The air in schools

As my epidemiological interests have shifted since the conversation has increasingly moved to schools and public places, indoor air quality experts Richard Corsi and Joseph Allen have been indispensible follows on twitter.  Here they team up to explain what we need to do, air quality-wise, if we’re going to let kids in schools.  Obviously, there’s lots of other concerns– especially amount of spread in the larger community– but insofar as many districts are sending kids back in person, period, we should have the best science guiding us on the air the kids are breathing and how that relates to viral transmission:

We have limited time and funds to get students and teachers back to school safely, but we can — and must — do it. Here’s how.

Start with the fact, as 239 scientists recently wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO), that airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus is happening. This is not to be feared; it just requires adding some new strategies to our arsenal in addition to hand-washing, distancing and other measures to keep community spread to a minimum. (Just because we reopen schools doesn’t mean we should reopen elsewhere.)…

A: Air cleaner in every classroom

Portable air cleaners, also known as air purifiers, may be the fastest way to clean the air quickly indoors. A portable air purifier with a HEPA filter that is correctly sized for the room can deliver three air changes per hour of clean air, meaning all of the air in the room is cleaned every 20 minutes.

R: Refresh indoor air

Every effort should be made to determine how much more outdoor air can be brought into schools, but there are limitations. In summer and winter months, the amount of air that can be brought in from outside will be limited by the cooling and heating capacity of existing HVAC systems. While bringing in twice as much as the minimum ventilation standard would be an excellent strategy, there may not be enough time or money to fix all of these school ventilation problems in the next 30 days before kids come back to school. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Schools should also upgrade recirculated air filters to MERV13 or higher. If schools rely on natural ventilation, get those windows open and use simple box fans to pull in outdoor air.

It’s time get creative and re-imagine classrooms. We don’t need to think about ventilation rates if we hold classrooms outdoors. Yes, there will be inclement weather — kids and teachers will have to wear hats and gloves when it gets cold, and papers will occasionally get blown around. But this is still far superior to learning via Zoom. A massive mobilization of tents for schools, maybe by the National Guard, could get us there. Think this is impossible? We’ve done it before, during the tuberculosis epidemic.

And here’s all the key points in one handy graphic:

Image

On a very personal, practical level, my school system is starting almost all on-line, but not the Special Education classes (for the obvious reasons).  So, thanks to these guys I’m going to make sure my son’s classroom has an air filter that exceeds 300 CADR.

If you want to learn even more about this, Allen has a terrific twitter thread where he links to all their efforts via Op-Eds, etc., on educating the public on how to make schools safer.

And here’s the whole Healthy Buildings report for schools which is terrific.

Get a dog

Sure, should just be a quick hit, but I love this study:

Living in a home with a dog may be linked to healthier psychological development in young children, researchers report.

Australian scientists collected data from 1,646 parents of 3- to 5-year-old boys and girls on various socio-demographic factors — siblings, sleep time, screen time, parents’ level of education, work status and so on. They also gathered information on dog ownership, active play with the dog and family dog walking. And they used a well-validated scale to measure the social and emotional development of the children.

The study, in Pediatric Research, found that after adjusting for other factors, compared to children without dogs, those who had them were about 30 percent less likely to have conduct problems, 40 percent less likely to have difficulty relating to peers, and 34 percent more likely to show pro-social behavior. There was no association of dog ownership with emotional difficulties or hyperactivity.

Reopen the schools– but pay for it damnit!!

Plenty more good stuff on re-opening schools the past couple days.  A common denominator, part of the committment to doing it is that we commit to paying to do it right.  Of course, this being America, that ain’t happening.  Most states are far too revenue strapped and only the federal government can really bring the needed funds.  But, yeah, as for our federal government.  NYT:

The federal relief package passed in March dedicated $13.5 billion to K-12 education — less than 1 percent of the total stimulus. But education groups estimate that schools will need many times that, and with many local and state budgets already depleted by the economic impact of the coronavirus, it is unclear where it will come from.

“If Congress doesn’t do something in the summer, there is going to be a big mess,” said John Lee Evans, president of the San Diego Board of Education.

Dr. Evans, a psychologist, said his district hoped to physically reopen five days a week, starting Aug. 31, for families that want their children to attend in-person classes. But it currently has the money to do so safely for only half of the academic year, he said, and might need to revert to online instruction after the winter holidays.

“It’s incredible to me that the federal government would see the necessity of bailing out airlines and banks,” said Adam Goldstein, a fifth-grade teacher in San Diego, “and not see the need to do something similar for the public schools in this country.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he is open to a “final” relief bill that would cover some of the expenses of opening schools safely. “We can’t get back to normal if the kids are not back in school,” he said this week

Regardless of which recommendations are followed, reopening schools will require changes. An average-size district of 3,700 students can expect $1.8 million in pandemic-related costs for 2020-21, representing 3 to 4 percent of a typical annual budget, according to an estimate from AASA, the School Superintendents Association. Districts say they typically operate on tight budgets, and even more so this year as state and local tax revenues run low.

A great piece from Sarah Cohodese in the Atlantic:

By prioritizing reopening businesses, states are wasting an opportunity to ensure a better fall for children and families.

This is the wrong course. Instead of speeding forward with reopening their economies, these states should do everything in their powerto make areturn toschoolpossiblein the fall—especially for younger children. This must be the No. 1 priority, and all other “reopening” plans should flow from that. This means keeping the case counts of the virus as low as possible, via business closures (with unemployment assistance and stimulus to compensate) and required universal mask wearing…

Since the beginning of the pandemic, evidence has emerged showing that younger children are at lower risk of getting COVID-19 and are not a major source of spread. However, no scenario is zero-risk, and although less likely, children could transmit the disease to adults. We can take advantage of children’s relatively lower risk only by keeping community transmission rates down and implementing a contact-tracing system.

In-person education is crucial for so many reasons. Students attending virtual school have lower test scores and are less likely to graduate high school—and the evidence comes from planned virtual schooling. Outcomes from emergency online education may be worse. Schools provide vital social-emotional support and safety-net policies such as food access, health clinics, and washing machines. Schools help detect child abuse and neglect. A virtual alternative risks exacerbating inequalities, such as access to devices, internet connections, quiet places to work, and adults to assist children in staying on task. The difficulties are greatest for younger children: They are at a higher risk of learning loss, are in a key period for learning how to read, are less able to have online social interactions, and need more supervision at home. School is important for the careers and sanity of parents. Many essential workers must work outside the home, and need school to help care for their children.

[lots of cool innovative suggestions– loved this piece]

This transformation will require sufficient funding. Schools are facing deep budget cuts due to lost state tax revenue. If a vaccine appeared tomorrow, schools would still have a fiscal crisis. With balanced budget requirements, states cannot step in: Only the federal government can borrow the necessary funds. The federal government must prioritize a bailout for schools and child-care centers that both covers budget gaps and provides additional funding to manage the special needs of educating children during a pandemic.

And David Plotz:

But the Trump administration can actually help! One reason schools can’t act is they’re cash strapped, because they’re funded by local governments walloped by the pandemic. The Trump administration could seek billions in emergency funds to be directed to schools. 

That money could help in all kinds of ways. Schools could upgrade ventilation systems. They could add extra classroom space — to maintain social distancing — and extra staff. They could put half the kids with their teacher two days a week, then with an aide two days a week in a separate space, doing remote learning but out of the house. The Trump administration could offer federal office space and launch a crash program to find and rent classroomish space nationwide. Similarly, it could create and fund a national teacher’s aide army of college graduates and college students — a souped-up Americorps. 

There are lots of problems with these ideas. Of course there are! Some of the teacher’s aides would be cruddy and abusive. Kids would end up in bad office spaces. People would get sick. But the federal government must do something beyond just bullying schools to open.

So, yeah, to open schools, we don’t know exactly what to do, but there’s lots of good ideas out there.  But, virtually all of them require a substantial commitment and investment from the federal government to make this happen.  But we live in Trump and McConnell’s America, which is why this is all so depressing and I just have to keep repeating my mantra (monoclonal antibodies and super-fast vaccine development).  

State school funding ranks high in Kansas - Kansas Policy Institute

Commit to opening in-person school (and let everything else follow)

Really been meaning to write a post on opening up schools, but have not because there’s just so much I want to say.  But, now that I’ve seen the idea I’ve been advocating is also what Emily Oster is saying, well, damnit, time to write.  

We’re never going (safely) get kids back in regular, in-person, school, unless we actually commit to this as our #1 national priority.  So, we need to commit to that, because it is so damn important to the kids and the overall functioning of society (working parents and all), that we need to say we are going to make it happen to force ourselves to find ways to make it happen.  Otherwise, it’s just too easy to go with half-assed plans (like my school system’s current 1 week on; 2 weeks off plan that seems largely logistically nightmarish) that offer something but are insufficiently innovative and, perhaps, insufficiently risk tolerant. 

But, let’s start with schools as the priority.  And a huge thing we need to do is get the virus under better control in most states.  Like, you know why we need to keep you out of bars, gyms, and restaurants now?  So your kids can go to school safely.  You know why you need to wear a mask every damn time you are indoors around non-family members?  So your kids can go to school safely.  You know why it sucks that your high-schooler is home, but your elementary kid is in the building?  So your kids can go to school safely.  (Lots of research and experience with other nations suggests that we start with elementary school kids) You know why we are doing this weird thing with “pods” in the school and pooled testing and whatever else?  So your kids can go to school safely.  

Why are we spending more money on a bunch of stuff?  So your kids can go to school safely.

I think ventilation may actually be the most important on this list.  I don’t think there’s been actual studies, but from what I’ve read, let’s open some windows!  And where there’s not enough windows, jury-rig some solutions.  

Okay, so some good stuff I read.  Let’s start with Oster.  So much good stuff:

A successful approach will meet two main goals: First, it will protect the safety of kids and staff (teachers, sure, but also cafeteria workers, janitorial staff, coaches, and everyone else) as well as the broader public. Second, it will, if at all possible, have kids in classrooms, in some form, full time.

The question, then, is: What’s it going to take to do that?

In the big picture, there are four crucial elements: commitment, flexibility, realism, and a focus on staff.

This will never happen if policymakers do not commit to doing it now. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has come under a lot of criticism for saying schools will open Aug. 31 without providing a lot of details about how that will happen. I see the critics’ perspective, but the fact is that if you start by saying, “Let’s explore the possibilities,” it will not happen. The logistics of opening schools are daunting to the point of breaking even the best of us. If it feels like there is a choice, it will be too easy to decide not to.

When someone comes out and says, “We are opening,” it puts on the pressure to find a way. It encourages people to think about creative solutions and push past the problems. The only way this is even a passing hope is if we commit to making it so. emphases mine]

We will need to be flexible. We may find that, come August, the pandemic situation is such that it is unsafe to open despite having done our best to be as safe as possible. The same way that we are backtracking on indoor dining, we may need to backtrack on schools. I really, really hope not. But we must be ready to do so.

We also need to be realistic. When we reopen schools, some people at schools—kids, staff—will get COVID-19. Some of these infections would happen anyway, outside of school. Many of them will not be driven by school contacts. But there will be in some in-school transmission, no matter how careful we are. This is the unfortunate reality. Some of these people may get very sick. If we are not willing to accept this, we cannot open schools. We also, in that case, should not open anything else.

[It’s on Slate, it’s free, read all of it]

Juliette Kayem in the Atlantic:

If American society is going to take one major risk in the name of reopening, ideally it should be to send children back to school…

Reopening indoor bars—closed spaces where wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are difficult—was clearly a mistake. Yet approximately zero public officials believe that letting adults drink is more important than educating kids, and any implication that reopening bars and reopening schools are roughly equivalent tasks badly understates the enormous barriers to the latter. From the government’s perspective, the only thing bars need is permission to reopen. Once they get it, owners and employees can go back to work, and the money starts flowing.

Schools do not have a simple on-off switch. To reopen schools will not just take a lot of money. Classroom layouts, buildings, policies, schedules, extracurricular activities, teacher and staff assignments, and even curricula must all be altered to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission. Stakeholders—including teachers’ unions, scared parents, and the colleges and universities that will someday enroll a portion of the 50 million students in the nation’s public K–12 schools—all have interests, some not easily avoided or ignored by a governor. Assigning a young, healthy high-school math teacher to substitute for a second-grade reading teacher with chronic health conditions—or inviting idle recent college graduates to sign on as teaching assistants—might sound easy on paper; in reality, the regulations meant to ensure that adults in classrooms are appropriately trained and vetted to work with children are also impediments to making rapid personnel moves in a crisis. Without clear direction and substantial financial support from the state or federal agencies, the easiest course for school administrators is to say nothing. According to a survey in mid-June, 94 percent of K–12 superintendents weren’t ready to announce when or how their schools would reopen.

Two things need to happen before students can go back to school: First, Americans and their elected representatives must consciously decide that children’s needs are worth accepting some additional risk. Second, states and communities must commit the money and effort necessary to reinvent education under radically changed circumstances. Even in states where case counts have plunged, doing what’s right for children will require a massive civic mobilization.

We need this commitment!  Not Trump’s tweets.  The American public needs to demand this commitment from our “leaders.”  Not that I’m optimistic (my mantra whenever I’m feeling hopeless and frustrated– monoclonal antibodies are coming).  

We also need to learn from other nations (there’s a lot to learn).  And, accept that there is some risk (hard when school systems will close over even the threat of a dusting of snow).  But, there really is less risk of kids spreading Covid.  Great article in Science summarizing what we’ve learned from schools in other countries under Covid:

Do schools spread the virus to the wider community?

Because children so rarely develop severe symptoms, experts have cautioned that open schools might pose a much greater risk to teachers, family members, and the wider community than to students themselves. Many teachers and other school staff are understandably nervous about returning to the classroom. In surveys of U.S. school districts, as many as one-third of staff say they prefer to stay away. Science could find few reports of deaths or serious illnesses from COVID-19 among school staff, but information is sparse. Several teachers have died of COVID-19 complications in Sweden, where schools did not modify class sizes or make other substantive adjustments.

Early data from European countries suggest the risk to the wider community is small. At least when local infection rates are low, opening schools with some precautions does not seem to cause a significant jump in infections elsewhere…

In a broader study of COVID-19 clusters worldwide, epidemiologist Gwen Knight at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and her colleagues collected data before most school closings took effect. If schools were a major driver of viral spread, she says, “We would have expected to find more clusters linked to schools. That’s not what we found.” Still, she adds, without widespread testing of young people, who often don’t have symptoms, it’s hard to know for sure what role schools might play.

Also, kids should wear masks!  Enough with the, “ooohhh, there’s just no way a kid can wear a mask all day.”  Are Korean and Chinese kids really so different?  They do it:

Should kids wear masks?

Masks likely blunt spread at school, but children—even more than adults—find them uncomfortable to wear for hours and may lack the self-discipline to wear them without touching their faces or freeing their noses. Does discomfort override a potential public health benefit?

“For me, masks are part of the equation” for slowing the spread of COVID-19 in schools, especially when distancing is difficult, says Susan Coffin, an infectious disease physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Respiratory droplets are a major mode of [virus] transmission,” she says, and wearing a mask places an obstacle in those droplets’ path.

In China, South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam—where masks are already widely accepted and worn by many during flu season—schools require them for almost all students and their teachers. China allows students to remove masks only for lunch, when children are separated by glass or plastic partitions. Israel requires masks for children older than age 7 outside the classroom, and for children in fourth grade and above all day—and they comply, says Aflalo, who has 8- and 11-year-old boys. On the bus ride to school, “all the kids are sitting with masks on,” she says. “They don’t take them off. They listen to the orders.”

I also find it compelling that Linsey Marr– the go-to virologist on aerosols– wants her kids back in school in masks.

And, while we’re at it, and I love the science of this stuff, here’s the details on why younger kids spread less Covid:

  • Asymptomatic non-coughing people release less virus-loaded aerosols.
  • Children have less alveoli and terminal bronchioles where breath droplets are formed.
  • Children have a lower respiratory minute volume and tend to have lower viral load.
  • All this combined can explain why children are poor COVID-19 virus spreaders.

Okay, that was a lot!  But at least now I’ve done it.  

 

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 (part II)

1) Damn it just completely sucks how journalistic norms are hijacked, time and time again, for Republican ends.  Margaret Sullivan, “The media is helping Trump turn the bogus ‘Obamagate’ into the 2020 version of Clinton’s emails”

It’s becoming clear that journalists never fully reckoned with the mistakes of 2016 campaign coverage. We know this because they seem poised to repeat them.

As you may recall, the news media — from Fox News to the New York Times and plenty of others across the political spectrum — managed to make the relative molehill of Hillary Clinton’s dicey email practices into a daily obsession, roughly equal to the mountain of Donald Trump’s financial and personal transgressions.

Well, don’t look now but this is happening again before our eyes. Its name this time is “Obamagate.” That’s a moniker that, in President Trump’s outraged tweets, is rendered in all capital letters, but let’s not.

This vaporous, apparently made-up offense, according to Trump, is the political crime of the century — and, heck, last century too, because he claims that it makes the 1970s Watergate scandal look like child’s play.

As best as he’s even attempted to spell out, it supposedly involves a deep-state conspiracy by the former president and his allies to undermine Trump by being informed of the identity of the private citizen having covert and legally questionable discussions with the Russian ambassador — a citizen who turned out to be Trump’s national security adviser designate Michael Flynn.

Despite the fact that this practice is legal and normal, the nonscandal around it is getting plenty of attention.

2) Good God this Trump judges are just the worst and an absolute embarrassment to our legal system and the rule of law.  Mark Joseph Stern and Dahlia Lithwick:

 So it’s deeply troubling to see a burgeoning new trend among conservative jurists during Donald Trump’s presidency: the interjection of purely political hot takes into supposedly impartial judicial opinions. This phenomenon isn’t limited to Trump appointees. Some Trump judges have already mastered this art, but it seems to have caught on among some state judges who appear to be gunning for a promotion to the federal judiciary.

The latest example comes from Michigan, whose court of appeals blocked a ban on vaping products in the state on Thursday. Judge Mark Boonstra—an appointee of former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder—joined the majority opinion striking down the ban. But he tacked on a separate 13-page polemic attacking Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders shutting down schools and nonessential businesses while limiting travel within the state. Whitmer has become the target of ire from the president as well as armed protesters who have occupied the state Capitol, forcing the Legislature to shut down due to safety concerns. Boonstra is now pouring gasoline on the fire. His concurrence included an ominous proclamation: “Totalitarianism has no place in America. Has it arrived? Well, that’s a question for another day.” While pretending to take no position on this apparently open question, Boonstra then cited far-right outlets to support his thinly veiled accusation that the governor has perhaps brought “tyranny” to Michigan.

3) Jay Rosen, “The plan is to have no plan”

The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.

Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. To succeed this will require one of the biggest propaganda and freedom of information fights in U.S. history, the execution of which will, I think, consume the president’s re-election campaign. So much has already been made public that the standard script for a White House cover up (worse than the crime…) won’t apply. Instead, everything will ride on the manufacture of confusion. The press won’t be able to “expose” the plot because it will all happen in stark daylight. The facts will be known, and simultaneously they will be inconceivable.

“The plan is to have no plan” is not a strategy, really. Nor would I call it a policy. It has a kind of logic to it, but this is different from saying it has a design— or a designer. Meaning: I do not want to be too conspiratorial about this. To wing it without a plan is merely the best this government can do, given who heads the table. The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.

4) For now, NC State is adopting what seems to be the growing university consensus– early start, no breaks, finish by Thanksgiving.  I think the limiting student travel to/from campus during breaks definitely makes sense, but this whole thing being predicated on a late Fall wave seems more than dicey to me.  Trying to predict when waves of the virus may come, more than a few weeks out, seems like a real fool’s errand.

5) And damn does McSweeney’s nail what we’ve been hearing till this week:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff —

After careful deliberation, we are pleased to report we can finally announce that we plan to re-open campus this fall. But with limitations. Unless we do not. Depending on guidance, which we have not yet received.

Please know that we eventually will all come together as a school community again. Possibly virtually. Probably on land. Maybe some students will be here? Perhaps the RAs can be let in to feed the lab rats?

We plan to follow the strictest recommended guidance from public health officials, except in any case where it might possibly limit our major athletic programs, which will proceed as usual.

We understand you may have concerns about the University’s future, but we will take this time to emphasize that academic terms are merely units of time, and here at the University, we strongly believe in the concept of time.

In this time, more than ever, it is time for strong, decisive action.

We have decided to delay our decision.

It is our decision to delay our decision so we can decide on our decision at a later decided time.

We will make our final decision on campus reopening on a date no later than the day our closest competing universities announce their decisions and no earlier than the day after we cash your fall tuition deposit checks.

The University is here for you in this trying time. If you have any questions not answered by this email, please do not hesitate to re-read this email.

Sincerely,
The University

6) Very nice, straightforward piece from Business Insider on assessing your Covid risks.

“The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; fewer is better than more people; and stay away from sick people,” Dr. Erich Anderer, a neurosurgeon and founding member of the North Brooklyn Runners group, told Insider.

7) Also, on average, Americans are much more cautious and concerned about risks than one might gather from the media.  Good polling here in the Post:

8) Okay, there’s value in a personal essay from a parent of a young adult who had a very scary case of Covid.  But, put it in context and enough of the fearmongering, “My Son Survived Terrifying Covid-19 Complications: If schools reopen, how many kids won’t?” because all the data so far suggests the answer to her question is… very, very few.

9) If we commit to it, we can totally due the contract tracing that’s so important to controlling Covid outbreaks.  Paterson, NJ shows how it’s done.

10) Derek Thompson with the strategies we should take to be safe inside.

11) Great stuff from Frum, “The System Failed the Test of Trump: The story of recent years is of institutions that were unable to constrain the presidency.”

Have you ever known anyone swindled by a scam? It’s remarkable how determined they remain to defend the swindler, and for how long—and how they try to shift the blame to those who tried to warn them of the swindle. The pain of being seen as a fool hurts more than the loss of money; it’s more important to protect the ego against indignity than to visit justice upon the perpetrator. We human beings so often prefer a lie that affirms us to a truth that challenges us.

Americans are living now through the worst pandemic in a century and the severest economic crisis since the Great Depression. At every turn, President Donald Trump has made the crises worse. Had somebody else been president in December 2019—Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush—fewer Americans would have met untimely deaths; fewer Americans would now be unemployed; fewer businesses would be heading toward bankruptcy.

On the eve of the 2016 election, a Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist opined in The Washington Post: “If Trump wins, he’ll be held more or less in check by the House and Senate, because that’s the way our system of government is set up. Not even Republicans are eager to follow Trump’s lead.”

I cite that column—published under the headline “Calm Down. We’ll Be Fine No Matter Who Wins”—not to single it out, but precisely because it was so un-singular. The keepers of the institutions could imagine Trump testing the system. They could not imagine the system failing the test.

And yet fail it did. The story of the Trump years is a story of institutions that failed. The Department of Justice failed. The inspectors general failed. Congressional oversight failed. The national-security establishment failed. The courts failed. Trump has done things that no previous American president would ever have dared, that no previous president sank low enough even to imagine. Sometimes he was stopped, more often not. But whether stopped or not in any particular case, he has never ceased pressing ahead to do even worse the next time.

The only check remaining is that of the 2020 ballot box. Not Trump alone, but the great political party behind him, is working to ensure that election is as unfree and unfair as possible. In that effort, they have mobilized the active or tacit support of millions of Americans.

12) Good stuff from Pew, “Trust in Medical Scientists Has Grown in U.S., but Mainly Among Democrats”

Chart shows growing partisan differences over trust in medical scientists and scientists since the COVID-19 outbreak

Chart shows wide partisan differences on the role of testing and spread of coronavirus

I don’t even know what to say about a political party that engages in so much rejection of science.  They are surely not rejecting it when they go to the doctor or drink their treated municipal water.

13) Drum asks whether face shields might be better than cloth masks.  Would be great to have some more research on this as they are surely a lot more comfortable over hours of use.

14) Drum also makes the case for a good mask-wearing PSA.  Hell yeah!!  I’m actually quite frustrated by the lack of these.

15) I’ve recently become a huge fan of Bob Wachter.  Gotta love his twitter bio, “Career: What happens when a poli sci major becomes an academic physician.” Here he is on “the science and politics of masks.”

16) This Noah Smith twitter thread is amazing.  It’s a compilation of the best of twitter threads on Covid of the past week (I feltd good that I had already seen so many of these).  So much good stuff.

17) Local “experts” think swimming pools this summer are a bad idea.  But, I think that is under the presumption they will operate as normal (obviously, most places opening up are not operating as normal.  Glad the NPR experts label is a low risk.  I will be going to the pool.

 

18) I read a great twitter thread on best scientific discoveries of the past decade.  Lots of people mentioned Homo Naledi.  I remembered reading about this a few years ago, but had not really appreciated what an amazing discovery this was.  Now I do.

19) Loved this “micromorts” perspective on Covid risks:

Fortunately, there are tools for assessing risk that can help us put the daily torrent of numbers in perspective. I found the best way to communicate the level of risk was to put it in terms that allowed easier comparison to other, more familiar, risks. One could then talk, for instance, about how dangerous living in a contaminated city was compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

The average American endures about one micromort of risk per day, or one in a million chance of dying, from nonnatural causes, such as being electrocuted, dying in a car wreck or being struck by an asteroid (the list is long).

Let’s apply this concept to Covid-19.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City experienced approximately 24,000 excess deaths from March 15 to May 9, when the pandemic was peaking. That’s 24,000 more deaths than would have normally occurred during the same time period in previous years, without this pandemic. This statistic is considered a more accurate estimate of the overall mortality risk related to Covid-19 than using the reported number of deaths resulting from confirmed cases, since it captures indirect deaths associated with Covid-19 (because of an overwhelmed health care system, for example) as well as the deaths caused by the virus itself.

Converting this to micromort language, an individual living in New York City has experienced roughly 50 additional micromorts of risk per day because of Covid-19. That means you were roughly twice as likely to die as you would have been if you were serving in the U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan throughout 2010, a particularly deadly year.

The quality of data varies from state and state, and continues to be updated. But for comparison, using the C.D.C. data, Michigan had approximately 6,200 excess deaths during this same time period. That is roughly the same risk of dying as driving a motorcycle 44 miles every day (11 micromorts per day). Living in Maryland during this time would be roughly as risky as doing one skydiving jump a day for that duration (7 micromorts per jump).

20) A lot of talk about Vitamin D and Covid.  Good summary the issue at WebMD.  Does seem quite likely that Vitamin D deficiency will be more likely to set you up for a bad case of Covid.  But Vitamin D deficiency is already not great and we’ve not actually done anything about it as a society.  But, maybe fear of Covid could work on that and lead to fewer bad cases at the margins.

21) Really good piece on how we’ve misunderstood what Sweden is actually doing, but I especially liked this part:

But even if Sweden’s policy of allowing businesses to open and people to move out and about is not that different from some policies American states have or will soon implement, there’s been one major difference: the schools. Schools for children up to age 15 have remained open, all the way down to daycares and preschool. “That makes a world of difference,” Trägårdh told me. “It’s a gender issue.”

Sweden has one of the highest rates of female participation in the labor force for rich countries. Forcing young children to stay home would put many mothers in a bind or even knock them out of the workforce entirely.

“Closing down schools works well if you are in a well-to-do, middle-class family that has a house and a garden and can afford to have one person staying at home,” Trägårdh said. “That may not look like a doable proposition if you are a single parent or do not make a lot of money.”

Shutting down daycare and schools could increase risk as well, Angner explained, by leading working parents to turn to their own parents for help. “If you close daycares, then either one parent has to stop working or grandma or grandpa shows up,” he said. But since the elderly are most at risk, it was even more important to keep schools and daycares open.

Quick hits

Look, it’s not all Covid edition.

1) Some interesting new social science:

We propose an explanation for the most prevalent form of democratic breakdown after the Cold War: the subversion of democracy by incumbents. In both democratization research and democracy promotion practice, the public is assumed to serve as a check on incumbents’ temptations to subvert democracy. We explain why this check fails in polarized societies. When polarization is high, voters have a strong preference for their favorite candidate, which makes it costly for them to punish an incumbent by voting for a challenger. Incumbents exploit this lack of credible punishment by manipulating the democratic process in their favor. Our analysis of an original survey experiment conducted in Venezuela demonstrates that voters in polarized societies are indeed willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan interests and that their willingness to do so increases in the intensity of their partisanship. These findings suggest the need to re-evaluate conventional measures of support for democracy and provide an answer to a fundamental question about its survival: When can we expect the public to serve as a check on the authoritarian temptations of elected politicians?

2) Ezra Klein on Congressional Democrats:

In my conversations with congressional Democrats, they bristled at the idea that they should take the zero-sum approach to policymaking that they perceive Republicans as having taken when Obama was president.

“There is enormous suffering, and if we do not respond with the boldness and the scale that this crisis demands, then that suffering will continue,” says Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). “I think it’s important for us to not allow ourselves to be pulled into a place where we don’t define the agenda, given that we are in the position of really defining where the solution is going to land.”

For Democrats, an ideological asymmetry has become a strategic asymmetry. Democrats want to convince the country of the government’s worth. Republicans want to convince the country of the government’s worthlessness. If Washington collapses into dysfunction and paralysis now, when the country needs it most, congressional liberals don’t see that as helping their long-term effort to rebuild trust in public institutions.

“It’s like the old saying that Republicans believe the government is incompetent and then get elected and prove it,” says Schatz. “They don’t want the federal government to work and we do. That’s what’s going on here, and I don’t have a quick, facile solution to it. If we engage in a zero-sum game, we’ll just accelerate the death spiral that is Grover Norquist and Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers’ dream.”

3) Eric Boehlert on the press and Biden and Tara Reade:

Rushing to anoint the “hypocrite” label to Joe Biden, large parts of the Beltway media are stressing that a 27-year-old allegation of sexual assault against Biden is an awful lot like the decades-old allegations that were lodged against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing in 2018. At the time, Debra Ramirez and Christine Blasey Ford offered detailed accounts of being assaulted by Kavanaugh in high school and in college. The claim today is that if Democrats didn’t believe Kavanaugh’s denials then, how can they believe Biden now, and aren’t they playing politics with claims of sexual assault?

Insisting the two cases are the same, the press wants to portray the Biden story as a case of the #MeToo movement boomeranging on Democrats, revealing them as being two-faced. There’s a huge hole in this comparison. Unlike Kavanaugh, Biden hasn’t lied about almost every facet of the distant claim of sexual assault the way the Republican jurist did. Kavanaugh shattered all precedent and falsified his way through his confirmation hearing, likely perjuring himself in the process.

In order to secure his lifetime appointment to the Court, and facing specific, multiple and credible allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh lied about witnesses; he lied about corroboration; he lied about friendships; he lied about parties. He also lied about Maryland’s drinking agevomiting, his yearbook, his accusers, Yale, and drinking — he lied about that a lot. (Separately during his confirmation hearing Kavanaugh lied about his childhoodfederal judges, warrantless wiretaps, his nomination selection, and stolen emails.) “Republicans know Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath,” Armanda Marcotte wrote at Salon. “They just don’t care.”

That’s the simple truth about what happened with Kavanaugh. But journalists today who are trying to tag Biden and Democrats as hypocrites forcefully ignore that central fact…

Why is the D.C. press today glossing over the fact that Kavanaugh lied his way his confirmation hearings? They’re just being consistent. The sad fact is much of the press glossed over Kavanaugh’s lying in real time, back in 2018. (“Kavanaugh Lies His Way Through Confirmation” was not a common headline.) Committed to the premise that Republicans are mirror opposites Democrats, they just occupy a different spot on the political spectrum, the Beltway press for the last decade has refused to acknowledge how radical the modern day GOP has become, and specifically under Trump how the party now revolves around ceaseless lying.

Flashback to 2017, when Republicans were yet again trying to kill Obamacare, and trying to do it by offering up their own alternative: What unfolded was likely the first time a political party try to pass landmark social policy legislation by categorically misstating almost every key claim about the bill. No, the GOP House bill did not protect people with pre-existing conditions. It did not protect older Americans from increased insurance costs. It did not mean everyone would be charged the same for insurance. And the bill wasn’t “bipartisan.”

4) Good stuff on how brand names become generic.

5) Covid in nursing homes is a huge problem.  Jon Cohn on what to do about it.

6) This is quite good, “10 key lessons for the future to be learned from fighting Covid-19”

7) Every time you think you can find a pattern across countries that explains Covid there’s another country that breaks the damn pattern.  It’s really tough.  A simple vesion:

8) Really, really interesting piece on how the discovery of germs transformed parenting— in a bad way!  And great references to a terrific work of non-fiction, Deborah Blum’s Love at Goon Park:

The dread of an unclean kitchen carried into the nursery. Deborah Blum, in her book “Love at Goon Park: Harry Harlow and the Science of Affection,” says physicians began to warn mothers and other caretakers about the risk of any physical affection.

John B. Watson, a preeminent psychologist in the early 20th century and president of the American Psychological Association, went so far as to tell parents that showing physical affection to a child could have harmful psychological effects.

“When you are tempted to pet your child, remember that mother love is a dangerous instrument,” Blum quotes him as saying. Watson warned of “serious rocks ahead for the over-kissed child.”

Watson’s behaviorist views — built on the Pavlovian notion that much of human and animal behavior is reflexively conditioned by stimulus and reward — reflected a widespread belief that the bond between mother and child arose only from a need for food. A child needed a sterilized bottle of milk from his caretaker and little more, or so the thinking went.

“All of it, the lurking fears of infection, the saving graces of hygiene, the fears of ruining a child by affection, the selling of science, the desire of parents to learn from the experts, all came together to create one of the chilliest possible periods in child-rearing,” Blum writes.

For the record, the wire monkey experiments saved us.

9) So, this was kind of interesting, “What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, Too” but having been around some genuinely charismatic people they are overdoing in on how much you can learn to be yourself.

The first pillar, presence, involves residing in the moment. When you find your attention slipping while speaking to someone, refocus by centering yourself. Pay attention to the sounds in the environment, your breath and the subtle sensations in your body — the tingles that start in your toes and radiate throughout your frame.

Power, the second pillar, involves breaking down self-imposed barriers rather than achieving higher status. It’s about lifting the stigma that comes with the success you’ve already earned. Impostor syndrome, as it’s known, is the prevalent fear that you’re not worthy of the position you’re in. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more prevalent the feeling becomes.

The key to this pillar is to remove self-doubt, assuring yourself that you belong and that your skills and passions are valuable and interesting to others. It’s easier said than done.

The third pillar, warmth, is a little harder to fake. This one requires you to radiate a certain kind of vibe that signals kindness and acceptance. It’s the sort of feeling you might get from a close relative or a dear friend. It’s tricky, considering those who excel here are people who invoke this feeling in others, even when they’ve just met.

The truth is, immodestly, I do pretty well on all of these.  But I don’t actually consider myself a particularly charismatic person (again, having been around some people who just radiate charisma) so I really do think there’s something ineffable not captured here.

10) Good stuff from Matt Grossman, “Missing Conservatism? Just Wait for a Democratic President”

But if history is a guide, conservatism will rise again under a new Democratic president — featuring the same concerns about overweening government, accelerating social change and American decline. Liberals will cry hypocrisy as Republicans complain about spending under a Democrat, but the pattern reflects the unique form that American conservatism takes: as a reactionary backlash rather than an alternative governing platform.

The conservative movement has perennially stimulated resistance to liberalism, frequently incorporating new cultural issues and voters. But conservatives have been unable to guide Republican presidents to implement a policy agenda beyond lowering taxes and building the military. Despite gaining working-class constituencies, Republicans are not offering tangible solutions to rural poverty, family breakdown, rising drug addiction or deindustrialization.

Yet Republicans should have no trouble reinterpreting the current moment. Even if Mr. Trump is encouraged today, he may later be accused of departing from orthodoxy. A future Mike Pence campaign can simultaneously sell the nationalist pride he shares with Mr. Trump, his disappointment at some betrayals of conservative principles and his commitment to finally follow through. The same plan of resurgence has worked for generations.

11) Pretty good evidence that investing in air conditioning in schools would make a nice contribution to student learning.

12) Great stuff from David Wallace-Wells:

By March 30, the overwhelming majority of U.S. states had issued stay-at-home directions — in many cases, those directions had already been in place for weeks. Which means that by April 30, one month later, anyone who had caught the disease before the lockdowns began should have already passed through the entire life cycle of the disease, either recovering or dying, and that all the new cases we are currently seeing are the result of infections since the shutdown. On April 30, after a month in which new cases ranged between 25,000 and 30,000, there were 29,500 new reported cases.

In all likelihood, the future course of the disease won’t follow an unmitigated trajectory — at least some amount of additional testing will allow us to control the spread a little more effectively, and presumably treatments will arrive that will at least lessen the lethality of the disease somewhat, if not dramatically. And so it is possible, perhaps even probable, that we will not again exceed the peak of daily deaths reached just this week, even after “opening up” — that social-distancing guidelines, phased reopening, better hygienic practices, and improving treatments will keep the total number of cases at any one time from surpassing that 2,700-per-day figure. But while they have dominated talk about the state of COVID so far, peaks are most important when assessing how acute a medical crisis is or will become, and especially how best to plan for and allocate care. The total volume of cases is a much more significant signal in terms of the ultimate toll of the disease — that is, not the height of the curve at its peak but the area underneath the curve as it stretches out not just through the summer but into the fall and possibly into 2021 and even 2022.

13) So there’s basically a Chinese black-market version of Remdesivir that is amazingly effective in curing cats from an otherwise deadly feline coronavirus.  Seriously.  But remdesivir won’t submit it for approval for this:

According to Pedersen, Gilead worried that the cat research could impede the approval process for remdesivir. Because GS-441524 and remdesivir are so similar, any adverse effects uncovered in cats might have to be reported and investigated to guarantee remdesivir’s safety in humans. Gilead’s caution about generating unnecessary cat data is standard industry practice. “One of the rules in drug development is never perform a test you don’t have to, if the results could be problematic,” says Richard Sachleben, a retired pharma-industry researcher. (Gilead declined to comment for this story.)

For Pedersen, the explanation was hard to accept. “It was a blow,” he said. “It hits you very hard, especially when you didn’t see any reason for it.” He still published the studies, as academic researchers do, and results became public in 2018 and 2019.

14) I just now came across this from December, but, oh man is this NYT magazine feature on avalanche school so good.  Basically comes down to people get killed in avalanches not because of snow, but because of cognitive biases.

15) Elizabeth Rosenthal is the best health care reporter out there for my money (really, you just have to read American Sickness) so when she writes about what Covid has to say about America’s health care system, you should read it:

Our system requires every player — from insurers to hospitals to the pharmaceutical industry to doctors — be financially self-sustaining, to have a profitable business model. As such it excels at expensive specialty care. But there’s no return on investment in being primed and positioned for the possibility of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Combine that with an administration unwilling to intervene to force businesses to act en masse to resolve a public health crisis like this, and you get what we got: a messy, uncoordinated under-response, defined by shortages and finger-pointing.

No institutional players — not hospitals, not manufacturers of ventilators, masks, tests or drugs — saw it as their place to address the Covid-19 train coming down the tracks. Meanwhile, the Trump administration, loath to deploy the Defense Production Act, did so only sparingly and slowly, mostly relying on back channel arm-twisting and “incentives” like forgiving liability to get business buy in. That’s because in the current iteration of American health care, tens of thousands of people dying is not incentive enough.

Let’s look at the failures…

In the past quarter-century, we have evolved a reimbursement system that showers cash on elective and specialty care and discourages hospitals from serving the health needs of society. That is true even though two-thirds of our hospitals are tax exempt because they — in theory — perform community benefit. In a functioning health system, pandemic preparedness and response would be part of the expected job. In the 1980s when H.I.V./AIDS was overwhelming hospitals in New York, treating those patients was simply part of each system’s obligation — though some did so far better than others.

All this doesn’t necessarily mean that we need a government-run health system or should eliminate all market influence in health care. In fact, Medicare for All would not by itself solve the above problems, since it’s mostly a payment system that largely relies on providers to come through with services when needed.

But the Covid-19 stress test has laid bare a market that is broken, lacking the ability to attend to the public health at a time of desperate need and with a government unwilling — in some ways unable — to force it to do so. This time around, thousands of stalwart medical professionals have answered the call to treat the ill, doing their best to plug the longstanding holes that the pandemic has revealed.

Whether it’s regulated or run by the government, or motivated by new incentives, the system we need is one that responds more to illness and less to profits.

16) Thomas Edsall asks why isn’t a wannabe authoritarian “riding high” amidst the pandemic.  Because, Trump is is just amazingly awful at being pesident.  So, so bad.  Also, as much as he has authoritarian tendencies (a lot) he’s even more averse to learning and hard work, which, presumably, helps those with authoritarian tendencies succeed.

17) Great NYT interactive feature looking at how safe various establishments (e.g., gym vs. coffee shop) are depending on how crowded and how long people stay.  Also, on a per/sq foot basis, Chik-Fil-A does killer business.

18) I don’t believe Tara Reade, but even if I did, I would soooo be with Linda Hirshman, “I Believe Tara Reade. I’m Voting for Joe Biden Anyway.”

Suck it up and make the utilitarian bargain.

All major Democratic Party figures have indicated they’re not budging on the presumptive nominee, and the transaction costs of replacing him would be suicidal. Barring some miracle, it’s going to be Mr. Biden.

So what is the greatest good or the greatest harm? Mr. Biden, and the Democrats he may carry with him into government, are likely to do more good for women and the nation than his competition, the worst president in the history of the Republic. Compared with the good Mr. Biden can do, the cost of dismissing Tara Reade — and, worse, weakening the voices of future survivors — is worth it. And don’t call me an amoral realist. Utilitarianism is not a moral abdication; it is a moral stance.

Utilitarianism arose from the Industrial Revolution, a time of terrible economic inequality and abuse. It was intended to make a moral claim for the equality of all creatures who can feel pain and experience pleasure.

Weigh it: Don’t a few extra cents for each worker matter more than the marginal dollar for the boss? Weigh it: Won’t the good for all the Americans who will benefit from replacing Donald Trump with Joe Biden, including the masses of women who will get some crumbs, count for more than the harm done to the victims of abuse?

19) Be an optimist and live longer!  Ummm, hooray for me, but I didn’t actually choose to be this way.  But, I’ll happy take it when I’m 85+ :-).

20) So this was really cool: “There’s Something Special About the Sun: It’s a Bit Boring:The sun seems a little less active than hundreds of similar stars in our galaxy, which could play a role in why life exists in our solar system.”

21) Birds are smart.  And the smartest birds are the most flexible ones.

Rufous treepies, birds in the crow family native to South and Southeast Asia, usually eat insects, seeds or fruits. But some of them have learned to eat fire.

Well, not exactly, but close. At a small temple in the Indian state of Gujarat, the caretakers regularly set out small votive candles made with clarified butter. The birds flit down to steal the candles, extinguish the butter-soaked wicks with a quick shake of their heads and then gulp them down.

This willingness to experiment with new foods and ways of foraging is an indicator of behavioral flexibility, and some scientists think it is evidence that certain species of birds might be less vulnerable to extinction.

“The idea is that if a species has individuals that are capable of these novel behaviors, they’ll respond with changes in their behavior more easily than individuals from species that do not tend to produce novel behaviors like that,” said Louis Lefebvre, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and an author on the study. “The idea is pretty simple. The problem was to be able to test it in a convincing way.”

22) If you can stand to face the horror head-on, “34 days of pandemic: Inside Trump’s desperate attempts to reopen America”

Quick hits

1) Jennifer Rubin, “Hillary Clinton is the most exonerated politician ever”

2) This Op-Ed from Peggy Orenstein on teen boys and sex is really, really good.  (I’m pretty sure I linked to her Atlantic piece last month).  I thought about just sending it to my 8th grader to read (I send him a fair amount of good stuff), but realized it would be a parental cop-out if I didn’t make these points myself.  I did– not that either of enjoyed it.  But I’m glad I did.

Yet that silence has troubling implications. According to a 2017 national survey of 3,000 high school students and young adults by the Making Caring Common Project, a large majority of boys never had a single conversation with their parents about, for instance, how to be sure that your partner “wants to be — and is comfortable — having sex with you,” or about what it meant to be a “a caring and respectful sexual partner.” About two-thirds had never heard from their parents that they shouldn’t have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent. Most had never been told by parents not to catcall girls or use degrading terms such as “bitches” or “hoes” — this despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of the girls in the survey reported having been sexually harassed.

3a) Tom Steyer has been talking up term limits.  Jon Bernstein on why they are a “terrible” idea.

He’s for Congressional term limits. That’s a solution in search of a problem. As the scholar of Congress Josh Huder notes, “65% of the Senate and 70% of the House have served 10 years or less.” Today’s Congress is historically weak, and one reason is the relatively short tenure of many members. As it is, short-timers allow themselves to be bossed around by experienced leaders or by the White House. That’s bad enough, but if experienced leaders were eliminated, Congress would find itself bossed by the White House and by large organized interest groups. That’s not just the logic of the situation; it’s also what political scientists who have studied term limits in state legislatures have found.

Politicians who want long careers in Congress tend to work hard to represent their constituents. Politicians who know they’ll be seeking a different job soon won’t have any incentive to care about the people who voted for them — and won’t develop the skills needed to represent them even if they want to try.

3b) Jamelle Bouie is on it, too:

It’s worth saying, to start, that the “problem” of long-serving lawmakers — the problem a term limit purports to solve — isn’t actually a problem at all. The congressional scholar Josh Huder notes that just 35 senators (and less than a third of the House) have served 10 years or more. Likewise, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service, average tenure in the past two Congresses sat at roughly 10 years. Long-serving lawmakers are highly visible — often because they occupy key leadership roles — but they aren’t particularly common.

Not that this would be a problem, even if it were true. Time in office doesn’t inexorably lead to poor performance — just the reverse. It’s no coincidence that some of the most effective lawmakers in American history — architects of epochal bills like the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act — served for decades accumulating political and legislative expertise. And if voters want to reward an effective legislator or representative with more time in office, they should have that right. Forced retirement cuts against the idea that voters have an absolute right to choose their representatives.

If the goal of term limits is to bring new faces and fresh ideas to Washington, then the solution isn’t a blanket restriction on all lawmakers. The solution is more competition, to make it easier for interested people to run for office and win. There are ways to make that happen. Nonpartisan redistricting in all 50 states would break partisan gerrymandering and force incumbents to compete for votes. Public financing of campaigns would give challengers a fighting chance in a general election. And if part of the problem is low turnout, you can lower the barrier to voting and increase participation through universal registration and mail-in balloting.

4) What  it takes to hold your breath for 24 minutes (filling up on pure oxygen first, among other things).

5) David Hopkins on whether Democrats have a diversity problem:

But out in the mass Democratic Party, the pursuit of group interest is only sometimes channeled through supporting members of the group for elective office, and most citizens are resistant to—or even offended by—assumptions that they will or should line up behind a particular candidate simply because of shared social identity. Much has been made of Joe Biden’s success among black Democrats so far, persuasively explained as a combination of these voters’ collective ideological moderation, political pragmatism, and affection for Biden’s service under Barack Obama. But even the decidedly non-moderate and non-Obamaite Bernie Sanders was winning substantially more black support than Booker was before his withdrawal, just as Biden, Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren all easily outpolled Castro among Latino Democrats.

Mass-level Democratic voters of all races simply are not currently placing descriptive diversity above other priorities—defeating Donald Trump, achieving policy goals, ideologically recalibrating the party—to the same degree as the disproportionately audible voices of the journalistic and academic left. The historical milestone of Obama’s presidency has removed some urgency, at least in the short term, from efforts to elect another non-white candidate, and perceptions that women face a greater challenge than men in winning the presidency seem to have worked to the disadvantage of the female candidates in the 2020 race—perceptions that some feminist commentators have themselves unintentionally promoted. And the remaining Democratic field is not short on demographic diversity by traditional standards: Warren remains a leading contender, two major candidates are Jewish, and one is openly gay (it is, perhaps, a testament to the recent successes of the gay rights movement that much of the trendy left doesn’t celebrate Pete Buttigieg as a pathbreaking figure but instead mocks him as a square, co-opted incrementalist).

The demographic diversity of the 2020 presidential contenders in fact compares quite favorably to the larger officeholding class in American politics, where severe proportional discrepancies in social group representation remain rampant. (For example, Harris and Booker are two of only three black senators currently in office, and Patrick is one of only two elected black governors in the modern history of the nation.) On this issue, as on many others, the presidency receives excessive attention from American culture at the expense of the rest of the political system. But there is surely a distinction worth making between voters freely choosing across lines of group membership not to support a particular candidate or set of candidates in a large and wide-ranging field, as has occurred so far in 2020, and the more formidable social inequities in electoral politics that continue to shape the composition of the larger pool of political leadership in America.

6) Francis Wilkinson on Virginia and the NRA’s utter nonsense on guns:

The National Rifle Association, which has its headquarters in Virginia, and other gun-rights groups are rallying to fight the proposals, sometimes with a curious inattention to detail. Last month Erich Pratt, senior vice president of Gun Owners of America, and Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, released a 12-page letter to the people of Virginia. Over 12-single-spaced pages, they never quite get around to saying what those proposed regulations are — their broad outlines were debated in the campaign — or what makes them so awful. You will search the document in vain for the phrase “background check” or the word “silencer.”…

“Looking at a map of Virginia,” Pratt and Van Cleave wrote, “it becomes clear that only a few, geographically small, yet heavily populated, jurisdictions have declined to stand up against the current threats to the Virginia and United States Constitutions.” [emphases mine]

In other words, the “heavily populated” parts of Virginia do not have the same view of gun rights as the sparsely populated parts. And since the Virginia legislature was duly elected by popular vote, legislators will likely be more responsive to the interests of the majority than of the minority.

America is a representative democracy. But the gun lobby and other parts of the conservative coalition are increasingly skeptical of that. Armed with an all-purpose Constitution that means whatever they want it to mean, they seek to block popular government action.  

The Second Amendment sanctuaries emerging in Virginia and elsewhere may mark a burgeoning conservative counterculture. Contempt for the “geographically small, yet heavily populated” regions where most Americans reside is becoming a conservative tic. It’s the impetus behind those triumphal MAGA maps depicting countless hectares of American forest, farm and pasture in bold Republican red, while little enclaves such as Brooklyn, with a higher population than 15 states, are dismissed with a tiny blotch of blue.

Densely populated America, in other words, is not real America, and opposing real America is by definition unconstitutional. What the gun sanctuary movement is seeking is not protection from government overreach, but from democracy.

7) I just hate stuff like this, “Fox News goes to desperate lengths to gin up outrage over clip of Vince Vaughn chatting with Trump”  It’s bad enough that some would want to “cancel” Vaughn for talking with the president without Fox News basically pretending there was some widespread liberal reaction that wasn’t actually there.

8) Teaching middle-school sex education in the age of consent.  I’ll be curious to see what my 8th grader gets next semester (so far, it’s been pretty much biology, I think).

9) If 47 is really the most miserable age I’m doing awesome.  (Though, it’s 47.2 and I’m 47.9).

10) Trump’s absurd impeachment defense team (good Lord, is their any more embarrassing hack then Ken Starr?!) recruited from Fox News, of course:

What does this all-star team have in common? Between them, these four have appeared on Fox News over 350 times in the past year, according to Media Matters for America. Which no doubt left Jeanine Pirro asking why she didn’t make the cut.

11) Really liked Anand Giridharadas review of Michael Lind’s entirely class-based (and in some pretty bizarre ways) analysis of Trump’s populism:

Look, writing a book about Trump-era populism without a lens of racial awareness must be hard. Here’s how Lind describes political correctness, for instance: “the artificial dialect devised by leftist activists and spread by university and corporate bureaucrats that serves as a class marker distinguishing the college-educated from the vulgar majority below them.” In this framing, all the new awarenesses and sensitivities and humilities — for which I am profoundly thankful, since these days I’m much less often asked where I’m really from or told my English is impressive (thanks, they teach us well in Ohio!) — are just a ploy by leftists to hold white working-class people down. This understanding portrays the victims as the white working class, and the oppressors as those students who no longer wish to be called “faggots” and secretaries tired of being “sweetie.” I, for one, am grateful for all the thinking and doing that have changed how Americans navigate one another’s identities, and I do not have the luxury of dismissing the improvement in the dignity I am accorded daily as an “artificial dialect.”

Now, if you are going to present Trump as the receptacle of the cries of the unheard, you will need to funhouse-mirror him beyond recognition. Lind is on it. He takes the quintessential racist moment of Trump’s presidency — his famous comments on Charlottesville — and defends them: “Phrases from his remarks were taken out of context, recombined and misconstrued so they could fit into the Trump-is-Hitler narrative.” He also dismisses concerns about Russia’s role in the 2016 election as “mythological thinking.” “Liberal democracy in the West today is not endangered by Russian machinations or resurgent fascism,” Lind writes, describing a world I would love to live in. In fact, get this: Lind believes the “paranoid demonological thinking” represented by worries about Russia and fascism “has the potential to be a greater danger to liberal democracy in the West than any particular populist movements.”…

12) I really enjoy reading contemporary historical takes on Johnson’s impeachment as I got it so wrong in my AP US History paper in 11th grade based almost entirely upon sources which were basically by confederate apologists.  Unsurprisingly, Mike Pence’s history is still in the 1980’s:

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Vice President Mike Pence urging Senate Democrats to follow the example of Edmund G. Ross, who “bucked his party and voted to acquit Andrew Johnson.” Pence praised Ross, who served as a Republican senator during Johnson’s presidency, for resisting “pressure” from his party and staying “true to his own convictions” to “render a fair judgment.” He favorably cites John F. Kennedy’s 1956 book Profiles in Courage, which depicts Ross who resisted “legislative mob rule” and “partisan impeachment.” The vice president draws parallels between Johnson and Donald Trump, asking, “Who, among the Senate Democrats, will stand up to the passions of their party this time?”

Pence’s op-ed is profoundly ahistorical, inaccurate, and oddly reliant upon a view of Johnson promoted by the Ku Klux Klan during its resurgence in the early 20th century. Far from a principled independent, Ross was an unscrupulous politician who exploited his impeachment vote to obtain favors from the president and may well have been bribed to acquit. Historian Brenda Wineapple’s extraordinary book The Impeachers, published in 2019, details the true story of Ross’ corrupt bargain to save Johnson’s catastrophic presidency. We spoke on Friday about the many errors in Pence’s op-ed. Our interview has been edited for length.

13) On the practical value of a liberal arts education:

A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that over the course of a career, a liberal arts education is remarkably practical, providing a median return on investment 40 years after enrollment that approaches $1 million. The results, searchable and sortable by institution, were released Tuesday…

The Georgetown study finds that the return on a liberal arts education is not typically immediate — at 10 years, the median return is $62,000 — but over the decades of a career, it is solid. Only doctoral universities with the two highest levels of research activity, well-known institutions such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fared better in the school’s estimated return on investment. The median 40-year return of $918,000 at liberal arts colleges is more than 25 percent higher than the median for all colleges, researchers found.

Over a long period, the ideal preparation includes education in a field linked to a career, such as engineering, with the addition of general education that allows a person to be flexible and draw on a wealth of knowledge, according to Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the education and workforce center at Georgetown.

14) This is cool on many levels– living concrete:

For centuries, builders have been making concrete roughly the same way: by mixing hard materials like sand with various binders, and hoping it stays fixed and rigid for a long time to come.

Now, an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has created a rather different kind of concrete — one that is alive and can even reproduce.

Minerals in the new material are deposited not by chemistry but by cyanobacteria, a common class of microbes that capture energy through photosynthesis. The photosynthetic process absorbs carbon dioxide, in stark contrast to the production of regular concrete, which spews huge amounts of that greenhouse gas…

The blocks also have the advantage of being made from a variety of common materials. Most concrete requires virgin sand that comes from rivers, lakes and oceans, which is running short worldwide, largely because of the enormous demand for concrete. The new living material is not so picky. “We’re not pigeonholed into using some particular kind of sand,” Dr. Srubar said. “We could use waste materials like ground glass or recycled concrete.”

The research team is working to make the material more practical by making the concrete stronger; increasing the bacteria’s resistance to dehydration; reconfiguring the materials so they can be flat-packed and easily assembled, like slabs of drywall; and finding a different kind of cyanobacteria that doesn’t require the addition of a gel.

Eventually, Dr. Srubar said, the tools of synthetic biology could dramatically expand the realm of possibilities: for instance, building materials that can detect and respond to toxic chemicals, or that light up to reveal structural damage. Living concrete might help in environments harsher than even the driest deserts: other planets, like Mars.

15) Nature shows are all the rage (and the Greene family is on-board).  I love that I shared watching National Geographic specials, etc., with my mom when I was a kid and now I’m watching David Attenborough with my kids.

16) Interesting, revisionist take on the 100th anniversary of Prohibition:

In reality, the temperance movement was anything but pinky-raising Victorians forbidding society to drink. Temperance was the longest-running, most widely supported social movement in both American and global history. Its foe wasn’t the drink in the bottle or the drunk who drank it, but the drink traffic: powerful business interests — protected by a government reliant on liquor taxes — getting men addicted to booze, and then profiting handsomely by bleeding them and their families dry.

In the 19th century, saloonkeepers across the United States and around the world were seen as parasites on the local community. This wasn’t Ted Danson, the friendly bartender in “Cheers!” There was no sending home a customer for having too much; that was lost profit. And since the saloonkeeper was often also the town pawnbroker, once you had drunk up your last penny, he might take your shirt, hat and watch too — if his hired pickpockets didn’t pinch them first.

Since fleecing customers was often illegal, the saloonkeeper’s profits paid kickbacks to the police, judges and mayor. Pop histories describe the saloon as a “symbol” — of masculinity, of drunkenness, of social ills. But the saloon wasn’t the symbol of some other problem; it was the problem itself.

This is why the powerful prohibitionist organization was called the Anti-Saloon League, not the Anti-Drinking Society. This is why neither the 18th Amendment nor state-level prohibitions ever outlawed drinking alcohol, but instead focused on its sale. It wasn’t taking a drink every now and then that got reformers’ hackles up; it was the idea of the rich getting richer by making the poor poorer through addiction.

One legislator called for prohibition “for the safety and redemption of the people from the social, political and moral curse of the saloon.” That zealot was Abraham Lincoln, rising to support Illinois’s statewide prohibition in 1855. Similar sentiments were expressed by Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, William Jennings Bryan, William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many other progressive leaders.

Our inability to comprehend the past comes from taking current worldviews and projecting them backward. And the fact that Prohibition largely failed at the national level, and was later repealed, doesn’t mean that its proponents were crackpots or radicals.

17) The short story, “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall sounds interesting and provocative.  A shame that the publisher ultimately had to remove it

At the beginning of this year, the science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld published a short story called “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” by Isabel Fall. The story, which appears to be Fall’s debut, follows the first “somatic female” to undergo “tactical-role gender reassignment” surgery. She becomes, more or less literally, an Army helicopter. “When I was a woman I wanted my skin to be as smooth and dark as the sintered stone countertop in our kitchen,” the narrator says. “Now my skin is boron-carbide and Kevlar.” The experience of the narrator seemed to reflect the real-world struggles of transitioning. “Severe gender dysphoria,” Fall writes, “can be a flight risk.” The story took the offensive meme, slapped some rotors on it, and flew away to surprising places.

Responses were vehement. Readers who liked it saw an author being intentionally subversive. “I expected the worst when I saw the title,” wrote Reddit user Terminus0. “But I like how it leans into and treats seriously the saying … that people use to dismiss gender fluidity and makes it literal.” Most others in the thread agreed, saying they found the piece gripping, pleasantly surprising, or reminiscent of erotic sci-fi’s preeminent provocateur, Chuck Tingle. “I have been talking for days to everyone I meet about ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,’” @hoverpope tweeted. “It was immediately canonized for me.” Other celebrators of the work included noted author Carmen Maria Machado, who praised the story’s messy boldness. She also called out the critics—of which there seemed to be just as many. “My heart is so crushed and my brain is so angry,” Machado tweeted.

18) I’ll watch pretty much anything from Aardman animation.  And especially if it’s short and for a good cause like saving the oceans.

19) If you haven’t seen this from Buzzfeed, it really is amazing, “Here Are 20 Headlines Comparing Meghan Markle To Kate Middleton That May Show Why She And Prince Harry Are Cutting Off Royal Reporters”

 

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) This is good (thanks JDW), “Togo national football team attack: Survivors remember machine gun ambush, 10 years on”

2) Important analysis of Black voters’ substantial and enduring support for Biden, plus his white support, in the Monkey Cage, “Biden appeals both to black voters — and to white voters suspicious of Black Lives Matter”

3) As a huge podcast fan, I loved this tweet.

4) Pretty much every state requires just one U.S. History class, so I’m okay with NC falling in line with that.  That said, while I think it’s great to teach personal financial literacy to HS kids, a whole class seems like overkill to me. But, I did have to address this one quote in the article that is emblematic of comments that drive me crazy, “State education officials said the change won’t result in students having less knowledge of American history. They said North Carolina students will still learn about U.S. history in elementary and middle school and that the revamped civics class will also include content on U.S. history.”  Really?!  One less history class, but not “less knowledge” of history.  Give me a break!  And just admit that they’ll have less history, but still a sufficient amount.

5) So, a non-vegan, “vegan” relative of mine led to some interesting conversations between my wife and myself about what’s really a vegan.  I had not heard of, and do really like, the idea of “plant-based eating.”

The terms “vegan” and “plant-based” are often used interchangeably, but there’s a growing effort to define just what it means to follow a plant-based lifestyle.

According to Brian Wendel, the founder of the “plant-based living” website Forks Over Knives, going plant-based is often “for people who are very enthusiastic about the health angle” of eating mainly whole plant foods.

Reynolde Jordan, who runs a food blog called Plant-Based Vibe in Memphis, said it’s also a way to distance oneself from the rigid ideology of veganism, which calls for abstaining from animal products of all kinds.

“When you classify yourself as vegan, you’re now being watched,” said Mr. Jordan, who posts vegan recipes for dishes such as Cajun seaweed gumbo and raw beet balls along with photos of the vegetarian meals he orders on trips. “In my DMs, I’d get all these messages from activists for protests. I’m just not that guy — I did this for the purpose of eating better.”

6) Tom Jensen with his 2020 analysis based on PPP recent polling, “Democratic Unity Will Determine Trump’s Fate”

Over the last couple weeks PPP did polls testing the leading Democratic contenders for President against Donald Trump in both Arizona and Iowa.

On the surface the numbers are decent but not amazing for Democrats. Donald Trump won Arizona by 4 points in 2016. Currently he ties Joe Biden, leads Bernie Sanders by 1, leads Elizabeth Warren by 2, and leads Pete Buttigieg by 3. Trump won Iowa by 9 points in 2016. Currently he leads Pete Buttigieg by 1, Joe Biden by 3, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren by 5.

When you dig further into the numbers though a clear picture emerges- Trump’s position would be much, much worse if voters who don’t like him- or even just those voters who voted against him in 2016- end up unifying around the eventual Democratic nominee…

He appears to have very little room to grow among undecideds. These numbers suggest that the fate of the 2020 election really stands in the hands of the voters who don’t like Trump. Trump does not have enough people who like him to get reelected- the only way he does is if the voters who don’t like him refuse to get on the same page after the Democratic primary is over. Right now we see a lot of people saying they will vote for Biden but not Bernie or will vote for Bernie but not Biden- if those people get on the same page once the nominee is chosen, Trump will lose. If they don’t, it will be close.

7) I think it was Ezra Klein who shared this link on the “selection bias” of how we think about kids before we actually have them:

For example, there was a huge amount of selection bias in my observations of parents and children. Some parents may have noticed that I wrote “Whenever I’d noticed parents with kids.” Of course the times I noticed kids were when things were going wrong. I only noticed them when they made noise. And where was I when I noticed them? Ordinarily I never went to places with kids, so the only times I encountered them were in shared bottlenecks like airplanes. Which is not exactly a representative sample. Flying with a toddler is something very few parents enjoy.

What I didn’t notice, because they tend to be much quieter, were all the great moments parents had with kids. People don’t talk about these much — the magic is hard to put into words, and all other parents know about them anyway — but one of the great things about having kids is that there are so many times when you feel there is nowhere else you’d rather be, and nothing else you’d rather be doing. You don’t have to be doing anything special. You could just be going somewhere together, or putting them to bed, or pushing them on the swings at the park. But you wouldn’t trade these moments for anything. One doesn’t tend to associate kids with peace, but that’s what you feel. You don’t need to look any further than where you are right now.

Before I had kids, I had moments of this kind of peace, but they were rarer. With kids it can happen several times a day.

My other source of data about kids was my own childhood, and that was similarly misleading. I was pretty bad, and was always in trouble for something or other. So it seemed to me that parenthood was essentially law enforcement. I didn’t realize there were good times too.

8) And this was really interesting on marriage.  The key to long-term success may largely be avoiding negativity:

We have some answers, thanks to psychologists who have been tracking couples’ happiness. They’ve found, based on the couples’ ratings of their own satisfaction, that marriages usually don’t get better. The ratings typically go downhill over time. The successful marriages are defined not by improvement, but by avoiding decline. That doesn’t mean marriage is a misery. The thrill of infatuation fades, so the euphoria that initially bonded a couple cannot sustain them over the decades, but most couples find other sources of contentment and remain satisfied overall (just not as satisfied as at the beginning). Sometimes, though, the decline in satisfaction is so steep that it dooms a marriage. By monitoring couples’ interactions and tracking them over time, researchers have developed a surprising theory for the breakdown of relationships.

What mattered was the bad stuff, as the psychologists concluded: “It is not so much the good, constructive things that partners do or do not do for one another that determines whether a relationship ‘works’ as it is the destructive things that they do or do not do in reaction to the problems.” When you quietly hang in there for your partner, your loyalty often isn’t even noticed. But when you silently withdraw from your partner or issue angry threats, you can start a disastrous spiral of retaliation.

“The reason long‑term relationships are so difficult,” says Caryl Rusbult, who led the couples study, “is that sooner or later one person is liable to be negative for so long that the other one starts to respond negatively too. When that happens, it’s hard to save the relationship.” Negativity is a tough disease to shake—and it’s highly contagious. Other researchers have found that when partners are separately asked to ponder aspects of their relationship, they spend much more time contemplating the bad than the good. To get through the bad stuff, you need to stop the negative spiral before it begins.

9) Love this on the need for higher middle-class taxes:

But on the question of raising taxes, and for whom, most Democratic candidates have hedged toward an all-too-familiar position. Like Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012, they’ve asserted their opposition to tax increases on anyone but the very rich — even if those tax hikes are offset by household savings on priorities like child care, health care and college education…

A no-new-middle-class-taxes pledge may help fend off misleading questions from reporters and disingenuous attacks from primary opponents, but it is seriously misguided. Middle-class taxes are a necessary and desirable part of a comprehensive, progressive policy framework that benefits low- and middle-income people most. [emphases mine] When redistributed through universal programs like Medicare-for-all (or free child care, free college, paid family leave, etc.), broad taxes provide stable funding and a sizable return on investment. Democratic presidential candidates should make the case for middle-class taxes, not run from them.

Here is a basic fact: The United States is a low-tax country. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the United States ranked fourth-lowest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (a consortium of 36 economically developed countries) in terms of tax revenue collected as a percentage of the economy — behind nations like Germany, Israel, Latvia and Canada. The gap between U.S. and average OECD revenue has widened over time, from 1.3 percentage points of gross domestic product in 1965 to 10 percentage points more recently. That’s nearly $2 trillion per year in forgone revenue from lower tax rates.

10) I just really love advanced hockey stats.  So much so that I actually check in on them here during the game while watching Carolina Hurricanes games.  Thus, I really appreciate this analysis here which basically concludes it makes sense to focus most on scoring chances over Corsi, and definitely more so than high-danger chances.

11) Love this NYT feature from Dana Goldstein on how otherwise identical HS History textbooks have minor re-writes for partisan state review boards.  Most egregrious, of course, Texas.  Especially when it comes to race:

Pearson, the publisher whose Texas textbook raises questions about the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature, said such language “adds more depth and nuance.”

Critical language about nonwhite cultural movements also appears in a Texas book from McGraw-Hill. It is partly a result of debates, in 2010, between conservative and liberal members of the Texas Board of Education over whether state standards should mention cultural movements like hip-hop and country music. Their compromise was to ask teachers and textbook publishers to address “both the positive and negative impacts” of artistic movements.

Texas struck that requirement in 2018, but its most recent textbooks, published in 2016, will reflect it for years to come.

12) Basically, it’s hell to own a convenience store in Japan, and one owner is fighting back.

13) Honestly, I think it makes us feel better to make claims along the lines that those who commit suicide are cowards.  Ken White, with some great pushback on this:

Every time there’s a suicide in the news, the Courage Experts appear, explaining that taking your own life—especially if you have a family—is cowardly.  The deaths of Robin Williams, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, and many others all inspired such judgments from people lacking either insight or human empathy. These people have something in common: They haven’t experienced major depression, and don’t care to make the effort to grasp what it’s like.  Like Ziegler, they see suicide as “selfish,” a decision reached through a self-interested calculus of pleasure and pain, with no consideration given to loved ones left behind.

But that’s not what depression is like at all.  Wallace understood it, even though his understanding wasn’t enough to save him.  In the novel Infinite Jest, he wrote this remarkably evocative and accurate description:

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

Depression lies. It lies relentlessly and seductively and convincingly. The lies, like the fire of Wallace’s parable, separate you from hope, from faith, from your loved ones.  Imagine the worst day of your life. Maybe someone you loved died, or betrayed you. Maybe you lost a job you loved or were publicly humiliated or failed some essential obligation. Remember how it felt? Imagine, for a moment, feeling that way almost all of the time. Imagine it’s always there, a hard angry fist in the pit of your stomach, from when you wake to when you sleep. Imagine that the few moments when you forget and don’t feel that way offer little solace, because suddenly you remember, and the pain and hopelessness surge back like a tsunami. Imagine hearing inexorable lies in your own voice, telling you that you’ll never feel better, that you deserve no better, that if there are people who love you, it’s only because they don’t see how worthless you are, and that they would all be better off without you. Imagine that you can’t conceive of any way that the pain can end unless you die. It’s not cowardly to fall prey to that. It’s human. Resisting that, persevering, excelling, creating art when you feel that way, like Wallace did? That’s goddamned epic. Wallace isn’t a coward for falling; he’s a hero for standing as long as he did.

14) Just got back from “1917.”  Damn was that good.

2020 Quick hits

Happy New Year.

1) Peggy Orenstein’s Atlantic cover story on toxic masculinity was really good.  Enjoyed very much discussing this with my boys.  And, once again, made me super-grateful for my dad who was always a great role model of how to be a man without being a jerk.

2) As I like to say, capitalism is great… where it works.  Alas, increasingly an area where it does not work is in creating next-generation antibiotic drugs.  Time for governments to step in.

3) Adam Serwer with, naturally, a thoughtful take on the 1619 project controversy.  Though, in response to this:

The clash between the Times authors and their historian critics represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society. Was America founded as a slavocracy, and are current racial inequities the natural outgrowth of that? Or was America conceived in liberty, a nation haltingly redeeming itself through its founding principles? These are not simple questions to answer, because the nation’s pro-slavery and anti-slavery tendencies are so closely intertwined.

Does not the answer just have to be an emphatic, “both!”?

4) John McWhorter on why Latinx is not catching on:

Latino was enthusiastically taken up as an alternative to Hispanic around the same time African American came into use; the newer term solved the problem created by the fact that Hispanic, which centers language, refers to Spanish-speakers and thus excludes people of Brazilian descent. Latinx, too, purports to solve a problem: that of implied gender. True, gender marking in language can affect thought. But that issue is largely discussed among the intelligentsia. If you ask the proverbial person on the street, you’ll find no gnawing concern about the bias encoded in gendered word endings.

To black people, African American felt like a response to discrimination from outsiders, something black people needed as an alternative to the loaded word black. The term serves as a proud statement to a racist society. To Latinos, Latinx may feel like an imposition by activists. It’s also too clever by half for Romance-language speakers accustomed to gendered nouns…

The difference between African American and Latinx represents a pattern demonstrated endlessly in the past. Blackboard-grammar rules—fewer books rather than less books, when to use that instead of which, etc.—are imposed from on high.

5) I found this on hearing loss disturbing and fascinating:

While under normal circumstances, cognitive losses occur gradually as people age, the wisest course may well be to minimize and delay them as long as possible and in doing so, reduce the risk of dementia. Hearing loss is now known to be the largest modifiable risk factor for developing dementia, exceeding that of smoking, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and social isolation, according to an international analysis published in The Lancet in 2017.

The analysis indicated that preventing or treating hearing loss in midlife has the potential to diminish the incidence of dementia by 9 percent.

Difficulty hearing can impair brain function by keeping people socially isolated and inadequately stimulated by aural input. The harder it is for the brain to process sound, the more it has to work to understand what it hears, depleting its ability to perform other cognitive tasks. Memory is adversely affected as well. Information that is not heard clearly impairs the brain’s ability to remember it. An inadequately stimulated brain tends to atrophy.

6) I had no idea rare-earth magnets are a thing.  Now, I do– and they’re cool!  But, as very powerful magnets they are potentially dangerous.  Like if kids swallow them.  The latest, “Number of children swallowing dangerous magnets surges as industry largely polices itself.”  But, sorry, lots of products are potentially dangerous (drain cleaner, anyone?) but we don’t think the government should entirely eliminate them from the marketplace (as, apparently, was once done with these magnets).

7) Even back when I was into cars (yes, yours truly had a subscription to “Road & Track” many, many years ago), I had an irrational bias against the Corvette.  But, damn, this new Corvette is really cool and hello of a deal.

8) Why is it so hard to get things right?  Apparently, cruise ships idling in port spew a ton of pollution needlessly, but even where they’ve added an electric power hook-up in Brooklyn, it hardly gets used.

9) The Navy Seal that Trump pardoned was a truly evil man by the accounts of the members of his own unit

They offer the first opportunity outside the courtroom to hear directly from the men of Alpha platoon, SEAL Team 7, whose blistering testimony about their platoon chief was dismissed by President Trump when he upended the military code of justice to protect Chief Gallagher from the punishment.

“The guy is freaking evil,” Special Operator Miller told investigators. “The guy was toxic,” Special Operator First Class Joshua Vriens, a sniper, said in a separate interview. “You could tell he was perfectly O.K. with killing anybody that was moving,” Special Operator First Class Corey Scott, a medic in the platoon, told the investigators.

10) It’s crazy to me that Anna Maria College has revitalized itself behind an awful football team. Meanwhile, Northeastern has thrived after dropping its team.  Really interesting contrast.  NYT, “Adding Football Saved One College. Dumping It Boosted Another.Officials at tiny Anna Maria College say starting a football program was one of their best decisions. At Northeastern, it has been good riddance.”

11) Loved this Wired video on the science of color perception.  Of course there’s not even any red pixels in this image, but your brain just assumes that it’s red strawberries in blue light.

strawberries

PHOTOGRAPH: AKIYOSHI KITAOKA

Much more coolness at the link.

12) It’s great that some good guys with guns stopped a shooter in a church in Texas.  Sometimes, the good guy with a gun really does make a difference.  But it is absurdly clear that, on balance, a society awash in guns, as ours is, is simply much, much, much more dangerous.  Also, I read elsewhere that the good guy was a highly-trained, former FBI agent.  Not your usual concealed carry permit holder.

13) Yeah, so this is wrong:

Robert Alexander has been away from home for more than a decade. His days and nights are spent locked up behind walls topped with barbed wire.

“Prison kind of gives you that feeling that you’re like on an island,” says Alexander, 39, who is studying for a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies while serving his third prison sentence.

Clad in an oversized gray sweatshirt under the fluorescent lights inside the visiting room of Wisconsin’s oldest state prison, he is more than 70 miles from his last address in Milwaukee.

“You don’t feel like a resident of anything,” he adds.

But if Alexander and his more than 1,200 fellow prisoners are still incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution next Census Day — April 1 — the Census Bureau will officially consider them residents of Waupun, Wis., for the 2020 national head count.

That’s because, since the first U.S. census in 1790, the federal government has included incarcerated people in the population counts of where they’re imprisoned. This technical detail of a little-known policy can have an outsized impact on prison towns across the U.S. for the next decade.

While serving time at Waupun Correctional Institution, Robert Alexander is working on a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies. Since the first U.S. census in 1790, the federal government has included incarcerated people in the population counts of where they’re imprisoned.

In many cases, rural, predominantly white towns see their population numbers boosted by population counts from prisons disproportionately made up of black and Latinx people.

In turn, states, which control how voting districts are drawn, and local governments can use those numbers to form districts filled predominantly with people who are locked behind bars and cannot vote in almost all states. Maine and Vermont are the exceptions.

Officials in some prison towns have come up with creative ways to avoid forming voting districts made up primarily of prisoners. But in many others, political lines are drawn around prisons in a way that critics deride as “prison gerrymandering.”

14) I did not know there was a worldwide “rule of law index” but discovered it when learning about Singapore on Wikipedia (my little sister just finished visiting there). Followed some links, and I love this report from the World Justice Project.  US ranks #20.  And, damn, Northern Europe kicks butt once again.  I like the comparisons controlling for income, like this one:

15) Great post from Jay Rosen on what Chuck Todd’s utter failure at MTP says about the broader failures of the media in the age of Trump:

A key premise for Meet the Press is symmetry between the two major political parties. The whole show is built on that. But in the information sphere — the subject of Chuck Todd’s confessions — asymmetry has taken command. The right wing ecosystem for news does not operate like the rest of the country’s news system. And increasingly conservative politics is getting sucked into conservative media. It makes more sense to see Fox News and the Trump White House as two parts of the same organism. As these trends grind on they put stress on Meet the Press practices. But it takes imagination to see how the show might be affected— or changed. In place of that we have Chuck Todd pleading naiveté.

So what will they do now? My answer: they have no earthly idea. This is what I mean by an epistemological crisis. Chuck Todd has essentially said that on the right there is an incentive structure that compels Republican office holders to use their time on Meet the Press for the spread of disinformation. So do you keep inviting them on air to do just that? If so, then you break faith with the audience and create a massive problem in real time fact-checking. If not, then you just broke the show in half.

There is simply nothing in the playbook at Meet the Press that tells the producers what to do in this situation. As I have tried to show, they didn’t arrive here through acts of naiveté, but by willful blindness, malpractice among the experts in charge, an insider’s mentality, a listening breakdown, a failure of imagination, and sheer disbelief that the world could have changed so much upon people paid so well to understand it.

16) I just came across this from a few years ago. Anyway, kind of amazing to me that there were people with an academic background actually arguing that the Southern realignment was predominantly about matters other than race.  Uhhh, no. Anyway, this paper uses copious data to make clear– it’s race:

After generations of loyalty, Southern whites left the Democratic party en masse in the second half of the twentieth century. To what extent did Democrats’ 1960s Civil Rights initiatives trigger this exodus, versus Southern economic development, rising political polarization or other trends that made the party unattractive to Southern whites? The lack of data on racial attitudes and political preferences spanning the 1960s Civil Rights era has hampered research on this central question of American political economy. We uncover and employ such data, drawn from Gallup surveys dating back to 1958. From 1958 to 1961, conservative racial views strongly predict Democratic identification among Southern whites, a correlation that disappears after President Kennedy introduces sweeping Civil Rights legislation in 1963. We find that defection among racially conservative whites explains all (three-fourths) of the decline in relative white Southern Democratic identification between 1958 and 1980 (2000). We offer corroborating quantitative analysis—drawn from sources such as Gallup questions on presidential approval and hypothetical presidential match-ups as well as textual analysis of newspapers—for the central role of racial views in explaining white Southern dealignment from the Democrats as far back as the 1940s.

17) Interesting article on just how hard it is to balance being a mom with being a surgeon.  Left almost entirely unaddressed in the article is that either A) there’s a lot of suffering dads as well, or B) a lot of surgeon dads just don’t really care that much about being a good dad.  Also, clearly, some changes need to happen so that this specialty is more compatible with a reasonable family life.

18) Unsurprisingly, the Ganges is brimming with dangerous bacteria.  Surprisingly, this is even the case near the headwaters:

High in the Himalayas, it’s easy to see why the Ganges River is considered sacred.

According to Hindu legend, the Milky Way became this earthly body of water to wash away humanity’s sins. As it drains out of a glacier here, rock silt dyes the ice-cold torrent an opaque gray, but biologically, the river is pristine — free of bacteria.

Then, long before it flows past any big cities, hospitals, factories or farms, its purity degrades. It becomes filled with a virulent type of bacteria, resistant to common antibiotics.

The Ganges is living proof that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are almost everywhere. The river offers powerful insight into the prevalence and spread of drug-resistant infections, one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Its waters provide clues to how these pathogens find their way into our ecosystem.

Winding over 1,500 miles to the Bay of Bengal, Ma Ganga — “Mother Ganges”— eventually becomes one of the planet’s most polluted rivers, a mélange of urban sewage, animal waste, pesticides, fertilizers, industrial metals and rivulets of ashes from cremated bodies.

But annual tests by scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology show that antibiotic-resistant bacteria appear while the river is still flowing through the narrow gorges of the Himalayan foothills, hundreds of miles before it encounters any of the usual suspects that would pollute its waters with resistant germs.

The bacterial levels are “astronomically high,” said Shaikh Ziauddin Ahammad, a professor of biochemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology. The only possible source is humans, specifically the throngs of ritual bathers who come to wash away their sins and immerse themselves in the waters…

But where exactly do these armies of drug-resistant germs come from? Are they already everywhere — in the soil beneath our feet, for example? Do they emerge in hospitals, where antibiotics are heavily used?

Are they bred in the intestines of livestock on factory farms? Do they arise in the fish, plants or plankton living in lakes downstream from pharmaceutical factories?

Or are the germs just sitting inside the patients themselves, waiting for their hosts to weaken enough for them to take over?

Research now being done in India and elsewhere suggests an answer to these questions: Yes, all of the above.

19) Good stuff in NYT about the lack of women’s coaches in college athletics:

Title IX, passed in 1972, transformed American sports — it decided girls deserved the same opportunities as boys to play sports. From then on, men and women in college had to receive equal treatment on the playing l.field and equal funding for their athletic programs. Now the United States produces many of the best female athletes in the world.

But that equality stops at graduation.

Before Title IX, women were head coaches of more than 90 percent of women’s college teams. Passage of the law flooded women’s sports with money and created many more jobs, many of which went to men. Now about 40 percent of women’s college teams are coached by women. Only about 3 percent of men’s college teams are coached by women.

That means that men have roughly double the number of opportunities to coach. It only gets worse higher up the administrative ladder: 89 percent of Division I college athletic directors are men.

Without equal opportunities to lead, women don’t…

By not diversifying, college teams are quite literally leaving points on the field.

Adding women to leadership roles improves the overall performance of a team, across fields. According to a Harvard study, gender-balanced teams perform better than male-dominated teams. A 2019 Harvard Business Review study found that “women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones.” Another analysis of gender studies shows that when it comes to leadership skills, men excel at confidence, whereas women stand out for competence.

20) I had actually forgotten that at the beginning of this decade, 3D television was supposed to be a big thing.

The technology had existed before; Samsung got there first, in 2007. But January 2010 presented a clear inflection point. In addition to the Cell TV there were 3D Blu-ray players, sets that could automatically give depth to flat images, and the promise of DirecTV networks that broadcast exclusively in three dimensions. The industry had lined up behind a vision of the future, marketing executives and product managers insisting that the more they had created was also better. How could it not be? It was more.

Five years later, 3D TV was dead. You probably haven’t thought about it since then, if you even did before. But there’s maybe no better totem for the last decade of consumer technology. (The iPhone was more transformative, but is also singular, and besides that was born in the late aughts.) It’s what happens when smart people run out of ideas, the last gasp before aspiration gives way to commoditization. It was the dawn of all-internet everything, and all the privacy violations inherent in that. And it steadfastly ignored how human beings actually use technology, because doing so meant companies could charge more for it.

What I remember most from those press conferences in 2010 was the assuredness that millions of people somehow actively wanted to have to put glasses on their faces in order to watch television. Even then, it made no sense.

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