Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

Hard data from Harvard about police violence & race

Summary: At last in the long debate about police violence we have an actual analysis (rather than the amateur tallies). Professor Fryer Jr. (economics, Harvard) looks at a sample of the data and discovers some surprising news. He gives some innovative suggests for practical police reforms (i.e., possible to implement). His conclusions are essential reading for anyone concerned about this vital issue.

Protect and Serve

An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force
By Roland G. Fryer, Jr.
National Bureau of Economic Research, July 2016

“This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than 50% 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.”

Fryer evaluates seven levels of force short of shooting by police: hands, pushing to wall, handcuffs, drawing a weapon, pushing to ground, pointing a weapon, using a spray/baton. The following graph shows the data by race and hour of day, from a sample of New York Police Department stop and frisks from 2003-2013.

Continue reading

Watch other nations build infrastructure for 21st C prosperity. We can, too.

Yesterday the BBC wrote about the “Swiss Gotthard rail tunnel – an engineering triumph“, the world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel — part of a massive project to build world-class rail network for Switzerland.  It included a typical graphic for these kind of articles. Note what major nation does not appear on the list, and seldom appears on these lists.

Worlds longest tunnels

There have been many such articles lately, as nations upgrade their infrastructure for success in the 21st century. They build tunnels, fiber optic networks, high speed trains (fast, reducing pollution), etc. America appears in few of these stories.

News about America’s infrastructure has a different tone. “Why the U.S. Has Fallen Behind in Internet Speed and Affordability“.  CNN reports that damaged pipelines are a ‘ticking time bomb’, “the busiest rails shut down by failing power cables”, and “Bridges supported by crumbling 90-year-old beams.” You can use this interactive tool to see the Sorry State of America’s BridgesUS Airports are Awful; Here’s the problem.

And so forth, and each year brings forth new stories about the results of our underinvestment in critical public infrastructure. Visitors to America often remark about our decrepit third-world-like infrastructure for transportation and communication, while Americans exult over our shiny new weapons.

Continue reading

On the day after Memorial Day celebrate Plutocracy Now!

Summary: The enemies of America’s democracy have stepped into the light. Yesterday we remembered the sacrifice of those who fell defending America. Today let’s see how we betray them through our apathy and disinterest in working the political machinery of the Republic, putting it at risk. Here are harsh facts essential for us to see. Our complacency is their advantage.

"Plutocracy" bumper sticker

Powerful elements of society seek power just as water runs downhill. They find courtiers who devise justifications for their patron’s rule. It’s a fact of history, although the nature of power changes over time — by ancestry, religious office, ownership of land or animals, or by money.

America’s plutocrats have regained the supremacy they held during the Gilded Age, before the reforms of the progressive age and New Deal. Now they lay the foundation to gain even more power. One node of the plutocrat’s power is Silicon Valley, where the 1%’s dreams of power flower undisturbed — as described in this detailed and frightening essay by Corey Pein in the Baffler: “Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream of a Silicon Reich“. He examines the roots of Silicon Valley’s magnates’ belief in their unique fitness to rule America.

“It is clear that {Peter} Thiel sees corporations as the governments of the future and capitalists such as himself as the kings, and it is also clear that this is a shockingly common view in Thiel’s cohort.”

For more about the “Dark Enlightenment” see the articles by Curtis Yarvin (writing as Mencius Moldbug) and Nick Land — collected at this website. As successful reactionary movements so, it has gained allies from conservatives. Such as Andrew Sullivan, providing a philosophical gloss to the 1%’s lust for power: “Democracies end when they are too democraticin New York magazine — “And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny.”

“It seems shocking to argue that we need elites in this democratic age — especially with vast inequalities of wealth and elite failures all around us. But we need them precisely to protect this precious democracy from its own destabilizing excesses.”

Continue reading