31 May 2023

Red State Economies Hire More But Don't Create More Jobs

Red states don't have more job growth than Blue states, but they do have more hiring because they also have more firing and layoffs. 

Some of this is due to a mix of jobs in the Red state economies that has more unstable, often blue-collar work, which in turn is an important factor driving why Red states are Red states. 

Some of this is due to attitudes about when to fire or layoff workers that probably are driven to some extent by more job churn. 

The charts below are from this Washington Post story:


Religious People Are Morning People, Secular People Aren't

I'm not surprised by this correlation, which is consistent with anecdotal experience, but I have no real idea why it is true. 

It could be that morning people are more conformist and that when being non-religious is non-conformist that morning people will be less inclined toward deviating from religious conformism. Notably, judges are overwhelmingly morning people and, in Colorado at least, a very secular compared to the general population.
The associations between morningness-eveningness, conscientiousness, and religiosity have not been investigated to date. The aim of the present research was to provide evidence for the relationships between these dimensions. 
Moreover, we tested whether the well-established link between morningness and life satisfaction could be explained by elevated religiosity of morning-oriented individuals and whether this relationship may be mediated by conscientiousness. 
The investigation was conducted on two independent samples of Polish adults (N = 500 and N = 728). Our results corroborated earlier findings that morningness was positively associated with both conscientiousness and satisfaction with life. We also found evidence for a significant positive association between morningness and religiosity. 
Moreover, controlling for age and gender, we obtained significant mediation effects showing that the association between morningness-eveningness and satisfaction with life might stem, at least in part, from the higher religiosity among morning-oriented individuals, also when conscientiousness was included in the model. It means that more morning-oriented individuals may benefit from higher psychological well-being thanks to both personality characteristics and attitudes towards religion.

CS and Psychology Are Popular Majors, English And History Are Not

The Washington Post reports on shifts in college majors at the University of Maryland which are typical of the nation as a whole (my own son graduated with a CS major last weekend, the most popular major on campus):

Across the country, spring graduation season highlights the swiftly tilting academic landscape. Cap-and-gown roll calls for computer science and other technology-centered disciplines are becoming ever lengthier, and for the humanities, ever shorter. 
The number of students nationwide seeking four-year degrees in computer and information sciences and related fields shot up 34 percent from 2017 to 2022, to about 573,000, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The English-major head count fell 23 percent in that time, to about 113,000. History fell 12 percent, to about 77,000.

These choices aren't economically irrational. In terms of economic value added, STEM degrees add more than non-STEM degrees, for the most part, and the direct value of being well read in classical English literature and developing a master of modern literary criticism is falling.

Journalism probably benefits more from general knowledge than journalism specific knowledge and was not so long ago a profession in which a college degree was not expected.

The benefits of a lot of the "softer" side of business course work and of classes about how to teach is also doubtful, even though there is knowledge worth sharing in both fields. Academic classroom instruction may not be the best format for imparting usable abilities in these fields. 

For example, a bachelor's degree in marketing ads almost no economic value. Likewise, it makes little sense to require almost no classwork in teaching in higher education, while mandating more than a year of coursework in teaching for high school teachers.

The Debt Ceiling Deal In A Nutshell

The Washington Post summarizes the debt-ceiling deal, which is currently rushing through the legislative process and most be completed by June 5 to avoid a default on the federal debt:
President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have hashed out a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling and fund the government for the next two years.

Biden can point to a deal that, at least temporarily, frees him from the headache of the debt ceiling, while staving off Republican demands for steep cuts to domestic spending. McCarthy gets a deal that curtails federal spending and increases some work requirements on federal aid programs, such as food stamps. . . .

Here’s what’s in — and out — of the deal.

Raises the debt ceiling past the 2024 election

. . . Biden . . . will not have to deal with the debt ceiling again until after the next presidential campaign because the agreement raises the debt ceiling until 2025. . . .  
Keeps funding flat for most domestic programs

The biggest sticking point in negotiations has been funding levels for part of the federal budget — separate from Social Security and Medicare — that funds hundreds of domestic programs, such as scientific research, rental aid and nutritional assistance for mothers.

McCarthy pushed for substantial cuts to these programs because he wanted to bring down federal spending while increasing funding for the military and veterans affairs. Ultimately, the White House agreed to an inflation-adjusted reduction in direct spending on these kinds of programs — but mitigated by redirecting funds from other areas, such as the money clawed back from an expansion in the IRS budget that was approved last year. Spending on these domestic programs will fall by $1 billion from this year to next and rise by 1 percent in 2025. . . .

Claws back some money from the IRS

Sparing most domestic programs from cuts required the Biden administration to agree to pare back roughly $20 billion of the $80 billion Congress approved last year for an expansion of the IRS. . . .

The original $80 billion was included in the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signature economic bill, to help pay for the climate and health-care spending in the measure. While the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the expansion would increase revenue by $240 billion by allowing the IRS to step up enforcement, conservatives furious with the measure have argued it would unleash tens of thousands of new auditors on Americans. The IRS has said it plans to raise audit rates back to 2011 levels for only wealthy taxpayers.

Slight funding boosts for the military and veterans affairs

The deal also meets the requests in Biden’s budget to increase spending for the military and veterans affairs in line with inflation. . . .

New work requirements for federal programs

Meeting a GOP priority, the deal increases work requirements for some recipients of federal food stamps and family welfare benefits. . . . The deal does not include additional work requirements for Medicaid.

While the precise details were not clear, the deal raises the age at which adults will be required to work to receive food stamps from 50 to 54. For example, a 52-year-old woman currently receiving food stamps without having to work 20 hours per week may have to do so under the agreement. While the deal will also make it easier for the homeless and veterans to get food stamps, the administration projects that the debt ceiling agreement overall will lead to fewer people on food stamps facing work requirements, the White House official who briefed reporters said. These changes are set to expire in 2030. 
The changes to the family welfare benefits program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, will require states to ensure that a higher percentage of their welfare beneficiaries are working, but not as dramatically as Republicans had sought.

Major natural gas pipeline in West Virginia

In a surprise revealed Sunday night, the debt ceiling deal includes provisions to expedite a major natural gas pipeline from West Virginia to Virginia that has long been championed by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has been strongly opposed by environmental groups, would transport Appalachian shale gas about 300 miles from West Virginia to Virginia if built. The company has said it would carry 2 billion cubic feet of gas a day to help support domestic energy and liquefied natural gas, but environmental advocates say the project would impact hundreds of streams, wetlands and several miles of national forest land.

The proposal backed by Biden and McCarthy says federal agencies “shall issue all permits and verifications necessary” within 21 days of the legislation’s enactment to complete the pipeline’s construction.

Out of the deal: Closing tax loopholes, cutting student debt relief . . . 

The White House had proposed closing a number of tax loopholes, arguing that any deal to lower the deficit should include increases in federal revenue as well as spending cuts. The GOP ruled those ideas out.

Similarly, House Republicans had fought for repealing some of the clean energy tax credits approved by Democrats last year. The Biden administration objected strongly to that proposal, and they fell out of the final deal.

House Republicans also fought to block the White House’s plan to cancel student loan debt. The agreement codifies into law the White House’s prior announcement that it would no longer extend forbearance on student loan payments. But the deal does not change Biden’s proposal to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower, which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

All of the changes extracted by the House Republicans are bad ones, but their very bad demands have been scaled back considerably and this point of leverage for House Republicans has been eliminated for the time being. 

Property Tax Foreclosure Windfalls Are Not Allowed

The U.S. Supreme Court held earlier this month in (a good decision) in Tyler v. Hennepin County that the government can't make windfall profits beyond the unpaid property taxes that are owed in a property tax foreclosure.

Most states give the excess collected at a foreclosure sale for unpaid property taxes due to the taxpayer, but a few like Minnesota, take the entire home.

Honestly, even that position is still problematic, because the prices secured in a foreclosure sale (whether for public debts or private ones) are usually significantly less than what would be secured in an ordinary commercial sale by a realtor in a reasonable time frame. But, the best shouldn't be the enemy of the good. 

Sadly Much Of The American Right Hasn't Gotten This Message


Blogger AI Goes Awry

At this blog, the Blogger system AI trying to enforce the Blogger content policy deleted one of my posts and put a warning flag on the other this past weekend.

The deleted post (from 2007) consisted of two words of commentary "Who knew?" to a quote from an Associated Press story relating the fact that a certain kind of business transaction, usually between a man and a woman, was legal in most E.U. countries, on the ground that it was about "illegal" matters. I edited it by adding a line that told blogger that this was just an anodyne report from the Associated Press about legal conduct and then appealed it and the post was reinstated.

The warning flag went up on a post entitled "Political Heresy", which I have also appealed but not gotten results from yet, from 2019, in which I recount issues upon which my opinions differ from the majority views in the Democratic Party. The AI probably intended to flag posts which were religiously offensive to members of some faiths, although it could be because I was advocating the legalization of some things that are illegal.

ChatGPT Confabulates

It's citations form is perfect. It's sentences are grammatical and support your argument. But, often ChatGPT just makes stuff up, as it did in a recent case where a lawyer was caught using a ChatGPT generated brief that had six made up cases.

23 May 2023

What Nation States Would Look Like In Africa

This is a map of Africa using ethnically drawn borders, rather than those drawn by imperial powers. Needless to say, an Africa made up of nation-states would have far more countries, almost all smaller than the existing ones, than the status quo does.

Indeed, ethnic division and small pre-colonial political units, none of which could on its own raise a large army or dominate trade in a region, were factors in addition to "Guns, Germs and Steel" that allow made colonial rule possible in Africa.

In contrast, in much of Europe and mainland Asia, wars of conquest gradually produced larger and larger kingdoms that the rulers of these kingdoms eventually homogenized culturally and linguistically, a process that much of Africa didn't experience. And, in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Oceania, European colonists with more homogeneity replaced or overwhelmed local populations through demic replacement and cultural and linguistic transitions.

Of course, there is a certain level of subjectively involved in any such map. For example, one level of generality above individual ethnicities and languages is language families, illustrated on the map below, and membership in the same language family often coincides with cultural commonalities as well.

In between, you can look at both language families and individual languages in the same map (from here) in an image that captures not just those too levels of analysis but also the relative similarity of languages in the same family as a function of color shades:

Any map assigning a single language to a geographic area, of course, also fails to represent the fact that multiple languages are often spoken by people in the same vicinity, even the same village or neighborhood, and that in many places, multi-lingual individuals are common - often speaking one or more local languages and a national European colonial language as a lingua franca, albeit with a distinctive local dialect of that language.

What A Problematic National Debt Looks Like

In Nigeria debt service, mostly domestic, took up a staggering 96% of government revenues last year.
From here. This said, Nigeria's debt is only about 38% of the GPD. But it pays higher interest rates than the U.S. does and collects less government revenue as a percentage of GDP.

Apparently, in Nigeria (according to the source for the quote): "Part of the problem is that the government has collected little money from oil recently due to rampant oil theft, low production and the cost of fuel subsidies, which are deducted before oil proceeds reach the treasury."

By comparison, the U.S. federal government spends 13% of total federal spending as of April 2023 (about $460 billion per year) on debt service for the U.S., federal government's debt. The U.S. national debt is about 120% of the nation's GDP.

The biggest issue in the U.S. is that the interest rates that the U.S. government pays on the national debt are very low and if they increase significantly, the debt service costs could increase greatly.

Brain Injury Is Behind Many Of Society's Worst Problems

[N]early two-thirds of those experiencing chronic homelessness in metro Denver suffer from some kind of brain injury[.]
From here.

The very bottom of American society, from the people who are "problem" inmates in jails and prisons, to the chronically homeless, is pervasively full of people with brain injuries. And, mostly, these are conditions that can't be cured.

Guns Are Still A Much Bigger Problem In The U.S. Than Anyplace Else

 It isn't even close.

19 May 2023

What Has Driven Urban Density Changes In The U.S. Over The Last 70 Years?

Living in the West, we've long known that mountains and water supplies impact density, sometimes discouraging sprawl.
Housing unit densities are examined in 56 large urban areas in the United States defined in a consistent manner from 1950 to 2020. 
The mean density declined slightly over this period but this masks tremendous variation across the urban areas. Some of the most dense urban areas at the start experienced large drops, but substantial numbers of areas had increases in density, some large. 
Densities across regions changed dramatically, with mean densities for urban areas in the West rising from only slightly above the South to the highest by 2020, well above the Northeast and the Midwest which were highest in 1950
Density and density change are related to the size of the urban area (number of housing units), and change is also related to change in size and (negatively) to density at the start. The effect of potential barriers to expansion on density is investigated, with strong, significant effects of water and mountains on urban area densities.

From the body text:
The list of the urban areas with the highest densities in 2020 is likely to be more of a surprise to many. 
New York remains on the list but in second place, edged out by Las Vegas, both with densities below 2,000 housing units per square mile, below all of the top 6 in 1950. 
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose retains its position in third place but is followed by Los Angeles and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach with nearly identical densities, all ranging from 1,834 to 1,859 units per square mile. 
San Diego is the sixth densest urban area with a density about 200 lower. 
New York and San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose were the only areas among the most dense in both years. New York accomplished this in spite of a huge decline by starting with by far the highest density in 1950. San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose experienced a modest drop in density over the period but maintained its position given the overall lower densities in 2020.

18 May 2023

Turkey's Election Results - More Of The Same

Turkey's incumbent President Erdoğan is a strong favorite in a runoff election for Turkey's Presidency.  He missed a first round win by less than 0.5 percentage points, with more than 5% of the vote cast for a nationalist third-party candidate who was previously an MP for a nationalist party that is part of the President's party's coalition in Parliament. The third-party vote needs to break more than 90.5% in favor of the opposition candidate for him to win in the runoff, but seems likely to break more than 50% in favor of the President. The President would also win if third-party candidate supporters simply failed to vote in the runoff election on May 28 at all.

The incumbent President's right wing Justice and Development party (AKP) has retained control of parliament in a People's Alliance coalition with far right ultra-nationalists including the Nationalist Movement party (MHP) and another far right nationalist party, against a challenge primarily from the center-right Nation Alliance opposition coalition of the runner up in the race, and a center-left to far-right Labor and Freedom Alliance opposition coalition.

Turnout was stunningly high by U.S. standards at 88.9% and was a record for Turkey despite disorder caused by recent earthquakes, ongoing tensions with Kurdish militants, and the fact that there is far less money available in Turkey to fund election administration.

The West would have preferred the center-right opposition candidate who made it to the runoff election for the Presidency and won almost 45% of the Presidential election vote, and a coalition of the two opposition Alliances in parliament (with a broad center-right to left wing tent) which won about 46% of the parliamentary seats, mostly due to the authoritarian tendencies of incumbent President Erdoğan. But this isn't going to happen.

Geographically, Southeast Turkey (which is heavily Kurdish and has higher total fertility rates than the rest of Turkey) is left leaning, the Aegean coast and a swath of central Turkey centered around Ankara is center-right leaning. The "heartland" outside the major cities which is everywhere else, is right leaning to far-right nationalist leaning. At a more fine grained level, the center-right to far right break is basically an urban-rural divide, with smaller regional cities also leaning center-right.

Tens of millions of Turkish voters went to the polls on Sunday to cast their vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. Here is where the vote stands at the moment:

* President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, will go head-to-head in a runoff election after Erdoğan outperformed expectations but failed to reach the 50% threshold to win the presidential race outright. The president scored 49.51% against Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.88%, with a small number of overseas votes left to count. The head of the supreme electoral board said even when the remaining 35,874 uncounted overseas votes were distributed, no one would secure the majority needed to win the elections outright. The runoff will take place on 28 May.

* A nationalist third candidate, Sinan Oğan, emerged as a potential kingmaker after picking up 5.17% of the vote.

* Official turnout reached a record 88.9%. . . .

* Erdoğan’s rightwing party retained control of parliament through an alliance with ultra-nationalists.

From the Guardian

The Top Party In Each Electoral District (for larger districts above and smaller districts below). Yellow is the ADK. Brown is the far right nationalist MHP. Red and blue are part of the Nation Alliance coalition. Purple is part of the Labor and Freedom Alliance.

In the People's Alliance, the AKP won 267 seats (301 is a majority), the MHP won 50 seats, and a smaller nationalist party won 5 seats, for a total of 322 seats which is a safe majority even though it is a loss for the coalition of about 22 seats from before the election. The runner up's center-right Nation Alliance coalition won a combined 212 seats in parliament. A third center-left to far-left Labor and Freedom Alliance coalition without a Presidential candidate won a combined 66 seats. The third-place Presidential candidate's right wing Ancestral Alliance coalition won no seats in parliament since it didn't meet the minimum percentage threshold of the vote to win any seats. Neither did the revolutionary Socialist/Communist Union of Socialist Forces. The final count isn't absolutely complete, so the total number of seats for each party could change slightly before becoming final. (Source).

There are 11 other linguistic-ethnic minorities in Turkey, but only Arabic (generally along the more eastern part of the Syrian border) and the Zaza language (of a Northwestern Iranian sister ethnicity to the Kurds whose language is linguistically perhaps as similar to Kurdish as Portuguese is to Spanish) are even locally very significant. They mostly overlap or abut the Kurdish regions in the Southeast. (Source for the two maps above and this paragraph.)

17 May 2023

A Couple of Solid Posts At Colorado Pols

Colorado Pols has a couple of solid posts up, both related to Colorado Springs.

One post examines the decisive win of a mayoral race by a non-Republican Nigerian immigrant in the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs which is increasingly not decisively Republican. It also quotes GOP Attorney General candidate George Brauchler concluding that just possibly, lots of people in Colorado no longer agree with the Colorado Republican Party's agenda.

The other post examines President Biden's indication that the headquarters of the Space Force will not be moved from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama. There are multiple reasons for that. The decision to move it to Alabama was a spur of the moment nakedly political decision by Trump in the first place. Biden's administration denies it, but some commentators have pointed to Alabama's anti-abortion laws. And, then there's the junior U.S. Republican Senators from Alabama, Tommy Tuberville. "Tuberville has been blocking military promotions for months[.]"

Tuberville is facing backlash for remarks he made about white nationalists in the armed forces in an interview about his blocking of military nominees…

…The first-term senator from Alabama made his initial remarks in an interview last week with WBHM, an NPR affiliate. He suggested that the Biden administration’s efforts to expand diversity in the military were weakening the force and hampering recruitment, though the Army has said that the real problem is that many young people do not see enlistment as safe or a good career path.

“We are losing in the military so fast. Our readiness in terms of recruitment,” Tuberville said, according to the station’s transcript of the May 4 interview. “And why? I’ll tell you why. Because the Democrats are attacking our military, saying we need to get out the white extremists, the white nationalists, people that don’t believe in our agenda.”

When asked if he believed white nationalists should be allowed in the U.S. military, Tuberville responded, “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”

Motorcycles Still Aren't Safe

Riding a motorcycle is one of the most dangerous legal things that you can do. 

The 149 motorcycle fatalities in 2022 [in Colorado] accounted for 20% of the state’s total traffic fatalities but the motorcycles involved represented only 3% of the state’s vehicle registrations, CDOT officials said in a news release. The number of motorcycle fatalities has generally risen since 2003 when 73 motorcyclists died. . . . Of the 2022 fatalities, over half of the motorcyclists were not wearing helmets, and nationwide, DOT-compliant helmet use decreased by 4% from 2020 to 2021.

From the Denver Post.

Comparing motorcycle fatalities to vehicle registrations also greatly underestimates how dangerous motorcycles are, because the number of passenger-miles per year driven per motorcycle is vastly lower than the number of passenger-miles per year driven per car.

This isn't a new observation. I first made it at this blog in a post on October 18, 2005, not long after I started it. At that time, motorcycle accidents had gone from accounting for 5% of all fatal vehicle accidents to 10%, and motorcycle riders were 28 times as likely to die per passenger-mile are car passengers. Now, in Colorado at least, motorcycle accidents give rise to 20% of fatal vehicle accidents, so the relative risk faced by people riding motorcycles is now probably closer to 50-60 times that of car passengers.

China Hit 300 Year Plus Lows In Per Capita GDP Twice During Maoism

China’s GDP per capita hit its lowest point in the past 300 years under Maoism. Twice.

The first time was during the civil war and the second was the Great Leap Forward.

Via Marginal Revolution. 

Maybe the Chinese "economic miracle" is simply due to the fact that until 1975, it had just been recovering to the point that it first reached in 1700 CE, and it hasn't had a "Great Depression" (as I predicted it would), because it is still recovering from a pair of them in the late-20th century. 

China has also been able to imitate successes in the developed world, instead of innovating in the first instance, to advance technologically (which isn't to say that it hasn't also innovated to some extent), which also makes rapid economic growth easier.

Economically, Maoist Communism has, nonetheless, far outperformed feudal monarchism under European colonial influence and has been competitive with a Western democratic capitalist model.

China's GDP per capita as of 2021 was $12,566 USD.

China's per capita GDP has grown at an after inflation rate of about 3.9% per year since its $800 current USD low point during the Chinese civil war which ended in 1949. 

Since the end of the Great Leap Forward in 1962, when China's per capita GDP has fallen to about $875 current USD after a brief spurt after its Civil War that was largely reversed, China's per capita GDP has grown at a basically uninterrupted after inflation rate of about 4.6% per year for 59 straight years (and this has probably continued since 2021).

There are signs that China's economy is starting to stumble, however.

Cypo Winter And The Future Of Banking Regulation

Crypto Winter didn't do much harm to "real economy", it is vulnerable to banking issues like runs on banks when operated as lending platforms, but since it wasn't heavily linked to the real economy, it didn't hurt it much. This could change as crypto partners with traditional banking institutions, requiring more regulation.
“Crypto Winter” refers to a systemic event that occurred in the cryptocurrency ecosystem—what we call “crypto space”—in 2022. Crypto space was wracked by plummeting crypto prices, the troubles of a large crypto hedge fund, and runs on many crypto lending platforms. Several large crypto firms went bankrupt, and households and firms lost billions of dollars. Crypto investors are still feeling the aftershocks. 
We begin with two observations. 
First, despite mass marketing campaigns to the contrary, crypto lending platforms recreated banking all over again. Crypto lending platforms were vulnerable to runs because, like all banks, they borrowed short and lent long. This is the essence of banking, so we label these lending platforms “crypto banks.” 
Second, crypto space was largely circular. Once crypto banks obtained deposits and investments, these firms borrowed, lent, and traded mostly with themselves. As a result, Crypto Winter did not cause the kind of financial turmoil that we witnessed in either 2008 or 2020, and it did not cause an economic recession.

We then pivot to a warning for regulators. The next generation of crypto firms are linking up with the financial sector, which means their failures will spill over into the real economy. To contain the inevitable growth of systemic risk, regulators should use banking laws to address a banking problem.
Gary B. Gorton, Jeffery Zhang, "Bank Runs During Crypto Winter" SSRN (May 15, 2023).

16 May 2023

Missile Defense Is Quite Effective Even If It Isn't Perfect

Back in the 1980s, when candidate and President Reagan was proposing it, I opposed missile defense programs, not because it wasn't a valuable goal, but because it wasn't technologically viable at the time. Now, it is technologically viable, and while it isn't perfect, it can stop far more than  half of income missiles, greatly reducing the harm of missile attacks, especially conventional missile attacks (as opposed to nuclear missile attack where just one failure to intercept an incoming missile can be devistating).

Ukraine's air defenses shot down six Russian hypersonic missiles as Moscow launched a fresh wave of strikes overnight, according to Kyiv.

Russia launched 18 missile strikes across Ukraine at about 3.30 a.m. local time on Tuesday, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in a post to social media.

Six Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were launched from Russian MiG-31K jets, Ukraine's military said, as well as nine Kalibr missiles from vessels in the Black Sea. Several other missiles, including the land-based, short-range Iskander-M, were also fired at Ukrainian targets, Ukrainian authorities said in an update.

"All 18 missiles were destroyed by the forces and means of air defense of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine," Ukraine's military said.

Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were part of a host of new, advanced weaponry unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018. They are believed to have a range of about 1,250 miles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think thank's Missile Defense Project, and can carry either conventional or nuclear payloads.

Tuesday morning's barrage was a "complex attack from different directions simultaneously," the head of the Kyiv military administration, Serhiy Popko, said in a statement. "It was exceptional in its density – the maximum number of attacking missiles in the shortest period of time," he added in a post to Telegram on Tuesday. . . .

"A high-precision strike by a hypersonic missile system 'Dagger' in the city of Kyiv hit a U.S.-made Patriot anti-aircraft missile system," the ministry added.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for further comment via email.

Earlier this month, Ukraine's Air Force commander, Lieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk, said Ukraine had successfully "brought down the 'unparalleled' Dagger" on May 4, referring to a Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which he said was fired from a Russian MiG-31K. A Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson then told Ukrainian media that a Patriot air defense system had shot down the hypersonic missile. The U.S., Germany and the Netherlands have committed to sending Patriot systems to Ukraine, and they arrived in the country in April.

"Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a post to social media on April 19.

In a press briefing on May 9, Pentagon Press Secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said the Ukrainian military "did down a Russian missile by employing the Patriot missile defense system," later specifying it was a Kinzhal missile.

From Newsweek in a May 16, 2023 story.

Too Many Americans Are O.K. With Political Violence

Holding people accountable under criminal and civil laws is the key to stopping political violence. 

Many — far too many — Americans now consider political violence not only acceptable but perhaps necessary. In an online survey of more than 7,200 adults, nearly a third of people answered that political violence is usually or always justified. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and released in October, came to the alarming conclusion that “MAGA Republicans” (as opposed to those who identified themselves as traditional Republicans) “are more likely to hold extreme and racist beliefs, to endorse political violence, to see such violence as likely to occur and to predict that they will be armed under circumstances in which they consider political violence to be justified.” 
Any violence suppresses participation in democratic decision making, and it can negate the decisions that are made. “The damage that this violence itself and the conspiracies driving it are causing to our democracy are already substantial and are likely to produce significant democratic decline if not arrested soon,” Rachel Kleinfeld of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the Jan. 6 committee.

There are four interrelated trends that the country needs to address: the impunity of organized paramilitary groups, the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military, the global spread of extremist ideas and the growing number of G.O.P. politicians who are using the threat of political violence not just to intimidate their opponents on the left but also to wrest control of the party from those Republicans who are committed to democratic norms.
From the NYT Editorial, “America Can Have Democracy or Political Violence. Not Both.”

Homicide Rates In Selected Cities


15 May 2023

What Do Colorado Attorneys Do?

It is helpful now and then to examine the relative importance of different kinds of practices that lawyers in Colorado engage in to understand the "typical" kinds of legal practices out there. 

From the 2022 Annual Report of Colorado's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.

A very large share of all criminal litigation in the state, which makes up a large share of all court business, is conducted by lawyers who work in a DA's office (15% of government lawyers) or a public defender's office (13% of government lawyers), of whom there are about 1,355 combined out of about 29,000 active lawyers in the state (about 5%).

A few criminal cases are handled by the state attorney-general's office (with 430 attorneys), and some ordinance violation cases are handled by city attorneys (357 attorneys, mostly part-time), and county attorneys (242 attorneys, many part-time in smaller counties), but the lion's share of the criminal case work is done by the DA's office and the public defender's office. There are some criminal defendants who are represented by private criminal defense attorneys, but these defendants are definitely a minority of all criminal defendants.

A very large share of all jury trials in the state are in criminal cases, which are mostly handled by a tiny percentage of all lawyers in the state. As noted here:
For example, in 2006 in Colorado, in state courts there were 1,776 criminal or quasi-criminal jury trials (plus about 35 quasi-criminal parental rights termination jury trials). . . . In federal court, there were 22 criminal jury trials. . . . 

As of 2006, there were 337 civil jury trials, about 240 of which were in tort cases (the vast majority of which involve personal injuries in accidents), and about 97 of which were in other matters: 

There were just 17 limited jurisdiction civil trials in state court. . . . About 54% of civil trials in federal court (43 jury trials and 36 bench trials) and 50% civil trials in general jurisdiction state courts were to juries (277 jury trials and 280 bench trials), with about 75% [of civil jury trials] in tort cases)[.]

Of course, the vast majority of litigated case of all types are resolved without trials, either by a default judgment, in motion practice, by settlement, or by a guilty plea.

Tort Law Wasn't Very Effective In Streetcar Accidents

The effectiveness of early 20th century tort law has been greatly exaggerated relative to the historical reality.

Streetcars were the greatest American tortfeasors of the early 20th century, injuring approximately one in 331 urban Americans in 1907. This empirical study presents never-before-assembled data concerning litigation involving streetcar companies in California during the early twentieth century.

This article demonstrates the methodological folly of relying upon appellate cases to describe the world of trial-court litigation. Few cases went to trial. Plaintiffs lost about half their lawsuits. When plaintiffs did win, they won very little money. Regarding the bite taken out of the street railway company, the Superior Court was a flea.

Professor Gary Schwartz and Judge Richard Posner have presented inaccurate empirical data concerning early twentieth-century personal injury litigation. Professor Gary Schwartz was wrong to characterize tort law as generous. Likewise, Judge Richard Posner has been wrong to call tort law efficient. Like Professors Lawrence M. Friedman and Morton Horwitz, I see the amount taken from the street railway companies as quite small. However, I see no deliberate efforts to subsidize the industry.
Thomas D. Russell, Blood on the Tracks (Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 47, 2023) on SSRN.

Partisan Polarization In State Supreme Courts

State supreme courts are less partisan than the federal courts, and are less partisan than legislatures and executive branch politicians at any level. Judicial partisanship is slowly rising in state supreme courts as well, however, especially in states with non-partisan elections for state supreme court judge. 

The lower level of partisanship in state supreme courts probably reflects a lower proportion of public law matters with political salience on state high court dockets, relative to the federal courts.

It is somewhat surprising, however, that Missouri plan appointed state supreme court judges like those in Colorado are not, as intended by those designing and adopting this system, less divided on a partisan basis than state supreme court judges who are elected on a non-partisan basis, or who are appointed on a partisan basis. Judges elected on a partisan basis are the most polarized state high court judges on a partisan basis, although they are still less polarized than federal judges.
Research has documented elite polarization in a variety of areas, including Congress, the executive branch, and the federal judiciary. To my knowledge, however, no work examines whether state high courts have polarized or to what extent. This research fills that gap. 
I create the largest and most comprehensive existing dataset on state supreme court judge party identification (running from 1980 to 2020), and merge those affiliations with an expansion of the ideology data from Bonica and Woodruff (2015). I measure polarization using two metrics: first, I examine the degree of ideological overlap between Democratic and Republican judges; and second, I track the ideological distance between the Democratic and Republican medians. I also examine whether the various methods of judicial selection are associated with different degrees of polarization. 
I find a modest increase in polarization across the entire population of state supreme court judges, but they still lag behind other government institutions in that regard. Each selection method I consider is associated with at least some increase in polarization (as measured by either overlap or distance), but no single method stands out as having a particularly close relationship with a polarized judiciary. 
Finally, I document increased polarization in states with nonpartisan elections as compared to others in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White.
Brett Parker, Polarization in State Supreme Courts, 1980-2020 (April 26, 2023) on SSRN.

State highest court judges:

GOP Turns On J.P. Morgan

The Wall Street Journal reported as front page news this weekend that J.P. Morgan is being attacked en masse by GOP politicians for being anti-religious. 

Some of these claims, as shown by J.P. Morgan's released customer service tape transcripts are flat out lies with religious groups actually suffering red tape because they don't fill out basic account setup paperwork (much of which is basically required of all financial institutions), or because they sense their surveys to the wrong email.

Beneath the claims that would be colorably fair if true, but are actually false, the real beef conservatives have with J.P. Morgan, like most big businesses, is that it isn't homophobic or racist enough for them.

Apparently, in the great national divorce, conservatives want to hand Democrats not just higher education, the tech industry, and the NFL, but also all of Wall Street.

This is really not a smart move for them, because they are biting the hand that feeds them. The upper middle class of college educated executive and professionals has already abandoned the GOP ship. Without the Wall Street rich, they'll have no one to finance their campaigns, interest groups, and think tanks.

Winning over Wall Street is going to be a challenge for MAGA Republicans, however. Its top institutions are staffed with elite college graduates because they have among the greatest potential for return on investments in securing the most academically able employees. This population, while full of socially liberal, fiscally conservative people, and "God and country" mainline Christians, is one of the most non-Christian and especially non-Evangelical Christian populations in the country. They collectively cringe at MAGA's anti-intellectual populism and overwhelmingly live in deep blue metropolitan areas. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more LGBT+ people in important positions on Wall Street than they are MAGA Republicans.

11 May 2023

COVID-19 Death Rates By Region

COVID-19 death rates in the U.S. over the course of the pandemic have varied from region to region by a factor of more than three between the places with the lowest and highest rate of COVID-19 deaths.

The Main Trends

COVID-19 deaths rates in the U.S. are a function of two main factors: (1) the proportion of the population that is old, and (2) the levels of vaccination and other precautions taken, which correlates strongly with partisan leaning. Republican leaning places had much higher COVID-19 death rates controlling for age than Democratic leaning places. 

Possible Secondary Factors

It isn't clear that this partisan effect was true for Mormon Republicans, however. Mormons have more kids at younger ages than the rest of the U.S. population which reduces the percentage of this demographic that is old, and is also more educated on average than Republicans elsewhere in the United States. 

But, it isn't clear that education is that strong a factor, because, for example, Kansas is another pool of highly educated Republicans compared to the national average and had much higher COVID-19 death rates than Utah where Mormons predominate.

Black and Native American Democrats also high higher rates of COVID-19 death than Democrats as a whole, at least in some regions.

10 May 2023

Haiku Of The Day

Don’t fear the migrants
fear the evil, forcing folks
to run from homelands.
@ 5/8/2023 Ellen Troyer

Is The B-21 Bomber A Good Idea?

An article critical of the current planned purchase of B-21 stealth long range bombers discusses many big picture issues in U.S. military procurement that deserve more attention. Some key points made by the author include:

* The B-52H can deliver nuclear missiles by air.

* In Afghanistan, the F-15 was more helpful than the B-1B in delivering conventional bombs.

* It might be possible at some point to overcome the stealth features of the B-21.

* Other options could include using F-22 and F-35 aircraft and F-16s converted to drones.

* 100 B-21s will cost $113 billion.

* Replacing 18 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines with 12 Columbia-class boats is projected to cost approximately $110 billion.

* "America's current ICBM, the LGM-30 Minuteman, originally entered service in 1962, and the current LGM-30G Minuteman III incarnation was first deployed in 1970, receiving upgrades during the intervening decades. The Minuteman's intended replacement, the LGM-118 Peacekeeper, first deployed in 1985. The SALT II treaty's moratorium on Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), coupled with the Peacekeeper's high operating costs, led the United States to procure only half of the proposed Peacekeeper fleet, and to retire that fleet by 2005."

* The author suggests that replacing the A-10 close air support fighter, or the Marine Corps M113 armored personnel vehicles is more urgent.

I don't find the author's arguments convincing, but a more moderate position is that in an age of guided munitions, we don't need 100 B-21s to fill a fairly narrow niche role of carrying out long range strikes into places with radar guided anti-aircraft defenses and more generally into contested airspace. A far smaller fleet of stealth bombers hasn't been particularly over utilized,  there is no indication that such a large fleet would be needed for the Ukraine War, and there isn't a very credible case that a fleet this large would be needed in a fight to defend Taiwan. The P-8, a B-52 replacement for uncontested airspaces, the F-35, and perhaps 20 B-21s to replace the B-2 and other stealth bombing requirements ought to be more than adequate to meet the nation's military requirements for bombers.

Suppose that each B-21 can hit ten targets per sortie. This is 1,000 targets per sortie for the entire B-21 fleet, and if you could make three sorties per day per plane, that is 3,000 targets per day. The case that this is necessary in the phase of a conflict when the U.S. is trying to secure air superiority is weak. How many air defense and other early phase critical targets would our most potent plausible enemy have in the relevant theater of battle? The constraint even at a fleet far smaller than 100 B-21 bombers is identifying targets, not striking them once they are identified.

It does make sense to substitute anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities from destroyers and frigates to aircraft like the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to a significant extent. But this isn't a role where the immense expense of stealth aircraft is a necessity.