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These posts originally were published at Liberty 'Gator and were ported here on May 27, 2024. I pulled some of the content out into a separate file, "Objectivity in Media."

White Privilege Reconsidered

June 5, 2020

On June 3 I Tweeted, "Here again is why I think "white privilege" language is counter-productive. It's not a "privilege" to be treated fairly under the law, it's a right. We're talking about protecting everyone's rights, not giving more people 'privileges.'"

After getting some pushback, I added, "If we follow the etymology—'law applying to one person,'—we can say that legal 'privileges' are inherently unjust. Obviously there have been racially 'privileged' laws in the U.S., overt (now illegal), and subtle (e.g. crack-powder cocaine sentencing)." And: "It's obviously true that a) many laws are unjust and b) reasonable laws often are enforced in racially disparate ways (which is unjust). If you want to call those legal 'privileges,' fine. But the proper aim remains to repeal unjust laws and to enforce just laws justly."

Gordon Ingram pointed out that black people more often are denied their rights.

Background Facts about George Floyd

June 5, 2020

Nothing can justify the police killing George Floyd. Yet we should seek to put the full set of relevant facts on the table. NPR: "Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death." (Floyd also tested positive for COVID-19.) BBC: Floyd "was arrested for robbery in 2007 and served five years in prison." The Daily Mail has more details about Floyd's past crimes. Video does show Floyd struggling with officers in the back of a police vehicle prior to police pinning him on the ground (CNN). Although, again, police should not have used more force than necessary to subdue Floyd, facts about the drugs in his system and him resisting arrest surely will come up at the officers' trials.

Police Attacking Journalists

June 5, 2020

ACLU: "Police are Attacking Journalists at Protests. We're Suing." (This pertains to the protests regarding George Floyd.)

AP: New York: "Police shove, make AP journalists stop covering protest."

Police Kill Breonna Taylor in Drug Raid

June 5, 2020

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason: "She was senselessly killed by Louisville police officers in a no-knock [drug] raid on March 13, during which cops targeted her house in the middle of the night for no good reason and fired at least 20 bullets at the innocent residents. . . . No drugs were found." The drug war is perhaps the single biggest driver of police abuses. end it.

How to Curb Police Abuses

June 5, 2020

Policy Changes

Ban choke holds, curb other kinds of force.

Fire bad cops, which involves reforms in police union contracts.

Increase police transparency.

Increase community oversight of police.

Make it easier to move investigations of police abuses to state or other outside offices.

End qualified immunity, move to individual liability insurance for police officers.

Demilitarize the police.

End the drug war and repeal other unjust laws.

Shift to community policing as useful.

Where appropriate have mental health professionals respond to a situation rather than police.

Personal Actions

Elect district attorneys and attorneys general committed to equal treatment under the law and the prosecution of police officers for criminal violation of others' rights.

Elect politicians keen on criminal-justice reform.

Record police actions.




Me: "Six Steps Toward Ending Police Abuses."

Jacob Sullum, Reason: "5 Ways to Curtail Police Violence and Prevent More Deaths Like George Floyd's"

Shikha Dalmia, Week: "How police unions actually hurt police officers."

Samuel Sinyangwe thread and Campaign Zero research.

David Lane: "Qualified immunity is killing civil rights": It's also killing people.

Rob Gillezeau summarizes preliminary work on police collective bargaining: "The introduction of access to collective bargaining drives a modest decline in policy employment and increase in compensation with no meaningful impacts on total crime, violent crime, property crime or officers killed in the line of duty. What does change? We find a substantial increase in police killings of civilians over the medium to long run (likely after unions are established)."

Police Injured in Riots

June 5, 2020

Although I loathe citing the Federalist, it publishes a useful article cataloging police injuries and deaths during the recent protests.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "A retired St. Louis police captain and municipal chief [David Dorn] was shot to death by looters at a St. Louis pawn shop early Tuesday, and his killing apparently was broadcast on Facebook Live."

Do More than You Are Paid For

June 5, 2020

Think Daily: A project manager hired some people and let others go. "What made the difference? Diligence, hard work, and good communication. The guys who were let go would take most opportunities to stand around when they weren't being watched. The guys who were hired permanently were always moving and looking for results and asking 'What's next?' It's pretty simple. Do more than you are paid for, and you will get more opportunities and eventually be paid for what you do. There is no other way. If you do less than you are paid for or only what you are paid for, you will not get a chance to do more and be paid more."

COVID-19 and the George Floyd Protests

June 5, 2020

KPCW: "Tear-Gassing Protesters During An Infectious Outbreak Called 'A Recipe For Disaster.'" Amesh Adalja said, "If [protesters are] coughing, the particles actually emanate and are projectiles that travel about six feet or so and could land on other people. This is a way to almost induce the virus to be expelled from people when they are exposed to these agents."

Police Attack Protesters

June 5, 2020

"Denver resident suing the city over alleged misuse of less-lethal force during protests speaks out."

"Denver police open investigation after viral video shows cops firing pepper balls at car as man screams his pregnant girlfriend is inside."

Reason: "Buffalo Police Seriously Injure 75-Year-Old Man During Protest."

Ridley on Innovation

June 5, 2020

Matt Ridley has out a new book, How Innovation Works.

Robert Zubrin reviews, "In the first half of the book, Ridley regales us with tales about the birth of numerous key innovations, ranging from agriculture and medicine to transport, power generation, communications, and computers, spanning human history from the Stone Age to the present." Then he draws out a "general theory of innovation." Zubrin continues, "In the final portion of the book, Ridley devotes himself to targeting pathological forms of social organization that have served to strangle innovation."

Michael Shermer interviews Ridley for Science Salon. Shermer writes, "Ridley argues that we need to change the way we think about innovation, to see it as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens to society as a direct result of the human habit of exchange."

Yaron Brook interviewed Ridley on June 6.

Titone Runs Price Gouging Bill

June 5, 2020

On June 4, Colorado Rep. Brianna Titone announced, "I'm running the bill on #priceGouging with @mjweissman [Mike Weissman] to be sure that pandemics like the one we're experiencing now doesn't result in higher prices merely because they can."

Previously, Governor Jared Polis encouraged Congressman Joe Neguse to crack down on price gouging: "These tough times bring out the best in us, but also bring out the worst. Thank you @JoeNeguse for going after snakes who profit from exploiting us." I responded, "'The snakes who profit from exploiting us' are precisely the politicians such as @JoeNeguse who impose (or seek to impose) shortage-causing price controls."

AG Phil Weiser wrote, "Keep the calls coming about scams and cases of extreme price gouging. Here's our advisory." Reporter Allison Sherry Tweeted March 12, "AG @pweiser office says they've been swamped with calls about price gouging on hand sanitzer—turns out Colorado's statutes don't have anything in there on gouging but his office is working with Amazon when reports come in." Weiser wrongly conflates higher prices with "scams" in the press release: "The office's Consumer Protection Division has been in contact with representatives from Amazon to coordinate efforts to address potential price gouging on items such as paper products, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and soap, and other goods. It is important for Colorado consumers to remain vigilant and report any scams. With these reports, the Attorney General's Office will be able to work with other law enforcement agencies, including on a national level, to protect Colorado consumers and stop fraudsters. If you notice any scams, fraud, price gouging, or other attempts to take advantage of Coloradans during this public health emergency, contact Stop Fraud Colorado at 800-222-4444 or "

In an April column, I argued that laws and legal actions against price raising are unjust and harmful.

Update: The Colorado bill in question is HB20-1414.

Cowen on Reading a Lot

June 5, 2020

Tyler Cowen offers a lot of good advice on reading. He says read a lot, read the best works from diverse fields, and don't finish bad books.

King's "Other America"

June 5, 2020

Martin Luther King Jr. said in his "Other America" speech: "Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation's summers of riots are caused by our nation's winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention."

Conservatives for Censorship: Vermeule

June 5, 2020

George Will writes about Adrian Vermeule's quest to impose censorship and his antipathy to American liberal values.

Belgian Oppression of Congo

June 5, 2020

New Republic shares a horrific story of Belgian oppression of the Congo. A photo caption: "Father stares at the hand and foot of his five-year-old, severed as a punishment for failing to make the daily rubber quota, Belgian Congo, 1904." See more here and here.

Child and Romantic Attachments

June 5, 2020

Nicole Barbaro argues that child attachment and romantic attachment are evolutionarily distinct phenomenon. But I'd be surprised if there weren't some ultimate commonality.

Stone on American Secularization

June 5, 2020

Summary of Lyman Stone's recent work: "The most likely causes of declining religiosity are the increasingly intense role that more and more secularized educational institutions play in children's lives and the continuing delay and decline of marriage."

Satellite Tax

June 5, 2020

"CU Boulder Professors: 'Tax' On Satellites Will Reduce Space Junk."

Destruction of Aboriginal Site in Australia

June 5, 2020

"The shelters blasted into obliteration by @RioTinto [a mining company] this week were the ONLY inland site in Australia showing human occupation continuing through the last Ice Age. This is an irretrievable loss for the local Puutu Kunti Kurrama people, and for all humanity." Note: I have not independently verified this claim.

Thompson on America and the Right

June 5, 2020

C. Bradley Thompson, author of America's Revolutionary Mind, wrote a scathing critique of the American nationalist right. Various writers responded for and against. Thompson writes, "The reactionary Right does not form a coherent intellectual movement, nor does it share a positive political agenda except for its political authoritarianism. It is united largely by what it is against, i.e., cultural leftism with its promotion of same-sex marriage, transgenderism, feminism, multiculturalism, the sexualization of children, etc.—all of which it blames on the classical liberalism of the American Founding! In what follows, I shall briefly outline the anti-American ideas of five representative ideologues of the reactionary Right: Patrick Deneen, Sohrab Ahmari, Mencius Moldbug (i.e., Curtis Yarvin), Bronze Age Pervert, and Dan DeCarlo." Later he continues, "Like antebellum Southern slaveholders and post-bellum Progressives, today's radical Left and Right share a common disgust for the principles of the American Founding."

Rizzo and Whitman on Paternalism

June 5, 2020

Mario Rizzo and Glen Whitman write, "Escaping Paternalism documents the rise of a new form of paternalism, built on evidence from behavioral economics indicating that people are affected by irrational biases. The "behavioral paternalists," as we call them, argue that policies to correct those biases could therefore result in better personal decisionmaking. The purpose of our book is to rebut this argument."

Woodrow Wilson's Libertarian Enablers

June 5, 2020

Jesse Walker discusses the people who enabled Wilson's statism. George Creel said, "I took this position [as government censor] because I believed in the freedom of the press" and wanted to "be in a position where I could help to guard it."

National Science Foundation Funding Proposal

June 5, 2020

Congress is thinking about expanding the National Science Foundation.

Gates COVID Conspiracy Theories

June 5, 2020

Elan Journo talks about COVID-19 conspiracy theories about Bill Gates. Laura Ingraham pushed one such theory.

The New York Times discusses how Gates "has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.

Wexler on Unschooling

June 5, 2020

Natalie Wexler complains about unschooling. I think she creates a false choice between student-driven learning and adult instruction.

Patreon to Collect More Sales Taxes

June 5, 2020

"On May 6th, 2020, Patreon announced that we are being required by law to start adding sales tax to more patron pledges starting on July 1st, 2020. This affects patrons in some parts of the US and 17 other countries (see list).
Patreon already handles charging and paying VAT (European sales tax) for patrons in the EU, and has been doing so since 2015 when the laws changed in the EU. Over the past couple of years, many countries and many states in the United States have passed similar laws that require 'online marketplaces' to apply sales tax to transactions. Although aimed at the Amazons, Ebays, Netflixes, and Etsys of the world, the way these laws were written and the way they're being interpreted means that they're impacting many different types of companies, including Patreon."

Limits on Police in Seattle and Denver

June 6, 2020

"Seattle mayor bans use of tear gas on protesters for 30 days."

"Federal judge orders police not to use chemical weapons, projectiles against peaceful Denver protesters." Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote, "The Court has reviewed video evidence of numerous incidents in which officers used pepper-spray on individual demonstrators who appeared to be standing peacefully, some of whom were speaking to or yelling at the officers, none of whom appeared to be engaging in violence or destructive behavior." However, the judge seemed to excuse or at least tolerate the destruction of property, whereas I think police can and should keep the peace by protecting peaceful protesters and property owners.

Update: "Judge modifies order limiting DPD's use of less-lethal devices during protests."

Meanwhile, "Minneapolis bans police chokeholds in wake of Floyd's death."

Pennsylvania: "Gov. Tom Wolf announces law enforcement reforms in wake of George Floyd protests."

"Arizona attorney general calls for third-party oversight of police brutality investigations, says he's up for the job."

Trump Emboldens Tyrants

June 6, 2020

With his authoritarian rhetoric, Donald Trump emboldens tyrants in China, Russia, and Iran.

Denver Police Attack Reporters

June 6, 2020

Corey Hutchins rounds up examples of Denver police attacking reporters during the George Floyd protests, mainly by shooting non-lethal projectiles at them and teargassing them. I don't think anyone is saying that the police intentionally targeted reporters, but neither did they try very hard to avoid hurting them. The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition also condemns the violence against journalists and lists several cases of such violence. A federal judge forbade Denver police to use teargas and projectiles on peaceful people.

Media Cronyism

June 6, 2020

Corey Hutchins tells the remarkable story about how an obscure Colorado media company, the Local News Network, "won a $100,000 grant opportunity from a program of the governor's office." The co-owner of the Ouray County Plaindealer told Hutchins she feared the subsidized outfit would eat into the paper's advertising base.

Ridley on COVID-19

June 6, 2020

Matt Ridley is hopeful that the recent protests will not much spread COVID-19, because the events are outdoors and largely involve younger people. He also thinks that maybe a large fraction of people are basically invulnerable to the disease, which implies a population could reach "natural" herd immunity at a much lower level of infection than commonly assumed.

COVID-19 Background

June 6, 2020

For those who haven't seen it, I've written extensive notes about COVID-19 in three parts: March 24 to April 27, April 28 to March 22, and May 23 to June 4. One issue I discuss extensively is the debate over lockdowns. (In brief: I think they did increase social distancing and hence slow the spread of the disease, but not by nearly as much as many assume.)

Less-Bad Economic COVID News

June 6, 2020

I was among those fearful unemployment in the U.S. would surpass 20%. It seems that's not happening. Indeed, the unemployment rate in May actually fell to 13.3%. That's still really horrible by normal standards, but we're not in normal times. It's unclear to me how many people have switched jobs to things like food delivery, but obviously the shift to new jobs has helped. Meanwhile, the U.S. is largely going back to work in all the businesses that were shut down because of the pandemic.

Daily COVID-related deaths continue an overall downward decline in the U.S., with 932 recorded for June 6 (per Our World in Data). That still represents a monumental failure, but things could be worse. I'm a little worried that new Colorado cases remain relatively high, with 240 reported for June 4, but increased testing accounts for part of that. Daily deaths and daily hospitalizations have declined. So I think part of what we're seeing is people being a little less worried about the disease.

Brauchler's Concerns with Police Reform Bill

June 6, 2020

George Brauchler, a Colorado district attorney and a prominent Republican politician, shared some concerns about the Colorado police reform bill. I haven't read the bill's text, and it is in a dynamic legislative process. However, I thought a few of Brauchler's concerns were worth mentioning. He does support important aspects of the bill. He said the bill exempts state police from important reforms. That's wrong; the reforms should apply evenly across the board. He also said the law forbids liability insurance beneath a certain threshold, which is a bad idea. We should be moving toward a system where civil suits are paid out of individual liability insurance. That would create very important incentives for departments not to keep on expensive cops. Brauchler also worries that the bill removes "good faith" defenses; I have no opinion about that at this time.

Update: Saja Hindi reports, "Colorado's police accountability bill passed out of Senate Appropriations this morning on a party-line 6-4 vote and is headed to the Senate floor."

The Sun also has a write-up of the bill. This seems like a legitimate concern: "Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock expressed concerns about prohibiting officers from using deadly force against people fleeing a suspected felony. He referenced the hypothetical case of an active shooter heading toward a crowd of people."

Chicken Price Fixing

June 6, 2020

"CEO of Colorado-based Pilgrim's Pride among those indicted for chicken price fixing."

COVID-19 Care Improving

June 6, 2020

"The novel coronavirus has become less lethal over the past few months. . . . Treatments have improved enormously as scientists have learned more."

Colorado: "Nearly 1,000 Coronavirus Patients Have Been Treated With Plasma."

Police Accountability

June 6, 2020

"Buffalo police officers arrested after shoving 75-year-old protester."

Denver Rioter Smashes Windows of Reformer's Shop

June 6, 2020

A Denver man, the son of a Sudan immigrant, gave out "out free chicken wings to protesters." A rioter "thanked" him by breaking the man's shop windows.

Previously, vandals also damaged the memorial to the Armenian genocide and the History Colorado museum.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis: "'Seventeen years of work is gone,' said the owner of an Ecuadorean eatery" burned to the ground by rioters.

Denver Police Officer Pulls Gun on Black Man and His Daughters

June 6, 2020

On May 7, someone alleged there was a "Black young male with a white hoodie" carrying a gun near a Colorado Safeway. A Denver police officer responded by pulling a gun on a 44-year-old black man and his two daughters. Westword also has a report.

Insult to Injury for Property Renters

June 6, 2020

The Republican Liberty Caucus of Colorado reports, "HB20-1405 Would Force Landlords to Pay an Eviction Fee to Fund the Eviction Legal Defense Fund." This is really unfair policy.

Libertarians for Police Reform

June 6, 2020

Libertarians long have been at the forefront of calling for criminal justice reform. Back in the 1990s I read a Cato report criticizing the drug war. Walter Olsen reviews some of Cato's work on the matter.

Jeffrey Miron has out a new article, "Police Violence and the Racist Drug War."

Rise of the Police

June 6, 2020

JSTOR writes, "Over the course of the nineteenth century policing became increasingly professionalized. With this shift, the role of the police expanded from simply catching criminals to including social surveillance." On the whole, I think the development of professional police agencies is a positive development. Ad hoc "justice" groups have committed horrible injustices. But police need to be tightly monitored and regulated by the public and by elected officials, or police easily become the perpetrators rather than the preventers of crime.

Conspiracy Theories about George Floyd's Death

June 6, 2020

Jason Salzman, who monitors Republican and conservative social media and radio, wrote, "Mesa County, Colo, Republicans Remove Facebook Post Speculating That George Floyd's Death Was Faked."

Denver Police Attack Protesters

June 6, 2020

"Protester shot in the face with pepper ball by Denver police demands accountability."

Emergency Powers in Colorado

June 7, 2020

Although I'm no expert on emergency-powers law, I'm (tentatively) of the view that it needs to be reined in, in Colorado and elsewhere.

Joshua Sharf worries that Colorado Governor Jared Polis overreached in exercising emergency powers in three main ways: "First, he forbade evictions for non-payment of rent, despite previously having said he lacked such power. Then, he announced the suspension of election laws relating to signature-gathering for initiatives. And most recently (one fears to say, finally), Gov. Polis unilaterally allocated $1.6 billion of federal CARES Act money."

David French reviews the general background of emergency-power laws in the U.S.

Scott Weiser reviews Colorado law: "Polis' broad emergency power to close businesses, quarantine grounded in law, steeped in history."

Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson wrote a series of critical articles on Colorado lockdowns:
"Denver's lockdown order probably unconstitutional"
"Polis lock-down order adds chaos to unconstitutionality"
"How state lockdowns are destroying lives, creating national conflict"
"Unelected officials shouldn't have such power; a proposal for reform"
"Ruling exposes rights violations in state's lockdown orders"
"States' emergency powers still subject to the Constitution"
"Latest COVID orders layer chaos over confusion, add to risk"

In his piece on reform, Natelson suggests that, rather than issue orders themselves, health authorities should recommend policy and solicit public comment, while elected officials should actually issue all relevant emergency orders. That's not what happened in Colorado. Instead, Polis issued orders that basically told health authorities to issue orders.

Colorado Anti-Vax Rally

June 7, 2020

The correct approach, as I've written, is to strongly advocate vaccinations while taking a soft legal approach. Unfortunately, most other people seem to think either that vaccines are good and should be strongly legally promoted or else that they are bad.

I was disappointed to read Saja Hindi's report on a rally against a vaccine bill. She shows a photo of a sizable crowd and reports, "So far, I've only seen one person (aside from myself) wearing a mask and it wasn't on her face. Attendees will be required to wear them inside the Capitol hearing." One speaker exhorted attendees, "Don't ever put on those masks of shame." To me, this signals that these people are taking a dangerously anti-science attitude with respect to the current global pandemic.

Further, one of the signs shown in the photo says, "CDC admits increase of ADHD, TICS, autism, sleep disorder, speech delay" from vaccines. There's simply no science behind that.

All that said, to me it's rather nuts that COVID-19 is driving debate over this bill, given a) there is no COVID-19 vaccine at this time and b) although some children get very sick from the disease, most children barely notice it. I fully intend to get my entire family vaccinated against the disease if we are able, but if a few kooks choose not to get the vaccine, that affects me to a degree statistically approaching zero.

The Death of Cindy Siegel Shepler

June 7, 2020

"When it finally became clear that no drug could relieve her intense suffering, she chose voluntary assisted death [in Switzerland] , a procedure that's not legal in her home state," writes Ryan Prior.

Health Experts Debate Protests during a Pandemic

June 7, 2020

Carl Bergstrom writes, "Many people have asked me whether the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests around the country pose a risk of increasing coronavirus spread. As a scientist, I acknowledge that they may. As a citizen, I wholeheartedly support the protests nonetheless." He worries that police use of tear gas "exacerbate matters substantially." He adds, "Especially in areas without aggressive police responses, I do not expect a greater burst of COVID transmission due to protest than due to reopening activity."

Eric Feigl-Ding writes, "I'm nervous about such big rallies during pandemic. . . . Definitely wear masks, but they are not fool proof. But I've [been] incredibly torn. BLM is an important movement to support." He worries that U.S. cases have been increasing. He continues, "As public health scientists, we would lose the moral high ground of science if we conveniently dismiss dangers of these high human density & high vocal shouting in these rallies, all while previously telling people you can't see your family on their death beds or funerals."

Tom Frieden writes, "Some very large, densely packed crowds at protests yesterday. Although outdoors WAY less risky than indoors, and although the vast majority of people protesting wore masks, crowding and large numbers increase risk of spread."

Trevor Bedfor writes, "There is no doubt that mass gatherings facilitate transmission. This study investigates seroprevalence in Gangelt, Germany, finding a 2.5X increase in rate of infection of those attending carnival celebrations. . . . Wearing masks and protesting outdoors has to help, but shouting, tear gas, pepper spray and closely packed jails will increase transmission potential."

Jonah Goldberg refers to "the treason of epidemiologists," which is rather much, and which doesn't account for various relevant views.

Meanwhile, let's remember Bill de Blasio's April 28 Tweet: "My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period." The "period" has been changed to a "comma, but."

Rioting and Vandalism

June 7, 2020

If you want justice, be just. Hurting innocent people and destroying their property is anti-justice.

For over a week now, huge numbers of people have peacefully protested the death of George Floyd and abusive policing more broadly.

A few people have instead turned to rioting and looting. Following are a few examples.

A black woman in Brooklyn condemns the looting and vandalism of a shop that she co-owns. She says to the looters, "You tell me, 'Black Lives Matter.' You lie. You wanted to loot a store. You needed money. Get a job, like I do. Stop stealing. This is the neighborhood. We're trying to build it up, and you're tearing it down."

"Looters attack groceries in impoverished neighborhoods."

Vandals damaged a Winston Churchill statute. Whatever Churchill's flaws, he played a major role in defeating the Nazis. He is arguably the greatest "antifascist" of all time.

I have no idea who is placing bricks at various protest sites, but my top two guesses are leftist provocateurs and racial nationalist provocateurs.

Police Attack Peaceful Protesters

June 7, 2020

This story is just sickening. Derrick Sanderlin is a charity worker in San Jose, California, and he has spent three years training police on how to avoid racial bias. During a protest, he peacefully put himself between police and the peaceful protesters toward whom the police were shooting rubber projectiles. The police shot Sanderlin in the groin with such a projectile, causing serious damage requiring surgery, and perhaps costing the man his opportunity to have children. This is why district attorneys need to criminally charge abusive cops. This is why qualified immunity must end. This abuse is an outrage.

Police attacked Maredith Michael, a medic attempting to care for protesters injured by police.

A black firefighter told Caroline Goggin how, days earlier, police had drawn their guns on him for no good reason. (The incident in question didn't happen at a protest, but I thought I'd throw it in here.)

This is a crazy story: "Law enforcement agents have seized hundreds of cloth masks that read 'Stop killing Black people' and 'Defund police' that a Black Lives Matter-affiliated organization sent to cities around the country to protect demonstrators against the spread of COVID-19." Eventually authorities released the masks. But what the hell?

Lisa Song writes, "Tear Gas Is Way More Dangerous Than Police Let On — Especially During the Coronavirus Pandemic."

"Rubber bullets" can cause severe physical damage.

"Videos Show Cops Slashing Car Tires at Protests in Minneapolis."

A Philadelphia officer faces charges after striking a protester in the heat with an implement.

"Police Targeting NLG [National Lawyers Guild] Legal Observers at Black Lives Matter Protests."

COVID-19 Updates

June 7, 2020

Ed Yong writes, "COVID-19 can last for several months. The disease's 'long-haulers' have endured relentless waves of debilitating symptoms—and disbelief from doctors and friends." Around 80% of infections are asymptomatic, and most of the rest involve recovery in around two weeks, but at least "thousands" of people have sustained problems, Yong writes.

Scott Gottlieb writes, "The Houston, Texas region shows continued Covid spread and rising hospitalization rates."

Men, especially balding men, may be at greater risk of hospitalization, due to hormones.

Max Roser writes, "I think we are still in the early days of the pandemic and why I'm very pessimistic about the coming months. The number of daily new cases is rising continuously in many large countries," even as testing remains inadequate. "These countries—like many others—see confirmed cases rise despite being in lockdowns. Lockdowns are very costly, socially and economically, and cannot remain for a very long time; especially in poor countries."

"The number of coronavirus cases tied to meatpacking plants has [topped] 20,400 infections across 216 plants in 33 states."

Jacob Sullum: "Lockdown Supporters Embraced Wildly Wrong COVID-19 Projections That Fit Their Preconceptions." I think the basic problem is looking at these models as predictions rather than as simulations. In brief, the models assume that, if people do not independently take mitigating actions, then such and such will happen. Of course the "if" conditional fails.

"Viral load data from Germany has been reanalysed, and continues to suggest no meaningful difference between the viral load of children and adults."

Australia: "We didn't realise how effective we could be. We've actually crushed the curve and now we talking about potentially eliminating the disease locally." See the write-up by Jill Margo.

Scott Gottlieb: "The expectation should be that this is going to be a seasonal vaccine. You're going to need this shot regularly, and maybe annually." The fear is that immunity won't last very long.

A recent article from the Lancet (lead Nicholas G. Davies) finds that "only lockdown periods were sufficient to bring R0 near or below 1" in the UK and that "intensive interventions with lockdown periods would need to be in place for a large proportion of the coming year to prevent health-care demand exceeding availability." But I smell a lot of "if" coming off of these models. One issue is that the study pits lockdowns against "physical distancing," but the entire point of a lockdown is to achieve greater physical distancing. Thus, the study has to be making some background assumptions here about voluntary versus coerced levels of physical distancing that I doubt reflect reality. Anyway, to me the study entirely misses the point, which is to figure out how to implement a sufficiently robust hygiene-test-trace-isolate capacity to facilitate social interactions while keeping the disease at low levels of spread.

The Danger of Overconfidence

June 7, 2020

A good tidbit from 80000 Hours: "A lot of people are both smart and overconfident — and the smarter they are, the more easily they can lead other people astray. The thing they're working on might not be obviously bad, but if they're saying it's obviously the only right approach, and they sound convincing, that can do a lot of damage."

Balanced Selfishness

June 7, 2020

An interesting video from School of Life discusses how some people become pathologically selfless and how, to be any good to yourself or others, you need to take your own needs and interests seriously. Hat tip Robert Wiblin. Related: "How to Stop Being a People Pleaser." (I can't help but notice the parallels to Ayn Rand's ideas on selfishness and "second-handedness.)

Also in the series: "Why You Don't Need to Be Exceptional." My take: We shouldn't need to be "exceptional" in others' eyes, but it's perfectly healthy and desirable to try to achieve great values in life. (This too ties into Rand's idea of "second-handedness.")

Remote Learning Didn't Work

June 7, 2020

"The Results Are In for Remote Learning: It Didn't Work." But this is not an indictment of remote learning per se, but only of the rushed attempt to recreate the traditional classroom remotely. Meanwhile, I've found some really excellent online learning opportunities for my four-year-old.

George Floyd's Autopsy

June 7, 2020

Dr. Judy Melinek reviews the facts surrounding the death of George Floyd. Here is a key paragraph: "The fact that Floyd appears to be talking to the officer and the officer is taking notes suggests that Floyd is engaging in dialogue. The gait disturbance suggests that Floyd may have been under the influence of alcohol or some other drug that could affect his balance. The grimace as he is being handled suggests that the cuffs are on too tight or that he is in pain during this encounter as the officer pulls up on his cuffed arms. Here's what I don't see: I don't see someone who appears to be suffering from excited delirium when drugs of abuse can cause agitation, hyperthermia, and sudden death. Floyd is not naked or dressed inappropriately for the weather. He does not appear to be sweating profusely. He does not appear to be agitated or violent."

Another key bit: "There are many reasons why people might say 'I can't breathe' and still be in medical distress. These reasons include increasing fatigue of respiratory muscles; blockage of pulmonary blood flow; incomplete airway obstruction; and acidosis, a buildup of acid in the blood which triggers an increased breathing rate and causes the sensation of shortness of breath."

Melinek also discusses the details of the first autopsy and the serious difficulties off trying to perform a second autopsy. She concludes that, contributing factors notwithstanding, "The cause of death is police restraint."

Police Kill Sean Monterrosa

June 7, 2020

"Vallejo police kill unarmed 22-year-old, who was on his knees with his hands up." Police say they thought the hammer in his pocket was a gun.

Lives Matter

June 7, 2020

My June 3 Tweet: "Black lives matter. Uighur lives matter. Rohingya lives matter. North Korean lives matter. Hong Kong lives matter. Venezuelan lives matter. Gay lives matter. Women's lives matter. Apostate lives matter. Lives matter."

Covering the George Floyd Protests

June 7, 2020

Elena Rivera warns against biased language in covering the protests, and she recommends some background reading.

Render on Floyd's Death

June 7, 2020

Michael Santiago Render ("Killer Mike") gave a powerful speech in Atlanta. He strongly condemned the "assassination" of George Floyd. Then he added, "It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy." He urges people to "plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize" for real change. It's a powerful talk that everyone should watch.

Property Destruction as Violence

June 7, 2020

Nikole Hannah-Jones said, "Violence is when an agent of the state kneels on a man's neck until all of the life is leached out of his body. Destroying property, which can be replaced, is not violence. To use the same language to describe those two things is not moral."

It is obviously true that murdering a man is a much higher order of moral crime that breaking someone's shop windows, vandalizing a building, looting a store, or even burning a store down. No doubt.

But obviously destroying someone's property is a type of violence against the person. As I replied, "There have been many, many white riots to destroy the property of African Americans, Asian Americans, and other racial minorities. That was violence, because destroying a person's livelihood or home undermines the person's life."

Thankfully, today insurance covers much of the damage of the rioting and looting, which means simply that the rioters and looters impose the costs of repair and replacement on their neighbors via their insurance premiums.

Mac Donald on Police Racism

June 7, 2020

Heather Mac Donald argues that police are not more likely to kill black people than white people, factoring in that black people commit disproportionate crime. But I think she basically misses the point. A tiny fraction of police altercations result in death. Although one-off anecdotes prove nothing, when we hear an unending stream of reports of police abusing black people, we need to take that seriously. Whereas white Americans are roughly split on whether police use too much or too little force, black Americans overwhelmingly say police use too much force. I personally have gotten away with interacting with police officers in a way that very likely would have resulted in police violence had I been black. (In one of those instances, I was clearly in the wrong; in another, I was making a reasonable complaint.) The murder of George Floyd was the point of an iceberg. However, I do think there's a deeper sense in which Mac Donald is partly right. I think a larger problem than police abusing black people is police abusing disempowered people, people unlikely to raise hell among elected officials and hire high-powered attorneys. I think in many cases police abuse black people (when they do) not fundamentally because they are black but because they lack the status to do much about the abuse. There is a deeper sense in which that problem, too, is largely the result of institutional racism.

French on Structural Racism

June 7, 2020

David French explains to conservatives why they probably don't take "structural racism" seriously enough. He says his views changed after adopting a daughter from Ethiopia and witnessing first-hand the racism she endured: the "white woman who demanded that [she]—the only black girl in our neighborhood pool—point out her parents," a "police officer approached her at a department store and questioned her about who she was with," the time a young girl said she couldn't come over because her "dad says it's dangerous to go black people's neighborhoods." And then the racial nationalists went after French. He writes, "It's hard even to begin to describe all the ramifications of 345 years of legalized oppression and 56 years of contentious change, but we can say two things at once—yes, we have made great strides (and we should acknowledge that fact and remember the men and women who made it possible), but the central and salient consideration of American racial politics shouldn't center around pride in how far we've come, but in humble realization of how much farther we have to go."

Minneapolis Disbands Police Department

June 7, 2020

"Minneapolis Votes To Disband Police Department." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but apparently the plan is for more community-based policing. I'm skeptical. But this should be interesting to watch.

The New York Times reports, "Council members said in interviews on Sunday that they did not have specific plans to announce for what a new public safety system for the city would look like. They promised to develop plans by working with the community, and said they would draw on past studies, consent decrees and reforms to policing across the nation and the world."

Update: Minneapolis councilor Phillipe Cunningham clarifies (June 8), "We did not vote to disband the police yesterday. A super majority of the City Council formally announced support for beginning the process of doing so to build new systems of public safety. That distinction matters because a plan has to be put into place first. Creating the plan to build new systems of public safety is THE critical component of getting this right. We have to work alongside our amazing Police Chief Rondo and our community to build these new systems and plan to transition to them. For me, 'disband the police' means 'end policing as it current exists and build new alternative systems to public safety.' That isn't easy and is going to take time, but we can do it together."

Virginia Officers Faces Charges for Tasing Distressed Black Man

June 7, 2020

Well this is painful to watch. Police in Fairfax County respond to an obviously distressed black man. One officer tases the man repeatedly as officers wrestle him to the ground. "Fairfax Co. officer faces assault, battery charges for tasing man." This is a good illustration for why social and health workers should take these calls, not Rambo Wannabe cops.

Romney Marches

June 7, 2020

Mitt Romney marched in Washington D.C., saying, "We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality. And we need to stand up and say black lives matter."

Denver Police Bar Chokeholds

June 7, 2020

Alayna Alvarez reports, "Denver Police will ban use of all chokeholds, with no exceptions. Denver PD will also require SWAT officers wear body cameras during tactical operations, and for use-of-force reports be filed when an officer points a firearm at someone."

California Police Sic Dogs on Protesters

June 8, 2020

Daniel Borenstein shares a shocking story: A Contra Costa SWAT team used dogs on protesters. Now, granted, protesters ought not block roads; here they blocked I-680. But that is hardly an excuse for this level of violence. Borenstein writes, "A young black man, identified by police as Joseph Malott, sustained bites to his knee and hand after he was brought down by police and one of the two dogs that were on the scene. . . . Malott had thrown a tear gas canister back at police as they were trying to clear the entrance ramp. He was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer and resisting/obstructing an officer. The weapon was the tear gas canister that police has previously thrown his way, which if it was truly deadly raises serious questions about why police were using it in the first place for crowd control."

Neily on America's Rotten Criminal Justice System

June 8, 2020

Clark Neily of the Cato Institute is out with a scorcher, appropriately. He discusses the problems of overcriminalization, "coercive plea bargaining," and little "accountability for police and prosecutors."

My idea for reforming plea bargaining is simply to say that prosecutors may not threaten anyone with a sentence of more than, say, 1.5 or 2 times what they'd otherwise get via a jury trial. I'm not sure, thought.

Update: Neily recommends, "Other reforms Congress should consider in the longer term include a statutory cap on the notorious 'trial penalty,' which is the often substantial differential between the sentence offered in a plea bargain and the much harsher sentence the defendant will receive if he exercises his right to trial; imposing a legal duty on prosecutors to provide materially favorable evidence to the defense before any plea discussions occur, something that is not always done currently; and the elimination of absolute prosecutorial immunity, a judicially invented legal doctrine that makes it impossible for victims of even the most blatant misconduct to sue prosecutors for anything they do in the course of their prosecutorial duties." Neily also suggests that juries be fully informed, including about the criminal penalties at play.

Some years ago the "libertarian moment" came and fizzled. Now, it seems to me, the "libertarian moment" has arrived, at least in terms of a major line of thinking of the better libertarians, with criminal justice reform.

Lockdowns for Thee but Not for Me

June 8, 2020

Tyler Cowen worries about health experts who supported the lockdowns and also the protests. Discussing one such party, Cowen writes, "My worries run deep. Should the original lockdown recommendations have been asterisked with a 'this is my lesser, non-citizen self speaking' disclaimer? Should those who broke the earlier lockdowns, to save their jobs or visit their relatives, or go to their churches, or they wanted to see their dying grandma but couldn't . . . have been able to cite their role as 'citizens' as good reason for opposing the recommendations of the 'scientists'? Does the author have much scientific expertise in how likely these protests are to prove successful? Does typing the word 'c-i-t-i-z-e-n' relieve one of the burden of estimating how much public health credibility will be lost if/when we are told that another lockdown is needed to forestall a really quite possible second wave? Does the author have a deep understanding of the actual literature on the 'science/citizen' distinction, value freedom in science, the normative role of the advisor, and so on?"

As I have noted, various health experts have indeed voiced concerns about the protests spreading SARS-CoV-2. Still, Cowen has a point.

Related: Dan Diamond writes, "For months, public health experts have urged Americans to take every precaution to stop the spread of Covid-19—stay at home, steer clear of friends and extended family, and absolutely avoid large gatherings. Now some of those experts are broadcasting a new message: It's time to get out of the house and join the mass protests against racism."

I'm going to watch the numbers closely. If it turns out that the protests don't lead to a disease spike, I'm going to totally stop worrying about outdoor activities. If there is a spike, I'll maintain stricter distancing.

Guns and Suicides

June 8, 2020

"Handgun Ownership Greatly Increases Suicide Risk," write Heath Druzin and Jeremy Bernfeld. They summarize, "Researchers from Stanford University tracked more than 26 million people in California who did not own guns before Oct. 18, 2004. Just under 3%, or 676,425 people, became gun owners between Oct. 18, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2016. Nearly all were handguns. The risk of suicide in this group, researchers found, was about nine times higher than among non-gun owners. Nearly 18,000 people tracked in the study died by suicide. Roughly 7,000 of those deaths were by firearm suicide."

But what is the actual causal chain here? The study (lead David M. Studdert) states, "The risk of suicide by firearm among handgun owners peaked immediately after the first acquisition, but 52% of all suicides by firearm among handgun owners occurred more than 1 year after acquisition." The most reasonable interpretation of this is that some suicidal people buy a gun to kill themselves. This does not imply that, had these suicidal people not purchased a gun, they wouldn't have committed suicide. There are many ways to kill yourself.

Here is another tidbit from the study: "A total of 676,425 cohort members acquired one or more handguns, and 1,457,981 died; 17,894 died by suicide, of which 6691 were suicides by firearm." In other words, almost no one who owned a gun committed suicide. And most people who committed suicide did so by means other than a gun.

An obviously stupid conclusion to draw would be, "Owning a handgun causes a normal person to be more suicidal." Most people simply are not suicidal, and owning a gun, or a rope, or sleeping pills, or whatever, does not make them suicidal.

That said, it's reasonable to think that, among the small subset of the population that is suicidal, owning a gun increases the risk of suicide. The obvious solution to that is to expand help for suicidal people.

Here is an analogy. Let's say that we found that purchasing certain sorts of books or magazines, or reading certain sorts of web pages, made some people more suicidal. (I suspect this is actually the case.) Would the reasonable approach be to censor that material for all people or to get help for the few people who need it?

Aurora Cop Pulls Gun on Man for Driving through His Own Parking Lot

June 8, 2020

"Denver-based civil rights attorney David Lane said he is preparing a federal lawsuit against the city claiming that an Aurora police officer used excessive force when he held a pistol in front of [Dr. P. J.] Parmar's face while asking him why he was driving through a parking lot. . . . Parmar has owned the building immediately beside the parking structure and its attached LLC . . . for several years."

David Lane is one of Colorado's great civil rights champions. When you read about these stories of people suing police departments over abuses, more often than not, Lane is on the case.

Swab Tests Pick Up Inactive Virus

June 8, 2020

A hospital prevented a woman from holding or nursing her baby for two months, because the woman tested positive for coronavirus. Keeping a newborn from its mother imposes extraordinary harm. "There's concern that such tests are being misinterpreted to suggest people are infectious when they probably are not," writes Helen Branswell. Look, just because we're in a pandemic, doesn't mean we should throw common sense overboard.

Qualified Immunity Has Got to Go

June 8, 2020

Remarkable: Today, as the Colorado legislature takes up a bill to limit police liability from lawsuits, protesters chant outside, "Hey hey, ho ho, [qualified] immunity has got to go." Sometimes it seems like it takes forever to build up support for some reform, and then, sometimes, all of a sudden it gets political traction.

Fileva on Self-Sabotage

June 8, 2020

Iskra Fileva discusses self-sabotage, writing, "Self-sabotage may have to do with what we think we deserve. Even if we do not see ourselves as deserving of punishment, we may not believe we are worthy of success and happiness either. What often passes for insecurity and self-doubt may, at bottom, be a belief  that we have not and perhaps cannot earn the right to get what we want: 'I am not the kind of person who will ever be happy, loved, successful, etc,' is a common attitude among self-saboteurs."

She also points out that people can, due to self-doubt, "slide into a cycle of self-sabotage little by little, imperceptibly." She gives the example of someone trying to become a painter but who starts, little by little, spending more time screwing around and less time actually painting. But people can also pull themselves out of self-sabotage, one productive act at a time.

Incidentally, Fileva's article squares nicely with what Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden have written about self-esteem.

Little Asymptomatic Spread?

June 8, 2020

"From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual," said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization. Could it be that we don't really need all that much testing and tracing but should just diligently tell people with any symptoms to self-isolate?

Not so fast. James Surowiecki warns, "This was yet another example of terrible communication by the WHO. By 'asymptomatic,' she meant only people who get the virus but never develop symptoms, not people who are pre-symptomatic. They still commonly transmit the virus without having any symptoms." Andy Slavitt also has strong concerns. So does Natalie Dean.

Armed Black Gym Owner Seeks Peace at New Mexico Rallies

June 8, 2020

Generally I worry about people bringing guns to protests. But the Santa Fe New Mexican tells the interesting story of how an armed black man and gym owner in Albuquerque, Jon "Bones" Jones, sought to keep the peace at protests. I found it amusing that the article does not even mention the fact that Jones is black, although it shows a video of him. I have no problem with armed shop owners protecting their shops from looting and destruction, so long as they're careful about it and not needlessly confrontational. I'd rather the professional police forces actually do their jobs and keep the peace and protect people's property. As for those who want to "defund the police," what do they think that looks like, if not more people taking defensive measures into their own hands?

New Jersey Attorney General Fights for Shortages

June 8, 2020

New Jersey's "Office of the Attorney General has not stopped receiving complaints about businesses illegally hiking prices of cleaning supplies such as bleach and hand sanitizer as well as disinfectant wipes and spray. In the past week, an additional 100 cease-and-desist letter have been sent to business owners who have tried to cash in on the COVID-19 pandemic by price gouging, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Friday." The AG has issued a total of 1,586 such letters, reports, and state law prohibits price hikes of "more than 10% during an emergency." In other words, New Jersey authorities want to make absolutely certain to maintain shortages of essential goods during emergencies.

The Extraordinary Courage of Samantha Francine

June 8, 2020

This photo by Grace Jensen of Whitefish, Montana is one of the most powerful portraits of courage I have ever seen. It shows a large, belligerent white man aggressively towering over a smaller black woman at a Black Lives Matter rally. The woman is Samantha Francine. She stands, resolute, calm, unflinching, looking the man in the eye.

Video of the event also captures the confrontation. As the protesters chant "Peaceful," the man screams, "F*** all of you."

Samantha Francine told her story: "I have been trying to find my words about this moment for the last few days. For all who have reached and checked on me, thank you. For all of you that have stood by my side, THANK YOU! I want to start off saying I am so proud to be standing there with all of you, especially you beautiful teenagers! There is a lot of emotion and it's awesome that your generation is leading the way. Secondly I have received so much love from family, friends, and strangers! It's been overwhelmingly beautiful. My perception of myself and how others see me are vastly different and you all have given me so much love and support. Thank you. A friend of mine sent me a screenshot of this photo the day it was posted by my beautiful friend Grace Jensen. With everything going on I immediately just thought 'wow, what a powerful photo,' then I realized it was me. The words are still hard to find, but I wanted to share the one thing that did go through my mind in this moment. As a child, I grew up with a single white father and who was originally from Chicago. He taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. One of the things he use to remind us constantly was that 'no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you're human.' My father pased 16 years ago this month. In this moment, those are the words that went through my head. When I lifted up my glasses, he saw me. I saw him. He was acting out fear, I know that. I hold no malice in my heart for this man. I hope this moment will soften him. I hope he will be changed. But even if he isn't, I am. Yes I had power this day, but I couldn't have done it without all of the courageous people around me. We are stronger united and in this moment I felt the that. Whether you will be standing with us tonight, or holding space, I ask you to join US as we continue to be apart of the change. Dear Whitefish, big things are coming. It's going to be beautiful!"

Stop Protecting Bad Cops

June 8, 2020

A police officer who uses the National Crime Information Center database to look "up the new boyfriend of a friend's ex-wife" should be immediately fired. A police officer who drives drunk should immediately be fired. A Denver police officer who committed both offenses "will serve a 10-day suspension and give up two days of pay for the two offenses," reports Elise Schmelzer. This is absurd and outrageous.

Police Reform Bill Advances in Colorado Senate

June 8, 2020

Alex Burness reports, "John Cooke is a law-and-order former sheriff from a GOP stronghold that recently flirted with seceding from Colorado. And he's supporting the police accountability bill." Marshall Zelinger shares the video. Cooke mentions some amendments that were passed; I haven't had a chance to look those over. Senator Bob Gardner, another Republican, also "stood up in support of the passage" of the bill, reports Representative Leslie Herod. This is not too surprising to me. Conservatives in Colorado have always had a libertarian streak. (Indeed, Cooke is married to a woman who long worked at the conservative-libertarian Independence Institute.) Years ago, some of us participated in the bipartisan effort to reform Colorado's asset forfeiture laws.

Tattered Cover Pilloried

June 9, 2020

Tattered Cover, a Colorado institution as Denver's most-successful independent bookstore, affirmed that "Black Lives Matter" and pledged to carry and host "a wider diversity of books" and author events. But, the store's owners said, they weren't keen on taking an active role in public debate. That's a perfectly reasonable stance for bookstore owners. For that statement, of course, the owners were pilloried. So, of course, the owners issued a groveling apology. I'm sure others will draw the obvious lesson that it's better simply to shut the hell up and keep your head down.

Crazy Colorado Politics

June 9, 2020

Colorado politics has been a little nuts lately. Consider some recent tidbits.

Kyle Clark reported, "District Attorney George Brauchler says there is no evidence to support GOP Rep Mark Baisley's claim that Colorado's public health leaders altered COVID-19 death certificates. Rep. Baisley had called for criminal charges against the head of" the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment." As I replied, "I imagine George said a few other things under his breath over this one." There was never any basis for the allegation. What CDPHE did do, with the support of the governor, is separate out deaths related to COVID-19 from deaths "due to" the disease, which was a good idea.

Then there was a bizarre Twitter spat between Progressive Ian Silverii and conservative Jeff Hunt. Basically, Silverii half-seriously suggested that Hunt is a Nazi, and Hunt wildly overreacted by saying that Silverii threatened him.

One more: Rep. Dave Williams posted an obviously faked flyer calling for Democrats to kill Republicans. I have no idea who made the flyer, but obviously the creator was a provocateur who did not try to hide that fact. Update: Not everyone got the memo that the flyer is a fake.

Denver Police Blind Bystander

June 9, 2020

Shameful: "Denver protest bystander blind in one eye after being hit by police with 'less lethal' projectile. The 21-year-old said he was walking to his car and not participating in protest." In other news, at this moment the Colorado Senate is passing a police reform bill. The officer or officers who blinded this man should be prosecuted.

Colorado Police Reform

June 9, 2020

An important Colorado police reform bill, SB20-217, just passed the Senate unanimously. It went through so fast I haven't been able to track the amendments. This is real reform, though, not just fancy wrapping. Update: Alex Burness reports the bill passed 32–1.

Colorado Bill against "Gay Panic" Defense Revived

June 9, 2020

With all the chaos, the Colorado legislature dropped a bill that would formally eliminate the "gay panic" defense. I review the bill in my column today for Complete Colorado.

Representative Brianna Titone sent me the following statement on June 6:

"I was well aware that many bills were going to be killed because of budget and time, but bills that were free, bipartisan, and in the opposite Chamber, I didn't think would all be killed. One of those bills was HB20-1307. I wasn't aware of what bills were destined to die and which ones were to be kept, but this one struck me hard to learn it was killed. I was especially surprised of the dissatisfaction of the Republican members of the committee who didn't go along with PI'ing the bill. This doesn't normal happen. The "fast, free, and covid19 related" criteria is 2/3. I feel that this bill is relevant to what's happening outside the Capitol which adds to the bill's importance.

"Black trans women are murdered at an alarmingly disproportionate rate compared to any other group. It was this group I was thinking about when I thought about this bill. Black trans women have very little representation in elected office. I can count on one hand the folks I'm aware of. Two represent Minneapolis, MN, VP of Council Andrea Jenkins and Councilperson Phillipe Cunningham. At the state level, there are only 4 out trans legislators, all of which are white. Black trans women need us to lift up their voices. For decades this hasn't been happening. Now that they at least have trans representation, we can focus on the needs of the trans community.

"You may also recall during the protests in Minnesota, a black trans woman, Iyanna Dior, was violently assaulted as most people just watched. This is an example of the kind of violence this group experiences. While the law in question would protect all LGBTQ people, like as in the Matthew Shepherd case, the relevance to the BLM movement is really on black trans women.

"At this time there hasn't been a commitment to revive the bill. House leadership is aware of the request and the sentiment among members to bring it back, but it has not been acted on."

This morning, One Colorado issued a media release saying the bill was revived last evening as SB20-221.

Pacific Legal on Lockdown Overreach

June 9, 2020

"In early March 2020, Luis Ramirez closed his Hartford, CT, nail salon, following Gov. Ned Lamont's executive orders for statewide shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Luis and his wife, Rosiris, have since struggled to earn income and pay rent on their salon. When Luis and Rosiris thought they'd be able to reopen on May 20, they scraped together $800 to comply with the necessary precautions to safely serve customers. But the state, under the unlawful authority of the governor, inexplicably pushed back nail salons' reopening to June 17—or later—despite allowing hair salons to open on June 1. Represented by PLF free of charge, Luis and Rosiris are fighting back in a lawsuit against the governor's unconstitutional power grab that's robbing them of their right to responsibly open their business."

The Pacific Legal Foundation also helped Quent and Linda Cordair reopen their Napa art gallery.

In other lockdown views: "Constitutionally, Religious Gatherings Must Enjoy the Same Rights As Protest Gatherings."

Racist Drug Laws

June 9, 2020

America's drug prohibition laws, in many respects overtly racist in origin, have been a major source of police abuses and of racial disparities in the criminal justice system. One aspect of this involves the sentencing laws for cocaine, long used as a pretext to imprison black men at a disproportionate rate.

In 1995 I wrote about the sentencing disparities involved with crack versus powder cocaine.

A new article from the Economist reveals that the racial disparities of drug sentencing have not gone away. The article notes, "When suspects are charged with drug possession, the quantities in their indictments only loosely reflect what they were carrying when arrested. Prosecutors can boost amounts using testimony about previous activity, or by charging people for drugs held by co-conspirators. Some convictions cite 100 times as much crack as the defendant had in hand. Such leeway makes these figures as much a measure of prosecutorial discretion as of suspects' crimes."

The piece reveals clear evidence that some prosecutors are abusing this discretion to the harm of minorities: "In 1986 Congress passed a law requiring anyone possessing 50g or more of crack to serve at least ten years in prison. Legislators raised this cut-off to 280g in 2010, making the minimum sentence for possession of 279g half as long as for 280g. By creating a cliff, the law encouraged offenders to carry less than 280g. It also enabled prosecutors who sought extra-long sentences to secure them, by filing charges just above the limit. Before 2010, convictions for 270-280g or 290-300g were just as common as for 280-290g. After that year, the share of sentences for 280-290g surged, from 0.5% to 4%; the rates for adjacent amounts barely changed. Moreover, the burden of these strategically sized charges fell disproportionately on minorities."

Of course the racist sentencing disparities are only one aspects of the damage of the drug laws. Broader than the problem of black men going to prison longer than white men for comparable crimes is the problem of people going to prison for non-rights-violating behavior. And of course the black market created by the government substantially funds America's violent gangs. And it has spurred the militarization of U.S. police departments.

Armed Black Protesters Arrested in North Carolina

June 10, 2020

Jordan Green has the story: "As a peaceful protest was dispersing on Tuesday night [June 2], Greensboro police arrested six African-American men, charging them with violating a North Carolina statute called 'Weapons at Parades Etc. Prohibited' and seizing guns from five of them. In contrast, three white men, including one with a history of firearms training with open white supremacists, showed up armed with handguns and rifles while wearing paramilitary gear at the protests on the first three nights while making violent posts on Facebook, and have so far managed to avoid incurring any similar charges from the Greensboro Police Department." The double standards here are shocking.

Racist Gun Laws

June 10, 2020

Ida B. Wells was a leading voice against lynchings during the 1800s. She and other black activists also urged black families to protect themselves with firearms, as Dave Kopel writes. Wells wrote about cases of black people successfully defending themselves and concluded: "The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for the protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the Afro-American yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged, lynched."

The Florida legislature responded by requiring gun licenses, Kopel continues. The intent and effect of the restrictions was to disarm black people.

Soham Sankaran writes, "Both laws protecting gun ownership and gun control laws had racist intents and produced racist effects." He also wrote a longer essay on the topic.

Chicago's Horrific Violence

June 10, 2020

In Chicago, "18 people were killed Sunday, May 31, making it the single most violent day in Chicago in six decades, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The lab's data doesn't go back further than 1961. From 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, through 11 p.m. Sunday, May 31, 25 people were killed in the city, with another 85 wounded by gunfire, according to data maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times."

Here is what Reverent Michael Pfleger told the paper, "I heard people saying all over, 'Hey, there's no police anywhere, police ain't doing nothing. I sat and watched a store looted for over an hour. No police came. I got in my car and drove around to some other places getting looted [and] didn't see police anywhere."

This is horrific. I don't pretend to have the answers to this. End the drug war, yes. Clearly deep socio-economic problems are at play. But it does seem obvious that the people most at risk from inadequate policing are those in the most distressed neighborhoods where violent crime is high. We need reformed policing, not no policing.

Greenwald on Bolivia

June 10, 2020

Glenn Greenwald plausibly accuses the U.S. government of promoting a coup in Bolivia last year by embracing bogus claims of election fraud. I'm not a big fan of Greenwald, and certainly I'm no fan of Evo Morales, who was forced from office, but Greenwald (following the New York Times) raises some troubling issues. I'd like to know if credible experts on the region take issue with any of Greenwald's reporting here.

Bergstrom on Virulence Changes

June 10, 2020

Matt Ridley suggests that perhaps lockdowns prevent SARS-CoV-2 from evolving into a less virulent form. Carl Bergstrom is skeptical. He points out that various pathogens remain quite destructive. And the myxoma virus in rabbits became less virulent but then more so. He summarizes, "Virulence evolution is not a simple, predictable, one-way trajectory." He adds, "The really bad things that COVID-19 does to people happen (1) only in a small subset of people and (2) after most or all of the transmission has already taken place." His thread offers much more detail.

Asymptomatic Versus Presymptomatic

June 10, 2020

The World Health Organization recently has caused a lot of consternation by claiming that "asymptomatic" people rarely spread the coronavirus. Carl Bergstrom explains: "Much of the problem is that 'asymptomatic patients' sounds like it refers to anyone without symptoms. It doesn't. It's epidemiology jargon for a patient who never will develop symptoms, in contrast with 'pre-symptomatic patients' who don't have symptoms yet but will shortly." Obviously this can only be determined after the fact. The relevant questions are, of those with an infection, how many will spread it to others, when will they spread it, how many will develop serious noticeable symptoms, and how many will develop serious symptoms.

Mainstream Pseudoscience

June 10, 2020

Thiago Arzua runs down some of the history of phrenology and eugenics. Today it's hard to believe, but, as Timothée Poisot notes, phrenology once was "mainstream science." Mainstream pseudoscience, more accurately. The important thing to bear is mind is that many people believed this nonsense. Many people find it extremely easy to fall into biased and prejudicial thinking.

Unbundle the Police

June 10, 2020

Alex Tabarrok has an interesting proposal: "The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job—make road safety nice. . . . Similarly, the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeless—jobs like that should be farmed out to other agencies." Sounds good to me. However, in many cases the traffic "cops" would have to call in the "real" cops for for cases involving people with arrest warrants and the like. Of course, a major problem here is that the drug war has turned traffic policing into a major source of abuse.

Masks Work

June 10, 2020

Lyman Stone reviews data from the USS Theodore Roosevelt and concludes, "Masks work. What's amazing here is that this is individual protection, not community-based protection: prior studies suggested masks were NOT very good for individual protection. . . . By the way, that serology studies turned up an 80% attack rate among non-mask-wearers suggests that herd immunity probably won't occur . . . until 80%. . . . That masks worked as well as they did in a contained environment with tons of unavoidable close contact is pretty remarkable. I would have bet against masks doing much in this scenario." Of course, my guess is that people in the military have good masks and good discipline in wearing them. From what I've seen, many people in the general public have neither.

A study (lead Timo Mitze) that looks at Germany finds that "face masks reduce the daily growth rate of reported infections by around 40%."

Trouble in Belgium

June 10, 2020

I was looking at Our World in Data's chart on total COVID-19 deaths per million, by nation, and at first I thought the UK was highest with 602. By contrast, the U.S. has 338, Brazil has 181, and New Zealand has 5. But then someone pointed out that Belgium, a country of 12 million people, has 830 deaths per million. So what's going on there? A May 17 Washington Post article points out that other countries may be undercounting their deaths. Moreover: "One explanation, he [health official Steven Van Gucht] said, might be Belgium's relative population density in comparison to its neighbors: the Brussels airport, an international transportation hub, might have helped seed the disease in the crowded capital region. And many Belgians were on skiing vacations in northern Italy during national school vacations in late February." And: "Belgium's nursing homes account for more than half of its deaths, partly because older Belgians are more likely than their counterparts in other European countries to live in elder-care housing."

COVID-19 and Remote Work

June 10, 2020

A May 29 paper (lead Erik Brynjolfsson) reports, "Of those employed pre-COVID-19, we find that about half are now working from home, including 35.2% who report they were commuting and recently switched to working from home." And: "We find that the share of people switching to remote work can be predicted by the incidence of COVID-19 and that younger people were more likely to switch to remote work." It'll be really interesting to see how many of those new work-at-homers go back to the office once the pandemic cools off.

COVID-19 Trouble in Arizona

June 10, 2020

COVID-19 hospitalizations are going down in Colorado. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be having trouble. Reported cases are up. More tellingly: "Hospitalizations have steadily risen. Statewide hospitalizations as of Sunday were at 1,266 inpatients in Arizona with suspected and confirmed COVID-19, which was the second highest number, behind Friday, since the state began reporting the data on April 9. The past eight days have seen inpatient hospitalizations statewide for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 eclipse 1,000. The percentage of positive tests per week increased from 5% a month ago to 6% three weeks ago to 9% two weeks ago, and 12% last week." That's really bad. By contrast, the positivity numbers in Colorado are under 3%, and new reported cases are somewhat down.

Cases in Utah also are on the rise. Texas, Florida, and California also are having trouble.

Rubin against Secularism

June 10, 2020

In a recent video, Dave Rubin argued that secularism inherently leads to subjectivism, implying that religion is the only viable option. This is a shame; Yaron Brook has been on Rubin's show, and Brook has a good understanding of why subjectivism versus religious authority is a false choice.

Camden Policing

June 10, 2020

Russel Roberts likes the idea of "reimagining" the police but thinks it "is hard to achieve in reality." He calls the reforms in Camden, New Jersey a "mixed bag." Roberts is on board with "ending the drug war and weakening the ability of officers to harass and kill without consequences." He points to a 2018 article by Sarah Holder on the Camden experience. She summarizes, "In 2013, the Camden Police Department was disbanded, reimagined, and born again as the Camden County Police Department, with more officers at lower pay—and a strategic shift toward 'community policing.'" She quotes a great line from officer Tyrell Bagby via the New York Times: "The old police mantra was make it home safely. Now we're being taught not only should we make it home safely, but so should the victim and the suspect." I'm not seeing why this bag is "mixed." Obviously lots of things other than policing affect a city's crime rates. Many other policies need to be changed. But, just in terms of how police do their jobs, Camden strikes me as a win.

Hong Kong Protest Tactics

June 10, 2020

American protesters picked up various strategies from protesters in Hong Kong, such as using umbrellas as shields, traffic cones to cover teargas canisters, and leaf blowers to blow away tear gas. Protesters in Hong Kong use various other strategies, such as using lasers and paint to disrupt cameras and rapidly moving to new locations.

A Note of Optimism

June 10, 2020

I Tweeted June 8: "Some people see America falling apart. I see countless Americans rising to meet twin crises with intelligent discussion, tireless effort, moral resolve, and an eye toward a better future."

COVID-19: Italy Versus the U.S.

June 10, 2020

Max Roser of Our World in Data writes, "There was no difference in the speed of the outbreak between Italy and the U.S. The difference—which is leading to the rapidly rising death toll in the US—is that European countries achieved a much faster decline of the outbreak." He shows a chart showing a much steeper decline in daily cases per million in Italy versus the United States.

The False Choice between Lockdowns and Nothing

June 10, 2020

Much of the conversation in the U.S. has been about the effectiveness of lockdowns, as opposed to doing nothing, to stop COVID-19. I was pleased to see Jennifer Nuzzo remark,"Though I think Sweden's high case fatality is worrisome, I don't think the lesson is that total lockdowns are the way to go. Other countries successfully avoided major lockdowns through targeted public health measures—testing, tracing and isolation."

COVID and the Protests

June 10, 2020

Ashish K. Jha writes, "1. I support the protesters. 2. I am deeply worried protests will fuel outbreaks. 3. I am angry we are in a position where there is tension between racial justice [and] fighting COVID because we didn't suppress the virus." I think that's exactly the right take.

I also Tweeted something about the relationship between the disease and the protests: "Ironic: The government's incompetence in stopping the coronavirus early led to the lockdowns, which contributed to restlessness and social-starvation that contributed to the protests, which will lead to mitigating the government's incompetence with respect to criminal justice."

Police Brutality on Display

June 10, 2020

Here is a Guardian headline: "Protests about police brutality are met with wave of police brutality across US." That's about right. I've seen video after video of police needlessly assaulting peaceful protesters and journalists. Ironically, the police themselves, because of their often-despicable behavior regarding the protests, have catalyzed the movement for reforming the police.

The Rarity of Intelligence

June 10, 2020

"Intelligent life is probably rare and slow to emerge, suggesting it might not re-appear." Or so argues David Kipping.

Denver Considers Zoning Reform

June 11, 2020

Denver councilor Robin Kniech brought up "the other systems that co-reinforce that racism," Conor McCormick-Cavanagh reports. He explains, ". . . such as the Denver zoning code. 'We are one of the most restrictive cities in the country,' the councilwoman says about only two unrelated adults being allowed to live together." He wrote a related article about this a couple weeks ago. While we're at it, how about allow more building with fewer restrictions?

'A Playground for Rogue Cops'

June 11, 2020

This is a portrait of a failed and corrupt policing system in Minneapolis.

Objectivists on the Protests

June 11, 2020

People who follow Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism may be interested in a recent video featuring Objectivist scholars discussing the protests. Of interest to me is a difference in emphasis between "second generation" Objectivist Peter Schwartz and "third generation" Objectivists Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri. Schwartz argues that the Black Lives Matter movement is essentially bad because it promotes the overthrow of capitalism, a generalized "white guilt," and the defunding of police. Ghate and Salmieri argue that some people sympathetic to the movement have legitimate concerns regarding police abuses. (With that I completely agree.) Ghate argues that an intellectual's job is to help people sort out the good from the bad aspects of a given broad movement. The speakers use environmentalism as an analogy; Objectivist discussions of libertarianism and religion also are pertinent.

What should people do, rather than support the Black Lives Matter movement? The speakers say support individualism and capitalism, explain the proper purpose of government, support objective law, and promote sensible police reforms toward protecting people's rights. Objectivists generally are on board with ending the war on drugs and reining in asset forfeiture, among other specific reforms.

Salmieri notes that a philosophic perspective integrates the more-concrete concerns of the day with abstract principles. Ghate notes that rising racism on both right and left is part of a general cultural trend toward collectivism, tribalism, and irrationalism. The speakers agree that intellectual intimidation is a growing problem in our culture. Toward the end the speakers delve into some of the problems of finding good research on particular issues such as police abuses.

Colorado Dems Seek to Tax and Regulate Businesses More

June 11, 2020

Mark Hillman criticizes a Colorado bill to alter business tax deductions.

Kelly Sloan also discusses that bill. He also discusses bills to expand workers compensation and sick leave (related to COVID-19) and to "eliminate a landlord's ability to collect rent or evict non-payers for 120 days."

"26 business groups implore Colorado lawmakers to hit brakes on bills that could bring 'eye-popping costs' to employers."

Massive Medicaid Expansion

June 11, 2020

The chickens have come home to roost in a huge way with the federal government pushing health insurance into an employer-paid model. "Colorado is preparing for a breathtaking spike in people enrolling in Medicaid, about half of a million people."

Racial Bias in Traffic Stops

June 11, 2020

"Blacks, who are pulled over more frequently than whites by day, are much less likely to be stopped after sunset, when 'a veil of darkness' masks their race." The article is based on analysis from the Stanford School of Engineering. An earlier article reports "police stopped and searched black and Latino drivers on the basis of less evidence than used in stopping white drivers."

Price Fixing of Generic Drugs Alleged

June 11, 2020

"An ongoing probe by numerous states widened with a new lawsuit accusing more than two dozen drug makers and several individuals of a widespread conspiracy to fix prices on generic medicines." My position is that "price fixing" per se ought not be criminalized. However, government does have a legitimate role to play in preventing fraud. Also, I don't know much about the patenting rules by which drugs become "generic."

Colorado Abortion Measure Makes Ballot

June 11, 2020

"Colorado voters will be asked in November to ban abortions at 22 weeks of pregnancy," except "if a woman's life is endangered." I have not yet read the language.

John Oliver on Police Reform

June 11, 2020

John Oliver does a good job reviewing many of the important aspects of police reform. He goes hard on police unions, which often cover for abusive cops. He talks about the difficulties of successfully suing abusive cops because of "qualified immunity." He talks about fundamental police reformation as in Camden. He points out that "defund the police" doesn't actually mean defund the police; it means spending less on police and more on other "community safety" measures. One problem is that he cites statistics showing disproportionate police responses involving minorities without accounting for possible disproportionate criminality among (a tiny subset) of minorities. Another big problem is that he ends with a clip that rationalizes destroying the property of innocent parties. The answer to injustice is justice, not more injustice.

Europe Hits Amazon with Antitrust Action

June 11, 2020

"Amazon to Face Antitrust Charges From EU Over Treatment of Third-Party Sellers." Allegedly Amazon scoops "up data from third-party sellers and using that information to compete against them." To me, properly this is strictly a contractual matter. Is Amazon violating the terms of contracts? If not, it's none of the government's legitimate business. If third parties wish to insist on such terms as a condition of doing business with Amazon, they are free to do so.

Much Ado about Rowling

June 11, 2020

I don't understand why "we" can't reach widespread agreement that a) humans generally are a sexually dimorphous species on a biological level that reproduces by males impregnating females, and b) many individual humans fit on a gender or sexual spectrum, not in usual male-female boxes. Why either of those propositions, which seem obvious to me, are up for debate in our culture is beyond me. But they are. Or at least people viciously talking past one other about the issue is a common pastime.

It's not clear to me that J. K. Rowling is denying either of those obvious truths; nevertheless, she has taken a great deal of heat for allegedly denigrating transgender women. And so of course she is the devil. Meanwhile, Colin Wright, in "defending" Rowling, seems to me to be denying the "spectrum" side of the issue. Here's what Rowling has to say on the matter. Perhaps I too shall be cast into Hell for linking to her essay and thereby encouraging Thoughtcrime.

QAnon Goes to Washington

June 12, 2020

"QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has frequently posted messages about the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy theory on social media, handily leads the primary field of Republicans in Georgia's heavily Republican 14th District." This is easy to mock but it actually indicates a degradation of American culture. Note that she ran partly on a law-and-order platform.

You Have Entered the Autonomous Zone

June 12, 2020

"Claims that bands of militant Antifa members are roving the Seattle streets appear to be grossly exaggerated in right-wing media," CNN reports. It would be nuts to think that! "It is true that demonstrators have occupied a small, six-square block section of Seattle and designated it an 'autonomous zone.' And it is true that, after clashes with police, a precinct was boarded up and evacuated in an attempt to deescalate the situation." Move along, nothing to see here . . .

Governor Jay Inslee assures us, "The area is largely peaceful." It has a nickname: CHAZ, for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

The New York Times has a piece about this.

Emily Pothast has a leftward take on CHAZ.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis

June 12, 2020

This mosquito-born virus is hard to contract, but those who do contract it do very badly, with 40% dying and many of the rest suffering "neurological impairment for years to come."

Residential Fire Pits

June 12, 2020

Many people seem to think it's perfectly okay to burn wood in outdoor yard fire pits in the context of medium-density residential neighborhoods. I'm of a different view. I think they're quite polluting, they harm people health, and they interfere with neighbors' reasonable use of their property. I'm not saying they should be banned—although I think a reasonable argument could be made that they should—but I definitely think people should opt for gas (propane) fires instead. Some people will say that's nannyist; I say your right to emit smoke ends where my nose begins.

Racist Covenants in Denver

June 12, 2020

Kristin Jones writes, "At the time, it was legal for housing covenants to specifically bar non-white residents from renting or owning homes—and they did, routinely. University of Denver law professor and historian Tom I. Romero, II, JD, PhD, has collected racially restrictive covenants from Denver neighborhoods like Bonnie Brae, Clayton, Crestmoor, Regis Heights and many others, including this one established in the southwest Denver subdivision of Burns Brentwood in 1949: 'Only persons of the Caucasian race shall own, use or occupy any dwelling erected upon said lots of tracts.'" Hat tip Tina Griego.

Incidentally, Griego covers many other interesting (distressing) facts about Colorado past and present. She points out that the school system and zoning laws disproportionately disadvantage minorities (a libertarian-friendly point). She also reminds us, via Donna Bryson, that Denver bulldozed the largely-Latino neighborhood in the 1960s to make way for the Auraria college campus.

Colorado Price Controls

June 12, 2020

Colorado Senator Mike Foot bragged, "My last bill ever in the [Colorado legislature] just passed and is on its way to the [governor of Colorado]. It adds consumer protections for Coloradans against price gouging during disaster emergencies." I replied, "This is incredibly stupid. Price controls cause shortages, which are especially damaging in times of emergency. Don't hurt people, [Governor]; veto this knee-jerk bill."

Denver Police Out of Denver Schools

June 12, 2020

The Denver Board of Education voted to remove Denver police officers from Denver schools. I think that's a good thing, especially given nothing is preventing the board from hiring their own security personnel.

David Sachs reports, "Denver's in-school officers ticketed and arrested over 4,500 students over the span of five school years between 2014 and 2019, according to the resolution. Eighty percent of the students were Black and Latinx, according to Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, a group concerned with educational equity that has led the movement against in-school policing for more than a decade." I find it very hard to believe 4,500 students really needed to be ticketed or arrested at school. (However, Sach's and Melanie Asmar's claims about racially disparate treatment don't account for possible disparate misbehavior.)

Lockdowns Coming Again?

June 12, 2020

Eric Feigle-Ding warns, "Cases are rising in nearly half the states. They all had lockdowns lifted. Most have rising percent positivity too. (I.e., it's not just more testing). Unless governors are insane, lockdowns coming again—not if, but when." He refers to an AP article. I sincerely hope he's wrong. I hope that it's not too late to ramp up mask wearing, testing, contact tracing, and effective isolation of the infected.

Notably, Colorado (largely) reopened and also had extensive protests, and our case, death, and hospitalization numbers look not too bad (although not awesome by Pacific Rim standards).

Less-Lethal Munitions in Colorado

June 12, 2020

Conor McCormick-Cavanagh has a good rundown on the less-lethal munitions used by Colorado law enforcement agencies at protests. Offhand, I don't think police should be using chemical weapons. I won't say there's no legitimate use for things like bean-bag rounds and rubber pellets, but their use should be tightly restricted. Obviously using any of this on peaceful protesters or journalists is outrageous.

Alternatives for Mental Health Calls

June 12, 2020

One of the reforms people commonly talk about is sending in mental-health experts rather than police for certain calls. Makes sense to me. Eugene, Oregon has had such a program for decades. And there's a new program in Denver along these lines called Support Team Assisted Response.

Boogaloo Bugaboo

June 12, 2020

"The Far-Right Boogaloo Movement Is Trying to Hijack Anti-Racist Protests for a Race War." Mark Pitcavage counters, "Not very accurate. Most boogaloo are not white supremacist but anti-gov't/anti-police (or anti-left) and the ones who were at the protests were trying to make common cause with others they perceived angry at police. They weren't seeking a 'race war.'" Still alarming.

Pueyo on Lockdowns

June 12, 2020

Tomas "Hammer and Dance" Pueyo is back. He asks, "Should we aim for herd immunity like Sweden?" I'm convinced we shouldn't. Even Sweden seems convinced now. Granted, I was more open to the idea initially, when I thought Sweden was much further along the path to herd immunity than was the case. But that doesn't imply that Pueyo's own lockdown-then-manage (hammer and dance) strategy is optimal either.

Pueyo points out that most countries that "crushed the virus" in fact imposed lockdowns. To his credit, he lists five that did not: Cuba, Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, and South Korea. He writes, "All [are] islands (South Korea is de facto an island since its only ground border is with North Korea and it's sealed) and all five had advanced methods to deal with the virus. Taiwan and South Korea took all the right preventative measures, as did Cuba. Japan had massive mask wearing and a strong healthcare network with contact tracing experience. Iceland went straight into dancing, testing a massive share of the population (around 17%) and isolating all the positive cases." He discusses Hong Kong elsewhere, which, notably, is not an island.

Here's something odd about his Chart 7, though, which shows "countries that beat the coronavirus." The only thing that matters to Pueyo here is whether a country's infection line goes up quickly and then comes down quickly; he doesn't care what the magnitude of the peak is. Hence, he includes countries with almost no COVID deaths, such as New Zealand, with countries with incredibly high COVID deaths, such as Italy, Spain, and Belgium. Indeed, Belgium has the absolutely highest rate of deaths per million. I'm pretty skeptical of any approach that treats New Zealand and Belgium equally as success stories.

This bit is interesting: "For countries that applied very heavy Hammers, their case growth stops around two weeks after the Hammer." But not so fast. Pueyo's Chart 8 shows that, in New York and Spain, social mobility declined steadily headed into the lockdown and and pretty much bottomed out around the time the lockdowns went into effect. So there are two ways to interpret this. 1. "The lockdowns themselves didn't cause the reduction in cases; the lockdowns and the increased social distancing both were caused by public fear of the disease." 2. "The lockdowns did something important on top of measured social distancing to slow the disease." (See my May 22 updates for a discussion of some of the causal complexities involved.)

Granted, it's easier to stop a disease on an island. Given that, the interesting question is, is it possible for other countries to stop a disease without lockdowns? Some people claim that just universal mask wearing can bring the effective reproduction rate under 1. I'm convinced that, if the U.S. had had an effective hygiene-test-trace-isolate strategy from the outset, along with moderate social distancing, lockdowns and intense social distancing could have been avoided. In Pueyo's terms, you don't need a hammer to dance.

Pueyo comes close to granting this. He writes, "The Hammer and the Dance was meant for countries that were overwhelmed with cases and didn't know how to handle the situation, to limit the outbreak while figuring out what to do. But now we know what to do. We can keep the economy open and reduce the caseload, the way South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam or Hong Kong have been able to. Many measures can be taken to stop the coronavirus, including testing, contact tracing, isolations, quarantines, universal masks, hygiene, physical distancing, public education, sewage testing, travel restrictions and crowds restrictions. All countries should apply these measures, since they're mostly proven, much cheaper, and can dramatically reduce the epidemic. . . . Whether it's admitting it or not, the US is pursuing a Herd Immunity strategy. At this point, it's not realistic to apply new lockdowns everywhere. Thankfully, they're not needed: States can apply all the measures mentioned above. They're affordable and doable. Dozens of countries are doing it, many US states are doing it too."

The Absurd Canceling of David Shor

June 12, 2020

Here's how David Shor summarized a 2017 paper by Princeton's Omar Wasow: "Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests increase Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage." Here's how Wasow responded: "Thank you for reading the paper so closely. And, for anyone interested in latest versions, see [here]." So. . . this is great, right? Intellectual discussion on Twitter!

The story takes a depressing turn, Jonathan Chait reviews: "In certain quarters of the left—though not among Democratic elected officials—criticizing violent protest tactics is considered improper on the grounds that it distracts from deeper underlying injustice, and shifts the blame from police and other malefactors onto their victims." After taking criticism, "Shor apologized for tweeting Omar's paper." And Civis Analytics, where Shor worked, fired Shor over the Thoughtcrime.

Chait goes on to criticize the illiberalism of parts of the American left. Obviously illiberalism now dominates much of the American "right."

Brink Lindsey on Libertarians and Pandemics

June 12, 2020

Brink Lindsey rightly points out that libertarianism (at least a dominant form of it) is anti-government: "The modern libertarian movement . . . is dedicated to the proposition that the contemporary American state is illegitimate and contemptible. In the libertarian view, government is congenitally incapable of doing anything well, the public sphere is by its very nature dysfunctional and morally tainted."

Lindsey finds the libertarian position obviously absurd and argues we obviously need effective government: "When public safety is threatened, whether by war or disease, our dependence on government becomes immediately and viscerally obvious. There are no Centers for Disease Control in the private sector. There is no possibility of swiftly identifying the virus, and launching a crash program to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines, without massive government support for medical research. And for those tests, treatments, and vaccines to be effective, their distribution cannot be restricted by ability to pay; government must step in to ensure wide availability. In addition, vigorous use of the government's emergency powers—banning large public gatherings, temporarily shutting down schools and businesses, issuing stay-at-home orders, quarantining the sick and those exposed to them—has been needed to help contain the outbreak. When a highly contagious and fatal disease can spread before its victims even show symptoms, the libertarian ethos of personal responsibility—do what you want, and bear the consequences for good or ill—leads not to mass flourishing but to mass death. Only the government has the power and resources to internalize the externalities of contagion and coordinate a rational response."

The problem is that Lindsey pitches a large and aggressive positive-welfare government as the only alternative to no government.

The Objectivists (who very strongly reject libertarianism) have laid out a reasonable third path. One Objectivist publication runs the article, "'Big Government' Is Not the Problem." The idea is that government needs to vigorously protect people from others who would harm them. More recently, Objectivists have argued that government has a legitimate role to play in keeping people safe from others carrying infectious diseases (see video conversations involving Gregory Salmieri, Amesh Adalja, Yaron Brook, and Ben Bayer). So government is perfectly within its proper guardrails in providing testing, setting up quarantines, and so on. I do think this line of thinking generates a lot of questions in terms of where to properly draw the lines delimiting government action.

Lindsey asserts that a free market could not otherwise counter a pandemic, but he just presumes this without evidence or serious argument. I want to offer a few reasons to think he might be wrong.

  1. Bill Gates has spent enormous sums of money fighting infectious diseases around the world, now including COVID-19. Tyler Cowen leads a group to provide fast grants to researchers working on the problem. So it is obviously not the case that only government can address externalities in this positive way (as opposed to strictly playing a protective role). The interesting question is whether government is needed at all for it, and, if so, to what degree.
  2. Firms have enormous financial incentives to stay open. The problem is that, in most cases, private testing has been literally illegal. The CDC and FDA derailed early testing efforts. In Colorado, only recently (within the past few weeks) could people get tested for COVID-19 without a doctor's prescription, and testing was limited to people with symptoms. You can't outlaw private testing and then blame the market for not providing private testing.
  3. Largely through a system of state laws, American government has imposed serious price controls during emergencies. This substantially throttles the market response and arguably is largely to blame for shortages in masks and other important products.
  4. Government has so royally screwed up health payments by turning health insurance largely into an employer-paid and prepaid system that it's really absurd to measure a free healthcare market by today's mostly-government-controlled "market."

Crazy about Antifa

June 13, 2020

Consider this Colorado headline: "Roofing company workers forced onto ground, held at gunpoint by man who thought they were Antifa." One of the victims plays football for Colorado State. Anyone want to guess where the guy with the gun gets his news?

Fox Runs Altered Images

June 13, 2020

"Fox News published digitally altered and misleading photos on stories about Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in what photojournalism experts called a clear violation of ethical standards for news organizations," writes Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times. Fox literally put someone in a photograph who was not really at the scene. Obviously that's bad and unprofessional. But what struck me about this lede, aside from its important news, was Brunner's presumption that he couldn't just come out and state the obvious fact that running manipulated images is unethical. He had to couch the statement as sourced to "photojournalism experts." That's the sort of thing that strikes me as faux-objectivity.

Cautious Optimism about Protests and COVID-19

June 13, 2020

Protests in Minnesota don't seem to have resulted in a spike in COVID-19 illnesses so far. Looking at the state's data, cases seem to be headed down, as do hospitalizations. But the numbers remain worrisome, as hospitalizations haven't declined by much, and daily reported deaths remain relatively high (with 25 as of the last update). I'll be interested to see real studies that evaluate whether the protests led to any measurable uptick in cases.

Fix the Trial Penalty

June 13, 2020

Here is what the Sixth Amendment says: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

In today's America the right to a jury trial is blatantly abused by absurdly unjust plea bargain deals. Basically, prosecutors threaten, and corrupt legislators and judges let them threaten, wildly disproportionate punishment if someone goes to a jury trial and loses. This is morally evil and an affront to the United States Constitution.

Right now people can watch a new documentary on the problem, The Vanishing Trial. "Don't forget to join our virtual panel discussion on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 7:00 PM ET featuring Sakira Cook, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Brittany K. Barnett, Buried Alive Project, Clark Neily, Cato Institute, and Norman Riemer, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The panel will be streamed via Facebook Live on both the FAMM and NACDL Facebook pages."

Sam Harris on Policing

June 13, 2020

Sam Harris makes some eminently reasonable points about the current moment, which of course means that he probably will be pilloried. He argues (among other things) 1) various police reforms obviously are needed, 2) good policing is crucially important, 3) rioting and looting is immoral and politically dangerous (as it gives Trump a campaign issue). But I think Harris is overly worried about the breakdown of civil society. America has almost always had this sort of unrest. White mobs literally used to enforce a reign of terror against black people in this country; we're nowhere near that level of chaos. I think (or hope) there's a lot more consensus around these issues than what Harris presumes.

Harris points out that violent crime as well as police violence are down dramatically over the past quarter century. He also points out that by important measures police violence is not especially worse against minorities. But I think this largely misses the point. Much of the problem is not measured by easily accessed statistics, as many instances of racist and abusive policing aren't even reported or recorded. And I think a big part of what's driving the protests is the recognition is that policing often is bad across the board. It's not like all black cops are angels or cops only abuse black people.

Harris also makes the point that many of the now-infamous videos and cases of police violence are not as clear-cut as many assume. Granted. And, granted, the police officers who killed George Floyd almost certainly did not intend to kill him. But they reasonably should have known that putting that sort of weight on him, including the knee to the neck, easily could have killed the man, as it did.

Harris makes the really important point that a police officer, who has a gun on the hip, cannot afford to be overpowered. We should interpret arrests with that in mind. At the same time, I add, we should also recognize that cops now reflexively repeat, over and over, "stop resisting," regardless of the behavior of the person being arrested, to cover any misuse of force on the part of the officer.

Harris has a great line: "The problem is that these no-knock raids are an obscenely dangerous way of enforcing despicably stupid laws."

Harris hopes for a future, the same future that Martin Luther King Jr. hoped for, in which "the color of a person's skin really doesn't matter." A "post racial future."

Harris closes with some powerful words. He worries about the person "who has rendered him or herself incapable of dialogue . . . who will not listen to reason, who has no interest in facts, who can't join a conversation that converges on the truth, because he knows in advance what the truth must be." He adds, "The only thing that makes conversation possible is an openness to evidence and arguments, a willingness to update one's view of the world when better reasons are given."

Polis to Sign "Landmark" Colorado Police Reform Bill

June 13, 2020

Governor Jared Polis stated, "My statement on the passage of SB20-217 Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity: I commend the sponsors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for their efforts to pass this landmark reform bill. This is about a pattern of injustice and unfair treatment that Black Americans and communities of color have endured, not only in our criminal justice system but also in aspects of every day life. Coloradans should be proud our state is leading the way to make policing more accountable, restore trust in law enforcement, uphold an individual's civil liberties, and lay the groundwork for future discussions of criminal and juvenile justice reform. I am honored to be here at this moment of time, alongside so many passionate Coloradans on the journey towards a more equal, more just, and more peaceful society as I sign SB20-217 when it reaches my desk."

Ryan Severance has a tight summary: "Provisions include mandating body cameras; requiring public reporting on policing; reining in use of deadly force by officers; preventing the rehiring of bad actors; holding individual officers liable for their actions; and restricting the use of chemical agents and projectiles." I think the liability piece is the most important.

"This is, in my estimation, the largest single advancement of individual civil rights and liberties for Coloradans in a generation," says Qusair Mohamedbhai (as reported by Saja Hindi).

U.S. Arrests

June 13, 2020

Police arrest over ten million people in the U.S. every year (the number for 2018 is 10,310,960). So here's my question: How many of those arrests are actually necessary? How many are for bogus "crimes" like drug possession and sales? How many are for stupid things like, effectively, "pissing off a cop"? My guess is that fewer than half of those arrests are necessary, but I don't know.

Policing Is Hard

June 13, 2020

Sam Harris makes the excellent point that most people simply have no idea what it's like to try to contain a genuinely violent person. Police face the special problem that they usually openly carry a handgun on their hip. So if an officer is overpowered, the aggressor can take the cop's gun and do extreme damage with it.

Here's an idea I Tweeted: "Police should think about inviting journalists and community activists to participate in police training. Policing really is an extremely difficult job, and most people can't easily grasp what's it's like to try to contain a violent person."

Amy Swearer adds: "Having had the unique opportunity to participate in police use-of-force simulation training, I whole heartedly agree. There are two sides to this coin—policing is incredibly difficult work that few civilians fully understand, AND bad cops need to be held accountable. I would also argue that it's precisely because policing is so difficult that we should be investing in better/longer training and incentivizing more highly educated, well-rounded individuals into police work. We have to treat it like the professional career it should be." Amen to all that.

System of a Down on Criminal Justice Reform

June 13, 2020

I was amazed to find this 2001 "Prison Song" by System of a Down, which a Facebook friend pointed to. The lyrics are a complex call for criminal justice reform: "All research and successful drug policies show / that treatment should be increased / And law enforcement decreased while abolishing / mandatory minimum sentences."

La Mulâtresse Solitude

June 13, 2020

This is an amazing (if horrifying) story and an amazing work of art commemorating it:

"A revolution of enslaved plantation laborers in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) begun in August 1791 forced France to legally abolish slavery in its colonies less than three years later. By 1802, however, Napoléon's forces sought to resurrect the sugar-based economies of Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe, and other French holdings in the Caribbean by re-enslaving freedpeople who had been living as French citizens for eight years. Africans and their descendants fiercely resisted French forces—successfully in Saint-Domingue, unsuccessfully in Guadeloupe. Though little is known of her early life, [La Mulâtresse] Solitude is celebrated as a heroine in Guadeloupe for her role in that struggle for lasting freedom in 1802. . . . Solitude, now pregnant, mobilized her followers to join the forces of Louis Delgrès against the French military. They struggled until they were surrounded and outnumbered by the French troops. . . . Solitude survived and was captured and detained in Basse-Terre prison. The French military brought Solitude and the other survivors before a military tribunal, which sentenced them all to death. Solitude was temporarily pardoned until she gave birth to her child, who became the legal property of her owner. One day after delivering her baby, on November 28, 1802, Solitude was executed. She was thirty years old."

The statue (see also here) in her memory is spectacular; it shows a strong, defiant pregnant woman.

Wear Masks

June 14, 2020

Widespread use of masks, by itself, could reduce the effective reproduction rate below 1.

COVID-19 in Children

June 14, 2020

What what Alasdair Munro believes: "Children almost certainly DO transmit COVID-19." How a Daily Mail headline summarizes his paper: "Experts cannot find a single child under 10 who has passed on coronavirus to an adult." Munro does say, "So where do we stand? We don't know for sure but growing evidence suggests children are less susceptible to infection, have milder infection, and are infrequently responsible for household transmission." See the paper to which he contributed. Regarding the misleading media reports, Munro adds, "Looks like many of the more reputable outlets have changed their headlines following some fairly extensive efforts from myself and the excellent media team at [the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health] yesterday."

Vincent Carroll on Policing

June 14, 2020

Vincent Carroll, Colorado's greatest living columnist, points out that he has long advocated various police reforms. "But that doesn't mean I have to buy into today's simplistic pieties that cops, as a rule, are bigoted and brutal, that nothing has changed in 40 years and that it's easy to identify suspects who pose little threat," he writes. He relies heavily on data of Colorado police shootings compiled by CPR to put events in context. I do think policing today is better than it has been in the past but that it continues to fall far short of where it should be.

Price Controls Are (Still) Stupid

June 14, 2020

Economist Michael "Munger explains that increasing prices on in-demand products serves several functions: it discourages people from buying more than they need; it tells producers to make more of this newly valuable product; and it nudges people into looking for alternatives."

In other news: "Amazon price-gouging crackdown worsened shortage of sanitizer, wipes."

Colorado Makes Vaccine Exemptions Harder

June 14, 2020

The Colorado legislature has passed a bill to make it somewhat harder for parents to exempt their children from vaccine requirements. "A clause was added exempting homeschooled children from falling under the legislation's requirements." That's appropriate. I was not a fan of the bill even though I appreciate its aims.

Nordic Prisons

June 14, 2020

Ryan Cooper writes, "Nordic sentences are rather light by American standards. Average non-life sentences for murder range from a bit under 10 years in Finland to almost 14 years in Norway. . . . By contrast, the average American murder sentence was 40 years as of 2016, and that year murder convicts had served an average of 15 years before being released. More important still, most Nordic prisons are incomprehensibly luxurious by American standards—more akin to a decently-appointed hotel, with all manner of education, worker training, and entertainment facilities."

Increase Policing

June 14, 2020

Ilya Somin summarizes the case for increasing the number of police—in conjunction with seriously reforming what police do and how they do it. He points to a 2005 paper by Jonathan Klick and Alex Tabarrok, and new article by Matthew Yglesias, and a new article by Tabarrok. Somin warns against the opposite approach: "Abolishing the police completely or severely curtailing their numbers could easily increase crime, in the process disproportionately harming the very same poor and minority communities reformers most want to help."

Sullivan on Debate

June 14, 2020

Andrew Sullivan worries about "living in a world where adherence to a particular ideology becomes mandatory." He writes, "The puritanical streak of shaming and stigmatizing and threatening runs deep. This is the country of extraordinary political and cultural freedom, but it is also the country of religious fanaticism, moral panics, and crusades against vice."

I think Sullivan is a bit unfair to Wesley Lowery, saying that Lowery's focus on "moral clarity" implies not seeing "all sides of a story." Well, no one thinks it's a good idea to equally consider all sides of a given story, when some people still claim the Earth is flat. And claims about "objectivity" in journalism usually are pretty nuanced, as I've reviewed. (I think it's a mistake to reject objectivity, but I also think that most journalists who think they reject objectivity simply misuse the term.)

Sullivan is rightly concerned about those who, like Lowery, see racism at work everywhere. The American experiment, says Lowery, was "designed to perpetuate racial inequality." Obviously the Constitution was developed out of a compromise between Abolitionists and slave holders. But the essential American principle, articulated in the Declaration, is that all people are created equal. Sullivan grants "there is truth" in Lowery's claim but thinks "there is also an awful amount of truth it ignores or elides or simply denies." I think that's fair.

Sullivan worries about the view that sees America as inherently and irredeemably corrupt: "It sees America as in its essence not about freedom but oppression. It argues, in fact, that all the ideals about individual liberty, religious freedom, limited government, and the equality of all human beings were always a falsehood to cover for and justify and entrench the enslavement of human beings under the fiction of race. It wasn't that these values competed with the poison of slavery, and eventually overcame it, in an epic, bloody civil war whose casualties were overwhelmingly white. It's that the liberal system is itself a form of white supremacy — which is why racial inequality endures and why liberalism's core values and institutions cannot be reformed and can only be dismantled."

Sullivan says that what we need beyond moral clarity is "moral complexity."

The Tanya McDowell Case

June 14, 2020

Tanya McDowell got five years in prison for sending her child to the "wrong" school district and for drug charges. Obviously that's obscene. But it's not accurate to say the sentence was just because of the school. She also had a previous criminal record for bank robbery.

This is What Media Bias Looks Like

June 14, 2020

This is currently the top headline at the New York Times (online): "Atlanta Police Chief Resigns After Officer Shoots and Kills Black Man." And at CNN: "Officer fatally shoots black man, then protests turn fiery in Atlanta." Is there any evidence, whatsoever, that race had anything, whatsoever, to do with this case? Not that I've seen. These headlines obviously are intended to inflame current tensions. The Times does add in a subhead: "Video appeared to show [Rayshard] Brooks firing a Taser at an officer." Think about this, for just a second, from the police officers' point of view. As a police officer, you carry a loaded firearm on your hip. Can you maintain control of your firearm if you are tased? No responsible cop will risk putting a gun in the hands of an obviously violent and out-of-control individual. Now, is there some alternate way that we can, in hindsight and from the safety of our couches, imagine that the cops in question could have handled this particular case, that would not have resulted in the death of the suspect or putting other people in the community at risk? Sure.

Kopel on Racist Gun Control

June 14, 2020

David Kopel argues, "Throughout U.S. history, the right to bear arms has been associated with liberty and legal equality, and gun control with the opposite." Offhand that strikes me as a bit of an overstatement, given that at various times armed white mobs brutalized black communities and others. But Kopel offers good evidence that the claim generally holds.

Kopel notes that 1619 was "the founding year for gun control in America, with a Virginia statute forbidding blacks and Indians to have arms, unless they were issued a license." Under slavery, Kopel notes, gun control targeted slaves "and sometimes . . . free blacks as well." Frederick Douglass discussed the problem of laws disarming black people. Kopel writes, "After blacks started using repeating rifles to resist lynch mobs, Florida in 1893 enacted the first American gun control specific to firearms types. It required a government license to possess" such guns.

Was George Floyd Set Up on Drug Offense?

June 14, 2020

The drug war is a moral and legal atrocity, overtly racist in origin, still racist in effect. One problem is that it heavily incentivizes dirty policing. It turns out that George Floyd "served time in state jail" for a 2004 drug offense by a lying cop.

Render on Armed Black People

June 14, 2020

Michael Render writes, "Following [Ahmaud] Arbery's death, I issued a statement urging Black people and people of color to take seriously their Second Amendment rights. I was urging people who look like me to take seriously shooting, training, and the protection of our rights. I put this statement out because the police cannot always get to you on time, and the world is not a just place. I also released these remarks because we cannot assume that everyone who wears a police uniform is just and fair." He adds, "The last thing that any of us need is more laws that will criminalize us."

Render recommends a couple of books: This Nonviolent Stuff′ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, by Charles E. Cobb Jr.; and Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, by Kellie Carter Jackson.

Newsroom Diversity

June 14, 2020

The Washington Post has an interesting article (by Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison). Wajahat Ali, a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, told the Post, "A culture has been sustained at the Times that is fueled by double standards, and one that marginalizes and silences the concerns of women and people of color."

It's obviously right that newspapers should strive to include people with a diversity of backgrounds. At the same time, I worry about overracializing the matter. Does anyone wish to argue that a black reporter cannot competently cover issues involving white people? Surely not. And a white reporter can fairly cover issues predominantly affecting black people. (I use these terms "white" and "black" despite the fact that they are largely arbitrary categories.) The proper point of a diverse newsroom is to make sure a paper is not leaving out important perspectives or overlooking relevant facts.

Of course, I would argue that a newsroom that hires Progressives and leftists of every color is hardly diverse in the ways that matter most.

Huemer on Police Brutality Versus Police Racism

June 14, 2020

Philosopher Michael Huemer argues, "The main problem with the police is not racism. The main problem is brutality." He points out that racism is not "the main explanation for police shootings," and he offers the usual sort of evidence for this.

Huemer warns: "Why are we constantly on about racism? Because hard core ideologues can't talk about or care about any problem that isn't ideologically slanted. They can't just protest some non-ideological, non-partisan injustice." I get what he's saying here, but I would say that a concern with injustice per se is a manifestation of some ideology; I would distinguish having an ideology from being an ideologue.

Huemer also warns against media bias: "The media gives drastically disproportionate attention to police abuse of black people, as compared to police abuse of white people. One reason for this is that the media is full of left-wing people. Another reason, maybe the main reason, is the media bias toward click-bait. 'Racism' pushes people's buttons. It stimulates outrage, it makes people click, and it makes people share. Just telling a story about how an innocent person was murdered doesn't do those things. Telling a story that feeds into someone's preferred narrative about what's wrong with America — that gets people to click and share. That is what the media cares about. They are not in the business of trying to provide an accurate picture of our society. They're in the business of capturing attention so they can sell it. Sowing outrage and division is just a side effect of that." I think that's an overly cynical view. Media often works that way, but it's also true that many individual journalists try hard to properly contextualize their stories and to avoid sensationalism.

Huemer also has a great discussion about confirmation bias.

Finally, Huemer warns against keeping racism alive under the banner of "anti-racism." Huemer explains, "Races are just arbitrary groupings, no more morally meaningful than groupings by what day of the week one was born on. 'The white race' isn't a person and cannot owe anyone anything or be blameworthy or praiseworthy for anything. Every person is a separate individual, every one has to be evaluated based on that individual's own actions and no one else's. The problem with traditional racism was not that it misidentified which races are good and which are bad. The problem was the whole bullshit of treating individuals as representatives of a 'race.'"

Like Huemer (and like Sam Harris and like Martin Luther King Jr. and like many others), I look forward to a post-racial world. As Harris says, the color of your skin should matter no more than the color of your hair. It should be something that we simply do not pay any attention to. But there is a "here-to-there" problem. Today, many "white" people clearly are still racist against "black" people—observe the alt-right or the president of the United States. Many American laws really are racist in origin and racist in effect, and this really does have a large downstream "racial" impact. So I think there is a way in which we need to be cognizant of "race" today as we work toward a future in which people no longer are cognizant of it.

Martin Luther King Jr. on Violence

June 14, 2020

Reason has out a video, "Martin Luther King Jr.'s Unwavering Opposition to Violence Still Matters." He said, "I think for the negro to turn to violence would be both impractical and immoral." (Today of course that reference is antiquated.) The video shows clips from a 1966 interview, in which King says, "Riots are self-defeating and socially destructive."

I am glad that, overwhelmingly, the protesters of late have avoided violence. It is unsettling, though, how many "intellectuals" have vocally egged them on to violence.

We should recognize here that the context is protests versus rioting and looting. Violence in cases of actual self-defense is another matter entirely.

Education Levels of Police

June 14, 2020

Christine Gardiner writes (2017), "About one third (30.2 percent) of police officers in the United States have a four-year college degree. A little more than half (51.8 percent) have a two-year degree, while 5.4 percent have a graduate degree."

I think Bryan Caplan is probably right that much of higher education is about signalling, not actual learning, but I suspect it's the case that the sort of person who can complete a four-year degree also tends to be a better cop. So I suspect that education level correlates with quality of policing. At a common-sense level, the sort of person with the foresight and patience to jump through four years' worth of hoops probably also has the demeanor to be a good cop.

But probably better than requiring a four-year degree would simply be to psychologically profile prospective cops. Does this person have patience, emotional control, common sense, and empathy? If the answer is no, the person almost certainly will not make a good cop. We should bear in mind that it's a good idea to get good cops who grew up under difficult conditions that may have made a college education harder.

Let's not forget this crazy 2000 story: "A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city." That's absurd on its face.

King the Colorblind Radical

June 14, 2020

In a 2019 piece, Coleman Hughes calls Martin Luther King Jr. A "colorblind radical." Hughes also posts a series of quotes from King showing that he saw the civil rights "movement in nonracial, universalist terms." For example, King said, "The important thing about man is . . . not the texture of his hair or the color of his skin but the quality of his soul."

Racial Quotas at the Oscars

June 14, 2020

"To ensure more diverse representation, and in collaboration with the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the Academy will create a task force of industry leaders, appointed by David Rubin and that will include governor and A2020 Committee chair DeVon Franklin, to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars eligibility by July 31, 2020." Isn't this just racial quotas?

Horwitz on Two Versions of Social Justice

June 14, 2020

Steven Horwitz says there are basically two versions of social justice: One that calls for (more) massive "redistribution" of wealth, and one that calls for institutional reforms. He favors the latter, where, he says, "the focus is on structural and institutional causes and reforms. The belief among the adherents of this notion of social justice is that the problems faced by the least well-off are the result not of individual bad behavior by other members of society, but of deeper, institutional factors that make the resulting injustices toward the least well-off 'social' rather than individual. For example, racial disparities cannot be solved just by individuals having more enlightened views on race, but instead require deeper structural changes to political, social, and economic institutions. Working for social justice means both prioritizing the well-being of the least well-off (whether in terms of class, or race, or gender, etc.) and advocating for the structural changes that would end the injustices they face."

Here's how I would put the point. If "justice" mainly refers to the actions of the individual, "social justice" refers mainly to the social institutions that achieve, or undermine, justice for the members of that society. Insofar as the "least well-off" are made worse off by unjust institutions, of course we should care disproportionately about them (even as we can about just institutions for everyone).

In this sense, "social justice" to me is synonymous with achieving institutions protective of individual rights. What are some of ways in which our society is unjust? The drug war harms people over non-rights-violating behavior, especially minorities, and generates extreme social harms such as a violent black market and police corruption. The government-run education system often fails especially minority students. Price controls screw up labor markets. The corrupt plea bargain and sentencing systems often result in dramatic overpunishment for real crimes and lengthy prison sentences for acts that shouldn't even be crimes; this disproportionately affects minorities. Police unions and qualified immunity incentivize abusive policing, which often falls especially hard on minorities. If achieving social justice means ending institutionalized injustices, I'm all in.

Police and Race

June 14, 2020

Here I want to look at several sources on police and racism.

John McWhorter wrote a piece in 2016, "Police Kill Too Many People—White and Black." He begins by pointing out that police killing white people typically doesn't get the same media attention as police killing black people. He concludes, "We can all agree that the police kill too many innocent people, but at this point, we can disagree—as eminently reasonable minds—that the cops kill out of bigotry."

Here is the abstract of Roland Fryer's 2016 paper: "This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force—officer-involved shootings—we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings." A New York Times article reviews this study.

David J. Johnson leads a more recent (2019) study. From the abstract: "We report three main findings: 1) As the proportion of Black or Hispanic officers in a FOIS increases, a person shot is more likely to be Black or Hispanic than White, a disparity explained by county demographics; 2) race-specific county-level violent crime strongly predicts the race of the civilian shot; and 3) although we find no overall evidence of anti-Black or anti-Hispanic disparities in fatal shootings, when focusing on different subtypes of shootings (e.g., unarmed shootings or "suicide by cop"), data are too uncertain to draw firm conclusions." The authors amend a sentence of the original report as follows: "As the proportion of White officers in a fatal officer-involved shooting increased, a person fatally shot was not more likely to be of a racial minority."

Update: Lyman Stone, looking at a more-recent study, concludes, "Racial bias in police killings is real."

July 6 Update: The authors of the 2019 study requested that it be retracted. However, they stand by their original findings, only worry about people's incorrect inferences from the article.

University Dogmatism

June 14, 2020

An anonymous person claiming to be a Berkeley history professor (who knows) wrote a lengthy letter to colleagues rejecting "a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders." The history department responded, "An anonymous letter has been circulating, purportedly written by a @UCBHistory professor. We have no evidence that this letter was written by a History faculty member. We condemn this letter: it goes against our values as a department and our commitment to equity and inclusion." Yes, Berkeley is "inclusive" except of anyone who dares express an opinion outside the university's established orthodoxy.

Lowery on Institutional Corruption

June 14, 2020

Wesley Lowery writes a powerful piece on policing in America. He describes the scene shortly after the death of George Floyd: "Parts of many American cities were on fire and police officers in dozens of places were committing indiscriminate acts of violence—unleashing tear gas, rubber bullets, and worse—against the citizenry they had sworn an oath to serve and protect."

Here is the key issue: "For years, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand a wholesale reimagining of the criminal-justice system." He anticipates, "for the first time in our nation's history, a reality in which black people aren't routinely robbed of their livelihoods and lives by armed government agents." So far, he's not saying anything that any of my libertarian friends wouldn't say. I have long thought that America's criminal justice system is in many ways horrifically unjust.

Lowery asks, "What if the activists are right, and the solution is to dismantle American criminal justice and build something better? What might that look like?" He writes about "defunding and dismantling police departments, and ultimately abolishing American policing as it is currently constructed." It's entirely unclear to me what this actually means. It sounds like empty utopianism. Nor is it consistent with the meaningful reforms we know are needed: end qualified immunity, end police union contracts that protect bad cops, reform the plea bargain system and the sentencing system, end the death penalty, and so on.

Lowery writes (nominally attributing the view to others) that "the entire American experiment was from its inception designed to perpetuate racial inequality." Andrew Sullivan addresses this, as I discuss.

Light Bulb Spying

June 14, 2020

Whoa: "Spies can eavesdrop by watching a light bulb's variations."

San Francisco Police Alternatives

June 14, 2020

This sounds great to me: "San Francisco police officers will be replaced with trained, unarmed professionals to respond to calls for help on noncriminal matters involving mental health, the homeless, school discipline and neighbor disputes."

Somin on Writing an Academic Book

June 14, 2020

Ilya Somin has a nice article out about writing an academic book, and much of the advice is relevant to writing any nonfiction book.

Update: See also Somin's second part, mainly about publishers. He writes, "Even the most famous presses publish some mediocre books (or worse). And there are truly outstanding books that get published by little-known presses. On average, however, there is a rough correlation between the ranking of the publisher and the quality of books and authors they typically get, even if that correlation is far from perfect."

Scapegoating Is Not Justice

June 15, 2020

CNN has the headline, "Atlanta protester explains why only the Wendy's was burned during protests." Joseth Jett "explained," "I do feel bad about people who have lost their job, but at the same time, we burned this building and not any other building around here. We burned this one specifically because of what happened here. . . . This goes back to what our mission is, making sure that there is justice served for the person that died over here at this Wendy's." That is totally insane. Burning down a restaurant that is incidentally where police fatally shot a man (a man who violently attacked the police) is not achieving justice for anyone. This is straight-up scapegoating. And it is exactly the mentality by which white mobs used to riot in black neighborhoods. And we're supposed to somehow think well of these domestic terrorists because they didn't burn down even more buildings? (Note: I have no idea whether Jett actually was involved in burning down the restaurant; I refer to anyone who was involved.)

I don't know who called 911. "A 911 caller had alerted police that a man had fallen asleep in the restaurant's drive-thru lane," reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Maybe the caller worked at the restaurant, maybe not. Regardless, it was a perfectly reasonable call to make.

Those interested can watch the bodycam footage of the event. The suspect admits to driving after drinking alcohol, and he violently attacks the police as they attempt to arrest him. I am willing to entertain that officers could have handled the situation differently at that point, but to pretend that this is fundamentally an event about racism is insane.

Incidentally, one video (the authenticity of which I have not independently confirmed) purports to show video of a black protester saying, "Look at the white girl trying to set s**t on fire. Look at the white girl trying to burn down a Wendy's. This wasn't us. This wasn't us."

Reading Charts

June 15, 2020

The Pacific Science Center has some great exercises for learning how charts can display data in deceptive ways. See also "Misleading axes on graphs." Hat tip Carl Bergstrom.

Colorado Klan

June 15, 2020

One of the most shameful episodes of Colorado history. . . "Clarence Morley, the Ku Klux Klan-picked Republican candidate, became Governor of Colorado in 1925. . . . [John] Locke, as Klan Grand Dragon controlled Morley as Governor, Ben Stapleton as mayor of Denver, obtained a majority in the House and Senate, elected the Secretary of State, and secured a Supreme Court Judgeship and seven benched in Denver District Court." Morley later went to prison for mail fraud. See also James H. Davis's haunting article about the Klan in Colorado.

Catholic Bingo

June 15, 2020

Here's a tidbit of Colorado history I didn't previously know: "Catholics in the northwest Denver were able to build St. Catherine of Siena parish by holding lavish and lucrative bingo parties that eventually led to the nick-naming of 'the carnival parish' in the Harkness Heights area of North Denver."

Black Man Pulls Gun in Self-Defense, Cops Arrest Him

June 15, 2020

Five people harass and assault a black man. The black man calls police. Before police (sheriff's deputies) show up, the black man pulls his gun to defend himself. And then guess what happened: "When the deputies arrived, they took the handgun from McCray, went back and talked to his antagonists, and then, without getting his side of the story McCray said, they arrested him." Thankfully, the sheriff's department finally got its act together, dropped the charges against the black guy, and arrested the actual criminals.

Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ Workers Protected

June 15, 2020

Walter Walker's Sin and Reform

June 15, 2020

Colorado Mesa University's Walker Field will be renamed. The airport in Grand Junction used to be called Walker Field, and its address remains Walker Field Drive. So who is Walter Walker? Dan West reviews, the president of the college, Tim Foster (a former Republican legislator) said Walker is "the leader of the Grand Junction Klan, the founder of the Grand Junction Klan." West writes, "According to interviewees from the Mesa County Oral History Project, Walker helped bring the Ku Klux Klan to Grand Junction and was a member. He later turned against the group and published editorials in the Daily Sentinel attacking the KKK and was even the target of violence from Klan members." On one hand, I have no problem with changing the name of the field due to Walker's sins. On the other hand, I hope that we don't lose the lesson of Walker's reform.

A Daily Sentinel editorial provides important context: "Walter Walker . . . was the second owner and publisher of The Daily Sentinel who helped establish Mesa Junior College and the local veterans hospital, built The Avalon and brought air service to Grand Junction. . . . He was also responsible for bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Grand Junction in the 1920s. . . . Noel Kalenian provides a thoughtful treatment of Walker's story [here] based, in part, on audio recordings of interviews with Walker's contemporaries included in the Mesa County Oral History Project housed at the Mesa County Libraries. . . . The Klan was proving to be a political force in Colorado — and across the country — in the 1920s. Prohibition provided the Klan with a new platform to spread its anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant, white Protestant nationalist rhetoric. It promised to clean up communities and rid them of bootleggers and moonshiners. But that's not how the Klan operated here. Beer was served at meetings. It was more of a men's social club. . . . Under Walker's leadership, the club refused to take an activist position on the Klan's tenets. But at some point, Walker was stripped of his leadership position and the club took a sinister turn. That's when Walker started writing editorials warning of an organization 'that preyed on prejudice to incite hatred,' Kalenian wrote. . . . In September 1925, several local Klan leaders including a deputy sheriff and a police officer assaulted Walker as he walked from a barber shop to his newspaper office. But that didn't stop his anti-Klan campaign and membership dwindled to insignificance by 1926."

The Sentinel may be putting a positive spin on the "social club," but its portrayal of Walker seems accurate. Here's what Kalenian says: "According to [Robert Alan] Goldberg [author of Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado, which seems to be out of print], the Western Slope's geographic isolation from Denver in an age of poor roads allowed the Klan in Grand Junction to function as a kind of social club similar to the Elk's Lodge, but with cross burnings, grotesque robes and dumb, pointy hats. Membership in the Klan was so popular among Mesa County's white Protestants that it seemed like everyone wanted to join, even people like future Oscar winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who thought about joining but didn't), Al Look and Walker. Look and Walker later started an organization called the Soup Eaters to help poor and minority children in the Grand Valley. After leaving the Klan, Walker supported the presidential candidacy of Al Smith, a Catholic. The club under Walker's leadership eschewed many of the Klan's tenets, including prohibition. In fact, Goldberg says that the Grand Junction club served beer in their meetings. The club also refused to take an activist position on immigrants, African-Americans and Catholics, and kept the small minority of Klansmen who favored action against such people at bay."

The Heroism of Patrick Hutchinson

June 15, 2020

Patrick Hutchinson, a protester in London, carried an injured white man over his shoulder to safety. He said, "You have to show some sort of love for your fellow man." He said, "I want to see equality for everybody. I am a father, a grandfather and I would love to see my young children, my young grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews have a better world than I have lived in. The world I live in has been better than my grandparents and my parents and hopefully we can continue until we have total equality for everyone." He added, "We're all one people, we're all one race."

Reform Plea Bargains

June 15, 2020

Yesterday I watched the documentary The Vanishing Trial, about America's abusive plea bargain and sentencing system. Today a panel interested in reform further discussed the relevant issues. See also the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawers document, "The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It." The University of California Press collects a variety of articles on the subject. Here is the essential problem: By threatening people with absurd and unconstitutional overpunishment if they go to trial and lose, prosecutors often coerce plea deals, even for people who are innocent.

LGBTQ Legal Protections

June 16, 2020

"Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, [Supreme Court Justice Neil] Gorsuch wrote, which bars discrimination 'because of sex,' also covers claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said, "My statement after the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers are protected from discrimination: This strong 6-3, Supreme Court ruling is a victory for LGBTQ workers and a significant step on the road to equality. We must continue to create a community where people feel safe, and loved, and valued, and respected. No person should be afraid to show the world who they are - and no LGBTQ person should risk losing their job by doing so. Colorado will continue to lead on anti-discrimination policies and my administration will continue to build a Colorado For All."

Colorado Rep. Brianna Titone also commented on decision as the legislative session wrapped up.

Ilya Somin breaks down the decision. I personally wish this matter had been resolved by Congress clarifying the relevant legal language, but of course Congress is infested mostly with moral cowards and imbeciles.

Andrew Koppelman, pointing to a 1988 paper of his, says, "I've been arguing in print, since I was a law student, that discrimination against gay people is sex discrimination. I'm glad the Supreme Court finally saw it."

Justice Thomas Dissects Qualified Immunity

June 16, 2020

Eugene Volokh summarizes, "He views the doctrine as likely not authorized by the text of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, or the legal principles that it may have implicitly absorbed; instead, he argues, it was created it just 'because of a "balancing of competing values" about litigation costs and efficiency.'"

The Institute for Justice is disappointed: "Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Cases Challenging Qualified Immunity."

Jay Schweikert's take: "The Supreme Court's Dereliction of Duty on Qualified Immunity."

Lawful but Awful

June 16, 2020

Jacob Sullum has a nuanced discussion of the police killing of Rayshard Brooks. "Officers are trained that they have the right to escalate their use of force if they believe someone is threatening to incapacitate them," notes the New York Times (as Sullum quotes).

This to me is the saddest line: "Brooks suggests that the officers allow him to lock up his car and walk to his sister's house, which is nearby. 'I can just go home,' he says." But do we want police officers to enforce drunk-driving laws, or not? If we do, that means police have to arrest drunk drivers.

This to me is the crux of the issue: Another "opportunity for de-escalation came when Brooks ran away from the cops. Instead of giving chase, [Kalfani] Turè suggests, [the officers] could have tracked him down later based on his car registration, or they could have called for more officers to help subdue him without using deadly force."

My take: The officers involved certainly should not be criminally charged. But officers certainly should be trained on how and when to deescalate.

June 18 Update: From what I can tell, the officer who killed Rayshard Brooks was charged not for shooting Brooks, but for failing to administer timely medical attention (and various other alleged offenses).

Bystanders Plead with Cops Not to Kill George Floyd

June 16, 2020

This video is very painful to watch.

Armed Does Not Mean Dangerous

June 16, 2020

Adam Bates makes an excellent point: Just because police kill someone who is armed, hardly means the killing was justified. And even if an armed person is (unjustifiably) dangerous, police should make every reasonable effort to take the person safely into custody.

Patrick Sharkey on Police and Violence

June 16, 2020

Patrick Sharkey has some insightful things to say about policing and violence. He notes that violence is devastating to a community, that more policing can reduce violence, but that alternatives to traditional policing also can reduce violence. He writes, "Every shooting in a neighborhood affects children's sleep and their ability to focus and learn. When a neighborhood becomes violent, it begins to fall apart. . . . One of the most robust, most uncomfortable findings in criminology is that putting more officers on the street leads to less violent crime." Yet: "Decades of criminological theory and growing evidence demonstrate that residents and local organizations can indeed 'police' their own neighborhoods and control violence — in a way that builds stronger communities." He's not talking about vigilantism, but things like after-school programs, summer jobs programs, and community gardens. He envisions government funding community groups to hire "conflict mediators, violence interrupters, youth outreach teams, case workers, mental health counselors, crisis response teams, maintenance and beautification crews, data analysts, liaisons to public agencies."

Adalja on Navigating the Pandemic

June 16, 2020

Infectious disease expert Amesh Adalja writes, "There are some values that are worth pursuing, even in the face of risk to oneself and to others whom one may infect. Public health officials who made that case during the protests perhaps should have communicated the message earlier — and they should be more consistent in its application." Adalja points to the double-standards of many in evaluating the anti-lockdown protests and the Black Lives Matter protests. He argues, "Physicians and policymakers must respect that different people will be willing to risk exposure for different things; such pluralism is at the heart of a liberal society."

Abusive Cop Criminally Charged

June 16, 2020

Prosecutors need to hold police officers to the same standards as everyone else. I was pleased to see, then, that a South Jersey police officer who pepper-sprayed a teen for no good reason was "charged with two counts of simple assault."

Global Tensions

June 16, 2020

"North Korea bombed inter-Korean liaison office near border amid growing tensions."

Members of the military forces of China and India are killing each other.

Critiques of Dinesh D'Souza

June 16, 2020

Kevin Kruse rounds up criticisms by various historians of the work of Dinesh D'Souza. (This is from 2019.)

Burn It All Down: Right-Wing Militia Edition

June 16, 2020

Disturbing: "Steven Carrillo, the U.S. Air Force sergeant who allegedly murdered a Santa Cruz deputy earlier this month, has been charged with a second deadly ambush of federal officers a week earlier — alongside a second man who allegedly drove the drive-by shooting van — in attacks that authorities say were driven by Carrillo's extremist, anti-law enforcement views and ties to a group that believes a second American Civil War is coming soon."

Policing over Vigilantism

June 16, 2020

Hopefully we can all agree now that professional policing is better than vigilantism, following a shooting at a New Mexico protest involving a paramilitary group.

COVID-19 Updates for June 16

June 16, 2020

Eric Feigl-Ding summarizes, "Children and teenagers are only half as likely to get infected with the coronavirus as adults age 20 and older, and they usually don't develop clinical symptoms of COVID-19. This lends support to kids returning to school in the fall." See the related Washington Post story.

An incident in in the U.S. Army suggests that a 14-day quarantine may not be sufficient to prevent subsequent infection.

I think it's a stretch to say Anthony Fauci "lied" about masks, but he certainly didn't go out of his way to clarify the matter early on, either.

"Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug." Maybe. But, even if this result holds up, it only does so much. "It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth," the BBC reports.

Julia Marcus recommends creating small social bubbles of a few friends or a couple of households, who limit their other social interactions.

Atul Gawande summarizes that two Missouri hair stylists saw 140 clients while infected with the coronavirus, but, likely because they wore masks, didn't infect anyone else.

Criminal Justice Updates for June 16

June 16, 2020

San Francisco: "District Attorney Boudin Announces New Policy Directive Not to Charge Cases That Rely on Officers with Serious Prior Misconduct."

Samuel Sinyangwe reports, "DC Council has now passed legislation to remove all limits on police discipline that were imposed by their police union contract. This is one of the first cities to do this, a major shift to limit the power of police unions."

Uhlig Gets Cancelled for Stating the Obvious

June 16, 2020

John Cochrane: "Harald Uhlig, a distingushed macroeconomist at the University of Chicago, sent out a few tweets questioning the wisdom of quickly 'defunding the police.' The twitter mob, led by Paul Krugman and Justin Wolfers, swiftly attacked. A petition circulated, reportedly gaining 500 signatories, demanding his removal as editor of the Journal of Political Economy. That petition has been taken down and I can't seem to find it to verify just who did sign it. But I saw an astonishing number of tweets from economists that I formerly respected and considered to be level headed, fact-and-logic, cause-and-effect analysts of public policies pile on. The media piled on, with coverage at New York Times, Wall Street Journal Chicago Tribune and a bit of a counterpoint at Fox News, Breitbart National Review and others. By Friday, the University of Chicago caved in and threw Harald under the bus."

Burrus on the Drug War

June 16, 2020

Trevor Burrus supports various police reforms but looks to the underlying problem that "every day, thousands of police suit up to go to war against their fellow citizens." The drug war is the single most important contributor to abusive policing and judicial injustice today.

Antitrust Debate

June 16, 2020

"Carl Shapiro and Josh Wright Debate Antitrust and Competition Policy." This is a 40-minute audio.

Theodore Johnson on Racial Injustice

June 16, 2020

This is in National Review, which is significant. Johnson recounts his own arrest when cops pulled him over on a pretext. He writes, "The creation of the black American occurred in a system that rewarded the deprivation of a black person's liberty and exacted harsh penalties when the racial order was breached. Violence was meted out at every point of enslavement, becoming the primary language in which the nation spoke to these new Americans. As they sought freedom from bondage, animated by the same spirit that had inspired a young nation to declare its independence in the summer of '76, slave patrols were established to deter uprisings, to capture those who dared to escape, and to enforce the laws and codes that further stripped black Americans of their autonomy. State-sanctioned brutality — carried out by private citizens, commissioned patrols, and state militias — was the means to keep black Americans marginalized, delivering a bastardized conception of justice that any reason, or none at all, was enough for it to be employed with impunity."

Balko on Criminal Justice

June 16, 2020

Radley Balko, one of the most important writers on abusive policing, participated in a great interview with Nick Gillespie on criminal justice reform. Balko has embraced the idea (as have I) that there really is such a thing as systemic racism particularly in the policing and criminal justice systems. Balko pushes back on the idea that capitalism is the root problem; to him (as to me) capitalism means voluntary exchange where at root you control ("own") your own body and property. In that sense, he says, slavery is the opposite of capitalism.

Colorado Government Collective Bargaining

June 16, 2020

The Colorado legislature passed a collective bargaining bill for state employees. Saja Hindi writes, "Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions, the union representing more than 28,000 state employees, called the bill a win after a 12-year fight to allow collective bargaining with the state, helping to address issues of systemic inequality for workers who have traditionally been excluded from the right to organize." Amazingly, Hindi apparently could not find a single person to criticize the bill. The basic argument against collective bargaining for state employees is that it allows government employees to negotiate with other government employees about how to spend other people's money. And state employees already constitute a solid pro-spending voting block. So the dynamics are substantially different than they are with a private business. I don't have any comments at this point specific to the bill at hand, HB20-1153.

Hazlitt on Unions

June 17, 2020

In his free-market classic, Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt rightly points out that the fundamental driver of higher wages is the productivity of labor (basically, the ability of people to produce more with better capital), not unionization or labor laws. Yet Hazlitt also points out, "The central function they [unions] can serve is to assure that all of their members get the true market value of their services." He notes that people are not always fully informed. An employee "is, individually, in a much weaker bargaining position. Mistakes of judgment are far more costly to him than to an employer." Employers often hire hundreds or thousands of people. "But if a worker mistakenly refuses a job in the belief that he can easily get another that will pay him more, the error may cost him dear. His whole means of livelihood is involved. . . . When an employer's workers deal with him as a body, however, and set a known 'standard wage' for a given class of work, they may help to equalize bargaining power and the risks involved in mistakes." But when unions get special government-backed powers, Hazlitt continues, they tend to raise (nominal) wages above market rates and cause unemployment.

The Klan in Colorado

June 17, 2020

We cannot understand the present unless we understand the past. In that spirit, I have started to look more deeply into a rotten element Colorado's past, the rise of the Klan in the '20s.

In a recent article, I look at the life and work of the remarkable Joseph H. Stuart, an African American Colorado lawyer elected to the state house (I believe) in 1894. Back then, the Republican Party still was the party of Lincoln, and most black people were Republicans.

Distressingly, the Klan rose in Colorado in the 1920s and, for a time, took over the Republican Party. James S. Davis tells this story for Colorado Magazine (1965). "Grand Dragon" John Galen Locke established the Klan in Colorado in 1922, Davis writes. By 1924, the Klan selected "almost all" of the Republican Party's candidates. By 1925, "In both the Senate and the House there was a majority of members elected from the Klan-controlled Republican party," Davis writes. Governor Clarence Morley had close ties to the Klan.

Let's pause here on Morley. The state's biography of him notes that he didn't actually enjoy many legislative successes. "Despite his apparent lack of legislative success, Morley was responsible for ratifying the Colorado River Compact, strengthening prohibition laws, developing a successful inmate labor program, and promoting legislation that allowed the state to carry its own insurance on its public buildings." He developed "a police force, that many felt, enforced the prohibition laws too aggressively." Morley was arrested in 1935 on mail fraud and later spent five years in Leavenworth. Wiki has Morley down as serving as governor from January 1925 through January 1927, after which he was succeeded by rival Democrat William "Billy" Adams. (I'm not sure how governor's terms worked back then.)

Lynn Bartels quotes a document from the Center for Colorado and the West (a document that, unfortunately, I cannot find): "His [Morley's] vitriol toward all things un-American was thinly veiled as an attack on Catholics, and further, on immigration. His goal wasn't simply to eliminate the use of demon alcohol by banning the use of sacramental wine; it was to stop key elements of Catholic practice, thus the religion itself. Morley espoused the view that if public schools weren't good enough for Catholic children, then Catholics should not teach in public schools. He agitated for the University of Colorado to fire all non-Protestant (that is, Catholic and Jewish) professors."

Ed Quillen discusses Morley, Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton, U.S. Senator Rice Means, U.S. Senator Laurence Phipps, and others in Colorado government associated with the Klan. Quillen notes (I don't know where he got this), "Colorado, in a perversely progressive way, was the only Klan realm with a women's auxiliary." Quillen notes that the '20s iteration of the Klan was inspired by the infamous and racist film, The Birth of a Nation. Quillen says the Klan's "national leader, Imperial Wizard William Joseph Simmons . . . himself went to Denver to start building the Colorado Klan" in 1921. Here is an important detail: "Dr. Clarence Holmes, president of the Denver NAACP chapter, started a drive to integrate Denver's theaters. The Klan burned a cross in front of his office and sent a threatening note, but he persisted." The Klan chased one black man out of Denver with threats and (people suspected) bombed houses. The Klan in Denver kidnapped and beat two men, Patrick Walker and Ben Laska (a Jewish lawyer). Quillen quotes Robert Alan Goldberg: "Just two Klan-endorsed bills became state law: one requiring schools to fly the American flag and the other making ownership or operation of a still a felony." (This doesn't perfectly square with Davis's account.)

Quillen writes that, in the '20s, some of Colorado's Italian "immigrants ignored Prohibition in favor of their traditional wine-making, which quickly evolved into bootlegging and violent struggles for control of the liquor trade." The Klan actively participated in sheriff-sanctioned liquor raids. However, Quillen writes, "Colorado Springs Police Chief Hugh Harper was one of the few Colorado peace officers to fight the Klan from the moment it arrived." Quillen notes, "C. C. Hamlin, publisher of the city's two leading newspapers [and a Republican], The Gazette and the Evening Telegraph . . . flayed the Klan on the front pages and the editorial pages."

Reviewing Phil Goodstein's In the Shadow of the Klan, Sandra Dallas writes, "The Klan organized boycotts of stores owned by Catholics and Jews, although many female Kluxers refused to stop patronizing Neusteter's, the high-fashion store that was owned by Jews."

Back to Davis: Davis quotes the Denver Times, January 13, 1925 (p. 1) to summarize Morley's inaugural address. (Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be part of the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection and is apparently only on microfilm at History Colorado, which seems crazy to me. It's 2020 and we're still using microfilm?) Morley laid out the following goals: "the establishment of a state reformatory for women, appropriation of funds to carry on negotiations for interstate river treaties, a minimum wage law for women, assistance in revival of the mining industry, elimination of further taxation on gasoline," and so on. Klan-inspired items "included the passage of acts excluding certain aliens from residing in the state, eliminating from the prohibition law the right to obtain intoxicating liquors for sacramental use, amending the primary election law so that members of one political party could not participate in the primaries of an opposing party, and abolishing many state boards, bureaus, and commissions." (Davis goes on to explain why the Klan favored some of these proposals.) A detail: The legislature passed a bill that "eliminated primary elections entirely," but Morley vetoed it. Although the House was friendly to Morley, Davis writes, a coalition of Democrats and disaffected Republicans blocked most of Morley's program in the Senate.

An odd detail: Morley gave a pre-inaugural address by radio, surreal to read, in which he touted Colorado's treasures and told a dumb joke about "dry farming" as not relating to Prohibition.

Another Klan aim, writes Davis, was "repealing the civil rights laws, which would allow discrimination against Negroes." (Here Davis cites the House Journal, p. 216, and the Denver Post, January 24, 1925, p. 14.)

A document from the Mesa County Library notes a curious detail: "Even people like future Oscar winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo" contemplated joining the Klan; he "thought about joining but didn't." (I have no idea what the source for that is.) Here's what IMDB says: "Of his early politics, a much older Dalton Trumbo told how he asked his father for five dollars so he could join the Ku Klux Klan, a mass organization after the First World War. He didn't get the five dollars."

See also a write-up from the Denver Library.

Denver even had it's own Klan newspaper for a few months, the Rocky Mountain American.

Westword's Conor McCormick-Cavanagh has a couple of informative write-ups on Twitter about the Klan in Colorado (one and two), specifically about Stapleton. Why did the Denver airport get named after a KKK mayor? McCormick-Cavanagh quotes Colorado state historian William Wei: "I suspect that it was, in part, a reaction to the civil-rights movement that was occurring at that time, during the mid-1960s. They came up with this way of honoring him and were implicitly opposing the efforts of civil rights." See also McCormick-Cavanagh's article in Westword.

This is some grim and distressing history to review. But review it we must, to prevent something similar from happening again.

Notes on Joseph H. Stuart

June 18, 2020

My recent article features my preliminary research on Joseph H. Stuart, Colorado's (I think) second black legislator and an extraordinary man by all accounts. Here I'm going to summarize the research from that article and add new items. Note that in some cases I'm quoting from old newspapers that used language that offends the modern ear.

Annie Nelson writes for the Denver Library, "1881—In November, John T. Gunnell becomes the first African American to sit in the Colorado Legislature." I believe that Gunnell was elected in 1880 and served a single term starting in 1881. I found almost nothing more about him. Interestingly, this source also says that Frederick Douglass's sons Lewis and Frederick Jr. lived in Denver and "established Denver's first black school." And it briefly summarizes the contributions of various other important African Americans in Denver. But it doesn't mention Stuart.

The Colorado Daily Chieftain, October 27, 1894, describes a Republican campaign event where Stuart spoke.

Various newspapers, including the Silver Cliff Rustler (December 1, 1897), mention that Stuart was "admitted to practice before the federal courts," according to the paper the first African American "to be given this privilege."

The Statesman (July 20, 1906) describes an absolutely jaw-dropping legal victory (criminal defense) of Stuart's.

And the Statesman (April 16, 1910) memorializes Stuart's death, confirming he was in the legislature.

Now for some additional sources (that I didn't mention in my article).

The Denver Library has a biography of Elizabeth Piper Ensley, who "was born the child of a former slave and spent her life fighting for women's suffrage and the rights of African Americans." The biography continues, "In 1904, Elizabeth founded the Association of Colored Women's Clubs. This was an attempt to unite various organizations around Colorado, push for greater equality, and provide educational opportunities. Part of Elizabeth's work included gaining the support of black men on issues like national women's suffrage. She even helped unite men and women of all races to elect Colorado's first [I think second] black legislator, Joseph Stuart."

An old book by R. G. Dill (p. 61) lists John T. Gunnell as part of Colorado's Third General Assembly, which squares with other information. An overtly racist article by the Leadville Democrat (February 24, 1881) says that a "Representative Gunnell, of Arapahoe," is African American.

A book by Quintart Taylor lists "Nineteenth-Century Black Western Legislators" as including John T. Gunnell (1881–83) and Joseph H. Stuart (1895–97), suggesting that each man served a single term. Another reference to both men comes in a book by (lead) Arturo J. Aldama.

A Swedish paper lists Stuart as a candidate in 1894.

The Statesman later turned on Stuart, accusing him of "treachery" (August 22, 1908) for apparently not supporting another black legislative candidate. This seems like a deeply personal dispute where the paper took the side opposite Stuart.

Apparently Stuart sought to run for the legislature again in 1906. The Statesman was highly critical of Stuart at this time (September 7, 1906).

The Colorado Daily Chieftain (November 2, 1898) discusses a rally in Bessemer (now Pueblo) where Stuart spoke. The subhead notes, "Two prominent colored speakers from Denver made stirring appeals to the audience to support the Republican ticket." The article reports, "J. J. Jennings made a stirring address to open the meeting, and he was followed by J. H. Stuart, of Denver, a prominent colored man, who is running for representative on the republican ticket in Arapahoe county. . . . He laughed at the idea of the democrats accomplishing anything that was good for the people, even the free coinage of silver."

The Colorado Daily Chieftain runs an article (February 22, 1895), reporting that, on February 21, Stuart introduced resolutions in the state house honoring Frederick Douglass, who died February 20.

The Statesman reports (November 30, 1907), "A delegation of colored lawyers called on the governor in support of Joseph H. Stuart" for a Supreme Court position, which went instead to Joseph C. Helm.

The Colorado Transcript (September 12, 1894) notes that Stuart was nominated.

Stuart participated in the State Business League (Statesman, July 31, 1909).

The Fort Collins Courier (November 15, 1894) notes Stuart was elected as representative in 1894.

On February 25, Governor Jared Polis posted the following note to Facebook (with a really outstanding photo of Stuart): "During #BlackHistoryMonth, we honor people like Joseph H. Stuart, the first African American to be elected to serve in the state's House of Representatives in 1894 and fought to end housing discrimination and other forms of racial intolerance."

The San Diego History Center has a write-up of Stuart by Robert Fikes, Jr.: "Rail connections had been completed to the east and north, and San Diego appeared to be on the verge of a population boom when Joseph Henry Stuart (1849-1910) arrived in 1890 via Kansas City, having earned his law degree at the University of South Carolina fifteen years before. The San Diego Union, a newspaper that routinely allowed biased racial terminology referring to African Americans in its headlines and articles, took notice when the ambitious 31-year-old registered with the bar [Stuart] announcing under the headline 'A Colored Attorney Admitted' [San Diego Union, January 7, 1891, p. 5]. . . . But despite some positive regional economic indicators and the presence of some determined and accomplished ex-slaves and their descendants, Stuart's year-long stay ended because a legal career could not prosper serving a 'colored' population of only 289, representing fewer than one percent of the city's residents [Robert L. Carlton, "Blacks in San Diego County, 1850-1900" (Master's thesis, San Diego State University, 1977), p. 83]. And it was particularly difficult for a black attorney to launch a successful practice in this era of egregious racial segregation when he had to prove his competence even to his own people, working solo without the advantage of professional consultation, and probably forced to do more pro bono work than he would have preferred. So Stuart, a social activist with a taste for politics, packed his bags and moved to Denver, Colorado, then with ten times the black population of San Diego, where eventually he was elected to the Colorado State Assembly and, in 1900, was privileged to sit at the table of honor with Booker T. Washington and Paul Laurence Dunbar when these celebrities visited the Mile-High City [David L. Erickson, Early Justice and the Formation of the Colorado Bar (Denver: Continuing Legal Education in Colorado Inc., 2008), pp. 97-108]."

"In 1942, Earl Mann became the second black man [I think third] elected to Colorado state office when he won a position in the Colorado state house of representatives" (Summer Marie Cherland).

J. Clay Smith, Jr. has out a book, Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844–1944, that discusses Stuart. Smith is the only source I found claiming that Stuart was elected twice to the state house. Smith says that Stuart graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1877, and on "December 1, 1891 . . . became the second black lawyer admitted to practice in Colorado," having "previously been admitted to the Kansas bar in 1883. Smith claims Stuart "was elected to the Ninth and Tenth Colorado General Assemblies as a representative from Arapahoe County. He served in this capacity from 1893 to 1897. Among Stuart's major achievements in the Colorado legislature was the sponsorship of a bill to strengthen the state's existing civil rights legislation." However, in a different section, Smith says Stuart "was elected to the state legislature in 1895."

The Herald Democrat (March 27, 1895) mentions that, on March 26, "Stuart's civil rights bill, prohibiting discrimination, passed third reading" (apparently in the state senate).

The Indicator (February 16, 1895) offers more detail about Stuart's bill: "The House then went into committee of the whole on the civil rights bill, and Mr. Stuart made an extended speech in its favor. The bill amends the law so that colored persons cannot be excluded from hotels or theaters. Mr. Stuart said that colored citizens were constantly discriminated against in Denver, confined to certain objectionable portions of the theaters, and refused a place in restaurants. The bill passed unanimously, the decision being greeted by a brisk round of applause from colored citizens who thronged the galleries. They could be seen smiling, shaking hands and congratulating each other vigorously as they filed out. The bill fixes a minimum fine of $10 and [text obscure; perhaps, a maximum fine of $200 for violations]."

The Saguache Crescent (April 4, 1895) describes House Bill "175, Stuart, an act protecting citizens in the full and equal enjoyment of privileges of inns, restaurants, barber shops, theaters, and all places of public accommodation and amusement."

Wallace F. Caldwell says that Colorado first past "public accommodations laws" in 1885. It's unclear (to me) how the law changed in 1895.

A story in the Aspen Weekly Times (November 16, 1895) discusses a case of a person who professed to discriminating against a black patron but who has let off by a jury: "John O'Riley, proprietor of the Delmonico restaurant, was placed on trial in Justice Leahy's court yesterday afternoon for having refused to permit a negro to enjoy equal advantages with white men at his boarding house. The case was heard before a jury, which, although the defendant acknowledged by his own testimony that the charges were true, returned a verdict of not guilty after half an hour's deliberation." The article goes into the trial in substantial detail.

Deneen Critiques Libertarians

June 18, 2020

Patrick Deneen begins, "Washington Post columnist George Will has added his voice to that of Brad Thompson in decrying the rise of an un-American conservative authoritarianism, represented, among others, by such thinkers as Adrian Vermeule, Sohrab Ahmari, and yours truly." It's no secret that I side with Will and Thompson.

Deneen argues that common-good Christianity, perhaps even more than Lockeanism, drove early American ideas.

Deneen then lets loose on his libertarian(ish) opponents: "Libertarianism has never been present in any actual operable political form during America's history.  Indeed, as a school of thought, a pure form of philosophical libertarianism was not a significant presence in American history until its articulation as Social Darwinism in the early 20th century—including its attraction to eugenics—and did not appear as an economic school of thought until the mid-twentieth century under the influence of several foreign thinkers, F. A. Hayek and von Mises (and later, Ayn Rand)." Well, Ayn Rand, who bristled at the comparison of her ideas to libertarianism, was a U.S. citizen, as was Mises. And anyway who cares whether ideas are "foreign"? Regarding Deneen's take on libertarianism, David Boaz asks, "Have you ever seen anybody pour more error and libel into one sentence?"

How to Be a Law Professor

June 18, 2020

William Baude explains what people should do in law school if they want to become a law professor. He says: "Go to a law school that produces law professors," "get good grades," "read widely," "start writing," "get to know your professors." Ilya Somin emphasizes the parts about writing and developing professional relationships.

Colorado Needs a Rainy Day Fund

June 18, 2020

Mark Hillman writes, "The legislature has never established a 'rainy day fund' to help offset budget cuts in hard times, making Colorado the only state without a permanent budget savings account."

This is tricky, because I don't love the idea of government setting up investment accounts, which are inherently political. Tentatively, I'd rather have an emergency tax-hike provision, but I think that would be prone to abuse.

Vandals Attack Monument to Black Civil War Soldiers

June 18, 2020

"Rioters deface monument honoring all-black regiment of Union Civil War soldiers."

Wasow on Nonviolent Versus Violent Social Movements

June 18, 2020

Omar Wasow has a lot to say about his recent paper on 1960s black protests, mainly in response to criticism from Nathan J. Robinson. Wasow thinks Robinson makes three main errors: "treating prejudice as immovable, ignoring black agency, and treating black leaders, thinkers, and activists as monolithic."

Davies Introduces Statistics

June 18, 2020

Antony Davies has out a book free to download, Understanding Statistics.

Sources on Libertarian Anarchy

June 18, 2020

I think libertarian anarchy is wrong (actually incoherent), but I try to follow anarchist thinking as it's prevalent in libertarianism. (I don't consider myself a libertarian, either, but I find common cause with many libertarians.)

Roy A. Childs, Jr., has out a book compiling his essays on anarchy, Anarchism & Justice.

Michael Huemer participates in a documentary, The Monopoly on Violence.

Non-Police Should Not Take Sniper Positions

June 18, 2020

Heidi Beedle reports that a Colorado Springs "group set up a sniper position, complete with a spotting scope and rifles with suppressors and bipod legs, overlooking the crowd" of protesters. This is definitely not okay.

Colorado History Hidden in Microfilm

June 19, 2020

It's the year 2020. And yet many of the important documents of Colorado's history are hidden in hard-to-access microfilm. The online Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection is a fantastic resource. But, as I recently learned, not all the historic newspapers have been digitized. History Colorado relates, "The Colorado Historic Newspapers website features some of our collection. We were able to digitize them thanks to many grants and collaboration with the the State Archives. We have active digitization newspaper projects, but we need financial support to do even more. We have the largest collection of Colorado newspapers, over 22,000 reels of microfilm containing millions of pages of Colorado stories. Since 2016 we have received over $400,000 in funding from [the National Endowment of the Humanities] which has helped us digitize around 200,000 pages." As I replied, can't "we" organize a state-wide fundraising effort to finish the job, or organize a volunteer effort to scan the documents?

More Senseless Vandalism

June 20, 2020

Portland rioters toppled a statue of George Washington and burned an American flag atop it. This is not protest for positive change. This is just nihilism masked as edgy ideology.

"Statue of abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier vandalized in his namesake city."

"Protesters tear down statues of Union general Ulysses S. Grant, national anthem lyricist Francis Scott Key." Notably, the mighty Frederick Douglass eulogized Grant as "the captain whose invincible sword saved the republic from dismemberment, made liberty the law of the land," and who was "too broad for prejudice."

"The statue of the famous Kansas abolitionist [John Brown] had been vandalized," apparently by racists.

"The First Virginia Regiment Monument [in Richmond] has been pulled down. . . . The First Virginia Regiment was an infantry regiment of the Virginia Line that served with the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War."


The Term Object

June 20, 2020

It's worth noticing that the term "object" is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, the term means roughly something put before the eyes or the mind. It is something external to us that we can recognize. As a verb, to object means roughly to put something before the eyes or mind of another, to get the person to reconsider some false belief by presenting contrary facts or argument.

Notes on Reparations

June 21, 2020

I am not ready to make anything like a full or complete statement on reparations. So these are merely some leads and tentative notes.

Rashawn Ray and Andre M. Perry have out a report, "Why we need reparations for Black Americans." Here is the basic argument: "Today, the average white family has roughly 10 times the amount of wealth as the average Black family. . . . Making the American Dream an equitable reality demands the same U.S. government that denied wealth to Blacks restore that deferred wealth through reparations to their descendants in the form of individual cash payments in the amount that will close the Black-white racial wealth divide. . . . In 1860, over $3 billion was the value assigned to the physical bodies of enslaved Black Americans to be used as free labor and production. This was more money than was invested in factories and railroads combined. In 1861, the value placed on cotton produced by enslaved Blacks was $250 million. Slavery enriched white slave owners and their descendants, and it fueled the country's economy while suppressing wealth building for the enslaved. The United States has yet to compensate descendants of enslaved Black Americans for their labor."

But obviously, a century and a half after slavery, it is no trivial task to identify the descendants of slaves and the descendants of slave holders. What fraction of today's U.S. Black population descended from slaves? What fraction of today's U.S. non-Black population descended from slave holders? Surely the first number is a lot higher than the second. So, if we're talking about reparations specifically for slavery, let's be honest about what the proposal means: taking wealth by force from people who mostly did not descend from slave holders and giving that wealth to people who likely, but not necessarily, descended from slaves. (Alternately, the money could go only to people who can prove descendancy from slaves, which would undoubtedly leave out many who are so descended but who cannot now prove it.)

Built into the proposal is the presumption, which is almost certainly false or mostly false, that current levels of wealth disparities result from the lingering effects of slavery.

Now, we can talk about more-specific reparations based on other harms. For example, government at federal and state levels has locked up countless individuals, disproportionately minorities, for actions that violated no one's rights (most importantly, drug offenses). Government has created a horrifically violent black market in illegal drugs that has devastated some minority neighborhoods. Government has literally forced minority parents to send their children to schools that in many cases are terrible. Reparations for these sorts of harms seem a lot more workable.

Of course Black people in America suffered many severe injustices between the era of slavery and the modern era, including long-lasting reigns of terror by white racists against Black individuals and communities. The Atlantic reports, "A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America." It's unclear to me how much of this was due to people voluntarily selling their lands, but as the article makes clear, at least some of it was due to violence, including mass-murder of Black farmers.

The upshot is that this is a complicated matter, and, I fear, lots of people for and against reparations are prone to oversimplifying the matter.

June 22 Update: HBO's Watchmen envisions reparations for a specific, horrific attack, the Tulsa riots and mass-murders of 1921, during which white mobs attacked "Black Wall Street," for immediate victims and direct descendants. Government actively abetted this assault. Obviously this does not suffer from some of the problems of other reparations plans.

Restorative Justice in Colorado

June 21, 2020

Free the People has out a 43-minute documentary that it describes as follows: "A city in Colorado tries a different kind of justice system, powerful enough to transform a broken system of mass incarceration in the United States. Instead of locking up non-violent offenders, these advocates focus on the challenging but rewarding process of individual responsibility, forgiveness, and redemption that radically shifts our idea of justice and our part in it."

The Tulsa Mass-Murders

June 21, 2020

In 1921, a white mob murdered hundreds of Black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, injured thousands more, and burned down "Black Wall Street." Some of the perpetrators "were deputized and given weapons by city officials." This is not that long ago. I personally knew people who were alive back then. This level of moral atrocity is difficult to process. This is severe domestic terrorism.

Denver's Black Press

June 21, 2020

When working on my article about early Colorado legislator Joseph H. Stuart, I relied heavily on articles published by the Statesman. Corey Hutchins offers some good history of the Black press in Denver. The Statesman was founded in 1888 and was rebranded the Denver Star in 1912. History Colorado reviews the story: "The Statesman/Denver Star flourished under the direction of notable editors and publishers. Joseph D.D. Rivers, the first proprietor of the Statesman, was a former student of Booker T. Washington. . . . Edwin H. Hackley, who took over as editor in 1892, was the first African American to be admitted to the Colorado bar. . . . In 1898, George F. Franklin bought the Statesman from Hackley and served as editor until his death in 1901, after which his widow, Clara Williams Franklin, and his son, Chester Arthur Franklin, acted as editors/publishers. In August 1906, the Statesman became Franklin's Paper, The Statesman. Then in November 1912, C.A. Franklin announced that the Statesman would become the Denver Star . . . in order to distinguish it from the similarly titled Colorado Statesman, edited and published by J.D.D. Rivers, the original editor of the Statesman. In March 1913, Franklin sold the Denver Star to the Denver Independent Publishing Company, which published the paper under this name until 1963." The newspaper archives lists the Statesman and the Star but not the Colorado Statesman.

Incidentally, an overtly racist newspaper also ran out of Boulder during part of 1925, the Rocky Mountain American. The Denver Library offers more detail about this.

Ngo on CHAZ

June 21, 2020

Andy Ngo reports, "On June 8 . . . left-wing protesters from Black Lives Matter and Antifa declared ownership of the six-block neighborhood in [Seattle]. They named their new territory the 'Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,' or CHAZ. No laws or rules applied here except for one: 'No cops allowed.' During five undercover days and nights in the zone, I witnessed a continuing experiment in anarchy, chaos and brute-force criminality." Although no one doubts Ngo has his own ax to grind, his report remains chilling.

The Stage of Progress

June 22, 2020

Scholar's Stage addresses Marc Andreessen's call to build: "Andreessen is correct: our failure to build things is a problem of culture and will." As a free market advocate, I tend to focus on how culture and damaging government controls interplay.

Liberty and Pandemics

June 22, 2020

Various people who work for, and who are associated with, the Ayn Rand Institute have been working up some very interesting ideas on government's proper role in a pandemic. Here I address a new article by Onkar Ghate on the topic and a summary op-ed by Ben Bayer. The upshot: Government should play an active role in protecting people from infection by others, should have spelled-out and delimited powers in this area, and should not resort to wide-scale lockdowns.

Bayer writes, "The freedom that matters is the individual's right to be free from the physical interference of others. This means freedom from murder, robbery, battery, and the threat of infection from another's disease. So a government dedicated to protecting liberty rightly has the power to quarantine individuals who threaten to infect others with a dangerous disease."

Ghate takes the now-common view that government properly tests people for infectious diseases (of sufficient severity), traces contacts, and quarantines the likely infectious.

So these Objectivists definitely do not take a libertarian anti-government stance. And they lay out an expansive concept of "interference" against which government properly acts that includes even unintentional infection.

Colorado's Police Reform Legislation

June 22, 2020

The speed at which Colorado government passed significant police reforms is remarkable. This certainly would not have happened but for the intense protests in Denver and around the country over the death of George Floyd.

Among those to write about the legislation are Nick Sibilla and Jesse Paul and Jennifer Brown.

Governor Jared Polis signed the measure, SB20-217, on June 19. Here's (some of) what the bill does:


June 23, 2020

This article by Timothy Sandefur tells the crazy story of a tax subsidy gone wrong. Pima County Arizona spent $15 million in tax dollars on balloon rides to the stratosphere. The first balloon exploded on launch. The company ended up turning the balloon material into super-expensive medical suits.

DiAngelo on White Privilege

June 23, 2020

Someone recommended to me a 2017 talk by Robin DiAngelo on "white privilege." She begins with some good points about how many white people make light of racism through dismissive language. She especially doesn't like the phrase, "I don't care if people are white, black, pink, purple, or polka-dotted." People don't really come in those other colors, she says, so such languages ignores the very real history of racial tensions. Okay, point taken.

I'm leery of her insistence of the universality of "implicit bias." The evidentiary standards for demonstrating that someone has such bias seem to be on par with the evidentiary standards of convicting witches (an analogy others have used). "The fact that you loudly proclaim that you are not a witch only demonstrates that you are one." I'm not claiming that there is no such thing as implicit (unconscious) bias. I'm just saying that, if there's literally nothing that one could even conceivably say or point to to show that implicit bias is not at work in a given case, that's a problem. So I think the right approach here is, "Let's dig into the evidence for implicit bias and see where it is actually at work, not begin the discussion by assuming it is omnipresent."

Just a quick note here about objectivity: DiAngelo claims that no one is objective due to their biases. But that's just the wrong way to think about objectivity. It is either the case—that is, an objective fact—that someone is affected by some bias at some time, or it is not the case. To reject objectivity is to dismiss all of one's own claims as unreliably subjective. Objectivity, properly understood, does not mean assuming an unreal person with no biases. It means (in part) understanding what biases are so that we can work to overcome them.

DiAngelo also rejects "individualism" on the grounds that it assumes a person is "unique and outside of socialization." But that's not what individualism means. It is true that each person is unique—even identical twins are very different in myriad details—so DiAngelo is mispackaging her concepts. But obviously it is not true that anyone is outside of socialization. No one thinks that, and individualism properly understood embraces the fact. What individualism means is that each person matters, each person has moral worth, each person has unique thoughts and goals and values.

DiAngelo does not outright dismiss universalism—the idea that we "are all one" in some important sense—but she claims it doesn't reflect the reality in which we live. Again she misunderstands the concept. Universalism in this sense does not imply that everyone is the same or has the same experiences. It means that, in certain important ways, we are all alike. We are all human beings. We all deserve to be treated with basic respect by our fellows and with fairness and equality under the law. It is simultaneously true that we are all unique individuals in important ways and all alike in important ways. A universalist (properly understood) anticipates a truly post-racial world, in which a person's skin color simply does not matter, any more than a person's hair color or height matters (aside from highly specialized contexts, such as certain gene-specific medical issues). There is a huge difference between the position, "Race matters, it is fundamental, and it will always matter," and the position, "Race matters now for historical reasons, and we should strive for a world in which it doesn't matter." That second position is both the proper individualist and universalist aim.

DiAngelo sees "racism as the very fabric of our society." I think that's a serious overstatement. I fear that DiAngelo is reinforcing tribalistic thinking, when our aim should be to overcome it.

DiAngelo discusses the problems with the schools. I agree, the government-run school system is a disaster, especially for minorities (although some students do well in them). We all know that wealthier people tend to buy pricey houses as a way to get their kids into good schools, a process that often excludes the less-wealthy. "Privilege" is fundamentally a legal concept, and the laws around schooling do privilege some people over others (which is to say, disadvantage some people more than others), no doubt. But DiAngelo's claim that all discussion of "good schools" and "bad schools" is racial coding is just ludicrous. Some schools are, by any objective measure you care to check, better than others. It is not racist for parents (of any color) to want to send their students to better schools.

DiAngelo makes the same claim regarding talk of "good" and "bad" neighborhoods. But some neighborhoods, objectively, have higher crime than others. No rational person would, other things equal, choose to live in a higher-crime neighborhood over a lower-crime neighborhood. There's nothing racist about that. Now, of course, we can and should talk about why some neighborhoods have radically higher crime than others. Here, too, I largely blame horrible government policies, starting with the drug war and the mass-incarceration disproportionately of minority people. So, yes, we can and should talk about what is keeping some neighborhoods trapped in crime and poverty. But it is not racist not to want to live in a poor, high-crime neighborhood. Indeed, from what I see, parents who live in such neighborhoods typically want their children to grow up and leave them. Are those parents "racist" too?

My main concern about DiAngelo's treatment of "white privilege" is the vagueness of it. Let's talk specifics! Let's talk about how the drug war damages neighborhoods, finances violent gangs, and drives the mass-incarceration (largely) of black men. Let's talk about the laws that often make police unaccountable for their abuses of power. Let's talk about how the teachers' unions entrench today's government schools that so often fail minority students. Let's talk about how zoning laws often create enclaves for the wealthy white. Let's talk about how the restrictive immigration laws horribly harm many people born outside (and inside) the country. And so on. DiAngelo's emphasis seems to be on convincing "white" people that they're racists. I think the proper emphasis is on figuring out what, specifically, is wrong with our society at an institutional level, and working to fix those problems. Convincing everyone they're racist fixes nothing (and isn't true). Convincing people that certain institutions are flawed and can be fixed in specific ways offers a path to actually improving people's lives, whatever their color.

DiAngelo ends with a great point that white people should strive not to be defensive if accused of doing something racist. Sometimes that criticism is well-founded. My worry is about accusations not based in fact. Again, someone accused of witchcraft, back when people were murdered for being "witches," probably reacted defensively when accused of witchcraft. If we start with the presumption that all accusations along a certain line are true, we set ourselves up for the sort of social-media mob "justice" and "cancel culture" we are now seeing all around us. Some people obviously are racist. Some people explicitly tell us they are, and some people (Donald Trump) repeatedly say and do racist things. But when we're talking about things like "micro-aggressions" and relatively minor sleights, I think the way to go is to argue, "I think this particular expression or action is racist, here's why, and here's the harm it does." That's well and good. Obviously racism is not like witchcraft in that racism actually exists and some people actually are racists and say and do racist things.

Although I take issue with a number of things that DiAngelo says, her talk is well worth watching, not only to better-understand her position, but as a spur to think more seriously about how racism continues to plague our society a century and a half after the abolition of slavery.

Incidentally, DiAngelo also has a longer 2018 talk about "white fragility."

Racial Terror

June 24, 2020

White domestic terrorists murdered some 2,000 Black Americans between 1865 and 1876, and an additional 4,400 from 1877 to 1950, reviews the Guardian. See the Equal Justice Initiative's report.

Lisa Smith on Bias

June 24, 2020

Lisa Smith has out an interesting short video on bias (focusing on implicit bias). Smith has an expansive view of bias; she says, "a preference is a sort of bias." In this view any sort of disposition is a bias. I think this is an overly broad view of the term.

Looking at the etymology, the term "bias" means something like angled, sloped, or sideways. "In the old game of bowls, it was a technical term used in reference to balls made with a greater weight on one side (1560s), causing them to curve toward one side." The site quotes Herbert Spencer, who distinguishes a bias, which arises in some social context (education, politics) from "constitutional sympathies and antipathies." So, in this view, judging people differently by the color of their skin is a bias, but enjoying the flavor of sugar arises from a "constitutional sympathy."

The site also includes this great quote from Francis Bacon (1620): "For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding." What Bacon describes is what I think we accurately call bias. A bias is some disposition or habit or temptation to believe something for poor reasons. A bias, in this view, is always something bad and always something we should seek to avoid or overcome.

The complication is that our intellectual habits and our emotions are tightly linked. So a false belief, say, that someone with a particular skin tone is for that reason superior or inferior, typically gives rise to visceral emotional reactions toward different people, and such emotions can give rise to harmful actions.

Smith mentions a preference for blue over pink as a sort of bias. Obviously people do have all sorts of preferences that are not strictly "constitutional" (biological) in origin but rather the result of an individual's particular experiences and reactions and thoughts. But I don't want to call that a bias because there's no intellectual content to preferring blue over pink. It's not as though I'm saying (if I prefer blue) that other people should prefer blue or there's some sort of universalizable reason to prefer blue. I just happen to prefer blue, and that's fine, and it doesn't cause any problems, and it's fine if my preference here changes. By contrast, a visceral reaction against vaccines or against people of some particular skin tone arises from, or at least are influenced by, a set of particular beliefs which are false and which the person holds out of bias.

Smith then gets into implicit or free association tests. She points out that an association, say between hotdogs and ketchup, does not entail any normative belief. Most associations we have are benign and a means of mental efficiency, she notes, but some associations, particularly involving people, can be damaging. For example, in our culture a lot of people associate Black men with violence or Black women (or women generally) with oversexualization or Black people with poverty. Such expectations and associations "feed our beliefs," Smith says. Such associations can lead a business manger, for example, to more-quickly discard resumes with Black-sounding names. Now, Smith says that the manager who does this does not necessarily even hold racist beliefs. I think the qualifier "explicit" is needed here; I think some underlying beliefs clearly are at work.

Smith makes the point that, to overcome implicit biases, often we have to actively work against them. This seems obviously right. For example, stripping names off of resumes might allow for more-fair evaluations, insofar as some names convey ethnicity or gender. However, the social science about such blind hiring is mixed, as Faye Flam reviews. Blind hiring seems to help, and my attitude is, it can't possibly hurt.

Smith discusses some of the limitations of these association tests. And one thing that Smith points out is that not just white people can (say) associate Black men with violence and not just men can associate women with lower status. Black men and women can hold the same associations. People interested in taking Harvard's implicit association tests can see the site for that.

Smith suggests a point about (as I'd put it) the interaction between our "fast" and "slow" brains. We're not normally acting just on our associations; rather, usually, our "slower," more-deliberate thinking also is at work. "We can't use the implicit association test to predict behavior," Smith notes.

There's this peculiar dynamic at play, for those of us who hope for a post-racial future, that to get to that future we have to think seriously about "race" today. Obviously our culture has been highly racialized for centuries. That's not just going to go away because we ignore it. Paradoxically, we can only make racism go away in the future by focusing, today, on the ways in which "race" continues to matter.

Prices of Tax-Subsidized Health Treatments

June 24, 2020

"Lawmakers push Covid-19 bills to prevent price gouging, track federal funds used to discover drugs." To me, this article points to the problems created by government-funded science. People forced to subsidize the development of drugs and treatments reasonable expect government to regulate such things as the pricing of the developed products. I'll note here that some people (Alex Tabarrok) have the idea of government offering cash awards for the successful development of certain treatments, after which government essentially owns the results. I do worry that politicians looking to control prices will disincentivize some companies from developing some drugs and treatments in the first place. The easiest way not to "excessively" profit from some product is not to make it at all.

Elijah McClain

June 25, 2020

Elijah McClain was a young Black man who was killed by police officers in Aurora, Colorado. Reading the in-depth portrait of McClain by Grant Stringer, it's very difficult to imagine that McClain, a massage therapist who literally would not hurt a fly, presented any threat, whatsoever, to the police. McClain was, by all accounts, an unusual young man. He routinely wore his running mask out in public, perhaps (a friend of his speculated) to ease his social anxiety, perhaps to ward off the chills. He went to the store to buy some items for his cousin and was walking home, wearing his mask and "flailing his arms," i.e., (probably) dancing. For that someone called the cops on him. The police who confronted him had no indication he may have committed any crime. Police say McClain ignored their commands, which, so far as I can tell, they had no authority to give. Police said McClain was in an "agitated mental state"—it's "funny" how people tend to get "agitated" when police screw with them for no good reason. The police called the fire department, and fire paramedics gave McClain ketamine. Police also put McClain in a choke hold. The lawyer of McClain's family described the officer's treatment of McClain as torture (this all from Stringer's account). At one point "an officer threatened to sick a dog on" McClain, Stringer writes. Amazingly, the officers' cameras became "dislodged." McClain's heart stopped on the way to the hospital, and he died several days later.

Subsequent reports indicate that the officers claim that McClain tried to grab one of the officer's guns. That doesn't add up to me. Anyway, the officers had no legitimate business hassling the man to begin with. The officers are now back on the job.

The Russell Senate Office Building

June 25, 2020

I happened to be on Peter Boyles's radio show today and he mentioned that Senator Michael Bennet wants to rename the Russell Senate Office Building. I got the impression Boyles doesn't think much of the move; I made a noncommittal remark because I didn't know about the story.

Bennet called for the renaming of the building on June 12. The building was named after Democratic Georgia Senator Richard Russell Jr., who served in the Senate from 1933 through 1971. There is no doubt that Russell was an open segregationists and a coauthor of the 1956 Southern Manifesto.

Originally called simply the Senate Office Building (SOB), the building opened in 1909. The building was not named for Russell until 1972, a year after Russell's death. Senator Robert Byrd, in suggesting the change, said of Russell, "I do not think any man who has ever served in this body contributed more of his intellect, his knowledge, and his extraordinary skills, to enhance the integrity of the Senate, which he so deeply revered." Another Democratic Senator, Philip Hart, "took the position that the Senate was acting too soon after the two senators' deaths [Russell and Everett Dirksen] and should delay acting until 'history's estimate' of them could be recorded." In retrospect that seems like a prudent take.

Incidentally, long ago I worked as an intern for Senator Hank Brown, who worked out of the Hart Senate Office Building, named, ironically, for Philip Hart.

Mount Rushmore

June 25, 2020

I thought the AP did a nice job of putting the story of Mount Rushmore in context. From the modern vantage point, I think it was a bad idea to erect the monument there. But, unlike regular statues, the monument obviously cannot be moved. So my take: Live with it and learn from it as an artifact of American history.

Stone on Police Violence

June 25, 2020

Economist Lyman Stone has out a new article on police violence. The main finding is that police in the U.S. kill a lot of people, some 1,700 people per year: "Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification."

What's the problem? Stone: "Police unions . . . cause higher rates of police killings by shielding bad cops from discipline. . . . [P]olice unions have military-grade equipment they can use to violently crush protests against their abuses, and they are legally immune from most consequences."

Is there a racial component to this? Other reports suggest not. Stone, citing a recent study by Mark Hoekstra and CarlyWill Sloan, says yes: "Using the unpredictable and somewhat random patterns of 911 calls and what police happen to be dispatched in response as an approximation of a more formal randomized study, a team of economists recently demonstrated that white officers in particular are much more likely to use potentially lethal force against black citizens. When randomly dispatched into more heavily black neighborhoods, white officers' odds of shooting someone quadrupled, while there was virtually no change for black officers. This study controlled for crime patterns at the time of day and in the neighborhood to which the officer was dispatched, and was able to observe black and white officers dispatched into the same neighborhoods, and the same officers dispatched into multiple different neighborhoods. It is by far the most robust study of racial bias in policing yet conducted, and found an enormous effect that can best be described as racial bias leading to excessive use of force, especially lethal force. Racial bias in police killings is real."

Deferring to Official Sources Is Not Objective

June 26, 2020

Here's a peculiar line I just read about objectivity in journalism (original here): "When White reporters cover issues involving race, they often fall back on traditional, passive practices of objectivity, such as deferring to official sources and remaining separate from communities." That is just a complete distortion of what objectivity means. A reporter who defers to official sources is being nonobjective, not objective. Being objective entails actively going after the facts and cutting through the biases and often-self-serving rhetoric of official sources. So the remark reflects an important criticism of actual practices, it just has nothing to do with objectivity properly conceived.

Illegal Adoption Scheme

June 26, 2020

This is a bizarre case: "A former elected official in Arizona [Paul Petersen] who paid pregnant women as much as $10,000 to travel to the United States illegally to give up their newborn children for adoption pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal human smuggling conspiracy charge, the authorities said." I suspect this case will give libertarian theorists fits if they look into it.

Senseless Violence

June 26, 2020

Most people who have participated in the mass protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd have been peaceful and focused on needed reforms.

Some hanger-on rioters have hurt people and destroyed property.

In Wisconsin, rioters badly beat self-described "Gay, Progressive, Democratic [State] Senator" Tim Carpenter.

Protests and COVID-19

June 27, 2020

So this is an interesting finding: "Black Lives Matter protests increased net stay-at-home behavior, likely among non-protesters, and COVID-19 case growth did not increase." Of course, we are seeing case growth around much of the U.S., so it would interesting to know how much COVID-19 did spread through the protests, even if there was a stronger offsetting effect. Based on headlines I'm seeing it seems like bars and parties are a big part of the current rise.

Mars Helicopter

June 27, 2020

NASA plans to send a small, solar-charged helicopter to Mars next year.

The U.S. Testing Fiasco

June 27, 2020

Paul Romer discusses "the massive damage that the FDA is doing by restricting the supply and use of tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus." He notes that "although the FDA promptly approved the broken test from the CDC, it took an excruciatingly long time to approve tests that actually worked." Romer includes many details and many citations pointing to specific aspects of the problem. Maddening.

Shapiro on the Drug War

June 28, 2020

Ilya Shapiro has a lengthy article out, "This is Your Constitution on Drugs."

License Portability in Colorado

June 28, 2020

Colorado governor Jared "Polis signs bipartisan occupational licensing portability bill." The bill in question is HB20-1326.

Douglass on the Freedmen's Monument

June 28, 2020

David W. Blight has a really nice op-ed about the Freedmen's Monument, which some people want to tear down: "A huge parade involving nearly every black organization in the city preceded the dedication of the monument on April 14, 1876. . . . Horse-drawn carriages transported master of ceremonies and Howard University law school dean, John Mercer Langston, and the orator of the day, Frederick Douglass, a resident of that neighborhood. . . . The $20,000 used to build the monument had been raised among black Americans, most of them former slaves."

The Smithsonian has the text of Douglass's speech.

Timothy Sandefur has more on Douglass's views of the memorial.

Olson on Religious Liberty

June 29, 2020

Walter Olsen has a good run-down of important laws and court decisions pertaining to religious liberty.

Yet I have a question about how all this works out. Olsen writes, "Religious institutions, including church schools, enjoy an additional cordon of constitutional protection under a series of cases that include the Supreme Court's unanimous 2012 Hosanna‐​Tabor ruling on the employment of religious teachers, in which liberal and conservative Justices locked arms to defend church autonomy." As I asked, "Does this mean a religious school may discriminate on the basis of religion (to hire all Protestants, say), but a secular school may NOT so discriminate (to hire only atheists)?"

Olsen also points to David French's article on religious liberty.

Vouchers for Religious Schools

June 29, 2020

This is a very big ruling: "In a landmark 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a state court may not strike down a school choice program simply because it permits families to choose religious schooling."

Yet, as I have continually pointed out, this is not a straightforward win for liberty. There are real church-state issues here: A voucher program that funds religious schools forces some people to subsidize religious institutions that they oppose.

As a practical matter, at least in Colorado, the result likely will be to shut down voucher programs. However, there's some chance some school district will embrace vouchers. I can even imagine a statewide ballot measure.

Criticism of Alden

July 2, 2020

I've shared a few critical remarks about Alden Global Capital but pointed out that Alden is operating within a broader market that is brutal for newspapers. Ultimately, Alden makes money in the newspaper business because subscribers keep paying and journalists keep writing.

Savannah Jacobson has a new article out that criticizes Alden.

Hogeland Versus Hamilton

July 4, 2020

Among my friends and associates are Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians. One friend recommends William Hogeland's 2007 article that harshly criticizes Hamilton. Hogeland is especially interested in Hamilton's role in the Newburgh Crisis and in the creation of taxes on domestic goods, which Hogeland characterizes as "taxes that straitjacket markets, restrict opportunity, reduce competition, punish small operators, cripple local economies, and offer government cronies bonanzas at the direct expense of other citizens." Hogeland also harshly criticizes Hamilton's response to the whiskey rebels: "Using the military to trounce the rule of law and violate civil rights was integral to his vision of federal power, national wealth, and a strong union."

A Black Militia

July 5, 2020

There's a black militia group in Atlanta called the "Not F***ing Around Coalition." See also video of a march. The overtly racial tone of the group worries me.

A Death in Atlanta

July 5, 2020

"An 8-year-old girl died after she was shot during a night of violence across metro Atlanta. . . . The girl was riding in a car "confronted by a group of armed individuals." This was one of "multiple other shootings across Atlanta." See more about the other shootings.

Racism in Ohio

July 6, 2020

Is there racism in America today? As video from Bethel, Ohio clearly indicates, the clear answer is yes. See also Buzzfeed's report.

See also a report about a disturbing racist incident in Indiana.

Bailout Nation

July 7, 2020

"Prosecutors say [there have been] tens of thousands of attempts to rip off governments by fraudulently filing for expanded unemployment benefits or lying on applications for the Paycheck Protection Program."

The Possibility of Plasma

July 11, 2020

"Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. . . . But the idea exists only on paper. Federal officials have twice rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies—even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan—have declined to design or manufacture the shots, according to a [Los Angeles] Times investigation."

I am continually amazed by how poor the American response to COVID-19 is—and how good it could be if people got serious about it.

Goldberg on Locke

July 11, 2020

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting article out, "The Most Serious Attacks on the Founding Come From the Right." One of Goldberg's claims is that John Locke, although very influential on the American Founding, was not as influential as often assumed: "There's ample evidence that his work in epistemology and psychology—then called 'natural philosophy'—impressed the Founders greatly. But the Second Treatise on Government . . . simply wasn't the Book That Changed Everything. I don't say any of this to disparage Locke, but simply to note that Locke reflected ideas and principles that were already thick on the ground at the time." He cites an article by Oscar and Lilian Handlin along these lines.

Goldberg also defends (classical) liberalism in his Newsweek column. He makes a lot of great points, but I think he concedes too much ground here: "There are a myriad downsides to radical individualism. America's troubles today are inextricably linked with the breakdown of the family, local institutions, communities, organized religion and social trust." What we might call atomistic individualism has always been a straw man version of individualism.

An aside: Goldberg mentions an article by Joseph Stengel on the origins of the Fourth Amendment.

The Police Killing of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr.

July 12, 2020

In 2017, Phoenix police officers arrested Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. over a "failure to appear in court over a charge stemming from misdemeanor possession of a marijuana pipe." Officers killed the man during the course of the arrest. This is your War on Drugs.

Welfare through Insurance

July 12, 2020

These authors have the terrible idea of rolling food and housing welfare in Medicare, Medicaid, and "private" insurance. The authors: "Michael Darrouzet is the CEO of the Texas Medical Association. Jennifer Hanscom is the executive director and CEO of the Washington State Medical Association. Philip Schuh is the executive vice president and CFO of the Medical Society of the State of New York."

Brooks on Liberalism

July 13, 2020

According to David Brooks, liberalism promotes emotionless rationality, atomized individuals, and base self-"interest" detached from moral meaning. Of course that is nonsense, and Brooks does not name a single liberal who advocates such things.

Brooks is right about some things. He writes, "We have to have the open exchange of views that is the essence of liberalism." And he advocates a "morality of personalism," an "effort to see the full depth and complexity of each human person." But of course that just is an aspect of liberalism properly conceived.

The Cancel Culture Debate

July 13, 2020

I certainly do not intend this as anything like a comprehensive discussion of the issue at hand. These are just a few notes.

On July 7 Harper's published a letter "on justice and open debate." It argues, "The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted." The letter was signed by Steven Pinker, who recently has come under criticism for what I regard as stupid reasons. Other signers include Nicholas Christakis, Jonathan Rauch, and J. K. Rowling (who has faced her own barrage of criticism).

Osita Nwanevu writes for New Republic about the "willful blindness of reactionary liberalism." Here is the thesis: "The tensions we've seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left."

Matt Taibbi writes, "The leaders of this new movement [of the left] are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats and intimidation."

Hannah Giorgis writes, "In recent years, defenses of 'free speech' have often been wielded by people in positions of power in response to critics who want to hold them accountable for the real-life harm their words might cause." And: "Facing widespread criticism on Twitter, undergoing an internal workplace review, or having one's book panned does not, in fact, erode one's constitutional rights or endanger a liberal society."

Megan McArdle writes, "The cancelers aren't merely trying to expand the range of acceptable ideas so that it includes more marginalized voices. They are pressuring mainstream institutions, which serve as society's idea curators, to adopt a much narrower definition of 'reasonable' opinion. The new rules would exclude the viewpoints of many Americans."

July 14 Update: In her resignation letter, former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss writes, "A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn't a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else." She claims various colleagues harassed her and that she faced "unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge."

Liberty and Existential Risk

July 13, 2020

Michael Huemer points out that libertarians have a hard time theoretically dealing with existential risk.

Watson on COVID-19

July 14, 2020

Nell Watson has an absolutely terrifying take on COVID-19. The upshot is that many people who get it are likely to have severe long-term health problems.

The Crime of Breathing

July 15, 2020

"Man's aggressive cough toward woman on Aspen trail prompts misdemeanor charge." This is an interesting story illustrating the contextual nature of rights. What a jerk this guy (allegedly) was!

Hoppe's Libertarianism

July 15, 2020

In his Getting Libertarianism Right, Hans-Hermann Hoppe insists ""your existence and well-being depends decisively . . . especially on the continued existence of white heterosexual male dominated societies." And that's a good illustration of why I don't call myself a libertarian.

In other libertarian news, Tom Woods defends his record, saying he's "long since emerged from my paleoconservative phase."

Moderna Vaccine

July 15, 2020

In a phase 1 trial with 45 people, the Moderna vaccine induced an immune response in all participants.

Peikoff and Trump

July 15, 2020

It turns out that Objectivist philosopher Leonard Peikoff donated funds to the Donald Trump campaign. It is certainly ironic that, for decades, Leonard Peikoff has warned about the possibility of theocratic fascism coming to America, yet he now financially supports Donald Trump, who openly allies with conservative evangelicals seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Ayn Rand was strongly pro-choice.) I take this as a sign that Peikoff is even more afraid of the nihilistic left in America than he is of Trumpian anti-immigrant, anti-free-trade, anti-reason conservatism. I think Trumpism is the greater and more immediate threat. Although some self-identified Objectivists are openly pro-Trump, most other Objectivist intellectuals are strongly critical of Trump.

Racism and Anti-Intellectualism on the Left

July 15, 2020

A document from the National Museum of African American History & Culture overtly embraces racism and anti-intellectualism, asserting that "white culture" entails individualism, "emphasis on the scientific method" and "objective, rational linear thinking," a belief that "hard work is the key to success," and a "future orientation"—along with a bunch of other things that are either mixed, neutral, or bad. This is a package deal of epic proportions. It constitutes an extraordinary smear of the many great Black scientists (not to mention hard-working people in all fields) of history and of today. It is also comically self-refuting; for example, is it an objective fact that "white culture" entails those things, or is that merely the subjective preference of the author? If the latter (as it obviously is), why should we believe any of it?

In related news: "Museum Curator Resigns After He Is Accused of Racism for Saying He Would Still Collect Art From White Men."

Progressive Eugenics

July 15, 2020

"The widespread acceptance of eugenics in the United States, especially by progressives, is a troubling part of U.S. history unknown to many Americans."

Colorado Price-Gouging Law

July 16, 2020

"Colorado law now bans price gouging during disasters — but doesn't define the term." Price controls are especially harmful during an emergency.

Rioters Shut Down Denver Pro-Police Rally

July 20, 2020

The difference between a protester and a rioter is that the latter hurts people or destroys property. On June 19, a conservative group attempted to hold a lawful, permitted pro-police rally in Denver. A group led by Denver's Party for Socialism and Liberation intentionally "shut down" the rally, in some cases by violently attacking ralliers, and drove them from the area. As I mentioned on Twitter, the attack was not merely "opposing speech." I noted that the ralliers "were met, in some cases, by violent assault. And infiltrating another group's peaceful, lawful, permitted rally with the intention of shutting it down, which they did, is a violation of speech." Michelle Malkin (with whom I often disagree) posted video of the event, where she had been planning to speak.

Tangentially related issue: Malkin reports that Governor Jared Polis blocked her on Twitter with his @jaredpolis account. My take (edited): "This is an interesting case given lawsuits regarding elected officials blocking people on social media. My quick read: Because this is Polis's personal account, and he has a separate Twitter account in his capacity as governor [@GovoOfCo], he's probably ok legally to block people."

Federal Kidnappings in Oregon

July 20, 2020

Federal agents have arrested people for no good reason in Portland.

Protest Avoidance Behavior and COVID-19

July 20, 2020

Denver economist Andrew Friedson thinks the George Floyd protests did not on net cause an increase in COVID-19 cases because they scared other people indoors. What this doesn't answer, of course, is whether the protests themselves led to any new cases of COVID-19, or how many.

Sanger Cancelled

July 25, 2020

"Planned Parenthood to remove Margaret Sanger's name from center over 'racist legacy.'"

In other abortion news: "Doctors pressured mother to abort baby with Down's syndrome at 38-weeks."

Huemer on Democracy

July 26, 2020

"It is the masses who harbor anti-democratic attitudes. Democratic values are the province of the elites. It is the elites who must protect those values from the masses." So says Michael Huemer.

Huemer worries that, these days, "we have a great democratization of information," and this is destroying our culture. "Now that the masses are participating in content-generation and -distribution too, they're bringing everyone down to their level," he writes.

Religious Liberty in Court

July 26, 2020

I'm going to round up some news and commentary about law and religion.

A church in Nevada complained it was not given the same liberties to open as casinos: "Calvary Chapel only seeks to host about 90 people at a socially-distanced church service, while the governor allows hundreds to thousands of people to gamble and enjoy entertainment at casinos." The Supreme Court declined to hear the suit in question by a 5–4 vote.

In a 2018 interview, Constitutional law scholar Rob Natelson explains that "sectarian" in the context of legal language forbidding the use of tax dollars for "sectarian" schools meant something like religiously aberrant, not merely religious. In other words, by this historical usage, a mainstream religious school was "non-sectarian." Today, from what I can tell, most people use the term "sectarian" to mean "religious," and that's how I use the term. Etymologically, the term relates to "sect."

Last updated July 28.

Socialism on a Spectrum

July 26, 2020

My Tweet: "Here's an analogy I think is helpful. Everyone has some psychopathic traits, but a psychopath is someone who scores very high for most psychopathic traits. Similarly, many societies (including ours) have some traits of socialism and fascism but are neither socialist nor fascist." It's not a perfect analogy, of course. I think psychopaths stay remain at pretty much the same level of psychopathy (at least after a certain point) throughout their lives, whereas societies change. Also, whereas some psychopathic traits are or can be positive for people, I want to say that traits of socialism and fascism always are bad. But then I may have trouble talking about things like roads and the welfare state.

Colorado's COVID-19 Testing

July 27, 2020

Ben Markus has out a report about Colorado's lackluster testing program for COVID-19. Aside from the terrible federal response, the state had two main problems: the health department had a serious leadership meltdown leading into the pandemic, and outside help didn't seem to accomplish much. I Tweeted a summary with some supplementary information.

In other news: "Thousands of people defy public health orders, pack into a field in Weld County for an outdoor concert." Here's more.

And: "Woodland Park [Colorado]-based Andrew Wommack Ministries held a multi-day conference that included over 1,000 attendees from July 30th through July 3rd. Now the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has traced a COVID-19 outbreak to the event, with seven staff members and fifteen attendees testing positive."

Colorado Oil Well Cleanup

July 27, 2020

A problem in Colorado is that some oil companies go bankrupt and don't clean up sites. Joe Salazar notes that "SB19-181 [which passed] . . . will eventually . . . require oil and gas operators to provide financial assurances that they can take on a project from birth to remediation." See also Chase Woodruff's report.

Media about Lauren Boebert

July 27, 2020

Lauren Boebert beat Representative Scott Tipton in the Republican primary. Following are some news stories about her. I also provide additional background, with various links, in a Tweet thread. Donald Trump congratulated Boebert.

"Boebert's Campaign Embraces Far-Right Militia Movement"

"Boebert embraced a conspiracy theory that Democrats and Hollywood stars drink the blood of children in a global pedophilia ring."

Boebert praised the closing of the "autonomous zone" in Seattle.

In her "contract with Colorado," Boebert says she is "America first." She believes "life begins at conception." She's for "free markets," "liberty," "strong borders," and more.

Boebert suggested (wrongly) that Scrabble dumping some words "chips away" at the First Amendment.

Boebert said, "'Flatten the curve' turned into Communism very quickly."

The New York Times has an article discussing Boebert's comments about QAnon. See the direct link.

Radio host Ross Kaminsky hosted Boebert.

"Progressives [have] tagged Boebert as a QAnon conspiracy theorist and a lousy restaurateur owing to three-year-old accusations that involve bloody diarrhea."

Corey Hutchins discusses media handling of Boebert's remarks about QAnon.

Boebert's restaurant has had some financial troubles.

Boebert picked up the endorsement of Tom Tancredo.

Peak Politics defended Boebert regarding her various arrests.

Last updated August 30, 2020.

The Trouble with Malkin

August 1, 2020

Colorado conservative activist and writer Michelle Malkin recently made the news for getting chased out of a pro-police rally in Denver. I wrote about this myself.

The background issue is that Malkin has expressed support for a alt-right figures.

Erik Maulbetsch offers his take from the left. Conservative consultant Andrew Struttmann wrote, "Conservatives have moral duty to disown Michelle Malkin, Alt-Right." District Attorney George Brauchler had her on his radio show.

Malkin replied to some of her critics in a video.

American Racism

August 1, 2020

Anyone who doubts that racism remains a problem in America should watch video taken of a man holding a Black Lives Matter sign in Harrison, Arkansas, and the racist hate this provoked.

Violence in America

August 30, 2020

I included many instances of recent violence in a recent article.

Jason Brennan has out a good critique of rioting and looting that harms property of innocent people.

QAnon Crazy

August 30, 2020

"QAnon is a nuclear explosion of disinformation. . . . The very premise of QAnon is that anyone in charge is not just lying to you, but they're doing it to help Satan himself in exchange for baby blood."

Debates on Founding Principles

August 30, 2020

C. Bradley Thompson replies to Christopher Flannery regarding America's Lockean Founding. (Trace back the links for other articles related to the discussion.) Thompson argues that neither Harry Jaffa nor Leo Strauss got Locke totally right.

Thompson also appeared on Dave Rubin's show to discuss his book on the Founding and the issue of slavery.

Thompson also discussed his book at a Princeton talk.

In response to a government report ordered by Mike Pompeo and to debate that generated, Roger Pilon and Aaron Rhodes discuss, "The American Understanding of Natural Rights."

Libertarians and Discrimination Law

August 30, 2020

As of right now, following is the Libertarian Party's official position on discrimination law:

"Libertarians embrace the concept that all people are born with certain inherent rights. We reject the idea that a natural right can ever impose an obligation upon others to fulfill that 'right.' We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant. Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual's human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference, or sexual orientation. Members of private organizations retain their rights to set whatever standards of association they deem appropriate, and individuals are free to respond with ostracism, boycotts, and other free market solutions."

In other words, the LP wants to repeal anti-discrimination laws as they apply to private parties.

Allegedly Racist Content in Acellus Educational Materials

August 30, 2020

On August 23, 2020, the principal of Aliamanu Elementary School announced the school no longer would use Acellus educational materials because of their "racist content."

Hawaii News Now ran a story about this and included various images allegedly from Accelus.

The Chico Enterprise-Record also has a story, as does the Hawaii Tribune Herald. has been trying to get Acellus removed from public schools.

Various people have criticized Acellus founder Roger Billings.

Accelus claims on its web site (as of right now) that 4,200 public schools use their courses.

Farrar Williams doesn't like the program for other reasons.

September 14: Fast Company has an article about the Acellus mess.

Cases of Discrimination

September 1, 2020

In my new column for Complete Colorado, I discuss an 1895 case of clearly-wrong racist discrimination and modern cases of possibly benign discrimination ("people of color only," "ladies' night").

In other news, "52 Black former McDonald's franchise owners are suing over discriminatory practices."

The Chaos President: Sources on Donald Trump

September 3, 2020

Conspiracy Theories

In August Trump explicitly praised QAnon while pretending to be ignorant about its aims and beliefs, despite the FBI declaring QAnon a terror threat.

Trump amplified, and notably declined to condemn, the "birther" conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris, which claims she's ineligible to serve as president.

Trump recently claimed that people in "dark shadows" were controlling Joe Biden and that a plane full of "thugs" wearing "black uniforms" was flying into Washington DC.

The Election

"What if early results in swing states on Nov. 3 show President Trump ahead, and he declares victory before heavily Democratic mail-in votes, which he has falsely linked with fraud, are fully counted?"

Trump arguably advocated voter fraud September 2. As NBC summarizes, "Trump encourages North Carolina residents to vote twice to test mail-in system."

Promoting Violence

Trump defended right-wingers who assaulted leftist protesters by shooting them with paintballs. He also defended the person who killed two people (and injured another) in Kenosha. (Even if an element of self-defense was involved in those shootings—I'm not sure about that—the shooter had no business being in the area, acted wildly irresponsibly, and violated gun laws.)

Defamation of Military Heroes

Here's the headline for Jeffrey Goldberg's recent article: "Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are 'Losers' and 'Suckers.'" Trump also said "nobody wants to see" amputees in military parades. That Trump is commander in chief of the U.S. military is absolutely shameful.

The Eviction Moratorium

As Ilya Somin summarizes, "Trump's eviction moratorium is illegal, a threat to federalism and separation of powers, a menace to property rights, and unnecessary." Here's his article.

COVID-19 Updates

September 3, 2020

I haven't posted updates about COVID-19 for a while. This is by no means intended as anything like a comprehensive run-down.

Apparently Colorado businesses are not required to notify customers if the business suffers a COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, "contact tracing efforts rarely extend to customers." What a disaster.

Tyler Cowen writes, "The FDA has been too risk-averse in the very recent past, for instance in its reluctance to approve additional Covid-19 testing. Economists have generally concluded that the FDA is too risk-averse in the long term as well, considering all relevant trade-offs." Cowen argues that vaccine approval is inherently political and that people who want to advocate for delays in a vaccine need to offer better arguments.

Atul Gawande discusses how to ramp up testing: "To get out of this pandemic, we need fast, easy coronavirus testing that's accessible to everyone. . . . We could have the testing capacity we need within weeks. The reason we don't is not simply that our national leadership is unfit but also that our health-care system is dysfunctional." He puts much of the blame on the CDC and FDA (as do others).

Steroids cut deaths.

Modern Conspiracy Theories

September 3, 2020

Trish Zornio has out an op-ed on conspiracy mongering in Colorado; she focuses on Lauren Boebert and Randy Corporon.

The AP has a story about Boebert (a Colorado congressional candidate). Here's the key troublesome remark, which she made in a live interview: "Everything that I've heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values."

Arguably Boebert also "gave a wink and a nod" to a QAnon conspiracy theory about Tom Hanks, says Kyle Clark of 9News. Boebert Tweeted, "Joe Biden is doing a fundraiser with newly minted Greek Citizen Tom Hanks tomorrow. I just. . . no comment." According to Clark, "Some QAnon followers believe that Hanks's duel citizenship in Greece is an attempt to escape child-abuses charges, pedophilia charges." He continues, "Tom Hanks actually received his honorary Greek citizenship for his humanitarian work on behalf of Greek wildfire victims in 2018." USA Today has more background about this.

The FBI very reasonably counts QAnon as a terror threat.

9News reported August 14, "A Douglas County judge has ruled there's enough evidence to proceed with the case against a woman accused of plotting a "raid" to kidnap her son from foster care with aid from members of the far-right conspiracy group QAnon."

CNN's article about Colorado attorney and political activist Randy Corporon is titled, "Top Colorado RNC official spread conspiracy theories and made Islamophobic and sexist comments." The Colorado Times Recorder published Corporon's reply, but his remarks were not very substantive.

Civiqs ran a poll, ""Do you believe that the QAnon theory about a conspiracy among deep state elites is true?" The results: "Fully 33% of Republicans say it is mostly true. 23% think some parts are true. Only 13% say it's not true at all. In contrast, 72% of Democrats say the QAnon theory isn't true. Only 14% of Americans have never heard of QAnon." However, the wording is not very specific. Lots of people who don't follow QAnon are worried about a "deep state." "The federal government employs nearly 9.1 million workers"—that seems pretty "deep" to me (whether it's a problem is another matter). I'm pretty sure that if the pollsters had used Kyle Clark's more-specific language—"this is the conspiracy theory that President Trump is about to round up and execute his opponents for pedophilia and drinking baby blood"—the results would have been rather different. Still, the results are alarming.

Cases of Jury Nullification

September 4, 2020

We can find cases of jury nullification that helped achieve justice and that thwarted justice. Here are two cases of the latter.

As I've written elsewhere, I found an 1895 case in Aspen, Colorado, involving a man accused of violating the state's anti-discrimination law. He was pretty obviously guilty, but a jury let him off. However, I have not tracked down additional details about the case. I don't know, for example, what the criminal penalty was. My general sense is that anti-discrimination laws should at most involve corrective orders and perhaps financial penalties.

In his biography, Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man, Timothy Sandefur gives another example. Sandefur describes "some sensational conflicts over slavery in Baltimore, sparked by the vanguard abolitionist Benjamin Lundy and his protege, William Lloyd Garrison. Lundy had been publishing his weekly Genius of Universal Emancipation since arriving in the city in 1825. The following Spring, an infamous slave trader named Austin Woolfolk beat Lundy nearly to death on a Baltimore street after he denounced Woolfolk in the Genius as a 'monster in human shape,' and an 'adamantine creature.' The slave dealer was convicted of attempted murder, but the jury imposed a fine of only $1."

Cases of Racist Discrimination

September 5, 2020

As I've written elsewhere, I found an 1895 case in Aspen, Colorado, involving a man accused of violating the state's anti-discrimination law.

In his book on Frederick Douglass (p. 39), Timothy Sandefur discusses how Douglass would be refused service and that his fellow white Abolitionists also would decline to use the service. One time, when Douglass "refused to yield his seat on the train to a white man, a mob tore the bench on which he was sitting from the floor of the car," Sandefur writes.

Later (p. 75), Sandefur notes that Douglass was concerned with private discrimination, such as "the boycotting of black businesses by white customers" and the practice of some labor unions of "admitting only white members as a means of limiting competition for jobs." And "black entrepreneurs were often excluded from access to capital." (And of course government discriminated in various ways too.)

Sandefur also discusses (starting on p. 78) the 1875 national Civil Rights Act promoted by Charles Sumner. "It prohibited discrimination in hotels, theaters, restaurants, and other places of public accommodation," Sandefur summarizes. Douglass argued that a person "has the right to walk, ride, and be accommodated with food and shelter in a public conveyance or hotel." But the Supreme Court gutted the act with its Civil Rights Cases of 1883. Wikipedia summarizes, "The decision has never been overturned, but in the 1965 case of Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, the Supreme Court held that Congress could prohibit racial discrimination by private actors under the Commerce Clause." In 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson established the "separate but equal" doctrine (which pertained to government policy). While I'm mentioning infamous Supreme Court cases: In 1857 the court under Roger Taney ruled in Dred Scott v. Sandford that Black people do not have U.S. citizenship.

Sandefur (p. 86) writes: "Douglass and Wells might break up segregation in a Chicago eatery, but an ordinary farmer who tried to do the same in any rural Mississippi coffee shop might very well be murdered." (Douglass once took wells to a "whites only" restaurant for lunch.)

Douglass and Reparations

September 5, 2020

In his book on Frederick Douglass (starting on p. 64), Timothy Sandefur outlines Douglass's attitudes toward various forms of assistance for freed slaves, which today I'd bundle with the reparations debates.

Charles Sumner, Sandefur writes, had a plan "to confiscate plantation land and divide it among the former slaves." Here's how Sandefur summarizes Douglass's view: "Although government could legitimately provide the freedmen with less intrusive forms of aid, the power to redistribute land, however well intentioned, was dangerous: it could easily fall into the hands of the politically powerful—which meant racist whites—who would then exploit that power for their own benefit."

At this point Sandefur offers a note (#10): "That is ultimately what happened a century later, when racially restrictive zoning laws, and then federal and state 'urban renewal' projects, sought to sequester and then evict black landowners to eradicate 'urban blight.'" Sandefur recommends Clarence Thomas's dissent in Kelo v. New London.

Douglass's refrain, with respect to what whites should do with freed slaves, was, "Do nothing with us!" Still, Douglass "supported the work of the Freedmen's Bureau, established by Congress to protect blacks from violence and to promote their economic status by providing them with clothing, food, health care, and jobs. He even proposed a plan to use government funds to buy southern land and sell it in small lots to freedmen at discounted rates." He said, "It is not fair play to start the negro out in life, from nothing and with nothing."

Of course Douglass called for equal treatment under the law, which was not achieved then.

The discussion about compensation involves concerns about justice and about political expedience. If I could go back in time and make my will hold, I'd require former slave holders to seriously compensate former slaves, which in many cases probably would mean selling off plantations, or distributing plantation lands among former slaves, to cover the costs. This no doubt would leave many former slave holders destitute. It's easy to see how such an outcome would have meant political trouble in those precarious times.

The 1873 Colfax Massacre

September 5, 2020

Another bit via Timothy Sandefur's book on Frederick Douglass: In 1873, in the midst of a political clash in Louisiana between rival governments, the April Colfax Massacre ended in the death of some 150 Black people. Wikipedia has an entry with numerous references. Smithsonian also has an article on the matter.

Trump on the 1619 Project

September 6, 2020

As I Tweeted, "It's so weird how putting politicians in charge of education makes education political." A small-account anonymous Twitter user posted, "california has implemented the 1619 project into the public schools. soon you wont recognize america." Donald Trump replied, "Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded!"

My personal view is that students studying this aspect of history would do well to read the New York Times's material as well as a critique, such as that offered by Phillip Magness.

But I certainly do not think this should be a national political issue.

Space Mice

September 9, 2020

Scientists blocked "a pair of proteins that typically limit muscle mass" in mice, resulting in mice sent to the space station that bulked up rather than got weaker. But, as I Tweeted, "rather than try to bioengineer humans to live in zero-g, I'm on board with [Robert Zubrin's] plan simply to use artificial g. (I think it's ridiculous 'we' don't have a spinning space station yet.)"

Comments on the Electoral College

September 9, 2020

"The Electoral College Will Destroy America," Jesse Wegman writes (hyperbolically). He doesn't really have a case, though. He emotes, "This makes me really angry," and he claims that a "a representative democracy [is] based on the principle that all votes are equal." He also doesn't like the "winner take all" system that most states use. He favors the interstate national popular vote compact. I Tweeted, "This is kind of amazing. A NYT editorial argues (or emotes) against the electoral college and the "winner take all" system. The op-ed uses the historical example of the winner-take-all system advantaging Black voters in NY over white voters in TX!"

Wegman references Nate Silver's September 2 Tweet claiming that Joe Biden's chances of winning the presidency surpass the 50% mark only after he exceeds a 3-point victory.

Wegman helpfully cites an August 23, 1823 letter by James Madison on the matter. But Wegman grossly distorts Madison's position. Madison hardly was in favor of a national popular vote; instead, he favored "the election of Presidential Electors by districts."

A recent NPR piece lavishes praise on Wegman's take, noting he has a book out called Let the People Pick the President. Wegman's argument that the votes of people in a state's minority "disappear" in a winner-take-all system is particularly stupid. The same could be said about all votes that people cast for people who eventually lose; his argument, if legitimate, would strike against democratic elections per se.

Constitutional scholar Rob Natelson argues, "The Electoral College is still right for America." He argues the national popular vote compact is an unconstitutional expansion of states' designated powers. Elsewhere he argues that a national popular vote (NPV) would award "a majority in the Electoral College to whomever won a bare plurality of the reported national vote, even if some of the reported totals were corrupt. Presidential elections would fracture into multi-candidate affairs; less than 40 percent of the popular vote could assure victory."

Elsewhere Natelson makes the following interesting argument: "Under NPV, the rot would soon spread to state elections. Most states have plurality election systems now, but their political parties are held together by the need to compete nationally. Once that need disappears, state elections would become as fractured as national races. Many Americans are unaware of how our presidential electoral system has protected us from Third World results. To win under our system, a candidate must win a majority in the Electoral College, which is almost impossible to do without winning at least 40 percent of the popular vote. (The one time it happened, the results provoked civil war.) Moreover, if no candidate receives a majority of electors, the House of Representatives run-off enables leading candidates to form coalitions with majority support." A possible solution to the first problem is to implement approval voting, which I favor.

David B. Kopel and Hunter Hovenga argue, "The National Popular Vote Violates the Colorado Constitution." They refer to the interstate compact. They seem obviously to be right, as the state constitution plainly states, "The general assembly shall provide that after the year eighteen hundred and seventy-six the electors of the electoral college shall be chosen by direct vote of the people."

Last year I argued against the interstate compact proposal. I've also argued for splitting up the most-populated states and for expanding the size of the House.

The Supreme Court ruled that state governments can force electors to be faithful (to voter will).

September 13: Steve Coll also has an article out condemning the electoral college (same ol').

"Far from being racist, the Electoral College protects the interests of anyone in the minority—political, geographic, racial, or otherwise."

September 15: I had a column at Complete Colorado arguing that the electoral college is basically a good idea but that its functioning can be improved by splitting up California and Texas and by expanding the size of the House.

Natelson wrote me via email and argued that I was wrong to think that perhaps the Colorado Constitution might violate the Federal Constitution by throwing the selection of electors straight to the people (not via the legislature). Natelson replied, "The U.S. Constitution assigns various tasks to 'state legislatures,' but depending on context the term can mean either of two things: (1) the normal lawmaking assembly of the state or (2) the state's legislative power. SCOTUS has decided that in the election-law context it means the latter. Many conservatives have decried these decisions, but from an originalist point of view they are correct: Founding-era evidence demonstrates that. Although I believe SCOTUS's recent presidential electors case was wrongly decided, it does reinforce the same view." I thanked him for his analysis and replied, "So that means the NPV [national popular vote compact] violates both the state and federal constitutions." See the column for details.

Masks as Immunity Device

September 11, 2020

I've written a bit about variolation, a sort of poor-man's version of a vaccine. The idea is you intentionally (or accidentally, I suppose) get a small dose of an infectious disease that hopefully won't make you too sick but will make you sick enough to develop immunity.

Here's an intriguing idea: Maybe wearing a mask can act as a sort of variolation device, to reduce one's exposure to the virus and hence reduce the severity of symptoms. This could help explain declining COVID-19-related deaths. See an article by Web MD (which quotes Amesh Adalja) a study by NEJM.

Colorado Learning Pod Regulations

September 11, 2020

"Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order . . . temporarily suspending statutes that require certain licenses for adults wishing to supervise children." This pertains to "learning pods." Why not make this change permanent? It's really hard to organize something like this, and the arbitrary expiration date will discourage people.

The GOP Internet Censors

September 11, 2020

"Republican Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a new bill Tuesday that would change the terms of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from legal responsibility for user content they host, or expunge, from their platforms. The bill, called the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, would narrow the kind of user content tech companies can remove from their platforms, and restrict their ability to make 'editorial' choices about what content to host and where it appears," writes Mark Sullivan (with his original links embedded).

I realize it seems like an asymmetry that social media companies can remove content they don't like without getting sued for content they leave up, but that's a perfectly justifiable system. Government controls on what social media companies may and may not leave up constitutes censorship, pure and simple.

The Political Threat to the Supply Chain

September 11, 2020

"The biggest risk to medical supply chains is not free markets, a global pandemic, or a natural disaster, but politicians themselves."

Speaking of supply-chain issues, inputs for N95 masks remain scarce. The AP blames the government's lack of contracts and "letting" people sell materials overseas; I think the real problem probably is U.S. price controls that disrupt the market.

Reading List about the Welfare State

September 11, 2020

Williamson Evers offers a libertarian-friendly reading list "on poverty and the welfare state."

Reading List about Police Reform

September 11, 2020

Williamson Evers offers an extensive reading list about police reform.

The Homicide Rate in the Context of Medical Advances

September 14, 2020

Here is an obviously important point that I have nevertheless not contemplated before: The homicide rate is a function not only of attempted homicides but of health technology. When doctors get better at fixing people, the homicide rate goes down simply because fewer people die of attempted homicide (other things equal). So the homicide rate can go down even if the rate of violence remains constant. "Murder rates would be up to five times higher than they are but for medical developments over the past 40 years," claims one 2002 paper.

Colorado Payroll Tax Proposed

September 16, 2020

This Fall Colorado voters will decide (and probably pass) a 0.9% payroll tax initially (and a 1.2% tax later), payed 50–50 by employers and employees, to fund "medical leave." This is Prop. 118; see also the BallotPedia review.

Here's what I Tweeted: "Generally I think "we" should repeal all payroll taxes, not add more. If you want to run a welfare program, just do that through general funds. Payroll taxes hurt esp. lower-income workers."

Examples of Natural Parasitism

September 16, 2020

Nature can be cold. One type of worm invades a snail, takes over the snail's functions to make it a colorful and easy treat for birds, and then reproduces inside the bird.

A type of fungus takes over an ant and compels the ant to climb a branch so the fungus can reproduce.

Barrett's Religious Views

September 23, 2020

Here is my Tweet thread on the topic:

At a glance I'm not seeing anything in Amy Coney Barrett's religious views that are especially troublesome. [Obviously Barrett probably would help erode women's right to get an abortion, and that is deeply concerning. Here I meant that her religious views are not obviously worse than those of any other justice Trump might nominate and not obviously disqualifying.] But let's not pretend that no religious views should be disqualifying.

Although there is and should be no formal "religious test" for any office, certainly voters and Senators should take someone's particular religious views into account, where troublesome. Some examples:

Some American Christians have explicitly stated that they think abortion is murder and people who facilitate abortion should be subject to the death penalty. The Senate certainly would not and should not confirm any Supreme Court justice with such views.

People always should vote against candidates who express "Christian Reconstructionist" views as outlined here. And against any Muslim candidate who said, for example, that apostates or homosexuals should be subject to the death penalty.

The view that some people express today, that someone's religious views should never be criticized and should not be politically relevant because they are religious, is absurd.

At the same time, we need to recognize the extraordinary religious bigotry so deeply entrenched historically. I spoke with John Coffey about religious toleration and with Robert Alan Goldberg about the Klan's anti-Catholicism.

* * *

At any rate, here is a friendly, and I think fair, take on Barrett's "Kingdom of God" remark.

Newsweek ran the sensationalist headline, "How Charismatic Catholic Groups Like Amy Coney Barrett's People of Praise Inspired 'The Handmaid's Tale'." But get a load of this correction: "Correction: This article's headline originally stated that People of Praise inspired 'The Handmaid's Tale'. The book's author, Margaret Atwood, has never specifically mentioned the group as being the inspiration for her work. A New Yorker profile of the author from 2017 mentions a newspaper clipping as part of her research for the book of a different charismatic Catholic group, People of Hope. Newsweek regrets the error."

Constance Grady has a nice article discussing the specious link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid's Tale. However, I remain deeply creeped out by American religious groups that refer to any women as "handmaids" (as a group that Barrett belongs to once did).

E. J. Dionne Jr. has some on-point remarks about Republicans' treatment of religion. Many Republicans snap at criticisms of their own religious views even as they criticize the particular religious views of others. Many Republicans, for example, say that Catholic Democrats "aren't really Catholic" or (or the like) because they think abortion should be legal. The Catholic church really is officially opposed to abortion, but Republicans also sometimes make comparable claims about Protestant Democrats.

"Barrett signed ad in 2006 decrying 'barbaric legacy' of Roe v. Wade, advocating overturning the law."

This post was last updated October 2, 2020.

Currie-Knight on Integration in Schools

September 23, 2020

In a podcast, Kevin Currie-Knight argues, "We've waited long enough for government to prove to us they can desegregate schools. . . . If we give (families) the option of disconnecting their school from their ZIP code, there's every reason to think we'll get more integration in schools."

Michael Munger on Academic Publishing

September 23, 2020

Economist Michael Munger has a video series out on academic publishing.

He also has an essay, "The Future of Academic Publishing."

See also Jason Brennan's book, Good Work If You Can Get It: How to Succeed in Academia.

Kilpatrick's Critique of Montessori

September 23, 2020

William Heard Kilpatrick wrote a 1914 critique of the educational methods of Maria Montessori, The Montessori System Examined. Google has the book, available in free ebook versions.

The Montessori Method also is available online at no cost.

Crows Are Smart

September 24, 2020

"Crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds."

Alkon on Homelessness

September 25, 2020

My Tweet: "Obviously Denver (and surrounding) has a big problem with homelessness. [Amy Alkon] has the idea of pairing strict enforcement of anti-squatting laws with tax-paid tent camps. I don't know the right answer, but at least this is a serious proposal."

Radiation on the Moon

September 26, 2020

"Astronauts would get 200 to 1,000 times more radiation on the moon than what we experience on Earth." Unshielded ones would, anyway.

Starving Marvin

September 26, 2020

I was just listening to a panel discussion about the book In Defense of Openness featuring the authors, Bas van der Vossen and Jason Brennan. I notice that the book relies heavily on Michael Huemer's thought-experiment about "Starving Marvin," which came out in a 2010 journal article.

In the panel discussion, Anna Stilz has some very smart criticisms. Her basic idea is that we should take seriously the ways that initial distribution and bargaining power affects outcomes, and we should condition open trade and migration with strong protections for workers. My quick reply is a) wealth creation is mostly not contingent on initial ownership (consider all the rags-to-riches stories) and b) a free labor market (as opposed to the labor market we have today) is very good especially for the least-well-off workers, especially as productivity increases.

Kit Wellman argues that unrestricted immigration might disrupt the institutions that allowed for prosperity in the first place.

Brennan replies that the current nation-state system that closes migration thereby commits mass oppression and that people don't actually own their institutions. Van der Vossen argues that it's just not the case that immigrants destroy local institutions.

Huemer on the Academy

September 27, 2020

Michael Huemer is worried about colleges: "The academic world may be undermining its own economic viability, by converting the college degree from a signal of intelligence and self-discipline, into a signal of hypersensitivity and intolerance."

Incentives Matter, Car Seats Edition

October 1, 2020

This is quite a finding: "Since 1977, U.S. states have passed laws steadily raising the age for which a child must ride in a car safety seat. These laws significantly raise the cost of having a third child, as many regular-sized cars cannot fit three child seats in the back. Using census data and state-year variation in laws, we estimate that when women have two children of ages requiring mandated car seats, they have a lower annual probability of giving birth by 0.73 percentage points. Consistent with a causal channel, this effect is limited to third child births, is concentrated in households with access to a car, and is larger when a male is present (when both front seats are likely to be occupied). We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017. Simultaneously, they led to a permanent reduction of approximately 8,000 births in the same year, and 145,000 fewer births since 1980, with 90% of this decline being since 2000."

Colorado's Increased Deaths

October 12, 2020

The Denver Post has a really interesting review of excess deaths this year in Colorado.

The official numbers say that Colorado currently has 2,113 "deaths among cases" of COVID-19, and 1,998 "deaths due to COVID-19."

But deaths are actually up around 20% over normal, or "at least 3,788," says the Post. In terms of raw numbers, "the state recorded on average" 18,935 deaths "for the same period during the three years prior," and "an estimated 22,723 . . . between March and August."

A caveat: "There's a lag in death-certificate data so it's possible the number of fatalities during the first six months of the pandemic could still rise further."

Another key detail: "Of the excess deaths, at least 1,627 were Coloradans who died from COVID-19 complications. This number is lower than the state [official] count of such fatalities [because] unlike the death-certificate data, [the official count] includes non-residents who died from the disease while in the state."

The upshot is that fewer than half of the excess deaths are accounted for by formal findings of COVID-19. What's responsible for the rest of the deaths?

Uncounted COVID-19 cases are part of the mix, but "it's unclear how many of the fatalities are from missed COVID-19 diagnoses," the Post says.

The Post did find that deaths from "cirrhosis, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's also saw significant spikes." The best explanation for most of these deaths is that people delayed care. What about Alzheimer's, which saw a 26% spike? Maybe the increased deaths have to do with worse care and more social isolation. Or (I think more likely) maybe more people with Alzheimer's were dying of COVID-19 but not diagnosed with it.

Here's a surprising finding: "Suicides dropped 2% over previous years, to 639 deaths."

However, "between March and August, 597 Coloradans died of overdoses, which is up 40% from the 3-year-average of 424 deaths, according to the state data."

Adriano Celentano's Delightful Gibberish

November 30, 2020

Recently I came across a music video of Adriano Celentano's 1972 hit song "Prisencolinensinainciusol." I love the song. What's peculiar about this song is that Celentano, an Italian, wrote it to sound like American English, but the lyrics don't actually mean anything. Wikipedia has some background. Language Log has some other versions of the song. There's also a great dance routine to a more-techno remake of the song. I don't know whether this is an after-the-fact explanation, but in 2012, Celentano told NPR, "I sang it with an angry tone because the theme was important. It was an anger born out of resignation. I brought to light the fact that people don't communicate."

Enoch Against Public Reason

November 30, 2020

When philosopher Jason Brennan posted a "meme" suggesting that David Enoch had knocked out "public reason," I figured I'd see what's up. SSRN has the abstract and paper, "Against Public Reason." The paper is officially published in the first volume of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. (Eric Mack also has an essay in there about rights, fyi.)

Brennan has his own critique of Rawls in his great intro to political philosophy.

Enoch is concerned particularly with versions of public reasoning that entail "some requirement to justify political principles to each of those subject to them as a necessary condition for legitimacy." In this view, "all public-reason accounts must involve some idealization"—and that's the problem. He writes, "I insist that the relevant reason for action is the content of the principle, not that we accept it." I agree with that, but I think that some people use the term "public reason" to describe other sorts of theories that aren't subject to Enoch's critiques.

Eying Egalitarianism

November 30, 2020

Here's a note from Jason Brennan's intro to political philosophy: "[G. A.] Cohen [Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality (New York: Cambridge University Press] 1995, pp. 229–44, takes [Robert Nozick's] bait and wonders about redistributing eyes. Cecile Fabre, Whose Body Is It Anyway? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), argues for the forced redistribution of eyes and other organs."

The Reckless Colorado GOP

November 30, 2020

This is pretty outrageous. On the same day that the state reported record numbers of people currently hospitalized for Covid-19, several Republican state legislators chose not to wear masks while attending in-person meetings at the capitol. Meanwhile, a GOP staffer who had tested positive for the coronavirus showed up at the capitol for work and was in close proximity to maskless legislators while she herself wore a mask beneath her nose.

That sort of behavior shows a reckless lack of consideration for the Coloradans funding this clown show, not to mention the Colorado health care providers working with Covid-19 patients.

As of this evening (November 30), the state has recorded 3,037 "deaths among cases" and 2,656 "deaths due to Covid-19."

The main source for the claims above is a Tweet by Denver Post reporter Alex Burness. Burness shows a photo taken by State Rep. Cathy Kipp. It shows a man in a tan suit clowning around with a mask on top of his head, while speaking in close proximity to two other men who are not wearing masks. Behind the man with the mask atop his head sits a woman wearing a mask beneath her nose. Here is Burness's description: "You know that photo of Rep. Larry Liston that's been going around? . . . The woman with the brown hair in the background is [Ellen] Moroney, the GOP staffer who posted 'I have COVID' on Facebook on Nov. 24."

House Speaker KC Becker distributed the following notice: "It has come to our attention that a House Minority staffer tested positive for COVID last week and was on the floor this morning. The staffer in question has been told to leave the building and not to return for the remainder of special session and until testing negative. CDPHE will be working on contact tracing for anyone who may have come in contact. We want to remind everyone that all staff are required to wear masks at all times and get tested before entering the building, or they are not allowed in the building."

In an earlier Tweet, Burness shared another photo with the comment, "About half the Colorado Senate Republicans present for the special session are not wearing masks." I commented, "Colorado Republicans try to convince voters that they deserve another shot at power by. . . senselessly putting other people's health and lives in danger. Immoral, and idiotic."

I added, "I'm shocked that, during the current pandemic, [the Colorado legislature] is even meeting in person. Why not do this all remotely? If I were in the legislature and had to go in person, I'd definitely have on (at least) goggles and an N95 or KN95 mask."

Burness also wrote up an article on the matter for the Post. He writes, "Incoming House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, said Moroney tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 17—not Nov. 24, the day she posted on Facebook" that she had Covid. Burness reports that "Incoming House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland" said in a statement, "That aide [Moroney] sought the advice of their physician and was given permission to return to work in person on the 24th of this month." Burness also quotes another comment by Becker, "The minority's dangerous disregard for simple and effective protections and this staffer's presence on the floor has placed the health of every lawmaker and member of staff at risk."

Liberty and Faction

December 3, 2020

Here is a great line from James Madison: "Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency."

What is a faction? "By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

Madison also has some very modern-sounding views about biases and motivated reasoning: "As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other; and the former will be objects to which the latter will attach themselves."

However, I would say that reason is not possible unless it is motivated by some sort of interest, so "self-love" is not automatically a biasing factor, as Madison has it. There is simply no such thing as interest-free reason.

Another remarkable line: "An attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power . . . [has] divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good."

And: "So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."

And: "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."

And: "[A] pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

Then comes Madison's classic defense of republican government.

Notably, Madison warns against "A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project."

Rudolph's Copyright Error

December 4, 2020

I bet somone's face was red! This is the second-craziest copyright story I've heard, after the one about the monkey's self-portrait. An image on Wikipedia from the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV film explains the following "permission details":

"The copyright year in Roman numerals was mismarked as MCLXIV (1164) instead of the correct MCMLXIV (1964). This invalidates the copyright under U.S. law at the time, which required a valid date of copyright to be affixed to the production; this means that still images from the special and all of the characters unique to the special are, as a result, in the public domain. However, because the original story and song are still copyrighted and the soundtrack was validly copyrighted separately, for all practical purposes, permission is still required to air the special."

It seems crazy to me that intellectual property could be invalidated by an obvious typo. No one actually thinks the film was created in the year 1164. (At the same time, it seems to me that use of the still, say, with an article is fair use.)

Curing Aging

December 6, 2020

Michael Huemer has a short essay arguing that a cure for aging should be a much higher priority. He points to a story by Nick Bostrom on the topic.

Trump's Art of Fantasy

December 9, 2020

In The Art of the Deal (p. 58), Donald Trump writes, ""The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. . . . [A] little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular."

Related: Trump once said, "It's a terrible statement unless he gets away with it."

Cory on Abortion and Immigration

December 9, 2020

Therese Scarpelli Cory has out an interesting article arguing that Catholics should be more worried about immigration restrictions than many are. Her basic claim is that some Catholics see abortion as inherently evil but immigration restrictions purely as a matter of prudential concerns, a distinction that doesn't hold up.

This is a little strange for me to address because (besides the fact that I'm an atheist) I think a) abortion is not inherently evil but that b) restricting the rights of peaceable persons to migrate (in normal circumstances) is inherently evil. We share a basic skepticism of a sharp moral/prudential division.

An explanation here: The reason that some things are "prudential" is that they are wise or not to pursue depending on a person's circumstances. For most people eating peanut butter poses no prudential concern; for someone with a peanut allergy, it does. But, I'd say, there's also a moral dimension to someone doing the prudent thing. It is not only prudent but moral for someone with a peanut allergy to take reasonable steps to avoid eating peanuts.

A note: Prudential matters can be very hard to rationally evaluate. One can easily be factually wrong about what would be the optimal (most prudential) move. Therefore, the proper standard of evaluation is, did the person honestly seek to make the most reasonable decision possible given limited information?

Another note: Some things genuinely are optional, in the sense that one might as well flip a coin. Let's say I want to watch a film with my family. There is no morally right answer as to which film we should watch. Some films are definitely in and some are definitely out, but within the range of appropriate films, watching any of the films would be equally moral.

Here is a key passage from the essay: "[U]nder the linguistic shroud, it [the 'intrinsic/prudential' distinction] is simply the pale ghost of a widespread individualistic moral theory, in which objective moral 'oughts' are viewed as constraints on intellectual and moral freedom that reduce the sovereignty of the individual, and that therefore should be kept to an absolute minimum. Avoid violating that small set of oughts—representing a small, universally-recognized set of especially heinous acts—and then 'do what you will.' As long as one is not violating the basic oughts, one's actions can be shielded from scrutiny, as indicated by the slogan that 'reasonable people can disagree.'"

This is a totally wrong view of individualism. Individualism does not hold that nearly any action is moral merely because the individual wishes to perform it. Individualism does not mean moral subjectivism. Rather, individualism means that the individual is the fundamental unit of moral consideration, as contrasted with collectivism, which holds that individuals and their rights may properly be sacrifices to group interests. Although it is true that deep strains of moral subjectivism run through libertarianism, an individualist can perfectly well hold that morality is objective and that it extends to all personal actions. That basically describes Ayn Rand's view as well as my own.

Of course, individualists also (very reasonably!) think that not everything that is immoral should be outlawed. Hence, we individualists maintain two levels of evaluation, one for individuals, one for governments. That is, it can be (and often is) immoral for government to ban immoral actions. There's nothing odd or inconsistent about this view.

Of course "reasonable people can disagree" about many things, but so what? Reasonable people cannot disagree, for example, that government should permit murder. Reasonable people can disagree about whether (say) the moderate consumption of alcohol is a good idea. And there government properly is silent. Indeed, on the matter of alcohol consumption, government is properly silent (excepting cases of drunk driving and the like) even about the choices of unreasonable people.

Although Cory at one point recognizes "juridical" distinctions, she also makes the simple error of confusing that which is immoral with that which is properly illegal. Me saying "a person has a right to do X" does not imply that X is a moral choice. Those are simply two different issues. But surely Cory would not wish to argue that everything that is immoral should be outlawed! That is a recipe for totalitarianism.

Because Corey confuses what is moral with what is legal, she completely misses the (main) point of Judith Jarvis Thompson's essay on abortion, which focuses (mainly) on the question of (legal) rights. Now, Thompson also asserts, and I agree, that abortion at least in the early term is not immoral. I'm not rejecting objective morality in making this claim; rather, I am claiming that Corey is simply wrong on this matter, as a matter of objective moral truth. So not only does a person have a right to get an abortion (at least in the early term), a person can be morally right to do so.

Corey then has a long discussion about why the moral/prudential distinction (which she calls the "intrinsic/prudential" distinction) is not a sharp line. "All evil actions are intrinsically evil (and all good actions are intrinsically good), and prudence governs all human actions, not just a certain subset," she writes. I think the term "intrinsic" is loaded, but if we substitute "inherent" or the like I accept the formulation.

I agree with Corey that objective morality is possible and that it applies to all human action. The fault I find with Corey is that she does not actually advocate a theory of objective morality; she merely pronounces that she does while falling back on the fundamentally subjectivist orientation of religious faith. But that discussion takes us far afield from the essay at hand.

Moon Ice

December 13, 2020

Some space scientists are worried that a rush to excavate lunar ice may interfere with scientific study of the ice.

Trump the Agitator

January 13, 2021

Donald Trump's January 6, 2021 speech follows the classic forms of triablism and scape-goating. Within the first two minutes, Trump accuses "radical left Democrats," "big tech," and "the fake news media" of "rigging" and "stealing" the election. In the midst of a stream of lies, Trump claims, "This is the most corrupt election in the history, maybe of the world." He also took a swipe at the Supreme Court, suggesting that the justices he nominated owed him.

The Ayn Rand Institute hosted a useful discussion about the assault on the Capitol.

I wrote a first and second article about the event, with a Colorado focus.

Trump Cultists in Their Own Words

January 14, 2021

The people who protested at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and who violently assaulted the Capitol, believed Donald Trump that the presidential election had been stolen.

QAnon and President Biden

January 20, 2021

According to QAnon conspiracy mongers, Donald Trump was supposed to seize a second term by today. Instead, he slinked off to Florida while Joe Biden assumed the presidency.

The New York Times (Kevin Roose) writes about the Q reaction. Today, January 20, was supposed to be the Great Awakening "when top Democrats would be arrested for running a global sex trafficking ring and President Trump would seize a second term in office," Roose writes.

As I mentioned on Twitter, this is akin to cultists whose leader prophesies that the world will end a certain day, but then that day comes and goes and a new day begins. How did QAnon cultists react? Roose: "Several large QAnon groups discussed . . . the possibility that they had been wrong about Mr. Biden, and that the incoming president was actually part of Mr. Trump's effort to take down the global cabal." Others moved the goal posts in other ways, while some actually started to wonder whether this QAnon business is and always was total bullshit.

And some former Trump supporters are now turning on Trump.

Boebert's Socialism

January 20, 2021

Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert recently Tweeted (see my screen captures and Tweet), "I will stand up to their [the Democrats'] radical, socialist agenda EVERY SINGLE TIME!" In a separate Tweet, she promoted the "America First movement" inspired by Donald Trump.

I responded, "The so-called 'America First movement' IS fundamentally socialist insofar as it asserts the federal government should override the rights of property and association of business owners and consumers, for the alleged benefit of society or the collective." Here I have in mind government restrictions on trade and on association with immigrants.

And, of course, Boebert promoted Trump's unlawful seizing of a second term, an effort that put the nation in profound danger of falling into fascism.

Marxist Anti-Marxists

January 20, 2021

Ronald Osborn convincingly argues that the religious nationalist Yoram Hazony is, in form, remarkably Marxist in his anti-Marxism. In Osborn's words: "Hazony's anti-Marxism ironically bears its own striking resemblance to Marxian ideology. Together with Marx, Hazony sees the present social order through a lens of a Manichean moral dualism, albeit one in which the forces of good and evil have been reversed from Marx's script. It is progressives and Leftists who are the actual oppressing class, while conservatives and their allies are the heroic saviors of history."

Summarizing Hazony, Osborn lists four main characteristics of the Marxist take on the world: A social class division into oppressors and oppressed, "false consciousness" of the oppressed, the need for violent class struggle wherein the oppressed seize power from the oppressors, and the final accomplishment of this.

The problem, Osborn notes, is that this too-general conception of Marxism lets Hazony "find" Marxism all over the place. And, by these standards, Hazony himself is a sort of Marxist.

Incidentally, libertarians also generally follow the Marxist form (as many libertarians have observed), basically splitting the world into the classes of rights-violating oppressors (which many libertarians equate with agents of government) and violated oppressed.

Now, there really are oppressors and oppressed in the world. This was especially obvious in the era of slavery. The problem that Osborn is getting at is that many people have a very easy time imagining themselves as champions of the "oppressed" and their opponents as "oppressors" who must be vanquished. Such thinking can very easily leave reality behind.

Dice-Generated Passwords

January 21, 2021

By repeatedly rolling three dice (or one die three times), you can generate a high-security password; see the tables under "Dice Tables." See also the Diceware site or word list for converting six-dice rolls into pass phrases.

Swanson and the Colorado Christian Homeschoolers

June 3, 2021

This is quite the article: "Pastor Who Advocates Death for Gays to Appear With CO Lawmaker and Legislative Aide at Conference." The pastor in question is Kevin Swanson; the conference is the Rocky Mountain Homeschool Conference, sponsored by the group Christian Home Educators of Colorado.

Content Moved

June 4, 2023

All of the content that used to be hosted here [at Liberty 'Gator] now resides at and Self in Society on Substack [later also moved to].

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