But first:

Vivaldi — and so much more.  Three minutes.  Thanks, Mel!



Randy Rainbow’s latest: Distraction.



John Yodsnukis: “What if instead of using the census to determine how many representatives each state gets, we use the number of VOTERS in each election?  If you don’t vote, you’re not represented.”

→ Ha!  (I replied.) Constitutional amendments are HARD!

“Yes.  But put on your idealism hat and tell me why it’s a bad idea.  Wouldn’t it increase voter turnout?”

→ I like it!  States would compete to get the highest turnout.  But Republicans would kill it for that reason.  Voter suppression is a core Republican principle — never more than this year.

Take voting by mail, for example — the method Trump himself most recently used.  Republicans are doing all they can to limit it.


. . . President Donald Trump said that if the United States switched to all-mail voting, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

The GOP speaker of the House in Georgia said an all-mail election would be “extremely devastating to Republicans.”

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said universal mail voting would be “the end of our republic as we know it.” . . .


 

So I don’t see Republicans voting for any Constitutional Amendment that would encourage voting.




And now . . .

It’s every bit as awful for someone to die in a crash as paying tribute to coronavirus workers, but the former will get zero notice; the latter, quickly become known throughout the entire world.

It’s only natural to focus on the unusual.  (Did you see the video I led with yesterday about a trip to the store?)  Yet it can cause us to make bad decisions.

With that in mind, I offer this email from a large DNC donor to one of the country’s best, most prominent columnists:


I’m writing this as a longtime admirer. The pieces [you’ve written on the pandemic] are good, as yours always are.

My concern is that the focus on the outlier cases of young people getting sick has diverted attention from what seems to be the bigger story — which is a failure to protect people in vulnerable populations.

Your point in our Twitter exchange was that while they are outlier stories, “they respond to a sense of invulnerability that many young people feel. That sense of invulnerability strikes me as imprudent both for them and for the people around them.”

My fear is that not talking honestly about which groups are at risk will really hurt people.

We have implemented a set of policies that could not possibly be more unequal in their outcomes.

As with most tragedies, the highest prices will be paid by the people who can least afford to pay them. Child abuse is soaring as kids are locked at home with parents consuming 55% more alcohol according to sales data, and the most at-risk kids aren’t being seen by adults outside their homes. Suspected child abuse filings by mandated reporters have plunged due to school closings and the acuity of kids showing up in ERs with abuse cases has soared — because more moderate cases aren’t making it to the hospital. According to a Pew poll, low-income parents are more than twice as worried as high-income parents about the impact of school closings on their kids’ futures.

So you do a piece on a 27-year old NYC physician who had COVID and recovered. Obviously, we’re happy for him, and the story itself is great. But it’s one case, and there really don’t appear to be many others of similar acuity in NYC, the hardest hit area.

We have not seen excess mortality among doctors and nurses. This is from a few weeks ago but the ratios haven’t changed as far as I know: There are 42,000 nurses in New York State repped by their union.  At the time, six had died from COVID — 0.014%. New York State at that time had had 16,162 deaths overall, out of 19,450,000 people — 0.083%, In other words, non-nurses died at more than 5x the rate of nurses.

The NY antibody studies have found healthcare professionals to have lower infection rates than the general population. Isn’t that important context?

My concern is that the focus on outliers, while deeply human, has created a warped sense of who’s at risk, who needs protection — and, as important, who’s at very little risk and is more likely to be a victim of the social and economic impact of lockdowns.

Given that only about 5.9% of the US population is over 75, versus 21% under age 15, these are not idle questions. I would also submit to you that while a large percentage of vulnerable seniors have steps they can take — or be helped to take — to socially distance, vulnerable children have very few self-help options for dealing with abusive or neglectful home situations.

I just can’t help spending all day every day wondering how it’s possible there isn’t a smarter way to handle something with such a dramatic skew in terms of who’s vulnerable.

For instance, a lot of pieces — and Cuomo speeches — were devoted to lecturing millennials about needing to stop playing sports in Central Park because of the pandemic. As more information has come in, we’ve learned that outdoor transmission is exceedingly rare. Might those viral-ready speeches scolding millenials have been better devoted to questioning the wisdom of discharging COVID patients back into nursing homes?

One of the reasons I so badly wanted to connect with you was that this issue has become so partisan, I’m concerned that most people who share my values (our values, really, based on my read of your past work) are allowing their justifiable horror over Trump’s corrupt sociopathy — and incompetence in UNDER-reacting to the pandemic, ignoring more than a dozen urgent briefings, etc. — to blind them to the costs of an OVER-reaction.

Take the saturation-level coverage of the Kawasaki-like illnesses. I’m concerned that fear mongering from Cuomo and de Blasio has so poisoned the discussion that parents will be terrified to send their kids to camp or to school.

My hope is that someone with a large megaphone will really dive into the data. With the rarest of exceptions, kids don’t die of COVID or this related Kawasaki-like syndrome.  It’s horrible and tragic when they do; it’s horrible and tragic when a child dies in ANY way.  But we really hurt millions of kids — and put them at different kinds of risks — if we lock them inside as a result.  Especially the most vulnerable kids, who will pay the highest price in terms of crime, violence, substance abuse, and failures to launch successful adult lives.

I’ve been so frustrated by what a culture war issue this has become: the left insisting on indefinite school closings in the absence of evidence, the right essentially insisting that wearing a mask is a failure of masculinity. It’s just the world’s stupidest version of a discussion.

My basic view is that each intervention should be considered independently in terms of costs and benefits. Things with minimal social cost, like mask-wearing, should be implemented even with minimal evidence of efficacy.

But school closings?  A policy with absolutely enormous social costs paid by the most vulnerable people in America, and one that has little evidence for its centrality in fighting COVID. I just keep thinking back to all of Jonathan Kozol’s books, and about the impact of these policies on those kids. It just haunts me. If there’s any chance there’s a better way, we need to start fighting for it right now.

I know you care as deeply about these issues as I do, and I am so grateful that you’ve devoted your career to covering these stories that are so often forgotten. And thank you for at least giving me a chance to argue with you a little.


 

 

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