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.  

 

(Finally) Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) This pooled testing idea is great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preliminary Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masks, race, and my research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9) And a different study with an opposite conclusion:

Results:

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

Conclusions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But even Trump didn’t really buy it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case for reparations

Nikole Hannah-Jones makes the case for reparations and, you know what, I’m sold.  I have absolutely zero doubt that my relative wealth and positions in society rests, in part, on the systematic oppression of Black Americans over centuries.  No doubt at all.  And, I don’t know the numbers, but if every upper-middle class white American like me was 20% poorer you know how we’d be?  Fine!  And do you know what difference all that redistributed wealth would make for Black Americans?  A big one!  (I just picked 20%, as Hannah-Jones argues, the devil is not the details, but changing how we think about the issue). Of course, we’re nowhere near this politically.  And, I would probably even argue that advocating for this politically, right now, might actually be counter-productive and politically empower the very sorts of people who wait make a real racial reckoning even more unlikely.  But, on a moral grounds (for sure) and on a history and social science grounds, the case is really, really solid.  I thought this part was especially good:

In 2018, Duke University’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development published a report called “What We Get Wrong About Closing the Racial Wealth Gap” that examined the common misperceptions about the causes of the racial wealth gap and presented data and social-science research that refutes them all.

The study shows that the racial wealth gap is not about poverty. Poor white families earning less than $27,000 a year hold nearly the same amount of wealth as black families earning between $48,000 and $76,000 annually. It’s not because of black spending habits. Black Americans have lower incomes over all but save at a slightly higher rate than white Americans with similar incomes. It’s not that black people need to value education more. Black parents, when controlling for household type and socioeconomic status, actually offer more financial support for their children’s higher education than white parents do, according to the study. And some studies have shown that black youths, when compared with white youths whose parents have similar incomes and education levels, are actually more likely to go to college and earn additional credentials.

But probably most astounding to many Americans is that college simply does not pay off for black Americans the way it does for other groups. Black college graduates are about as likely to be unemployed as white Americans with a high school diploma, and black Americans with a college education hold less wealth than white Americans who have not even completed high school. Further, because black families hold almost no wealth to begin with, black students are the most likely to borrow money to pay for college and then to borrow more. That debt, in turn, means that black students cannot start saving immediately upon graduation like their less-debt-burdened peers.

It’s not a lack of homeownership. While it’s true that black Americans have the lowest homeownership rates in the nation, simply owning a home is not the same asset that it is for white Americans. Black Americans get higher mortgage rates even with equal credit worthiness, and homes in black neighborhoods do not appreciate at the same rate as those in white areas, because housing prices are still driven by the racial makeup of communities. As the Duke University economist William Darity Jr., the study’s lead author, points out, the ability to purchase a home in the first place is seldom a result of just the hard work and frugality of the buyer. “It’s actually parental and grandparental wealth that facilitates the acquisition of a home.”

It’s not because a majority of black families are led by a single mother. White single women with children hold the same amount of wealth as single black women with no children, and the typical white single parent has twice the wealth of the typical two-parent black family.

To summarize, none of the actions we are told black people must take if they want to “lift themselves” out of poverty and gain financial stability — not marrying, not getting educated, not saving more, not owning a home — can mitigate 400 years of racialized plundering. Wealth begets wealth, and white Americans have had centuries of government assistance to accumulate wealth, while the government has for the vast history of this country worked against black Americans doing the same…

The technical details, frankly, are the easier part. The real obstacle, the obstacle that we have never overcome, is garnering the political will — convincing enough Americans that the centuries-long forced economic disadvantage of black Americans should be remedied, that restitution is owed to people who have never had an equal chance to take advantage of the bounty they played such a significant part in creating…

Race-neutral policies simply will not address the depth of disadvantage faced by people this country once believed were chattel. Financial restitution cannot end racism, of course, but it can certainly mitigate racism’s most devastating effects. If we do nothing, black Americans may never recover from this pandemic, and they will certainly never know the equality the nation has promised.

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.

Why are masks political?

So asks the Business Insider newsletter today.  Of course, we all know the answer… the uniquely awful president of ours.  But, I love how David Plotz actually breaks down four mutually reinforcing theories of Trump’s idiocy on this:

Here are four theories:

  1. Trump is vain. He thinks he looks bad with a mask, so he refuses to wear it. He similarly judges as ugly or weak any staffers who wear them, making masklessness the norm across the White House, which effectively turns demasking into policy
  2. Owning the libs is more important than public health. Democrats are pushing for masking, which triggers certain conservative activists, who agitate that this is an important culture war battle — even though it’s not. That works up the base and conservative media, which infects Trump. Masking would mean the libs got a win, and that can’t be allowed, even if it kills people.
  3. Masking infringes on individual liberty. Some on the right have become enthralled with a highly selfish conception of liberty that equates freedom with being able to do what you want. Historically conservatism has embraced a more expansive idea of liberty that emphasizes balancing your own desires with your obligations to protect and serve others. This selfish libertarianism spread on social media and into conservative media, and influenced the president.
  4. Trump thinks magically. He’s ignorant of science and hasn’t been interested in anything that’s not a miracle. Trump has consistently hyped bogus cure-alls — the virus will simply vanish, there will be a vaccine in months, hydroxychloroquine will prevent infection. Masking by contrast offers a subtle, marginal benefit.

Sadly, all four of these theories hold Trump in their thrall. He can’t shake loose from them, even though it would actually help him get closer to what he wants, which is reelection.

Exactly, the fact that he cannot get on board with this even though it is so obviously in his own electoral interests is just more evidence at how fabulously bad he is at being president.

And, because I keep meaning to post it, nice Gallup piece on the growing divisions.  Thanks, Trump!

The good news is that the partisan mask split does not appear to be growing much, but, on the other measures– wow.

How safe is Biden’s lead

First off– it’s big.  And, not just big nationally, but big in key states.  First the NYT/Sienna polling which is really, really high quality.

Other swing state polling with similar results:

538, though, has an article that points out some other candidates who have lost big leads at this point in the election (notably, Michael Dukaks and GWB in 2000).

Notice something very different about Dukakis and GWB-2000, though?  They were not taking on an incumbent.  There’s much more room for poll volatility when your opponent is not such a fixed quantity as the sitting president.  Especially one has been remarkably stable in public attitudes.

Also, note that Biden is actually above 50% here.  Bush’s percentage went up in 2000, it’s just that Gore’s went up more.  And Dukakis actually maintained his 45% or so, it’s just that GHWB went up a ton.  There’s certainly room for Trump to move up– and I think he actually will!– but Biden is already over 50% a vastly superior position to Dukaks and GWB-2000.

Also, I could be wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure that in most all these case we saw the polls ultimately move to be more inline with the underlying fundamentals of presidential approval and the state of the economy.  Given that the state of the economy is awful for Trump and his presidential approval is poor (though, not awful), it’s hard to see any reason to expect major movement in his direction.

No, I’m not going to guarantee you that Biden wins.  But, he is in a very, very good position.  And, it is in the interest of the media (even 538), to make you think this race is closer and more volatile that it actually is.

Just your typical Trump awfulness lost in the shuffle

Henry Blodgett on Trump’s awful, horrible, no good immigration executive order:

Trump’s visa ban is terrible for America, American companies, and Americans

President Trump has extended a suspension of immigration work visas through the end of the year, The suspension includes H1-B visas for highly skilled technology and science workers that the US tech industry depends on.

The administration justified the move by pointing to today’s extreme US unemployment and saying the suspension would prevent immigrants from taking jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. But the move is also in keeping with Trump’s desire to reduce all immigration, not just illegal immigration and asylum.

The idea that reducing immigration preserves jobs for Americans may sound reasonable, but it’s wrong. The US economy does not have a finite and fixed number of jobs. If it did, we would have run out of jobs centuries ago. Instead, the US job market continually expands as the population grows. Like Americans, immigrants who work and live in the United States spend the money they earn. And the money they spend, combined with ever-increasing productivity, creates more jobs.

H1-B visas, in particular, are big job-creators. Studies suggest that the economic contribution from each H1-B immigrant creates another 2 to 5 jobs for Americans. An estimated 30% of the US science and tech workforce was born outside the country. More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants and their children.

America was built by immigrants, and immigration helps keep America’s economy the largest and most innovative in the world. Reducing immigration, especially skilled immigration, won’t “protect” jobs for Americans. It will reduce the number of jobs that the US economy creates. It will also make the US less competitive, as ambitious, skilled people who weren’t born here decide to build their companies in other countries.

In short, Trump’s visa suspension will hurt America, American companies, and Americans.

Yeah, all that.  Also, I’m no expert on immigration law, but I strongly suspect that Congress could pass a more specific law constraining Trump’s power to do this.  But, the Republicans in Congress– most of whom actually know better– are deathly afraid of Trump and his xenophobic base.

Young adults (in bars, especially) are going to get us all killed

Great stuff from Erin Bromage whose piece on Covid risks a while back remains, probably the single best thing I have read on Covid.  Here he is talking about the growing role of young adults in spreading the disease:

The role of the young and healthy in this pandemic is beginning to reveal itself.

The 20- to 40-year-olds appear to be spreading the infection unperceived. They are just as easily infected as the elderly, but much more likely to show no or mild symptoms. People in these age groups are the ones who have allowed the virus to smolder through our communities and erupt into flames when they make contact with a susceptible population.

Unlike the older populations, where the fraction of tests that are positive have decreased markedly over time — likely evidence that we are doing better at protecting vulnerable people — when we look at the 18 to 49-year-olds, we see that the number of positive cases has remained more or less constant throughout time.

We are now seeing that more than 60% of all infections in the US are occurring in people under the age of 50.

The skewing of the infection rate toward this younger age group, those less likely to have severe symptoms and outcomes, could explain why we are seeing a nationwide reduction in hospitalizations and death.

 

But the emerging data about the infection rate for those under 50 years old is revealing that the 20- to 40-year-old segment of our population may in fact be the force driving this pandemic.

 

A recent contact tracing study performed in Japan demonstrated how significant 20 to 40-year-olds are in the initiation of new clusters of infection. About 50% of all clusters traced — outbreaks in which at least five new people were infected — were initiated by this age group. A significant revelation from this research was that the majority of the 20-40-year-old index cases were showing no disease symptoms at the time of contact with the people they infected.

 

Eighty-one percent of all new virus transmissions, resulting in outbreak clusters, happened in the days leading up to, or on the day of symptom onset. So, these individuals were unwittingly infecting others before they experienced any symptoms of the disease themselves.
Other data shows that these infected younger folks initiated outbreaks in bars, restaurants, gymnasiums and concerts. This is of no surprise to anyone following the data, as this is a pattern we have seen repeated in South Korea and are now observing in the US. [emphases mine]

Meanwhile, NYT reports on developments here in the U.S.

After months of lockdown in which outbreaks of the coronavirus often centered in nursing homes, prisons and meatpacking plants, the nation is entering a new and uncertain phase of the pandemic. New Covid-19 clusters have been found in a Pentecostal church in Oregon, a strip club in Wisconsin and in every imaginable place in between.

In Baton Rouge, La., at least 100 people tested positive for the virus after visiting bars in the Tigerland nightlife district, popular among Louisiana State University students…

Houses of worship, which were once shut down under governors’ orders in many states, are now emerging as sources of major clusters. Outbreaks at churches have been reported in states including Alabama, Kansas and West Virginia…

Other vectors for the virus have swiftly emerged in the weeks after many states reopened businesses. At least four cases of the virus were tied to the Cruisin’ Chubbys Gentlemen’s Club in Wisconsin Dells, and several cases were linked to fraternity rush parties in Oxford, Miss.

Sorry, I know people just really love too much their alcohol and to drink it in places with other humans, but right now bars are just about the worst possible places.  And since so many of them are so loud, you’ve got people yelling/shouting and thereby sending forth huge amounts of virus.  It’s the worst.  Meanwhile, they are frequented by subjectively invulnerable (and among those before 25, not even fully neurologically mature) young adults who are not appropriately weighing risks and putting the whole damn community at risk.

And to be equal opportunity, there’s no way that church services should be happening except under the strictest protocols of masks and distancing.   Yes, people want to live their lives and open things back up, but if it is too dangerous to have fans at basketball and baseball games (it is!!), it’s too dangerous to have people act like people act at bars.  Especially, because expecting young adults to act restrained and judicious is all too often a fool’s errand.

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

Interesting stuff on the latest polling via Vox:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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