Wednesday, May 18, 2022

White Supremacist Detector

 There are ways to tell if a person is a white supremacist

  1. if you think the “white race” is being replaced, shrinking, facing genocide or endangered. The number of white people is growing quite well.
  2. If you think minorities are taking jobs away from white people. Unemployment is much higher in POC than their white counterparts.
  3. If you think high crime rates are owing to illegal immigration. Undocumented immigrants are far less likely to commit crimes than citizens.
  4. If you think whites are getting poorer and rich minorities are lording it over them. The racial wealth gap is huge and increasing.
  5. If you think left-wing Democrats, or Jews, are bringing in immigrants in hopes of upping the Communist vote. Immigrants tend to be more conservative in their politics than not.
  6. If you think immigrants are taking jobs away from white people. Immigrants don't take jobs from native labor. By working at the low-wage jobs that white folks won't, they contribute to the expanding economy that helps everyone.
  7. If you think Brown and Black minorities are getting the upper hand over whites economically. The median incomes of POC are significantly smaller than whites.
  8.  if you think there is a “white race”. Whiteness is not a race but a status category that has changed dramatically in its conception over time. Poles and Jews and Lebanese and Italians have been considered non-white over our history. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Video Games Improving Intelligence?

 There's a case to be made that video games may actually be boosting the intelligence of kids.

Over recent years researchers have started to home in on specific types of screen time and how they influence a variety of outcomes in children. The sheer heterogenous nature of digital screen use in the 21st century has made it impossible to simply state all screen time is bad.

So the very particular focus of this new research was to investigate the relationship between video game use and intelligence. To evaluate the admittedly abstract metric of “intelligence”, the researchers first accounted for socioeconomic backgrounds and the presence of genes related to intelligence.

Around 5,000 children were followed for two years. Aged between nine and 10 years at baseline, the participants completed the cognitive tests at the beginning and end of the study. Screen time was self-reported and divided into three categories: watching, socializing and gaming.

At the beginning of the study the researchers detected no association between time spent gaming and below- or above-average intelligence. Interestingly, however, high levels of watching TV and videos, or socializing online, was slightly linked to lower levels of intelligence at baseline. After two years the follow-up results were even more surprising.

“While children who played more video games at 10 years were on average no more intelligent than children who didn’t game, they showed the most gains in intelligence after two years, in both boys and girls,” write Klingberg and Sauce. “For example, a child who was in the top 17 percent in terms of hours spent gaming increased their IQ about 2.5 points more than the average child over two years.”

At follow-up social media use was not associated with any change in intelligence but watching TV or online videos could be linked to a small increase in intelligence. The researchers note this increase was too small to be statistically significant.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Election Problems

 Does it make sense to trust the people causing election problems to fix them?

A former elections supervisor in rural Coffee County, Ga., has told The Washington Post that she opened her offices to a businessman active in the election-denier movement to help investigate results she did not trust in the weeks after President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat.

Trump had carried the conservative county by 40 points, but elections supervisor Misty Hampton said she remained suspicious of Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. Hampton made a video that went viral soon after the election, claiming to show that Dominion Voting System machines, the ones used in her county, could be manipulated. She said in interviews that she hoped the Georgia businessman who visited later, Scott Hall, and others who accompanied him could help identify vulnerabilities and prove “that this election was not done true and correct.”

Hampton said she could not remember when the visit occurred or what Hall and the others did when they were there. She said they did not enter a room that housed the county’s touch-screen voting machines, but she said she did not know whether they entered the room housing the election management system server, the central computer used to tally election results.

Voting experts said that, whether they accessed sensitive areas or not, Hampton’s actions underscore a growing risk to election security.

In the year and a half since the 2020 election, there has been steady drumbeat of revelations about alleged security breaches in local elections offices — and a growing concern among experts that officials who are sympathetic to claims of vote-rigging might be persuaded to undermine election security in the name of protecting it.

Too Clever By Half

Putin's failure to actually call it a war hurts his ability to wage it.

“I have served for five years in the army. My contract ends in June. I will serve my remaining time and then I am out of here,” he said. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. We aren’t officially in a state of war, so they could not force me to go.”

Dmitri’s refusal to fight highlights some of the military difficulties the Russian army has faced as a result of the Kremlin’s political decision not to formally declare war on Ukraine – preferring instead to describe the invasion, which will soon reach its fourth month, as a “special military operation”.

Under Russian military rules, troops who refuse to fight in Ukraine can face dismissal but cannot be prosecuted, said Mikhail Benyash, a lawyer who has been advising soldiers who choose that option.

Benyash said “hundreds and hundreds” of soldiers had been in touch with his team for advice on how they could avoid being sent to fight.

“Commanders try to threaten their soldiers with prison time if they dissent, but we tell the soldiers that they can simply say no,” Benyash said, adding that he was not aware of any criminal cases against soldiers who refused to fight. “There are no legal grounds to start a criminal case if a soldier refuses to fight while on Russian territory.”

Many soldiers, therefore, have chosen to be fired or transferred rather than going into “the meat grinder”, he said.

Algae Power

Using algae as a solar power source.

The new algae energy harvester placed a species of blue-green algae in a small container with some water, with the entire unit being about as big as a AA battery. Electrons are collected by an aluminum electrode and shuttled out to run an Arm Cortex M0+, a low-power microprocessor that’s commonly used in Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The researchers left the system running in a “domestic” environment in “semi-outdoor” conditions (which we take to mean on someone’s porch), where it reliably produced electricity for the microprocessor long-term. The paper only describes the first six months, but the team says it’s still chugging away now after being left alone for a full year.

The algae-based energy harvester doesn’t generate a huge amount of power, but it’s enough for Internet of Things devices, which are increasing in number. Made of inexpensive and common components, and lasting much longer than traditional lithium batteries, these devices could make for a more environmentally friendly power source, particularly in remote areas.

The Price of Consolidation

 The US economy has undergone profound consolidation over the years and it's a problem.

their rise has come at the cost of intense concentration in corporate ownership, potentially supercharging the oligopolistic effects of already oligopolistic industries.

John Coates, a professor at Harvard Law School, has written that the growth of indexation and the Big Three means that in the future, about a dozen people at investment firms will hold power over most American companies. What happens when so few people control so much? Researchers have argued that this level of concentration will reduce companies’ incentives to compete with one another. This makes a kind of intuitive sense: For example, because Vanguard is the largest shareholder in both Ford and General Motors, why would it benefit from competition between the two? If every company is owned by the same small number of people, why fight as fiercely on prices, innovations and investments?

Indeed, there is some evidence that their concentrated ownership is associated with lower wages and employment and is already leading to price increases in some industries, including in airlines, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods. The firms dispute this. In a 2019 paper, Vanguard’s researchers said that when they studied lots of industries across a long period of time, “we do not find conclusive evidence” that common ownership led to higher profits.

Einer Elhauge, also of Harvard Law School, has written that concentrated ownership “poses the greatest anticompetitive threat of our time, mainly because it is the one anticompetitive problem we are doing nothing about.”

the more money that BlackRock or Vanguard or State Street manages, the more it can lower its fees for investors. This makes it difficult for new companies to enter the business, meaning that the Big Three’s hold on the market seems likely to persist. “I do not believe that such concentration would serve the national interest,” Bogle wrote.

 policymakers will have to move carefully to manage the dangers of concentration without limiting the benefits to investors of these firms’ low-cost funds. “No doubt getting the balance right will require judgment and experimentation,” he wrote.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

New Washington Laws and the crime rate

 A rise in crime has led many who are predisposed to hate progressive progress to place the blame on the recently enacted laws that govern police behavior. So here's a fact check.

What police can do:

  • Respond to mental health calls
  • Defend themselves
  • Pursue fleeing suspects
  • Approach and question people
What police cannot do:
  • Forcefully detain people based on vague suspicions
  • Start car chases over low-level crimes
  • Use military equipment
  • Use choke-holds or neck restraints
  • Skip de-escalation efforts

Systemic Corruption

Russia is not only an autocracy. It's a country built on systemic corruption. You have to work the angles simply to survive.  And it's the kind of system to which Trump and his Republicans aspire.

the glitzy boat is a usefully concrete reminder of what Russia experts have said for years: that it is impossible to understand Putin’s regime without understanding the corruption that has by turns created, fueled, shaped, constrained it. And that may, one day, prove to be its undoing.

Mapping the details of that corruption would be the work of a lifetime. But two simple insights can help you grasp the big picture. The first is true of systemic corruption wherever it occurs: It is not primarily a problem of individual immorality, but of a collective action trap. And the second is true of Russia: It got stuck in that trap as a result of its flawed, and ultimately incomplete, transition to democracy in the 1990s.

We tend to think of corruption as a failure of morality, when a greedy person decides to benefit by steering public resources toward private gain. But while that’s not exactly untrue, it misses the most important thing: namely, that corruption is a group activity. You need bribe-payers and bribe-takers, resource-diverters and resource-resellers, look-the-other-wayers and demand-a-share-of-the-takers.

When that kind of corrupt network behavior becomes widespread, it creates its own parallel system of rewards — and punishments.

“What is different with systemic corruption is that it’s the expected behavior,” said Anna Persson, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who studies corruption. “These expectations make it very difficult for all individuals, actually, to stand against corruption, because it’s very costly in all different ways to resist that kind of system.”

Abortion or Inflation

What's it gonna be for you?  We can worry about inflation or women suffering and dying.

One week after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, Republican candidates and strategists are increasingly confident that such a decision would not seriously harm the GOP’s chances of regaining House and Senate majorities come November, as Democrats have suggested it might.

That belief is rooted in reams of polling, nearly all of it conducted before the leak, showing that economic challenges, particularly runaway inflation, are by far the most powerful force motivating voters this year, followed by crime and immigration — issues where Republicans believe they will have an enduring advantage. And, so far, they see scant evidence that reproductive rights are set to dislodge those priorities, given the often-muted reaction in states that have already moved to restrict abortion rights.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Stimulus Checks and Inflation

 Out of the 8% inflation rate, 3% is attributed to COVID relief checks. But the models say it will come down as recent shocks stabilise. 

We have explored alternative scenarios for the potential inflationary effects of ARP through resource pressures generated by new federal spending and its possible impact on the public’s beliefs about the federal debt. With most of our models, we find that resource pressures generally have small and transitory effects on inflation. However, one model grounded in data before 1990 shows there can be larger and more persistent effects. We also find that if ARP generates a change in beliefs about the likelihood that a portion of the federal debt will be inflated away, the effects on inflation will be small as long as individuals do not believe the chances of a switch in policy regime are high.

In another story, Janet Yellen explains:

Scroll back up to restore default view.

U.S. Treasury's Yellen says Fed can bring down inflation without causing recession

·2 min read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that she believes the Federal Reserve can bring down inflation without causing a recession because of a strong U.S. job market and household balance sheets, low debt costs and a strong banking sector

Yellen told a U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing on Thursday that "all of those things suggest that the Fed has a path to bring down inflation without causing a recession, and I know it will be their objective to try to accomplish that."

Scroll back up to restore default view.

U.S. Treasury's Yellen says Fed can bring down inflation without causing recession

·2 min read

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that she believes the Federal Reserve can bring down inflation without causing a recession because of a strong U.S. job market and household balance sheets, low debt costs and a strong banking sector

Yellen told a U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing on Thursday that "all of those things suggest that the Fed has a path to bring down inflation without causing a recession, and I know it will be their objective to try to accomplish that."

Yellen said during the hearing on the Financial Stability Oversight Council's work that inflation was the "No.1 economic issue" facing the nation and the Biden administration.

"It's having a substantial adverse impact on many vulnerable households And we are laser-focused on addressing inflation," Yellen said, repeating the Biden administration's initiatives to hold down gasoline prices through large releases of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and efforts to unblock congested U.S. ports.

She deflected several attempts from Republican lawmakers to try to coax her to blame high inflation on the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief spending package last year.

Yellen said that various factors were fueling inflation, including spikes in energy prices due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continued pandemic-driven supply chain problems, and other countries were also experiencing high inflation.

"It does show that there are factors beyond spending in the United States that are critical to inflation," she said.

Protesting tips

 What to bring, what to wear.

(The ACLU website’s “Know Your Protest Rights” page offers more details.)

“You don’t need a permit to protest in response to breaking news,” Eidelman said. “You also don’t need a permit to march in the streets or along sidewalks, as long as you’re not obstructing car or pedestrian traffic, or access to buildings. If you don’t have a permit, police officers can order you to move to the side of the street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.”

If you are lawfully present in a public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, which includes federal buildings and any police present. If you believe your rights were violated during a protest, take a moment to get contact information from witnesses, photograph any injuries and write down all the details you can remember.

the main job of the police during a protest should be to protect your right to protest and de-escalate any threat of violence.

“If you get stopped by police, ask if you’re free to go,” Eidelman advised. “If they say yes, calmly walk away. If you get arrested, you have a right to ask why. Otherwise, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t sign, say or agree to anything without a lawyer present.”

Dress for safety

“Even though we’re going into a hot season, you should still be doing a long sleeve so your body is covered as much as possible for protection from both the sun and tear gas,” Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for Amnesty International’s End Gun Violence, previously told HuffPost. “You want long pants, comfortable shoes ― something with a tie-up versus a slip-in ― and nothing loose that can get snagged on things, yanked or pulled.”

Coverson recommended against applying any oils or lotions, as they can “intensify the lingering effect” of agents like pepper spray or tear gas, which can cause skin rashes and burns, tearing and burning eyes, blurred vision, chest tightness, nose swelling and other irritations.

In addition to comfortable shoes and clothes that cover your skin, Amnesty International advises wearing a bandana soaked in water, lemon juice or vinegar to cover your nose and mouth, which can aid in breathing during chemical exposure. Bring a plastic bag with a change of clothes in case of contamination, and wear glasses instead of contact lenses.

Tie your hair back and wear a face mask or face shield, which can offer protection from COVID as well as other potentially harmful exposures. Cover identifying features like tattoos and try to wear generally nondescript clothing. And of course, check the weather forecast.

what you bring

When packing your bag before a protest, keep health and safety in mind. Make sure you eat and hydrate at home, and bring extra snacks and water to drink. A water bottle with a squirt top is also useful to wash your skin and eyes if you’re exposed to tear gas or other chemicals.

Bring cash and coins, carry a form of identification and write your emergency contact information on your arm or elsewhere on your body. Medication and first aid supplies are also helpful.

If you decide to bring your cellphone, disable the face or touch ID modes so that no one can force you to unlock it without your consent. Experts also advise backing up your data beforehand and turning on Airplane Mode.

Don’t go to a protest alone, if possible. Try to buddy up with someone, meet up with an affinity group or at least let your loved ones know where you’ll be in case something happens.

And don’t forget to make a sign with the message you’d like to share in the protest.

Stay vigilant

From violent attacks from counter-protesters to instances of police brutality, there are many ways for demonstrations that start out peaceful to become unsafe.

As you participate in a protest, be vigilant. Pay attention to the people around you and what they’re doing. If someone is exhibiting distress or panic, try to calm them or help them find safety.

Locate the nearest exits in case you or your peers need to quickly leave the demonstration. Take note of any cars with drivers nearby.

Resist the temptation to engage with counter-protesters, who often shout and hold signs with inflammatory messages with the goal of creating conflict. Don’t indulge them.

Try to remain calm and focused, and pay attention to any instructions or requests from the protest leaders.

Be prepared to deal with tear gas or pepper spray

Police have been known to deploy pepper spray and tear gas against demonstrators. Although they are chemically different agents, both have irritating effects.

In addition to the previously mentioned preparations, you can learn what to do if you’re exposed to an irritant like this.

The best way to deal with pepper spray or tear gas is to flush it out of your eyes with water and remove yourself from the area. Blink rapidly and resist the urge to touch or rub your eyes.

Squirt your water bottle into your eyes (being mindful not to transfer more chemicals from the surrounding skin into your eyes) as soon as you can, but then try to get to a sink or shower for more thorough rinsing.

We “run liters of water, potentially, into [a patient’s] eyes until they are feeling better and we feel like the chemical is out,” Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Center, previously told HuffPost.

In addition to cleaning your eyes, try to cough, spit and blow your nose to get as much of the chemical out of your body as possible. And if the burning and itching persists for several hours ― even after you’ve showered, changed and otherwise decontaminated yourself — consider seeking medical attention.

Coming into contact with tear gas or pepper spray can be painful and traumatic, so once you’re finished washing it out and otherwise tending to your physical health, take some time for other forms of self-care as you process and recover from the experience.

SCOTUS Embodies Conservatism

Despite the Brown and Roe decisions, the long history of the Supreme Court includes some decisions that have not only been abysmal but often quite destructive. The upshot is that we can't expect genuine justice from the high court. We have to bring it in other ways, like constitutional amendments.

I sent two tweets. One praised whoever leaked Alito’s opinion for disrupting an institution that, as I have written about many times in many forums, including my first book, has historically been a malign force within the United States. And a second celebrated the leak for the distrust it might foster in such a malign institution.

the Court’s Republican majority hasn’t simply handed the Republican Party substantive policy victories. It is systematically dismantling voting rights protections that make it possible for every voter to have an equal voice, and for every political party to compete fairly for control of the United States government. Justice Alito, the author of the draft opinion overturning Roe, is also the author of two important decisions dismantling much of the Voting Rights Act.

This behavior, moreover, is consistent with the history of an institution that once blessed slavery and described Black people as “beings of an inferior order.” It is consistent with the Court’s history of union-busting, of supporting racial segregation, and of upholding concentration camps.

The Court, in other words, simply does not deserve the reverence it still enjoys in much of American society, and especially from the legal profession. For nearly all of its history, it’s been a reactionary institution, a political one that serves the interests of the already powerful at the expense of the most vulnerable. And it currently appears to be reverting to that historic mean

after Marbury, the Court’s power to strike down federal laws lay dormant until the 1850s.

Then came Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the pro-slavery decision describing Black people as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Dred Scott, the Court’s very first opinion striking down a significant federal law, went after the Missouri Compromise’s provisions limiting the scope of slavery.

It’s not surprising that an institution made up entirely of elite lawyers, who are immune from political accountability and cannot be fired, tends to protect people who are already powerful and cast a much more skeptical eye on people who are marginalized because of their race, gender, or class. Dred Scott is widely recognized as the worst decision in the Court’s history, but it began a nearly century-long trend of Supreme Court decisions preserving white supremacy and relegating workers into destitution — a history that is glossed over in most American civics classes.

The American people ratified three constitutional amendments — the 13th, 14th, and 15th — to eradicate Dred Scott and ensure that Black Americans would enjoy, in the 14th Amendment’s words, all of the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

The American people ratified three constitutional amendments — the 13th, 14th, and 15th — to eradicate Dred Scott and ensure that Black Americans would enjoy, in the 14th Amendment’s words, all of the “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

But then the Court spent the next three decades largely dismantling these three amendments.

Just 10 years after the Civil War, the Supreme Court handed down United States v. Cruikshank (1875), a decision favoring a white supremacist mob that armed itself with guns and cannons to kill a rival Black militia defending its right to self-governance. Black people, the Court held in Cruikshank, “must look to the States” to protect civil rights such as the right to peacefully assemble — a decision that should send a chill down the spine of anyone familiar with the history of the Jim Crow South.

The culmination of this age of white supremacist jurisprudence was Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which blessed the idea of “separate but equal.” Plessy remained good law for nearly six decades after it was decided.

After decisions like Plessy effectively dismantled the Reconstruction Amendments’ promise of racial equality, the Court spent the next 40 years transforming the 14th Amendment into a bludgeon to be used against labor. This was the age of decisions like Lochner v. New York (1905), which struck down a New York law preventing bakery owners from overworking their workers. It was also the age of decisions like Adkins v. Children’s Hospital (1923), which struck down minimum wage laws, and Adair v. United States (1908), which prohibited lawmakers from protecting the right to unionize.

The logic of decisions like Lochner is that the 14th Amendment’s language providing that no state may “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” created a “right to contract.” And that this supposed right prohibited the government from invalidating exploitative labor contracts that forced workers to labor for long hours with little pay.

As Alito notes in his draft opinion overruling Roe, the Roe opinion did rely on a similar methodology to Lochner. It found the right to an abortion to also be implicit in the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

For what it’s worth, I actually find this portion of Alito’s opinion persuasive. I’ve argued that the Roe opinion should have been rooted in the constitutional right to gender equality — what the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once described as the “opportunity women will have to participate as men’s full partners in the nation’s social, political, and economic life” — and not the extraordinarily vague and easily manipulated language of the due process clause.

But the Court’s ability to spearhead progressive change that does not, like marriage equality, enjoy broad popular support is quite limited. The seminal work warning of the heavy constraints on the Court’s ability to effect such change is Gerald Rosenberg’s The Hollow Hope, which argues that “courts lack the tools to readily develop appropriate policies and implement decisions ordering significant social reform,” at least when those reforms aren’t also supported by elected officials.

There are several structural reasons courts are a stronger ally for conservative movements than they are for progressive ones. For starters, in most constitutional cases courts only have the power to strike down a law — that is, to destroy an edifice that the legislature has built. The Supreme Court could repeal Obamacare, but it couldn’t have created the Affordable Care Act’s complex array of government-run marketplaces, subsidies, and mandates.

Litigation, in other words, is a far more potent tool in the hands of an anti-governmental movement than it is in the hands of one seeking to build a more robust regulatory and welfare state. It’s hard to cure poverty when your only tool is a bomb.

Of course I do not believe that we should literally light the Supreme Court of the United States on fire, but I do believe that diminished public trust in the Court is a good thing. This institution has not served the American people well, and it’s time to start treating it that way.