(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.

Masks, race, and my research

So, I’ve been holding off on posting about this, but I’ve been involved in some super-duper cool research on Covid for the past month.  First, the abstract of the working paper:

To contain the spread of COVID-19, experts emphasize the importance of wearing masks. Unfortunately, this practice may put blacks at elevated risk for being seen as potential threats by some Americans. In this study, we evaluate whether and how different types of masks affect perceptions of threat for a black male model and a white male model. We find that non-black respondents perceive a black model as more threatening when he is wearing a bandana or a homemade cloth mask relative to wearing no mask at all. However, they do not perceive him as more threatening when he is wearing a surgical mask. As expected, these effects are especially pronounced in non-black respondents who score high in racial resentment, a common social scientific measure of racial bias. Further, it is not that high racial resentment non-black respondents find bandana and cloth masks more threatening in general. Our results suggest that they do not view a white male model as more threatening when he is wearing these types of masks. Though mandated mask wearing is an ostensibly race-neutral policy, our findings demonstrate the potential implications are far from race-neutral.

And, because you know my obsession with Covid and masks, a little backstory.  So, I learned via a couple sources that Marc Hetherington one of my favorite political scientists (you’ll find multiple references to his great book, Prius or Pickup in this blog) and absolutely one of the nicest people I know, was working on a series of ongoing surveys on Covid.  Hoping to make a small bit of real-world impact, I emailed Marc with a couple of suggestions that I thought it might be nice for him to think about for the next iteration of the survey.  Marc, being the super-gracious guy that he is, immediately invited me to be part of the UNC Covid survey research team.  This has been an absolute professional highlight for me.  It’s so great to put my Covid obsession to some good use and it’s been amazing to collaborate with so many of the great Political Science minds at UNC.

Marc, a couple of really smart and talented PhD Candidates (Leah Christiani and Emily Wager), and another great UNC professor, Chris Clark (who, in addition to being super-smart and super-nice, brought a very real first-person perspective to the complicated issue for black men of wearing masks), had already been thinking about masks and race and I was able to join them in crafting and implementing the mask experiment described above.  Here’s a cool chart Marc made to summarize our key results:

When we finished a draft last week, I got in touch with the local news station and the reporter there was terrific and turned it into an excellent story (downside of the Zoom interview is that my stupid HD camera wouldn’t work and I’m only SD in this interview).

A new study suggests Black people are perceived to be more threatening when they wear a bandana or cloth face covering instead of a surgical mask.

With a statewide requirement that people cover their faces in public to limit the spread of coronavirus taking effect Friday, researchers say they hope their findings affect state actions.

“There’s a lot of prejudice and discrimination out there, and African-Americans are more likely, it seems, to face that when wearing a bandana or a cloth mask face covering,” said Steve Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.

Greene and researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were part of a team that surveyed 2,400 non-Black people nationwide.

They found that a Black and a white model were viewed 5 percent more untrustworthy and more threatening while wearing a bandana than when wearing a surgical mask. But when researchers zeroed in on respondents who identified as having negative racial views, the white model stayed at 5 percent and the Black model jumped to 9 percent more untrustworthy and 12 percent more threatening with a bandana.

“By comparing the results to the white model, we were able to show it’s not just, ‘Well, people don’t like bandanas and cloth masks,'” Greene said. “People don’t like bandanas and cloth face coverings on a Black man, in particular.”

While the bandana was unfavorable, the Black model was viewed essentially the same while wearing a surgical mask as when he wore no mask at all. Greene said the results are linked to stereotypes.

Meanwhile, Marc worked his contact at 538, which got us great coverage there today (we were part of the lead story on the site for a while).

A new study underscores just how widespread this kind of profiling could be. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that in a survey experiment, non-Black respondents who scored high in racial resentment — a measure that’s designed to assess negative attitudes toward people of color — were much likelier to perceive a young Black man as threatening or untrustworthy if he was wearing a homemade mask or a bandanna, compared to a white man around the same age.

“There’s no doubt at this point that masks keep people safer from COVID-19,” said Marc Hetherington, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina and one of the authors of the study. “But certain types of masks may also be putting young Black men in danger of harassment or profiling.”

Researchers had all respondents read a short fictitious news story about a young man who said he had been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the photo of the man that accompanied the narrative varied by race (white or Black) and face covering. In some pictures, the man was wearing no mask; in others, he was wearing a surgical mask, a homemade cloth mask or a bandanna.

The respondents were then asked to rate how “threatening” and “trustworthy” the young man was. The study found that non-Black respondents who scored high in racial resentment were significantly more likely to say the young Black man was threatening or untrustworthy when he was wearing the bandanna or the homemade mask. Michael Jeffries, a professor of American studies at Wellesley College, said this study further affirms the fears of Black people wearing certain masks in public. “Our reactions are based on the way that we’re treated. These are not figments of our imagination.”

We’ll be sending the paper of for an expedited Covid review, soon, but regardless of when or where it’s published, it’s been amazing to work on this.

And, even more cool stuff to come from working with the UNC Covid project– watch this space :-).

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.”

Quick hits (part I)

1) Chait is right– Biden is running a good campaign:

It would obviously be a fallacy to attribute Biden’s current lead entirely, or even mostly, to his campaign strategy. The polls primarily reflect a massive public repudiation of Donald Trump’s presidency. But Biden is also doing some things right.

For all the derision that has surrounded Biden’s generally low profile, it is the broadly correct move. Trump is and always has been deeply unpopular. He managed to overcome this handicap in 2016 because Hillary Clinton was also deeply unpopular, though somewhat less so, and turning the election into a choice allowed anti-Clinton sentiment to overpower anti-Trump sentiment. The fact that Biden has attracted less attention than Trump is not (as many Democrats have fretted) a failure. It is a strategic choice, and a broadly correct one.

And third, Biden has managed to communicate a coherent campaign theme. This is often a challenge for Democrats, who usually want to change a whole bunch of policies (health care! environment! progressive taxation!) that resist a simple unifying slogan. But Biden has been able to carry forward the message he used to start his campaign, which he built around Trump’s shocking embrace of racist supporters at Charlottesville, into a promise of healing racist divisions.

Biden surely benefitted from good luck, in that he chose a theme more than a year ago that happened to anticipate the current massive social upheaval. But it wasn’t just luck to predict that Trump’s divisive racism would continue to flare up. Instead, pundits have repeatedly predicted that Trump would use Nixonian law-and-order themes to rally a silent majority against Black Lives Matter protests.

The reality is that the silent majority supports the protesters. Fifty-seven percent of respondents tell the New York Times they “support the demonstrations because they’re mainly peaceful protests with an important message,” while only 38 percent say they “oppose the demonstrations because too many have turned to violent rioting.” More revealingly, the public believes by an overwhelming margin that “George Floyd’s death is part of a broader pattern of excessive police violence toward African-Americans,” and not that it was “an isolated incident.”

The protesters deserve a great deal of credit for using Floyd’s tragic death to highlight broader injustice, and to do a good-enough job of limiting disorder and looting to allow their overwhelmingly peaceful message to come through. But Biden has also done an effective job of using the most popular parts of the protesters’ message while distancing himself from its unpopular elements. Biden speaks for the transracial majority that supports systematic police reform and opposes defunding the cops. Trump is left to represent the minority that sees Floyd’s death as an outlier requiring no serious changes.

Electability was a subject of bitter contention during the Democratic primary. Many progressive critics argued either that electability is inherently unknowable, or that the key electability dynamic was the ability to motivate left-wingers who might otherwise not vote. Instead, Biden’s campaign seems to be vindicating a more conventional theory of the case. He has appealed to progressives by adopting some of the most popular pieces of their program, while steering clear of its controversial aspects. And he is winning in the very conventional way: by stealing voters in the middle who are conflicted.

Those conflicted voters tend to give Trump high marks for his handling of the economy, but recoil at his ugly persona. A Democratic campaign premised on transformational economic change would have given Trump the chance to make those voters choose between style and (what they perceive as) substance. Biden from the beginning has tailored his message precisely for what they want: a president who will act like a president without scaring people about the pace and extent of social and economic change.

Biden is running on a progressive platform — more progressive than most people think, and almost certainly more progressive than even a fully Democratic Congress would pass into law. But his choice to avoid unpopular issues (Medicare for All, the Green New Deal) — which the left assailed not only on substantive terms but as a bad choice that would deflate his voters — is looking shrewder than ever.

Biden probably wouldn’t be fielding rapturous mass rallies even if there was no virus. Nor has he inspired armies of idealistic volunteers. But all the evidence we have suggests Biden actually knows what he’s doing.

2) Dr Robert Gallo (yes, you should know that name) argues for using the oral polio vaccine until we get a Covid vaccine.  I think he’s right.

Virtually all vaccines under investigation target the “spike” protein that is used by the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2, for cell entry. What’s Plan B if the antibodies to the spike protein are not durable or if the spike protein mutates, as has been seen in some studies?

To get over the gap until we have a proven, effective, classic vaccine, which gives specific antibodies and specific cellular immunity, we believe that an immediately available and promising approach involves stimulating the body’s own innate immune system to do the job.

O.P.V. may not offer permanent immunity to Covid-19, but preliminary research from many investigators suggests that it will be effective for long enough to minimize the risk of people being infected for months when they return to work, and immunity could be sustained by periodic booster doses until a more permanent vaccine is developed and available.

3) Nice summary from the people at UCSF on the efficacy of face masks.

4) I loved this article about using your kids innate self-righteousness to encourage mask-wearing because it is so my kids:

With states in various stages of reopening, the challenge we face right now is to hold on to the hard-won gains from staying home and shutting down, and to avoid increased transmission. Masks are a big part of the solution.

Older children can be a little cranky about adapting to life with masks, but younger children are perfectly placed to learn a new drill. They can be the family monitors, reminding their parents not to forget their face coverings when they leave the house, nudging them to pull up face coverings that slide down off their noses, sitting in disapproving judgment on naked-faced runners or puffing smokers who come too close.

Most children enjoy the chance to feel morally superior to adults (and adults often make this all too easy); go ahead and encourage a little righteousness. Remind them that they’re smarter than these grown-ups who are not protecting others and not protecting themselves; masks do both.

5) I guess they needed this headline, but you don’t need any time in medical school to know this will be utterly true, “Breakthrough Drug for Covid-19 May Be Risky for Mild Cases
That study about dexamethasone has arrived with a big asterisk: While it appears to help severely ill patients, it harms others.”  If you have medical knowledge at all, you know that the Dex is for the over-active immune cytokine storm because it’s an immunosuppressant.  But, obviously, if your immune system is not over-reacting, you don’t want to actually dampen the reaction to Covid.  Dex is clearly good for severe cases with cytokine storm, but it was never going to be anything but that.

6) Soviet vaccine history roots of using oral polio vaccine for Covid.

7) Umm, much like the overly long WP article on blackface, this NY Magazine piece is too long, “Why Did the Washington Post Get This Woman Fired?” but still pretty interesting.

8) I’ve been doing a lot of research on masks lately (more to come on that soon).  Unrelated to my research, but related to life, I found this about speech perception and surgical masks pretty interesting:

Surgical masks and blood shields worn by anesthesiologists and surgeons in hospital operating rooms negatively impact speech communication and put patients at needless risk. Young adult subjects listened to sentences from the Speech Perception in Noise Test (SPIN) recorded by a male and female talker. All eight SPIN lists were recorded under three different speaking conditions: 1) speaking normally without any obstruction, 2) wearing a typical surgical mask, and 3) wearing a surgical mask with an attached blood shield. Multi-talker babble was mixed with the SPIN sentences at the signal-to-noise ratio of 0dB to simulate conversation in noisy environments. Speaker gender and recording conditions were counterbalanced across listeners to control for learning and fatigue effects. SPIN test scores for each of the three types of recordings and talker genders were compared in order to determine the degradation that blood-shields and surgical masks have speech communication in the operating room. The data suggests that surgical masks, in particular the blood shields, negatively impact speech communication. Percent correct is the highest for the unmasked condition, followed by the masked condition, and poorest in the mask and attached blood shield condition.

9) And a different study with an opposite conclusion:

Results:

A significant difference was found in the spectral analyses of the speech stimuli with and without the mask. The presence of a surgical mask, however, did not have a detrimental effect on speech understanding in either the normal-hearing or hearing-impaired groups. The dental office noise did have a significant effect on speech understanding for both groups.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that the presence of a surgical mask did not negatively affect speech understanding. However, the presence of noise did have a deleterious effect on speech perception and warrants further attention in health-care environments.

10) I just love stuff like this, “Ancient Rome Was Teetering. Then a Volcano Erupted 6,000 Miles Away. Scientists have linked historical political instability to a number of volcanic events, the latest involving an eruption in the Aleutian Islands.”

This eruption was one of the largest of the last few millenniums, Dr. McConnell and his collaborators concluded, and the sulfate aerosols it created remained in the stratosphere for several years. These tiny particles are particularly good at reflecting sunlight, which means they can temporarily alter Earth’s climate.

“They’ve created, for a short term, global cooling events,” said Jessica Ball, a volcanologist at the California Volcano Observatory, who was not involved in the research.

There’s good evidence that the Northern Hemisphere was colder than normal around 43 B.C. Trees across Europe grew more slowly that year, and a pine forest in North America experienced an unusually early autumn freeze. Using climate models to simulate the impact of an Okmok eruption, Dr. McConnell and his collaborators estimated that parts of the Mediterranean, roughly 6,000 miles away, would have cooled by as much as 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It was bloody cold,” Dr. McConnell said.

Rain patterns changed as well — some regions would have been drenched by 400 percent more precipitation than normal, the modeling revealed.

That climate shock came at precisely the wrong time, Dr. Clark said. “This was a period of Mediterranean-wide political, social and economic upheaval.”

These cold, wet conditions would have almost certainly decimated crops, Dr. McConnell and his colleagues said. Historical records compiled by Roman writers and philosophers note food shortages and famines. In 43 B.C., Mark Antony, the Roman military leader, and his army had to subsist on wild fruit, roots, bark and “animals never tasted before,” the philosopher Plutarch wrote.

11) Strongly suspect this is true, “Biden’s VP Selection is Unlikely to Have Much of an Effect on the Dynamics of the Race”

12) Great piece from Nate Cohn on the methodology of NYT polls that really helps you understand how poll quality varies so much.

13) Great stuff from Serwer on Trump’s struggles to attack Biden:

Four years later, Trump is hoping to ride the same wave of anger, fear, and resentment to a second term.

There’s only one problem: His opponent is Joe Biden.

For the past few months, Trump and the conservative propaganda apparatus have struggled to make the old race-and-gender-baiting rhetoric stick to Biden. But voters don’t appear to believe that Biden is an avatar of the “radical left.” They don’t think Biden is going to lock up your manhood in a “testicle lockbox.” They don’t buy that Biden’s platform, which is well to the left of the ticket he joined in 2008, represents a quiet adherence to “Kenyan anti-colonialism.” Part of this is that Biden has embraced popular liberal positions while avoiding the incentive to adopt more controversial or unpopular positions during the primary. But it’s also becoming clear that after 12 years of feasting on white identity politics with a black man and a woman as its preeminent villains, the Republican Party is struggling to run its Obama-era culture-war playbook against an old, moderate white guy.

The president’s sparsely attended rally in Oklahoma on Saturday was a showcase for Trump’s blunted arsenal. He warned that “the unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our beautiful monuments,” to “tear down our statues and punish, cancel, and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control.” He warned that the left wants to “defund and dissolve our police departments.” He fantasized about a “tough hombre” breaking into your home at night, warned that Biden was a “puppet of China,” called the coronavirus the “kung flu,” and complained that Democrats had objected to his characterization of some undocumented immigrants as animals (Trump later claimed he was exclusively referring to MS-13 gang members).

But even Trump didn’t really buy it.

“Joe Biden is a puppet of the radical left,” Trump said, before acknowledging that “he’s not radical left. I don’t think he knows what he is anymore. But he was never radical left.”

Trump’s supporters are having similar trouble talking themselves into believing Joe Biden is the apocalypse. In 2016, an unlimited variety of merchandise and swag referring to Hillary Clinton in unprintable sexist terms was available at every Trump rally. In 2020, Trump fans cannot even come up with Biden T-shirts to sell. Biden has been eating into Trump’s support among older voters and even among white evangelicals, a group Biden cannot expect to win but whose support Trump cannot afford to allow to slip. When the Fox News host Laura Ingraham warns that Biden “will just melt for the macchiato Marxists,” you can sense the weariness of a tired stand-up comic clinging to a set that no longer makes anyone laugh…

Although Democrats may take heart from Republicans’ difficulty in deploying their traditional culture-war playbook against Biden, that very difficulty illustrates how embedded racism and sexism remain in American society. Biden himself mused last year, “I think there’s a lot of sexism in the way they went after Hillary. I think it was unfair. An awful lot of it. Well, that’s not gonna happen with me.”

Biden’s electability pitch was not just about being moderate relative to the rest of the primary field, but also about being a straight, Christian, white man, one whom Republicans would find difficult to paint as a dire threat to America as conservative white voters understand it. While Biden’s campaign struggled in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, one black voter told The New York Times, “Black voters know white voters better than white voters know themselves. So yeah, we’ll back Biden, because we know who white America will vote for in the general election in a way they may not tell a pollster or the media.” In the primary, Biden’s strength, particularly with older black voters, seemed to stem not only from his long-term relationships with black leaders or his association with Obama, but from voters’ perception that his background makes him ideally suited to halt Trumpism before it turns into the kind of decades-long backlash that followed the civil-rights movement.

Their bet on Biden as the candidate best positioned to neutralize Trump’s white identity politics appears to be paying off for the moment.

14) This thread from Bob Wachter, especially how he uses Pueyo’s hammer and dance metaphor, is so good.  Read it.

We’re under-estimating costs and over-estimating benefits of keeping schools closed

Damn, that title felt good to type.  Am I confident that we should just re-open schools in August?  No.  Am I confident that we are under-estimating the costs?  Hell, yeah.  Am I confident that we are over-stating the benefits?  Moderately.  Love this Olga Khazan article for, appropriately, bringing this broader cost/benefit framework to thinking about schools:

Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University and a leading expert on the coronavirus, is one of a number of scientists vocally advocating for summer camps and schools to reopen, with some precautions, even if there’s no vaccine yet. “The idea of keeping kids at home, and having parents work at home, for however long, until we get a vaccine,” Nuzzo told me, “it seems to me that there are harms that kids are experiencing that we are not accounting for.”

But beyond relieving exasperated parents, in-person schooling confers all sorts of societal benefits that students are currently missing. With schools shifted to distance learning, 7 million kids have been stuck at home without the internet they need for their Zoom lessons. Research suggests that some low-income students are losing a year of academic gains. School feeds kids; it socializes them. There are good schools and bad schools, but even the worst ones tend to be better than no school at all.

Apart from the benefits of school, the reopeners point to evidence that children are less affected by the coronavirus than adults are. A recent study in Nature found that children and teenagers are only about half as likely as adults to get infected with the coronavirus. Though the long-term implications of a mild case of COVID-19 are still not known, when kids do get infected, only 21 percent show symptoms, compared with 69 percent of infected adults over 70. In May, some parents worried for their kids’ safety when about 100 children in the U.S. came down with a delayed, severe reaction to the coronavirus called “multisystem inflammatory syndrome.” Reopeners say this disorder has been so rare as to be worth the risk.

While more than 120,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, only about two dozen deaths have been children under the age of 15. Meanwhile, more than 1,700 children die in the United States each year from child abuse and neglect—two issues that have been harder for children to report while they haven’t been seeing teachers regularly…

The decision of whether to open up schools is going to take a clear-eyed assessment of all the risks. The way Nuzzo sees it, we have to think about not only the societal health benefits of keeping a generation of kids at home for a year, but also the detriment to kids of doing so. And so far, she thinks we’ve been underestimating the detriment part of the equation.

And Emily Oster:

What might we hope to see here? If online learning was basically just as productive as in-school learning, we wouldn’t expect to see a reduction in badges earned. The line would just be flat around zero.

This does not seem to be the case at all. Even for students in the best off districts — the higher income ones — there is a reduction of about 10% in the badges earned and this seems to get even worse in the most recent weeks. For students in middle and lower income school districts, the results are a disaster. There appears to be about a 60% drop in badges earned. That is, kids in these districts are moving through the curriculum at less than half the pace they did while in school.

For a week or two, that might be a surmountable slowdown. But this is consistent over the entire period. It’s a third of the school year. If kids learn half as much math for that third of a year, they will be months behind when the next grade rolls around…

But what these graphs show me is that keeping schools closed is also not without very significant risks. The current cohort of kids has already experienced learning loss. Now imagine you keep schools closed for another year. That is a full year in which some schools see students learning less than half the math they should learn. There is every reason to believe, based on what we know from other data, that these kids will be less likely to complete high school, go to college, get good jobs and earn a living wage. They will be more likely to die sooner.

What these Opportunity Insights graphs tell me is that we have to find a way to improve learning outcomes and, realistically, I think this means we have to find a way to open schools. And yet we need to do it safely. I do not want to be a broken record, but it is a travesty that we are not collecting more data to understand how child care is spreading the virus. We must do this. It is simply not fair to children not to.

And, yes we do need more data on child care.  But the data so far suggest it is not a big spreader (and expecting a standard of zero transmission anywhere is silly).

Of course kids transmit the virus.  But the best evidence now is that they transmit it at substantially lower rates than adults do.  And that matters.  We also know that people over-react to dramatic cases of sick kids and that dramatic cases of sick kids are really, really rare.  My guess is that having schools open with additional precautions probably adds about .2-.4 to Rt (look at me talking like I’m an epidemiologist and I know what I’m talking about).  That’s not great, but not horrible, especially when properly weighed against the enormous costs not just to kids, but to how our society functions, of keeping schools closed.

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.

It’s all about science versus politics now

Yet even more good research on the power of masks to make all this so much better.  Nicely summarized by NC Policy Watch:

A recent study from researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University suggests that mask-wearing policies can dramatically reduce per capita death rates from COVID-19, based on an analysis of nearly 200 countries.

The article is currently in “pre-print,” meaning it hasn’t gone through the peer-review process that’s considered standard for published academic articles. But Jeremy Howard — a data scientist at the University of San Francisco who’s become well-known for his own review of evidence supporting face masks — called it a “stunning new analysis, based on incredibly thorough research” in a Tuesday tweet.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, reviewed the article Wednesday and called it a “rigorous, careful, controlled analysis” that “affirmed” current mask mandates — both in North Carolina and internationally — at a time when few other researchers have examined their effectiveness.

“It’s what we’ve been begging for for months,” Howard added in a separate phone interview. “It’s the closest thing we have now to very strong evidence that the use of masks has made a huge, enormous difference between the countries that did it early and the countries that did it late.”

The study, led by Dr. Christopher Leffler, an associate professor of ophthalmology at VCU, examined 198 countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19 but dramatically different death rates — from an average of 1 death per million people in “lower-mortality” countries to 94.2 deaths per million in “higher-mortality” countries. Researchers analyzed a range of public health factors to examine which had the biggest impact on the differences in death rates.

Several statistical models found that multiple factors contributed to COVID-19 deaths, including urbanization — how many people live in more densely populated cities — and the percentage of a country’s population over the age of 60. Factors such as obesity prevalence and other public health policies, including international travel restrictions, were also found to influence per-capita mortality rates in some models.

But mask use remained a strong contributing factor throughout multiple analyses. An initial examination of all 198 countries found that the per-capita mortality rate in places that weren’t recommending masks tended to increase each week by 54.3 percent. In countries recommending masks, the rate increased by just 8%.

The data shows that face coverings play a significant role even in countries with lockdown measures. There, the per-capita mortality rate tended to increase by just over 45% each week if social distancing restrictions weren’t accompanied by mask recommendations.

“They are the single most important variable that you can control,” Leffler said in a phone interview. “We have a graph that makes it very clear that mortality is hundreds of times lower if you use masks.” [emphasis mine]

As I wrote to DJC, who shared this with me:

We’ve got a moment here.  The science is increasingly clear.  Politics is increasingly divided.  Alas, we know from climate change how seriously our country takes the science.  It just kills me that this obvious solution is not happening because 40% of the country follows an overgrown toddler.

We’ll see some really interesting tests of politics versus science, though, as Democratic (i.e., science-believing) governors and mayors will be implementing required mask policies where Republicans fail to do so.  One big question is compliance and enforcement issues.  But, maybe, just maybe, if these Democratic-led areas can show a real, clear reduction in transmission versus the science-deniers, just maybe those science deniers will stop denying and follow suit.

And, because I’m at it.  John Pavlovitz on masks was great, “A Mask is a Stupid Hill to Die on, America”

  

   

 

Men are going to get us all killed

One of the more interesting sociological observations during Covid is the number of times I’ve been out running errands and we’ll see what is clearly a couple where the woman is wearing a mask, but not the man.  Ugh.

Political scientist Dan Cassino with some data showing the drop-off in mask-wearing among men:

Ugh– men.  But, maybe, the problem is just that men are more likely to be Republicans,  In part, but…

“men focused on their gender identity.”  So, it really is toxic masculinity that is killing us.  Get over it dudes!

A strategy for now

Damn, I’m really loving my daily dose of David Plotz.  Here he has some good thoughts on where we stand with Covid and what we should actually do now given the problematic political realities:

We’ve learned that:

  • The president and his administration are incapable of helping, and are even happy to promote viral spread with mass indoor rallies.
  • The vaunted federal government, which has the most expensive health and research infrastructure ever built, is slow, bad, and disorganized.
  • And most importantly, Americans have run out of patience with lockdowns, and don’t want to hear expert advice unless it’s clear and persuasive.

Given these three essential facts, what do we do? First, accept that Americans — or at least enough of them to determine the fate for all of us — won’t go back into a strict lockdown. Second, stop hoping to be rescued by contract-tracing and isolation. We missed our chance to build that capacity, and there are too many cases in most states for it to douse the outbreak now. (Though it could help limit outbreaks in defined areas with smaller caseloads.)

But now the good part! We can still move into a focused mitigation strategy. [emphasis in original]  We have also learned that:

  • outside is much safer than inside;
  • masking makes a huge difference;
  • distancing helps too;
  • talky gatherings and densely populated buildings super-spread the virus;
  • COVID-19 particularly endangers people with certain underlying medical conditions.

These five points are simple, and Americans can mostly abide by them without destroying their lives. States, local governments, and big companies can band together on a public awareness campaign that makes these five points — and critically — urges Americans to go out and live their lives [emphasis in original] while keeping them in mind. The campaign shouldn’t take the form of government order or even threat. It should come as friendly encouragement from trusted people in the community.

Even if this works, it won’t quench the virus. We’ve lost that battle. But it will reduce suffering and death, which is the best we can hope for.

His bullet on masking links to a Great Clips Missouri article.  Glad to see this getting more attention:

The result appears to be one of the clearest real-world examples of the ability of masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. It also highlights the challenges for public health officials around the world who at times have sounded ambivalent about masks as they are still trying to understand the threat from this new virus. Several new medical studies have shown support recently for the idea that masks work, yet going without a mask for some people can still seem like a badge of honor.

The sick hair stylist had worked eight shifts over nine days at a Great Clips on the city’s main commercial strip, despite showing symptoms, according to health officials.

The next day, a second stylist at the same Great Clips tested positive for the coronavirus. She’d worked on 56 clients.

The city faced a potentially huge outbreak, just two weeks after reopening barber shops and salons.

“Alarm bells went off,” Goddard said.

But then there were the face masks.

The only places that local health officials required face masks after reopening began May 4 were personal care shops, such as barber shops, nail salons and tattoo parlors.

At the local Great Clips, a sign alerted customers, “A mask is required to enter the salon.” A columnist for the local newspaper wrote about how he forgot to wear a mask when he visited that Great Clips in the days before the infections were made public and had to return to his car to put one on.

Still, at least 140 people had close contact with the two infected stylists — plus an estimated 200 to 300 more people had been inside the salon, according to Goddard…

Despite an offer of free testing, just 46 of the 140 Great Clips customers got tested. All were negative.

“We can’t compel them to test,” Goddard said.

Some people said they were too busy or they didn’t feel sick, he said. But he also suspected that some were afraid to get tested — because a positive result meant they would have to miss work.

Fourteen days after the second hair stylist tested positive, Goddard announced that there appeared to be no new infections from the Great Clips exposures. There had been a slight uptick in cases after Memorial Day, but they did not appear to be connected to the hair salon, Goddard said.

Trotman was excited. He plans to study the incident further and hopes to publish a study of the findings.

Ummm, seems like this is surely a case where government should be able to compel them to take a test given the incredibly high public health stakes.  So, we cannot truly know for sure, but, given what we know, this case is a huge piece of evidence for the value of masks.  And an important reason why I will confident teaching in a room full of them in Fall.

Where masks.  Avoid indoor crowds.  Avoid anything that could be a super-spreader event.  And we can actually make life more livable.

No mask? The cruelty/stupidity is the point

FB friend of mine just posted:

If most of your fellow human beings, as they do, believe that wearing a mask provides some measure of protection, and public health authorities repeatedly say it helps—that it might even help a lot—why not wear one as an act of common decency and regard for others, at a very small cost to yourself? When mixing among others, it seems like an act of basic courtesy to me.

Ummm, yep.  Of course, “courteous” is just a synonym for “stupid, liberal, sheep!” apparently.  Just so happened that my next tab had this great piece from Megan Garber from a couple weeks ago:

Viewed more than 6 million times since it was posted last week, the woman’s dramatic rejection of mask wearing is part of a burgeoning micro-genre: videos of the masklessthat double as portraits of stubbornness, of selfishness, of rugged individualism run amok. There’s the Costco shopper who refused to wear a mask in the warehouse, because, as he informed a crew member, “I woke up in a free country.” There’s the woman who cut a hole in the center of her mask because the fabric, she explained, made it “hard to breathe.” There’s the woman who informed a clerk at a California supermarket that, although the store’s policy required her to wear a mask, she would not be doing so, because of a “medical condition.” (Do not wonder what condition this might be: “I’m not required by HIPAA rules and regulations to disclose that,” she said.).

Masks are not empty symbols. Masks are tools of public health. The nation is nearing a grim and gutting milestone: Almost 100,000 Americans have now been killed by a virus that is transmitted, in part, through human breath. But not only does the president still refuse to model the very simple behavior that could help curb transmission of the illness; he also mocks those who do as arbiters of political correctness. He implies that mask-wearing is best understood as an act of personal brand management—a show like any other. One more virtue signal. One more act of smug condescension. The logic of political correctness, as he sees it, leaves no room for good faith, no space for altruism. It’s PR, all the way down. Asked why he refused to wear a mask during a visit to a Ford plant earlier this month, the president explained: “I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.” …

Rhetoric like this—the discourse that relies on trolling and triggering—is commonplace in American politics. Trump has made it more acute. His behavior suggests that, while others engage in virtue signaling, he will engage in the opposite. The historian David Perry, discussing vice signaling in 2018, framed the concept as an argument that “only losers care about stuff.” Vice signaling turns everything—even, and especially, matters of life and death—into an empty contest. Its rhetoric is intended, The Independentput it recently, “to create a community based on cruelty and disregard for others, which is proud of it at the same time.” But it also works as its own gesture of individualism: “The essential message of a vice signal,” the essayist K. Thor Jensen wrote in 2018, “is that it’s never you that needs to change—the world needs to change around you.”

Of course this toxic strain existed in American politics before Trump, but safe to say he thrives on it and exacerbates it and the whole damn country pays the consequences.

Just wear a mask already!!

There’s been a lot of really good research in just the past week about the efficacy of masks.  Jason Kottke has a great summary of the research:

The conclusion from a recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A:

We conclude that facemask use by the public, when used in combination with physical distancing or periods of lock-down, may provide an acceptable way of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and re-opening economic activity. These results are relevant to the developed as well as the developing world, where large numbers of people are resource poor, but fabrication of home-made, effective facemasks is possible. A key message from our analyses to aid the widespread adoption of facemasks would be: ‘my mask protects you, your mask protects me’.

From a Reuters report on the paper:

The research, led by scientists at the Britain’s Cambridge and Greenwich Universities, suggests lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but that even homemade masks can dramatically reduce transmission rates if enough people wear them in public.

“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said Richard Stutt, who co-led the study at Cambridge.

A pair of recent papers used the geographic differences in mask usage in Germany to gauge the effectiveness of masks in preventing the spread of Covid-19. Face Masks Considerably Reduce COVID-19 Cases in Germany:

We use the synthetic control method to analyze the effect of face masks on the spread of Covid-19 in Germany. Our identification approach exploits regional variation in the point in time when face masks became compulsory. Depending on the region we analyse, we find that face masks reduced the cumulative number of registered Covid-19 cases between 2.3% and 13% over a period of 10 days after they became compulsory. Assessing the credibility of the various estimates, we conclude that face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%.

And Compulsory face mask policies do not affect community mobility in Germany suggests that people don’t go out more or “feel invincible” when they’re wearing masks:

We use anonymised GPS data from Google’s Location History feature to measure daily mobility in public spaces (groceries and pharmacies, transport hubs and workplaces). We find no evidence that compulsory face mask policies affect community mobility in public spaces in Germany. The evidence provided in this paper makes a crucial contribution to ongoing debates about how to best manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

And these are just from the last few days. Why WHY WHY!!!! are we still talking about this? There’s no credible evidence that wearing a mask is harmful, so at worse it’s harmless. If there’s like a 1-in-10 chance that masks are somewhat helpful — and the growing amount of research suggests that both 1-in-10 and “somewhat helpful” are both understatements — isn’t it worth the tiny bit of effort to wear one and help keep our neighbors safe from potential fucking death? Just in case?

I mean, look at where we are as a country right now. Most of the US is reopening while the number of infections continue to rise. Testing is still not where it needs to be in many areas. Tracing and isolation are mostly not happening. According to epidemiologists, those are the minimum things you need to do to properly contain a pandemic like this. Maybe if you’re Iceland you can pooh pooh the efficacy of masks because you test/trace/isolated to near-perfection, but if you’re going to half-ass it like the US has chosen to do, then wearing masks under semi-lockdown conditions is all we have left! Can we do the bare minimum that is asked of us?

Yep.  We know what to do, but our society is so damn dysfunctional that we’re not coming anywhere close to doing it.  So mind-bogglingly frustrating.  That’s why I posted on this issue today on a friend’s timeline that I am putting all my fervent hope into successful monoclonal antibodies trials ASAP.  Not even Americans will be dumb enough to somehow reject an effective treatment.

But, please, wear a mask!

(Also, I left the “politics” tag on this post and I hate that I have to do that!)

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