(Finally) Quick hits

So, last week was beach vacation, so, not much blogging.  And, I was busy enough catching up on other stuff upon my return, that I didn’t get a weekend quick hits out.  But, damnit, I still read lots of good stuff at the beach I need to share.  So…

1) And I’m going to start with Zeynep Tufekci, “Scolding Beachgoers Isn’t Helping: People complain that going to the shore is a careless act during a pandemic, but the science so far suggests otherwise.”

So why on Earth do so many articles about this crisis feature pictures of people frolicking on wide-open beaches? Why is an attorney dressed as the grim reaper bothering beachgoers in Jacksonville, Florida? Why are cities such as Los Angeles shutting down beaches?

The answer, unfortunately, goes a long way to explain why, of all the developed, rich nations, the United States may well be stuck in the worst-case scenario, and for the longest amount of time.

Our national pandemic conversation, like almost everything else, has turned into a polarized, contentious tug-of-war in which evidence sometimes matters less than what team someone is on. And in a particularly American fashion, we’ve turned a public-health catastrophe into a fight among factions, in which the virus is treated as a moral agent that will disproportionately smite one’s ideological enemies—while presumably sparing the moral and the righteous—rather than as a pathogen that spreads more effectively in some settings or through some behaviors, which are impervious to moral or ideological hierarchy. Add in our broken digital public sphere, where anger and outrage more easily bring in the retweets, likes, and clicks, and where bikini pictures probably do not hurt, and we have the makings of the confused, unscientific, harmful, and counterproductive environment we find ourselves in now.  

“You’d think from the moral outrage about these beach photos that fun, in itself, transmits the virus,” the Harvard epidemiologist Julia Marcus told me. “But when people find lower-risk ways to enjoy their lives, that’s actually a public-health win.”

The beach shaming is especially terrible because, so many months in, we now know that the virus spreads most readily indoors, especially in unventilated, crowded spaces, and even more so in such spaces where people are talking or singing without masks. Outdoor transmission isn’t impossible, of course, but being outdoors is protective for scientifically well-understood reasons: Open air dilutes the concentration of virus in the air one breathes, sunlight can help kill viruses, and people have more room to stay apart in the great outdoors than within walled spaces.

In other words, one can hardly imagine a comparatively safer environment than a sunny, windy ocean beach. It’s not that there is any activity with absolutely zero risk, but the beach may well be as good as it gets—if people stay socially distant, which is much easier to do on a big beach.

And yet many news organizations have seized upon beaches, and scenes of beachgoers, as a sign of why things are so bad in the United States.

2) Obviously, leftists have the right to say we need to take down statues of Washington and Jefferson, but damn do I hate judging people by the moral standards of the current time instead of the times people live in.  Sorry, we should not be canceling George Washington.  In this Op-Ed about Washington and Lee University we get, “Our university’s veneration of both men implicitly signals continuing support for racial subordination and violence.”  No.  No it does not.  Generally not a big fan of Robert George, but this twitter thread is dead on.

3) Unfortunately, police officers lie all the time.  That’s a huge part of the culture that really, really needs to change, “Why blue lies matter: It is everyone’s business when police fail to tell the truth”

There are everyday lies that police tell. On an individual level, these lies can lead to wrongful convictions of vulnerable people, and on a systemic level, they can lead to irrational public policy, like when New York State rolled back bail reform this year.

To combat these lies, public defenders all across the United States recently launched a social media campaign called “Cops Lie: We Witness.” We organized this digital campaign to show that police abuse is not about a couple of bad apples or isolated incidents. For generations, police lying and abuse has been met with indifference by prosecutors, judges, and elected officials alike, with little to no consequences, despite the harms inflicted upon disproportionately black and brown working-class communities.

Now, using the hashtag #CopsLie, public defenders are sharing countless stories of cops abusing the truth. These lies are blatant and common, including when there is video evidence that directly contradicts their testimony or shows them planting evidenceEmily Galvin-Almanza, senior legal counsel at The Justice Collaborative, recalls, “An officer claiming my client tried to punch her, insisting it happened even when confronted with crystal clear video showing…it never happened.”

Cops lying is so prevalent that Diana Nevins, a New York City public defender, says she warns her clients about it. “Literally public defenders have to prepare our clients not to have outbursts in court when #CopsLie because judges may use it against our clients instead.” In fact, cops will openly admit to the practice of their entrenched perjury, also known as testilying. City prosecutors know this too, and maintain databases of cops who lie

Whenever there is a killing of black people by police, the police immediately claim they had reasonable fear for their lives. As public defenders, we are witnesses to the lies told by cops to justify their racist policing, prosecutions and violence. Public defenders see the constant and consistent lies that are a fundamental part of everyday police work. These stories give context and visceral meaning to the national demand to defund the police.

4) This pooled testing idea is great.

Here’s how the technique works: A university, for example, takes samples from every one of its thousands of students by nasal swab, or perhaps saliva. Setting aside part of each individual’s sample, the lab combines the rest into a batch holding five to 10 samples each.

The pooled sample is tested for coronavirus infection. Barring an unexpected outbreak, just 1 percent or 2 percent of the students are likely to be infected, so the overwhelming majority of pools are likely to test negative.

But if a pool yields a positive result, the lab would retest the reserved parts of each individual sample that went into the pool, pinpointing the infected student. The strategy could be employed for as little as $3 per person per day, according an estimate from economists at the University of California, Berkeley.

By testing large numbers of people at a fraction of the cost, time and necessary ingredients, pooled surveillance could be widely adopted by workplaces, religious organizations, and schools and universities seeking to reopen.

The method works best in such settings, where the number infected is likely to be low, rather than in high-risk workplaces like meatpacking plants.

5) I’m consistently frustrated by non-nuanced reporting on airborne spread of Covid.  Simple fact is, it it were commonly spreading as an aerosol, it would be way more infections that we know it to be.  Just came across a nice piece from an epidemiologist who explains:

I’m surprised that we can’t stop arguing about the modes of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, despite the fact that most experts (including our friends at WHO) agree on the important issues. Our colleague Jorge Salinas very nicely summarized these issues (and their implications) in this post.

The latest kerfuffle: media coverage of 239 experts who are upset that the WHO is not acting as decisively as they’d like on an evidence base that the experts themselves admit is far from definitive.

As we’ve outlined here and here, a major problem plaguing this discussion is the false dichotomy between “droplet” and “airborne” transmission that we use in healthcare settings (for simplicity of messaging, and because it has served us well for several decades—for reasons I’ll get back to later). This dichotomy divides application of transmission-based precautions between those pathogens spread via respiratory droplets, all of which must absolutely fall to the ground within 6 feet of the source, and those pathogens which become airborne, meaning they travel long distances on air currents, remain in the air for very long periods of time, and most importantly, can cause infection after their airborne sojourns if they find the right mucosal surface.

But we know (and WHO experts know) that there is no such dichotomy—it’s more of a continuum. At the very least there is a middle category, let’s call it Small Particle Aerosol Transmission (or SPAT). Many respiratory viruses (not just SARS-CoV-2) can remain suspended in aerosols and travel distances > 6 feet. As Jorge outlined, it’s probable that transmission events occur when these aerosols are concentrated in closed, poorly ventilated spaces or in very large amounts (e.g. a 2+ hour choir practice, a 3 hour indoor birthday party, a crowded bar). This may explain the superspreading events that drive a lot of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

It’s important to distinguish SPAT from “classic airborne transmission” (let’s call it CAT). The CAT pathogens (TB, measles, VZV) have very different transmission dynamics than SPAT pathogens, as I outlined here (R0s of >10, household transmission rates of 50-90%). The distinction is important because for most healthcare epidemiologists, using the term “airborne” implies a common set of “one-size fits all” interventions to prevent transmission, interventions that require resource-intensive engineering controls and PPE requirements. It is not at all clear that such interventions are required to prevent transmission of SPAT pathogens. In fact, most evidence (and real world experience) suggests that they are not. This is why the droplet-airborne dichotomy has served us fairly well over the years—either because droplet precautions appear to be pretty effective at preventing SPAT, or because SPAT is rare even among those viruses capable of it. [emphasis mine]

I could say more about my feelings about aerosol-scientists criticizing epidemiologists and clinicians for having an “overly medicalized view” of the evidence, but I don’t want to be CAT-ty. I just want to end the SPAT.

So let’s redirect the discussion instead to: with the limited information we have, what additional interventions should WHO and/or CDC recommend for transmission prevention during the pandemic? [emphasis in original] Masks in crowded indoor spaces? Sure, but avoiding such spaces is preferred. Improved ventilation in all indoor environments? Absolutely, let’s get to work on that. N95s in the community? Don’t make me laugh, it might generate aerosols. N95s for all patient care? Fair to consider, but by now we’ve gathered quite a lot of experience safely delivering care using existing WHO recommendations. And as Jorge aptly pointed out, “a debate only centered on whether respirators or medical masks are needed can distract us from the bigger challenges.” Indeed.

6) I could tell White Fragility was a con without ever cracking a page.  Damn does Matt Taibbi let loose on it as only Taibbi can.

It’s been mind-boggling to watch White Fragility celebrated in recent weeks. When it surged past a Hunger Games book on bestseller lists, USA Today cheered, “American readers are more interested in combatting racism than in literary escapism.” When DiAngelo appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon gushed, “I know… everyone wants to talk to you right now!” White Fragility has been pitched as an uncontroversial road-map for fighting racism, at a time when after the murder of George Floyd Americans are suddenly (and appropriately) interested in doing just that. Except this isn’t a straightforward book about examining one’s own prejudices. Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book actually read it?

DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category.

If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

7) And Cedrick-Michael Simmons, “I’m Black and Afraid of ‘White Fragility’: Robin DiAngelo’s corporate-friendly anti-racist screed actually reinforces racist beliefs.”

There’s a more essential problem at play here: White Fragility actually reinforces racist beliefs. Sociologists generally agree with the notion that ethnicity can refer to an identity that individuals or communities assert, but races are labels that are ascribed to individuals. As scholars like Barbara E. Fields, Adolph Reed Jr., and, amusingly, DiAngelo’s fellow-traveler Ibram Kendi, have repeatedly noted, racist beliefs and practices presume and reify the belief that nature produced different types of humans with unique, inborn attributes. DiAngelo doesn’t talk about supposed “racial” differences in skulls or intellectual capacity, but the book is filled with associations of race with physiological differences. Terms such as racial stressracial [dis]comfortracial controlracial knowledge, the unavoidable dynamics of racismracial relaxation, and racial manipulation disturbingly resemble inverted beliefs communicated by white nationalists and commodified by the Armitage family in the film “Get Out.

I do not believe that DiAngelo is racist. But anyone claiming to be an expert on the sociology of race and racism should recognize the consequences when associating physical characteristics with racial differences. No matter how many times she confidently claims that “as a sociologist [but not really], I’m quite comfortable making generalizations [without deploying sociological methods],” racial essentialism is racial essentialism. And unlike DiAngelo, my family and I are incredibly vulnerable when police officers, politicians, educators, doctors, lawyers, and other folks with power act upon this brand of racial essentialism.

Yes!  Racism on a personal and system level remains a huge problem.  But racial essentialism is sure as hell not the solution.

8) Stanley Greenberg, “Believe the Polls This Time: These aren’t Hillary Clinton’s numbers. Biden has a wide lead because the landscape has changed.”

But this moment is very different. To start, during the summer and fall of 2016, Clinton never had the kind of national poll lead that Biden now has. She led by an average of four points four months before the election and the same four points just before Election Day. This year, after Biden effectively clinched the nomination, he moved into an average six-point lead over Trump, which has grown to nearly 10 points after the death of George Floyd and the weeks of protests that have followed. The lingering apprehension among Democrats fails to recognize just how much the political landscape has changed since 2016. We are looking at different polls, a different America, and different campaigns with different leaders…

So one reason to trust my polls more now than in 2016 is this change: Four years ago, those without a four-year degree made up 48 percent of my survey respondents; today they account for 60 percent. Whites without a college degree were 33 percent of my surveys; today they are 43 percent. That is a huge change—an elixir against being deceived again. The pain of Trump’s victory and disastrous presidency has concentrated the minds of campaign staff and the polling profession in ways that give me confidence that Biden’s lead in the polls is real.

But much more important than all of that is the sustained, unwavering, and extremely well-documented opposition of the American people to every element of Donald Trump’s sexist, nativist, and racist vision. Indeed, the public’s deep aversion to Trumpism explains why Biden has such a poll lead.

9) This is cool for my fellow Covid geeks, “Covid-19 Superspreading Events Database.”

Preliminary Results

  • Nearly all SSEs in the database took place indoors: the exceptions are SSEs that took place in settings with both indoor and outdoor elements, with it not being clear if transmission there occurred indoors or outdoors
  • The vast majority took place in settings where people were essentially confined together for a prolonged period (for example, nursing homes, prisons, cruise ships, worker housing)
  • The great majority of SSEs happened during flu season in that location
  • Food processing plants where temperatures are kept very low (meat, dairy, frozen foods) seem particularly vulnerable to SSEs compared to other types of factories and plants where very few SSEs occurred

10) This mask ad is running on one of our local stations.  I may have actually played a considerable role in helping to bring it about and craft its message.

11) If I wasn’t on vacation last week, I definitely would’ve done a post on this terrific article from David Wallace-Wells, “People Don’t Trust Public-Health Experts Because Public-Health Experts Don’t Trust People”  Read it!

But all the way up through the beginning of the protests, and even after, America’s jury-rigged, Rube Goldberg health-messaging apparatus (epidemiologists, local public-health officials, civic-minded journalists, improvising and coordinating guidance in the totalabsence of any federal leadership) failed to communicate most of these nuances [emphases mine]— suggesting, for instance, that Georgia’s reopening was a “death sentence,” and that its governor, Brian Kemp, had “blood on his hands,” rather than emphasizing relative risks and the precautions that might be taken to avoid them. The Atlantic ran a piece calling the state’s reopening “an experiment in human sacrifice.” Groups of scientists who would weeks later defend the marches on public-health grounds vociferously attacked Wisconsin’s in-person election. Even the same scientist who called reopening the economy “extraordinarily dangerous” in late May “wholeheartedly” defended and embraced the protests in early June.

And while there has been plenty of crowing among conservatives, recently, about what these reversals say about liberals’ true concerns, the failure on the right has been considerably larger — because while it is indeed the case that reopenings can be relatively safe if the right precautions are taken, conservative leaders in the states reopening first have done basically nothing to ensure that they are. In Arizona, where the pandemic is growing rapidly, the governor has even tried to prohibit local officials from offering mask-wearing advisories.

This erratic pattern of advisories wasn’t just about mass gatherings, in other words. And it wasn’t a sign that the underlying science had changed; it hadn’t. Instead, it reflects an unfortunate pattern from the first months of the pandemic, in which public-health messaging has had a considerably less stellar and considerably less reliable record than you might hope for — not just for those worrying about the coronavirus threat but anyone who is concerned about the status of scientific expertise and technocratic policy more generally…

Throughout these months, public-health messaging was hobbled by two complementary and distorting convictions. The first was a strong preference for universal messaging rather than more targeted guidance, which brought us to effectively national shelter-in-place orders before most of the country had even tried social-distancing, mask-wearing, and a focus on the most vulnerable. This impulse is understandable, to some degree, since universal vigilance helped prevent spread to the most vulnerable, and since, in general higher vigilance has been useful in stemming the flow of the disease. But in some cases a more targeted approach would’ve been preferable — both more effective and more palatable. And it meant that rather than a slow ratcheting up of concern, beginning in January, the public was treated to a whiplash from “Just the flu” to “Stay home, perhaps for months.” As a result, we didn’t even try some of the moderate measures, like mask-wearing and the end of medium-size public gatherings, that have allowed Japan to basically defeat the disease without much pain at all. And as Zeynep Tufecki put it on Twitter, “when we conflate the highest risk and the lowest risk activities, we’re telling people it doesn’t matter what they do.”

The second was a lack of confidence in the public’s ability to process nuances and act responsibly, so that rather than be transparent about the limited protection offered by masks and the risks of supply problems, officials and journalists told the public they were useless. Similarly, rather than emphasizing that outdoor activity was basically safe, so long as you kept your distance from one another, we were told that for all but the most essential activities we should stay indoors — where we then entertained ourselves in part by shaming those selfish enough to walk through the local park or go to the beach. The most potent weapons in the public arsenal against the pandemic all require buy-in from the public, and this muddled and erratic messaging has already undermined the trust on which such buy-in is transacted. As Chris Hayes has suggested, the only real hope for states like Arizona, where ICUs are quickly approaching capacity, is universal mask wearing — but it’s almost impossible to imagine the state actually honoring a policy like that, at this point, were it even implemented. The messaging problem has not been as big a problem as the failure of federal leadership and guidance, of course. But it compounds it, depriving Americans of the tools they’d need to navigate the pandemic landscape on their own, having resolved that they should disregard messaging from the White House. For all the love showered on Anthony Fauci through the spring, the failure to push mask-wearing when it might have really mattered may ultimately prove the most catastrophic misstep of the whole American response.

The cost of all this failure is becoming terrifyingly clear, even as the country has begun a rapid and humiliating project of normalization.

I need to come up with some catchphrase about nuance and put it on a t-shirt!  The lack of nuance will be the death of us!

And because I love a good silhouette and the way the lighting comes through the flag, here’s a speedboat in Topsail Island Sound on July 3.

Quick hits (part II)

1) As my twitter followers now, I’ve been harping on “close the bars” this week.  They are a perfect storm for Covid spread.  Nice to see a Kaiser Health News article addressing exactly this point.  Get drunk and overpay for alcohol all you want!  Just do it at home or properly-distanced outside.

2) Drum with an excellent point about our crime rate and how we approach the issue:

As we debate the defunding/reimagining/reforming of our police forces, it’s worth taking a look at what the world looks like today compared to the way it still seems to look to many police officers. Here are the trends in arrest rates among young offenders since the crime peak of 1992:

Among the highest crime age groups of 15-17 and 18-20, arrest rates are down by about two-thirds. Two-thirds! I wonder how many people have truly internalized this? Cops still seem to think of themselves as a thin blue line protecting a society under siege from threatening hordes of criminals. But this isn’t true. Young people today are simply not as dangerous as they used to be, thanks to a childhood mostly free of lead poisoning.

This is a permanent change and it’s true of everybody: men and women; Black, white, and Latino; urban and rural. We just flatly don’t live in a society that’s anywhere near as dangerous as it used to be. When will policing change to recognize this?

3) This NYT interactive feature is so cool.  Definitely worth your time to click the link.  “Watch This Protest Turn From Peaceful to Violent in 60 Seconds”  Just a great example of what not to do for policing a protest.

4) In a recent family Zoom call, I was unsurprised to learn that most family members had never heard of the Wilmington massacre (“race riot” as formerly inaptly named).  People should know about a real live coup in America against a popularly-elected Black government:

It was the morning of November 10, 1898, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the fire was the beginning of an assault that took place seven blocks east of the Cape Fear River, about 10 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. By sundown, Manly’s newspaper had been torched, as many as 60 people had been murdered, and the local government that was elected two days prior had been overthrown and replaced by white supremacists.

For all the violent moments in United States history, the mob’s gruesome attack was unique: It was the only coup d’état ever to take place on American soil.

What happened that day was nearly lost to history. For decades, the perpetrators were cast as heroes in American history textbooks. The black victims were wrongly described as instigators. It took nearly a century for the truth of what had really happened to begin to creep back into public awareness. Today, the old site of The Daily Record is a nondescript church parking lot—an ordinary-looking square of matted grass on a tree-lined street in historic Wilmington. The Wilmington Journal, a successor of sorts to the old Daily Record, stands in a white clapboard house across the street. But there’s no evidence of what happened there in 1898.

5) One of the best pieces of news about the protests is that they did not seem to spread much Covid.  It’s almost like… being outside and masks work.  “What Minnesota’s Protests Are Revealing About Covid-19 Spread: After George Floyd’s killing, experts warned that demonstrations could set off new waves of infections. But early testing in Minneapolis tells another story.”

6) All these masks have brought attention to proper breathing— which really is important!  I found this Fresh Air episode on the matter particularly fascinating.  Make sure you are breathing through your nose!!

7) Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, “We Can Find Common Ground on Gay Rights and Religious Liberty: It does not have to be all or nothing.”  They are right.  Of course, both sides would have to be willing to compromise, but damn if absolutists everywhere aren’t empowered these days:

Both sides, then, have unfinished agendas. L.G.B.T. advocates want broader civil rights protections than the Supreme Court’s relatively narrow decision provided. Religious-liberty advocates want some carve-outs for faith-based institutions. Both sides could — and indeed might — hope to win in the courts. But that strategy is unpredictable and risky, since the Supreme Court is closely divided and protective of both L.G.B.T. civil rights and religious liberty. In any case, waiting for the courts would take years, if not decades, during which friction would only grow.

There is an alternative. In December, the American Unity Fund and a consortium of mostly conservative religious groups unveiled the Fairness for All Act, an L.G.B.T. nondiscrimination bill that seeks to model a negotiated compromise. The bill would provide extensive nondiscrimination protections, but, unlike the Equality Act, it couples them with carefully defined carve-outs for religious charities and schools and for retailers with fewer than 15 employees.

The act was immediately denounced by activists and organizations on both the pro-L.G.B.T. left and the religious right, often in hyperventilating language. No House Democrat agreed to join the eight Republicans who co-sponsored it. Realistically, the Fairness for All Act is going nowhere in the House, just as the Equality Act is going nowhere in the Senate.

So why do we think it deserves a closer look now?

Start with what at first glance may seem to be a curious fact. According to polling conducted last year by the Public Religion Research Institute, 77 percent of Utahans support nondiscrimination protections for L.G.B.T. Americans, second only to 81 percent in New Hampshire.

Why the high enthusiasm for gay rights in conservative, heavily Mormon Utah? No mystery. In 2015, L.G.B.T. -rights advocates, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the state’s Republican leaders agreed on a new law combining L.G.B.T. protections with carefully tailored religious exemptions. The process of negotiating the deal and building trust forged a durable consensus. In fact, just a few months ago, Utah enacted a rule barring harmful “gay conversion” therapy for minors, with the support not only of L.G.B.T. advocates but also of the Mormon hierarchy.

In today’s Trumpified world, Americans tend to think that politics is a brutal Punch and Judy show, and that compromise is a surrender of principles. But when the politics of compromise is in good working order, it builds new alliances, develops new solutions, and turns conflict into cooperation. Utah provided one example. The Fairness for All Act holds out a similar opportunity at the federal level, with at least three substantial payoffs.

8) This was great from Planet Money.  It’s not about whether we officially reopen or not, it’s about whether people are legitimately afraid of the virus.

Brooklyn Heights sits across the East River from Lower Manhattan. It’s filled with multimillion-dollar brownstones and — usually — Range Rovers, Teslas and BMWs. These days it’s easy to find parking. The brownstones are mostly dark at night. The place is a ghost town. And the neighborhood’s sushi restaurants, Pilates studios, bistros and wine bars are either closed or mostly empty. It’s a microcosm for what has been the driver of the pandemic recession: Rich people have stopped going out, destroying millions of jobs.

That’s one of the key insights of a blockbuster study that was dropped late last week by a gang of economists led by Harvard University’s Raj Chetty…

As long as rich people are scared of the virus, they won’t go out and spend money, and workers in the service sector will continue to suffer. Low-income workers — especially those whose jobs focused on providing services in rich urban areas — are in for a period of turbulence. Many of these workers are getting a lifeline in the form of unemployment insurance, but some of these benefits will expire soon if the federal government doesn’t act.

Economists have learned from previous shocks like this one that the labor market doesn’t just easily adjust to them. Workers have a hard time moving and retraining. For example, after over a million manufacturing jobs evaporated in the Rust Belt with the explosion of Chinese imports in the early 2000s, people stayed in the places that lost jobs and failed to get new ones, and many of them, in despair, ended up turning to alcohol and opioids, with tragic results.

Chetty and his team conclude that the traditional tools of economic policy — tax cuts and spending increases to boost demand — won’t save the army of the unemployed. Instead, they say we need public health efforts to restore safety and convince consumers that it’s OK to start going out again. Until then, they argue, we need to extend unemployment benefits and provide assistance to help low-income workers who will continue to struggle in the pandemic economy.

9) Thomas Edsall visits with all the economists this week, “Why Do We Pay So Many People So Little Money?”

Not only has the majority of lost sources of income fallen on “middle- and low-income workers more than high-income workers,” but “some of the lost labor rents for the majority of workers may have been redistributed to high-earning executives, as well as capital owners,” according to Stansbury and Summers.

This upward redistribution of income, according to the authors’ “back-of-the-envelope” calculations, “could account for a large fraction of the increase in the income share of the top 1 percent over recent decades.”

What can be done to remedy this situation? Stansbury and Summers write:

If increases in the labor share are to be achieved, institutional changes that enhance workers’ countervailing power — such as strengthening labor unions or promoting corporate governance arrangements that increase worker power — may be necessary.

But, they pointedly note, these initiatives “would need to be carefully considered in light of the possible risks of increasing unemployment.” More elliptically, they warn that “doing more to preserve rent-sharing interferes with pure markets and may not enhance efficiency.”

There may, however, be other ways to improve the income of low-wage workers without raising the already high threat level of automation.

Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan, argued in an email that raising and expanding eligibility for the Earned-income tax credit would be an effective way to immediately raise income of poorly paid workers.

The credit, a government subsidy paid through the redistribution of tax revenues, does not, in this view, create an incentive for employers to automate or off-shore since corporate wage costs do not increase:

“The Earned-income tax credit is a very effective way to increase both incomes and labor force participation. There has been bipartisan support for expanding the EITC to childless and noncustodial parents for years,” Stevenson wrote.

She cited studies showing that the tax credit paid to low-income families results in more work effort among beneficiaries and better school outcomes for their children.

10) From last year, but more relevant than ever, “The Apocalyptic Cult of Cancel Culture
Forgiveness and redemption are out. Condemnation and excommunication are in.”

Zack Beauchamp of Vox thinks the political left and right don’t see eye to eye on this incident [ed: Harvard student denied admission for racist comments when 16] because the view from the right is “sympathetic” while the view from the left is “critical.” What he sees as the “conservative view of racism” approaches racism as a “personal failing.” According to this view, he says, people can overcome their racism by “striving not to let race affect the way (they) speak and act,” and “the real threat isn’t the racist comments themselves,” because they can be overcome, “but the impulse to punish people for them.” From this “sympathetic” perspective, penalizing everyone for their past transgressions leaves them no room to grow, and even opens up the possibility of punishing the innocent.

While the “conservative” view focuses on individual growth and development, what Beauchamp defines as the “liberal and leftist” view sees racism as “a structural problem”—less of a personal failing to be overcome and more “unshakable,” leading “even people who firmly believe in ideals of equal treatment to act or speak in prejudiced ways.” According to this view, he says, “Kashuv looks less like a kid who made youthful mistakes and more like a young man who’s trying to escape responsibility for his actions.”

But what’s the right price to pay? While Kashuv’s comments are certainly abhorrent, it does not appear that he has engaged in such behavior since. (One would imagine that his anonymous schoolmates who so helpfully provided the Huffington Post with the record of his misdeeds would have produced more recent evidence had there been any.) If he has not continued to engage in similar behavior, does the punishment fit the crime?

Despite Beauchamp’s theory, it is not only people on the political right who find it difficult to support giving such harshly punitive consequences to a recent high school graduate who transgressed at age 16. Perhaps, then, this is not really a clash between liberal and conservative perspectives, but a difference between two paradigms: the apocalyptic and the prophetic.

A prophetic culture seeks deliverance through historical persons, but Cancel Culture seeks apocalyptic deliverance through ahistorical means; without the help of morally polluted historical figures and without any of history’s contaminated tools. Jennifer Senior of the New York Times described it best when she wrote, “purity tests are the tools of fanatics, and the quest for purity ultimately becomes indistinguishable from the quest for power.” In Cancel Culture, the powerful don’t give forgiveness, they take revenge. 

11) The go-to model for predicting the election right now?  Definitely G. Elliot Morris and the Economist.  Very thoughtfully done based on fundamentals plus polling (and a shifting balance as we approach the election).  Right now it’s at 90% Biden probability.

12) Great NYT piece on how, for a long time, experts missed the fact that Covid was spreading without symptoms (presymptomatic for sure, probably some truly asymptomatic, too) because, SARS, never spread without symptoms and it makes the world so much more complicated (as we’ve witnessed!) when a disease spreads without symptoms.

13) Good stuff from Yascha Mounk, “Stop Firing the Innocent: America needs a reckoning over racism. Punishing people who did not do anything wrong harms that important cause.”

Defund the police, don’t “defund” the police

Interesting stuff on the latest polling via Vox:

However, a new poll conducted by the research firm PerryUndem shows that when it comes to public opinion, the way people talk about police funding may matter. The poll, conducted among 1,115 adults from June 15 to 17, didn’t ask if people supported or opposed defunding police departments. But it did ask how they felt about redirecting some taxpayer funds to other agencies, so that they, instead of police, could respond to some emergencies. And respondents were receptive: For example, 72 percent of respondents said they supported reallocating some police funding to help mental health experts, rather than armed officers, respond to mental health emergencies... [emphases mine]

Instead, many organizers around the country — along with some elected officials — are calling for defunding the police, dismantling police departments, and exploring other ways to keep communities safe. The idea of defunding the police hasn’t gotten as much support in recent polls as other changes; for example, just 27 percent of Americans supported it in a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted June 8-10.

Even when pollsters have asked about cutting funding to police and redirecting it to social services, many Americans balk. In an ABC/Ipsos poll conducted June 10-11, 60 percent of Americans opposed shifting funding from police departments to mental health, housing, and education programs, while just 39 percent supported such a plan.

Instead, many organizers around the country — along with some elected officials — are calling for defunding the police, dismantling police departments, and exploring other ways to keep communities safe. The idea of defunding the police hasn’t gotten as much support in recent polls as other changes; for example, just 27 percent of Americans supported it in a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted June 8-10.

Even when pollsters have asked about cutting funding to police and redirecting it to social services, many Americans balk. In an ABC/Ipsos poll conducted June 10-11, 60 percent of Americans opposed shifting funding from police departments to mental health, housing, and education programs, while just 39 percent supported such a plan.

But the PerryUndem researchers asked the question a little differently: “Right now,” their survey read, “taxpayer dollars for police departments go to all kinds of things police officers are responsible for — from writing up traffic accident reports for insurance companies to resolving disputes between neighbors to investigating murders.”

Respondents were then asked if they supported having some of those taxpayer dollars — and the responsibility that goes along with them — directed elsewhere instead. Most said yes.

Clearly, the framing for this matters a lot.  And, with the right frame, there’s clear support.  But one thing is for damn sure “defund the police” is not the way to go.  So, even though I had fun with the title of this post, I really don’t think, even colloquially, we should refer to what we’re trying to accomplish here as “defunding.”  Because, of course, we actually want to accomplish it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Great stuff from Yglesias, “The End of Policing left me convinced we still need policing
One of the most prominent books on police abolition doesn’t have a good answer on violent crime.”

But there’s a substantial literature in economics and sociology arguing that more police on the beat equals less violent crime. One effort to quantify this precisely is a 2018 Review of Economics and Statistics article by Aaron Chalfin and Justin McCrary. It estimates, based on a big set of police and crime data from large and midsize cities between 1960 and 2010, that every $1 spent on extra police generates about $1.63 in social benefits, primarily by reducing murders. One needn’t take this literature as gospel truth, but one of the go-to scholars on the abolitionist position should be able to — and want to — counter the prevailing academic claim that investments in policing pay off in reduced violent crime…

American policing needs to change. And there’s at least some reason to think that reducing the scope of policing can and should be a big part of that change. Fairly mild policy changes undertaken over the past few years have delivered results in terms of fewer police killings of unarmed people, and there’s reason to believe that plenty of opportunity exists for further reform.

But policing is important. There’s evidence that the number of police has an effect on crime, especially violent crime. And when crime soars, not only do the direct victims suffer but we run the risk that economically diverse cities will unravel as people with means flee to the suburbs. The people brushing past these worries with a casual nod to Vitale are relying on unearned authority, both about the impact on crime and about the possibilities of reform…

By the same token, Vitale is dismissive of promising reform ideas to reduce police misconduct.

“Much of the public debate has focused on new and enhanced training, diversifying the police, and embracing community policing as strategies for reform, along with enhanced accountability measures,” he writes. “However, most of these reforms fail to deal with the fundamental problems inherent to policing.”

Many faddish implicit bias trainings don’t really seem to work. But there are promising results from several different procedural justice trainings. More to the point, Vitale himself says that “in some ways training is actually part of the problem” because “in recent decades, the emphasis has shifted heavily toward officer safety training.” Instead of receiving training that creates an exaggerated sense of threat (police work is dangerous, but officers’ death rates are lower than for fishers or roofers), police should be provided with deescalation training (which has been found to be at least somewhat effective) and, more importantly, required to use it with real consequences for officers who don’t.

Even the relatively superficial reforms enacted between the killings of Michael Brown in 2014 and George Floyd have led to a reduction in police killings in big cities and fewer killings of unarmed people.

But we’ve barely scratched the surface of potential reforms that would really get tough on misconduct without compromising the basic concept that police are useful.

Right now, collective bargaining agreements make it extremely difficult to fire police with records of misconduct. Those who are dismissed are often ordered to be rehired. And police officers who are permanently fired — which, to be clear, means they have passed a high bar for badness — often get hired at other jurisdictions. Meanwhile, the “qualified immunity” doctrine immunizes police for civil penalties for misconduct.

Per what records are available, a relatively small number of officers are committing most of the misconduct, but studies show that bad behavior can spread like a virus to peer officers. Getting rid of the worst 5 percent of officers could eliminate an enormous share of the misconduct, halt the spread of bad norms throughout departments, and open up new hiring opportunities to create more diverse forces.

2) Good stuff from John Cassidy:

It has long been a basic principle of democratic governance that where public health comes into conflict with individual freedoms, the latter may have to be constricted, at least temporarily. But with Trump in the White House and elected Republicans terrified of incurring his supporters’ wrath, there is now, in parts of red America, nobody willing to make this argument or to follow through with actual edicts. Local leaders and their constituents are left to fend for themselves. Indeed, DeSantis, in Florida, said this openly on Wednesday, when, after insisting that he wouldn’t suspend any of his reopening measures, he added that residents of the state should “make wise decisions for themselves based upon their own personal risk.”

In DeSantis’s America, which is Trump’s America, you are on your own, even during a pandemic. According to a mathematical model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which the White House used for a time, the death toll from the virus, which is currently at about a hundred and eighteen thousand, will rise to more than two hundred thousand by October, and it could hit a quarter of a million. To be sure, this is just a prediction, and a lot of assumptions went into it. But it’s an indication of how things have deteriorated over the past few weeks, and how unlikely it is that an effective nationwide response will be found.

3) OMG this “re-open NC” folks are just breathtakingly stupid.  Now they are getting attention for public mask burning.

4) Goldfish crackers are still a big thing in my house.  This review of every flavor (flavor-blasted pizza, for the win) was a joy to read.

5) Good stuff from Emily Oster, “when to change your mind”

It’s not obviously wrong to change our decisions, or even to change them in a short period. But just like with making the decisions in the first place, we should be thoughtful about it. And this got me thinking about a second phase of the decision framework.

Imagine you ask not “What is the right decision?” but, instead, “I’m thinking of changing my decision? How do I know if that’s a good idea?” I’m thinking about COVID-19 but, really, I could have written this about sleep training.

In either case, I’d argue it comes down to thinking about the simple question: What Changed? That is: if it’s a good idea to change your decision, you must think something has changed. And, you should be able to articulate what it is.

In the specific case of COVID-19, there really aren’t that many possibilities.

Option 1: Change in Infection Rates Easiest thing to think about. The magnitude of infection risk scales with the share of other people infected. If infection rates go down, you are should be on average less cautious. Maybe when 20% of people being tested were positive, I was more wary about grocery shopping than I am when only 5% of those tested are positive.

Option 2: Change in Personal Disease Risk There might also be a change in what we know about the virus. For example, maybe we’ve learned something new about risk factors. Maybe it turns out you (or your loved ones, or others you’d interact with) are at lower risk than you thought.

Option 3: Change in Benefits When you think about choices in the era of COVID-19, one piece of the puzzle is the benefits of engaging in various activities. You may find these change over time. For example, I think many of underestimated the mental health costs — to us, our parents, our kids — of the isolation. Over the last six weeks, my estimation of the benefits of having children in school or child care have dramatically increased. That weighs against the risks. Even if I think the risks are the same, I might make a different choice.

Option 4: You were wrong. Despite your best decision-making efforts, maybe you were just wrong before. This is the stickiest, and most nebulous reason for changing your mind. And if that’s the reason…you want to really think about what you did wrong. Saying, “Well, I was wrong before” is a way to defend changing your mind, but not a principled one. So think about it: were you really wrong? Should you have made the choice differently before?

6) Enjoyed this from Timothy Egan, “A Soft-Handed Predator Masquerading in Manliness: How we treat animals tells us something about how we treat one another.”

You judge the character of a nation by how it treats fellow humans. Putting kids in cages, ignoring the warning signs of a virus that has killed more than 118,000 people in America, and using force to clear a park of peaceful protesters are among the most awful things that will follow Donald Trump into his dungeon of history.

But you should also judge the character of a nation by how it treats fellow living creatures. Because how we treat animals tells us something — a lot, in fact — about how we treat one another.

So, this is how you can now kill a bear on some federal preserves in Alaska: You put stale doughnuts or dog food drenched in honey outside a bear’s lair, and then shoot the drowsy and hungry animal that stumbles out to take the bait. This crude policy was banned by wildlife experts in the Obama administration, who said it was biologically unsound and unsportsmanlike.

There’s that curious and archaic word — sportsman, someone who follows the rules of engagement. Good hunters give their prey a chance. Bad hunters shoot hibernating mothers and their babies because they don’t have the patience or skill to track an animal in the wild.

Don’t be fooled by the stated excuse for the government’s turn to barbarism: that the feds are merely aligning themselves with the practices allowed by the State of Alaska.

This change is all about appeasing trophy hunters. Well, one trophy hunter — Donald Trump Jr. You may have heard the recent report that taxpayers spent $75,000 for junior to hunt and kill a rare argali sheep in Mongolia last year while in the secure silo of the Secret Service.

Trump Jr. is a hunter of privilege, jetting into an exotic locale, getting special treatment from the local government and a permit issued retroactively, using the best guides and equipment. The package was completed by Instagram posts of the entitled rich kid in camo atop a horse in Mongolia.

7) OMG this is amazing, “Former eBay Execs Allegedly Made Life Hell for Critics: Surveillance. Harassment. A live cockroach delivery. US attorneys have charged six former eBay workers in association with an outrageous cyberstalking campaign.”

The harassment campaign was planned in a series of meetings, prosecutors say. In one, Baugh showed the assembled team a clip, according to a confidential witness cited in the complaint, of the movie Johnny Be Good, in which pranksters deliver increasingly absurd and unwelcome items to people’s homes. A brainstorm allegedly followed: What could they send to their victims that would terrify them? In a separate meeting, the complaint says, Baugh and a few others charted out a complementary social media strategy: They would send anonymous tweets and DMs to the couple, pretending to be angry eBay sellers and claiming responsibility for the deliveries. They would also eventually doxx the couple by publicly posting their home address.

“The result, as alleged in the complaint, was a systematic campaign, fueled by the resources of a Fortune 500 company, to emotionally and psychologically terrorize this middle-aged couple in Natick with the goal of deterring them from writing bad things online about eBay,” US attorney Andrew Lelling said in a press conference Monday morning. While the complaint does not identify the victims by name, it cites specific headlines and stories that indicate that Baugh and his team were after the husband and wife publishers of EcommerceBytes.

8) The Supreme Court ruled for DACA not because Roberts favored the policy outcome, but because the Trump administration is truly, monumentally incompetent.  And while the other conservatives are willing to stand for this in pursuit of their ideological goals, Roberts is not.  Drum:

Obviously this is good news for Dreamers, but the part that really tickles me is that the ruling doesn’t actually say that DACA can’t be repealed. It just says that Trump was so incompetent that he failed to follow the rules for repealing it. This has always been the silver lining behind the Trump cloud: namely that he’s such an idiot that he’s caused a lot less damage than, say, a Ted Cruz or a Marco Rubio, who would know how to get things done legally and properly so they could withstand judicial review.

At least, that was the silver lining prior to the coronavirus outbreak, where Trump’s idiocy is just straight up killing people. November can’t come soon enough.

As Ben Wittes so aptly put it early in Trump’s presidency, “malevolence tempered by incompetence.”  So true.  And, in this case, the incompetence means great things for the Dreamers.

9) Loved this David Hopkins blog post on how the electoral college map is shaping up.  In fact, basically just repeated it for a politically-astute-but-not-that-astute friend today:

If we compare the two-party popular vote outcome in 2016 with today’s two-party polling margin as estimated by The Economist‘s daily forecasting model for the 16 states where both parties received at least 45 percent of the vote in the last election, we see (after accounting for sampling error and variations in data quality) what looks like a fairly uniform pro-Democratic shift nationwide:..

Polling estimates are, of course, inexact, and all three of the new Sun Belt battlegrounds had already swum against the national tide by becoming “bluer” between 2012 and 2016. But the best recent evidence indicates that these states remain more Republican than the national average, and are currently competitive mostly because Biden is well ahead in the overall popular vote. Even so, Biden appears to have a consistent lead only in Arizona, and he still trails Trump in Texas.
If Biden’s current advantage is changing the electoral map in some ways, it’s working against change in others. After Trump won Ohio and Iowa by unusually wide margins in 2016, some analysts speculated that both states would lose battleground status in 2020, conceded to the GOP from the start of the campaign. Ohio and Iowa remain clearly Republican-leaning in 2020 compared to the nation as a whole, but Biden’s overall lead allows him to keep both states in play (at least for now), and the Trump campaign is indeed spending money to defend them.
A scenario in which Biden maintains or expands his current margin would allow Democrats to consider deploying campaign resources into these states in pursuit of a decisive national victory and gains in downballot offices. But if the race starts to tighten, diverting attention to red-leaning states will be considerably less appealing, and Democratic dreams of “expanding the map” will need to wait for a future contest. Either way, the electoral college outcome in 2020 is still likely to pivot on the four states that Trump carried by narrow margins in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida. And there’s nothing new at all about those particular states deciding who the next president will be.

10) Emily Oster with some preliminary research on Covid outbreaks in childcare centers.  Short version– hardly any

Is this a scientifically valid sample and do you plan to publish the results?

 

No and no. This is crowdsourced. We didn’t sample randomly and we cannot be sure of the biases in responses. We were of the view (which not everyone will agree with) that some data is better than none.

 

Is the data perfect? Did you clean it?

 

No! Let us know if you see obvious errors.  We did minimal cleaning – to remove places which reported fewer than two students during the pandemic or did not report any location data.

 

Okay, what did you find?

 

You can see all the raw data and some high level summaries here.

 

Here’s a simple table with some of the results so far!  We’ll keep this updated as we get more data in.

 

You didn’t do all the analysis I wanted!

 

We bet not!  The raw data is in the sheet.  Feel free to play around with it on your own.  We also have some less clean data on teacher student ratios and typical populations which didn’t make it into the sheet so you can contact us (try Emily: emily_oster@brown.edu) if you want to access that.

 

Can I help?

 

We hope so!  More data will be better.  If you have run a child care center open during the pandemic, or know someone who has, or are a state or town or provider network or, etc, etc please share this survey here.

 

And stay tuned for our future efforts to do ongoing tracking of places as they continue to be open.

11) Great stuff from Dan Drezner, “Are Americans hard-wired to spread the coronavirus?”

We are not hard-wired to calculate risk and uncertainty terribly well. Most societies will defer to trusted experts to cobble together some cognitive certainty. In the United States, however, a low level of trust in institutions exacerbates the problem. And it is worth remembering that health officials have reversed themselves on both the utility of masks and the dangers of, say, public transport. In some cases, experts disagree with one another. The result is that ordinary Americans will rely more on common sense and word of mouth, which are, let’s say, “flawed.”

Finally, we are three months into a pandemic and no U.S. official has a narrative about how any of this will end. Wait, that’s not fair, Donald Trump has claimed that it will just “go away.” Let me rephrase: No U.S. official has a non-magical narrative about how this will end.

Absent therapeutics and vaccines, the most plausible way to get back to normal is through quality contact tracing. But as my Washington Post colleagues Frances Stead Sellers and Ben Guarino report, that is a tough sell in the United States:

Contact tracing failed to stanch the first wave of coronavirus infections, and today’s far more extensive undertaking will require 100,000 or more trained tracers to delve into strangers’ personal lives and persuade even some without symptoms to stay home. Health departments in many of the worst-affected communities are way behind in hiring and training those people. The effort may also be hobbled by the long-standing distrust among minorities of public health officials, as well as worries about promising new technologies that pit privacy against the public good.
“We don’t have a great track record in the United States of trust in the public health system,” said David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. Ever since the 40-year Tuskegee experiment, which withheld treatment for syphilis from poor black men, officials have had to make special efforts, he said, to reach those now “disproportionately impacted by covid who are African Americans and Latinos.”

An awful lot of Americans were willing to radically change their behavior in the short term in response to the pandemic. The implicit understanding, however, was always that by the time the curve had been flattened, public authorities would have a regimen in place for testing and tracing. Public authorities at both the state and federal levels have not delivered on that quid pro quo.

12) This is from last year and there’s a decent chance I shared it already, but it’s such an important point.  Compared to major conservative parties in the whole rest of the developed world, the Republican party is really, really conservative.  And pretty close to fringe parties.  I.e., it’s the asymmetry, stupid.

The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain’s Independence Party and France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties. The Democratic Party, in contrast, is positioned closer to mainstream liberal parties.

13) Great stuff from Michael Tesler, “Republicans And Democrats Agree On The Protests But Not Why People Are Protesting”

14) Yet another good column from Thomas Edsall, on how the electorate is moving to the left.  And… race!

Measuring trends on three different dimensions —— economic, racial and cultural issues — Stanley Feldman, a political scientist at Stony Brook University, and three Australian colleagues, tracked responses to 40 questions in American National Election Study surveys from 1972 to 2016 covering 34,345 respondents.

In an email, Feldman pointed to some of the key findings in an unpublished working paper, “Sorting Apart: Partisan Polarization in the American Electorate, 1972-2016,” especially on racial attitudes.

“It’s clear that preferences have shifted significantly in a more conservative direction over this time period among Republican identifiers,” Feldman wrote, adding that contrary to those who argue that racial hostility among working class whites is the deciding factor in elections, he and his co-authors found that

It’s not the case that conservative racial issue preferences are concentrated among low-income whites. High-income Republicans are more conservative on racial issues than low-income Republicans.

There is a sustained liberal trend on racial issues, Feldman wrote,

among Democratic identifiers from 1972 to 2012, but virtually all of this is a function of the growing size of minorities among Democratic partisans. There is no real change in racial issue preferences among white Democratic identifiers up to 2012.

The progressive trend gains momentum between 2012 and 2016 when “you see a really large shift in the liberal direction among white Democrats.” Feldman suggested that

it could be a swift reaction to Trump’s rhetoric in the 2016 campaign. It’s also very possible that this was in response to the first wave of Black Lives Matter protests — Ferguson, Eric Garner, etc. It would take much more fine-grained data to sort this out.

The swing among white Democrats toward increased racial liberalism will have significant political consequences, Andrew Engelhardt, a postdoctoral research associate in political science at Brown, wrote in an email.

As white and black Democrats find common ground, Engelhardt argues,

this increased homogeneity makes Democrats less susceptible to wedge issues. The number of them who are cross-pressured by, say, holding more conservative social issue views when deciding whether to support a more liberal candidate, is decreasing. There’s less reason for people to decide to not turn out or to vote for the other party.

While white Democrats of all ages moved left on racial issues between 2012 and 2016, “millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) were substantially more liberal on racial attitudes in 2016 than older generations,” according to Feldman. This point leads directly to a striking finding in “The Age of Police Reform,” a 2019 working paper by Rebecca Goldstein, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, that “Age is a more powerful predictor of police-related policy preferences than race.”

15) I love the idea of applying “broken windows” theory of policing to policing itself:

The attorney Ken White is one of the few people to suggest applying the logic of broken windows to police officers and departments themselves. “If tolerating broken windows leads to more broken windows and escalating crime, what impact does tolerating police misconduct have?” he asked. “Under the Broken Windows Theory, what impact could it have but to signal to all police that scorn for rights, unjustified violence, and discrimination are acceptable norms? Under Broken Windows Theory, what could be the result but more scorn, more violence, and more discrimination?”Significant evidence substantiates the premise that police misconduct is widespread, far beyond the countless examples that are captured on cellphone cameras and posted to YouTube.

Last year, USA Today published a major database of police misconduct. “Obtained from thousands of state agencies, prosecutors, police departments and sheriffs, the records detail at least 200,000 incidents of alleged misconduct, much of it previously unreported,” the newspaper stated. The records included “more than 110,000 internal affairs investigations by hundreds of individual departments and more than 30,000 officers who were decertified by 44 state oversight agencies,” as well as “22,924 investigations of officers using excessive force, 3,145 allegations of rape, child molestation and other sexual misconduct and 2,307 cases of domestic violence.” Independent Department of Justice probes into individual police departments, such as those in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, revealed agencies that routinely and brutally violated the civil rights of residents.

Similarly strong evidence suggests that police tolerate misconduct in their ranks. In major surveys of police officers, the Pew Research Center and the National Institute of Justice found that 72 percent disagree that cops in their department who consistently do a poor job are held accountable; 52 percent believe that “it is not unusual for a police officer to turn a blind eye to improper conduct by other officers” and that most cops in their department would not report a colleague they caught driving drunk; and 61 percent think that cops “do not always report even serious criminal violations that involve the abuse of authority by fellow officers.”

No community should be policed so aggressively. But if Ferguson is over-policed, the police themselves seem to be under-policed. And if police believe that aggressive policing of communities works, then on what basis could they object to a dose of their own medicine?A good place to start would be requiring police officers to police one another on the job. Pew’s survey of police officers found that 84 percent say “officers should be required to intervene when they believe another officer is about to use unnecessary force,” while just 15 percent say they should not be required to intervene. Apparently, a lot of police officers would find it reasonable if their department imposed a duty to intervene. But many cities enforce no such duty. According to the Police Use of Force Project, they include Anchorage, Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Buffalo, Charlotte, Chesapeake, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Durham, El Paso, Fort Wayne, Garland, Glendale, Greensboro, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Irving, Jacksonville, Jersey City, Kansas City, Laredo, Lexington, Lincoln, Long Beach, Louisville, Lubbock, Memphis, Mesa, Nashville, North Las Vegas, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Plano, Reno, Rochester, San Diego, San Jose, Scottsdale, St. Louis, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Toledo, Tulsa, Wichita, and Winston-Salem.

A duty to intervene would of course include preventing a colleague from needlessly firing a weapon. But it could be interpreted expansively to include, as well, needless use of a baton or pepper spray, needless shoving, or even a lower-level transgression such as needless yelling or needlessly detaining a motorist for an excessive period of time during a routine traffic stop.

More broadly, cities could crack down on cops who refrain from giving fellow cops traffic tickets, get caught fudging a minor detail in a police report, or park their car illegally. Perhaps such a policy would ultimately reduce more egregious examples of special treatment or lawbreaking on the job.

16) Adam Serwer on Roberts and DACA:

These cases have revealed Roberts as a bulwark against Trumpism on the Court, not because he is ideologically hostile to it, but because Roberts expects the federal government to adhere to minimum standards of honesty and fidelity to the public interest. These qualities are compatible with conservative governance but are anathema to Trumpism, an ideology wherein the whims of the executive take precedence over the rule of law. What is painfully clear is that the Trump administration could have prevailed in each of these cases, with Roberts’s express approval, had it comported itself with a minimum of good faith.

The conservative movement has come to view Republican-appointed justices as wholly owned subsidiaries of their party, and by extension, the administration. That assumption has lulled it into the mistaken belief that the shoddiest legal reasoning can pass muster at the high court, simply because of the ideological predilections of the Republican appointees. This belief is not entirely without merit—although one Trump appointee, Neil Gorsuch, has an independent streak, in all of the previous cases mentioned here, four Republican appointees were willing to go along with whatever flimsy or dishonest pretext the Trump administration could cobble together. But John Roberts remains hostile to being made to look a fool.

Nevertheless, the Trumpist right is but one vote away from something close to the rubber-stamp Court it would like to see. Should Trump prevail in November, it may get its way after all.

17) It’s valuable to think about how even in presumed anti-racist bastions like the academy, racism still exists.  But, I really resent the way this aggrieved professor maligns an entire community on the flimsiest of evidence: “White America Wants Me to Conform. I Won’t Do It. Even at elite universities, I was exposed to the disease that has endangered black lives for so long.”

In 2007, my wife and I moved to Charlottesville, Va. Before arriving I had been heartened by its electoral map — bright blue surrounded by socially menacing red. Once there, I soon learned that a blue town is in some ways worse than a red one because everyone is possessed of the conviction of their own racial virtues, and they’re almost all very wrong. My first three years in Charlottesville were spent coldly coming to terms with its radical segregation and the absence of a black middle class. I observed as the police harassed homeless black men on the beloved Downtown Mall while the white frat boys got to shamelessly litter the streets surrounding the University of Virginia with beer kegs. Dionysus surely considered these misfits his chosen ones. [emphasis mine]

By 2010, nine years after the day I could have died, I was hardly leaving the house. When I did venture out, I kept to myself, avoided small talk, went straight home after doing what I needed to do, grateful when I finally made it back to the safe comfort of my own home. Nothing in particular was happening in the world other than America just being America.

So, the racially liberal white people of Charlottesville are actually racist because– like much of America– there’s a lacking Black middle class and because frat boys get away with stuff?!  Sure, we all know that there’s plenty of “liberals” who nonetheless have some pretty retrograde racial attitudes, but this is really unfair to the people of Charlottesville (and later New Haven).

 

Quick hits

1) Good stuff here.  Again, when reforming policing it’s all about reforming a culture. “I Was Mayor of Minneapolis. I Know Why Police Reforms Fail.
An us-versus-them culture has deadly consequences.”

Amid the outcry over George Floyd’s death and now hundreds of inhumane, overtly racist acts by police around the country, a number of cities are contemplating dramatic reforms to policing. No action is more important than changing toxic us-versus-them police cultures—in which an officer who might individually make the right call becomes silently complicit when a fellow officer goes rogue. This culture enabled three officers in my city to stand by while Floyd was killed. It allows the bombastic union chief Bob Kroll, the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, to disparage Floyd and refuse to condemn his death. To this day, this culture enables almost all those officers I met at their swearing-in ceremonies to choose Kroll—by overwhelming margins—as their public voice.

Many commentators on police culture have noted this dynamic: Almost by definition, officers see the worst things happening in their city on any given shift. After being in danger every night, officers gradually stop seeing the humanity in the people and neighborhoods they patrol. Instead, they go back to the precinct with the only people who can really understand what they are going through. People with exceptionally tough jobs serving complex humans naturally vent when they are together. What teacher hasn’t complained about a student in the privacy of the teachers’ lounge?

But the tribalism that can build up within police departments is far more consequential. Us versus them—meaning police versus criminals—slowly curdles into police versus the people: Who would live in these crime-infested neighborhoods where we risk our lives? Waiting to stoke that resentment are police-union leaders such as Kroll, who defend even the more aggressive acts of officers and, even in a case as extreme as Floyd’s death, prevent any self-examination by blaming the victim.

I used to say that the majority of officers are good but silently let a minority set the dominant culture. But now I believe that no one can be called a “good officer” if they are not working actively and openly to change the culture and unseat their toxic union leaders. The silence of the “good officers” so far is deafening, but a glimmer of hope came recently when more than a dozen brave Minneapolis officers bucked their union, condemned the officer who murdered George Floyd, and vowed to regain the community’s trust.

2) Okay, this is a little different for me.  But, I just have to say that if you rob a convenience store, have what you need, and then literally try and burn the clerk to death, hell yeah, now I’m quite happy with a nice, long 26 year sentence (or longer) for the perpetrator.

3) Had a great email conversation with Nicole on biology, human sex, and JK Rowling thanks to this post in Quillete.  Obviously, sex is not a perfect binary, intersexed does exist.  But, biological sex is not some normal curve or spectrum and I think this article is quite right about that.  But that doesn’t mean we should treat transgender people with as much dignity and respect as possible (and Nicole pointed out to me where Rowling had, indeed, failed at this).

Till now, even the most thematically ambitious feminist theorists have acknowledged that sex itself is a real biological phenomenon, and that sexual dimorphism is an important component of human existence as well as human rights. Yet increasingly, such common-sense propositions as JK Rowling’s are now cast as hate speech.

As more and more people refer to themselves as trans, nonbinary, two-spirited, and gender-non-conforming, there’s been a push to realign the objective reality of biological sex to match one’s subjectively experienced gender identity. In the emerging view, the very notion of males and females existing as real biological entities is now seen as obsolete. Instead, some argue, we have only varying degrees of “male-ness” and “female-ness.” And so the very idea of segregating sports (or anything, for that matter) using binary sex categories is seen as illegitimate, since, if no definitive line can be drawn, who’s to say a purported “male” athlete isn’t really female?

The view that sex is a spectrum is not confined to fringe critical theorists. It has made inroads into mainstream culture, thanks in part to a highly sympathetic media environment. Even prestigious scientific journals such as Nature have given space to authors who argue that “the idea of two sexes is simplistic” and that “biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.” Another Nature editorial insisted that attempts to classify an individual’s sex using any combination of anatomy and genetics “has no basis in science.” A new book, The Spectrum of Sex: The Science of Male, Female, and Intersex, argues this position from cover to cover. Its publisher, a Canadian academic press, gushes that “this transformative guide completely breaks down our current understanding of biological sex.”

In February of this year I co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the subject, entitled The Dangerous Denial of Sex. Along with my co-author, developmental biologist Emma Hilton, I highlighted the harms that sex-spectrum pseudoscience can impose on vulnerable groups, including children, women, gay men, and lesbians. Since we were confined to a newspaper op-ed format, Dr. Hilton and I had scant space to explore in detail the actual science of biological sex and the pseudoscience that is sex spectrum ideology. That is the subject of this essay.

4) Good stuff from Pro Publica, “How America’s Hospitals Survived the First Wave of the Coronavirus: ProPublica deputy managing editor Charles Ornstein wanted to know why experts were wrong when they said U.S. hospitals would be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Here’s what he learned, including what hospitals can do before the next wave.”

5) Dan Froomkin on the normalization of Trump:

In Friday’s New York Times, the paper’s White House bureau chief, Peter Baker, tut-tutted the “normalization” of Donald Trump’s presidency – as if he himself, along with his colleagues, weren’t among the people most responsible for it.

In a “White House Memo,” Baker wrote about the damning things former national security adviser John Bolton says about Trump in his new book – startling revelations like that Trump “sees his office as an instrument to advance his own personal and political interests over those of the nation”; that Trump is “erratic,” “impulsive” and “stunningly uninformed”; that he makes “irrational” decisions; and that he feels that “the rules that governed other presidents in the post-Watergate era are meant to be broken.“

Baker’s “nut graf,” as we call it in the business, came after he described a scene in which Bolton agrees with then-chief of staff John F. Kelly that there has never “been a presidency like this”. Baker wrote:

That is self-evidently true and yet it bears repeating every once in a while. After more than three years of the Trump presidency, it has become easy to forget at times just how out of the ordinary it really is. The normalization of Mr. Trump’s norm-busting, line-crossing, envelope-pushing administration has meant that what was once shocking now seems like just another day.

As it happens, I don’t actually think the public experiences Trump’s presidency as normal — quite the contrary. I think there are two widely held and mutually exclusive views of the president, and in neither of them is he even remotely normal.

But reading, listening to and watching the news coverage of Donald Trump, I am often struck at the lack of context, alarm, and outrage from the mainstream political media. There’s an awful lot of stenography and credulousness.

So, coming from almost anyone besides Peter Baker, what he wrote there would be astute media criticism.

Coming from him, though, it’s preposterously, laughably ironic.

Now in Baker’s defense, he is a sharp, fast and agile reporter who has at times written about Trump in highly incisive and critical terms, especially in his news analyses. For better and for worse, he is hugely admired by his colleagues, and is a role model for many of them. We were colleagues once, even friends.

But way too often, especially in his daily articles, Baker has downplayed the profoundly aberrational, deviant nature of the Trump presidency. He has taken what Trump says at face value even when he knows better. He has internalized Trump’s framings, refused to call lies lies, and engaged in mind-boggling false equivalence. When all else fails, he has resorted to pox-on-both-your-houses, boring-what-else-is-new coverage.

6) Always read what John Dickerson has to say about the presidency, “The ultimate test of presidential character is restraint”

Yet here is the problem: We don’t talk about restraint much in campaigns these days. When we do, we treat it as a liability and reward its absence. The unfortunate results are evident.

The conservative political scientist James Q. Wilson said character was composed of two qualities: “empathy and self-control.” Wilson defined empathy as “willingness to take importantly into account the rights, needs, and feelings of others,” and self-control as “willingness to take importantly into account the more distant consequences of present actions.” Both qualities are built on restraint — the ability to put public over self, and future over present.

The presidency, too, was built on restraint. As the framers designed the office in the summer of 1787, they picked George Washington to preside. He was chosen not because of his military skill or his speech-making (he said very little) but for his restraint, a trait the Founders hoped would contain the inevitable temptations toward monarchy in an office they were creating to take action. When an incredulous King George III heard Washington planned to return to Mount Vernon after leading the continental army, the monarch reportedly said: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” And, of course, Washington’s decision not to seek a third term set a precedent for presidential restraint for years to come.

In 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump escalated this tradition. He denigrated John McCain and all POWs; mocked a disabled reporter; savaged Jeb Bush by suggesting his brother had lied his way to war and should be impeached; and suggested that the father of another rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), was implicated in the John F. Kennedy assassination.

In office, previous presidents (such as George H.W. Bush) recognized a distinction between no-holds-barred campaign tactics and the restraint traditionally associated with governing. Trump has not — confronting allies, accommodating adversaries, insulting Cabinet members and treating the truth as optional. Supporters applaud all of this as the disruptive action they voted for.

7) Interesting public opinion and analysis from Brian Schaffner on white priviledge:

8) I feel reasonably confident that the steps NC State will take (masks!! and distancing) will actually minimize transmission of the virus in the academic and working environment on campus.  It’s what the students will do otherwise which will likely be the biggest problem.  NYT Op-ed: “Expecting Students to Play It Safe if Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy”

My skepticism about the strategies under consideration is not based on videos of college students frolicking on Florida’s beaches when they were explicitly told to avoid large gatherings. Rather, it comes from more than 40 years teaching and researching young people.

Most types of risky behavior — reckless driving, criminal activity, fighting, unsafe sex and binge drinking, to name just a few — peak during the late teens and early 20s. Moreover, interventions designed to diminish risk-taking in this age group, such as attempts to squelch binge drinking on campus, have an underwhelming track record. There is little reason to think that the approaches proposed to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus among college students will fare any better. A series of studies that compare the ways in which young people and adults think and make decisions about risk-taking confirms this.

The late-adolescent peak in risky behavior has been found pretty much around the world. Although risky behavior is more common in some countries than others, the heightened risk-taking characteristic of adolescents, relative to adults, is more or less universal. My colleagues and I recently completed a study of more than 5,000 people between the ages of 10 and 30 from 11 different countries (including both Western and non-Western ones). Respondents answered a series of questions about the extent to which they had engaged in various types of risk-taking. Consistent with large-scale epidemiological studies, we found a peak in risk-taking somewhere between age 20 and 24 in virtually every country.

Our team has also conducted experiments in which we test participants on various risk-taking tasks under controlled conditions, which allows us to rule out any age differences in real-world risk-taking that might be caused by environmental factors, such as opportunity or cultural norms. As in our survey studies, risk-taking peaked during adolescence. Other studies, using different samples, have reached similar conclusions…

My pessimistic prediction is that the college and university reopening strategies under consideration will work for a few weeks before their effectiveness fizzles out. By then, many students will have become cavalier about wearing masks and sanitizing their hands. They will ignore social distancing guidelines when they want to hug old friends they run into on the way to class. They will venture out of their “families” and begin partying in their hallways with classmates from other clusters, and soon after, with those who live on other floors, in other dorms, or off campus. They will get drunk and hang out and hook up with people they don’t know well. And infections on campus — not only among students, but among the adults who come into contact with them — will begin to increase.

At that point, college administrators will find themselves in a very dicey situation, with few good options.

I look forward to a time when we are able to return to campus and in-person teaching. But a thorough discussion of whether, when and how we reopen our colleges and universities must be informed by what developmental science has taught us about how adolescents and young adults think. As someone who is well-versed in this literature, I will ask to teach remotely for the time being.

9) In case I didn’t mention it, I found “Never have I ever,” especially John McEnroe’s narration, quite delightful.

10) Loved this podcast, “David Watkins, Ph.D.: A masterclass in immunology, monoclonal antibodies, and vaccine strategies for COVID-19”  Super interesting.  And, very optimistic on my new favorite thing– monoclonal antibodies.

11) Short one– sorry.

Fix policing? Fix the culture

Emily Bazelon hosts a terrific on-line discussion with thoughtful experts on what needs to be done to reform policing in America.  Lots of good stuff, but this was my favorite part:

Within a Police Department, culture eats policy for breakfast. You can have a perfectly worded policy, but it’s meaningless if it just exists on paper. You get trained in it when you’re a recruit in your three to six months at the police academy. But in too many departments, officers never receive more training on the policy or even see it again unless they get in trouble. They are then befuddled by being held to account for behaviors that regularly exist among their peers, and they feel scapegoated.

At the Police Executive Research Forum, we released a survey in 2016 that found that agencies spend a median of 58 hours on training for recruits on how to use a gun and 49 hours on defensive tactics, but they spend about only eight hours on de-escalation and crisis intervention.

To change the culture around the use of force, you have to have continuous training, systems of accountability and consequences. In Camden, when an officer uses force in the field, supervisors review the body-cam footage. The following day, internal affairs and a training officer also review it and either challenge or concur with the supervisors’ findings. If they see something wrong, they bring the officer in and go over the tape. If the supervisors had approved something unacceptable, they, too, are held to account.

What happens when the barrell is rotten

This “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop” is terrific.  The whole damn barrel is rotten so that even a good apple ends up not one.  Whole essay is great– here’s my favorite part.

YES, ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS

I was a police officer in a major metropolitan area in California with a predominantly poor, non-white population (with a large proportion of first-generation immigrants). One night during briefing, our watch commander told us that the city council had requested a new zero tolerance policy. Against murderers, drug dealers, or child predators?

No, against homeless people collecting cans from recycling bins.

See, the city had some kickback deal with the waste management company where waste management got paid by the government for our expected tonnage of recycling. When homeless people “stole” that recycling from the waste management company, they were putting that cheaper contract in peril. So, we were to arrest as many recyclers as we could find.

Even for me, this was a stupid policy and I promptly blew Sarge off. But a few hours later, Sarge called me over to assist him. He was detaining a 70 year old immigrant who spoke no English, who he’d seen picking a coke can out of a trash bin. He ordered me to arrest her for stealing trash. I said, “Sarge, c’mon, she’s an old lady.” He said, “I don’t give a shit. Hook her up, that’s an order.” And… I did. She cried the entire way to the station and all through the booking process. I couldn’t even comfort her because I didn’t speak Spanish. I felt disgusting but I was ordered to make this arrest and I wasn’t willing to lose my job for her.

If you’re tempted to feel sympathy for me, don’t. I used to happily hassle the homeless under other circumstances. I researched obscure penal codes so I could arrest people in homeless encampments for lesser known crimes like “remaining too close to railroad property” (369i of the California Penal Code). I used to call it “planting warrant seeds” since I knew they wouldn’t make their court dates and we could arrest them again and again for warrant violations.

We used to have informal contests for who could cite or arrest someone for the weirdest law. DUI on a bicycle, non-regulation number of brooms on your tow truck (27700(a)(1) of the California Vehicle Code)… shit like that. For me, police work was a logic puzzle for arresting people, regardless of their actual threat to the community. As ashamed as I am to admit it, it needs to be said: stripping people of their freedom felt like a game to me for many years.

I know what you’re going to ask: did I ever plant drugs? Did I ever plant a gun on someone? Did I ever make a false arrest or file a false report? Believe it or not, the answer is no. Cheating was no fun, I liked to get my stats the “legitimate” way. But I knew officers who kept a little baggie of whatever or maybe a pocket knife that was a little too big in their war bags (yeah, we called our dufflebags “war bags”…). Did I ever tell anybody about it? No I did not. Did I ever confess my suspicions when cocaine suddenly showed up in a gang member’s jacket? No I did not.

In fact, let me tell you about an extremely formative experience: in my police academy class, we had a clique of around six trainees who routinely bullied and harassed other students: intentionally scuffing another trainee’s shoes to get them in trouble during inspection, sexually harassing female trainees, cracking racist jokes, and so on. Every quarter, we were to write anonymous evaluations of our squadmates. I wrote scathing accounts of their behavior, thinking I was helping keep bad apples out of law enforcement and believing I would be protected. Instead, the academy staff read my complaints to them out loud and outed me to them and never punished them, causing me to get harassed for the rest of my academy class. That’s how I learned that even police leadership hates rats. That’s why no one is “changing things from the inside.” They can’t, the structure won’t allow it.

And that’s the point of what I’m telling you. Whether you were my sergeant, legally harassing an old woman, me, legally harassing our residents, my fellow trainees bullying the rest of us, or “the bad apples” illegally harassing “shitbags”, we were all in it together. I knew cops that pulled women over to flirt with them. I knew cops who would pepper spray sleeping bags so that homeless people would have to throw them away. I knew cops that intentionally provoked anger in suspects so they could claim they were assaulted. I was particularly good at winding people up verbally until they lashed out so I could fight them. Nobody spoke out. Nobody stood up. Nobody betrayed the code.

None of us protected the people (you) from bad cops.

I’ve said it before I’ll say it again.  It’s about changing a broken culture.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Ross Douthat on a lot of what conservatism “needs” but it sure aint’ gonna get it, because insofar as conservativism was a thing more than low taxes for rich people electorally-supported by racial resentment that’s collapsing:

That last image, the president as a dictator of an island and impotent beyond it, seems like a foretaste of what would await conservatives if Trump somehow slipped through to a second term. Maybe he would get to replace another Supreme Court justice — maybe. (In a Democratic Senate, not.) But everything else the right needs would slip further out of reach.

Conservatism needs a response to the current movement for social justice that answers just claims and rejects destructive ones. Trump delivers a conservatism of Confederate war memorials that vindicates the left.

Conservatism needs new ideas about how to use power, a better theory of the relationship between state, economy and culture than the decadent Reaganism that Trump half-overthrew. Trump offers only a daily lesson in how to let power go to waste.

Conservatism needs a way to either claim more space in America’s existing elite institutions, or else a path to building new ones. Trump offers a retreat to the fortresses of OANN, TPUSA, QAnon.

Above all, conservatism, now a worldview for old people and contrarians in a country trending leftward, needs a mix of converts and sympathizers to be something other than a rump. Trump did win some converts in 2016, but he has spent four years making far more enemies, and their numbers are growing every day.

What we are seeing right now in America, an accelerated leftward shift, probably won’t continue at this pace through 2024. But it’s likely to continue in some form so long as Trump is conservatism, and conservatism is Trump — and four more years of trying to use him as a defensive salient is not a strategy of survival, but defeat.

2) I’m very very (cautiously) optimistic at monoclonal antibody cocktails being our Covid-19 savior before a vaccine comes along:

A medicine that may treat and prevent Covid-19 is now being tested in patients in multiple sites around the United States, according to an announcement Thursday from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

It is the first trial of a Covid-19 antibody cocktail in the United States. If successful, Regeneron hopes it could be available by the fall.
The clinical trial started Wednesday. Regeneron said its antibody cocktail will be tested in four separate study populations: people who are hospitalized with Covid-19; people who have symptoms for the disease, but are not hospitalized; people who are healthy but are at a high risk for getting sick; and healthy people who have come into close contact with a person who is sick.
“We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection, and also to preempt viral ‘escape,’ a critical precaution in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic,” Dr. George Yancopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron, said in a press release. “Ultimately, the world needs multiple solutions, and the innovative biopharma industry is collectively working hard to help as many people as possible with a variety of complementary approaches.”

3) Drum, “Here’s How Police React to Being Investigated”

Tanaya Devi and Roland Fryer have a paper out today that looks at the impact of “Pattern or Practice” investigations of police departments. In a nutshell, what they find is that ordinary investigations have a generally positive effect, leading to fewer homicides and reduced crime in the surrounding community. However, investigations that were spurred by a “viral incident” had just the opposite effect, leading to a large increase in both homicides and crime in general:

Why the difference?

The leading theory for why some investigations have led to an increase in crimes is a striking decrease in the quantity of police activity — which is evident in all cities we were able to collect data. All other theories considered contradict the data in important ways, though lack of complete data makes definitive conclusions elusive.

In other words: police forces act like small children when investigations are performed after highly publicized protests against police brutality. They stop patrolling, they instigate “blue flus,” and they just generally throw hissy fits. The authors estimate that the cost of this juvenile behavior was nearly 900 lives lost in the five “viral” cities studied (Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Ferguson, and Riverside).

4) Good stuff from Tim Alberta: “2020 Is This the Last Stand of the ‘Law and Order’ Republicans? A punitive brand of conservatism embraced by Trump and some GOP hardliners is rapidly falling out of step with public opinion.”

As with so many issues, the ground beneath the GOP has been gradually shifting on questions of racial justice. Perhaps it’s the demographic transition of the electorate, or the greater digital proximity voters have to events that long went unseen. Whatever the cause, this shift has threatened further electoral consequences for a party that is already out of step with the center on a number of cultural issues. That was before a white officer pinned George Floyd’s neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes. One thing is clear: There is nothing gradual about what’s happened since.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found that “Americans by a 2-to-1 margin are more troubled by the actions of police in the killing of George Floyd than by violence at some protest.” A survey for USA Today last week showed white Americans’ favorable impressions of police declining by double-digits week over the week. Most notably, a Monmouth poll released June 2—conducted in the days after Floyd’s killing—showed, for the first time, that a majority of Americans (57 percent) and a plurality of whites (49 percent) believe police are more likely to use excessive force against African Americans. This represents a tectonic shift in public opinion: After Eric Garner was killed by New York City police in the summer of 2014, Monmouth found that 33 percent of Americans believed the black community was more likely to be abused by police; among whites, that number was just 26 percent…

To be clear, the traditionalists are winning the intraparty battle—and they might continue to win well after Trump leaves office. But they can’t win forever. As with gay marriage and marijuana legalization, the cultural current is now running plainly in one direction.

In the short term, however, it’s the reformers who are swimming upstream. To upend generations of conservative orthodoxy will require more than Mitt Romney marching with Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington or Steve King being cast off by the party in Iowa. It will require conceding that something is foundationally wrong with American policing. It will require acknowledging—and detailing—the existence of systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It will require shattering illusions about this nation’s basic morality. It will require provoking white Americans, daring them to identify with the agony and oppression of black Americans.

It will require proposing an end to the era of law and order politics.

5) Nice summary on how masks help maintain social distance:

Massimo Marchiori, an Italian computer scientist, once used sensors to determine how the widths of shopping mall walkways shaped buying decisions. Another time he used GPS technology to track the movements of cows to see what behaviors led to the best milk.

So when the novel coronavirus consumed Italy in February, Marchiori decided it was time for a new experiment — this time, on social distancing.

The result suggested that masks help fight contagion in ways other than just filtering air — benefits rarely discussed in the fraught political conversation about whether mask-wearing in public spaces should be mandatory.

To measure how people respond to masks, Marchiori created the world’s first “social distancing belt”: a $30 contraption that looked like a gray handbag but included a data card, rechargeable battery and sensors capable of measuring the proximity of oncoming objects, or, in this case, people.

“Everyone talks about social distancing,” Marchiori said, “but no one had actually measured actual social distancing.”

His findings suggest that wearing masks has a profound effect on how we perceive others, and in particular how close we are willing to get to strangers.

Unmasked — even during the height of a raging pandemic — the sensors deployed by Marchiori found that fellow pedestrians actually drew closer to him as he passed them on a sidewalk, typically within a foot.

In other words, masks appeared to make an extremely social species less social — and less vulnerable.

6) Some good and timely social science:

It is well-established that the realignment of the past half-century sorted southern whites into the Grand Old Party (GOP) while southern blacks have remained stalwart Democrats. Surprisingly, however, there has been little systematic investigation of the relationship between party identification and opinions toward the South’s Confederate legacy. If it is indeed the case that race played the dominant role in the partisan sorting of southern whites into the Republican Party, then it should follow that contemporary GOP adherents have also taken a more favorable view toward Confederate symbols. In this study, we present data from numerous surveys that show southern whites of opposing parties have polarized on opinions toward the Confederate legacy in a historical reversal so that those aligned with the party of Abraham Lincoln are now the staunchest defenders of the “Lost Cause.”

7) Love the idea that dentists are the bellwether of the economy (took my oldest to a dental appointment a couple weeks ago; my wife just postponed hers):

If not for coronavirus, you’d expect your local dentist office to be doing just fine.

Dentist offices tend to be stable businesses that stick around for decades, unlike restaurants that open and close frequently. Dentists earn a healthy salary — a median of $159,000 — and offer services with no clear substitute. If you need your teeth cleaned or a cavity filled, the dentist is the only option.

This makes them, in the eyes of some economists, the perfect barometer for gauging the country’s recovery from the shock of the pandemic.

“If you look at your typical dentist office, nothing went wrong with their business model,” said Betsey Stevenson, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s just coronavirus that happened.”

The dental industry has weathered an exaggerated version of the pandemic’s economic impact, experiencing both a steeper decline and a faster recovery than other sectors. Half of all dental workers lost their jobs in March and April as states closed businesses to slow the virus’s spread. The industry accounted for a staggering 35 percent of all health care jobs lost in those months, even though its workers make up just 6 percent of the industry, according to analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Altarum Institute.

How long it takes those jobs to come back entirely will be a crucial indicator of whether Americans feel safe returning to normal activities, and if they have the economic means to do so.

“I’m obsessed with dentists because, if the only thing we’re doing is putting the economy on pause, and then going back to normal, all of them should be coming back,” Ms. Stevenson said. “We’re not really recovered until all the dentists are back to work.”

8) It really should not be hard for science communication and medical professionals to be crystal clear on aysmptomatic versus presymptomatic.  And yet.  “What’s Confusing About Calling Covid-19 Cases ‘Asymptomatic’: There’s a difference between people who never develop symptoms and people who just don’t have them yet. And that matters when calculating public health risk.”

9) If you actually like the restaurant you are ordering from, never use the app unless that’s the only way you can get the food.  Just call them directly.

Before the coronavirus lockdowns, Matt Majesky didn’t take much notice of the fees that Grubhub and Uber Eats charged him every time they processed an order for his restaurant, Pierogi Mountain.

But once the lockdowns began, the apps became essentially the only source of business for the barroom restaurant he ran with a partner, Charlie Greene, in Columbus, Ohio. That was when the fees to the delivery companies turned into the restaurant’s single largest cost — more than what it paid for food or labor.

Pierogi Mountain’s primary delivery company, Grubhub, took more than 40 percent from the average order, Mr. Majesky’s Grubhub statements show. That flipped his restaurant from almost breaking even to plunging deeply into the red. In late April, Pierogi Mountain shut down.

“You have no choice but to sign up, but there is no negotiating,” Mr. Majesky, who has applied for unemployment, said of the delivery apps. “It almost turns into a hostage situation.”

Complaints about the fees that the apps charge to both restaurants and consumers are longstanding, but the issue has become heightened as many restaurants have shut down in-room dining. Even as they begin reopening, delivery is likely to remain a bigger part of their business than before the pandemic.

Several restaurants have also publicly worried that they will soon have even less power in pushing back against the fees. That’s because Uber has been in talks to acquire Grubhub, potentially creating a delivery app heavyweight.

10) This “Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop” is terrific.  The whole damn barrel is rotten so that even a good apple ends up not one.

11) I was vaguely aware of White Fragility, but didn’t really know much about it or have much desire to read it (pretty sure I’m not fragile).  But, it turns out I am!  Loved this takedown from David Burke:

Throughout White Fragility DiAngelo tries to convince readers of two things. First, DiAngelo argues that white people are inescapably racist, writing, “All white people are invested in and collude with racism,” and that “The white collective fundamentally hates blackness for what it reminds us of: that we are capable and guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains come through the subjugation of others.”

Second, DiAngelo argues that any white person who is reluctant to accept their inescapable racism is wrong, and that their “white fragility” blinds them to their own racism. In DiAngelo’s own words, because white people are, “Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority that we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race.” This fragility purportedly explains why, “people who identify as white are so difficult in conversations regarding race.”

It’s not difficult to see why the theory of white fragility might catch on. Race is a sensitive subject that many people of all races are uncomfortable discussing. Furthermore, white people publicly accused of racism risk social ostracization and professional ruin. The idea that some white people don’t respond well to conversations about or accusations of racism is not surprising. But though some white people may exhibit a degree of what DiAngelo calls fragility, her grandiose theory as applied to all or even most white people has two fatal flaws.

First, DiAngelo’s theory of White Fragility is unfalsifiable. It is impossible for someone to prove that they are not fragile, just as it is impossible for someone to prove they are not possessed by a demon. One could play mad libs with racial groups and nouns-”Asian Insecurity,” “Black Hostility,” etc.-and there would be no way for members of those groups to prove they are not insecure or hostile.

More insidiously, DiAngelo frames her theory of white fragility such that any denial of her theory is interpreted as proof of its validity. For example, DiAngelo writes that,

“The mere suggestion that being white has meaning often triggers a range of defensive responses. These include emotions such as anger, fear, guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation. These responses work to reinstate white equilibrium as they repel the challenge, return our racial comfort, and maintain our dominance within the racial hierarchy. I conceptualize this process as white fragility. Though white fragility is triggered by discomfort and anxiety, it is born of superiority and entitlement.”

In other words, if DiAngelo accuses you of fragility and you disagree with her in any way-through argument, silence, or withdrawal-your reaction is considered proof of your fragility. DiAngelo leaves white readers with only two options. Either acknowledge your fragility, which proves DiAngelo’s theory, or deny your fragility, which according to DiAngelo, also proves her theory. This is a logical fallacy known as a Kafkatrap. If our legal system worked this way, no person accused of a crime would ever be acquitted because their denial would prove their guilt.

12) The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh, who reviewed it along with How to be anti-racist, last year, is also not impressed.  My favorite part:

Unlike Kendi, who boldly defines racism, DiAngelo is endlessly deferential—for her, racism is basically whatever any person of color thinks it is. In the story she tells about the world, she and her fellow white people have all the power, and therefore all the responsibility to do the gruelling but transformative spiritual work she calls for. The story makes white people seem like flawed, complicated characters; by comparison, people of color seem good, wise, and perhaps rather simple. This narrative may be appealing to its target audience, but it doesn’t seem to offer much to anyone else. At least, that’s my interpretation, and perhaps DiAngelo will be grateful to hear it. After all, I am what she would call a person of color, and whatever I write surely counts as “feedback.” Maybe that means she is, indeed, doing well.

Also, while Kendi really does have some interesting ideas on racism, a lot of them come crashing against the shoals of the real world:

The result is to complicate the seemingly straightforward definitions Kendi offers in “How to Be an Antiracist.” For instance, he says that a policy can be either racist or antiracist; it is racist if it “produces or sustains racial inequity,” and a person is racist if he or she supports such a policy. But it may take many years to determine whether a policy produces or sustains racial inequity. For instance, some cities, including New York, generally forbid employers to ask job seekers about their criminal history, or to check their credit scores. These measures are designed in part to help African-American applicants, who may be more likely to have a criminal record, or to have poor credit. But some studies suggest that such prohibitions make black men, in general, less likely to be hired, perhaps because employers fall back on cruder generalizations. Are these laws and their supporters racist? In Kendi’s framework, the only possible answer is: wait and see.

13) When John Dickerson writes about the presidency, you should read it, “What Trump Should Have Learned From His Predecessors”

In part, a president must have a good team for the simple reason that there is so much to do. That has always been true, but it’s especially true now. National-security threats are more numerous and more complex; economic challenges move at the speed of fiber-optic light; the U.S. government itself has become a behemoth. “No matter how good you are as president, you are overseeing 2 million people and a trillion-dollar-plus budget, and the largest organization on Earth,” President Barack Obama told me during his last year in office. “You can’t do it all by yourself.”

Hiring, however, is just the start. A president must also nurture the patterns of behavior that allow an administration to work effectively. He has to empower his subordinates to make decisions and also trust them when they say an issue demands presidential attention, a scarce resource.

By most accounts, the current president has done neither. As The Washington Post reported this spring, intelligence agencies attempted to alert Trump to the danger posed by the novel coronavirus by including it in the president’s daily briefing on more than a dozen occasions, to no avail. When, on February 7, the Chinese doctor who had tried to warn the world about COVID‑19 died from it, someone in the administration should have insisted that this was not the time for the president to assure the nation that China was being honest and transparent about the virus’s spread. Someone should have stopped him from telling the country in early March that anyone who needed a test could get one. If anyone tried to, the president didn’t listen.

 

Quick hits

1) How broken is policing?  The cop who chooses not to shoot in what is clearly a suicide by cop situation is the one who gets fired.

2) My wife was talking about redlining, etc., today and it hit me– she’s never read “The Case for Reparations.”  Everybody needs to read this.  If you haven’t, set aside some time this weekend.  Seriously.  If one can refer to a magazine article as a foundational text of the modern era (and I think you can), this is it.

3) Jay Rosen on the state of the media.

I begin with this almost surreal image from 15 years ago — newspaper as giant battleship moving slowly out of harbor, critics so impotent they can only toss dead fish at it — because it shows how much has changed for the people formerly known as newspaper journalists, and especially for the editors who try to steer these organizations. They have suffered a massive loss in power as the media and political worlds have changed around them.

To whom has this power gone?

To the tech platforms that have a stronger hold on the audience for news; they do a better job and charge a fairer price for targeted advertising. To the internet itself, which continues to disassemble the newspaper “bundle” into specialist sites that satisfy niche audiences. To the faux-populists preaching resentment politics who have turned the “liberal media” into their always-on hate object, accelerating a loss of trust in the journalism that big city newspapers once practiced with impunity.

Power has been lost to Fox News. And to the trolls, including the one in the White House. And to sources who can find a following without playing ball with the press…

Debate club democracy — where people of good will share a common world of fact but disagree on what should be done — is an expensive illusion to maintain during a presidency that tries to undermine every independent and factual check there is on the executive’s power, not just a free press and its journalism, but the intelligence community, the diplomatic corps, the civil service, government scientists, inspectors general, and Congress in its oversight function.

Stories about the Trump government undermining all of these have appeared in the New York Times. They are ably reported. But at some point the light bulb has to flick on. This isn’t debate club. It’s an attack on the institutions of American democracy. Just as police work in our cities isn’t law enforcement constrained by the Constitution. It’s systemized suspicion of Black people, free of Constitutional constraint, and it frequently ends in violence.

The idea that the New York Times can never reach conclusions like this, and build them into its core values, because it has to remain neutral in order to be trusted as a news source by the very people who reject those values  — an idea I have called the view from nowhere — might have been a mistaken-but-survivable construct in the era of Battleship Newspaper. That is no longer the case.

4) We have to find a way to let kids go to school.  “Research Shows Students Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions: The abrupt switch to remote learning wiped out academic gains for many students in America, and widened racial and economic gaps. Catching up in the fall won’t be easy.”

5) Terrific essay from Anne Applebaum on Trump’s enablers.  But, I take issue with this premise in the sub-head, “Why have Republican leaders abandoned their principles in support of an immoral and dangerous president?”  I’m not at all convinced that the foundational principles of liberal democracy and the US Constitution were ever truly the principles of folks like Lindsey Graham (and hella no Ted Cruz), but that, more likely they saw mouthing adherence to these principles as an effective way to accrue political power– their true primary principle.

6) Good stuff on Jared Kushner:

To understand how Jared Kushner received the opportunity to fail at managing the federal response to the Covid-19 pandemic, you mostly need to know that he is married to the president’s daughter. But to truly grasp the distinctive style of failure that Kushner has brought to bear on his latest and most urgent challenge, it helps to know about the career of a man named Kevin Hassett.

In 1999, Hassett was 37 years old and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a familiar home port for Republican policy types, when his third book,Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market, arrived in stores on October 1. The timing was not ideal for a hucksterish book arguing that the market would soon “rise to much higher ground.” Three months later, the Dow began a steep descent; stocks declined by 44 percent in real terms over the next few years.

That book-length public blooper didn’t adversely affect his career. Hassett spent the next two decades flitting between AEI and various political campaigns. He was chairman of Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2017 to 2019 before returning in March of this year as an adviser focused on the economic recovery. It was in this new role that Hassett produced another simple econometric model that was, once again, preposterously wrong. Jason Furman, who headed up the CEA under President Obama, called Hassett’s “cubic model” projection, which showed coronavirus deaths dwindling away entirely by the middle of May, “utterly superficial and misleading,” and tweeted that it “might be the lowest point in the 74 year history of the Council of Economic Advisers.” InTheWashington Post, Hassett insisted that “no administration policy has been influenced by my projections.” He had to produce this disclaimer because administration policy had, in fact, been influenced by his projections.The Washington Postreported that Hassett’s chart sketching out the projected death tolls “was embraced inside the West Wing by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other powerful aides helping to oversee the government’s pandemic response.” “It’s not hard to see why,” Slate’s Jordan Weissmann wrote. “It has a trail of pink dots leading to zero.”

So here we have Kushner, a powerful special adviser with no meaningful expertise in public health or epidemiology, using a breathtakingly specious chart produced by an economist who’d flubbed the biggest prediction he’d ever made—all as a justification for the federal government to do less to confront a rampaging pandemic. While the Trump years have offered many such crystalline and bottomless moments of executive abandonment, this one felt uniquely Jared. The collaboration is what makes it—a legacy figure in the field of elite ineptitude, delivering the old egregiousness in a style optimized for the vacuous new avatar of elite incompetence. The gilded tools of one generation of catastrophic conservative governance pass into the soft and clammy hands of the next. If it weren’t for all those people dying, it would be beautiful…

A Trumpian suspicion of conventional expertise, a trendy deference to business-boy buzzwords, and a rich kid’s innate distaste for people with less money all likely had something to do with how Kushner came to oversee a team of two dozen volunteers he’d borrowed from big management consultancies or from other government agencies to help coordinate the response. (At FEMA, officials came to call this group the Slim Suit Crowd.) But in the search for answers to the question of how this bespoke team with, per TheWashington Post, no “significant experience in health care, procurement or supply-chain operations” wound up tinkering unhelpfully in all three areas, it’s important not to overthink it, given the people involved. Volunteers from McKinsey and the Boston Consulting Group were asked to procure protective gear for the same reasons that there are (presumably) chandeliers in the bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago—in the absence of actual discernment or real consideration, a rich person simply defaulted to the most luxurious option…

Conservative-movement lifers like Kevin Hassett are in the costume design business. Their work, in and out of power, is to dress up the atavistic avarice and self-serving fatuity of the wealthy people who fund and shape conservative politics as an ideology. For a long time, the idea was to invest these grouchy, suspicious, proudly unreasoned instincts with enough cosmetic heft that they could pass as actual values. Trump has undone this—there are no real values, now, only deals. As it happens, the old work of finding clever new ways to the same old answers was always just a matter of Getting To Yes. The solution was always going to be something as useless and superficially serious as Hassett’s vanishing pink curve. The real challenge, it turns out, was fitting it for an appropriately expensive-looking suit.

7) Do you know about the amazing properties of horseshoe crab blood and it’s importance to modern medicine.  It’s a thing.  And, turns out, it matters a lot for Covid testing.  (Here’s a one minute video explainer).

8) You know I’m always here for Bill Barr is the worst takes:

When scandal has engulfed past American presidencies, the Justice Department’s independence proved critical to upholding the rule of law. The textbook case was the Saturday Night Massacre, when Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than carry out President Richard Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Even in the George W. Bush administration, which faced scandals over politicized prosecutions and executive power, the department managed to preserve its autonomy from the White House at key moments.

Attorney General William Barr has overseen a stunning reversal of this tradition. He is, in many ways, the anti-Elliot Richardson: a loyal foot soldier who has successfully transformed the Justice Department into little more than an enabler of Trump’s policy whims and political interests. Nowhere was this mission clearer than in Barr’s move in May to dismiss the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Flynn decision came on the heels of another dramatic Barr-sponsored foray to aid a disgraced Trump associate: The department’s effort to secure a lighter sentence for Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering last November, led to resignations by DOJ prosecutors and calls for Barr’s resignation…

The attorney general’s transformation into a more erudite version of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney and onetime fixer-in-chief, serves a higher purpose. Barr frames himself as part of a spiritually driven mobilization to reshape American political life, one that seeks to extend the executive branch’s constitutional powers into the service of a higher calling. Barr sees himself not as the bagman for a corrupt president, but as the disciple of a fading legal and moral order—one in which unbounded executive power goes hand in hand with a sacred mandate to preserve the nation’s Christian culture from secular degeneration…

At this late stage of the Trump administration, it’s no longer shocking to see cabinet members and other figures in the president’s inner circle gleefully overturning past expectations and norms meant to govern the orderly operation of power in Washington. But Barr’s case is different—not least because when he was confirmed as attorney general in 2019, even liberal detractors of all things Trump hailed him as a welcome return to something like a reasoned pre-Trump status quo, duly deferential to basic notions of separation of federal power and the canons of constitutional law enforcement long established in court precedent. The question for future historians of the American constitutional order is not so much how the ardent culture warrior William Barr seized a key bastion of federal power; rather, it’s how anyone in Congress or the Washington punditocracy ever mistook him for anything other than what he was.

9) Michael Gerson, “This is what happens when bigotry dominates the main conservative media platform”‘

In a column that appeared (ironically) at Foxnews.com, James asked, “How many more black people must die, and how many more times will statements of sympathy have to be issued? . . . How many more committees will have to be formed until America admits that racism is still a problem in this country? . . . It’s time America takes responsibility and expands human flourishing to all of its citizens — not just the majority of them.”

How did Tucker Carlson of Fox News react to this plea? Did he listen respectfully to the voice of a different experience? Of course not. Carlson attacked James’s article as a “long scream denouncing America as an irredeemably racist nation” and urged his listeners to stop sending funds to Heritage. This is what happens when the main media platform of American conservatism is dominated by bigotry.

James felt compelled to make her points because she is woman of faith and character. For a glimpse of what the total absence of faith and character looks like, see the Republican Party of Texas. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, a dozen elected leaders of the GOP wrote or retweeted racist memes and conspiracy theories. Comal County Republican Party Chair Sue Gafford Piner propagated the idea that philanthropist George Soros is funding a race war. Bexar County GOP Chair Cynthia Brehm suggested that Floyd’s death was staged to hurt President Trump’s reelection chances. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wrote that the civil rights protesters are “domestic terrorists who were organized and paid for by George Soros.”

This is not the rejection of “political correctness”; it is the success of white supremacy in the Texas Republican Party. The GOP, in many places, has become an institution where leaders are elevated and groomed for cruelty and bigotry. This is what happens when the president of the United States normalizes racism and mainstreams ideological madness.

These habits of prejudice took root easily in the GOP, indicating a broad, preexisting disposition. If Republicans are ever to recover their moral balance, they will need to dispose of three pervasive assumptions.

The first is the assumption of rough equality — the belief that most racial prejudice was addressed by the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and, phew, aren’t we glad all that is over with. In this view, every abuser of rights is dismissed as one of a few bad apples — even when it is clear that some institutions (say, police forces or the Trump GOP) are engaged in the mass production of rotting fruit.

The third is the assumption of historical irrelevance — the belief that if subjugation did not take place this morning, it is morally extraneous. This is a particularly absurd view for conservatives, given their traditional belief that the past has a powerful hold on the present. For most of American history, deeply unjust laws meant that police enforced an oppressive social order, sometimes through tactics of terror. This has left habits in many police departments and scars in many communities. And this does not even start to cover the legacy of stolen labor, educational inequality and disenfranchisement.

10) Definitely more research on this, “Can existing live vaccines prevent COVID-19?”  Some interesting evidence I think I’m mentioned before on BCG.  Maybe Polio (OPV) too.

These nonspecific beneficial effects may not be limited to OPV and LEV. Other live attenuated viral vaccines such as those against measles (5) and smallpox (9) have also been associated with pronounced nonspecific protective effects against infectious diseases. In Africa, when measles vaccine was introduced in the community, the overall mortality in children declined by more than 50%, a reduction that was far larger than anticipated on the basis of the protection against measles deaths alone (10). A large-scale RCT confirmed that the measles vaccine was associated with a 30% reduction in overall mortality in children; only 4% was explained by prevention of measles infection (5).

Attenuated bacterial vaccines such as Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) against tuberculosis, as well as experimental live attenuated vaccine against pertussis (whooping cough), were also shown to protect against heterologous infections (5, 11). In addition, live pertussis vaccine also prevented noninfectious inflammatory diseases (11). RCTs showed that BCG vaccine at birth was associated with more than a one-third reduction of neonatal mortality, because BCG vaccine protected against deaths from septicemia and pneumonia (5). In 2014, an expert panel at the World Health Organization reviewed the evidence for nonspecific effects of live vaccines and concluded that they reduced childhood mortality by more than would be expected through their effects on the diseases they prevent (12). It is important to note that non-live (inactivated) vaccines do not seem to have the same effects, suggesting that replicating attenuated pathogens induce a broader immune response.

11) Very good stuff from David Petraeus, “Take the Confederate Names Off Our Army Bases: It is time to remove the names of traitors like Benning and Bragg from our country’s most important military installations.”

Fort Bragg and most of the other posts in question were established either during World War I, at one peak of the Lost Cause movement, or in the early 1940s, as the country was feverishly gearing up for World War II. Army leaders, to say nothing of political figures at the time, undoubtedly wanted to ingratiate themselves with the southern states in which the forts were located. They bowed to—and in many cases shared—the Lost Cause nostalgia that also sponsored so much civilian statuary, street naming, and memorial building from the end of Reconstruction through the 1930s, when the trend tapered off but did not end completely. In many cases, the Army’s sentiments simply mirrored those of the society it served.

For an organization designed to win wars to train for them at installations named for those who led a losing force is sufficiently peculiar, but when we consider the cause for which these officers fought, we begin to penetrate the confusion of Civil War memory. These bases are, after all, federal installations, home to soldiers who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention. Now, belatedly, is the moment for us to pay such attention…

But Confederate leaders are different from these other examples not simply in degree, but in kind: Plainly put, Lee, Bragg, and the rest committed treason, however much they may have agonized over it.* The majority of them had worn the uniform of the U.S. Army, and that Army should not brook any celebration of those who betrayed their country.

12) Given that my 14-year old son plays trumpet, I gotta admit I am fascinated by the idea of doing studies on how brass and woodwind instruments potentially spread virus.

13) For you Covid science nerds like me (and you know who you are), this is a great discussion to read, “Can a Vaccine for Covid-19 Be Developed in Record Time?”

14) This is good stuff from Alex Tabarrok on unbudling the police:

It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police. I (allegedly) rolled through a stop sign in the neighborhood and was stopped. It was uncomfortable–hands on the wheel, don’t make any sudden moves, be polite etc. and I am a white guy. Traffic stops can be much more uncomfortable for minorities, which makes the police uncomfortable. Many of the police homicides, such as the killing of Philando Castile happened at ordinary traffic stops. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation?

Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer. The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job–make road safety nice. Highways England hires traffic officers for some of these tasks (although they are not yet authorized to issue speeding tickets).

Similarly, the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeless–jobs like that should be farmed out to other agencies. Notice that we have lots of other safety issues that are not handled by the police. Restaurant inspectors, for example, do over a million restaurant inspectors annually but they don’t investigate murder or drug charges and they are not armed. Perhaps not coincidentally, restaurant inspectors are not often accused of inspector brutality, “Your honor, I swear I thought he was reaching for a knife….”.

Another advantage of turning over road safety to an unarmed, non-police unit would be to help restore the fourth amendment which has been destroyed by the jurisprudence of traffic stops.

As we move to self-driving vehicles it will become obvious that road safety does not belong with the police (eventually it will be more like air traffic control). We can get a jump start on that trend by more carefully delineating which police duties require the threat of imminent violence and which do not.

Defunding the police, whatever that means, is a political non-starter. But we can unbundle the police.

15) Meanwhile, I am entirely unpersuaded by the, truly, abolish the police argument.  A real problem with this Op-Ed is that it argues that all our problems will be solved if we just sufficiently invest in our people and communities along the lines of Norway, Denmark, etc., (without ever mentioning other countries).  I’d be a lot more convinced if those genuine social democracies had abolished their police forces.

16) Greg Sargent, “Young people’s attitudes toward protests should worry Republicans”

What’s more, the new Pew polling also finds that an extraordinary 80 percent of those young Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement, 54 percent of them strongly.

A recent Post-Schar School poll helps underscore the point. Here’s what it found among Americans aged 18 to 29 years old:

82 percent of them support the protests
77 percent of them see the killing of George Floyd as a sign of broader problems in police treatment of black people
63 percent of them disapprove of Trump’s response to the protests
83 percent say police need to keep making changes to treat blacks equally to whites
58 percent prefer a president who will address the nation’s racial divisions, as opposed to restoring security by enforcing the law…

Yet Trump, the only Republican president many of them really lived under while being politically aware, is entirely out of step with them on the underlying issues at stake. Numerous Trump administration officials have denied in recent days that systemic racism is a problem in law enforcement…

“This is a movement that’s questioning the power of the state — the power of the police to kill people,” GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a frequent Trump critic, told me. “These young people are seeing this up close.”

Wilson added that many young people are experiencing this political movement in an “intimate” way, noting that its “size and demographics” threaten to usher in a “disastrous political moment” for Republicans.

“This has the potential to shape 20 years of American politics,” Wilson told me. “It’s got every downside in the world built into it for the GOP.”

17) This was interesting and I approve.  “NC State ends partnership with CPI Security over its CEO’s police brutality email”  CPI Security has the right to have a racist CEO and to sell security, but NC State can partner with many private companies that don’t.

18) I have sooo many thoughts on NYT and James Bennet and have really tried to read widely from people I respect.  I think it is a perfectly reasonable argument that NYT should not have run Cotton’s Op-Ed (though, I think there’s real value in seeing how people like Cotton think and present their case to a broad audience), but I think it way beyond the pale that Bennet lost his job for this.  I generally love David Roberts and he makes some good points, “The Tom Cotton op-ed affair shows why the media must defend America’s values: It cannot remain neutral when those values are under threat from racialized authoritarianism.”

There clearly are boundaries. The Times would not publish an op-ed advocating for a return to chattel slavery in the US. Presumably no mainstream US publication would. If it was found that a US senator (or a group of them) believed in the return of slavery, the Times would not give the senator space to make his case in the op-ed section. It would assign reporters to cover the story, like a scandal.

That slavery is abhorrent is taken as a background assumption informing coverage, not a subject of legitimate debate in which both sides deserve a hearing.

So the question is where are the boundaries and, just as importantly, who draws them? Who decides what is in bounds and out of bounds? Is it the press’s job to draw those lines and defend those boundaries?

These questions are at the heart of the Cotton affair, and they have haunted all of journalism since Donald Trump became president.

I’ll argue in this post that Cotton’s op-ed doesn’t meet the Times’s standards, not only because it contains inaccuracies but because it reflects a worldview incompatible with the baseline small-l liberal values that make the Times’s work, and journalism generally, possible.

That doesn’t just pose problems for the opinion side of the news business; it’s an even bigger challenge for the news side, which has been habituated to a notion of “objectivity” that makes telling the real story impossible.

The movement Trump represents, of which Cotton is an aspiring leader, has drifted into a racialized authoritarianism that is increasingly incompatible with liberal democracy. And because it is part of the core purpose of journalism to defend liberal democracy, that is the story it should tell…

The small-l liberal model is roughly as follows: Certain shared values and rules, enshrined in America’s founding documents and developed in its social and legal traditions, define the small-d democratic playing field. Values like respect for accuracy and shared facts, devotion to equality under law and democratic participation, and opposition to unlawful power are necessary to create a level playing field, but on that field, ideas about government and issues of the day should compete on merit. The more speech the better; let the best speech win. (Obviously I’m describing the liberal ideal, never actually reached in practice, either journalistically or politically.)

These videos show the police aren’t neutral. They’re counterprotesters.
To act with good faith in this model is to accept those shared values, rules, and norms and agree to compete within the boundaries of the playing field — to play by the rules. The marketplace of ideas only works if it is open to any idea that conforms to those rules and closed to ideas that reject them.

Here’s the thing, though. While Cotton very deftly exploited the liberal tolerance that Sulzberger and Bennet are so proud of to get his piece published, he does not share that tolerance. The movement he represents — he is often identified as the “future of Trumpism” — is ethnocentric and authoritarian. It is about maintaining the power and status of rural and suburban white people, even as they dwindle demographically, by allying with large corporate interests and using the levers of government to entrench minority rule.

Such a movement is incommensurate with the shared premises that small-l liberals take for granted. Minority rule is incompatible with full democratic participation. A revanchist movement meant to restore power to a privileged herrenvolk cannot abide shared standards of accuracy or conduct. Will to power takes precedent over any principle.

By Sulzberger’s standard, the GOP is not acting, and cannot act, in good faith.

Those are strong arguments and Roberts makes a good case.  But, I don’t think that gets to Bennet should have been fired.

19) Also have great respect for Brian Beutler

The more constructive admission came not from the Times public relations team, but from one of Bennet’s deputies and supporters, Bari Weiss, who wrote, “I agree with our critics that it’s a dodge to say ‘we want a totally open marketplace of ideas!’ There are limits. Obviously. The question is: does his view fall outside those limits? Maybe the answer is yes. If the answer is yes, it means that the view of more than half of Americans are unacceptable. And perhaps they are.”

This gets much, much closer to the core of the controversy. Many supporters of the decision to run the Cotton piece have cast their defenses in self-congratulatory language. They are willing to brook dangerous ideas, even emboss them with the imprimatur of the Times, because they are enlightened and unafraid. Yet once the Times’s critics and supporters have agreed that some ideas do not deserve to be amplified by the New York Times opinion section, we’re left with an argument over where the stewards of that institution should draw the line. The revolt over the Cotton op-ed wasn’t about the quality of Cotton’s prose. It was about placing the boundary at the maintenance of hard-won rights like free assembly and self-governance, rights that are now under increasing attack.

Times defenders have yet to be so specific, and so their collective paean to reasoned debate is artifice—one that barely obscures a willingness to surrender sound judgment in order to accommodate people of bad faith. It’s easy to articulate repellent ideas and deem them to fall outside the sphere of democratic debate. It’s easy to say the Times would never publish an op-ed that promoted genocide or the forced sterilization of minorities, while ignoring edge cases rooted in the reality of American politics today. It’s much more difficult to articulate principles that are endangered right now and defend them, because it’s impossible to know just how depraved and illiberal the right will become as it continues its march into authoritarianism.

The question for Times opinion editors and the rest of civil society is whether they want to remain so irresolute that they continue to allow the right to push the boundaries of legitimate debate further into anti-democratic terrain, simply because a disconcerting number of Americans will be along for the ride. It isn’t hard to play the default position forward to very dark places. Amid plague conditions, President Trump has declared that if Democratic states and cities facilitate absentee voting, the election won’t be legitimate. His assault on voting by mail is based on a lie, yet plenty of conservatives, including some who work for Trump and would happily write under his byline, could draft an op-ed consistent with Times editorial standards, arguing Trump is right to question the outcome of the election if absentee voting becomes the rule rather than the exception.

Again, a strong case.  I still might take the other side on this particular Op-Ed, but a good argument.  I still don’t think it gets us anywhere near Bennet should have been fired.

20) So, I’ll leave off with this.  I feel like Matt Taibbi has been more interested in trolling liberals than useful critiques of late, but I think he’s damn right here, “The American Press Is Destroying Itself” as he gets directly to the issue of not just what is published, but the firings, pile-ons, and shamings.  I think he goes a little too far in attributing good faith to Cotton, but, I also think most of the Cotton complaints come from non-readings and wildly bad-faith readings.

On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.

The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.

They’ve conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it’s established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” out loud to a data scientist fired* from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones!

Now, this madness is coming for journalism. Beginning on Friday, June 5th, a series of controversies rocked the media. By my count, at least eight news organizations dealt with internal uprisings (it was likely more). Most involved groups of reporters and staffers demanding the firing or reprimand of colleagues who’d made politically “problematic” editorial or social media decisions…

In the most discussed incident, Times editorial page editor James Bennet was ousted for green-lighting an anti-protest editorial by Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton entitled, “Send in the troops.”

I’m no fan of Cotton, but as was the case with Michael Moore’s documentary and many other controversial speech episodes, it’s not clear that many of the people angriest about the piece in question even read it. In classic Times fashion, the paper has already scrubbed a mistake they made misreporting what their own editorial said, in an article about Bennet’s ouster. Here’s how the piece by Marc Tracy read originally (emphasis mine):

James Bennet, the editorial page editor of The New York Times, has resigned after a controversy over an Op-Ed by a senator calling for military force against protesters in American cities.

Here’s how the piece reads now:

James Bennet resigned on Sunday from his job as the editorial page editor of The New York Times, days after the newspaper’s opinion section, which he oversaw, published a much-criticized Op-Ed by a United States senator calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities.

Cotton did not call for “military force against protesters in American cities.” He spoke of a “show of force,” to rectify a situation a significant portion of the country saw as spiraling out of control. It’s an important distinction. Cotton was presenting one side of the most important question on the most important issue of a critically important day in American history…

The main thing accomplished by removing those types of editorials from newspapers — apart from scaring the hell out of editors — is to shield readers from knowledge of what a major segment of American society is thinking.

It also guarantees that opinion writers and editors alike will shape views to avoid upsetting colleagues, which means that instead of hearing what our differences are and how we might address those issues, newspaper readers will instead be presented with page after page of people professing to agree with one another. That’s not agitation, that’s misinformation.

How to truly reform policing

With so many municipalities clearly thinking about this now, it’s great that we clearly have a terrific model in what they did in Camden, New Jersey.  Other cities around the country can and should do this:

Activists across the country are calling for radical reforms to policing in the U.S., including abolishing the police entirely.

Camden, N.J., took its own big step in 2013. The city was in a public safety crisis, with murder rates 18 times the national average and scores of excessive-force complaints, when the mayor and City Council dissolved the existing police department and created a countywide force in its place.

A majority of the police were rehired, but each had to complete a 50-page application, retake psychological testing and go through an interview process, former police Chief Scott Thomson said. He led the county police from 2013 to 2019 and the city’s force before then.

The department instituted other changes, including putting more officers on the street on a regular basis, getting to know the community and changing the way an officer’s performance was measured — not by the number of arrests or tickets issued, but other outcomes.

“When I drove down city streets, I wanted to see little kids riding a bicycle in front of their homes, and I wanted to see people sitting on their front steps,” Thomson told Mary Louise Kelly on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Homicides have gone down from 67 in 2012 to 25 in 2019. Excessive-force complaints went from 65 in 2012 to three last year, Thomson said.

The changes are far from the radical defunding proposed by activists today. But Thomson echoed many of their points.

“A police is only effective if it has the consent of the people. And to have the consent of the people, you have to be legitimate,” he said. “As a police leader, I say, what is the harm with giving them voice, allowing them to come in and be a part of the process? And all the while, it gives us the ability to have the dialogue and the education, in both directions, of how difficult and challenging situations can be better resolved.”

What’s awesome about this is that also is exactly what CIA agent turned the cop every police office should aspire to be, Patrick Skinner, has been preaching about for the past week:

I’m now a cop in my hometown, Savannah, Ga., and I don’t want to fight another war — our “war on crime.” But I’m not going anywhere. I’m just speaking up, to propose that we end what never was a war to begin with. We need to change our mind-set about what it means to “police” in America. At this moment of maximal national tension and outrage, when national leaders are calling the streets of America a “battlespace,” with police officers as warriors who should “dominate” and give “no quarter,” I am telling whoever will listen: Police are not warriors — because we are not and must not be at war with our neighbors.

For decades, the United States has funded and created police departments that resemble occupying military forces, unable to protect and serve. We armed ourselves literally and spiritually for a war on crime, and to quote Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, “And the war came.” What we now see deployed in many cities and towns is anti-policing. It’s the death of true community police work and, too often, the death of our neighbors. The well-documented militarization of American police departments has inevitably produced officers who see themselves and their roles as “warriors” or “punishers” or “sheepdogs.” Much of what our society finds so distressing and unacceptable in police interactions with their neighbors — disrespect, anger, frustration and violence — is not a result of “flawed” training; it’s a result of training for war…

As I got better at being a rookie cop, I kept asking myself this question: “If I didn’t have a badge and a gun, how would I handle this call?” Whatever I came up with that was legal, transparent and kind, I would try. Mostly, that just meant listening to people, letting them vent and slowing everything down. I’m not saying police should not have a badge and a gun, I’m just saying that we must not rely on them. It also placed on me the rightful burden of not bringing what I call “drama” to my calls. If there was going to be violence, it wouldn’t start with me. I wasn’t worried if a use of force was justified; that was the lowest of legal and ethical bars to meet. I obsessed about whether it was inevitable or whether I could do something to avoid it.

We can do this.  Police unions make it hard.  Donald Trump and a Republican Senate make it hard (but, that should, hopefully, be different in 2021), but we can do this.  And we have to do this.

Bad Apples

OMG this New Yorker piece on “how apples go bad” is actually about apples.  Doesn’t even obliquely mention police.  But wow.  Read it.

The closer an apple is to rot, the more rot it spreads—one spoiling apple, in a crisper drawer or a fruit bowl, or a storage barrel or a cross-country shipping container, or even still hanging on the bough, speeds the rot of every apple it touches, and even of ones it doesn’t touch. The whole bunch quickly begins to exemplify what the artist Claes Oldenburg called “the brown sad art of rotting apples”: a swamp of ferment, infecting the air with the hideous sweetness of decay. Chaucer was likely the first to write a version of the now commonplace proverb: “A rotten apple’s better thrown away / Before it spoils the barrel.” But I’m partial to Benjamin Franklin’s version: “The rotten apple spoils his companions.” The saying is often used to refer to the corruption of select individuals within a group. But the point is the fruit’s susceptibility to collective rot.

“We are in the war zone against this disease,” George Sundin, a fruit-tree pathologist at Michigan State University, said in 2019, about fire blight, the most recent major threat to apples. The process of eradicating it “is not necessarily trial and error,” he added. “It is things we know are effective, but they need to be more effective. If the disease takes off, it can spread so quickly.” The only way to avoid rot is to be proactive: check every apple, every tree. At the first sight of something amiss—a bruise or broken skin, a sunken place—toss that apple out, but don’t stop there. Scrub all the others and monitor them closely, but know that it’s likely already too late. Better to trim and burn the infected branch, or even the whole tree.

And while we’re at it.  A couple items on metaphorical bad apples.

Police Unions.

This is how bad it is

Man, Clark Neily has just had it and lets loose, “America’s Criminal Justice System Is Rotten to the Core.”  Of course, he’s right.  There’s a reason that I say the unofficial title of my PS 313 is Criminal (In)Justice Policy.  Among other things, this is a completely on-point and succinct summary of our key failings:

Before you can fairly assess the legitimacy of the ongoing protests or the quality of the government’s response, you must understand the relevant facts. And the most relevant fact is that America’s criminal justice system is rotten to its core. Though that certainly does not justify the violence and wanton destruction of property perpetrated by far too many protesters, it does provide useful context for comprehending the intensity of their anger and the fecklessness of the government’s response. If America is burning, it is fair to say that America’s criminal justice system—which is itself a raging dumpster fire of injustice—lit the fuse…

As I will explain below, I see three fundamental pathologies in America’s criminal justice system that completely undermine its moral and political legitimacy and render it a menace to the very concept of constitutionally limited government. Those three pathologies are: (1) unconstitutional overcriminalization; (2) point‐​and‐​convict adjudication; and (3) near‐​zero accountability for police and prosecutors…

Thus, if you think of the criminal justice system as a massive woodchipper that sucks in people and spits out convicts, the jury trial was meant to be a kind of aperture‐​restrictor over the maw of that ravenous machine. Again, trial by jury is a relatively expensive and inefficient mechanism for adjudicating criminal charges, and it ensures that neither the government nor society at large takes lightly the act of condemning human beings and putting them in cages. Coercive plea bargaining represents the government’s success in prying off that aperture‐​restrictor to enable the criminal‐​justice woodchipper to operate at full capacity and ensure that America continues to have the highest incarceration rate in the world

3. Near‐​zero accountability for police and prosecutors. The third and final pathology of America’s criminal justice system that I will discuss here is our near‐​zero accountability policy for members of law enforcement, including particularly police and prosecutors. Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice has written extensively about the cornerstone of that policy, qualified immunity, in recent days, so I will cut to the chase.

The bottom line is this: American police and prosecutors wield extraordinary power over the lives of others—including even the power of life and death—and yet they are among among the least accountable people on the planet. And just because the killers of George Floyd are being prosecuted for murder, no one should be fooled into supposing that that would have happened without a viral video of the incident, or if the officers’ violent assault had merely injured Floyd instead of killing him. The reality is that police are almost never prosecuted for the crimes they commit under color of law, and the judiciary (starting to see a theme here?) has helped ensure that other avenues of accountability, including particularly the ability to bring civil‐​damages claims, are largely toothless.

Notably, what makes that fundamental lack of accountability particularly galling is that police and prosecutors are in the accountability business—for other people.

Damn good stuff.  Safe to say that’s going into a syllabus or two in the future.  

Relatedly, had a great moment today when my 84-year old, not-really-racist, but certainly not-really-racially-progressive father said he wished he had been able to go the protests in DC.  In response to my sister’s “why dad?” (on a family Zoom call) we got “Black Lives Matter.”  Never really thought I’d hear my dad earnestly state that phrase.  A very cool moment.  

It’s great to see that people like my dad, who definitely leans towards order and authority (my mom used to always joke that he’d have made a good Nazi if he wasn’t Jewish), actually gets it.

And, as far as getting it.  Radley Balko recently re-shared his column thoroughly documenting the copious and overwhelming evidence of systemic racism in our criminal justice system.  Also into the future syllabus, “There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal-justice system is racist. Here’s the proof.”

Of particular concern to some on the right is the term “systemic racism,” often wrongly interpreted as an accusation that everyone in the system is racist. In fact, systemic racism means almost the opposite. It means that we have systems and institutions that produce racially disparate outcomes, regardless of the intentions of the people who work within them. When you consider that much of the criminal-justice system was built, honed and firmly established during the Jim Crow era — an era almost everyone, conservatives included, will concede rife with racism — this is pretty intuitive. The modern criminal-justice system helped preserve racial order — it kept black people in their place. For much of the early 20th century, in some parts of the country, that was its primary function. That it might retain some of those proclivities today shouldn’t be all that surprising.

In any case, after more than a decade covering these issues, it’s pretty clear to me that the evidence of racial bias in our criminal-justice system isn’t just convincing — it’s overwhelming. But because there still seems to be some skepticism, I’ve attempted below to catalog the evidence. The list below isn’t remotely comprehensive. And if you know of other studies, please send them to me. I would like to make this post a repository for this issue.

Anyway, that’s where are.  And it’s sad and depressing.  And, yet, in my years of teaching about criminal justice never have I been more optimistic that meaningful change is on the way.  I’d like to think I’ll be teaching a very different PS 313 Criminal Justice Policy class in 2040 and look back and tell my students about the amazing/totally-crazy summer of 2020 when things began to really change. 

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