• Friday Cat Blogging – 15 January 2021

    We got a few belated Christmas gifts last week, and you know what that means: more boxes! In this picture, Hilbert has knocked over a box so it’s easier to get into, and Hopper is sneaking around the side to see what’s going on. In the end, I waved a piece of ribbon in front of their faces in order to ward off any trouble. It worked.

  • A Personal Announcement

    After 12 great years, I’ll be leaving Mother Jones at the end of the month. This has been in the works since early December, but I wanted to stay around at least until Donald Trump got tossed out of office. So January 31 it is.

    Why am I leaving? It’s primarily health related, but don’t worry: my multiple myeloma is no worse than ever. The problem is that the combination of the chemo drug and the dex gets worse all the time, and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really feel like I can keep working normal hours. Clara and Monika have urged me to stay on board and do whatever I can, but that doesn’t feel right. If I can’t contribute the way I want to, it’s better that I leave now before it’s forced on me.

    This doesn’t mean you won’t hear from me any more. I’m setting up an old-school blog and I’ll be writing there regularly—just not quite as regularly as I do here. Plus I plan to keep writing the occasional piece for the magazine. I’ll have more details about all this later, but in the meantime I figured I should let everyone know about this before it leaks out and starts up a bunch of weird rumors.¹

    It’s been a great run. I have nothing but love and respect for Mother Jones and I’ll continue to read the magazine religiously. I hope you do too.

    ¹On the internet? Surely not. But you can’t be too careful.

  • How Fast Are COVID-19 Cases Really Going Up in Los Angeles?

    The LA Times reports that death rates from COVID-19 have skyrocketed over the past three months:

    Latino residents in L.A. County are dying at an astonishing eight times the rate they once did — from 3½ daily deaths per 100,000 in early November to 28 deaths a day now for every 100,000. “This is a staggering increase of over 800% in a very short amount of time,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

    The COVID-19 mortality rate among Black residents soared from 1 death a day per 100,000 to more than 15 deaths a day per 100,000.

    “Deaths have also increased dramatically among our Asian residents,” Ferrer said. The death rate among Asian American residents has grown from 1 to 12 daily deaths per 100,000 residents.

    White residents now have the lowest rate of death among the other racial and ethnic groups — 10 deaths per 100,000 residents. That’s an increase from 1 death per day per 100,000 in early November.

    That’s all based on this chart:

    But this data was cherry picked with a starting data of November 1, the lowest trough of the previous surge. What happens if we use, say, September 1 as our starting point? Here you go:

    In this case, the death rate among White patients has been the highest at about 500 percent. The other three racial groups have all gone up about the same amount, ranging from 316 percent to 364 percent.

    Now, this is not to say that my estimates are right and the official LA County estimates are wrong. In fact, they’re both right. It’s just to show you that you can get significantly different results depending on which starting point to use. And as near as I can tell, there’s no “special” starting point that’s better than any other. But regardless of the exact breakdown of cases, one thing we know for sure is that the overall case growth is horrifyingly high—especially in a state that’s lagging behind almost all others in rolling out vaccine distribution. We need to do better, and we need to do it fast.

  • Trump Approval After Insurrection Declined Modestly Among Republicans

    Is this poll from Morning Consult heartening or depressing?

    On the one hand, Trump’s approval among Republicans took a sharp dive following the events of 1/6. On the other hand, the share of Republicans who disapprove of Trump went up by only 7 points, from 15 percent to 22 percent. To be sure, that’s more than usual for a guy whose approval ratings have been remarkably steady, but it’s still not much.

    This is from last week, and Morning Consult ought to have an update sometime soon. It will be interesting to see if Trump recovers some of his support or if it continues to decay.

  • Study Says Police Use Force Far More Against Left-Wing Protests

    Over at the Guardian, they’re using data from the US Crisis Monitor to compare police responses to left-wing vs. right-wing protests:

    The Guardian compared the percentage of all demonstrations organized by leftwing and rightwing groups that resulted in the use of force by law enforcement. For leftwing demonstrations, that was about 4.7% of protests, while for rightwing demonstrations, it was about 1.4%, meaning law enforcement was about three times more likely to use force against leftwing versus rightwing protests.

    Well, OK, but maybe the left-wing protests were generally more violent. That would justify—

    The disparity in police response only grew when comparing peaceful leftwing versus rightwing protests. Looking at the subset of protests in which demonstrators did not engage in any violence, vandalism, or looting, law enforcement officers were about 3.5 times more likely to use force against leftwing protests than rightwing protests, with about 1.8% of peaceful leftwing protests and only half a percent of peaceful rightwing protests met with teargas, rubber bullets or other force from law enforcement.

    OK then. There’s also this, showing the trajectory of militia involvement in right-wing demonstrations:

    Militia involvement quadrupled after the election. The data only goes through the end of November, but it’s a safe bet that the upward trend continued all the way to January 6th.

  • Are Facebook and Twitter Monopolies?

    Are Facebook and Twitter monopolies? Here’s a quick look:

    Facebook accounts for about 17 percent of all users, and the top four sites together account for about 50 percent. (Note that lots of people use multiple sites, so if you add up all the sites you’ll come up with far more than the 4 billion or so total users of social media.)

    “Four firm concentration” is a quick and dirty way of assessing an industry, and a score of 50 percent is generally considered low to moderate. Just to give you an idea of the shape of things, here are some examples from the broad information services category:

    At 50 percent, social media slots into the middle third, along with book publishers, TV broadcasters, and music publishers.

    Note that this is strictly a measure of social media users. There are specific areas, such as online advertising, where the concentration level is considerably higher. However, if your concern is strictly about the influence these companies have over eyeballs, social media looks fairly normal.