(Finally) Quick hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4) This pooled testing idea is great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preliminary Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Quick hits (part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the difference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) Some good and timely social science:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quick hits

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

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

3) Jay Rosen on the state of the media.

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

To whom has this power gone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) Good stuff on Jared Kushner:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19) Also have great respect for Brian Beutler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the piece reads now:

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

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

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

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

Quick hits (part II)

1) My friend Joe insisted that I read this and really sit with it.  I’m not sure I’m smart enough to fully appreciate it (I also think, honestly, it could probably have been written more clearly for a lay audience).  I think what it is saying, though, is that if we actually allow for the speed of light to be faster than the speed of light, we can unify our theories of relativity and quantum mechanics without quantum stuff being so weird.  Which is pretty cool.

2) A friend just posted on FB a photo of her wearing a mask with a valve.  Fortunately have not seen many of these around on my excursions, but definitely seen a lot of on-line ads for them.  We should definitely not be selling masks with valves for general use right now.  (They do almost nothing for source control).

3) I get that there are some people who are surely overly-optimistic about how fast we’ll have a vaccine and just how effective it will be. But, you can also be too damn pessimistic, too.  I hate this, “this guy said we might not have an HIV vaccine and people laughed at him and now he’s a Covid vaccine skeptic.” You really don’t have to be an epidemiologist or virologist to appreciate what a unique challenge HIV is (because, I do, thanks to some reading) and the fact that everything we know about SARS-COV2 tells us it is far more amenable to a vaccine than HIV.

4) OMG– enough with the SJW’s.  JK Rowling responded to a “people who menstruate” tweet by basically saying, “you mean women?” and all the headlines are “anti-trans” and “transphobic.”  Sorry, if arguing that just using the phrase “women” instead of “people who menstruate” makes you transphobic… well…

5) Personally, it’s going to be a while before I eat inside a restaurant.  But, I might be persuaded by this (seriously).

A man and a woman dine under plastic shields in Paris on May 27. (Thibault Camus/AP)

6) Enjoyed this Public Policy Polling take on some of their recent state polling:

PPP has consistently found Democrats leading in the Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina Senate races which should be enough for a majority next year. States like Iowa expend the battlefield and provide the potential for a more robust majority.

PPP released one of the only public polls for this week’s primary in Iowa and correctly found Greenfield winning by a landslide.

-In a Texas survey done for the Texas Democratic Party, we found Joe Biden and Donald Trump tied in the state at 48. Only 46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 50% who disapprove. A Quinnipiac University survey released this week showed the state a toss up as well.

One particularly notable finding in the Texas poll is that Biden leads 53-41 among voters under 45…and 51-46 among voters between 46 and 65 as well. The only thing keeping Trump in the game is a 59-38 lead with seniors. That huge generational split means Democrats are going to start winning important elections in Texas some day…and it could even be this year…

-In a North Carolina survey this week we found Joe Biden with his biggest lead in the state so far this year at 49-45. We also found there’s room for him to grow- Donald Trump has a -62 approval rating with the undecideds and they’re supporting Roy Cooper by 43 points for Governor and Cal Cunningham by 31 points for Senate.

This is a trend we are seeing in most of our polling- the voters who don’t know how they’re going to cast their ballot for President are generally younger Democratic leaning voters who don’t care for Joe Biden. That is probably the most important voting bloc for this fall- if they continue to decline to support Biden the race may be close. If they end up deciding he’s good enough, the election may approach landslide territory.

7) This is good, “Police Attacks Fueled by Violent Ideology of Grievance”

The “thin blue line” flag is the known symbol of a social, cultural, and political movement that is inextricably linked to the country’s current unrest. The flag is the centerpiece in a world of merchandise and policing philosophy, all built around the idea that the police are an embattled tribe of warriors, maligned and reviled by a nation that fails to appreciate their unique importance. The blue line is a reminder that much of the policing community sees itself as separate from the rest of society — and as the nation has witnessed in recent days, in video after shocking video, this well-armed population, imbued with the power to deprive citizens of life and liberty, does not take kindly to those who challenge its authority.

“What we’re talking about here is a worldview that says that police are the only force capable of holding society together,” Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of “The End of Policing,” told me. The view turns on the notion that “without the constant threat of violent coercive intervention, society will unravel into a war of all against all,” he explained. Seen through this lens, “authoritarian solutions are not just necessary, they’re almost preferable.”

In the wake of Floyd’s killing, with protests in every state in the union and U.S. security forces at every level called to respond, the country is now witnessing what years of militarized conditioning, training, and culture have wrought: a nationwide protest movement running up against a nationwide police riot…

Time and again, American law enforcement’s response to dissent has followed a pattern, German explained, with police cracking down on movements for racial, social, and environmental justice, while giving violent white nationalists who beat people in the street a free pass. “We already see that there is this dynamic where the police officers view people who protest police violence as enemies they can use further violence against,” he said. “Particularly in protests, it’s not just that the police want to arrest somebody who’s a problem,” German said. “They want to mete out punishment.”

8) Great Planet Money story… yes, police unions lead to more violence against non-white residents.

9) Great thread on “How can a virus leave some people without any symptoms and kill others?”

10) You should read this whole thread from Lily Maon on the upside of partisan sorting, but this part is key:

Also, just amazing that 59% of Republicans basically deny the legacy of slavery.

Quick hits (part I)

1) This from Radley Balko is two years old, but super on-point, “What if we treated violent crime the way we treat Ebola?”

And why hasn’t crime dropped in Chicago the way it has in, say, New York?

One interesting difference between the two cities is that New York doesn’t have anywhere near the gang violence that Chicago does. About a decade ago, a study by the Justice Policy Institute offered a reason for that. The interventionist, public-health-based approach adopted by New York in the 1970s and 1980s was simply more effective than the heavy-handed suppression approach in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. “The evidence that punitive responses to youth crime do not effectively increase public safety mounts,” the authors concluded. They recommended “implementation of evidence-based practices to treat young people who are in conflict with the law” and urged that “funding for such programs should be routed through the health and human services system, where they have been proven to be more effective than in the criminal justice system.”

The good news is that funding such programs tends to be cheaper than funding anti-gang task forces and other aggressive law enforcement approaches. The bad news is that it’s often hard to convince people that such programs really are effective…

Let’s say every large city adopted the Cure Violence model. What would policing look in those cities? 

What we say is that we need to treat violence as a health issue, and what we advocate for is the effective prevention of violent behavior through highly specific public health methods. 

All other epidemics are managed by public health. They’re managed from the inside out, with health officials guiding and training healthcare workers, collecting and using data, and ensuring results. By managing violence as a health issue, we’re able to detect potential violence before it happens, to mediate conflicts before they turn violent. These interventions are done by credible, highly trained workers. (They get over 100 hours of training before the start, then ongoing on the job.) They know how to talk to people in these communities, and they’re known throughout the community as a resource in violence prevention. Our workers identify those most likely to be violent, then intervene to reduce the risk.  They also work to change norms in the community so that violence is discouraged. This is very similar to how health workers help people in [cases of] Ebola, cholera and other epidemics. You change behavior to prevent the disease from spreading. 

2) I had part of this quoted in another link the other day, but it’s really, really important, “De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway.”

Watching a peaceful protest turn into something much less palatable is hard. There has been a lot of hard the past few days, as people in dozens of cities have released pent-up anger against discriminatory police tactics. Cars and buildings have burned. Store windows have been smashed. Protesters and police have been hurt. When protests take a turn like this we naturally wonder … why? Was this preventable? Does anyone know how to stop it from happening?

Three federal commissions concluded that when police escalate force those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that force was meant to prevent.

Turns out, we do know some of these answers. Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave — and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force — wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters — it doesn’t work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are police still doing it?

“There’s this failed mindset of ‘if we show force, immediately we will deter criminal activity or unruly activity’ and show me where that has worked,” said Scott Thomson, the former chief of police in Camden, New Jersey.

“That’s the primal response,” he said. “The adrenaline starts to pump, the temperature in the room is rising, and you want to go one step higher. But what we need to know as professionals is that there are times, if we go one step higher, we are forcing them to go one step higher.”

3) Chris Rock on “bad apples” is wonderfully captures what’s wrong with this.  It’s not okay to have a few bad apples when those apples are given the power of the state to take life and liberty.  Also, they spoil the damn barrel!

4) Something I recently re-tweeted really captured the dynamic we’re seeing.  Just video after video after video after police behavior (and, yes, I do think police should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens in a protest), NYT, “A Crisis That Began With an Image of Police Violence Keeps Providing More”

5) Does David Hopkins ever write a bad post? “Trump, the Floyd Protests, and the End of Confident Conservatism”

Conservative confidence in the nation’s long-term direction became notably scarce in the Obama years, as widespread pessimism and fear replaced Reagan’s cheerful assuredness. The popular backlash on the right against the “change” that Obama himself claimed to personify was stronger than it had been against Clinton, taking aim at the traditional leadership of the Republican Party as well as the Democrats. Rather than selecting yet another member of the Bush family to succeed Obama, Republican primary voters opted to nominate Donald Trump, an outsider candidate who had built his campaign around passionate contempt for Obama and the state of the nation under his watch.

But whatever expressive purpose the decision to elect him may have served, the current president is ill-equipped to usher in a new conservative age. Trump is not a friendly face with the charisma to increase conservatism’s mass appeal, like Reagan was. He is not a man with a 40-year plan, like Rove was. And any hopes that his glowering demeanor and vengeful preoccupations would either intimidate liberals into silence or halt the progression of larger social changes have clearly not been realized. In part because Trump has inspired a backlash of his own, conservatives do not seem much more comfortable with the direction of America today than they were four years ago.

The waning confidence of the American right in its own popular standing has produced other manifestations as well. Its imprint can be seen in conservative opposition to measures designed to increase the ease of voting, in negative portrayals of “millennials” and college students in the conservative media, and in an increased emphasis on the unelected federal judicial branch, rather than the congressional legislative process, as an avenue for conservative policy-making. Perhaps most dramatically, it is expressed by the more frequent displays of firearms at conservative protest events—a clear suggestion that the use or threat of physical force might be necessary to compensate for losses in the court of public opinion.

The current crisis in the streets of America has roots that stretch in many different directions, but it has surely been exacerbated by the current administration’s propensity for confrontation with the many perceived enemies that surround it. It’s not especially important that Trump apparently moved briefly to the bunker under the White House last week in the face of protests outside the building—a subject of liberal mockery in recent days—but it’s crucial that the administration’s governing approach from its inception has reflected a bunker mentality. The protestors gathering daily outside the White House and in cities and towns all around the country since the George Floyd killing have come to embody the threat of cultural besiegement that many conservatives, including those in law enforcement professions, have been feeling since 2008.

Trump has started to echo Nixon’s famous invocation of a supportive “silent majority.” But he is the only president in the history of public opinion polling who has never had a majority of Americans on his side, even on his first day in office, and he has never shown much interest in courting skeptics rather than attacking them. Winning a second term will likely require him to eke out a narrow margin in the electoral college, very possibly without a popular-vote plurality once again. The current governing regime seeks to retain political power from behind barricades that are primarily psychological, separated in spirit more than in physical distance from a growing population of fellow Americans whom it no longer trusts to be on its side. When you see your own domestic political opponents as an irredeemably hostile force trying to destroy the country as you know it, perhaps it’s only natural to fantasize about calling in the troops.

6) Jamelle Bouie on the violence from police:

If we’re going to speak of rioting protesters, then we need to speak of rioting police as well. No, they aren’t destroying property. But it is clear from news coverage, as well as countless videos taken by protesters and bystanders, that many police are using often indiscriminate violence against people — against anyone, including the peaceful majority of demonstrators, who happens to be in the streets.

Rioting police have driven vehicles into crowds, reproducing the assault that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. They have surrounded a car, smashed the windows, tazed the occupants and dragged them out onto the ground. Clad in paramilitary gear, they have attacked elderly bystanders, pepper-sprayed cooperative protesters and shot “nonlethal” rounds directly at reporters, causing serious injuries. In Austin, Texas, a 20-year-old man is in critical condition after being shot in the head with a “less-lethal” round. Across the country, rioting police are using tear gas in quantities that threaten the health and safety of demonstrators, especially in the midst of a respiratory disease pandemic.

None of this quells disorder. Everything, from the militaristic posture to the attacks themselves, does more to inflame and agitate protesters than it does to calm the situation and bring order to the streets. In effect, rioting police have done as much to stoke unrest and destabilize the situation as those responsible for damaged buildings and burning cars. But where rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting police have the imprimatur of the state.

What we’ve seen from rioting police, in other words, is an assertion of power and impunity. In the face of mass anger over police brutality, they’ve effectively said So what? In the face of demands for change and reform — in short, in the face of accountability to the public they’re supposed to serve — they’ve bucked their more conciliatory colleagues with a firm No. In which case, if we want to understand the behavior of the past two weeks, we can’t just treat it as an explosion of wanton violence, we have to treat it as an attack on civil society and democratic accountability, one rooted in a dispute over who has the right to hold the police to account.

7) Because, of course…”Top U.S. scientists left out of White House selection of COVID-19 vaccine short list”

8) Yglesias on the “8 can’t wait” policies for police reform:

The essence of the campaign is eight procedural rules that Campaign Zero claims “data proves” can conjointly decrease police violence by 72 percent.

A graphic depicting eight policies to decrease police violence.

These ideas all cut against officers’ typical demands for maximum autonomy and minimal accountability while also remaining comfortably within the technocratic, meliorist domain rather than amounting to a radical transformation of policing.

Samuel Sinyangwe, a data scientist with Campaign Zero, tells me that’s no coincidence. The point of the list, he says, was to assemble “policies that can make a big difference and that can be implemented most quickly by cities across the country.”

Implementing new training regimes at scale across the country would take time. Creating a new corps of unarmed mediators and mental health professionals who could serve as crisis responders would likely take longer. 8 Can’t Wait is about policy changes that could be made in a very rapid time frame. But do they work? …

The 8 Can’t Wait agenda is extremely well-constructed for speed — it’s right in the name — in a way that is deeper than branding. Since any given recommendation on the list is in effect in at least some American cities, all a place needs to do to become an eight-for-eight city is copy some stuff out of other cities’ police regulations. The process moves quickly, and the logical relationship between these measures and reduced violence is clear and obvious.

Will universal adoption of all eight really generate the kind of massive fall in police violence this study indicates? There’s plenty of reason for skepticism. But the ideas are genuinely promising, they are based on some evidence, and they fit the political needs of the moment very well. Mayors and governors looking to show a good-faith desire to tackle the problem of excessive police violence without lapsing into radicalism could do a lot worse than to pick up this message.

9) Ta-Nahesi Coates is actually optimistic (and so am I):

Ezra Klein

What do you see right now, as you look out at the country?

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but I see hope. I see progress right now, at this moment.

I had an interesting call on Saturday with my dad, who was born in 1946, grew up dirt poor in Philadelphia, lived in a truck, went off to Vietnam, came back, joined the Panther Party, and was in Baltimore for the 1968 riots. Would’ve been about 22 at that time.

I asked him if he could compare what he saw in 1968 to what he was seeing now. And what he said to me was there was no comparison — that this is much more sophisticated. And I say, well, what do you mean? He said it would have been like if somebody from the turn of the 20th century could see the March on Washington.

The idea that black folks in their struggle against the way the law is enforced in their neighborhoods would resonate with white folks in Des Moines, Iowa, in Salt Lake City, in Berlin, in London — that was unfathomable to him in ‘68, when it was mostly black folks in their own communities registering their great anger and great pain.

I don’t want to overstate this, but there are significant swaths of people and communities that are not black, that to some extent have some perception of what that pain and that suffering is. I think that’s different.

10) I met ACLU lawyer Somil Trivedi on my criminal justice reform trip to DC last Fall with the NCSU Park Scholars.  Definitely one of the most impressive– smart, thoughtful, warm– people I met on the trip.  He co-authors this excellent piece on why it’s so hard for prosecutors to hold police accountable:

As we argued recently in the Boston University Law Review, police exert significant control over prosecutors in both formal and informal ways. For example, in sociological research examining police and prosecutorial practice in Chicago, prosecutors relied on police testimony to win trials, and those trial wins were essential to earning promotions within the office. Prosecutors described an overt pressure to comply with a police culture of “silence and violence” that all but dictated that prosecutors operate with “blinders” on. This meant that questioning an officer’s version of events, whether there was a dead suspect or just a missing bag of drugs, was seen as a sign of “disrespect” to the officer. Conscientious prosecutors who questioned the legitimacy of a police report or the word of an officer could end up with tarnished reputations amongst law enforcement, resistance from officers, and marginalization in the office…

This perverse incentive structure normalized police perjury and created the conditions upon which police misconduct could thrive in small and big ways. These practices stacked the deck in favor of the state in run-of-the-mill prosecutions and often violated the law—both state and constitutional. But, in the most extreme cases, where a suspect was shot or killed, they helped ensure that there was no justice for the victim or community, no accountability for the police, and the officer involved was allowed to continue walking their beat.

11) OMG– I assume you have read about the 57 police officers in Buffalo.  “Just following orders.”  Some people need more history.    Adam Serwer

After an elderly protester in Buffalo, New York, was pushed to the ground by police officers and left to lie there as blood pooled beneath his head, the head of the local police union, John Evans, said his colleagues were disgusted.

Disgusted, that is, that two of the officers seen in the video were suspended without pay.

“Fifty-seven resigned in disgust because of the treatment of two of their members, who were simply executing orders,” Evans told the Buffalo NBC affiliate WGRZ, offering a classic Nuremberg defense. The officers remain employed; they have simply resigned from the riot team that was deployed to clear the city’s Niagara Square of residents protesting police abuse…

Initially, the Buffalo police insisted that the man “tripped and fell” during “a skirmish involving protesters,” a description implying that the officers had been physically threatened by the elderly protester and had acted to protect themselves. In the absence of a video proving that story false, it seems likely they would have stuck to that story. The willingness of officers to behave this way on camera and then lie about it raises discomfiting questions about what such officers are willing to do, or mislead the public about, when no one is recording.

Some of the recent protests across the United States have been marred by looting, rioting, and violence, but the video from Buffalo was just the latest example of police officers responding to anti-police-brutality protests with violence against individuals who pose no apparent threat. Since the nationwide demonstrations began, videos showing police beating unarmed protesters, driving police cars into crowds, firing at journalists, and teargassing peaceful protesters with no provocation have spread across social media. Elected officials and police spokespeople have insisted that the catalyzing event for the protests, the release of a nine-minute video showing the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin digging his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck, was an isolated incident. But the response of many police departments across the country vindicates the protesters’ complaints: In many cases, protesters against excessive force have themselves become the targets of excessive force…

This is not a system that can be overcome by good intentions. Still, the data suggest that officers might act differently if the system were not so effective at protecting cops who cross the line. But it also indicates that until police officers can be held accountable for violating the rights of the people they are paid to protect, and police officers themselves are rewarded rather than punished for identifying colleagues who abuse their authority, the problem cannot be resolved.

The fact that 57 officers were willing to take a stand to defend misconduct rather than to oppose it shows how far we are from a system that does that.

12) Adam Gopnik (don’t know how I missed this last year) is so good.  And this is so relevant, “How the South won the Civil War.”

13) The data behind this tweet make me very happy (and optimistic):

14) And while we’re at it with encouraging tweets:

15) Okay.  One more tweet.  This graph is so important.  We’ve got to contain the virus!  Only then does the economy really come back.

16) Linda Greenhouse is not happy about the horrible Kavanaugh dissent on religious service in California:

The concept of discrimination, properly understood, simply doesn’t fit this case. California is not subjecting things that are alike to treatment that’s different. Churches are not like the retail stores or “cannabis dispensaries” in Justice Kavanaugh’s list of “comparable secular businesses.” Sitting in communal worship for an hour or more is not like picking up a prescription, or a pizza, or an ounce of marijuana. You don’t need a degree in either law or public health to figure that out. If anything, California is giving churches preferential treatment, since other places where people gather in large numbers like lecture halls and theaters are still off limits.

So what was the dissenters’ problem? Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion offers a clue. The Christian observance of Pentecost was last Sunday, and the clock was ticking as the justices considered the South Bay United Pentecostal Church’s request. “The church would suffer irreparable harm from not being able to hold services on Pentecost Sunday in a way that comparable secular businesses and persons can conduct their activities,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote. What does that sentence even mean? What’s the secular comparator when it comes to observing Pentecost? A Sunday afternoon softball game?

I’m baffled by why a particular liturgical observance should have even a walk-on role in this opinion. Last weekend was also Shavuot, a major Jewish holiday. But it’s the Christian calendar about which recently appointed federal judges seem exclusively concerned. In April, Judge Justin Walker of the Federal District Court in Louisville, Ky., blocked that city from enforcing a ban on drive-in church services. “On Holy Thursday, an American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” his overheated opinion began. (Judge Walker is Senator Mitch McConnell’s young protégé who, barring a miracle or a pair of righteous Republican senators, is on the verge of confirmation to the powerful federal appeals court in Washington, D.C.).

In any event, no one was stopping the church from observing Pentecost. As its own brief points out, the church conducts as many as five services on a typical Sunday, each attracting 200 to 300 worshipers. As the state points out, it could schedule more services…

But then came the California church case. Justice Kavanaugh might have chosen to observe the norm, casting his vote without issuing an opinion that served only to raise the political temperature. Instead of that unspoken gesture toward collegiality, he gave us more proof that the polarization roiling the country has the Supreme Court in its grip. The court can’t save us; that much is clear. It can’t even save itself.

17) I’m going to be watching this with a lot of cautious optimism.  I really think this may be our pre-vaccine ticket out of this mess, “First human trial of potential antibody treatment for Covid-19 begins”

Scientists at AbCellera and the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases selected those they thought would be most potent and Lilly scientists engineered the treatment, known as a monoclonal antibody therapy. This approach has worked to treat other illnesses; there are monoclonal antibody therapies that treat HIV, asthma, lupus, Ebola and some forms of cancer…

If the treatment appears to be safe, the company would move to the next phase of testing in a matter of weeks. The second phase of the trial will involve a larger number of patients, including patients who are not hospitalized, and will test whether the therapy is effective.
The company also plans to study the drug as prevention. The treatment could be used for vulnerable patient populations for whom vaccines might not be a great option, such as the elderly or people who have chronic disease or compromised immune systems.
Eli Lilly has already begun manufacturing the antibody therapy in large quantities so it could be tested and potentially for use in patients beyond the trial. Under non-pandemic circumstances, the companies would usually wait to find out if it worked first before it started making it.
“If it does work, we don’t want to waste a single day, we want to have as much medicine as possible available to help as many people quickly,” Skovronsky said.
In trials over the next several months, Lilly says it will test different mixtures of a few of the other antibodies scientists think might provide protection. The optimal scenario, though, Skovronsky said, is if they only need one antibody at a relatively low dose.

18) Peter Suderman, “It’s Time To Bust Police Unions: Over and over again, unions have defended bad policing and bad police. It’s time for them to go.”

This is what police unions do: defend the narrow interests of police at the expense of public safety. They exist to demand that taxpayers pay for dangerous, and even deadly, negligence. And although they are not the only pathology that affects American policing, they are a key internal influence on police culture, a locus of resistance to improvements designed to reduce police violence. To stop bad cops and police abuse, we must tackle police unions.

In case after case, police unions have defended deadly misdeeds committed by law enforcement. In 2014, for example, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo put Eric Garner in a chokehold for selling loose cigarettes. As a result of Pantaleo’s chokehold, Garner died. Garner’s last words were, “I can’t breathe.”

The incident, caught on video, helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement. A grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, but five years after Garner’s death, he was fired from the force following a police administrative judge’s ruling that the chokehold was, indeed, a violation of department policy.

Pantaleo had violated his police department’s policy in a way that resulted in the death of a man who was committing the most minor of offenses. Yet when he was finally fired, Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, Pantaleo’s union, criticized the city for giving in to “anti-police extremists” and warned that such decisions threatened the ability of city police to do their jobs. “We are urging all New York City police officers to proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed ‘reckless’ just for doing their job,” Lynch said.

In essence, the police union’s position was: Officers of the law should not be punished for using prohibited techniques in ways that result in the deaths of nonviolent offenders, because to do so would unduly inhibit police work. A deadly violation of department policy is just police “doing their job.” 

19) I’ve always enjoyed the fact that my blood type is A+.  I feel like that’s on-brand for me :-).  But, alas, solid evidence that it’s not good if I get Covid.

Why do some people infected with the coronavirus suffer only mild symptoms, while others become deathly ill?

Geneticists have been scouring our DNA for clues. Now, a study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19, the researchers found. One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types.

Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study…

The findings suggest that relatively unexplored factors may be playing a large role who develops life-threatening Covid-19. “There are new kids on the block now,” said Andre Franke, a molecular geneticist at the University of Kiel in Germany and a co-author of the new study, which is currently going through peer review.

Scientists have already determined that factors like age and underlying disease put people at extra risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19. But geneticists are hoping that a DNA test might help identify patients who will need aggressive treatment.

Figuring out the reason that certain genes may raise the odds of severe disease could also lead to new targets for drug designers.

20) Also, not a link.  But damn I cannot wait to teach Criminal Justice Policy in Spring 2021 (it’s almost tempting to think about adding it right now to the Fall semester).  Saving so many great articles that I can already here the complaints of my students about the reading load. And definitely send me thoughtful, policy-oriented takes that I might have missed and that would be good for my future students.

Install this app!

I’m a huge fan of Yale Professor/MD/Sociologist/Author Nicholas Christakis (I highly recommend his book, Blueprint).  He’s part of a team that’s just put out a new app designed to help you track your individual Covid risk and, more importantly, catch Covid trends and provide advance warning.  And since it’s run out of Yale University it’s got serious privacy protections (seriously– try getting anything remotely like this through a university IRB without taking privacy very seriously).  The more people who use the app, the better a tool it is.  So, use it.  Here’s a bit on it in the Atlantic:

But any contact-tracing technology still relies on the sort of widespread adoption required by the Singapore app. Nicholas Christakis, a pioneering sociologist and professor at Yale, has a different kind of tool in mind.

He and a team of researchers and developers are rapidly working to finalize a new app for tracking the pandemic with features that could alleviate privacy concerns. (He told me that he worries about the possible erosion of privacy in response to the pandemic, and that “the union of this modern technology and the surveillance state is very concerning.”) His app, called Hunala, is based on his research in network science, which includes the principle that your friends are generally more well connected, with more contacts, than you are. The app, which will be available for download by the end of the month, “is opt-in, and it’s anonymized,” he said. Once people download it, they’ll be asked to nominate some of their friends, who then receive a message asking them to download it too. Users volunteer to report whether they have a fever or any other COVID-19 symptoms. They also note their location when they log this data, though it is not tracked throughout the day. The team of scientists behind the app can monitor this information, provide early notice as to where new cases are cropping up, and alert public-health officials to be ready, and people can use the information to avoid areas with infections.

Christakis said the app could predict an outbreak two or three weeks before health officials would typically notice it otherwise. (His team used a similar concept to successfully track the H1N1 outbreak at Harvard in 2009.) The network science behind the app means it would be successful for its objectives at much lower adoption rates than those required for contact-tracing apps. It could significantly mitigate the spread of the virus once lockdown orders are lifted or if a second wave comes, Christakis said, “and it doesn’t involve the government knowing where we are at all times.”

I’ve already installed it and started using it.  The more people who do, the better.

Jesus wants you to sing in indoor groups and spread death

Let’s talk more about this awful, awful, awful decision from the CDC about singing in church.  If we know one thing about superspreader events, church (especially with singing) is bad!  People will die.  That’s not hyperbole.  There’s been a series of these events and they’ve invariably led not to just infections, but deaths (possibly because of the potential for immense viral load being spread while singing– might as well be a continuous sneezing fit).  Derek Thompson summarizes:

The Post with more on this abominable decision:

The Trump administration with no advance notice removed warnings contained in guidance for the reopening of houses of worship that singing in choirs can spread the coronavirus.

Last Friday, the administration released pandemic guidance for faith communities after weeks of debate flared between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those guidelines posted on the CDC website included recommendations that religious communities “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition.”

It added: “The act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”

By Saturday, that version was replaced by updated guidance that no longer includes any reference to choirs or congregant singing and the risk for spreading virus. The altered guidance also deleted a reference to “shared cups” among items, including hymnals and worship rugs, that should not be shared. The updated guidelines also added language that said the guidance “is not intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment.”

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about policy discussions, said there have long been concerns within the White House that there were too many restrictions on choirs. A CDC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the guideline change also said the updated Saturday guidance was approved by the White House.

Ahhhh, ” too many restrictions on choirs.”  Morons!!!  That’s because choirs are uniquely well-suited for spreading Covid!

Earlier this month, the CDC issued a report warning about “superspreader” events where the coronavirus might be “highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events.” That report described a choir practice in Washington state in March at which one person ended up infecting 52 other people, including two who died.

White House officials battled for weeks with CDC aides about the scope of reopening guidelines. Officials in Vice President Pence’s office, the domestic policy council and other members on the president’s coronavirus task force were resistant to establishing limits on religious institutions even as the CDC issued detailed road maps for reopening other settings, including schools and restaurants, and as the agency warned of the dangers of significant virus transmission rates at religious events.

Some officials in the White House and on the coronavirus task force did not want to alienate the evangelical community and believed that some of the proposals, such as limits on hymnals, the size of choirs or the passing of collection plates, were too restrictive, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy decisions.
God forbid we alienate the Evangelical community by following… science!!!  They know better; they know Jesus wants them to spread Covid. 

I saw somebody sharing some CDC guidelines on something else today, and sadly, we really just cannot trust the CDC to the same degree any more.  Bernstein on the horrible shame of that:

It’s amazing how quickly the CDC has squandered its reputation for straight-shooting and scientific excellence during Donald Trump’s presidency (the latest embarrassments are here and here). There’s a lot to say about this and similar failures across the federal government, but what strikes me is what they reveal about healthy incentives — and how Trump manages to ignore them.

First, having an agency with a gold-standard reputation is a terrific resource for leaders who care about getting their way and also care about re-election. It allows them to speak with the authority of experts even if they themselves are relatively ignorant. It also gives them an opportunity to have most of the nation, and not just their supporters, at least potentially support their policies, since those policies can have the certificate of expertise attached to them. 

That matters. It matters desperately for Trump right now. His obvious goals are to reduce the spread of the virus while rebooting the economy as quickly as possible; for that, he needs ordinary citizens to follow best practices for safety and also to trust that it is safe to return to activities they gave up in March. And he needs strong supporters, strong opponents, and everyone in between to do both of those things, or else it won’t work. No politician is ever able to do that on his or her own. But trusted experts make it possible for the president to get it done.

To be sure, there’s a cost. For a president to get the seal of approval from experts, he or she has to listen seriously to them. This may mean compromising the president’s preferred approach. If the president simply ignores the experts but tries to use their reputation anyway, the agency’s bureaucrats may refuse to endorse the policy, or undermine it through such strategies as press leaks or testimony to Congress. Or, if the president succeeds in undermining the agency’s integrity enough that it will slavishly grant his every whim, its reputation — and thus its political usefulness — will be destroyed.

Notice that healthy incentives are built into the system. Agencies care about their reputations for reasons of professional pride, but also because it benefits them at budget time and helps them do their jobs without outside interference. And presidents have good self-interested reason to listen to those agencies. That’s a way to force politicians who care mainly about elections to seek expert input into policy…

Trump, unfortunately, is so bad at presidenting that he fails to follow those clear healthy incentives. To be fair, he did seem to take some expert advice seriously for two or three weeks in April. But he rapidly lost interest, and either he or others in the White House seem to have pressured agencies to go along with him even as he ignores their counsel. Now he wants the economy to reopen safely, but he has no idea how to get there from here, and he doesn’t have the assets the presidency once had. It’s not apt to work very well for the nation, or for him.

So, to summarize– president totally undermining the reputation of one of the most important public health institutions in the world (and damn does reputation matter when we are talking public health) to spread death among science-denying Evangelicals.  

Quick hits (part I)

1) Kristoff on the pandemic relief:

While President Trump and his allies in Congress seek to tighten access to food stamps, they are showing compassion for one group: zillionaires. Their economic rescue package quietly allocated $135 billion — yes, that’s “billion” with a “b” — for the likes of wealthy real estate developers.

My Times colleague Jesse Drucker notes that Trump himself, along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may benefit financially from this provision. The fine print was mysteriously slipped into the March economic relief package, even though it has nothing to do with the coronavirus and offers retroactive tax breaks for periods long before Covid-19 arrived.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, both Democrats, have asked the Trump administration for any communications that illuminate how this provision sneaked into the 880-page bill. (Officially, the provision is called “Modification of Limitation on Losses for Taxpayers Other Than Corporations,” but that’s camouflage; I prefer to call it the “Zillionaire Giveaway.”)

About 82 percent of the Zillionaire Giveaway goes to those earning more than $1 million a year, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Of those beneficiaries earning more than $1 million annually, the average benefit is $1.6 million.

In other words, a single mom juggling two jobs gets a maximum $1,200 stimulus check — and then pays taxes so that a real estate mogul can receive $1.6 million. This is dog-eat-dog capitalism for struggling workers, and socialism for the rich.

Many Americans understand that Trump bungled the public health response to the coronavirus, but polls suggest that they don’t appreciate the degree to which Trump and Congress also bungled the economic response — or manipulated it to benefit those who least need help.

2) Reasonable question, “Why Does the U.S. Military Celebrate White Supremacy? It is time to rename bases for American heroes — not racist traitors.” Because… America.

3) Felony murder is just an appalling abuse of the criminal justice system.  Even when it is used against racists.  It should not exist.

Mr. McMichael and his father were charged with murder and aggravated assault this month. And on Thursday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested William Bryan, who recorded the video. He faces charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, the authorities said.

Here are the key facts of the case, and why the authorities said all three men were charged with killing Mr. Arbery.

Gregory McMichael, a former police officer and investigator for the local district attorney, had joined in the pursuit, the authorities said. According to a police report, Mr. McMichael said he saw Mr. Arbery running through his neighborhood and thought he looked like the suspect in a rash of nearby break-ins.
In Mr. Bryan’s case, the authorities said, he had tried to help detain Mr. Arbery, which contributed to his death.

“Felony murder is a crime in Georgia where you’re committing a felony crime and that crime ends up in the death of another human being,” Vic Reynolds, the G.B.I. director and a former district attorney, explained at a news conference on Friday.

“As the warrant indicated, he’s charged with an underlying felony and he’s also charged with felony murder,” Mr. Reynolds added. “So, we believe the evidence would indicate his underlying felony helped cause the death of Ahmaud Arbery.”

4) Loved this little bit in EJ Dionne’s Memorial Day column:

Mourning death is an intensely private act that calls for public ritual. Each of us wants to know that others share our love for the person we have lost and that they stand with us in our pain.

It is common to be inarticulate or fall silent in the face of death, and this may be the most reverent response of all. Glib rationalizations of the pain experienced by the bereaved ring hollow. The greatest comfort often comes from those who struggle hardest to find the right words — and fail. Their fumbling awkwardness can be more beautiful than a sonnet, because it conveys a depth of empathy beyond words.

I will forever honor a high school history teacher named Jim Garman, who reached out to me before my father’s wake to say that I should not be offended if people said silly or even stupid things about my dad’s departure. “They just don’t know what to say,” he explained. “They’re trying to say the right thing.” His counsel made me love and appreciate those whom death leaves tongue-tied.

5) Because… America, “Before face masks, Americans went to war against seat belts”

6) It sounds crazy and gross, but, yes, we should totally be monitoring Covid in municipal sewage as an early warning system.  Drum:

7) Megan McArdle, “Conservatives who refuse to wear masks undercut a central claim of their beliefs”

Instead, far too many Republicans are suddenly arguing that public health efforts are not a legitimate exercise of power. The government, they complain, has no right to tell them what they can do, even if what they plan to do comes with some risk that a deadly disease will spread.

I’m not talking about the people who simply make the reasonable, indeed indisputable, argument that we cannot shut down the whole economy until a vaccine is developed. I’m talking about the ones who refuse to make even small compromises for public safety, such as wearing a mask — and especially conservatives who complain when store owners exercise their right to require them on store property.

This doesn’t just eviscerate generations’ worth of arguments about public health. It also undercuts a more central claim of conservatism: that big, coercive government programs are unnecessary because private institutions could provide many benefits that we think of as “public goods.” For that to be true, the civic culture would have to be such that individuals are willing to make serious sacrifices for the common good, and especially to protect the most vulnerable among us.

If conservatives actually want a smaller, less-intrusive government, then they cannot talk only about liberty and rights; they also have to talk about duty and obligations.

Conservatism has always understood that duty without liberty is slavery, but liberty without duty is a Hobbesian war of all-against-all; indeed, this has been one of its major arguments against the steady relaxation of sexual mores and familial obligations. But this principle applies equally well to government, because people will always demand safety, predictability and security, and if the private sector isn’t providing them, they will turn to the state. That’s why shrinking the government leviathan requires citizens who worry more about the welfare of their fellow citizens and are more willing to sacrifice for strangers who share their flag than those who outsource those duties to a professional bureaucracy with enforcement powers.

Reasonable people can of course argue about how much economic sacrifice citizens can be asked to bear for the common good, or whether that good is best served by lockdowns. But I submit that if you are not willing to endure the minimal inconvenience of wearing a piece of cloth across your nose and mouth while shopping, you’re unlikely to make the really big sacrifices that a smaller government would require.

What amuses me about this is that McArdle is apparently still telling herself the lie that just because this is what she believes, that actually applies to most American conservatives.  Unlike, Max Boot, she seems unwilling to admit that almost all this is just a convenient lie to support white ethnocentrism and culture war.

8) John Sides and Robert Griffin with a very much under-appreciated fact, “Donald Trump’s problems with senior voters started long before the coronavirus”

9) I, nor Aaron Carroll will not miss an opportunity to make this point about something our society gets so wrong, “The Coronavirus Has Made It Obvious. Teenagers Should Start School Later.: School start times are the biggest reason teenagers are often tired. There may have been some justification for it in the past, but not now.”

10) I discovered Patrick Skinner via a great tweet about George Flloyd and policing.  Wow– what a fascinating guy (CIA operative turned local beat cop).

11) Great stuff from Will Wilkinson, “The Brutal Clarity of the Trump-McConnell Plan to Protect Businesses”

You’ll notice that the Republican call for liability protection amounts to a frank admission that in hurrying back to shops and offices, factories and showrooms, Americans might die. The wariness of business owners to expose themselves to the legal peril of reopening during an uncontained epidemic isn’t a problem. It’s a market signal telling us that for now, the risks of rushing to reopen might outweigh the rewards. If it were generally safe to reopen, Republicans wouldn’t need to shut this signal down.

That said, there’s really very little risk of “a second epidemic of frivolous lawsuits,” as Mr. McConnell heartlessly put it. Personal injury lawyers, who generally get paid only if they win or settle, are unlikely to pursue Covid-19 lawsuits against employers. It would be very difficult to establish precisely when and where someone caught the virus or to prove that a worker would not have picked it up but for their employer’s negligence. Nor is it likely to build a plausible class-action lawsuit by bundling together many injuries of such easily contestable origin. In any case, many employment agreements require workers to waive their right to join class-action suits. There will be no plague of ambulance chasers.

Still, our real problem, the first and actual epidemic, remains to be contained. According to existing liability law, businesses have little to fear if they take “reasonable care” to protect the health and safety of their workers. This means little more than following state and local reopening guidelines and adopting prevailing industry standards.
The demand for liability reform is just a pretext for disgraceful inaction — an excuse for legislative obstruction that attempts to cast Democrats as the obstruction’s source.

12) Brookings, “How media consumption patterns fuel conspiratorial thinking:

People encounter the news in a variety of ways. While some people omnivorously devour all the news they can and others prefer news from their ideological side, a considerable number of people choose not to look for the news at all, confident they can stay informed because if it is important enough the news will work its way into their interpersonal networks or social media feeds. People exhibiting high levels of this “news finds me” perception tend to have lower political knowledge and interest than others, and tend to use social media more often. Since previous research shows that those who are highly knowledgeable about, and distrustful of, the government are more prone to conspiracism, we wondered whether these media-use patterns and orientations toward news consumption contributed to a conspiratorial mentality as well.

Does it? In a word, yes. We conducted a panel survey of adults in five 2020 presidential election swing states (Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina), tapping people’s social media use, political interest and knowledge, trust-in-government, racial resentment, and whether they held a “news finds me” perception. The top-left panel of the figure shows that people with a higher “news finds me” perspective are the most likely to exhibit conspiracism in their thinking…

Using social media more often is also associated with more conspiratorial thinking, as is expressing high levels of racial resentment (by white people toward black people). Not surprisingly, the more people trust the government, the less prone to conspiratorial thinking they are. However, we found that party identification, political knowledge, homogenous political conversation and homogenous media-use patterns were not associated with conspiracism.

13) I’m with Yglesias, “The US should prioritize reopening schools, not salons and restaurants: America can (and should) save small businesses with money, but schools are what teach kids to read.” We’ve got till August to figure this out, but American society as we know it– and America’s children– need schools.

14) Damn, Texas is just the worst.  Richard Hasen, “Texas Voters Face Malicious Prosecutions After COVID-19 Absentee Ballot Ruling”

On Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that makes a Lone Star–size mess of the state’s law on absentee balloting and the question of whether voters who lack immunity to COVID-19 have a valid “excuse” to vote by mail in the upcoming elections. In a nutshell, the court has said that the statute does not allow voters who lack immunity and who fear contracting the virus to vote by mail because the statute only allows voting by mail for those with physical conditions preventing them from voting. But it further says that election officials won’t check the validity of excuses and it will be up to each voter, acting in good faith, to determine whether they have the ability to safely vote by mail. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a recipe for disaster in a state in which Attorney General Ken Paxton has already threatened with criminal prosecution those who advise voters who lack immunity and fear the disease to vote by mail. And it cries out for federal court relief.

15) Love this from David Plotz (and so glad he’s co-writing a daily newsletter):

Trump’s incompetence is a choice

After three long years of the Trump presidency, we’ve become numb to this ineptitude. We’re starting to act like government screw-ups or abdication of responsibility are a necessary condition of American life.

But it’s critical that we remember that incompetence is a choice.

Doing things well is hard work. It requires persistent interest, hard-won experience, expertise, effort, follow-up. It requires hiring people who have done the job before and know how to do it. It requires being honest about mistakes so that you don’t make them again. It doesn’t take genius to do this, but it takes discipline and will.

Yet from the top of this administration, we have yawning indifference — if not hostility — to all that. With few exceptions, Trump hasn’t hired the right people and has driven away the most capable people he did hire. The most important job of a leader is to surround him or herself with great people. Trump is incapable of that. The quality he values most is loyalty. Competence and expertise intimidate him, so he runs the other way.

We’ve been left with a government filled with “Acting” Thises and “Acting” Thats, stacked with lickspittles who make sure the president hears what he wants to hear.

That’s how you end up with most challenging White House assignments delegated to Jared Kushner, a dilettante real-estate heir whose only qualification is having married the president’s daughter. Kushner may be intelligent, and he may mean well, but experience and expertise matter. Like Trump, Kushner has little or none. And yet he is presiding over vast swathes of American government during the worst crisis in a generation.

To say it again. It didn’t have to be this way. Imagine how different things might be had Trump appointed Bill Gates as pandemic czar back in March.

Or read about Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP of worldwide operations, and wonder how we’d be doing if someone with Clark’s ruthlessness, high standards, and intense focus were in charge.

It didn’t have to be this way.

16) Zeynep Tufekci on Trump’s twitter war, “Trump Is Doing All of This for Zuckerberg: The new executive order targeting social-media companies isn’t really about Twitter.”

n reality, Trump’s salvo on social-media companies has primarily an audience of one: Mark Zuckerberg. And it is already working. After the executive order was issued, Facebook’s CEO quickly gave an interview to Fox News in which he said, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” He added, “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

It’s important to pay attention to what the president is doing, but not because the legal details of this order matter at all. Trump is unlikely to repeal Section 230 or take any real action to curb the power of the major social-media companies. Instead, he wants to keep things just the way they are and make sure that the red-carpet treatment he has received so far, especially at Facebook, continues without impediment. He definitely does not want substantial changes going into the 2020 election. The secondary aim is to rile up his base against yet another alleged enemy: this time Silicon Valley, because there needs to be an endless list of targets in the midst of multiple failures.

 

Covid and workplace risk in chart form

Honestly, I think these estimates are pretty generous on the lack of risk, but I’ll take it, as looks like I’m in the “A” low risk category.  I guess, that’s compared to a hospital or nursing home, though.  Wait, then again, that’s risk of “death.”  And, yeah, middle age is pretty much always going to put that at a lower risk (though, definitely not nothing).

With these odds, should clinicians be advising persons at heightened risk for death from Covid-19 to consider stopping work in settings that confer a high risk of exposure? If a person’s occupational risk of becoming infected and risk of death from infection each approaches 10%, their occupational mortality risk becomes 1 in 100 — 10 times the annual occupational mortality risk among commercial fisherman, the highest-risk occupation in the United States.

I believe that a strategy to protect at-risk workers needs at least three components: a framework for counseling patients about the risks posed by continuing to work, urgent policy changes to ensure financial protections for people who are kept out of work, and a data-driven plan for safe reentry into the workforce.

I propose a framework to help clinicians counsel patients about continuing to work in the midst of the pandemic that is based on their occupational risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 and their risk of death if they are infected (see diagram). Though data on occupational risk are limited, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published guidance and proposed a scheme for classifying the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection as high, medium, or low based on potential contact with persons who may or do have the virus (www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf. opens in new tab). Low-, medium-, and high-risk categories of individual risk of death from Covid-19 are based on age and the presence of high-risk chronic conditions identified by the CDC.4 Persons with high risk in both domains should consider stopping work, and those with high risk in one domain and medium risk in the other should discuss risk with their clinician. Physicians should also inquire and counsel about risks to household or to other contacts who may be at high risk for poor outcomes.

Covid lessons from Japan

Great stuff in Science magazine:

Then, whereas much of the rest of the world built its response to the pandemic on widespread contact tracing, isolation, and testing, Japan adopted a “quite different” strategy, Oshitani says. “We try to identify the clusters and [determine] their common characteristics.”

Not surprisingly, they found that most clusters originated in gyms, pubs, live music venues, karaoke rooms, and similar establishments where people gather, eat and drink, chat, sing, and work out or dance, rubbing shoulders for relatively extended periods of time. They also concluded that most of the primary cases that touched off large clusters were either asymptomatic or had very mild symptoms. “It is impossible to stop the emergence of clusters just by testing many people,” Oshitani says. This led them to urge people to avoid what they dubbed the “three Cs”—closed spaces, crowds, and close-contact settings in which people are talking face-to-face. It sounds simple. But, “This has been the most important component of the strategy,” Oshitani says.

Damn, Japan has been on top of this.  And, the lack of subway transmission is a really, really interesting piece of the puzzle that suggests even more that it’s about vocalizing (and, maybe the extra heavy breathing from exercising) indoors.  And, when we talk about eating, drinking, singing, exercising, etc,. these are all activities that were presumably taking place without masks.  
 
There’s a lot we still don’t understand about this disease, but we have a pretty good idea about what not to do.  Alas, this is America, so we’ll be doing these things anyway and people will be dying.
 
Relatedly, I keep checking back on the case of the Great Clips in Missouri (I go to Great Clips!) where two stylists were infected and exposed over 140 clients.  For each haircut, both stylist and customer were wearing masks.  Following up on these 140 clients could tell us so much about just how much protection masks really offer us in preventing transmission in indoor spaces for prolonged interpersonal contacts.  Alas, google news searches never get me any new information.  I sure hope somebody is on this, though.
 
Until we know more, though, stick with those Japanese 3 C’s!
Natalie E. Dean, PhD on Twitter: "Avoid the three Cs! Japan was ...
 
 
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