31 May 2020

Some Reforms To Address Abuses By Law Enforcement And Corrections Officers (With Meta Note)

Some of these are bigger, and some smaller, they aren't necessarily all mutually consistent.

Hold Institutions Responsible

Institutions will make better personnel decisions and adopt better policies if they have liability for wrongdoing.

* Adapt the "takings" jurisprudence to wrongful deprivations of life and liberty by a government or someone acting on its behalf, without regard to intent or knowledge. Thus, the entity whose collective actions and inactions by its employees and agents caused someone to be wrongfully deprived of their rights to life and liberty would be entitled to full compensatory damages and attorneys' fees without regard to the intent of the person doing so or their good faith. 

For example, suppose an innocent person is incarcerated despite a full trial in which there a no constitutional rights violated. The innocent person is still entitled to full compensatory damages and attorneys' fees. Similarly, an innocent person shot and killed due to a good faith mistake of law enforcement is still entitled to full compensatory damages and attorneys' fees. Similarly, if an innocent person's property is damaged by law enforcement to apprehend someone, the individual suffering the harm is entitled to compensation.

Of course, this would still not allow compensation for justifiable use of force from the person whose actions justified the use of force.

* Make governments vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondiat superior for the civil rights violations of their agents and employees. This is true of all other kinds of torts. In practice, almost all governments indemnify their agents and employees fully even though they are not required to, in these contexts, so it wouldn't have a big fiscal impact. 

Possibly allow governments an affirmative defense to vicariously liability if they immediately suspend an officer, fire them before allowing them to return to duty, and prosecute any crime committed which the government alleges makes the action ultra vires.

Holding Individual Civil Rights Violators Responsible

* Repeal the relatively recent, court created doctrine of qualified immunity.

* Reduce the threshold of intent for personal liability for civil rights violations from intentional conduct to at least negligent conduct. For example, civil rights liability should be imposed if a law enforcement officer failed to use ordinary care to avoid raiding a wrong address, or arresting the wrong defendant.

* Clarify the lack of absolute immunity for prosecutors in connection with investigative roles. Some case law makes this distinction but it is buried in contested case law.

* Narrow justifications for the use of deadly force by law enforcement, and the justifications and processes for use of situations posing an elevated risk of  use of deadly force or abuse such as "no knock" raids.

* Do not allow employers to indemnify individuals for amounts that they are required to pay, routinely bring subrogation claims against civil rights violators. Do not allow the right to subrogation to be waived absent a court approved ex post hearing to show that the settlement with the civil rights violator is justified. Do not allow indemnification and subrogation terms to be tie barred in settlements to the merits.

* Make public pensions available an an asset available to civil right creditors and to governments or their insurers bringing subrogation claims against civil right violators.

Make Circumstances Constituting Sexual Abuse Easier To Prove

* Make it a felony for a law enforcement or corrections officer to have sexual interactions with someone in custody, or someone subject to the officer's jurisdiction with whom the officer does not have an existing relationship while not in custody.

* Prohibit mixed gender cavity searches.

* Narrow the circumstances in which strip searches and cavity searchers are allowed.

Reduce Booking And Arrest And Pre-Trial Incarceration

* Prohibit booking and jail (including related strip searches) for offenses that don't carry incarceration is an ultimate penalty.

* Eliminate incarceration or arrest as an option for most municipal ordinance violations and non-violent petty offenses and misdemeanors.

* Create a civil remedy of removal of someone from a situation that is not a crime, e.g. to defuse a situation, that is not reported as an arrest.

* Compensate people not timely convicted for time incarcerated and for attorneys' fees incurred if not represented by a public defender (or some amount in lieu of actual compensation to be a rough justice approximation) as a matter of course.

* Dramatically curtail the use of cash bonds with the vast majority of cases resulting in pre-trial release on personal recognizance with check in measures, or with pre-trial detention without bond.

* Mandate significantly better conditions in pre-trial detention than detention pursuant to a conviction.

* Make screening and treatment for drug withdrawal routine and mandatory for incarcerated persons.

* Do not incarcerate pregnant people in ordinary jails and prisons. Unless absolutely necessary, defer a sentence of incarceration until after birth and nursing, and when absolutely necessary do so in special medical units and do not require women to undergo labor and delivery in chains.

* Don't put law enforcement officers in schools.

* Don't resort to the criminal justice system for misconduct by children outside extremely limited circumstances set by policies known to school officials and law enforcement.

Get "Bad Apples" Out Of Law Enforcement

* Require law enforcement to have "at will" employment even if unionized or otherwise subject to civil servant protections.

* Authorize the finder of fact (jury or judge as they case may be) to remove a civil rights violator from his or her employment and bar him or her from future positions in law enforcement.

* Develop a national black list of people who have been found liable for serious civil rights violations from serving in future law enforcement positions.

* Develop a national database, a bit like a credit report, of instances in which a court or investigation has found a law enforcement officer to be untruthful. Require it to be shared as part of Brady disclosures in every case in which a law enforcement officer testifies.

* Develop a national database on complaints filed against law enforcement officers and their disposition.

* Disqualify officers with prior domestic violence, other violent crime, animal cruelty, fraud, or public trust crime or ethics code violations or protection orders or courts martial offenses from serving for the next ten years after the sentence is complete.

* Mandatory notification of legal ethics boards for Brady violations by prosecutors (i.e. failures to disclose exonerating evidence to the defense), following findings in court cases.

* Mandatory notification of law enforcement registry following findings if court cases that an arrest or search or seizure was made without probable cause.

* Routinely investigate officers and agencies with a history of complaints and violations. Create an option to place an agency under receivership when its violations cross a threshold.

* Routinely bring federal prosecutions for civil rights violations when unduly lenient local sentences are imposed or there are local acquittals in the face of compelling video, physical, DNA, confession, or other compelling evidence.

* Actively discipline prosecutors and judges for ethical violations showing disregard for civil rights.


* Vest prosecutions of law enforcement officers in an agency that does not work with and rely on the cooperation of law enforcement officers in the same unit on a daily basis, ideally an independent state agency co-managed with the public defenders office with its own investigators that is also charged with ethics investigations.

* Allow judges and prosecutors (who otherwise have absolute immunity from liability for their conduct) to have civil liability in any matter where the judge or prosecutor is found by an ethical body or criminal prosecution to have committed an ethical violation or crime, with the statute of limitations running from notice to the affecting person that the finding was made in the ethical or criminal case.

* Remand cases that are reversed on appeal to a new judge as a matter of course in all cases.

* Reduce sentences and overturn final convictions as a matter of course when new substantive statute or court rulings invalidate the sentence imposed as a possible sentence.

* Repeal many of the detailed statutory limitations on habeas corpus relief.

Meta Note

This is post 8100 at Wash Park Prophet. I have made 9914 posts at Wash Park Prophet and its sister blog Dispatches From Turtle Island, combined. There are also 34 posts at my incomplete serial novel blog, Wash Park Poet, for a grand total of 9952 posts on the blogger platform.

This blog is the original one and started on July 3, 2005, not quite fifteen years ago, so I have posted, on average, a little less than 13 posts a week for the last fifteen years.

25 May 2020

A Wet Graduation Day

My daughter's graduation from college yesterday (Sunday) morning, was virtual, accompanied by a "parade" of friends in cars past our home the previous evening, which was followed by a gather via Zoom with friends.

Yesterday was also remarkably rainy. We had 0.92 inches of rain yesterday in Denver (probably more, since that is likely a DIA reading). While May is usually the wettest month of the year in Denver, isn't a wet place in general, and some years (e.g. 2018) has had below desert levels of precipitation. The average for May is 2.3 inches for the entire month.

21 May 2020

U.S. Birthrates For Women Under Age 30 Fell To Record Lows In 2019

There has never been a time in U.S. history when women in all age ranges under the age of thirty were less likely to give birth. The birth rate is now highest for women aged 30-34, although this rate too is low by historical standards. The absolute number of births has not been this low since 1985 (despite significant population growth since then).

The decline has been quite dramatic and continues to be particular rapid for teens. While the provisional statistics don't show it, from prior years statistics we can safely predict that the decline has been particularly dramatic for black and Hispanic teens, even though for women in their 20s and early 30s birth rates have been falling faster for white and Asian-American women than for black and Hispanic women.

Meanwhile, birth rates have continued to gradually increase for women aged 35-44. This is partially due to women postponing child bearing to obtain educations and pursue careers, and is partially because fertility treatments have made this possible.

Birth rates have been essentially unchanged for girls aged 10-14 (at a record or near record low reached in 2015), and women aged 45 and older (which are at historically high levels, but still very low).

We can also safely predict that this is due almost entirely to reduced pregnancy rates and not due to increased abortion rates. The abortion rate per pregnancy has remained fairly constant, or has declined, in all recent years, and thus, the U.S. has also approached record low post-Roe v. Wade abortion rates.

To maintain a constant population, the U.S. needs to admit approximately one immigrant per four children born each year.
The provisional number of births for the United States in 2019 was 3,745,540, down 1% from the number in 2018 (3,791,712). This is the fifth year that the number of births has declined after the increase in 2014, down an average of 1% per year, and the lowest number of births since 1985. 
The provisional general fertility rate (GFR) for the United States in 2019 was 58.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15–44, down 2% from the rate in 2018 (59.1), another record low for the nation. From 2014 to 2019, the GFR declined by an average of 2% per year. . . .  
The provisional total fertility rate (TFR) for the United States in 2019 was 1,705.0 births per 1,000 women, down 1% from the rate in 2018 (1,729.5), another record low for the nation. The TFR estimates the number of births that a hypothetical group of 1,000 women would have over their lifetimes, based on the age specific birth rate in a given year. The TFR in 2019 was again below replacement—the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself (2,100 births per 1,000 women). The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971 and consistently below replacement since 2007.  
The birth rate for teenagers in 2019 was 16.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15–19, down 5% from 2018 (17.4), reaching another record low for this age group. The rate has declined by 60% since 2007 (41.5), the most recent period of continued decline, and 73% since 1991, the most recent peak. The rate had declined an average of 8% annually from 2007 to 2018. . . . The birth rates for teenagers aged 15–17 and 18–19 in 2019 were 6.7 and 31.1 births per 1,000 females, respectively, down by 7% and 4% from 2018, again reaching record lows for both groups. From 2007 to 2018, the rates for teenagers aged 15–17 and 18–19 declined by 10% and 7% per year, respectively. 
The birth rate for females aged 10–14 was 0.2 births per 1,000 in 2019, unchanged since 2015.
The birth rate for women aged 20–24 in 2019 was 66.6 births per 1,000 women, down 2% from 2018 (68.0), reaching yet another record low for this age group. This rate has declined by 37% since 2007. The number of births to women in their early 20s fell by 3% from 2018 to 2019.

The birth rate for women aged 25–29 was 93.7 births per 1,000 women, down 2% from 2018 (95.3), reaching another record low for this age group. The number of births to women in their late 20s declined 2% from 2018 to 2019.
The birth rate for women aged 30–34 in 2018 was 98.3 births per 1,000 women, down 1% from 2018 (99.7). The number of births to women in their early 30s was essentially unchanged from 2018 to 2019. 
The birth rate for women aged 35–39 was 52.7 births per 1,000 women, similar to the 2018 rate of 52.6. The number of births to women in their late 30s increased by 1% from 2018 to 2019.  
The birth rate for women aged 40–44 in 2019 was 12.0 births per 1,000 women, up 2% from 2018 (11.8). The rate for this age group has risen almost continuously since 1985 by an average of 3% per year. The number of births to these women increased by 2% from 2018 to 2019.  
The birth rate for women aged 45–49 (which includes births to women aged 50 and over) was 0.9 births per 1,000 women, unchanged since 2015. The number of births to women in this age group was also essentially unchanged from 2018 to 2019.
From here

Historical Birth Rates In North American and the World

Birth rates records are not comprehensive back all of the way to Colonial era, and mostly don't exist at all in Pre-Columbian times.

But, in all of world history prior to the 19th century, birth rates for women aged 15-29 were higher than they are today in virtually all cultures, except for subcultures of nuns and pagan vestal virgin priestesses. The technologies that facilitate reducing births per woman, the economic forces that encourage that approach didn't exist until more recent times, and high child mortality rates made having many children a necessity to prevent population collapse.

There were cultural differences within these parameters, however. With regard to the regional and cultural differences, as I noted in an October 6, 2012 post at this blog:
The differences in adolescent sexuality and family structure we see in "Red State/Blue State" comparisons in the past decade were deeply ingrained already in colonial New England, Pennsylvania, Appalachia and Virginia by the 1770s and have clear British antecedents which have faded to near irrelevance to some extent where they originated. By then, 10% of women in the Delaware Valley (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Northern Maryland), 15% of New England women, 30% of women in Virginia and 40% or more of women in Appalachia (one contemporaneous source put the figure as high as 94% in one county) were pregnant when they married. 
On that wedding day, the average Delaware Valley woman was 24, the average New England woman was 23 years old, the average Virginia woman was 18, and the average Appalachian woman was 19. 
About 33% of the Delaware Valley women were literate, as were 50% of the New England women, 25% of the Virginia women, and a smaller percentage of the Appalachian women.
The average age of women at first marriage in the U.S. today is 28 years old. 

The regional differences between different early American subcultures probable had its roots in differences in child mortality rates historically in those cultures. Child mortality was probably higher in Appalachia and Virginia than it was in the Delaware Valley and New England in the 1770s.

Of course, these averages also conceal a considerable age spread even in the Delaware Valley and New England where the average age of first marriage was relatively high and relatively few women were pregnant when the got married. Far more women would have had children at a young age than do so today, even though teenage marriage and child bearing wasn't as common in pre-modern times as often assumed.

From the U.S. Census Bureau. See also here.

Thus, for a full century of the time period in which we have data, from 1890 to 1980, the median age for women at their first marriage in the U.S. as a whole was between 20 and 22. 

The increase in the age of women at their first marriage since 1950s coincides with increasing percentages of women going to and completing college, and also to graduate and professional schools. Men are also much more likely to go to college (although women are now significantly more likely to be college graduates than men).

The percentage of law school students who were women didn't exceed 4.1% until 1965 when it hit 4.3% and increased steady thereafter (after having been between 2.8% and 4.1% from 1947 to 1964) and has been in excess of 50% since 2016.

The increasing age of marriage is a global trend, worldwide: "The average age of marriage for women increased from 21.8 to 24.7 years from the seventies to the mid 2000s, with the average age for men rising a comparable amount."

The average age gap was about four years in 1890, narrowed slightly during the Great Depression, was back to four years after World War II ended, to about 2.5 years in the 1960s, and has held stead at about two years since 1980. As countries grow richer, the difference in marrying age tends to narrow (the gap is about 5 years in Egypt but only 1.6 years in France and only 1.4 years in Japan); quite a bit of this difference is driven by younger ages of marriage for women ("According to U.N. reports, 39 countries have data showing that 20% of women married by age 18. In twenty countries, a full 10% of women married by age 15. In only 2 countries, however, are 10% of men married before the age of 18.").

The marriage age trends are more consistently higher now than they were in the late colonial era in the U.S., with the state with the lowest average age matching the Delaware Valley high at that time. But, women in New England and the Delaware Valley now marry about three years later than Appalachia (compared to a gap of five to six years in the colonial era), although the gap between these regions and Virginia is now just one or two years, instead of four or five years in the colonial era. 

The U.S. state with the lowest median first marriage age is, unsurprisingly given its predominantly Mormon religious affiliation, Utah at 24.2 years old for women and 26.2 years old for men, with Idaho which is also heavily Mormon as a runner up with 25.1 years old for women and 26.7 years old for men. The oldest average age of first marriage in a U.S. state is in Massachusetts, where the median age of first marriage for women is 29.7 and for men is 30.9 years. The District of Columbia has the highest median age of marriage for women, at about 30, which is also about the median age of first marriage for men (in part, this is because it has the lowest percentage of the population ever married, mostly because a large percentage of the D.C. population is African-American than in any U.S. state or in Puerto Rica, since the African-American marriage rate is much lower than the marriage rate for other races designated by the Census bureau, a trend that has emerged in the post-Civil Rights era).

The District of Columbia is the only place in the U.S. without a significant age gap between median age of first marriage for men and for women. The gap is about two year in most of the U.S. but closer to one year in the Northeast (where median ages at first marriage tend to be on the high side). The age gap is about twice as large (3.0 years v. 1.5 years) in couples where both are foreign born v. those where both were born in the U.S.; there is a similar gap for high school dropouts v. high school graduates (3.1 years v. 1.6 years) some of which is due to non-native born people making up a disproportionate share of high school dropouts.

Data from 2005 to 2009 show basically same regional trends with slightly lower actually ages (Puerto Rico is in the mid-range at 38th oldest):
The U.S. Census Bureau keeps track of when Americans get hitched. Here is the median age at first marriage for women in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. as of 2005-2009: 
1. Idaho: 23.2
2. Utah: 23.3
3. Wyoming: 24.2
4. Arkansas: 24.3
5. Oklahoma: 24.4
6. Kentucky: 24.8
7. West Virginia: 25.0
8. Kansas: 25.0
9. Tennessee: 25.2
10. Texas: 25.2
11. Alaska: 25.2
12. North Dakota: 25.3
13. Alabama: 25.3
14. Iowa: 25.4
15. Nebraska: 25.4
16. Missouri: 25.6
17. Nevada: 25.6
18. South Dakota: 25.6
19. North Carolina: 25.7
20. Montana: 25.7
21. Colorado: 25.7
22. Indiana: 25.7
23. Mississippi: 25.8
24. Arizona: 25.8
25. New Mexico: 25.8
26. Louisiana: 25.9
27. Washington: 25.9
28. Georgia: 25.9
29. Oregon: 26.0
30. Minnesota: 26.3
31. Wisconsin: 26.3
32. Ohio: 26.3
33. Maine: 26.4
34. South Carolina: 26.4
35. Florida: 26.4
36. Michigan: 26.4
37: Virginia: 26.4
38: Puerto Rico: 26.5
39. Delaware: 26.6
40. New Hampshire: 26.8
41. California: 26.8
42. Hawaii: 26.9
43. Vermont: 26.9
44. Illinois: 27.0
45. Pennsylvania: 27.1
46. Maryland: 27.3
47. Connecticut: 27.6
48. New Jersey: 27.7
49. Rhode Island: 28.2
50. New York: 28.4
51. Massachusetts: 28.5
52. District of Columbia: 29.7
Marriages tend to be at a younger age where Mormon (and to a lesser extent Evangelical Christian) religious affiliation is more common, and in rural areas.

The percentage of women enrolled in law school tracks median age of women at first marriage rather closely (although not perfectly):

The methodology used by the Census Bureau to compute marriage ages changed in 1990

Historical American Total Fertility Rates

There were high pre-industrial levels of total lifetime fertility for married women (i.e. typically more than six children per lifetime for women who lived for all of their child bearing years) in Colonial and Pre-Columbian times, although this had abated by the time of the Great Depression.

From Statistica.com citing Aaron O'Neill, "Total fertility rate of the United States 1800-2020" (January 22, 2020).

The U.S. total fertility rate fell below the replacement rate briefly around 1940 and again in the early 1970s.

These birth rates exceed those of pre-modern societies discussed below, and gave rise to rapid natural increase (i.e. excess of births over deaths without regard to immigration) in the total population.

We also have decent data on pre-1790 total fertility rates in Europe, where total fertility rates ranged from 4.5 to 6.2, with mean ages at first marriage of 25-26 years old for women (suggesting that women in that era had on average, 2.5 to 4.2 children who died before having children of their own). 

Colonial era American women married earlier than their European counterparts, and population growth was greater in North America (even apart from massive amounts of immigration) than it was in Europe, so Colonial era American women very likely had more children per lifetime than their European counterparts of the same era, with a total fertility rate that was probably more than 7, and birth rates of more than 250 per 1000 women of child bearing age.

Pre-Colombian Birth Rates In North America

Birth rates at a given age were probably as high as they were in 1800 in Colonial populations among Pre-Columbian North Americans, if not higher. At that time, life expectancies for women were lower (about 23 years at birth and about 20 years at age 15), and that reduced the total fertility rate. See, e.g. Pre-Columbian North America can be found in S. Ryan Johansson, "The Demographic History of the Native Peoples of NorthAmerica: A Selective Bibliography", 25 Yearbook Of Physical Anthropology 133-152 (1982).  

Birth rates inversely track child mortality rates, because people have more kids (and generally overcompensate) when there is a significant risk that some of their children will not live to adulthood, and must do so out of mathematical necessity when the total population size is stable.

Another source surveying pre-modern mortality rates globally and in pre-modern history notes that:
Across the entire historical sample the authors found that on average, 26.9% of newborns died in their first year of life and 46.2% died before they reached adulthood. Two estimates that are easy to remember: Around a quarter died in the first year of life. Around half died as children. What is striking about the historical estimates is how similar the mortality rates for children were across this very wide range of 43 historical cultures. Whether in Ancient Rome; Ancient Greece; the pre-Columbian Americas; Medieval Japan or Medieval England; the European Renaissance; or Imperial China: Every fourth newborn died in the first year of life. One out of two died in childhood. . . . 
There is another piece of evidence to consider that suggests the mortality of children was in fact very high in much of humanity’s history: birth rates were high, but population growth was close to zero.

The fertility rate was commonly higher than 6 children per woman on average, as we discuss here. A fertility rate of 4 children per woman would imply a doubling of the population size each generation; a rate of 6 children per woman would imply a tripling from one generation to the next. But instead population barely increased: From 10,000 BCE to 1700 the world population grew by only 0.04% annually. A high number of births without a rapid increase of the population can only be explained by one sad reality: a high share of children died before they could have had children themselves.
Estimates of infant mortality rates in the Pre-Columbian agricultural Inca and Aztec societies (from a chart in the article quoted above) ranged from 27% to 35% of children who were born. Estimates of all deaths before age 15, in those societies, ranged from 48% to 53% of children who were born, well in line with estimates from other pre-modern societies with similar levels of technology.

This implies that a woman who lived long enough to have children had to have at least four children per lifetime, on average, to prevent population decline, and those children had to be squeezed into what was, on average, a shorter than modern reproductive lifespan, because more women died before menopause in pre-modern times. Directly measured total fertility rate data suggests that these child mortality rates were actually underestimates, because total fertility rates were probably higher than four children per woman per lifetime.

The birth rate for women aged 15-35 would have had to be about 200 per 1,000 women in that age range to prevent the population from declining (and we known that, in the long run, ancient populations were stable or increasing). 

This is about double the birth rate of modern American women aged 30-34 who have the highest birth rate of modern American women of any age, and birth rates in the U.S. are higher than those in most other developed countries.

International Comparisons

The U.S. is still far from the bottom in total fertility rate of 1.7. The world average total fertility rate is 2.4 which isn't far above the replacement rate of 2.1, and 90 out of 200 sovereign states and dependencies are below the replacement rate. 

The World Bank estimate of 2018 puts the U.S. at 145th, out of 185 sovereign states and 15 separately listed dependencies (Puerto Rico, however, is in 199th place at 1.0). There are 55 other countries or dependencies have lower total fertility rates. 

Total fertility rates via Wikipedia (the map reflects some rounding).

Today, Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Oceania are predominant among countries with high total fertility rates. 

Niger at 6.9 is at the top, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1800. 

Somalia is the runner up at 6.1, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1840. 

Afghanistan at 4.5 is the highest out of Africa, followed by the Solomon Islands at 4.4 which is the highest in Oceania, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1890.

Yemen at 3.8 is the highest in the Middle East, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1900.

Pakistan is the highest in South Asia at 3.5, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1915 and again at the peak of the Baby Boom in the U.S. in 1960.

India is at 2.2 (with immense regional variation within the country), at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the years 1933, 1944 and 1972.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Vietnam and Malaysia are at 2.0, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 1975.

France at 1.9 is the highest in Europe, at about the same total fertility rate as the United States in the year 2015.

China, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and the U.K. at 1.7 are about the same as the U.S. today.

Russia, Germand and the Netherlands are at 1.6. 

Thailand, Switzerland and Canada are at 1.5. 

Japan is at 1.4. 

Italy and Spain are at 1.3. 

South Korea at 1.0 is at the bottom. 

20 May 2020

To Do

A lot of my blogging, both here and at Dispatches from Turtle Island, is basically reactive. I see or experience something, or a few related things, and I think to them and react to them. But, I also have subject that I think in passing about discussing or looking into that don't have a specific trigger and that I often never get around to doing. Some are blog management things, and some are potential posts. This post identifies some of them for both blogs combined:

* Make a list of current physics experimental groups and anthropology groups (often known by acronyms or by the name of the principle investigator) with a brief description of them in terms of what the name stands for, where they are physically located, what kind of research they are doing and links to them.

* Expand, at both blogs, my list of links to periodicals (especially trade and academic ones) and to primary sources of data (experiments, polling firms, government agencies). 

* Create an RSS feed or something similar to journals in my areas of interest.

* Create a glossary of somewhat technical terms that I use and reexplain or have to look up when I see them (for each blog).

* Finish tagging old posts at Wash Park Prophet.

* A post on 2020 U.S. Senate races.

* A post on new developments regarding how much gerrymandering there is.

* More thinking about institutional changes that are achievable to improve the quality of U.S. electoral democratic process.

* A post on the desirability of Deep State institutions and how to strengthen them.

* A post on fiat currency, the money supply, modern monetary theory and why it is overrated in importance.

* A summary of policy changes big and small that can address law enforcement misconduct.

* An idea development post on how to fix foster care and how to think about what expectations for it are realistic.

* A post about the inherent limits of public education as an academic achievement leveling tool and exploration of other valuable roles that public education serves or can serve including improving the socialization of young people.

* A post about policies that impact marriage formation and stability and about whether we really do want what it would take to have more marriage formation and more stable marriages, and if so, how badly we want that.

* A post on recent developments in military technology and the sensible design and missions for our military in light of those developments that is more integrative and wide thinking pointing to a fairly comprehensive picture instead of bits and pieces.

* A post on littoral naval issues in choke points that an essay contest is soliciting essays upon, whether or not I submit an essay itself.

* A post on the Church of the East when I finish a book on it that I recently bought.

* A post imagining what physics looks like in a future where my guesses on the future of fundamental physics discoveries pans out.

* A post on what can be used to change the political culture of the U.S. and the political identity of people in it, also discussing the potential shifts in major party coalitions.

* A post explaining my views on the progressive anti-corporate movement and my attitudes towards capitalism, which acknowledge a problem, but also thinks that the movement fails to give credit where credit is due to the benefits of market economies and big businesses.

* A post taking a deep dive into interstate migration and what it says about the nation's future.

* A post on sensible changes to land use law and urban planning and related transportation, energy, environment and public health issues.

* A post on opportunities, trends and the likely future in a post-industrial economy and its structure. Is that term an excuse and euphemism for decline or is it sustainable and inevitable.

* A post on how to achieve a post-neo-feudal economy and why this would be a good thing.

* Posts with more detailed analysis about how to make our economy more robust.

* A post on the spiritual future of the "nones" - what will capture their hearts, minds and souls? Does a vacuum invite some new belief movement to sweep in, and if so, why and driven by what?

* A post on what wider drug legalization would look like and why it would be desirable?

* A post proposing restructuring of mental health care.

* A post on lessons from COVID-19 that can be carried forward once it ceases to be a crisis.

* Update my page on efforts to develop theories to explain the physical constants of the Standard Model.

* A post reviewing the latest developments in dark matter, dark energy and modified gravity in an integrative way that focuses on combined constraints on different theories.

* A page discussing my take on MOND (a toy model modified gravity theory that is well known and predictive despite having obvious and recognized flaws and limitations).

* A post on lessons learned on what not to do from comparative political experience.

* A post on ways to restructure the legal system on the civil side to address its flaws like high cost, delay, and undue emphasis on settlement, and how arbitration is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

* A post reviewing the state of West Asian prehistory.

* A post reviewing the history and prehistory of the Middle East in the BCE era.

* A post on what I've learned about food choices and exercise from Noom.com

* A post on the medical and biological research progress in understanding COVID-19.

* A post with a tech, economics and environment oriented look at the future of agriculture.

19 May 2020

Spurious Accuracy

I haven't mentioned it a lot, but I have been actively trying to lose weight for the last twenty-six months or so, after hitting a peak BMI in excess of 40 (which is "severely obese" a.k.a. "morbidly obese" a.k.a. Class III obesity), and being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes in April of 2018.

I've made great progress since then. I lost about 60 pounds, gained about 25 pound back, and using Noom.com since the lockdown, I am back to being down about 65 pounds from my peak weight. I am no longer diabetic (and probably not even pre-diabetic), and my other blood and urine test chemical markers for cholesterol, triglycerides, and other stuff that you get too much of when your overweight and don't exercise are back to the good range. 

Mostly this has been a result of dieting, and exercise options have been greatly limited during the lockdown, but I'm walking more than I have since I was a precinct committee person, walking blocks in the neighborhood several times a year to distributed political fliers, something that a back injury prevented at that level for many years.

I've lost more than 20% of my body weight, and I am currently on track to bring that to 25% and to reach a weight at which I am merely "overweight" rather than obese by sometime in July when I conclude the weight loss program I started on March 21, 2020. I am less than 5 pounds away from weighing less than I have at any time that my college aged children have been alive (that was for a month in the summer of 2009, from much higher weights before and after that episode of weight loss, probably associated with a South Beach diet effort).

Anyway, back to the point of this post.

When you are on a weight loss program, one of the things you do is weigh in regularly. I do it every morning right after I wake up and have gone to the bathroom, before breakfast, and record it in an app.

My bathroom scale provides a weight with a 0.1 pound precision. It probably isn't actually that accurate, but it's close. 

But, when it comes to measuring weight, a bathroom scale has spurious accuracy. The frustrating reality is that a person's body weight at any one time, even if calories in equals calories out exactly, every single day, isn't that stable or constant. Not even within an order of magnitude of that.

Your body weight varies during the course of the day, and from day to day, in a manner that is more or less random. When you last pooped, peed, ate, or drank something matter, as well as other factors I can't really explain at all. 

Since I'm a big guy, even with my weight loss progress to date, the raw numbers are pretty significant. I haven't actually crunched the numbers (yet), but I'm numerate enough and work with data sets, probability, and statistics enough (mostly in my hobbies), that I have a pretty good feel for what a margin of error in a data set looks like. In my case, one standard deviation of random noise in my day to day, and hour to hour, weight is about 1.5 pounds. This means that over the course of a couple of months, I'll see about three days with a random noise weight change of more than 3 pounds, while I much more frequently will see a day to day random noise weight change of one or two pounds.

You have to look at a longer term charge and smooth out the day to day noise to see the long term shift in the midpoint of your regular daily noise fluctuations in weight. 

It takes about 3500 dieter's calories (kilocalories) of eating less and/or exercising more than you need to in order to maintain your existing weight to lose a pound. A pretty strict diet and exercise regime aimed at rapid weight loss has you eat about 500 to 700 calories a day less you burn through daily activities and exercise combined, which means you should lose an average of 1 to 1.3 pounds a week (I personally have been losing a bit more than 3 pounds a week during the lockdown so far, although I'm well aware that plateaus can and will interrupt that progress.)

So, psychologically, this means that weighing in sees you routinely move as much as three weeks backward or forwards on your planned long term weight loss pace in a single day. This makes it much harder to cling to the (well founded) faith that you have in your plan that if you stick to it that the long term results will arrive in due course, despite the confusing day to day random weight noise.

08 May 2020

COVID-19 Drives Unemployment To 14.7% With Another 5% Temporarily Laid Off

The only other time in U.S. history that the unemployment rate has been this high was in the worst part of the middle of the Great Depression. 
The jobless rate was pushed higher because 20.5 million people lost their jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday, wiping out a decade of job gains in a single month. The staggering losses are roughly double what the nation experienced during the 2007-09 crisis, which used to be described as the harshest economic contraction most people ever endured. . . . Analysts warn it could take many years to return to the 3.5 percent unemployment rate the nation experienced in February.

From the Washington Post.

The April report was the worst monthly report ever in terms of job losses and the increase in the unemployment rate. . . . 
"If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to "other reasons" (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical April) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been almost 5 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis)." . . . 
The number of persons at work part time for economic reasons nearly doubled over the month to 10.9 million. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. . . . 
[T]here are 939 thousand workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job. This was the lowest level since 2001, probably because many long term unemployed just gave up looking in April.
From Calculated Risk

The previous record for monthly job losses since 1939 was September 1945 when 1.959 million jobs were lost due to the wind down after WWII. The runner up was October 1949 with 838,000, and then March 2009 with 800,000 (part of a several months streak of record high monthly job losses in the Great Recession). The unemployment rate in March was 4.4%.

There have been 33 million unemployment claims in the U.S. since COVID hit, including 420,000 in Colorado.
At the worst of the Great Recession, continued claims peaked at 6.635 million, but then steadily declined. Continued claims have already increased to a new record high of 22.647 million (SA) and will increase further over the next few weeks - and likely stay at that high level until the crisis abates.

07 May 2020

Quotes of the Day

With essentially no conventional naval combat in the past 70 years, and with the last credible attack on an aircraft carrier coming at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, it is hard to know when the aircraft carrier might pass into obsolescence. Whenever that moment does arrive, it will behoove us to act on our own terms. We will not like the alternative—Admiral [William] Sims again:

"It may be stated in general terms that most arguments in favor of fundamentally new weapons have failed, except those that resulted in shedding the blood of the unbelievers; that defeat alone has been accepted as a final demonstration."
- Lieutenant Commander Jeff Vandenengel, "100,000 Tons of Inertia" Vol. 146/5/1,407 Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute (May 2020) citing Armstrong, 21st Century Sims (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2015), 105 (Mr. Sims was a U.S. Navy Admiral in the 1920s).

A Comprehensive Tally Of Presidential Race Polling

I've updated my May 4, 2020 tally of Presidential polling on a state by state basis below to reflect new Colorado polling and to add polls from all states where 2020 polling is available.


Florida and four Rust Belt states are poised to flip from their 2016 support for Trump (all by more than the margin of polling error). Texas and North Carolina are also now toss ups. South Carolina and Iowa have gone from being safe states for Trump to merely leaning in his direction.

One striking point in the polling is that there is a huge and widespread shift away from Trump, even in safely blue and safely red states. Only California (+4.1), Georgia (+2.4), Massachusetts (+0.2), and New Mexico (+0.3) buck that trend, and then only by modest amounts and in safe red or blue states that won't affect the outcome of the election.

Updated Data

Biden leads Trump in national polling by 5.3 percentage points. In the 2016 election, Clinton received 2.1 percentage points of the popular vote more than Trump, but lost the electoral vote.

The 2016 election election results follow the current state polling average in parenthesis. The shift from the 2016 election to the 2020 polling follows that result. Polls older than February 2020 are specifically annotated to reflect the fact that these polls are stale.

Massachusetts (11) . . . . . Biden + 38 (Clinton + 38.2) R+0.2
New York (29) . . . . . . . .  Biden + 28 (Clinton + 21.3) D+8.7
California (55) . . . . . . . .  Biden + 26 (Clinton + 30.1) R+4.1
Washington State (12) . . . Biden + 23 (Clinton + 16.2) D+6.8
Colorado (9) . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 19 (Clinton + 4.9) D+14.1
Connecticut (7) . . . . . . . . Biden + 18 (Clinton + 12.2) D+5.8
New Jersey (14) . . . . . . .  Biden + 17.5 (Clinton + 12.8) D+4.7
Delaware (3) . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 16* (Clinton + 11.5) D+4.5
Minnesota (10) . . . . . . . . Biden + 12** (Clinton + 1.5) D+10.5
Maine (3)**** . . . . . . . . Biden + 10 (Clinton + 2.9) D+7.1

New Mexico (5) . . . . . . . Biden +8 (Clinton + 8.3) R + 0.3
Virginia (13) . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 7.3 (Clinton + 5.4) D+1.9
Pennsylvania (20) . . . . . . Biden + 6.5 (Trump + 0.7) D+7.2
Michigan (16) . . . . . . . . Biden + 5.5 (Trump + 0.3) D+ 5.8
New Hampshire (4) . . . . Biden + 4.6 (Clinton + 0.3) D+4.3
Arizona (11). . . . . . . . . . Biden + 4.4 (Trump + 3.3) D+7.7
Nevada (6) . . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 4.0* (Clinton + 2.4) D+1.6
Ohio (18) . . . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 4.0 (Trump + 8.1) D+12.1
Florida (29) . . . . . . . . . . Biden + 3.2 (Trump + 1.2) D+4.4

Wisconsin (10) . . . . . . . . Biden + 2.7 (Trump + 0.7) D+3.2

North Carolina (15) . . . . Trump + 0.3 (Trump + 3.7) D+3.4
Texas (38) . . . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 1.4 (Trump + 9.0) D+7.6
South Carolina (9) . . . . . . Trump + 4 (Trump + 14.1) D+10.1
Iowa (6) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 4.6 (Trump + 9.5) D+4.9
Georgia (16) . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 7.5 (Trump + 5.1R+2.4
Utah (6) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 10.3 (Trump + 18.1) D+7.8
Kansas (6) . . . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 12.0 (Trump + 21.0) D+9.0
Indiana (11) . . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 13.0 (Trump + 19.0) D+6.0
Mississippi (6) . . . . . . . . . Trump + 15.0 (Trump + 18.5) D+3.5
Tennessee (11) . . . . . . . . . Trump + 16* (Trump + 26.2) D+10.2
Alabama (9) . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 20.0 (Trump + 27.7) D+7.7
Kentucky (8) . . . . . . . . . . Trump + 20.0*** (Trump + 29.8) D+9.8

* Last polling from January 2020.
** Last polling from October 2019.
*** Last polling from June 2019.
**** Excludes Maine's Second Congressional District in electoral vote total. Maine's Second Congressional District is treated as an unpolled safe Republican electoral vote in this tally.

The following seven safe blue states are not including in polling tally because no polls are available: Washington D.C. (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maryland (10), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), and Vermont (3).

The following thirteen safe red states (and Congressional Districts) are not including in polling tally because no polls are available: Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Louisiana (8), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Maine's Second Congressional District (1), Nebraska except Nebraska's  2nd Congressional District (4), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Dakota (3), West Virginia (5), and Wyoming (3).

Nebraska's Second Congressional District casts its one electoral vote separately and is more liberal than the state as a whole (as a whole Nebraska is a safe red state) and viewed by Cook's Political Report as a "toss up". Five of the six states classified that way by Cook's Political Report are currently polling in favor of Biden by more than the polling margin of error; the sixth, North Carolina, is Trump + 0.3. So, I assume that NE-2, if polled would have polled in favor of Biden.

Electoral Vote Analysis

Total Electoral Votes For Biden Based On Polling: 337
Total Electoral Votes For Trump Based On Polling: 201

It take 270 electoral votes to win. In the event that each candidate receives 269 electoral votes or there is a tie for some other reason, the outcome is decided by Congress in a special process set forth in the U.S. Constitution that has never been used.

So, Biden can lose states and Congressional Districts with a combined 67 electoral votes currently in his column and still win the Electoral vote. For example, if he won either Nebraska's Second Congressional District or Maine's Second Congressional District, he could afford to lose Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio and still win the Electoral Vote.

Assuming that state polling percentages near the margins are perfectly correlated with national polling percentages, Biden needs to be polling nationally with a 1.3 percentage point lead or less for Trump to win the electoral vote based upon the polling totals above.