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Stephen Miller’s Racist Fix for Race Relations, Part II

In the immigration handbook he wrote for then Alabama Senator Sessions, Stephen Miller cited U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner, Peter Kirsanow, who subsequently was considered by Trump during the transition as a potential nominee for Secretary of Labor. In Kirsanow’s June 4 feature for National Review, Flames from False Narratives, he claimed that Black men are not disproportionately the targets of police violence and that the perception they are is a fabrication perpetrated by Hollywood, the media, academics and politicians.

To show that systemic police racism is a myth, Kirsanow presented a list of statistics compiled “from the 2018 National Crime Victimization Survey, Census data, FBI Uniform Crime Reports, and other sources” and cited his dissenting statement 2018 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Report for further discussion. The first thing to note is that Kirsanow’s statement was a dissent. He disagreed with the findings of the report adopted by the majority. One of those findings had to do with the inadequacy of data collection dealing with police violence. The report found that:

The public continues to hear competing narratives by law enforcement and community members, and the hard reality is that available national and local data is flawed and inadequate.

A central contributing factor is the absence of mandatory federal reporting and standardized reporting guidelines.

Former Director of the FBI James Comey characterized the data as “incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable.” I know, I know, Comey is a deep-state enemy of Donald Trump and therefore anything he said back in February of 2015 was simply a baseless attempt to discredit the President. The FBI publishes a honking huge disclaimer warning against the improper use of UCR data. None of that seems to matter to Kirsanow’s high school debate deployment of selected, clumsily massaged statistics.

Of course, there is no way to challenge Kirsanow’s numbers with better numbers because “the hard reality is that available national and local data is flawed and inadequate.” It is a hard reality that Kirsanow would presumably prefer to retain, given his dissent from the Civil Rights Commission’s report. Kirsanow is a lawyer, not a statistician, so it is probably unfair to challenge the logic of his claim that “[i]n 2015, a cop was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was likely to be killed by a cop.”

Say what? Almost 20 times as many cops killed by Black men as unarmed Black men killed by cops? Well, no. Kirsanow arrived at his imagin-scary 18.5 times ratio by way of a per capita calculation that is not only preposterous but also wrong in Kirsanow’s own terms, even setting aside the not inconsiderable fact that according to the Civil Rights Commission report only about half of police killings of civilians are reported to the FBI.

What Kirsanow did to arrive at his seemingly astonishing ratio is compare cops killed by Black men per 100.000 cops to unarmed Black males killed by cops per 100,000 Black males. The preposterous part of the per capita comparison is that the population of cops is not comparable to a population of African-American males. For example, there are no (or very few) individuals under the age of 20 something or over the age of 60 something in a population of cops. I could go on but the point is that “sworn officers” are not a demographic, they’re an occupational category.

O.K. that’s just the preposterous part. Now for the part where Kirsanow’s calculation fails on its own terms. He compares unarmed Black males killed by cops to cops killed by Black males, where presumably both cops and their killers were armed. This shows conclusively that not all Black males are unarmed at all times yet both unarmed and armed Black males are included in the population Kirsanow used to calculate his per capita comparison. How silly. This may sound like nit-picking but it’s the kind of thing that just kind of slips in when you are trying to lie with statistics but don’t really understand descriptive statistics.

Yeah, but what about — gasp! — BLACK-ON-BLACK violent crime?!? If one actually read the criminology literature one would learn that violent crime is multi-factored, that most violent crime occurs within a given community and higher crime rates are associated with poverty. The analysis is nuanced and doesn’t identify any single factor as decisive but here is an intriguing anecdote: white people living in poverty have a higher rate of violent crime than Black people living in poverty.

Black people are more than twice as likely as white people to live in poverty (22% to 9%). Now those two populations are not strictly comparable but then neither are the white and Black general populations that Kirsanow compares with abandon. But if we adjust for poverty using those percentages, the crime discrepancy vanishes! We can’t do that because it makes inappropriate assumptions about non-comparable populations. But the reason I brought it up is to point out that the populations Kirsanow compares so blithely are also not comparable. One has a 22% poverty rate and the other has a 9% poverty rate. One of these things is not like the other.

Expect to hear Peter Kirsanow’s name a lot in the coming days and possibly see his mangled numbers in Trump’s speech on race relations written by Miller. He’s African-American. He’s a U.S. Civil Rights Commission commissioner. He’s conservative. He ticks all the boxes.

Oh, and he’s statistical illiterate who uses numbers to score high school debating points.

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Tear Gas Versus Pepper Spray

Tear Gas Versus Pepper Spray

Or pepper gas.

So, AG Barr and Pres. Trump (and also the commander of the US Park Police, I think) have been hotly denying that tear gas was used last Monday June 1  in the attack by the Praetorian Guard on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square.  Various of them have also been claiming that as many as three warnings were issued to the crowd before they attacked and also have claimed that the protesters were throwing things at them and hus were violent rioters.  The latter claims have been denied by nearly all observers, including journalists, although it may have been that perfunctory warnings were issued very quietly so that almost nobody could hear them and that maybe one bottle got thrown.  Barr has also denied giving the order for this attack, laying it on the Park Police chief, and also denied that it had anything to do with Trump walking across the square a few minutes after the protesters were cleared to have his photo op at St. John’s Church with an upside-down backwards Bible, after church personnel were forced off their own church grounds by the attack.  All of this has turned into a massive embarrassment as polls on this have turned sharply against Trump, and the National Guard from 11 states are now being removed from Washington, if not the still non-IDed Praetorian Guard Barr oversees himself.

Then we have the matter of tear gas, with protesters clearly crying and coughing and exhibiting symptoms usually associated with being tear gassed as they fled the square, and with most of them claiming to have been “tear gassed.”  This has been roundly denied by the three parties identified above.  Instead it has been admitted that “pepper balls” were thrown into the crowd, along with rubber bullets being used and flash-bang grenades.  While both Barr and Trump have both since claimed that these “pepper balls” are not “eye irritants,” clearly they are, and a variety of expert sources have reported that they are.

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Stephen Miller’s Racist Fix for Race Relations

Word is circulating that Stephen Miller is writing Donald Trump’s speech on race relations. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Trump’s “solution” to the current malaise in the U.S. will involve extending a ban on immigration and expanding enforcement and expulsion of undocumented individuals. This seems like a safe bet to me because Miller really is a one-trick pony and Trump relishes rehashing his greatest hits. Maybe Miller will toss in some “enterprise zones” or other ornamental trivia but the meat will be anti-immigration.

They playbook for this will be Miller’s Immigration Handbook for a New Republican Majority that he wrote for Jeff Sessions in 2015. Footnote 21 of that handbook states that, “Amnesty and uncontrolled immigration disproportionately harms African-American workers, and has been
described by U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Peter Kirsanow as a ‘disaster.'” The handbook also cites a poll commissioned by Kellyanne \Conway, one finding of which was that “86% of black voters and 71% of Hispanic voters said companies should raise wages and improve working conditions instead of increasing immigration.”

Two years ago, I posted a couple of pieces discussing Miller’s handbook in more detail: The Lump That Begot Trump and Goebbels or Gompers?: A Closer Look at Stephen Miller’s Immigration Manifesto. I hope these pieces provide some insight into just how dangerous and effective Miller’s and Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric can be, especially given the hypocrisy of neo-liberal promotion of immigration as exemplified by Tony Blair’s and Gerhard Schroeder’s “Third Way” advocating “a new supply-side agenda for the left“. To put it bluntly, “Third Way” immigration policy was intended to create jobs by keeping wages low through an abundant supply of labor. The transfer of income from the working class to the wealthy would provide ample funds for “investment.”

In short, Miller’s and Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is dangerous and effective because Blair and Schroeder (and Clinton and Obama) enacted right-wing, supply-side economic policies in the name of “the [‘responsible’] left.”

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Echoes and contrasts with 1968

Echoes and contrasts with 1968

 – by New Deal democrat 

As I mention from time to time, I am a fossil. I am old enough to remember 1968, when I was a politically precocious teenybopper. In the past week, I have read a number of commentaries wondering if this year is similar. In short: yes.

In 1968 it appeared that the world was spiraling out of control. The Vietnam war was at its height, with 300 soldiers killed every week. Protests against the war were also reaching a crescendo, one that reached its apex during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, which was later described as a “police riot” that, among other things, targeted journalists. That was just a few weeks after the Soviet Army rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague Spring” of a progressive socialist government.
There were also race riots in medium and big US cities throughout the country. The police were called in to crack down on looting and vandalism, particularly following the assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.
While we don’t have a foreign war, we do have a pandemic that has uniquely been allowed to grow out of control in the US. We have China making moves in Hong Kong and the border with India. We have massive demonstrations, with some sporadic violence, following yet another  death of a black man at the hands of heavy-handed police tactics. The President has called in the military against its own citizenry.
But there are also two important differences. The first is that the pervasive videoing of police tactics has caused what one writer is calling “The Great Awokening” among most white people, who have seen convincing evidence of racial profiling by police and worse, killings of African Americans by police for things as trivial as a boy having a toy gun in a park.
This “Great Awokening” is shown by two charts below. The first shows attitudes towards violence by vs. towards police:

 

Even whites view violence *by* the police as a bigger problem than violence *towards* the police.

The second shows that the public does not approve of Trump’s handling of the protests in the past week (I’ve truncated the chart to take out views by employment and a few other items):

 

Only Evangelicals and rural areas show higher rates of approval (good, very good, and excellent) compared with disapproval (poor). Interesting, whites are not broken out separately.
The second contrast with 1968 is that the person calling for “law and order” is the incumbent. In 1968 the President, both Houses of Congress, most State governments and big cities were run by Democrats. Nixon, a Republican, was running against them. Now Trump and the GOP control the Presidency, Senate, and a majority of Statehouses. And when civil order breaks down, the public blames the incumbent party, not the insurgents.
I have no idea how everything will ultimately play out, but I do believe the images of the US military being called into action against peaceful demonstrators in Washington DC is going to leave a very sour taste. I do suspect that, like 1968, there will be a watershed passing of the political order of the old guard.

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Looking Down Right Now

“Ryan is looking down right now, and you know that, and he is very happy, because I think he just broke a record.”

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country,”

Trump’s cynical invoking of George Floyd yesterday has a history that explains what he imagined he was doing. In the first week after his inauguration, Trump approved a Navy Seal raid on suspected positions of al Queda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the village of Yakla in Yemen. His National Security Adviser, General Flynn had portrayed the proposed raid as a “game changer” that would contrast Trump’s toughness with Obama’s supposed indecisiveness.

The raid was a fiasco. AQAP had somehow learned of the impending raid and fortified their positions. Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was mortally wounded and at least five other American personnel were also wounded. Dozens of civilians were killed. Owens’s father called the mission “a screw-up from the start that ended badly.”

Characteristically, Trump deflected responsibility for the raid to the generals and the previous administration while incongruously insisting that it had been a tremendous success. A month later, though, came his opportunity to seize the narrative. At his first address to a joint session of Congress, Trump read from the teleprompter a glowing tribute to Officer Owens. He performed the encomium with gusto. When he finished, senators, representatives and guests stood in a sustained ovation while Owens’s tearful widow, a guest of Ivanka Trump, gazed upward.

Trump then ad-libbed his remark about Ryan looking down. The quip was well received with gentle chuckling. It nicely broke the tension of the dramatic spectacle.

Now one might dismiss the episode as a cynical, and sinister, exploitation of a pointless death — not to mention the “collateral damage” — and a widow’s grief. But that isn’t the way CNN panelist and ex-Obama aide Van Jones saw it. Jones lauded the performance as “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” It was, in Jones’s view, the moment Trump “became president of the United States”:

That was one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period, and he did something extraordinary. And for people who have been hoping that he would become unifying, hoping that he might find some way to become presidential, they should be happy with that moment. For people who have been hoping that maybe he would remain a divisive cartoon, which he often finds a way to do, they should begin to become a little bit worried tonight, because that thing you just saw him do—if he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years. Now, there was a lot that he said in that speech that was counterfactual, that was not right, that I oppose and will oppose. But he did something tonight that you cannot take away from him. He became president of the United States.

Undoubtedly Trump would have been shown Jones’s effusive commentary and would have basked in its obsequious glow. Yesterday, when he pulled his “looking down right now” stunt for the second time, he probably expected it to resonate as a unifying moment, thinking he was finding “a way to do that over and over again” without quite understanding what “that” had been. George Floyd was not a Navy Seal killed in action. He was an African-American man murdered by cops. The protesters are not sycophantic trained seals like the senators and representatives (of both parties). And, of course, Princess Ivanka had neglected to bring a grieving widow in tow to the “press conference.” There was nothing “presidential” about Trump’s ghoulish sequel of his “most extraordinary moment.”

If the prior performance illuminates the latter one, the opposite is also true. Trump’s tribute to Ryan Owens was no less cynical than his clumsy attempt to enlist George Floyd as a posthumous protagonist of the allegedly “great thing that’s happening for our country.”

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Marine General James Mattis Denounces Trump

No sorry here, I refuse to call Trump President. It is time for this bum to leave.

Breaking his silence  .   .   .

General Mattis denounces the president for dividing the nation, and accused him of ordering the U.S. military to violate the constitutional rights of American citizens.

General Mattis: “I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled The words ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand – one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values – our values as people and our values as a nation.  We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.’”

James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution The Atlantic

Retired Admiral Mike Mullen (Chairman Joint Chief of Staff).

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Asking the Wrong Questions: Reflections on Amazon, the Post Office, and the Greater Good

The Greater Good

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Originally written in 2018 on the Save The Post Office blog and featured at Angry Bear in 2019, retired North Carolina Post Master Mark Jamison wrote on the issues facing USPS while in competition with Amazon, UPS, and FedX. The same issue has been brought to the forefront again with President Trump refusing to give a subsidy to the USPS, unless the USPS raises prices to deliver packages for Amazon, and also punishes Amazon’s Owner Bezos. The answer remains the same, “no” and Mark explains why.

I have not written or said much about postal issues for the last couple of years. After seven years of writing articles for Save the Post Office and other websites, as well as contributing numerous comments to the Postal Regulatory Commission, what more was there to say?

I spent thirty years of my working life at the Postal Service. I’ve put in countless hours reading USPS reports, OIG reports, GAO reports, and who knows how many pleadings before the PRC. I have written numerous articles about the general idea of the postal network as an essential public infrastructure, the arcane minutiae of postal costing and the actions of the PRC, and the machinations of a Congress that seemed more inclined to bloviate and posture than attempt to solve a serious problem affecting millions of Americans and thousands of communities, large and small, rural and urban.

I never stopped thinking about these issues, but what more was there to say? And why bother, really, when the politicians and managers that could actually make changes seemed inclined to let inertia and the status quo slowly erode the capabilities of the postal network while degrading hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs?

And then President Trump had one of those brain farts he periodically shovels out over Twitter.

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The 75th Anniversary Of VE Day: Forgettable Or Boring?

(Dan here…better late than not)

by Barkley Rosser

The 75th Anniversary Of VE Day: Forgettable Or Boring?

My wife, Marina, as many of those reading this know, is from the Soviet Union, and takes extremely seriously the anniversary of the victory of the Soviet Union and its allies over Nazi Germany, which became official at 10:45 PM in Berlin on May 8, 1945, which was 12:15 May 9 Moscow time. So, while all of the rest of the world celebrates VE Day on May 8, now in Russia today is Victory Day, as it is called everywhere outside the US, although I just saw a clip from the day itself in London where Winston Churchill declared that what had happened was “Victory in Europe,” although while UK did play a minor role in subsequent events in the Pacific, aside from the US for the rest of the allies VE Day was simply Victory Day in Europe.

So, yesterday in UK there was a flyover of planes in celebration of this anniversary, somehow according to the radio report I heard putting out red, white, and blue colors in the  sky. Is this for the US helping out with D-Day? I do not know.  The only other public demo on May 8 I am aware of was Donald Trump meeting with some WW II vets, all reportedly over 95 years in age, with neither  him or any of them for the photo op wearing a face mask, despite the fact that the White House has suddenly become a new epicenter for the coronavirus.

The following nations have a public holiday for May 8 related to the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers in Europe: UK, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Martinique, Saint Martin, Guadeloupe, Gibralter, New Caledonia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, which really boils down to three nations at the end of WW II, UK with some associates, France with a lot of associates, and then the former Czechoslovakia, now slit into two.  Non trivially, Ukraine today has May 8 not a public holiday, but it is a Day of Peace and Reconciliaton, which is supposed to be recognized.

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Meanwhile the US Supreme Court is still working

Via Truthout is a reminder the US Supreme Court has rulings to make:

On May 12, the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to rebuke or endorse Trump’s pretensions to monarchical grandeur when it hears oral arguments in three cases that have the potential to redefine the nature and scope of presidential power.

The cases before the court are Trump v. Mazars USA, LLPTrump v. Deutsche Bank AG; and Trump v. Vance. In the first two, the president is trying to block congressional subpoenas seeking access to his personal financial records. In the third, he’s asking the court to block a subpoena issued by a New York City grand jury, and to accord him unprecedented “absolute immunity” from state criminal investigations.

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Risk Corridor Funds Awarded to Healthcare Insurance Companies and Coops

SCOTUS decided 8-1 in favor of health insurance companies and coops in MAINE COMMUNITY HEALTH OPTIONS v. UNITED STATES decision, April 27, 2020 to be paid.

I have been following this issue since 2015 and SCOTUS finally ruled on Republican’s (Sessions, Upton, Kingston) blockage of the Risk Corridor Program funding. A bit of history to explain how we got to this point.

Letter to the editor at Modern Healthcare Alert (2019):

“If you are going to report on this particular incident within the Cromnibus Act which passed December 11, 2014, why not give the complete history of how the Risk Corridor Program was stymied?

Initially, then Budget Committee Republican Ranking Member Senator Sessions sent a letter to the GAO asking whether the Risk Corridor payments were being appropriated correctly. In a letter back to Sessions the GAO said Agencies can only appropriate funds at the “discretion of Congress.” Funding had not been properly secured for the Risk Corridor Program. This effectively stopped any new funding from being used for the Risk Corridor Program; however, funding could be transferred from other healthcare programs according to the GAO.

With the aid of House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton and House Appropriations Chair Jack Kingston, Section 227 was inserted into the Cromnibus Act.

“Page 892, Section 227: None of the funds made available by this Act from the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund or the Federal Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund, or transferred from other accounts funded by this Act to the ‘‘Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—Program Management’’ account, may be used for payments under section 1342(b)(1) of Public Law 111–148 (relating  to risk corridors).”

End of comment.

Comment on Health Affairs Blog (2020)

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