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Active-Shooter Drills Are Tragically Misguided

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Erika Christakis writes in the Atlantic:

At 10:21 a.m. on december 6, Lake Brantley High School, in Florida, initiated a “code red” lockdown. “This is not a drill,” a voice announced over the PA system. At the same moment, teachers received a text message warning of an active shooter on campus. Fearful students took shelter in classrooms. Many sobbed hysterically, others vomited or fainted, and some sent farewell notes to parents. A later announcement prompted a stampede in the cafeteria, as students fled the building and jumped over fences to escape. Parents flooded 911 with frantic calls.

Later it was revealed, to the fury of parents, teachers, and students, that in fact this was a drill, the most realistic in a series of drills that the students of Lake Brantley, like students across the country, have lately endured. In the year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, efforts to prepare the nation’s students for gunfire have intensified. Educators and safety experts have urged students to deploy such unlikely self-defense tools as hockey pucks, rocks, flip-flops, and canned food. More commonly, preparations include lockdown drills in which students sit in darkened classrooms with the shades pulled. Sometimes a teacher or a police officer plays the role of a shooter, moving through the hallway and attempting to open doors as children practice staying silent and still.

These drills aren’t limited to the older grades. Around the country, young children are being taught to run in zigzag patterns so as to evade bullets. I’ve heard of kindergartens where words like barricade are added to the vocabulary list, as 5- and 6-year-olds are instructed to stack chairs and desks “like a fort” should they need to keep a gunman at bay. In one Massachusetts kindergarten classroom hangs a poster with lockdown instructions that can be sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”: Lockdown, Lockdown, Lock the door / Shut the lights off, Say no more. Beside the text are picture cues—a key locking a door; a person holding up a finger to hush the class; a switch being flipped to turn off the lights. The alarm and confusion of younger students is hardly assuaged by the implausible excuses some teachers offer—for instance, that they are practicing what to do if a wild bear enters the classroom, or that they are having an extra-quiet “quiet time.”

In the 2015–16 school year, 95 percent of public schools ran lockdown drills, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. And that’s to say nothing of actual (rather than practice) lockdowns, which a school will implement in the event of a security concern—a threat that very well may turn out to be a hoax, perhaps, or the sound of gunfire in the neighborhood. A recent analysis by The Washington Post found that during the 2017–18 school year, more than 4.1 million students experienced at least one lockdown or lockdown drill, including some 220,000 students in kindergarten or preschool.

In one sense, the impulse driving these preparations is understandable. The prospect of mass murder in a classroom is intolerable, and good-faith proposals for preventing school shootings should be treated with respect. But the current mode of instead preparing kids for such events is likely to be psychologically damaging. See, for instance, the parting letter a 12-year-old boy wrote his parents during a lockdown at a school in Charlotte, North Carolina, following what turned out to be a bogus threat: “I am so sorry for anything I have done, the trouble I have caused,” he scribbled. “Right now I’m scared to death. I need a warm soft hug … I hope that you are going to be okay with me gone.”

As James Hamblin wrote for The Atlantic last February, there is precious little evidence that the current approach is effective:

Studies of whether active-shooter drills actually prevent harm are all but impossible. Case studies are difficult to parse. In Parkland, for example, the site of the recent shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had an active-shooter drill just [a] month [before the massacre]. The shooter had been through such drills. Purposely countering them may have been a reasonthat, as he was beginning his rampage, the shooter pulled a fire alarm.

Moreover, the scale of preparedness efforts is out of proportion to the risk. Deaths from shootings on school grounds remain extremely rare compared with those resulting from accidental injury, which is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. In 2016, there were 787 accidental deaths (a category that includes fatalities due to drowning, fires, falls, and car crashes) among American children ages 5 to 9—a small number, considering that there are more than 20 million children in this group. Cancer was the next-most-common cause of death, followed by congenital anomalies. Homicide of alltypes came in fourth. To give these numbers yet more context: The Washington Post has identified fewer than 150 people (children and adults) who have been shot to death in America’s schools since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, in Colorado. Not 150 people a year, but 150 in nearly two decades.

Preparing our children for profoundly unlikely events would be one thing if that preparation had no downside. But in this case, our efforts may exact a high price. Time and resources spent on drills and structural upgrades to school facilities could otherwise be devoted to, say, a better science program or hiring more experienced teachers. Much more worrying: School-preparedness culture itself may be instilling in millions of children a distorted and foreboding view of their future. It’s also encouraging adults to view children as associates in a shared mission to reduce gun violence, a problem whose real solutions, in fact, lie at some remove from the schoolyard.

We’ve been down this road before. In an escalating set of preparations for nuclear holocaust during the 1950s, the “duck and cover” campaign trained children nationwide to huddle under their desk in the case of a nuclear blast. Some students in New York City were even issued dog tags, to be worn every day, to help parents identify their bodies. Assessments of this period suggest that such measures contributed to pervasive fear among children, 60 percent of whom reported having nightmares about nuclear war.

Decades later, a new generation of disaster-preparedness policies—this time geared toward guns rather than nuclear weapons—appear to be stoking fear once again. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Foundation determined that, despite the rarity of such events, 57 percent of American teenagers worry about a shooting at their school. This comes at a time when children are already suffering from sharply rising rates of anxiety, self-mutilation, and suicide. According to a landmark study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, 32 percent of 13-to-18-year-olds have anxiety disorders, and 22 percent suffer from mental disorders that cause severe impairment or distress. Among those suffering from anxiety, the median age of onset is 6.

Active-shooter drills reflect a broad societal misunderstanding of childhood, one that features two competing images of the child: the defenseless innocent and the powerful mini-adult. On the one hand, we view children as incredibly vulnerable—to hurt feelings, to non-rubberized playground surfaces, to disappointing report cards. This view is pervasive, and its consequences are now well understood: It robs children of their agency and impedes their development, and too often prevents them from testing themselves either physically or socially, from taking moderate risks and learning from them, from developing resilience.

But on the other hand, we demand preternatural maturity from our children. We tell them that with hockey pucks and soup cans and deep reservoirs of courage, they are capable of defeating an evil that has resisted the more prosaic energies of law-enforcement officers, legislators, school superintendents, and mental-health professionals. We ask them to manage not the everyday risks that they are capable of managing—or should, for their own good, manage—but rather the problems they almost by definition cannot.

This second notion of the child stems from what I call adultification, or the tendency to imagine that children experience things the way adults do. Adultification comes in many forms, from the relatively benign (dressing kids like little adults, in high heels or ironic punk-rock T-shirts) to the damaging (the high-stakes testing culture creeping into kindergartens). We also find adultification in the expectation that kids conform to adult schedules—young children today are subjected to more daily transitions than were previous generations of children, thanks to the dictates of work and child-care hours and the shift from free play to more programmed activities at school and at home.

Similarly, we expect children to match adults’ capacity to hurry or to be still for long periods of time; when they fail, we are likely to punish or medicate them. Examples abound: an epidemic of preschool expulsions, the reduction in school recess, the extraordinary pathologizing of childhood’s natural rhythms. ADHD diagnoses, which have spiked in recent years, are much more common among children who narrowly make the age cutoff for their grade than among children born just a week or so later, who must start kindergarten the following year and thus end up being the oldest in their class; this raises the question of whether we are labeling as disordered children who are merely acting their age. The same question might be asked of newer diagnoses such as sluggish cognitive tempo and sensory processing disorder. These trends are all of a piece; we’re expecting schoolchildren to act like small adults.

Adultification is a result of a mind-set that ignores just how taxing childhood is. Being small and powerless is inherently stressful. This is true even when nothing especially bad is going on. Yet for many children, especially bad things are going on. Nearly half of American children have experienced at least one  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

These children will in time become adults. I wonder what sort of adults they will be.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 4:21 pm

Meet Ed Calabrese, Who Says a Little Pollution Can Be Good For You

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Kevin Drum blogs:

Susanne Rust of the LA Times brings us the latest fabulous news from the Trump adminstration:

In early 2018, a deputy assistant administrator in the EPA, Clint Woods, reached out to a Massachusetts toxicologist best known for pushing a public health standard suggesting that low levels of toxic chemicals and radiation are good for people….Less than two weeks later, [Ed] Calabrese’s suggestions on how the EPA should assess toxic chemicals and radiation were introduced, nearly word for word, in the U.S. government’s official journal, the Federal Register.

“This is a major big time victory,” Calabrese wrote in an email to Steve Milloy, a former coal and tobacco lobbyist who runs a website,, that seeks to discredit mainstream climate science. “Yes. It is YUGE!” wrote Milloy, in response.

We could stop right there if we wanted. Steve Milloy is one of the most prominent purveyors of crap science in the world. He’s a climate change denier with close ties to the tobacco industry and the author of (among others) Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them. If Calabrese and Milloy are buddies, that’s probably all you need to know.

And where has Calabrese’s funding come from? Do I even have to tell you?

By the 1990s, Calabrese had solidly established himself as a trusted scientist with the tobacco industry. He found they were interested in research that questioned the methods that regulatory agencies use to assess risk.

….It was when he began his work on hormesis that Calabrese got attention from a broader range of industries. With seed money from R.J. Reynolds, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble and others, as well as the EPA, Calabrese established a hormesis working group at the University of Massachusetts, which he called the Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures, or BELLE….Between 1990 and 2013, Calabrese received more than $8 million from companies and institutions, including R.J. Reynolds, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, General Electric, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force, to conduct research on hormesis.

There you have it. As usual, the tobacco industry is the root of all scientific evil, and their approach long ago caught on with every other polluting industry out there. “Manufacturing doubt” is their goal, and abuse of research into processes like hormesis is their holy grail. It’s not that hormesis is impossible. There may well be a few isolated examples where it has application—and as far as polluting industries are concerned, one example is plenty. They can then fund research claiming to find it all over the place.

If you want to read the whole grim story, check out Rebecca Leber’s piece from last October about how Calabrese’s ideas became embedded in the EPA’s rulemaking process after Trump took office. It’s the Trump era in a nutshell.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 2:00 pm

New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon

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David Leonhardt writes in the NY Times:

Imagine that a bunch of children are sitting around a table when a seemingly beneficent adult walks into the room carrying a plate of cupcakes. The kids burst out in excitement — until they notice a problem: There are fewer cupcakes than children.

At this point, the adult announces some ground rules. To receive a cupcake, the children will have to compete with one another. The adult will accept cash or other objects of value. Praise for the adult’s kindness would also be welcome.

The kids immediately start saying nice things and digging into their pockets. But then one child has second thoughts. She quiets the room and tells the adult he’s being a bully. He is bigger, stronger and richer than the kids, she says. He shouldn’t make them grovel for cupcakes. The adult replies: “Fine. No cupcake for you.”

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

If she were your child, how would you feel: proud that she took a stand, or disappointed that she didn’t act in her own best interests? Cupcakes, after all, are pretty tasty.

Last week, New York became that disobedient child. The city damaged its own interests, or at least its short-term interests, for the sake of principle. Enough New Yorkers raised enough of a ruckus about the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks that the city and state were bestowing on Amazon that Amazon finally had enough. On Thursday, it announced that it would no longer be bringing 25,000 jobs to Queens. No cupcake for New York.

Yes, I know: Jobs are not cupcakes. Jobs help people build middle-class lives, which are in too short supply these days. So pretend that the adult in my story offered a Kindle instead of a cupcake. Or a college scholarship. It shouldn’t change your view of the girl’s rebellion.

Regardless, it’s a version of what social scientists call “the tragedy of the commons” — in which people hurt their long-term interests by acting in their short-term interests. The only solution to the tragedy of the commons is to change the rules.

For years, companies have been getting the better of local governments — and taxpayers — by pitting them against one another. If a city or state won’t pony up cash or tax breaks, companies threaten to go elsewhere. Boeing, Nike, Intel, Ford, General Motors, Foxconn, Royal Dutch Shell and many others have all done it. Since 1990, the combined size of these handouts has surged.

In the moment, the deals are often popular. Polls showed that most New Yorkers favored Amazon’s plans for Queens. Last week, the editorial boards of both The Times and The Wall Street Journalcriticized the politicians whose complaints scuttled the deal. The front page of The Daily News thundered, “AMAZON KILLERS: Shame on these so-called progressives for rejecting 25,000 high-paying jobs & billions in taxes tech biz would’ve brought to city.”

The deal’s supporters do make some good points. Amazon’s critics have used silly anti-capitalist rhetoric at times. And the deal would have modestly helped the Queens economy (and only modestly: New York is home to more than four million jobs, and Queens to more than one million). But there is a larger picture here: Corporate-relocation subsidies are terrible policy.

They do nothing to lift the country’s economic growth — to create more cupcakes, as it were. The subsidies mostly redistribute income upward, from taxpayers to corporate shareholders. If every city and state justifies big giveaways based on its own immediate interests, the tragedy of the commons will never end.

Somebody needs to make a principled stand. In New York, a coalition of activists and politicians did so. They called attention to the grubbiness and secrecy of these subsidies, which are, in their own way, anti-capitalist. The deal’s collapse, Greg LeRoy, a longtime advocate on the issue, told Emily Badger of The Times, is “absolutely a godsend to those of us who have been trying to reform economic development.”

For decades, local politicians have felt pressure on only one side of this issue: To do whatever it takes to attract companies. As a result, those politicians have contributed, often unwittingly, to the radical rise in economic inequality.

ind politicians elsewhere that their private blandishments may later turn into public controversy. It should also remind politicians that they can say no. Northern Virginia gave Amazon much less money than New York but still won tens of thousands of new jobs.

And the whole episode should energize legal efforts to fight corporate handouts. Missouri and Kansas, for example, are talking about a “cease-fire” to keep local companies from playing the two states off each other. Officials in Arizona, Illinois, New York and several other states have talked about a multistate compact known as the End Corporate Welfare Act. The federal government, for its part, could offer financial incentives to states that refuse to play the handout game. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2019 at 8:16 am

Clever (and revenue-neutral) idea: Want Better Teachers? Don’t Tax Them.

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Leo Hindery, Jr. and Bob Kerrey have an intriguing proposal in the Washington Monthly:

America has a long and successful record of using the tax code to reward desirable social actions. Congress did this for VISTA and Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s and it does so today for active-duty military personnel.

We urge Congress to now do the same for America’s 3.7 million K-12 teachers who are instructing the country’s 56.6 million school age children. A refundable tax credit program would help school boards employ and retain teachers. In particular, it would help recruit and retain the science, technology, and math teachers who today are such a high priority.

All informed citizens want high teaching standards and accountability. But they also understand that the economic plight of our K-12 teachers is a major obstacle when it comes to engaging with and developing top talent. This obstacle is especially difficult to overcome given the strain on municipal budgets and the low priority that aging communities place on school funding.

We believe that providing federal income tax relief to teachers would be a powerful response to this demand. It would also be an important step toward fully restoring the health of our national economy and sustaining our global competitiveness.

The best way to pay for this initiative is to ask our wealthiest citizens – whose children are often enrolled in private schools – to shoulder a relatively modest burden. As a first step, we propose closing the carried interest loophole and its related tax avoidance schemes once and for all. They are unacceptably unfair to lower and middle-class Americans. Even President Trump supported closing these exemptions when he was a candidate.

We estimate that the annual loss to the Treasury from just the carried interest deduction and its associated tax deferral schemes is about $15 billion a year. When all loopholes for the extremely wealthy are closed, and when the top rate is increased even modestly from its current level of 37 percent, then the total funds available for our proposal rises to at least $25 billion a year.

We do not believe in soaking the rich, but we do believe in asking them to do something that’s urgently needed and good. Think of it as a patriotic duty. The public interest would be well met by directing these dollars to America‘s accredited K-12 teachers, both the 3.3 million who teach in public schools as well as the 400,000 who teach in private schools. In other words, no teacher left behind.

Some might object to giving tax breaks to people who teach at private academies. But most private school teachers work for faith-based institutions, not the wealthy prep schools that affluent readers think about when they hear the words “private school.” In many cities, these faith-based schools are the only affordable alternative to poor public schools, and we don’t want to punish their instructors. . .

Continue reading.

The law would not affect government revenues at all—that is, it’s the opposite of an expensive program: it’s a program that pays for itself. Well, I can see that the ultra-wealthy will pay more in taxes, but they can afford it, and it is in the national interest to have have well-paid schoolteachers: improves supply quality.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2019 at 11:38 am

Jonathan Chait has an interesting thought: Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion. Is It to Protect Donald Trump?

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

Last night, a federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to federal prosecutors about the Russia investigation. Some of Manafort’s lies go “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” a prosecutor told the court. In particular, Manafort deceived prosecutors about a meeting he had with his former partner and active Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik. At this meeting, the two discussed a peace plan to resolve Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top Russian foreign policy priority. Manafort passed on polling data to Kilimnik, data that was “very detailed” and “very focused,” not just some topline numbers. And according to prosecutors, Manafort did all this in hopes of getting a pardon from President Trump.

Here we have, in this case alone, every single element one would need to establish collusion. There was a meeting between Trump’s campaign manager and a Russian operative; the discussion of something Russia would gain from a Trump victory (a favorable Ukraine settlement); the exchange of information that would assist Russian campaign intervention (polling data that would allow Russia to target its social-media attacks). Also, they left the meeting place via separate entrances. This isn’t merely suspicious. It’s a scene from The Americans.

And perhaps most curious of all, you have the interest of the president. If Manafort was just running a side hustle behind Trump’s back, Trump would have little reason to care about him getting caught. Prosecutors have already charged that Manafort maintained secret contacts with the White House as recently as 2018. Howard Fineman reported last year that, according to “friends and aides” of the president, Trump believes Manafort “isn’t going to ‘flip’ and sell him out.”

The revelations about Manafort have dribbled out slowly enough that it’s easy to lose track of how far along they have come. The prosecution of Manafort began by nabbing him for the most easily detected crimes. This is exactly what you’d expect in the prosecution of a massive conspiracy: The prosecution works its way from the bottom up and the outside in, finding crimes by key figures to force them to testify against higher-ups. Instead, conservatives have treated every step in the prosecution as evidence that Manafort did nothing wrong with Russia.

When the first Manafort indictment came down in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reassured its readers that Trump was guilty of nothing more than “poor judgement” in hiring a “notorious Beltway operator,” as it called the man who had been directing Russian overseas political operations in Ukraine. “One popular theory is that Mr. Mueller is throwing the book at Mr. Manafort so he will cop a plea and tell what he knows about Russian-Trump campaign chicanery,” reasoned an editorial. “But that assumes he knows something that to date no Congressional investigation has found.”

The next year, a gimmick filing by Manafort’s attorneys seized on the fact that prosecutors had not charged him with colluding with Russia yet to present him as innocent. Mollie Hemingway breathlessly wrote it up in the Federalist. Manafort’s “legal team also reveals the government has provided no evidence of any contact between Manafort and Russian officials,” she declared. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, impressed by this “evidence,” declared, “If Manafort did not illegally collide [sic] with Russia, it’s hard to imagine anyone who did.”

Last summer, Byron York was still proclaiming, “There’s no collusion in the case against Manafort.”

This defense has been smashed to pieces. There’s a ton of collusion in the case against Manafort. Of course we haven’t even seen the full extent of the charges, much of which is still hidden in the procession of indictments beneath tantalizing black lines. What we already know is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 5:14 pm

A Dead-Simple Algorithm Reveals the True Toll of Voter ID Laws

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Issie Lapowski writes in Wired:

AFTER ANNOUNCING THE closure of his short-lived commission to end voter fraud, President Trump made it clear Thursday that he wants more states to require identification at the ballot box to prevent what he believes is rampant—but still unproven—election rigging.

Ever since the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, laws requiring voters to show identification when they vote have speckled the nation, popping up in states from Rhode Island to Arizona. Almost as quickly, voting rights advocates have taken states like Texas and Alabama to court, arguing that these laws intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Just last summer, a federal judge tossed out Texas’s voter ID law, in a case that’s now being revisited by an appeals court. But proving exactly how discriminatory these laws are requires far more complexity than it might seem.

Sure, there are endless anecdotes of well-meaning, well-prepared citizens being turned away on election day, but anecdotes are not data. There are ample surveys asking voters whether these laws came between them and the ballot box, but people can always misrepresent themselves on surveys, and courts tend to dismiss them, anyway. Seven states include Social Security numbers in voter files and driver’s license records, but across the rest of the country, determining whether a single individual voter is also listed in any number of identification databases has become a complex and nettlesome problem for voting access advocates and statistics researchers alike.

Recently, however, researchers at Tufts University and Harvard University demonstrated that it’s possible to match individuals across government databases with nearly perfect accuracy, using just a few basic identifiers like a person’s name, date of birth, and address. They developed the algorithm while working as expert witnesses in the Department of Justice’s case against Texas. Now, in a newly published paper, researchers Stephen Ansolabehere of Harvard and Eitan Hersh of Tufts have explained the underlying methodology. Their goal, according to Hersh, is to create a system courts can easily understand, which can not only be used in future voter ID law cases, but can also help dispel some myths about who those laws do and don’t hurt.

“The more we can agree on methods that are easy to explain, the better off we are,” says Hersh.

A Better Model

If all data were clean and complete, it wouldn’t be so hard to figure out if a voter named, say, John Smith, was the same John Smith listed in the federal driver’s license database. According to Hersh and Ansolabehere’s research, only 1 in 2.7 billion individuals have the same zip code, gender, date of birth, and last name, making those four details combined a fairly spot-on indicator of a person’s identity. But often, government records contain typos, incomplete fields, nicknames, or outdated addresses. To link databases, researchers often need to make do with less information.

They also need to be able to show their work in a way that lawyers and judges can understand. So many algorithms that purport to match people across databases run up against the so-called black box problem. They may be able to make statistically sound decisions, but they can’t easily explain how they made them. In a recent Supreme Court hearing over partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, Chief Justice John Roberts dismissed research-backed methods to measure gerrymandering as “sociological gobbledygook.” Hersh and Ansolabehere wanted to develop a tool that could be easily understood.

So, working with the Department of Justice, the researchers set out to determine whether they could match voters on the voter roll with their corresponding records in ID databases using just a few basic details. To do that, they developed an algorithm that scanned the state of Texas’s voter rolls and compared it to the federal list of driver licenses, state IDs, and concealed handgun permits, among other forms of acceptable identification. It scanned each record by address, date of birth, gender, and name, to see if, for instance, a combination of address, gender, and name would be as accurate a predictor as a combination of date of birth, gender, and name.

To check their results, the researchers relied on a subset of the voter data that contained Social Security numbers. Those records effectively served as the algorithm’s answer key. They ultimately found that 98 percent of the records that could be matched using Social Security numbers could also be matched using any three of the four key identifiers—address, date of birth, gender, and name.

“This combination is as good as a Social Security number,” Hersh says.

That high accuracy rate is essential in court, says Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has served as an expert witness in a case against South Carolina’s voter ID law. Most database-matching algorithms are used in low-risk scenarios, he explains, like advertising, where companies want to target customers across a range of platforms. If they target the wrong customer, at worst, they’ve lost a marginal amount of money. In court, it could mean losing the case altogether. “There is really no room for error,” Stewart says, citing the risk of having to demonstrate an algorithm’s chops before the bench. “If the judge doesn’t get matched properly, for instance, you might as well have not done anything.”

Deep Impact

Once Hersh and Ansolabehere were confident they had properly matched registered voters to their ID records, they used a commercial tool called Catalist to predict each voter’s race. That tool analyzes names to determine how likely a given name is to be associated with one race or another. It also accounts for the demographics of the Census block where a given voter lives. Using this tool, the researchers confirmed what voting rights advocates already know to be true—that black voters are more likely to lack adequate identification under voter ID laws. According to the study, 3.6 percent of registered white voters had no match in any state or federal ID database. By contrast, 7.5 percent of black registered voters were missing from those databases.

The algorithm shows a clear and disturbing racial disparity on voting rights. But Hersh says that it also shows that voter ID laws affect a relatively small percentage of the population. Across all registered voters in Texas, the researchers found 4.5 percent lack proper identification. For registered voters who actually showed up at the polls in 2012, it’s 1.5 percent.

“You’re down to a small percentage of the population that doesn’t have an ID,” says Hersh. That’s one reason why, despite Alabama’s restrictive voter ID law, black turnout in the recent Senate election still exceeded expectations. Still, while the percentages may sound small, that 4.5 percent still represents 608,470 Texas citizens who could potentially be disenfranchised.

Hersh says he agrees the public ought to be outraged by racially motivated attempts to suppress the vote, and that courts ought to crack down on the practice. But he cautions against Democrats artificially inflating the impact of voter ID laws in their messaging. Shortly after the 2016 election, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin attributed the entire dropoff in voter turnout in Wisconsin to the state’s new voter ID law. Hersh points to plenty of other reasons why voter turnout may have been down in Wisconsin in 2016, including the simple fact that Hillary Clinton didn’t campaign in Wisconsin.

“It … can be dangerous to sow doubt in the integrity of the election system with these big claims,” Hersh says. Besides, the raw data is bad enough. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 11:21 am

Can the Republican Party Be Saved? Should It?

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Interesting article in the new conservative on-line magazine Bulwark by Thomas Firey, a libertarian-leaning unaffiliated voter who values the contributions to public decision-making made by the previous Republican party and its Democratic opponent. He writes:

The GOP has been the home of right-of-center political views for more than half a century, espousing limited-government, anti-communist, internationalist, fiscally balanced, economically liberal ideologies—though its politicians sometimes failed to live up to those ideas.

The past decade or so has seen a shift in the party’s core ideologies. Republicans increasingly favor government intervention in social and economic matters, reject internationalism in favor of either unilateralism or isolationism, and unapologetically run up large deficits. Most disturbing, some of them embrace what they call “national populism”—and what can more accurately be described as “white culturalism.” This view holds that people of certain cultural and/or racial identities and traditions have a special claim on the nation’s rights and privileges, and have been underserved by recent American public policy.

It is tempting to blame this transformation on Donald Trump, in part because the new GOP views cohere poorly with the party’s previous ideologies. However, Trump could not have become leader of the Republican party and president of the United States if the new views hadn’t already found a home in some quarters of the party and the broader U.S. electorate.

Hence the dilemma of the anti-Trumpist right (ATR, from here on out): Is Trumpism now the party’s enduring dogma, or can the GOP exorcise these new views and return to (and perhaps more faithfully follow) the ideologies of its previous era? The answer to this question entails nothing less than whether ATR members will have a home in the Republican party going forward or are now political refugees.

Many on the ATR believe the previous Republicanism can be restored. This belief appears to be the product of hope, not evidence. The ATR would be better served to attempt to create a new party than to try to return the GOP to its previous state. Such a party could be a vital fortress against both Trumpism and the far-left-wing progressivism that is rising in the Democratic party.

The American Political Space

Conventional wisdom arranges American political ideologies along a single dimension, as pictured in Figure 1. The right side is typically labeled “Conservativism” and the left side “Liberalism” or (more accurately and contemporarily) “Progressivism.” This division entails that the primary dividing issue in American politics is where government should intervene more heavily in human life: the social realm, concerning morality and religion; or the economic realm, concerning consumer and producer choices. Conservatives are said to favor broad government intervention in social issues but limited intervention in economic issues, while progressives favor strong government intervention in economic issues but limited intervention in social issues. . .

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See also The Political Compass, which maps political attitudes onto a two-dimensional plane.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 9:41 am

Posted in GOP, Politics

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