics created the social expectation that racism is a uniquely pernicious evil, as it certainly is. But, for one thing, the more you generalize and universalize an accusation, the less it has meaning. Terms like “problematic” have become parodies of themselves because of their relentless application. More importantly, this dynamic makes it really hard to apply social justice politics in mass spaces…
  8. Social justice politics are obsessive about the linguistic, symbolic, cultural, discursive, and academic to the detriment of the material. The reasons for this are pretty plain: the parts of contemporary society that the social justice world controls are media, academia, the arts, nonprofits – in other words, the domains of ideas, the immaterial. The man with only a hammer seeing a world full of nails, etc. But this means that basic aspects of material suffering ultimately receive scant attention. I already mentioned above that Meghan Markle received vastly more press coverage in that news cycle than the Black-white wealth gap that touches the lives of every Black American. From the standpoint of promoting mass racial justice this makes no sense. But the wealth gap is a difficult problem that the cultural industries have no capacity to solve, and they don’t spend a lot of time reporting on poor Black people. Because the British royal family is sensitive to public perception they fixated on that problem which they thought they could change. Sadly for poor Black people the wealth gap does not have a public relations team, nor is entry into wealthy royal families a realistic path for most. The triumph of the linguistic overall the practical can be found all over this world. For example, consider the recent rigid policing of the term “person suffering from homelessness” over “homeless person.” The thinking is that the former stresses that homelessness happens to some people at some point while the latter defines them by that condition. I’m sympathetic to this reasoning; it makes sense to me. I’m also sure that if you polled a thousand homeless people you would not find a single one who would list this among their top ten problems. But when you’re a bookish arts kid language is everything, and anyway, social justice politics does not have anything substantial to offer the homeless in material terms. So language policing it is.

11) Apparently, it’s been deemed “transphobic” for a cis-gendered man to not have sexual interest in transwomen.  I’m quite comfortable with the “transwomen are women” formulation for most general applications, but, when it comes to romantic/sexual partners it does not seem unreasonable to claim “transwomen are transwomen.”  So, apparently, we’re now in this crazy place where some men are arguing that their sexual orientation is “super-straight” (preferring cis-gendered women only) and that we should not criticize them as we don’t criticize people for their orientation.  

12) More good stuff from Noah Smith with Bidenomics explained:

The Biden program is multifaceted — it includes things like support for unions, environmental protection, student debt cancellation, immigration, and a bunch of other stuff. But it would be wrong to characterize his program as merely a grab bag of long-time Democratic policy priorities. Three approaches stand out above the maelstrom:

  1. Cash benefits

  2. Care jobs

  3. Investment

Cash benefits were at the center of the COVID relief bill that already passed. In addition to the standard COVID relief items (quasi-universal $1400 checks, special unemployment benefits, housing and medical assistance, etc.) there was a very big program that is officially temporary but which will probably be made permanent: A child allowance. It’s very big in size — $3000 to $3600 per child. There’s no time limit and no work requirement. It’s basically a pilot universal basic income program for families.

The second pillar of Bidenomics is care jobs. The new “infrastructure” bill includes tens of billions of dollars a year for long-term in-home care for disabled and elderly people. Biden has made it explicit since early on that he intends to make caregiving jobs a pillar of his strategy for mass employment.

The third pillar of Bidenomics is investment — government investment, and measures to encourage private investment. The former includes tens of billions a year in new research spending, massive construction of new green energy infrastructure like electrical grids and charging stations, retrofits of existing infrastructure (e.g. lead removal from pipes), and repair of existing infrastructure like roads and bridges. This will help restore government investment as a fraction of GDP, which has been drifting downward for decades:…

Before I go on to discuss the justification for this new paradigm, I’d like to sum up all these “pillars” into one more-or-less cohesive vision of where I think Bidenomics is taking us. I think it’s aiming to create a two-track economy — a dynamic, internationally competitive innovation sector, and a domestically focused engine of mass employment and distributed prosperity.

I basically get this notion from Japan. In the 1970s and 1980s, Japan cultivated a world-beating export sector, based around all the companies you’ve heard of (Toyota, Panasonic, etc.). But this was only perhaps 20% of its economy, and the rest was a domestic-focused sector. Although some domestic-focused industries were highly productive (health care!), much of the domestic-focused sector — retail, finance, agriculture, utilities, and a few non-competitive manufacturing industries — was not very productive compared to the U.S. But those sectors did manage to employ a huge number of people; Japan has traditionally had very low unemployment, and that has not changed with the mass entry of women into the workforce since 2012. Japan in many ways built the most effective corporate welfare state in the world.

Biden and his people, I’m sure, do not want the domestic-focused sectors of the economy to be unproductive. But they want those sectors to do the heavy lifting in terms of giving most Americans a job, as they did in Japan. Those domestic sectors include the care economy, where Biden’s team believes much of future employment will come from.

13) I appreciate that John McWhorter, a Black Linguist, has taken to writing about the difficult it creates when a word like “racism” means dramatically different things, “Words Have Lost Their Common Meaning: The word racism, among others, has become maddeningly confusing in current usage.”

14) Jamelle Bouie, “The G.O.P. Has Some Voters It Likes and Some It Doesn’t”

This is what it looks like when a political party turns against democracy. It doesn’t just try to restrict the vote; it creates mechanisms to subvert the vote and attempts to purge officials who might stand in the way. Georgia is in the spotlight, for reasons past and present, but it is happening across the country wherever Republicans are in control.

Last Wednesday, for example, Republicans in Michigan introduced bills to limit use of ballot drop boxes, require photo ID for absentee ballots and allow partisan observers to monitor and record all precinct audits. “Senate Republicans are committed to making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” the State Senate majority leader, Mike Shirkey, said in a statement. Shirkey, you may recall, was one of two Michigan Republican leaders who met with Trump at his behest after the election. He also described the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as a “hoax.”

Republican lawmakers in Arizona, another swing state, have also introduced bills to limit absentee voting in accordance with the former president’s belief that greater access harmed his campaign. One proposal would require ID for mail-in ballots and shorten the window for mail-in voters to receive and return their ballots. Another bill would purge from the state’s list of those who are automatically sent a mail-in ballot any voter who failed to cast such a ballot in “both the primary election and the general election for two consecutive primary and general elections.”

One Arizona Republican, John Kavanagh, a state representative, gave a sense of the party’s intent when he told CNN, “Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues.” He continued: “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”

In other words, Republicans are using the former president’s failed attempt to overturn the election as a guide to how you would change the system to make it possible…

This fact pattern underscores a larger truth: The Republican Party is driving the nation’s democratic decline. A recent paper by Jacob M. Grumbach, a political scientist at the University of Washington, makes this plain. Using a new measure of state-level democratic performance in the United States from 2000 to 2018, Grumbach finds that Republican control of state government “consistently and profoundly reduces state democratic performance during this time period.” The nationalization of American politics and the coordination of parties across states means that “state governments controlled by the same party behave similarly when they take power.” Republican-controlled governments in states as different as Alabama and Wisconsin have “taken similar actions with respect to democratic institutions.”

The Republican Party’s turn against democratic participation and political equality is evident in more than just these bills and proposals. You can see it in how Florida Republicans promptly instituted difficult-to-pay fines and fees akin to a poll tax after a supermajority of the state’s voters approved a constitutional amendment to end the disenfranchisement of most ex-felons. You can see it in how Missouri Republicans simply ignored the results of a ballot initiative on Medicaid expansion.

Where does this all lead? Perhaps it just ends with a few new restrictions and new limits, enough, in conjunction with redistricting, to tilt the field in favor of the Republican Party in the next election cycle but not enough to substantially undermine American democracy. Looking at the 2020 election, however — and in particular at the 147 congressional Republicans who voted not to certify the Electoral College vote — it’s not hard to imagine how this escalates, especially if Trump and his allies are still in control of the party.

If Republicans are building the infrastructure to subvert an election — to make it possible to overturn results or keep Democrats from claiming electoral votes — then we have to expect that given a chance, they’ll use it.

15) Very cool interactive feature.  Also, not good.  “In the Atlantic Ocean, Subtle Shifts Hint at Dramatic Dangers: The warming atmosphere is causing an arm of the powerful Gulf Stream to weaken, some scientists fear.”

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Emily Grimm says:

    We have got to discuss #7!!!!

    Talk soon! Will try and ring this week amongst juggling.

    On Sun, Apr 11, 2021 at 6:01 AM Fully Myelinated wrote:

    > Steve Greene posted: “1) I think this might be an over-estimate. > Seriously. “Outdoor transmission accounts for 0.1% of State’s Covid-19 > cases” The HPSC data, provided in response to a query from The Irish Times, > was based on “locations which are primarily associated with ” >

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