SocraticGadfly: 7/10/16 - 7/17/16

July 16, 2016

Do #BlackLivesMatter, that deeply, to Dear Leader?

Obama at a presidential town hall on (racism and?) police and (black?) lives.
Rex/Shutterstock via The Guardian.
Both Cornel West and a Black Lives Matter leader, Patrice Cullors, have called out out Compromiser-in-Chief, Barack Obama, for not seeming to truly care about black lives taken by police.

Of the two, Cullors' is the more important read. While West technically gets all correct, most of it is old news, and old news filtered through the sour grapes of being dumb enough to endorse Obama in 2008 when Cynthia McKinney was there just waiting for such endorsements, and it was already clear Dear Leader was everything West belatedly recognizes.

Cullors is all fresh content and all entirely about Obama's town hall.

Well, West does have the fresh content that Obama didn't stop in Minneapolis, or Baton Rouge, La., cities of recent fatal shootings of blacks by police. That said, he doesn't know how right he is. Obama had no town hall after Dylann Roof killed more blacks in Charleston than Micah Johnson did police officers in Dallas.

Cullors, who was at the town hall last week?

A shorter version is that it was an extended video/photo op. Shock me.

I would disagree a bit with one "shot" by Cullors. Rather than call ABC the instigator and Obama a collaborator on this, I'd call both of them co-instigators. Obama could start to prove me wrong by getting federal law enforcement agencies to stop dumping gas on flames.

And whether it's more an inability to deal with conflict, people pleasing from a mother's multiple failed relationships along with his navigating multiple cultural worlds, or what, I don't know. But, contra Cornel West, this isn't close to new. Post-2004 Democratic National Convention, Democratic leaders in the Illinois State Senate teed up pro-police and "tough on crime" bills for Obama to sponsor.

That said, if Harvard's Roland G. Fryer Jr. is right (and I think he's more right than wrong), the shootings themselves aren't the issue, because there's actually, apparently, no racial discrepancy (allowing for racially different police stop rates). It's everything else, starting with the different stop rates, that needs addressing.

Update: No, sadly, Obama has NOT called for a Black Lives Matter memorial. Snopes debunks this.

July 15, 2016

The sus-PENCE is killing me!

Well, not really, but some portion of We the Political Junkies are waiting to see if Donald Trump has picked Indiana's quasi-Sarah Palin, Gov. Mike Pence, to be his running mate or not.

Meanwhile, a leading pundit of the MSM, speaking for many of his brethren I'm sure, ignores the possibility that in both the Veepstakes and the slowly dribbled list of alleged Republican National Convention speakers, the Donald has once again punked him and fellow media members for free publicity.

I have no doubt that's what's been happening, at least in part.

I also have no doubt that Balz's lecture in the second-last paragraph about what "a skilled candidate should allow" is all of three things bad. It's CYA, it's out of date in today's world, and it's plain wrong.

Update: Maybe I should cut Balz a bit of slack. The reason I, and you, actually or facetiously, felt the sus-PENCE is that the Donald reportedly was getting cold feet at the choice, allegedly made to conciliate the GOP establishment.

July 14, 2016

Black Arrestees Shot

A Harvard professor, while noting that African-Americans are more likely to be subjected to most varieties of police force than people of other racial or ethnic groups are, surprisingly, no more likely to be shot than other groups.

Several notes.

First, it's relatively rigorous, studying 10 major police departments in large-state California, Texas and Florida. (Full paper is here.)

It's also rigorous in that the professor, Roland G. Fryer Jr., while not a criminologist, is an economist, and thus used to crunching data.

Second, did I mention that Fryer is himself African-American?

He does, rightly, caveat his work:

Fryer emphasizes that the work is not the definitive analysis of police shootings, and that more data would be needed to understand the country as a whole. This work focused only on what happens once the police have stopped civilians, not on the risk of being stopped at all. Other research has shown that blacks are more likely to be stopped by the police.
But, it should not be rejected.

Many liberals around my age or older may remember 1996 as "the summer of black church burnings."

Except that it wasn't. That includes self-set fires; yes, black ministers in a couple of cases burned their own churches to "fire up" (pun highly intended) their own flocks. 

Things like this are why I'm a skeptical left-liberal.

Back to Fryer, the youngest black to get tenure at Harvard.
In shootings in these 10 cities involving officers, officers were more likely to fire their weapons without having first been attacked when the suspects were white. Black and white civilians involved in police shootings were equally likely to have been carrying a weapon. Both results undercut the idea of racial bias in police use of lethal force.
That;s followed by this:

But police shootings are only part of the picture. What about situations in which an officer might be expected to fire, but doesn’t? 
To answer this, Mr. Fryer focused on one city, Houston. The Police Department there let the researchers look at reports not only for shootings but also for arrests when lethal force might have been justified. … 
Mr. Fryer found that in such situations, officers in Houston were about 20 percent less likely to shoot if the suspects were black. This estimate was not precise, and firmer conclusions would require more data.
That doesn't mean there's not racism in policing. Indeed, all the other data in Fryer's information about use of force other than lethal shootings says there is. So too do differential arrest rates. 

Here's the bottom line:
Mr. Fryer wonders if the divide between lethal force — where he did not find racial disparities — and nonlethal force — where he did — might be related to costs. Officers face costs, legal and psychological, when they unnecessarily fire their guns. But excessive use of lesser force is rarely tracked or punished. “No officer has ever told me that putting their hands on inner-city youth is a life-changing event,” he said.
In the abstract, he adds:
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.
In other words, the scrutiny over firing a gun is a BIG deterrent. But without deterrents, seemingly racist actions go on with impunity.

How do we work to fix this? Body cameras will be much more important than dashcams, first. Second, federal sanction, not just state ones, for police departments having disabled or malfunctioning bodycams. Third, rotating police to new beats, along with using tools like Project Implicit and follow-ups. Fourth, as necessary, gathering more such data, then more people willing to sue, where feasible.

There's plenty of leads and work right there, on plenty of issues, and that just scratched the surface.

Update: Grits has several caveats. Assuming he's right that Fryer is working from a "rational actor" view of economics (I don't know), that itself would be second biggest issue. If he relied too much on officer self-reported behavior, that could be the biggest, but he actually addresses Grits there and says "no soap." Per my comment there, I don't think the male/female skew is an issue, though.

Grits, in a second follow, linked to this piece by guest commenter Michelle Phelps at sociologist Dan Hirschman's site. I'm not totally buying it.

"Getting stopped" is different than "getting shot." Yes, there’s greater likelihood of getting stopped means that you have more likelihood of getting shot **just because you're stopped more often.** BUT, that's not what Fryer was discussing AND he made that clear.

He clearly said that, simply comparing cases once they got to a point of shooting, there was no difference.

Per left-liberal commenter Doug Henwood, I think in some cases of critiques, we're seeing "white liberal guilt" partially at work. Take the evidence as it stands and deal with it from there.  And as a left-liberal of sorts myself, I "get" what Doug means.

Grits, in a response to comments of mine, has moderately pushed back. I've had my say, and I expect Fryer to take more flak, little follow-up to be done on his lines of research and findings, and thus, for a lot of police reform focus to look and focus too late in the police activity cycle.

A swoon at Troon? For whom?

So who wins The Open Championship and becomes The Champion Golfer of the World?

I am going to bet against Dustin Johnson just because it's so hard to win two majors in a row. Scratch Jason Day. Rory and Jordan don't impress right now.

Adam Scott is kind of trending, but he's not quite floating my boat.

Per him picking up some recent steam, looking to add a third major to his bag and cement a Hall of Fame invite many a year from now...

I am tagging Martin Kaymer. I think he's got good enough all-around driving skills to pull this off.

July 13, 2016

Hillary doesn't 'need' my vote; #VoteGreen

NPR has a nice piece here about how likely Hillary Clinton is to beat Donald Trump. The best part is that, starting with 2012 Obama-Romney turnout by various demographic groups likely to be key in this election, you and I can, by making hypothetical changes this year, with sliders, see what the likely electoral vote margin will be. (NOTE: NPR appears to assume that third-party voting will be unchanged, a dangerous assumption.)

First, if nothing changes, Clinton will nonetheless win bigger over Trump than Obama did either time.

Now, my personal changes.

I moved white women 2 percent more for Clinton plus 1 percent more turnout. Cut black turnout 3 percent. Left all else unchanged.

Clinton wins 363/175. She wins by that margin, if women turnout and break her way like that, even if black turnout falls 5 percent.

Let's make things a lot tougher. Women only break 1 percent more her way, on the same turnout. White men break another 2 percent GOP, and turnout is 1 percent higher. Blacks break the same on percentages, with 6 percent lower turnout than 2012; Hispanic turnout falls 2 percent, same break, as 2012.

Trump ekes out a 282-256 win. And, given that Trump is reportedly below 50 percent among college-educated whites, even that would seemingly be big uphill sledding.

If I keep those parameters, but cut the white male break to 1 percent, she still wins, 294-244. On all parameters, she wins, by that margin, unless total turnout falls dramatically.

Add in that Ted Cruz clearly refused to endorse Trump, in prime time, at the Republican National Convention. And won't this year.

So, she doesn't need my vote. If things are that bad, she's in Dewey Defeats Truman range.

July 12, 2016

Tim Duncan retires; Spurs better off?

Yes, it sounds like heresy to say the 2016-17 San Antonio Spurs may be better off without the Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan, after he announced his retirement.

So, call me a heretic.

First, I'm going to assume that his right knee remained baulky.

Second, I'm going to state for the record, not just assume, that Pau Gasol in current health and age will be a better defensive as well as offensive player. No, peak Pau was not peak Timmeh. But TD was NOT a rim protector last year and Pau will at least be 50 percent of one. Yes, Duncan has the third best defensive win shares, says Basketball-Reference, in league history. But Pau is in the top 60, and in general, is modestly on the plus side.

Yes, a healthy Timmeh was great at defending the pick-and-roll and neither Gasol nor Lamarcus Aldridge are. But, TD wasn't fully healthy last year and might well not have been, at least in hoops terms, for the year ahead. Gasol is still a good shot blocker and at least an OK defender.

Third, I'm going to note Pau's at least as good a passer, and a better outside shooter.

Fourth, I'll note for the record that, between regular season and playoffs, Gasol has 15,000 fewer miles on the odometer. Even though Gasol had played just four fewer seasons, that's the equivalent of almost five seasons, really.

Fifth, Gasol is at least a vague 3-ball threat, with a higher effective shooting percentage, whereas Duncan was a nothingburger outside the arc.

But, beyond that?

This lets Kawhi Leonard make the team his, especially if Pops makes sure Tony Parker gets that message.

I assume Manu Ginobili is back with the Spurs .... and as productive as late last season. Can Patty Mills step up more? And, what's the long-term answer at the point? How much of a pay cut will TP accept after 2017-18? Will Pops stick? I think he will.

That said, had the Spurs not landed Gasol, TD might have come back. And he would have made the team better than one without either big.

Oh, you and I will see a more uptempo Spurs team next year.

July 11, 2016

TX Progressives remember both #BlackLivesMatter and dedicated police officers

The Texas Progressive Alliance mourns the Dallas Police Department's losses at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, and continues to support peaceful, constructive solutions for our country's ongoing racial issues as we bring you this week's roundup. Or, per Jim Hightower, let's reason together about BLM, privilege and much more.


Off the Kuff notes some interesting aspects of national polls and how they relate to Texas.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos urges Democratic candidates to run as Democrats.  Neo-liberalism and Republican lite are not winnable options. A Gentle Reminder to Texas Democrats. Neoliberalism is not a winning solution.

The Texas Republican in charge of social services (isn't that a joke) shows the typical Republican disdain for women, their families and their health by offering mosquito repellent to fight off the Zika virus.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is disgusted.

July is presidential nominating conventions month and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the lowdown on the Republicans, Democrats, and Greens (coming to Houston in August).

SocraticGadfly advises environmentalists not to get fooled by Exxon's head fakes on a carbon tax.

Neil at All People Have Value walked in the Sharpstown neighborhood of Houston with his sign regarding the value of everyday life. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The TSTA Blog applauds Hillary Clinton's promise to reduce the role of standardized testing in public schools.

Eva DeLuna Castro places the blame for Texas' tightened budget where it belongs.

Grits for Breakfast points out the benefits to local sheriffs of treating 17-year-olds as juveniles and not adults.

Juliet Stipech and Norma Torres Mendoza argue that comprehensive immigration reform is a matter of the United Statesí continued economic prosperity.

Better Texas Blog begins prep work for the 2017 budget process.

#DumpTrump vs MSM clickbait

Folks, in the few remaining days leading up to the GOP convention, you're going to see more and more stories about the possibility of Republican delegates dumping Donald Trump as the party's nominee.

And most of them, like this one from Sunday, are going to be bullshit. Any story like this that has to go hunting back to 1896 for analogies should be suspect right there.

But, there's an even easier reason to fault this one. It says NOTHING about state-by-state GOP rules on delegates. Immediately discount any similar such stories.

Beyond that, in the clickbaiting piece at hand, delegates who don't vote could also be ruled "Absent," thus cutting how many Trump needs.

Look, GOPers, he'w being nominated. Deal with it.

Look, newshounds, shit like this is clickbait. Ignore it.

And it's now officially dead.