• 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.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    Up close and personal with a Myers fern at the LA County Arboretum.

    December 9, 2018 — LA County Arboretum, Arcadia, California
  • Why Did Trust in Government Plummet? The Answer Below!

    Yesterday I made the case that if Joe Biden needs to “find a way to reach at least some of the disillusioned and the disaffected” in his inaugural address, talking about the economy isn’t the way to do it. Americans have been doing pretty well lately, and that includes even the working poor.

    But if there really are lots of disaffected Americans—and recent events certainly suggest there are—and money isn’t the fundamental reason for their resentment, then what’s the problem? To help us get to an answer, I posted a chart showing that trust in government plummeted starting in the early 2000s, which suggested we need to look at that time period for an answer. Now let’s take another look at that chart, broken down by Democrats and Republicans:

    You would expect the aughts to be a dismal decade for Democrats. George Bush was in the White House, a war was raging in Iraq, and tax cuts for the rich were the order of the day. For the same reasons, you’d expect it to be a pretty good decade for Republicans. But no. As you can see, Republican trust in government plummeted even more steeply. (This turned around a bit when Donald Trump was elected, which is pretty normal. But it didn’t turn around by much.)

    So what happened in the early 2000s that provoked Republicans so badly? They had a president in the White House; control of Congress for most of the time; and a pretty decent economy. What cankered their souls?

    The answer, based on a handful of evidence and some common sense, is Fox News. It started up in 1996, and after a few years of relatively moderate conservatism it moved distinctly rightward following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This was also the critical period when Fox expanded throughout the country and gained traction with a critical mass of conservative viewers.

    The effect was devastating: during this period Fox increasingly promoted not just conservatism, but a particularly toxic brand of conservatism that depended on stoking outrage over a different government “scandal” on nearly a daily basis. And it did it to a growing number of conservatives.

    It’s all but impossible to watch Fox News on a regular basis and retain any sort of confidence that government is a force for good. This is why conservative trust in government took such a nosedive during the aughts. Unlike Democrats, who were understandably unhappy with Bush era policies, Republicans were deliberately stoked into outrage because that turned out to be where the money was for Rupert Murdoch and his creation.

    Did social media amplify this effect when it spread during the late teens? Sure. Facebook and Twitter gave the outrage a place to swirl around and fester. But make no mistake: social media is basically a sideshow that obviously played no more than a small role in the critical period of conservative disaffection during the aughts. The real culprit for the ever-worsening fury and bitterness of rank-and-file conservatives is Fox News, along with its teammates in the talk radio universe.