442 Comments
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The sub-heading is "The message conservatives don't want to hear about anti-Black racism", but I think the real audience for this article is the group who looks at any statistical disparity and attributes it to racism.

I agree with everything Matt wrote today. The shortcuts and heuristics (statistical discrimination) are especially hard to change. Automation like speed cameras and the like will help at the margin, but but I'd be interested in more follow-ups on this topic.

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Without aiming to start an argument, I feel like Matt has a tendency to try to play to his audience(or at least his comment section) by throwing a little "both sides" into a lot of his posts.

The comment section sometimes responds by skimming over the bulk of the post and deciding that the real issue is liberal misdeeds.

Taken at face value the real audience is conservatives who are not being receptive to claims of racial discrimination.

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>by throwing a little "both sides" into a lot of his posts.<

I've sometimes gotten that vibe. But not with this piece. I think he lays out an elegant parallelism in observing how both left and right get the issue of racism wrong—and in suggesting how they can both do better.

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The comment section here is pretty diverse in viewpoints. The more conservative members might often do as you say but there's a range of reaction to any Matt piece.

I don't know if Matt aims to please both sides because that's his readership or if his style is just to give airtime to both sides of a debate, but I strongly suspect it's the latter because he's had that style since back in his Slate / Moneybox days.

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It's still early in the day but four out of the top five comments are complaints about the left/DEI/Kendi-ism, including this thread which just openly says that conservatives don't need to listen to Matt's argument to conservatives ("the real audience for this article is ..."). Is it possible the comment section here is not actually that diverse in viewpoints?

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Mine was not a complaint about the left at all. Just a belief that Matt, with a left-of-center audience was writing to challenge the beliefs of both Conservatives and Kendi-types (for lack of a better word).

I agree with Matt -- conservatives do ignore and downplay the casual racism that happens on a regular basis.

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To be fair to Trizzlor, when a reader misinterprets what the author writes it is usually the writer's fault for not being clear enough. So I will take the blame for this.

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As someone who took it largely the same way Trizzlor did it's utterly impossible to be sufficiently clear on the internet to 1000s of different people with different frames of reference and people will *always* misinterpret your meaning in good (and bad) faith.

You'll drive yourself nuts trying. If you follow up with some clarification good for you, but there is no "blame" and you certainly shouldn't feel obligated to keep adding more detail to your explanations.

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I understood exactly what you meant!

Being clear enough is important, but even more than that, I think it's good to read two or three times before expressing grievances--- and I am very guilty of this--- so it's hardly all on one party, don't worry.

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I don't think Matt has a left-of-center audience, though. I think the commentariat is more likely to agree when he opposes a liberal orthodoxy then when he opposes a conservative one.

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I think Matt has an audience that is very hard to pin on an ideological chart, and that's one of the reasons why I like conversing with this audience.

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Yup, it's sometimes funny when people complain about the Left doing thing that Matt has happily done for years (like, making fun of Paul Ryan and other Republican's who only care about tax cuts and cutting social services).

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I like the term "Kendi-types". I myself feel more responsibility for criticizing "my side" of the aisle (i.e the left) but still reserve some pondering for questions about how some on the right might be nudged away from extreme positions.

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Right, it doesn't even occur to some folks that Matt's actual intent is exactly what he stated in the title because the real problem (as always) is Kendi.

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You're not accurately characterizing either John or InMD's comments, both of which say no such thing.

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Matt's piece is titled "the message conservative don't want to hear" and the top comment is "the real audience for this article is [the left]", what exactly am I mischaracterizing?

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"the conservative side really has no clue how to turn the critique into much more than red meat for its base" sounds like a critique of the right to me

"I agree with everything Matt wrote today" - the article he's agreeing with is subtitled: "The message conservatives don't want to hear about anti-Black racism"

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I mean... we're the audience, and John is probably the third or fourth most right-leaning person here.

"complaints about the left/DEI/Kendi-ism, including this thread which just openly says that conservatives don't need to listen to Matt's argument to conservatives"

Is not an accurate characterization of his point, which was that the people who actually read this are going to mostly be on the left.

And InMD's comment is a pretty savage critique of the right for being unable to offer anything worth a shit.

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Wouldn't you consider yourself diverse in relation to those comments?

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I think the commentariat here breaks down as:

25% conservatives who love to get angry about leftist DEI stuff

25% moderates who love to get angry about leftist DEI stuff

25% liberals who love to get angry about leftist DEI stuff

25% liberals who don't like the DEI stuff but still see Republicans as the major barrier to achieving their policy interests

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I think nearly everyone here sees Republicans as the major barrier to achieving our policy interests. That the Democrats should win elections is taken basically as a given in every post and almost all comments.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

EDIT: That wasn't productive.

I think only someone very, very far out on the left on a lot of these issues could possibly look at this commentariat and think it has this make-up.

It reminds me of the old "World as seen from New York" and newer "World as seen from Beijing" covers.

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Leftist DEI stuff is pretty unpopular

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Then there's me, someone who intentionally avoids ideological labels who thinks that a lot of the energy over DEI is overrated, both from its supporters and detractors.

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it me fr - I love getting angry about leftist DEI stuff. That said I also love getting angry at the right-wing anti-DEI stuff.

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Perhaps Matt Hagy can do more indepth analysis on the comments to get some hard data.

My observation has been that top comments are disproportionately focused on any little nugget Matt includes about "the left" with a decent heaping of, what I would call, concern-trolling about possible problems to his generally left-leaning policy ideas.

I also don't know Matt's motives so perhaps it wasn't helpful of me to speculate as to why he includes those nuggets.

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I think this is self-evidently true and Matt H has posted data to that effect before.

There are many center-right folks here, and when they bash the left the center-left folks (like myself) are prone to give a heart because I'm usually annoyed with "the left" as well. But it definitely skews the discourse.

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Arguably, banal-but-correct comments might not get the likes (the "engagement" that Facebook et al. talk about), so I am unsure that your metric is measuring the right thing.

Anyway, I agree with both your and John's upper-level comments, and while I'm on the subject, with Matt's piece as a whole.

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The engagement issue is a great point. It might be some of that thing where the most controversial posts get shared the most

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"Donald Trump is racist, incompetent, and at *least* authoritarian-curious" would get 95+% agreement here and it would be buried below "Load More".

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This comment section is very diverse - there are dudes who think the Democrat's are too-left on immigration, dudes who think the Democrat's are too-left wing on criminal justice issues, dude who think the Democrat's are too left-wing on transgender issues, dudes who think the Democrat's are too left-wing on abortion, etc.

So yes, there's diversity in thought whether we should've never moved beyond 1995, 2005, or 2015 in social liberalism.

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Other than gay marriage -- I was for it long before Clinton or Obama came out in favor -- I do subscribe to the view that the Democratic Party had social issues largely correct in the years from 1995 - 2010.

I think this places me in the norm for most, but not all, Democratic politicians today. However, I do think the energizing forces in the Party have moved away from me in the past 10 years, and I don't agree with many of those moves. Maybe that makes me persona non grata in the minds of you and your friends and I accept that. But I think I'm pretty close to our host's views on these topics.

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I agree. You know, in 2010 i feel like trans folks were achieving broad acceptance, even in Memphis. A lot of small-c conservatives believe that it’s possible to be legitimately trans. Something changed. I’ve known trans people since high school but never heard of the they/them thing til I moved to Seattle in like 2017. And I try to use the correct pronouns b/c I’m not a dick and because I think the entire non-binary thing is really freeing and cool tho not for me tbh, but I think hard to use pronouns and trans women participation in women’s sports was a f*king stupid hill to die on because it’s incredibly self-defeating, and they’re paying the price now by becoming the target of a lot of conservative hatred.

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which one of those are you?

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I'm among like, the 4 commenters here who are basically happy w/ the current Democratic Party's views or would like them to be more left-leaning on social views, and more importantly, don't have large issues with the youth who most of this commentariat section thinks are all radicals who hate free speech and are out of touch with reality.

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I personally agree the Dems have all kinds of issues they could modify or improve but if people are complaining about the youth in that way I missed it

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Not to engage in an argument you didn't want to start, but I could just as easily see that effect as a result of polarization, where center dems are more inclined to criticize the extremes of their own party than the other party. You can find plenty of the equivalent effect on the other side as well.

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Yeah, I think there’s a subconscious belief among mainstream liberals that Republicans are so perverse as to be incorrigible, but leftists are just immature liberals who need a little guidance.

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There is nothing wrong with a bit of "both sides." If A is trying to persuade B, it does not hurt to admit that A's "side" is not perfect, either.

In this case, however, I think Matt's real audience is Liberals who may be trying to persuade Conservatives and he is modeling the behavior he "recommends."

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I agree.

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Yep - just did that. I hope my point is a good one though.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

I think it’s pretty clear that the parts complaining about left-leaning stupidity are mainly to present a sympathetic face to conservatives who otherwise wouldn’t listen to the rest of the argument.

It’s easy to fall into this trap here, whereby we have the impression of the left as the main problem, but that’s precisely because Matt and most commenters are already there and mainly concerned in political terms with keeping the broader party from drifting further left and maintaining competitiveness.

When you get out into the real world, you recall that, in fact, the present version of our right-wing has no proposals for solving literally anything and most of the policy planks they have will only make things worse. Hence Matt’s attempt to convince a few reasonable folks on the right that, hey, this whole disparityism idea came about precisely because of racial biases in police treatment, there’s still an underlying issue to fix even if the left is wrong about most of it.

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I agree with this analysis. Explanation is not advocacy and I think this essay does a good job of explaining some fundamental issues about race and policing.

It gets tiresome when pieces like this are judged by which side’s ox gets gored and not the actual arguments in the piece. The idea that authors should only offer criticism and analysis of of the “bad” side while giving the less-bad side a pass is both pernicious and dumb. Most issues in America are not binary and it’s wrong to assume they are and look at them through a partisan lens.

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We so rarely approach this topic from “never mind the commentariat, how do I help people who currently live in what I would consider a goddam war zone?”

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The voters in the highest crime areas of Chicago seem to disagree with the idea that the way to public safety is to let cops do whatever they want, as seen by their voting patterns.

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Public safety is *a* civil right doesn't mean that lack of discrimination by the police isn't a civil right too. You're really responding to a strawman that doesn't exist.

Most voters of all races would simultaneously prefer criminals be apprehended and everyone treated as a full human being by the police.

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Who is suggesting that the way to public safety is to let cops do whatever they want?

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

I think you are right in your analysis. I also want to hear more about how to fix the underlying problem without merely doing a mirror image of what conservatives get wrong on this topic.

I like the automation idea for lots of law enforcement, along with universal programs like SS / Medicare / EITC and wonder how those principles can be applied to other situations like hiring, policing, housing and the like.

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As you and Frigid say... on law enforcement, automate what you can, professionalize and focus the rest, introduce stronger oversight and more comprehensive transparency. That will force the bad actors out, marginalize the weak ones, allow us to do more with less, thus improving safety outcomes, make everything more fair at the individual level, and eventually... shift the culture and levels of trust that currently cause a blow-up every time there's an officer involved shooting, even if it turns out someone was about to shoot a bystander in the head.

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False economy of course.

I wonder what fraction of our welfare spending bill can be attributed towards the economic devastation and lack of opportunity stemming from rampant crime in poor urban areas? It only needs to be a few percent to pay for doubling urban police budgets.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Automation seems like by far the most tractable way of addressing this (and while there are political fights about where the speed cameras go up I think they're both lower-stakes and conceptually kind of dumb. School zones and/or accident-prone areas first, then everywhere if there's budget. Just call a QALY a QALY).

The difficulty with Matt's relation of Scott's anecdote is that the kind of statistical discrimination he relates (not with any specificity to race, just as a statistical tool) has an overwhelming capitalist logic to it: unless and until you individuate every individual completely, there's no alternative to using heuristics in a world of limited resources, and that (by definition! that's why we call it a heuristic!) is a lossy process. But it's also one where the savings on information costs dominate that loss all the time. This is why credit scores and insurance assessments exist.

Matt suggests that "Normal, self-respecting human beings are not going to put up with that" if you suggest that they don't "deserve[] to be judged as an individual human being based on [their] specific actions rather than as a member of a statistical aggregate" -- fair enough as far as it goes, but then again plenty of people -- including men! -- *would* and *do* support exactly this argument when it comes to charging teen boys and young men higher insurance rates than teen girls and young women rather than treating every individual as warranting a unique assessment of risk profile. The realpolitik argument of statistical discrimination (again,, as a general statistical tool, not specifically racial discrimination) has enough underlying factual logic (and has already been implemented elsewhere! Smokers as a class *should* pay more for health and fire insurance even if a particular but hard-to-identify subset! of them are otherwise conscientious health freaks with unusually low genetic susceptibility to cancer! People in flood zones should pay more for flood insurance!) that implementing it in policy will inevitably lead at some point to demanding that people swim upstream and/or ignore the dictates of capitalism. Matt's cab drive example struck me as telling: telling a cabbie that they should be agnostic as to the likelihood of picking up a return fare seems like the kind of proverbial "peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining."

The fact that statistical discrimination works and is readily accepted in insurance and credit markets (and elsewhere) as an efficient and effective strategy means *first* that any objection specifically to racial statistical discrimination requires special pleading -- which is a bullet I think many would bite. I'm sure every one of us would be pissed off (mighty pissed off! Constantly!) if we were in Tim Scott's shoes -- but also *second* that it's potentially an unwinnable battle if you do bite the bullet because as Matt acknowledges the incentive to use other facially neutral proxies (like neighborhood) that have strong racial correlates is extremely strong and *at best* condemns regulators to a never ending game of whack a mole if it's even possible in principle. This should, I think, make everyone pessimistic about the kind of top-down regulatory approach implied by "you cannot use race as a factor in making lending decisions."

Thus I think that the best way to make progress on tackling the Gordian Knot of "normative desire for fairness" versus "capitalist desire for good-enough, cheap-enough factual accuracy and economic efficiency" is to go bottom up, and to try to attack the "good enough, cheap enough" criterion: Reduce the lossiness of the heuristics and make individuating assessment cheap, easy, and effective. Don't try to tame the heuristic approach, try to supersede it and make it obsolete and unnecessary!. Speed cameras seem like the Platonic ideal of this because they DGAF who's driving, just if they're speeding or not (which is the per se offense), and are in fact probably a lot cheaper than traffic officers. The more we can make things like speed cameras, the better.

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He's criticizing both sides... I think you just see the leftist critique as more salient?

Whereas the "group who looks at any statistical disparity and attributes it to racism" is a real thing that exists on the left, the "group who looks at any statistical disparity and attributes it to a justifiable merit based outcome" is just as real a group on the right.

Both are real and both are a problem.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

What part of "I agree with everything Matt wrote" leads you to think I see the leftist critique as more salient?

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Maybe just poor grammar on my part, I meant Matt's critique of the leftist view as opposed to his critique of the rightest view.

If that wasn't the issue, then to answer your question - "but I think the real audience for this article is the group who looks at any statistical disparity and attributes it to racism."

I think the argument is just as much for people that look at any disparity and say it's not racism and is fine.

Maybe I'm not clear on what you meant by "audience"... in general I think few people in the extreme of either camp read this blog so took it in a more generic sense of people that would benefit from reading it, and I still think there are those on both extremes.

I don't put you personally in either camp given (as you said) you indicated you agreed with him.

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>I agree with everything Matt wrote today.<

As do I. Today's was a classic.

>I think the real audience for this article is the group who looks at any statistical disparity and attributes it to racism.<

Funny, I get the exact opposite impression: the more critical audience is people on the right who think it's valid to engage in statistical discrimination. But maybe he thinks both issues are phenomena are equally problematic? Or maybe he thinks the audience of people on the right who are reachable on heuristics is larger than the audience on the hard left who are reachable on dispartyism.

Side note: I assume this has probably been mentioned in the comments (haven't read through the entire thread) but if not, Matt's got a guest piece in the NY Times about the president's communication strategy. It's very good: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/07/opinion/joe-biden-presidency.html

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I think you are engaging in statistical discrimination as well by lumping anyone who doesn't agree with a ham-fisted way of ending disparities as being a conservative. The issue is how do we correct the problem without making the lender and the other borrowers suffer an unreasonable cost due to inefficiencies.

I would like to eliminate discrimination. But I don't want unreasonable costs for doing that. Ending discrimination is not the only societal objective we should focus on. There is productivity, fairness, profitability etc. Wanting a balanced solution does not make one a conservative. It actually makes you a pragmatist that accepts the fact that there will always be disparities no matter how hard you attempt to correct them.

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I wasn't referring to policy disagreements in terms of rectifying statistical disparities. Disagreeing with Kendi certainly doesn't make one a right winger. I'm pretty liberal. And I definitely disagree with Kendi on a lot!

I was referring, rather, to the line of argumentation specifically cited by Yglesias in this piece on the topic of statistical discrimination: stop and frisk, pulling Black motorists over, being followed in retail establishments. That kind of thing (as reported by Tim Scott). My sense is soi-disant conservatives are much more likely than liberals to believe such policies are justified. The number of liberals who agree with them isn't literally zero, but it's probably pretty small. At least I reckon so.

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How did I miss that? Thanks for passing along.

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It's a good and worthy goal to critique bad arguments, even if they come from "your" side.

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“Disparityism” is an ok buzzword. In DC there are “equity” based policies brought about this notion. Like how the DMV cannot reject a license renewal for unpaid speeding tickets. That is how a woman with three DUIs and $12,000 in unpaid speeding tickets was allowed to keep her license and get it renewed. That woman killed three people in Rock Creek in March (DCist has an article on it.)

We can also look at fare evasion. The city council made it so there were no consequences for failing to pay fines since that was a disparity in who got tickets for fare evasion. This has hurt the quality of service and revenues. The city council has double down on this policy with the “free bussing” initiative. (Can’t have fare evasion if you have no fares.) Of course this policy is funded by taking money from capital investments like the H street tram and policies to make dedicated bus lanes.

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I am pretty alarmed that disparityism-minded free fares are going to lead to the abject collapse of every US public transit system except New York and probably Chicago.

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Probably not. Fare revenue has already collapsed (in my home turf, MBTA fare revenue has gone from 40% of the budget to 10%), without significant free-fare programs. That last 10% is not really the problem.

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Well poor service will. Free fares just waste money and don’t improve service. There will be a counter swing in many places to these policies.

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Sometimes I almost feel like we should go back to the ancient model whereby grossly incompetent elected leader can face serve personal consequences…

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Make Defenestration Great Again!

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Would need more personal upsides for political leadership

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The DC Council action on fare evasion, in my understanding, was they changed it from being a criminal offense to a civil citation, like a parking ticket. They didn't legally change it to "no consequences"

And I think that was the right move. Would it make sense for a driver who doesn't pay the meter and parks illegally to face a criminal offense? That is a 'theft' from the city in a sense but I think a citation makes more sense than criminal charges, and I think Metro fare evasions should similarly be civil citations.

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There are no consequences. It is a $50 fine, but a failure to pay or show up to court has no penalty. This latter part is what the city council changed. Not the treatment of it as a misdemeanor. That is why there is no enforcement.

It’s the same with parking, traffic tickets, obscured plates, and fake tags. No real risk of booting. No real risk of having a license revoked. Mayor Bowser is attempting to get traffic violations caught on camera to be treated as point offenses, which will help get some enforcement in MD and VA.

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A $50 fine is essentially not a consequences even if you had to pay it. The real cost of a fine = [$ gained by doing the illegal thing] - [$ of Fine x % Chance of getting caught]

If you expect to get caught 1 out of 20 times you jump the fare, and fares are $3, the correct financial decision is to jump fares.

There's some convenience and prestige value to not paying too, and people generally underestimate their chance of being caught, so the "real cost" as to be much higher than $0 to work.

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Baseline calculation for effective fines:

value of infraction / probability of capture * underestimation multiplier * X

Where X > 10

Apply to all white collar crime as well.

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yes, and the more organizations invest in preventing white collar crime, the less effective they are. The ideal solution is to generally be less worried about preventing white collar crime (which inevitably creates red tape), invest more in increasing probability of capture and make penalties extremely (even unfairly) high.

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I think that a lot of compliance white collar crime prevention measures are misunderstood— a lot of the point isn’t preventing you from doing the crime, but forcing you to generate the kind of paper trail that makes it relatively easier to prosecute you later. For example, anti-money laundering/Know Your Customer questionnaires don’t actually stop people from laundering money, but make it much easier for the Justice Department to prosecute the money launderers for bank fraud later.

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Yep, white-collar crime is, in the main, more easily and effectively deterred by making it miserably unprofitable. There's no emotion or violence, it's not spur of the moment, it's just to make more money.

So figure out what kind of profits it allowed, to within a close approximation, and fine everyone you catch a vast multiple of that figure, and provide sufficient resources to prosecute each case to the hilt instead of settling.

The end result is vastly fewer cases, each of which leads to the corporate equivalent of a rotting corpse hanging from a gallows by the road.

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I don’t think Becker’s rational crime model is as applicable here. I think it’s simpler. Some people break rules if they think they can act with impunity, some break them because they see others not adhering to norms. If people think someone will catch them or enforce the rule they stop the behavior even if the fine is small.

Of course you could shoehorn this into Becker, but I doubt the behavior is from a cost benefit analysis.

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Enforcement is primarily in the realm of the executive branch, the Mayor, not the legislative body. And you were saying the DC Council made it so there were no consequences for fare evasion, which is not true or accurate. They changed it from a criminal infraction to a civil infraction, which I think was appropriate. So does the new head of WMATA, who has stepped up enforcement efforts.

I agree it is now similar to automobile enforcement, where civil citations are frequently (but not always) ignored. Metro says 87% of riders pay fares, so that's still pretty high, even if it's not optimal and could be better.

We had over $880m in unpaid traffic violations in 2022 alone. I think DC could and should do a lot more to collect that and enforce traffic rules, but I think it can still be handled without needing to rely on charging people with crimes and threatening jail time for metro/automobile violations. For drivers, you can do a lot more to boot/tow/confiscate cars and suspend licenses.

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I am just getting tired of all the people drinking, riffling through shoplifted goods, smoking pot, and littering on the metro.

I just googled the history, we’re people actually being prosecuted for fare evasion outside of other criminal offenses? It should be a civil infraction, but it shouldn’t be without consequence if we care about quality of service.

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What metro lines are you riding? I don't think I'm seeing what you are seeing.

I think the way to address your concern though is the....slow boring of hardboards as immortalized by this substack.

There's harder root causes to tackle - poverty, racism, crime, inequality, and so on. But there's also lower hanging fruit. For example, a lot of the people evading fares are kids who actually qualify for free Metro fares - there's just a lot of red tape bureaucracy that nudges them toward fare evasion rather than swiping a card. That's not an unsolvable problem. But we need residents constructively engaging with government officials.

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Can't they collect on it like any other debt? Garnish your wages or something?

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Relative to its 2020-self, NYT has actually gotten marginally better and has people like John mcwhorter on its payroll and publishing plenty of op eds against aa etc

Still I do await the day that the disparityist nonsense will be universally recognized and reviled for the sad joke that it is, with the chief priests of the cult totally ostracized.

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I'm coming to the position that disparity is, to use legal language, "probable cause" but not "prima facies evidence" of racism.

That is, if you see disparity in results, then that's enough reason to start an investigation into why, but not enough to assume racism or demand proof that it isn't.

There's also some things that are caused by racism, but not in a way that is fixable by the institution that has the immediate issue. Like "more kids in private schools are white". Yes, that's not because the schools are racist, it's because white people have more money. White people have more money because of several centuries of racism, but that's not something private schools can fix. So, yes, it's racist, but only in the same sense that everything is racist.

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Minneapolis MN schools got absolutely chewed up in national media for a parallel issue: they have largest disparity between white & black performance in schools in the country. Clearly someone must be doing horridly evil things!

Meanwhile, when looking through the data, the "evil thing" that is happening is that charities in Minneapolis keep inviting black refugees into the community that have been turned away by every other state. The refugees have so little to their name and so many barriers, it should be completely expected that they score poorly on English tests! For goodness sake. If we lived in an alternate reality where members of the local school boards predicted that accepting refugees may lower their "equality score" and threaten their funding, then successfully lobbied to reject all these people that had nowhere else to go, in that reality the city would have a disparity score up in the top ten. Funding secure, people tossed out like trash. Lovely.

(Thankfully, it looks like the funding was recovered.)

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Prima facie, dear autocorrect, not prima faces.

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Could be worse, it could have saddled you with "prime feces".

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I think the problem with it is that it's usually right, but it's wrong often enough and the wrong is much more wrong than a mere typo.

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Agreed, which is to say it is actually not racist in any useful sense (if “everything is x” nothing meaningfully is).

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Hmm, I meant a slightly different version of "everything is racist" than that.

Everything is racist in the sense that all of society is built on racist foundations, rather than in the sense that all actions are racist.

You can either take the Kendi position that because society is built on racist foundations, every action that does not intentionally undermine those foundations and seek to rebuild society is racist, or you can take the sane position that living in a structurally racist society is not a racist act, and that you can't individualise the need to restructure society; that has to be a collective action, not an individual one.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Or you can simply not accept this fashionable idea of “racist foundations”. It an oversimplification and a distortion in the American case and patently false in virtually all others (for after all , while of outsized importance the USA is but a small part of the world).

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Great piece, and it hits on why, for all the obvious and clear reasons that modern DEI and Kendi-ism are idiotic the conservative side really has no clue how to turn the critique into much more than red meat for its base and an occasional small boost on normal thermostatic trends. Denying obvious realities is just as stupid when conservatives do it and people eventually pick up on the cynicism.

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GOP purged everyone who can think and thinking sometimes requires dissenting.

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It's not so much that they have no clue as that they don't want to.

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I'll throw one gram of red meat back to them and say it's an objectively hard problem, and I have no clue how to solve it either.

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I think what you want is a law enforcement regime that doesn't necessarily arrest people of all races at the same rate, but does have the same "false positive" rate for people of all races.

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And starts by not pulling over Black drivers just because they're driving a nice car or "maybe it's stolen."

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Right. It seems to me that the current false-positive rates are completely out of whack. Like for white guys the ratio of (stops) ÷ (stopped people who are actually guilty) might be 110%, but for black guys it's like 2000% - something way, way, WAY higher. If Tim Scott is getting pulled over 7 times in a single year, then we've got a serious problem that can only be justified by someone with animus.

It's different with camera enforcement of traffic violations, because the false-positive rate with those is close to zero for every race.

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Where do you get these numbers from?

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You're being charitable. There are obvious steps to take, the bar for policy ideas isn't "fixes everything."

Looking beyond policing just reinforces that; the GOP's broad philosophy was supposed to be "less is more" but they can't even be bothered to embrace "less" when it's the obvious solution!

They're so bereft of any actual brainpower anymore, and what is there is so focused on grifting for its own personal benefit, that there's only a massive id left.

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This is a good one! As a Gen Xer I believe that in most ways race relations are better than when I was growing up in the 80s. At the same time I think it was easier to have productive conversations and arguments around race then than it is now. I believe that Scott's issues of his personal experience certainly should be discussed. But we live in a tribal time where trying to understand different perspectives is seen as a sign of weakness. Which makes persuading people not on one's team difficult. Scott seems as much of a "happy warrior" as we have today (on all issues, not just race). Go Tim Scott!

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It's more difficult to discuss race because we have basically gotten rid of segregation and epithets in media and personal lives. This is a good thing! People of all races have the opportunity to go wherever they want. This is also why conservatives despise being called "racist," because they genuinely don't believe in racial segregation and don't say mean, insulting things about people of other races. All the current discussion is about if disparities are racism, and that is much more abstract, making it more difficult to discuss.

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So... besides for being the blue collar dude with way to many kids, I should probably mention that I was brought up in a multi-racial family. I have a black sister and Asian brother who were adopted as babies. We are all within 3-years of each other, so growing up it was just how it was. Luckily we grew up in Los Angeles which was more progressive that other parts of the country, but in the 80's multi-racial families were quite rare. These days, not so much.

So... the reason I bring this up is even though I am fairly law and order, follow the rules, broken windows type guy... my sister has been a victim of police racial stereotyping. Pulled over more times that the rest of us siblings, despite being a chill driver. So for no other reason besides for being black.

And wow... it pisses me off. I don't know what the answer is. I will let you guys in the comments argue it out.

And just in case anyone cares... here is me and my siblings.

Maybe one day I will write a post/comment on what it was like growing up in a "Different Strokes" family. It was so normal to us, but some people would trip out back in the 80s.

Better link. Edit.

https://substack.com/@bluecollarnotes/note/c-17022441?r=3gj6y&utm_medium=ios&utm_source=notes-share-action

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I really want to support the police. We all need them, especially those in high-crime communities. But it seems like so many of them -- not just your canonical "bad apples" -- are just assholes. I wonder if they get off on pulling over people, especially Blacks. I'd love to see law enforcement people as a whole decide that they need to police these views from the inside and get rid of those attitudes like, you know. it being so unfair that you just can't string up Blacks with a rope anymore (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/audio-coming-reporter-taped-oklahoma-leaders-talking-killing-reporters-rcna80299).

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

To beat on one of my usuals drums- what can a comparative perspective suggest? Are police universally assholes , or is the situation at least somewhat better in some other countries? I suspect the latter and if so we need to figure out the causes for the gap and see if some of them can be applied to the us context.

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A cop in Berlin might be an asshole, but there's far less chance of said asshole-ry leading him to shooting you.

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FWIW, as an american living in Berlin, I am often explaining to my multi-national friends, the thing in US, is every cop has to actively suspect that every person could potentially be carrying a gun at anytime, so they shoot first, ask questions later.

The american love for guns is part of what justifies the police state and it's abuses.

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If we got rid of all police shootings entirely, but especially the unwarranted ones - that would be good. But it wouldn't address the issues that Tim Scott or many other people brought up. Which suggest that the shootings are the result of a broader issue, not the instigating factor.

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I wish the Graham Factor was still a presence in the SB commentariat.

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An awful lot of British cops are racist assholes.

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It's easier to be nice when you are less worried about being attacked with a gun. That's one obvious solution (and yet impossible at the same time, because we have tens of millions of guns in this country).

I'm sure American soldiers hanging out at the base in Germany are nicer than soldiers in Iraq were.

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It's also very likely true that a lot higher % of citizens are assholes once given authority than we generally realize. And open to experience, build community, in-touch-with-feminine side people are kind of hoovered up by left-leaning jobs nowadays. Maybe the left could do a much better job of pushing "softer" type people into policing instead of pushing them away

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Hence the comment I made yesterday [https://www.slowboring.com/p/tuesday-thread-fb5/comment/16994599] with Matt (and Megan McArdle) observing very much that.

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The eternal problem is that the very nature of the job is attractive to Eric Cartman types who like to power trip. How you limit that influence, I do not know.

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This is about where I'm at. I've genuinely been in situations where the local police helped me stay safe and made the situation safer for everyone. I would like that to be available for more people; it's just so hard seeing all the different ways that it's not, and every time someone claims the local departments are getting better, some even worse scandal comes out.

The most recent one being that the state Senate here ordered the department to turn over all their test kits from cases of minor sexual abuse. The department had over 500 that were untested for no reason, & the kits were submitted to them as far back as the 90s. A number of the perpetrators went on to commit serial minor sexual abuse after the collection of the original kit and were at large right up until the kit handling was taken over. It makes me sick to my stomach even writing this down. I can't imagine Why WHy why, and I'm still trying to process it. It hurts deeply.

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I know it’s a typo, but I can’t stop thinking about your “way to many kids” as if the facts of life were a closely guarded secret

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Not a typo. Accurate description.

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So you didn’t mean “too”? Master, please show us THE WAY

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"Sorry, this page isn't available.

The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed. Go back to Instagram."

Thanks for sharing the story, that says enough as is.

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Interested!

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While I agree that the concern from the left about racial inequality is genuine and identifies serious issues the virtue signaling shows up in terms of what the left won't talk about/acknowledge. Specifically, the left (and academics generally) refuse to acknowledge some hard facts or the cases where the evidence is that it's not racism and that's basically giving up on convincing conservatives.

That's why I think it's so sad that people who expose the fact that some things that were posited to be racism aren't are so often critisized by the left for doing so. Yes, I agree Tim Scott's message was important but I think at a broader level the anti-racist activists need to recognize that convincing people that racism remains a problem first requires establishing your trustworthiness on the issue.

If even I as someone who does believe that racism is a serious and endemic problem can listen to the experts on TV and read journal articles and see that there is an obvious bias in what kind of results they will acknowledge or talk about to the point where I feel I had to read the original studies to understand the real facts what hope do they have of convincing conservatives.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

I think we are tending a bit towards the intellectual atmosphere of the time of Galileo. There is a hierarchy of intellectual freedom: in niche professional publication veered exclusively to peer specialists you can get away with saying quite a bit more than in a newspaper article or a long online essay which is again slightly more lax than a tweet.

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I'm not quite following the time of Galileo analogy. Maybe say a bit more for the three of us here who ignore everything else being written today to focus like a laser on just that?

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Lol. If memory serves the problem the church had with Galileo wasn’t so much his heresy per se but that he insisted on publishing on it in the local vernacular rather in Latin- so that his heterodox ideas had a far broader (and less learned) audience. The church had undoubtedly limited, but marginally greater tolerance for troubling ideas if they were voiced only in limited circles.

Or - at least that’s the story I remember (never actually studied the period) - and this story, regardless of historical precision, seemed to me an apt comparison the contemporary situation (Mutatis mutandis of course! I’m not claiming we are nearly in as bad a state as back then!)

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I'm not a Galileo scholar so I can't weigh in on the impact of his writing in Italian rather than Latin, but the typically stated reasons for the conflict were that the Church demanded that Galileo clearly state that heliocentrism was only a hypothesis, that he thought he had stayed within those limits with his publication (and had support for that from prominent members of the Church), that there were changes in the politics in the Church vis a vis internal and external rivals that made it harder for them to go easy on Galileo, and that he was a cantankerous guy whose actions tended to excite rather than calm conflict.

The Church wasn't in the business of science and didn't really care about earth- or sun-centered theories; it just wanted the one that could best help it set the date of Easter (which had been slipping alarmingly). It was very interested in the Copernican approach early on, until it showed itself no better than the Ptolemaic system (and would continue to underperform until astronomers adopted the Keplerian system of elliptical orbits instead of circular ones, along with his other two laws).

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Matt's 5 point list includes "2. Men are more likely than women to be carrying illegal guns." but the conclusion doesn't mention gender "Therefore, police officers should set a lower bar for stopping Black drivers in order to optimize the use of police officers’ time."

It looks like men are more likely to be pulled over but I wasn't sure if that was a point Matt was trying to make.

According to this: https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/ascii/cpp05.txt, most races get stopped at similar rates but non-White people get searched far more. Men get pulled over more often and "Male, black, and younger residents more likely to experience force"

Gender tends to get glossed over in policing discussions even though it might be the most important demographic factor.

In general I often feel a bit confused by Matt's view that we should stop people to look for guns more by enforcing laws for smaller crimes. Those stops feel kind of pretextual if the real aim is enforcing gun laws rather than the fare jumping or whatever else the stop is "for".

Matt seems pretty in for stops for minor offences and surveillance. Is the idea just that in order to do those things we need to make people believe it's not being done in a racist way? Even the disparities that are going to arise how feasible is that?

It would also be interesting to hear about how conservatives/Republicans might be able to "reassure people that a robust law enforcement presence doesn’t mean “Tim Scott will get pulled over on spurious grounds.” And you need to reassure people that strict enforcement of the rules doesn’t mean “Tim Scott will get pulled over for real, but pretextual, violations that a white driver would be able to slide on.”"

Are there policy prescriptions that could help or is it a messaging problem? It seems like policy would need to change because it is a real experience people are having.

This sentence is sort of funny as it relates to other voters "Normal, self-respecting human beings are not going to put up with that."

Also, this stylization "white/Black" is still dumb and people should stop using it.

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I think Matt's argument is that petty crimes are often an indicator of larger crimes (including carrying an illegal gun) and since committing a petty crime is (a) not a protected class; (b) causally linked (under his assumption) to higher crimes, it's fair game to prioritize petty crimes as part of a broader illegal gun deterrent.

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That might be it.

My feeling is that the gap between searching someone for "looking suspicious" and searching someone for fare evasion really isn't very large.

Matt seems, in general, to be much more into searching and surveillance than I am so that might be the fundamental disconnect.

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I think Matt has been very deliberate in only critiquing actual violations of the law (for example, his expired tags project on twitter) rather than pre-textual violations like looking suspicious. Of course he could just be doing it as a rhetorical posture since it's much easier to argue for, but I haven't seen any writing to suggest he supports pre-textual stops. I do feel like many of the negative responses to his expired tags bit are from people who simply see tag violations as just not a big deal.

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Matt's view seems to be that enforcing low level violations provides opportunity for searches that might help reduce the number illegal guns on the street.

To me, doing a search after a low level violation feels like a pretext that isn't that far off from just stopping and frisking.

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It's not a pretext if you're being stopped for a crime you actually committed and they then discover that you are breaking other laws during the process of the stop.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

If you are enforcing those laws so that you can search people for guns then it does seem like a pretext.

How are they discovering that you are breaking other laws? It doesn't seem necessary to search people when giving them a ticket or citation. The details of the "...and they then discover..." are kind of important here.

If you present the searching as a core benefit of enforcement then the whole thing just seems like stop and frisk with extra steps.

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But that's exactly how the police use pretexts because no citizen can go the whole day without either breaking a minor law (speeding, jaywalking, etc.) or at least presenting something like reasonable suspicion/probably cause. When we say "stopped on a pretext", we mean "the cop said he was speeding/didn't signal/smelled like weed", all of which are legitimate reasons under current law for a Terry Stop in most places. Nobody means "completely fabricated" when they talk about pretexts.

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I mean, that's literally the definition of pretext. I just looked it up because I felt like maybe I was crazy, because it seems like you aren't using the word in the normal way.

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One thing I don't understand with this, or that seems left out of the discourse on this argument, is why do cops care at all? What's in it for the cop to make one more arrest?

I sometimes get the impression that people think it's all about a power trip, which could be partially true. It could also be the cops view of what he thinks "doing a good job is"

But I guess most of it comes, ultimately, from community pressure. The mayor and the voters etc... We all want crime to go down but we don't tell cops how to do it and honestly we really don't know how. The cops probably have a better idea than most of us but of course they can be wrong, too.

I guess the point is if cops think having a quick scan at a car during a traffic stop is a good way to do what we are telling them to do, "reduce crime" then we should be a bit cautious about removing that power. My guess is some of the thousands of extra homicide, overdose and traffic deaths since May 2020 was due to cops saying "well, they don't want us to do anything proactive". 10,000+ extra violent deaths just seems like a steep price to pay for less stops. But maybe I'm wrong, it's hard to weight them against each other.

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Yeah I think that's what I'm asking and attempting to answer. Why is bringing an illegal gun back "something"? It's because the supervisor answers to the chief who answers to the mayor who answers to the voters and that's what we want. But then we get mad at the police if they use their experience to do it in a proactive way as opposed to waiting until a shooting actually happens.

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I'd love to study all of this more. But it seems like in NY there are / were larger trends of gentrification and immigration at work. Crime of all types plummeted before, after and during stop and frisk. To me this is more linked to population turnover than anything the police were doing.

In the last 5 years 50% of women giving birth with immigrants in NYC. The average age of new mothers is probably around the same age as the average age of criminals, so maybe 50% of youngish men are immigrants? And they are very likely much lower crime than the people they've replaced who've moved to smaller, crappier cities like my dad's high-crime hometown, Reading PA. the latter is full of people who got priced out of NYC.

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As much as I love the guy, I think Obama kick-started "Disparityism" in his second term. He did it in schools, and it has had disastrous consequences.

The idea was that suspensions and school discipline was biased against black children. (OF course, in that logic Asian students are systemically favored over white students).

We had a crazy form of "Defund the School Police" before the Trump era.

In order to avoid the discrepancies public schools pulled back from a lot of discipline. That way there is no paper trail of discipline.

I don't think Identitarian Left understands how much damage this kind of thought does to institutions and how much real life damage it has.

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The racial disparities were most pronounced for suspensions based on vague categories of misbehavior like “willful defiance” and not for specific crimes/actions like assault or drugs or weapons. That’s what created a strong inference that teachers were applying different standards to what behavior they would sanction for Black students and it’s consistent with other research suggesting that teachers are more likely to see misbehavior in Black students as indicative of their character while they are more likely to see it as an aberration and try to understand the context for students who are not Black.

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>The idea was that suspensions and school discipline was biased against black children<

I don't recall the controversy, tbh, but when I hear something like this my initial reaction is: This sounds highly plausible. But I think US society sometimes faces these rock and hard place dilemmas, as in "Black school children are statistically treated unfairly" accompanied by "Policies to address this unfairness might prompt educators to be skittish about imposing discipline, thereby worsening educational outcomes." Sometimes you just can't win.

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Huh? I don't follow... the equity stuff is against punishing white students?

I hate left-right over-simplifications, but I'm confused so I guess I need to use one...the new principal was Right and thought white kids were being punished too much? Or was Left and thought girls shouldn't be punished?

Or are the new laws kind of anarchist and against punishment in general?

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Yeah, I've seen the effects of that where I live. They take everyone out of class because one kid becomes violent and then everyone waits for that kid to calm down or for an administrator to convince them to leave on their own. Then they don't suspend or have any real punishments because that would be wrong. Some places they are doing this multiple times a day for a single classroom. I think we've gone overboard here. I don't want teachers slapping kids or anything but they need to be able to exert some kind of discipline or we sacrifice everyone else's learning.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

The more time passes the worse Obama’s presidency seems. He was too inexperienced and thus made too many costly mistakes. Ironically his biggest mistake of all- streamlining Clinton’s nomination, leading to trump- is probably the biggest factor why his presidency will never be dispassionately assessed and will always shine by comparison to his immediate successor…

All that being said, my hot take is that Biden is great president. Far greater than Obama and possibly more than Clinton and all Dems since LBJ.

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If you had looked at the first four years of Obama's presidency and compared it to Biden's you wouldn't say that. That second 4 years is really something in bringing down the average presidency. And as bad as Obama was with Clinton, I'm not sure that Biden's choice of Harris wasn't worse.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

I judged on achievements vs political capital ie not by achievements in absolute terms but vs the hand they were dealt, and I find Obama seriously wanting. He sold the country on the myth that bipartisanship is dead and gop is just impossibly obstructive. Turns out he simply let McConnell et al play him again and again. His foreign policy was likewise bad from the get go. Biden doesn’t have his brilliance or charisma but in his own quiet way he is the better politician and the better statesman. He is also probably the better man.

P.S.

Just realized you predicted the future re:Harris? So far Biden is running for a second term and we are very far from knowing whether he’ll be president in 2028 and if so whom he’ll try to crown as his successor. As you’ll recall Obama actively worked to block his vp from running for potus, much to our retrospective regret!

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I think Biden understands the Senate better than Obama did and has found ways to navigate it better - but he also has the benefit of learning from being Obama's vice president. That being said, Obama had realistically a better legislatively potential for maybe 18 months and during that time passed far more significant legislation than Biden has despite Biden spending far more money. On a foreign policy perspective, I think Biden has responded to what Russia did in Ukraine far better than Obama did, but the situation is also different enough its hard to make comparisons.

Regarding VP, Obama picked someone who was either a net neutral or a real asset to be his Vice President. As best I can tell, Biden has picked someone who is just a straight up negative for him. Perhaps that will change, but I haven't seen any evidence for it. As for Obama blocking Biden to support Clinton, I think there is likely more backstory there than we know. Perhaps he made a commitment to her in 2008 to get her support or something. Regardless, I think whoever was the nominee in 2016 was going to have a very challenging election and started at a deficit given the thermostatic nature of our politics. Perhaps Biden would have been able to beat Trump in 2016, but I think its quite possible that he loses as well.

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While what you say is largely true, I hate that we have to constantly frame things this way as Democrats.

The White, Asian, and Latino students that get bullied and are in classes where they are preyed upon and are so chaotic that nobody can learn are just as important as victims of this.

I always feel on some level when we make this argument we are saying in a sense that some victims are more important than others. I don't think you mean this or believe this.

I just wish Democrats could at least give a passing nod to non-black victims when you pull back on law enforcement or any kind.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

I think by and large the reason the right doesn’t do much work on how to actually solve crime is that they think the solution has already been achieved in the status quo ante 2020. That’s why you are seeing so much reframing of 2020 as just rioting, emphasis on the ‘Soros prosecutors’ etc.

I don’t think it is a constructive or realistic position but it’s not entirely unreasonable. The left really did (successfully) push for a reformed approach to law enforcement and prosecution in the late 2010s and there really has been an increase in crime in the early 2020s. It’s not unfathomable that the conservative side thinks that simply rolling back the reforms will reverse the crime, even though I would argue (a) correlation =/= causation and (b) the genie is out of the bottle and crime is somewhat sticky.

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Many on the right were constantly whinging about crime (and often explicitly black crime) well before crime rates actually reversed their historical trend and started creeping back up in the last few years. Trump was running as the law and order candidate in 2016 and neither he nor the party had much in the way of clear solutions to driving down crime then, with maybe the exception of reducing the legal liabilities and responsibilities of police officers. I'm sure they do oppose and would roll-back the leftist policy changes of the last few years if elected, but I don't really get the sense they have a clear set of objectives beyond that

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The left has decided that having prolific criminals incapacitated by being in jail doesn't count as "solving" anything - is actually worse than no intervention - whereas the right and some moderates still think it's an important pillar.

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I don’t think that you can overlook the costs of incarceration— to both the imprisoned and to society as a whole— when you’re evaluating various sorts of incarceration policy. It’s very possible for a lower-crime higher-incarceration policy to have worse total utility than a higher-crime and lower-incarceration policy (as an extreme example, imagine a world where you put every underage drinker in prison for ten years— this would reduce crime a great deal, but the social costs would be very high.)

Now, you may think that the reformist faction has turned the dial toward too little incarceration, or not enough incarceration in the most important cases. But there is a genuine tradeoff that needs to be evaluated and managed.

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Yeah, my personal view is that improving certainty and speed is much more clearly socially positive than improving severity and favor funding the police (ideally at NYC-like levels in most big American cities), more automated traffic enforcement, and an expanded criminal bench for faster trials.

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“…the genie is out of the bottle…”

No, the criminals are out of jail. If you have a theory about how putting them back in jail would not cut down on crime, I’d love to hear it.

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I mean, crime is falling already, as Matt's pointed out on Twitter.

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Not sure I see your point. Are you saying putting criminals in jail doesn’t prevent crime?

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“In a city like D.C., we know that the Black and white populations differ dramatically in their age profile, in their educational attainment, in the family structure of the households they are raised in, in their incomes, and in the neighborhoods they live.”

Yes, and many of these factors are downstream of America’s history of discrimination. I’m not sure how you can argue ‘It’s not racism, it’s X’ when X is itself a product of racism. It’s entirely reasonable to acknowledge the difference between taste-based vs statistical discrimination, but far too many on the right recoil at the idea that structural and historic discrimination has any role in contemporary disparities.

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Downstream of, yes, but not determined by. Black / non-Black disparities are worse in DC than in virtually every other city. And they've grown much, much worse in recent years. The level of the gap may be downstream of historical racism, but the direction of change over the last decade is much better explained by recent changes in the housing market, economics, policing and patterns of drug use.

You can argue "it's not racism, it's X" because we are capable of moving on and evolving and improving from our past. If it's possible for both the murder rate and fatal drug overdose rate to double in DC among Black men in the last 5 years (true stats, btw) then it should be possible for those rates to be cut in half with the right changes, whether or not slavery happened 150+ years ago.

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“The level of the gap may be downstream of historical racism, but the direction of change over the last decade is much better explained by recent changes in the housing market, economics, policing and patterns of drug use.”

Again, all of which are shaped and exacerbated by past and *present* structural discrimination. Otherwise you are arguing that there is some inherent “just-so” factor driving these trends. You cannot isolate disparities in housing, for example, without acknowledging that generational wealth-building was for the *vast* majority of this country’s history a ‘whites-only’ affair.

“You can argue "it's not racism, it's X" because we are capable of moving on and evolving and improving from our past. If it's possible for both the murder rate and fatal drug overdose rate to double in DC among Black men in the last 5 years (true stats, btw) then it should be possible for those rates to be cut in half with the right changes, whether or not slavery happened 150+ years ago.”

Your talk of ‘Moving on and evolving and improving from our past’ and ‘the right changes’ is meaningless pablum. We clearly can’t move on if folks refuse to even consider how racism etc still influence outcomes today. And your offhand remark that ‘slavery happened 150+ years ago’ demonstrates you have a sophomoric understanding of American history.

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"demonstrates you have a sophomoric understanding of American history" please don't fall into the knee-jerk and meaningless ad hominem here. We can have a good conversation and learn from each other but it's a lot harder if we get derailed into arguing about who is good / bad / smart dumb. I promise you I mean well and am open-minded regardless of whether you agree with me, and as informed on American history as your likely to find here, to boot.

Anyways - to drill in on my point - what structural racism factors caused Black outcomes in DC to be so much worse in 2023 when compared to 2018? The idea that slavery, redlining or jim crow are deterministic of outcomes in 2023 is the "just-so" fallacy I'm arguing against. And it's obviously not true first because outcomes are continually evolving, but second because there's little correlation between the local degree of discrimination in the past and Black descendant of slave outcomes across the United States. Discrimination was de jure and de facto worse in some states and localities than others, but those patterns are barely reflected in patters of where today's Black Americans are doing well or not well.

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I agree we can have a good conversation and learn from each other. My intent was not about who is good/bad/smart/dumb; my point is that fixing the phenomenon of racism into discrete structures, eg slavery, redlining, Jim Crow, is not a useful way of understanding how racism influences policy development, implementation and administration. I’m sorry for offending, but I do think your earlier assertion that we can resolve these problems ‘whether or not slavery happened 150+ years ago’ failed to take into account the very real consequences of the intervening 150+ years.

I think we can both agree that for both public safety and public health (taking your issues of crime and overdoses), trust is key to successful implementation. However trust in police and health is broadly much lower among Black Americans, which is demonstrably consequential of very real historic abuses. You cannot then develop a policy regimen aimed at promoting public health or public safety without considering how to restore trust in the institutions responsible for administering them. Folks get hung up on the idea that acknowledging racism is about making certain people feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ but it’s not about them at all. It’s entirely about how do we remedy a real harm that has been committed so that we are not reproducing it again and again.

Moreover when we look at the short-term spikes in, eg murder and overdoses, we still need to consider how factors like discrimination exacerbate these. I don’t know the nuances of health and crime in DC, but I expect you’d find the greatest problems in areas where the usual ills of poverty, disinvestment and deprivation are most concentrated, and I think you could draw a fairly consisted portrait of how social conditions shaped those areas.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

The events of one generation influence the next generations. I’d feel quite bad about my job as a historian if that weren’t the case. I’m probably more ignorant than either of you on American history, but I do feel I might contribute with a slight methodological point. Namely that the ways historical legacy works are complex and moreover mutable. To put it in more concrete terms , the effects of eg historcal memory of collective trauma is obviously related to, but distinct from, the traumatic events themselves. The salience and interpretation of past events is something that can dramatically shift. That which one generation can be enraged about might find cold reception in another , and it’s not necessarily linear or correlated with the objective personal injury! The animosity Muslims feel towards Christians due to the trauma of the crusades ebbs and flows between communities and periods, and is now hardly corrrelated to any personal injury. Alexander the Great could rally the Greek to “avenge” the Persian invasion almost two hundred years later, even though many generations of Greeks in the intervening generations had no problem allying themselves with the Persian (indeed most Greek coty states were in fact on the Persian side during the notorious invasion itself!) . Some Balck peole who personally experienced Jim Crow feel far more optimistic about the us , and more trustful of its government, than some young black activist of immigrant origins whose families never experienced any racism or discrimination whatsoever.

In short, historical memory is malleable. It’s consequences changing, and open to manipulation (though not in an entirely straightforward and predictable way).

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OK, I can't figure out the autocorrect error. "motorist invasion"?

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“Your talk of ‘Moving on and evolving and improving from our past’ and ‘the right changes’ is meaningless pablum. We clearly can’t move on if folks refuse to even consider how racism etc still influence outcomes today.”

What does “we can’t move on” even mean other than “I’m upset and don’t want the things that are broken to get fixed until everyone knows how bad they are”? You simply ignore the massive short term fluctuations in the outcomes you claim to care about (“the murder rate and fatal drug overdose rate to double in DC among Black men in the last 5 years”) because it’s easier to talk about how racism causes every disparity than to actually look at what changes outcomes for black people in the present. If you think that more white people believing in systemic racism will solve this, why did many of these disparities get much worse immediately after the massive increase in white awareness of commitment to addressing systemic racism in 2020?

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Figures that someone named ‘Grad Student’ would quote someone’s words without trying to understand them!

If you read a bit more closely, you’ll see that I used a conditional phrase to say that we cannot move on as long as people refuse to recognise how current structures perpetuate the problems we’re trying to solve. It’s a bit like trying to get rid of damp in a house without acknowledging you have a leak!

I haven’t ignored anything, unlike those of y’all who seem to believe that crime and poverty are separate from the conditions and systems that produce and maintain them. I’m also not sure how ‘it’s easier to talk about how racism causes every disparity’ (although I did not make that claim), given how vitriolic folks get the minute you mention America’s history with race.

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I understood the structure of the phrase. You believe that it is impossible to solve these problems without implementing solutions that are based in an understanding that all of these problems are caused, directly or indirectly, by racism. I just disagree.

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What specific categories of policies are you proposing?

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Not sure what you mean by ‘specific categories of policies’ or why this is directed at me rather than the commenter who insists we just need ‘the right changes’, but my ‘proposals’ here are oriented toward reparations

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“…reparations”

I’m not surprised.

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Of course you’re not

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I read the Ta-Nehisi Coates article about reparations with great interest and some sympathy, but the challenge for me is that almost no one will outline how to go from the idea to implementation in a way that actually achieves what they articulate as their goals. I'd be interested in hearing your perspective on how to do that.

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The key implication for policing here is about standards of evidence. If the standard of evidence required to justify a search is low enough the incentive for individual officers is to maximize searches based on statistical inference instead. The only solution is to raise the standard to a place where that sort of discretionary inference is insufficient.

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You'll still quickly get people saying "now the standard is so high, a lot of people are slipping through the cracks and committing crimes."

I mean, what's a cop supposed to do if they pull someone over for swerving between lanes, and see an 18 pack box of empty beer cans in the back seat? If the driver says he's sober, and going to the grocery to buy some food and recycle the cans, and the car smells like beer because the box was leaking, what's the officer to decide?

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Moving violations are legit hard to enforce. The threshold proxies we use (speed, BAC) for safe driving are poor. In theory, the type of swerving reckless driving you describe is the crime we should actually be taking action against. In car video is a big improvement in generating actual evidence of criminal driving.

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"The threshold proxies we use (speed, BAC) for safe driving are poor."

Are they? This might turn on the subjective understanding of "poor," but collision severity increases with speed and things like reaction time get worse with BAC.

There's plenty of evidence that speed enforcement cameras make roads safer, and Utah had success dropping its DUI BAC from 0.08 to 0.05.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

BAC is often super unrelated to impairment. Many people are absolutely driving recklessly at .02, while others are relatively safe at .09. Way to much biology involved to be well calibrated. Similarly, what constitutes safe speed is overwhelmingly related to conditions, vehicle, traffic, weather, time of day, other distractions, etc. They're proxies we use because they're easily observable, not because they're reliably accurate.

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Utah had great success dropping the BAC for a DUI to 0.05. Like it or not, drunk people on average drive worse than sober people. The guy who can drive fine at 0.09 doesn't mean that BAC is a poor judge of driving ability any more than the existence of Muggsy Bouges means that height is a poor predictor of basketball ability.

https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/60428

Again, with regard to speed, we run into the fact that speed enforcement works. Yes, sometimes it might be perfectly safe to drive 45 mph in a 30 mph zone, or it might be unsafe to exceed 15 mph. But by and large civil engineers can make some broad predictions as to safe speeds on roads, and enforcing these speeds makes roads safer.

https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/calculator/factsheet/speed.html#Effectiveness-and-Use

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I don't see that you're contradicting my point. Slower is safer than faster. Sober is safer than impaired. Of course. Theses are just like, mechanical facts. That doesn't actually imply that the arbitrary thresholds we pick to regulate around are in anyway rigorously optimized for their relationship to impermissible levels of risk.

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Car swerving + empty beer cans certainly sounds like probable cause to me. Breathalyze the driver.

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Sure, but then we're getting into if the driver's story is sympathetic to the law enforcement officer at the time. And race, gender, etc. will influence that.

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“It’s irksome to Scott, an individual human being who has not done anything wrong, to be treated as presumptively criminal based on a statistical inference.”

It is also irksome to any citizen, white or black, to be robbed or killed by a citizen who could have been arrested through more efficient policing practices. Black men between 15 and under 55 are 2% of the population and commit roughly half of all murders. Imprisoning the 10-20% of 15 to 45 black men who are statistically most prone to violence would be a highly effective, if blatantly unconstitutional, crime control strategy.

I am not advocating preemptive, statistically based incarceration. However, the fact that black men are irked by being racially profiled is not necessarily a decisive argument. A good utilitarian would weigh the psychological harms of being profiled against the harms that can be prevented through more efficient policing.

Matt argues that profiling undermines witness cooperation in black neighborhoods. This is no doubt true, but does not tell us the magnitude of the effect. It seems significant that New York City achieved very low rates of violent crime during stop and frisk, which involved fairly blatant racial targeting. Any negative effect profiling had on witness cooperation was swamped by other things and did not prevent big reductions in crime.

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Weren't the crime rates dropping elsewhere not just in NYC when stop and frisk was being practiced there?

Also this nakedly racist (and sexist) type of thinking doesn't seem to address these issues in any real way. Arresting millions of innocent Black men isn't just unconstitutional, it's wildly immoral.

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Also, the lowest crime rates in NYC happened after a court decision and the de Blasio administration stopped the indiscriminate "statistical discrimination" kind of stop-and-frisk. It would be wrong even if it worked. But it didn't work, you don't need to do this to prevent homicides.

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Contrary to the conservative assertions I've started to see associated with writers like Richard Hanania, arresting and/or profiling innocent black people by definition isn't going to reduce crime. Because they haven't committed any.

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But denying license renewals to drunk drivers and people with thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets will probably help get some of them off the road…. (This is a DC specific jab).

Or you know, punishing and deterring people who have committed actual crimes.

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But arresting and/or profiling a group of black people who are 95% innocent could reduce crime, as unfair as that might be. Innocence is not an inherent part off the profile so it’s not true by definition.

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Sure. I’m not saying stop and frisk worked. I am saying it didn’t backfire badly enough to keep crime from falling. It may have worked, I’d need a few weeks to really answer that.

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If we are going to do massive violations of civil liberties in an often discriminatory way I feel like the bar needs to be higher than didn’t backfire badly.

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Stop and frisk was successful in finding lots of illegal guns. It also created massive collateral damage. It’s an effective policy if you ignore the social costs….

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The argument is not that Black men ‘are irked’ by disparate policing, and your assessment of stop-and-frisk as not bad enough to somehow increase crime shows you’re not actually serious or curious about the issue at hand.

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It seems to me like "preemptive, statistically based incarceration" is where your stated priors logically lead. It isn't possible to identify all of the "10-20% of 15 to 45 black men who are statistically most prone to violence" ex ante. Even if you did, you'd still have to worry about the 14-year-old who's about to enter that age range. You can only identify them by casting a wider net, and the way to do that is to incarcerate based on demographic profile, disregarding the idea of protected class.

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there are infinitely any ways to do statistical discrimination. a minimalist method would be setting higher bonds for young, black people charged with violent crimes than for other groups. alternative, misdemeanor battery charges certainly correlate with committing more serious, violent crimes. one could impose significantly longer sentences for young, black people convicted of misdemeanor battery than other groups.

similarly, many young people who commit violent felonies get out well before middle age. many of these people recidivate. longer sentences for young, black men convicted of felonies would surely reduce crime.

however, i’m agnostic about these sorts of strategies. first, they are politically and legally unrealistic. even leaving that aside, i think the human misery inflicted by increasing incarceration from the present baseline is probably greater than the human misery caused by the crime it would prevent.

i don’t think there’s a lot of great research quantifying how much particular increases in incarceration would reduce crime. my basic intuition is young people who commit serious acts of violence should get significantly longer sentences, but regulatory, drug and property crimes are probably punished too harshly.

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I disagree with your third paragraph assertions. I think that black men being irked by racial profiling IS a decisive argument, and that the utilitarian weighing of the different harms disfavors the racial profiling. I place a much higher value on the idea of liberty versus the idea of personal safety. "Give me liberty or give me death" is a valid tradeoff. I would rather live in a society that granted disfavored minorities greater safety from invalid government/police action even at the cost of some reduction in personal safety for myself.

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founding

Importantly, the black community (such that there is such a thing?) appears to be making the choice of liberty over personal safety. The voting results in Chicago spring to mind here. I would disagree, but I am not in those communities so I'm in no position to make that call for them.

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the black voters in clayton county, ga, appear to like strong men who are tough on crime even if they are under federal indictment. ymmv

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I mean, the reality is, if you're say a 31 year old dude who works as a landscaper or as a mechanic or some other blue-collar job, but you live in a high crime area, you're not actually likely to get in the way of the criminals there, unless you push yourself into those situations.

Obviously, yes, there are tragedies and crime is obviously higher in those places, but the actual victims of those crimes are usually other criminals or businesses within those communities. Which has downstream effects, but isn't a direct issue.

Meanwhile, because that 31-year-old mechanic probably dresses close to what a 25-year old gangster dresses like, they might get pulled into some increase in police activity, and be worse off.

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There is a lot of truth to your point, but I do think it underestimates how crime and especially violent crime is incredibly destructive to communities. I now live in areas where no one knows anyone who was shot in a drive by gang war. I have lived in places where almost everyone had a family member who was at least in a group that got shot at if not hit. Its a massive human misery tax that has large spillover affects.

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Apart from the human misery tax there's a massive financial tax. It might be something like a million per shooting when you add up lost wages, health spending, police budgets, judge and lawyer salaries and courtroom costs, etc. etc. etc

The people here with the give me liberty or give me death mindset aren't even close to reckoning with the social and economic costs. Jesse Ewiak's comment above is particularly ignorant of those costs. They might as well be latte-libertarians.

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Jun 7, 2023·edited Jun 7, 2023

Sure, I just think if you're going to get the people in that community on-board, you're going to need a better idea than "occupying force of police officers who by their own admission, barely think of the citizens of said areas as better than the criminals."

Which is why Adams, even if he's been a failure as Mayor, could win over said voters, because he actually had a history criticizing the worst excesses of the police.

There's lots of talk about a lack of respect of police in these communities, but the larger issue, is a lack of respect for those communities from the police.

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