Richard P. Boyle, PhD (mathematical sociology)
author of Realizing Awakened Consciousness: Interviews With Buddhist Teachers and a New Perspective on the Mind, Columbia University Press, 2015.
COVID WRAP UP :
An attempt to use data to help Dr. Fauci:
10/30. Gallup has sent fascinating data on changes in Trump approval between early and recent 2020 polls, broken down by gender, race, rural-urban residence and education. Looking at differences in the percentages of people in each category who approve of Trump's performance shows that:
- At the start of the year, both men and women living in rural areas had Trump approvals 14 percentage points higher than men and women living in suburbs. But this increased to a 22 percentage point difference in more recent polls, an 8% increase for both men and women. So the divide between rural and urban residents has increased rather dramatically during the pandemic, primarily because support for Trump dropped during that roughly six month period.
- At the start of the year approval of Trump among men and women with college degrees was 23% lower than for those without college degrees. There was no change in these numbers in more recent polls. Therefore, the effects of college education were strong early and have stayed level after that.
- White men approved of Trump twelve percentage points more than white women both early and late, but both sexes lowered their approval by six percentage points.
- Both male and female non-whites showed much lower approval of Trump than male and female whites did, about 30 percentage points. This stayed constant over time, but both white and non-white approval dropped five points during this time.
The significant thing for me is not only the huge differences between rural and suburban and between college and non-college educations, but the way the rural-suburban difference has been getting larger. They both make major contributions to the size of the chasm separating the two sides of current culture war. But when you think about what is really going on they seem so unnecessary. The major division throughout the 20th Century was the classic class war, conflict between "owners of the means of production, as Marx would say, and the proletariat who worked for them. By the midpoint of that century unions had adjusted the balance of power sufficiently to make competition between labor and management mostly peaceful and civilized, nothing like the warfare that we have now.
So what brought about this change? Interesting question. Somehow, as the proletariat got used to making comfortable amounts of money, this got combined with the traditional cultural privileges of white male supremacy to create a strong sense of entitlement. This combined with identification with traditional Protestant Ethic capitalism. And along with that, a feeling of sharing membership in that tradition with the successful capitalist elite (who "deserve what they have achieved").
As good paying blue-collar jobs disappeared while minorities and white women accumulated more power (and money, and especially education) the idea that the real world operates as this archaic world view proclaims has been stretched and contradicted, leaving resentment and a sense of victimization as all that remains. Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land, and Katherine Cramer, The Politics of Resentment are the best ethnographies I know of on this.
Our country must find some way to heal the hostility with which people on both sides of the culture war now face each other. I can see how healing can happen between rural and urban folks, and between people with and without B.A.'s. We've been working on relations between men and women for thousands of years now and there is still hope. Relations between minorities and whites have long way to go, and at some point we are going to once and for all have to get rid of the version of "free market capitalism" that seems so engrained in our culture. That will require some structural as well as mental changes.
So all we need to do is get through the next few months and figure out how to best begin healing.
Latest news on the Great Barrington Declaration:
From The Guardian, 10/10/20: Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including 'Dr Johnny Bananas'
From the Guardian 1012/20: "The anti-lockdown scientists’ cause would be more persuasive if it weren’t so half-baked."
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/11/the-rebel-scientists-cause-would-be-more-persuasive-if-it-werent-so-half-baked. One quote: The GBD "is a sorry parable about what happens when bad science gets co-opted by shady ideological interests."
My comments concerning THE GREAT BARRINGTON DECLARATION (10/10/20)
An open letter calling itself The Great Barrington Declaration arguing against anti-covid controls and lockdowns has recently attracted considerable attention. The argument is that government mandated controls are too restrictive and that citizens should be left to make their own decisions with government providing only “Focused Protection” to support individual behavior. For comments by scientists see https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-barrington-declaration-an-open-letter-arguing-against-lockdown-policies-and-for-focused-protection/.
The claim seems to be that our nation, especially its government, needs to accept that virus epidemics are and will be part of our lives. But all they really propose in its place is reliance on herd immunity, which by now has been discussed and argued about extensively. The general conclusion has been that there are better ways to handle virus epidemics. What the authors give is a rather narrow version of herd immunity focusing on its positives. As one of the scientists in the article cited above said, “Sadly, focusing on the pandemic rather than the cultures and environments in which it arose ignores long-standing issues in society that existed prior to, and likely long after the pandemic has passed. Moreover, the means by which the signatories propose to achieve their aim relies upon achieving so-called 'herd immunity', which at best is currently a theoretical concept for SARS-CoV2. By contrast, societal restrictions combined with effective rapid testing measures have effectively curtailed the spread of the virus in several countries".
The problem to be dealt with is the situation we are in right now. It's a mess, but not as bad as if some governors had not done what they could to protect people in their states - compare New York with Georgia, Florida, etc., or New Mexico with Arizona and Texas. It's also been held down by actions of 50-80% of the population to protect themselves and others voluntarily by doing what science recommends. So we are getting by with a large pool of infected and therefore infectious people continuously among us. This requires all sane citizens to constrain their lives indefinitely but keeps things from getting either better or worse. We just hunker down and wait for a vaccine, hopefully less than four months from now.
So what would happen if all government controls were removed? The percentage of people around us who are infected would go up some, so we would all have to be more careful. Most people would continue behaving safely, and therefore not doing the things that are presently not allowed by state governments, etc. There is no evidence that they would start doing things that stimulate the economy - that idea has been pretty well trashed.
The big, obvious problem is education. The authors of the GBD get very vague when they talk about how to keep children who get infected at school from infecting their parents and grandparents. Here, as elsewhere, they really have nothing new to propose. I they are really interested in education, they could suggest something innovative like converting to something like English boarding schools. Keep the children and their teachers in a bubble for several months a year, like the NBA did. Or put some effort into it and think up some other ideas. We will know a lot more as data on the current school year come in, but right now they are just being lazy. I thin the reason is that all they really care about is keeping businesses open, as their sponsors at the American Enterprise Institute advocate on behalf of the corporate donors.
It irritates me that this big distraction takes attention away from the important task - figuring out how to get everyone on the same page about how to deal with virus epidemics from now on. Talking about herd immunity after it has been so thoroughly debunked is more than a waste of time. This "free market" mentality seems to be like what creationism is for evangelical Christians. They can never let go of it, for reasons that suggest mental illness, obsession with delusion. But they never tire (so long as the Koch Family supports them) of continuing to drag up nonsense that requires us to spend way too much time on useless activity.
A SCIENCE-BASED WAY TO REDUCE POLICE KILLINGS OF BLACK PEOPLE (10/3/20).
We have yet another high-profile killing of a Black person by police, with the usual failure of local government to do anything useful or to satisfy any group but the police. The details of the Breonna Taylor case and other killings are horrendous, but they are just visible glimpses of a larger problem. Law enforcement agencies in recent years have, altogether, killed Black people at a rate 3.4 times greater than the rate at which they kill either White people or Hispanics. It is hard to find any explanation for this other than that White people in general harbor within themselves, often unconsciously, a special, inheritable mix of fear and suspicion toward descendants of the people we brought here as slaves from Africa. White police officers are not alone as current incarnations of this lingering poison in American culture, but all of us must change.
Great effort has gone into finding a way out. Many plans and programs have been developed and implemented. But here we are, trapped as agonizingly as ever in our inability to do anything about police abuse of Black people. To do anything that actually works, that is. So I write this as yet another bright-eyed scientist announcing a new approach that looks promising. Here is the way it goes.
In 1977 the sociologist and management consultant Rosabeth Moss Kanter noted that one woman on a board of directors serves as a token, two are considered a presence to maneuver around, but three become a force that can change the culture of the board. Boards usually have around nine members, so three women are something in the neighborhood of one-third, and research since then points to one-third as the magic number. When the presence of out-group members rises to that level, the whole unit is affected by what group dynamics calls a critical mass. This idea has been applied to the Supreme Court, to high school social groups, and is just emerging as relevant to police forces.
My analysis of information from two publicly available datasets covering law enforcement agencies focuses on cities larger than 200,000. The table below shows the number of Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics per 100,000 in their respective subpopulations that were killed by police between 2013 and 2019.
The kill rate for Blacks increases more or less consistently as the percentage of Black officers in the force decreases, but the strongest differences are at the top and bottom. When the presence of Black officers rises above 35%, the mean Black kill rate drops to 4.7. When percent black is below five, it rises to 13.1. In between, the rate is 8.3. These boundaries should be considered fuzzy, because so few cities have high levels of Black participation in their police forces. It can be argued that significant improvement begins when the percent Black officers gets above 20% - one city, St Louis, with 33% Black officers but a kill rate of 23 raised the mean for the 25-35% category from 5.4 to the 7.9 shown above. Clearly something more is going on, having to do with the “mix of fear and suspicion” aspects of unconscious white feelings about blacks referred to earlier.
The table also shows that kill rates for Whites and Hispanics are lower in all categories than the rates for Blacks. Black-White differences in income or education might account for the higher kill rates for black people, this doesn’t work for the low Hispanic rates. But even though fewer Whites and Hispanics are killed by police at all levels, their kill rates are affected in the same way by the percentage of Black officers in a force. As a consequence, White people are actually safer when their police force is 35% or more Black than when it is all white. Police forces may be less prone to use violence when a critical mass of Black officers contributes true diversity and affects police culture.
Other factors that might explain the critical mass effect fall short. Cities with strongly liberal populations might be expected to do everything they can to reduce police violence, but there is no correlation at all between how a city voted in 2016 and its Black kill rate. That failure is almost heartrendingly pitiful in what it says about liberal governments, because they have tried many things. Whether increasing black participation in their police forces will give city governments a practical and effective solution to the problem is something we need to find out. No city yet has deliberately set out to bring the percentage of Black officers on its force to critical mass. That would be a prospective experiment, but the retrospective data examined here strongly suggest that increasing the presence of Black officers in police forces to critical mass levels may be the best way to mitigate police-community problems.
Today we face a situation we face in which all sorts of differences between people have been sucked into the Great Culture War and locked down on opposite sides of its chasm of hostility. The present proposal is that local police-community conflicts can be handled by bringing both sides together within the same police force, on equal ground and with at least critical mass, not to discuss abstract concepts but work out ways to carry out the day to day requirements of police work. Right now police-Black community problems have been coopted by outside forces fighting over their own issues. Thus Trump is using support for the police as part of a law-and-order theme to help him stay in power, and liberal groups have entered as the political battle expands way beyond local police-community issues.
Bringing both sides of a local issue together at the point where the core of a problem is located and forcing them to work something out in order to get on with the job has huge advantages over leaving the problem to be solved by larger, remote, outside powers locked into ongoing battles with each other. Some nations of the world have developed political structures that bring together competing interests from parallel branches up and down the line to work out practical solutions that benefit all sides. Finland, New Zealand, and Taiwan come to mind. Meanwhile, the United States has reduced politics to a war between two monolithic enemies. As a result, very little gets done that actually helps people at the levels where most of us live. If critical mass theory can help with police-Black community problems, it may also be able to point us in a more positive direction.
The dataset comes from cities with more than 200,000 population for which data on the variables analyzed here were available in both the 2013 and 2016 Law Enforcement and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) surveys and also in the Mapping Police Violence (MPV) database. Cleaning that combination resulted in the 79 cities used here. This Appendix gives more detail on the variables discussed in the main text. But first I look at possible confounding variables that might actually be doing the causal work attributed so far to Percent Black Officers.
In general, in cities with large Black populations the black kill rate is lower than in cities with smaller populations of Blacks - the correlation (r) between %Black Population and Black kill rate is -.32. The correlation between %Black Officers and Black Kill Rate was -.30 in 2013 and -.31 in 2016, so they all appear to have fairly strong effects. Table 2 (below) compares the effect of %Black Officers on Black Kill Rate within levels of %Black Population. When this is done, comparison of the numbers suggests that the effect of %Black Population disappears. I don't have statistical software capable of doing mulitvariate analyses on my laptop any more, and the numbers are too small for that kind of analysis to be justified anyway. But on the basis of this preliminary investigation, %Black Officers continues to look like the effective cause.
The negligible effect of how politically blue a city is on its Black Kill rate was mentioned in the text. The correlation between the percent of the vote in 2016 for Clinton and Black Kill Rate was -.06. The correlation between voting Democratic (for Clinton) in 2016 and %Black Officers was -.01. No matter how much liberals were dominant in a city, Black Kill Rate stayed at the same levels as in other cities..
Well well well.
We now have the possibility that polls [see below] are indicating a pronounced move in favor of Warnock and Ossoff in the last few days. That could certainly be random sampling error, or any of the other factors that have caused polls to be so inaccurate recently. But an intriguing causal explanation has also been offered.
When Congress passed the Covid relief bill a week or so ago, it promised to give $600 to all members of households with total incomes below $125,000 (?). Those payments are critically important to some very large number of poor Americans, and they have begun to arrive. But Trump initially said it had to be $2000 (and include two extra conditions) or he wouldn't sign it. So the House passed a bill for ($2000 without the two extra conditions) and sent it the Senate.
Right so far? Then McConnell said he wouldn't bring it to the floor without the two conditions, and proclaiming it dead in the water. Typical political game, except now with three players - Dems, Repubs, and Trump - and most of the fighting is going on between McConnell and Trump.
Somehow, as noted above, the $600 checks actually have begun to go out. But there has been a great deal of confusion along with all the fighting, and the checks are coming as surprises to many people. That is creating a lot of confusion, and Republicans in GA complain that it is hurting their chances of winning the elections. I heard on TV last night that Dems in GA, especially Ossoff, are blasting Perdue and Loeffler about this mess, pointing out especially that if P and L win, Repubs will retain control of the Senate. Then McConnell (who is much less popular in GA than Trump) will remain in charge, and he will continue to obstruct any efforts to help the people of GA. The ads supposedly drive home the conclusion - a vote for P and L is a vote for keeping McConnell in power and preventing help from coming to the state.
So the causal hypothesis predicts that the recent polling increases in the number of voters choosing Ossoff and Warnock are caused in part by the mess that Republicans have been making. It also raises questions about whether McConnell, the master of Senate maneuvering, has concentrated so much on obstructing what he doesn't like that he is screwing things up for Repubs in political arenas outside of DC...
Data from 538:
Poll Senate vote in Georgia by JMC Analytics:
Warnock 54% Loeffler 45%. Net: Warnock+9
Ossoff 53% Perdue 45%. Net: Ossoff+8
12/24. SOLVING THE TRUMP PROBLEM.
So much has been happening every day that I've spent most of the past several evenings mulling over the events of that day. The mulled wine that Anne concocted has helped - now I know the connection.
Sociologists, and social scientists in general, are notoriously bad at making predictions. Therefore, with conviction but maybe .01 confidence, it seems clear to me that the following is likely:
Everyone with enough expertise to write or talk about it seems to agree that Trump is clinically crazy at this point. Usually this is just an oblique comment peaking out of longer statement, but some people are suddenly addressing it all out - e.g. Tony Schwartz on CNN tonight. Sort of, everybody knows but most don't know what to do with it and don't want to touch it.
During my mulling it occurred to me that from the perspective of probably the most important actor in this tragedy, Mitch McConnell, going through 25th Amendment procedures and removing Trump from office would have big advantages. McConnell's highest priority is usually assumed to be keeping the Republican Party together while maintaining his power in it. The Republican Party presently is being shattered, with prospects of sneaking through until the inauguration and then carrying on as before looking dimmer and dimmer.
The big problem is the cult-like relation between Trump and his 40-some million devoted worshipers. Trump controls their votes, and without those votes Republicans don't win. Opposing Trump means losing those votes. But in desperate times like the present McConnell might consider a scenario like this:
Get the best psychiatric diagnoses you can, coordinate with Pence etc., and consider ways to get the Cabinet to initiate necessary action. Seal Trump off from communications as much as possible while he is at Mar y Lago. When a decision has been reached, put it into action immediately, and in particular, prepare the following kind of statement for Trump supporters:
"Our noble leader, after giving his heart and soul to working for us these last four years, was devastated by losing the election. [Whatever actually happened, the results are official.. (or whatever)]. The blow has brought about a severe nervous breakdown, rendering him incapable of normal life, much less the duties of being president that he has given his utmost to fulfill. We hope that with rest and proper treatment he will recover... Meanwhile, Acting President Pence will carry in the best of our noble leader's spirit..."
You get the idea. Wait for it to happen. Probably quite a few people have already predicted it.
SUMMARY OF THE THREE PARTS OF THE SOLUTION:
First, that Trump is mentally ill to an extent and in a way that makes him dangerous to everyone is fact, apparent to those who know him. There are probably a number of ways of establishing this, scientifically, medically, or in other forms, that satisfy the requirements of the 25th Amendment.
Second, while the benefits of removing him from office on these grounds extend, directly or indirectly, to everyone, they will apply especially to the Republican Party and its non-Trump-disciple leadership by saving it from likely destruction.
Third, McConnell et al. therefore have a strong interest as rational self-interest maximizers (the microeconomic heart of the free market economic theories they espouse) to take appropriate action. They also have the expertise and organizational capacity to do it.
Therefore, the solution will happen as predicted unless Republican leadership lacks either the imagination to think outside their boxes, or the courage to go ahead with what must be done.
Two replies to the above have come in. I add my replies.
1. I love your wishful thinking !
Here is a different, more complex, scenario: ~ This particular personality thrives on conniving to fleece others of their possessions, be those material property, institutional position, or personal dignity, etc. Self concept as winner at all costs in all circumstances and others as losers and as suckers for succumbing to his/her connivance. ~ This particular personality is profoundly transactional, to the point of being exclusively so. Thus, by rewarding some he/she obtains loyalties used to connive in vanquishing others. ~ This particular personality thrives at finding or inventing avenues for blaming others for his/her own misdeeds. Grievance addiction is deep and perhaps has reached pathological point of being incurable. Finding, activating, an exploitation of real or imagined grievances in others is a tactic and strategy to obtain loyal supporters in connivance. ~ This particular personality thrives at escaping from forces (individual or institutional) that seek to hold him/her accountable for misdeeds. There is a strong pride and faith that his/her “Houdini Complex” will succeed. The art of the deal is to commit “the perfect crime,” meaning to get away with it, to escape. ~ When severe accountability becomes evidently inevitable, when no transaction can provide escape, this particular personality is capable of, and will seek to, exit the scene, to go outside of and beyond the reach of either individual or institutional forces that would exact accountability. [Hannibal Lecter character escapes jurisdiction and disappears beyond reach. Whitey Bulger disappeared from east to west coast and almost succeeded is living out his life in escape. Some fake death or simply change identity, and disappear into foreign territories. Think former nazi officials etc] Because of notoriety, physical escape might be perceived as unobtainable, hence the “ultimate escape” could become the option of choice: suicide. Because of deep grievance addiction, murder-suicide could be the means of blaming one or more others for disloyalty (e.g. failing to provide him/her a “win”) at the same time that the escape is executed. ¡ Pence and others of inner circle beware !
My reply: And I love your cynicism.
Everything you say up to the final paragraph approaches brilliance. Very well put.
Then, I want to know where you have come up with your statements. “This particular personality” is not Hannibal Lecter or Whitey Bulger but a malignant narcissist (among other things) who is driven first and foremost to glorify himself as the center of attention and dominate all who threaten using all means possible. It’s hard (impossible) for me to imagine Trump exiting the scene and hiding somewhere out of sight. Suicide? Who knows? It is looking right now as if the main outlet for his frustration, after exhausting legal and political attempts, is to just lash out in rage, hurting everybody and anybody who happens to be around. Like a demon-child breaking everything he can, throwing food and shit every which way, in a pathetic tantrum.
I have a nephew in Taos who let a young woman live in his house as part of his family. After several months she broke up with her boyfriend. He proceeded to set fire to the house, when everyone was away, and burn it to the ground. Why?
That’s what I fear from Trump. None of the things he is doing are accomplishing anything for him. Most are what he does is like giving everyone who doesn’t bow down to him the finger. Some things are more serious than others. His pardons have been getting all the attention, but threatening to veto the relief bill that just got through the Senate gunks everything up and makes it unlikely that people who really (really really) need the $600 per household member will not be getting it anytime soon. What does he care about $2000? That is just spite, intended only to obstruct. The question is, what more can he and will he do during his remaining 28 days in office? Doing something constructive can be very difficult. Doing something destructive is easy, if that’s all you want to do. Why would anyone want to harm other people by destroying things that mean nothing to them, when the only gratification comes from the acts of destroying and hurting themselves?
I would be fine with letting Trump finish his term and go off somewhere else if nothing else happens. Going on what has happened so far, I think he will probably become more and more malignant. He is capable of doing great harm during those 28 (now 26) days.
It is not up to Democrats to try directly to stop him, for two reasons. First, what he is doing is hurting the GOP more than any other political organization, so they have huge reasons to try to do something. Second, if Democrats step in, Republicans will band together in opposition, making it a fight over something very different.
I’m just pointing out a possible solution to the problem, as befits an old man (old person). But I would be happy if powers-that-be medicalized the Trump problem as I have suggested, put him in an institution, and let him out only when the Big Nurse says so.
2: My favorite political cartoonist of all times was the late, great Jeff MacNelly. You would immediately recognize his cartoons because of his elaborate, dense, dark, embellished drawing style. You might also remember him as the creator of the comic strip "Shoe". My favorite of his political cartoons was from the fight over the ERA amendment in the '70s. I loved this cartoon so much I clipped it out and saved it for years. I would chuckle every time I saw it. Sadly, it has vanished. So I will have to describe it for you. There was a belief at that time that the states had to ratify the ERA within a certain time period before Congress's authorizing legislation expired. The Women's Movement was frantically seeking a Congressional extension because not enough states had ratified yet. The clock was ticking. That's the premise. What MacNelly so wonderfully shows us is two women dressed as early suffragettes on water skis slowly sinking into the ocean. Their limp lines are attached to a ship marked Congress. This ship is a ponderous, lumbering eighteenth century frigate with sagging riggings, resting on still waters, with nary a trace of winds for its sails. One suffragette frantically yells to the ship's captain: "Floor it, buster!" Yes, Trump is a mad man. He has been progressively getting crazier for the last four years, but the Republicans in Congress have chosen to live with it. Nothing will change in this next month. If MacNelly was alive today he could simply modify his ERA cartoon to fit the times: The lumbering frigate is the USS Mitch McConnell, and is labeled Republican Senate. Nancy Pelosi is slowly sinking on her water skis as she defiantly yells: "Floor it, buster!"
Reply to Richard:
I certainly hope that nothing very serious happens in this next month.
12/13. In December, 2020, a month that will live in infamy, the 166 year old party of Abraham Lincoln, formed originally to combat the spread of slavery into new territories, tried to overthrow democracy in America because a carefully checked and certified election did not go the way it wanted. This was the greatest attack on American democracy I have seen since I was four years old - December 7, 1941. Like Pearl Harbor, this threat has no chance of succeeding. But cracks have appeared in the institutions of our constitutional republic, and the continuing need to repair and strengthen them calls us again. May we come out of this as we have before, with internal conflicts moving toward resolution and factions coming together toward a better future.
(More coming on this)
10/23. Two reactions to last night's debates: A virtuoso display of non-stop lying, which Trump sustained for 90 minutes with great assertiveness and vigor. Truly a master con-man - as I read the comments of others this morning I think many are tone-deaf to the charisma he projects to people who want to believe his lies.
But the issue that really absorbs me now is the idea that lying at that level must now be accepted. As David Leonhardt said this morning in the Times, the debate violated the standards of nearly all of American history because, "one of the nominees — the sitting president — told one lie after another. He did so about the virus, North Korea, China, Russia, climate change, his own health care policy, Joe Biden’s health care policy, Biden’s finances and the immigrant children who were separated from their parents... It’s impossible to analyze a debate filled with untruths without first acknowledging them. They undermine an event meant to highlight differences between candidates. They undermine democracy. To ignore them is to miss the biggest story: a president trying to construct his own reality."
My concern is with the undermining democracy part. Biden followed the (probably safe) strategy of continuously muttering "That's not true." Kristen Welker got credit for keeping order, but never was able to break through the shield with which Trump protected his alternative reality. She often gave up and changed direction - exactly what Trump is masterful at forcing, through distraction or counterattacks that divert attention from the lie at issue.
The crucially important question, therefore, is, what can be done to prevent "debates" from degenerating into performances in which alternative realities are asserted with theatrical virtuosity but no relation to truth. Trump has a lot to teach us about this. I only know of two instances where an interviewer was able to even partially penetrate Trump's array of protective strategies. One was when Jonathan Small persisted long enough to get Trump to actually offer some evidence in support of his assertion that the incidence of deaths from Covid was declining. He gave Small a sheet of paper with statistics. Big mistake. Small looked at it and saw that it showed the number of deaths for people who had already contracted Covid, not the total number of people dying: number of deaths/number of cases. The two are completely different - the number of cases was increasing rapidly at that time, making the denominator larger and the death rate lower. The correct statistic would be: number of deaths/size of population. Then the death rate was steadily increasing (even without noting that deaths happen 3 to 5 weeks after infection). For a full discussion of this see Lying About Covid with Statistics 101 in Project One. (shift-click)
The second interview that at least disrupted Trump's protective shield was conducted by Samantha Guthrie when the second debate was cancelled. She accomplished this through sheer perseverance. When her first attempt to question the basis for a Trump lie failed she went straight ahead with a second, and then a third attempt. Trump has a notoriously short attention span and gets frustrated when forced to stick with the same topic, allowing her to at least score points. Her training in law and experience as a prosecutor doubtless helped.
Putting those two lessons together suggests that Trump is vulnerable when the right kind of effort forces him to offer some kind of evidential support for the lies he is asserting. What exactly this means for future debates is a subject worth pondering. Presently, my conclusion is that the debate structure and format used now invites lying and provides almost no protection for truth.
One suggestion for re-design would resemble the way major league sports are now using challenges to refs/umpires decisions. Allow each debater a certain number of challenges, which can be used by simply pushing a button. If the opponent cannot offer evidence supporting the challenged assertion, then that is noted, the debate goes on, but the challenger doesn't forfeit a challenge. If the assertion is supported with evidence, the challenger uses up one challenge. Something along those lines, maybe.
10/17. Some interesting articles are emerging on changing the structure of the Supreme Court. This is in response to the norm-breaking and cut-throat maneuvers Republicans have been using to consolidate and prolong political power. The important issue, really, is what kind of SCOTUS would work best for the interests of the nation in the long-run? The short-run issue is, how can Democrats use the political power they will probably acquire in this election to make those long-term changes? Here I suggest that following science is more important than following ideas about tradition. Republicans have denied science on climate change and on the covid pandemic. What goes around comes around and science-denial is now about to destroy them electorally. The appropriate way to follow science on remodeling SCOTUS would be to consult social scientists and legal experts and implement their advice. The appropriate way to proceed strategically is to follow the science expressed in Newton's Third Law: Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. To bring our society back into some kind of balance we need to focus whatever power is available within the letter of the law on putting the recommended reforms into operation. Quickly, and without listening to the storm of outraged words that will follow.
And remember, the Constitution says almost nothing about how SCOTUS justices are selected or what its structure should be.
Introduction to boylerworks
boylerworks reports on things I’ve been working on, right now featuring three topics. Awakened and Scientific Consciousness has been my primary focus for fifty years now. Last September (2019) I was ready to write a new article on the subject, but a bit tired from the work. Both of my sons were scheduled to visit during October, and there were some other matters to attend to, so I decided to set the Consciousness stuff aside for awhile and devote all my attention to what was happening at the moment.
Somehow that dragged into December. I like to devote the ten days of Christmas to reading and thinking about topics outside of my normal routines, and this time I decided that I wanted to know more about what was going on with global warming and climate change. Hence the second topic in boylerworks. As I read various materials, however, I was bothered that the proposed solutions seemed inadequate given the magnitude of the problems that science was laying out more and more clearly. Especially, science said that the things that were already getting bad would be not only disastrous but irreversible by 2030, but the proposals about what to do all focused on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Duh?
The proposals all said it would be impossible replace the non-renewable energy presently being consumed with energy from renewable sources. But they didn’t any evidence or analysis backing that up. Having operated an off-the-grid solar system for many years at our cabin in the mountains, I could not think of any reason you could not make and install enough solar panels to supply the necessary energy. Maybe we run out of a crucial material – but I had never heard of anything like that. Maybe it would cost too much – but other than deficit-hawk syndrome that didn’t seem like an excuse. To some extent it seemed that environmentalists were just so focused on getting us all to use less energy that the thought of producing enough renewable energy to make this unnecessary seemed profligate, almost immoral. Using less energy seems like a good idea, but getting everyone to do that has proved difficult and certainly hasn’t happened. Therefore, if you want to stop global warming, do something that could actually accomplish it.
Since I knew what solar energy cost per watt (under $1 and getting cheaper), I set to work finding out how much energy the U.S. and the world was consuming, in BTU’s or KW hours. That had to include not only present electricity generation but the gasoline that presently runs our vehicles and the various sources that heat our buildings. Plus energy consumed by manufacturing and other industries. Thanks to the internet, this was easy to do. I ended up estimating that we really could generate enough electricity from solar panels alone to do the job. There are additional details, costs, and organizational matters to take into account, but converting to renewable energy was possible. There was, and is, no technical reason it can’t be done in ten years.
The problem was that I couldn’t find anyone, as of say New Year’s Day 2020, who was saying the same thing. So I felt that until I heard of something to the contrary, I had some sort of obligation to try to bring this to the attention of the people who worked on global warming professionally. That’s hard to do when you have no connections at all with that world, but I set about writing up my back-of-the-envelope calculations into something I could send off for publication or internet transmission. Through the next couple of months I saw a bit of opening (among the Democratic presidential candidates, Jay Inslee and Bernie Sanders put out adventurous 2030 proposals, but Biden stuck with 2050).
By March 11 I felt I had everything in hand for a good position paper. Then Covid-19 came into my life, like a full eclipse of the sun blocking out everything else. I was watching an NBA game that night when word came through that Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had tested positive for Covid-19. We all realized something ominous was happening, and normal life began coming to a stop. People looked for ways they might help. My wife sewed facemasks for the Navajo Nation. I decided to do what I know, make data tell their story, partially because I still felt I had found something in the global warming area that no one seemed to have noticed. If I played backup to the professionals by re-analyzing the Covid-19 data something unexpected might turn up. So I started working on the third topic of this website, the Covid-19 pandemic.
March 11 was four months ago. I knew little about pandemics or viruses, and downloading and tracking data on cases and deaths gave me a way to learn that complemented what I was reading. It was also therapeutic because it gave me something to concentrate on besides Covid-19. So I kept updating my databases and watching what was happening until sometime in June when I suddenly realized that a strong, clear lesson had emerged. All fourteen nations that initiated programs based on the recommendations of science had successfully brought the coronavirus under control, while the three that did not follow those recommendations still had high rates of Covid-19. A completely conclusive lesson, requiring no tests of statistical significance or judgements about possible interpretations.
I talk about that in the section labelled “Coronavirus Pandemic.” But what fascinates me is that until the data showed me that lesson I hadn’t seen anyone saying the same thing in print or on television. As soon as it occurred to me, however, the same message began popping up all over and quickly became commonplace. A kind of synchronicity, where we all realized the same thing at about the same time. It have been just that I didn’t notice it until it entered my consciousness, but I don’t think so. It feels more like events are moving along swiftly and inexorably, and all of us are to some extent in tune with them. Synchronicity also was taking place in the global warming world – Joe Biden came out with an updated proposal that will reach net-zero emissions by 2035. And I didn’t have to try to get in touch with him to tell him he needed to do that. I will go the details of the proposal shortly, and write up my comments on it in the Global Warming section. But for now – all is well.
As I worked to write up what seemed like new thinking, a contribution to our effort to understand the pandemic, the same ideas suddenly began to pop up in newspaper articles and even in a blog my wife had enjoyed for years – Jon Katz always talked about life on his farm in upstate New York, his border collies and other animals, very relaxing, down home stuff. Then he suddenly went into high gear on Covid and politics and very insightful psychoanalyses of Trump. And he was saying some of the same things that had occurred to me. Since then, a month now, I’ve had other new thoughts, and within a couple of days find other people saying the same thing. There is a kind of synchronicity going all over the nation, like the truth sweeping in from a new direction, spreading everywhere. That kind of surge of insight through a whole nation happens sometimes, historically, and is a wonderful mystery to contemplate. So wonderful that it is happening now.
Another variable which could be involved is the rate of growth of the Black population of each city. The correlation here is .24, which means that the kill rate increases a bit as the density of Blacks in the city grows.
Table 3. Full data array used in the analysis.