31 January 2024

The Freedom Index

The Freedom Index of the non-profit Freedom House rates countries as more or less free on a scale of 0-100, with a maximum of 40 points for political freedom (with up to 3 negative points for especially distinguished activities like intentional genocidal conduct) and 60 for civil liberties.

The U.S. rates and underwhelming 83, with a 33 out of 40 rating for political freedom and a 50 out of 60 rating for civil liberties, comparable to South Korea, Panama, and Romania.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Donald Trump personally, and Republicans, more generally, are responsible for much of the low U.S. rating on political freedom.

What did the U.S. get dinged for?

On the 40 point political index, where the U.S. scores 33:

1. Free and fair Presidential elections 3/4
Evidence later emerged regarding last-ditch efforts to overturn the results, including machinations by Trump and allied officials or lawyers to involve the Justice Department and other government agencies in supporting the president’s fraud claims, to enlist then vice president Mike Pence in blocking certification of Biden’s victory, and to work with Republican activists to put forward illegitimate pro-Trump slates of electors in states that Biden won.

Trump administration officials and allies also encouraged resistance to Biden’s victory from voters and citizen groups, culminating on January 6, 2021

2. Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3/4
The electoral framework is generally fair, though it is subject to some partisan manipulation. The borders of House districts, which must remain roughly equal in population, are redrawn regularly—typically after each decennial census. In the practice known as partisan gerrymandering, House districts, and those for state legislatures, are crafted to maximize the advantage of the party in power in a given state. The redistricting system varies by state, but in most cases it is overseen by elected officials, and observers have expressed alarm at the growing strategic and technical sophistication of partisan efforts to control redistricting processes and redraw electoral maps. Historically, gerrymandering has also been used as a tool of racial disenfranchisement, specifically targeting Black voters, as well as Hispanic and Native American populations. . . . In 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal judiciary has no authority to prevent state politicians from drawing districts to preserve or expand their party’s power. . . Some states have adopted strict voter-identification laws. These documentation requirements can disproportionately limit participation by poor, elderly, or racial minority voters; people with disabilities; and younger voters, especially college students. . . . Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of his 2020 defeat and his promotion of false fraud claims spurred a new wave of state electoral legislation: between the beginning of 2021 and October 2022, 21 states—nearly all with Republican-controlled legislatures—had passed 42 new laws that made voting more difficult. . . . An emerging concern since the 2020 election has been efforts by Trump-supporting election deniers to take control of election management authority in states that are closely contested in presidential elections; their opponents argue that such actors could facilitate the partisan subversion of legitimate presidential election outcomes in the future. . . . Critics have argued that some components of the US constitution are undemocratic because they violate the principle that each citizen’s vote should carry equal weight. . . . The six-member Federal Election Commission (FEC), whose membership is split between Democrats and Republicans, is tasked with enforcing federal campaign finance laws. Most enforcement actions require four votes, allowing partisan obstruction, and the body has been regarded as largely ineffective in recent years.
3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3/4
Various interest groups have come to play a potent role in the nominating process for president and members of Congress, partly because the expense and length of political campaigns place a premium on candidates’ ability to raise large amounts of funds from major donors. . . . The January 2021 attack on Congress underscored a broader rise in violence and intimidation as a tool of political influence in the United States. . . . Meanwhile, reports of threats against elected officials and local election administrators have proliferated in recent years, with members of Congress subjected to a dramatic rise in intimidation. . . . The score improved from 2 to 3 because there was no repetition of political or election-related violence on the scale of the January 2021 Capitol attack, and numerous participants in that attack and related malfeasance were successfully prosecuted amid ongoing state and federal investigations.
4. Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3/4.
Racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected by laws and policies that create obstacles to voting and winning elected office. . . . Various other state election-management policies have been criticized for having a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minority communities, including voter-roll purges, arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles to registration, and efforts to punish voter fraud—a very rare phenomenon in US elections. . . . State laws that deny voting rights to citizens with felony convictions continue to disproportionately disenfranchise Black Americans, who are incarcerated at significantly higher rates than other populations.
5. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 3/4.
partisan polarization and obstruction in Congress has repeatedly delayed appropriations bills across multiple administrations, resulting in a series of partial shutdowns of federal government operations, most recently in 2018–19. . . . Congress’s ability to serve as a check on potential abuses by the executive was thrown into doubt during the Trump administration.
6. Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3/4.
Regulations pertaining to the influence of money in US politics have long been criticized as an inadequate barrier against corruption.

The practices of the Trump administration exposed additional weaknesses in existing norms of government ethics and probity, particularly with respect to conflicts of interest between officials’ public roles and private business activity, and the protection of government whistleblowers from arbitrary dismissal or other reprisals. . . . the stock-trading practices of scores of federal lawmakers have come under scrutiny for alleged conflicts of interest, prompting unsuccessful efforts in 2022 to advance legislation that would restrict members’ ability to trade stocks.
7. Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3/4.
government performance on FOIA requests declined during Trump’s presidency, and in 2020 the coronavirus-induced transition to remote work by government employees produced a sharp drop in responsiveness to information requests at the federal, state, and local levels. Complaints about serious backlogs and calls for further FOIA reform persisted through 2022.

The executive branch includes a substantial number of auditing and investigative agencies that are designed to be independent of political influence; such bodies are often spurred to action by the investigative work of journalists. In 2020, however, Trump arbitrarily fired or replaced a series of agency inspectors general who had documented or investigated malfeasance by administration officials.
On the 60 point civil liberties index, where the U.S. scores 50:

1. Are there free and independent media? 3/4
News coverage has also grown more polarized, with certain outlets and their star commentators providing a consistently right- or left-leaning perspective. Although the mainstream media have continued to provide strong and independent coverage of national politics despite increased hostility from political figures in recent years, some outlets’ editorial policies effectively shifted to the left as they were drawn into adversarial relationships with the Trump presidency. The highly influential cable network Fox News has been unique, however, in its close alignment with the Republican Party; several prominent on-air personalities and executives migrated to government jobs under the Trump administration, and key hosts have openly endorsed Republican candidates or participated in campaign rallies. In 2022, some Fox News hosts continued to promote far-right and conspiracist views. . . . 
A growing number of Americans look to social media and other online sources for political news, increasing their exposure to disinformation and propagandistic content of both foreign and domestic origin. The larger platforms have struggled to control false or hateful material without harming freedom of expression or their own business interests, though they have engaged in mass removals of far-right and foreign accounts that are used to spread disinformation. Following the January 2021 attack on Congress, the perceived risk of further incitement of violence by Trump prompted Twitter to ban his account, and Facebook and YouTube imposed indefinite suspensions. Late in 2022, after Twitter was purchased by billionaire Elon Musk, the platform reinstated Trump and thousands of other suspended users as part of a new emphasis on free speech, while temporarily banning several journalists for seemingly arbitrary reasons. Many advertisers responded to the turmoil by pausing their spending on Twitter. . . .

In 2021, the Republican-led states of Florida and Texas adopted laws that aimed to restrict social media platforms’ ability to moderate content and suspend certain accounts, though enforcement of both measures was blocked pending judicial review. . . .

investigative journalist Jeff German was murdered in Las Vegas in September 2022. A local official who had been the subject of German’s reporting was arrested and charged with the crime.

Media watchdog groups registered widespread press freedom violations—including police violence and arbitrary arrests targeting journalists—in the context of the nationwide protests sparked in 2020 by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black civilian, in Minnesota that May. According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, a joint project of multiple nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the number of violations has since declined sharply, falling to 15 arrests or detentions of journalists and 38 assaults on journalists in 2022, from 123 arrests and 334 assaults recorded during 2020. The latest incidents largely occurred during political protests. In June 2022, press freedom groups objected to a Supreme Court ruling that made it more difficult for journalists and others to seek monetary damages from federal officials who use excessive force or unlawful searches.
2. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3/4
While it remains quite robust by global standards, this liberty has come under pressure from both ends of the political spectrum. University faculty have reported instances of professional repercussions or harassment—including on social media—related to curriculum content, textbooks, or statements that some students strongly disagreed with. As a consequence, some professors have engaged in self-censorship. Students on a number of campuses have obstructed guest speakers whose views they find objectionable. In the most highly publicized cases, students and nonstudent activists have physically prevented presentations by controversial speakers, especially those known for their views on race, gender, immigration, Middle East politics, and other sensitive issues.

On a number of university campuses, such pressures were associated largely with the progressive left, but social and political forces on the right have increasingly applied pressure of their own in recent years. The Trump administration in 2020 ordered recipients of federal funds, including universities, to avoid diversity training that includes “divisive concepts” related to racism and sexism, prompting expressions of concern regarding impingements on academic freedom from numerous university administrators. A federal judge blocked implementation of the order, but in 2021 state-level officials initiated a wave of similar legislation pertaining to both universities and public schools—a trend that continued in 2022. These efforts were especially focused on restricting the teaching of “critical race theory” (CRT), an academic framework for examining a variety of issues including structural racism, and on constraining classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. According to PEN America, lawmakers in at least seven states had adopted increasingly punitive “educational gag orders” restricting the forms and substance of classroom discussions on race and sexuality by August 2022, in addition to the dozen states that had passed such bills in 2021. Moreover, educators and administrators who were concerned about accreditation, legal liability, and parental anger reportedly acted preemptively to eliminate or alter courses and remove previously well-regarded texts from school libraries. Some library organizations sought to counter the trend by promoting online access to banned books across state lines.

These debates took place against the backdrop of a sharp rise in threats and intimidation aimed at school officials, and as increasingly well-funded and organized conservative or right-wing parents’ groups engaged in extensive efforts to control school curriculums and the materials offered in school and public libraries.
3. Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3/4
Over the years, the strength of organized labor has declined, and just 6 percent of the private-sector workforce belonged to unions in 2022. While public-sector unions had a higher rate of membership, with 33.1 percent, they have come under pressure as well. The overall unionization rate in 2022 was 10.1 percent, down slightly from 10.3 percent in 2021. The country’s labor code and decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) during Republican presidencies have been regarded as impediments to organizing efforts, but Democratic administrations, which are generally more supportive of union interests, have failed to reverse the deterioration. Union organizing is also hampered by resistance from private employers. Among other tactics, many employers categorize workers as contractors or use rules pertaining to franchisees to prevent organizing.

A 2018 Supreme Court ruling that government employees cannot be required to contribute to unions representing them in collective bargaining has led to losses in union membership, and 27 states have “right-to-work” legislation in place, allowing private-sector workers who benefit from union bargaining to similarly opt out of paying union dues or fees. In 2021 the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would strengthen organizing and bargaining capacity by overriding right-to-work laws and giving more categories of workers the right to unionize, among other changes, but the bill was blocked by Senate Republicans.
4. Is there an independent judiciary? 3/4
The pattern of judicial appointments in recent years has added to existing concerns about partisan distortion of the appointment and confirmation process. Norm-breaking procedural maneuvering allowed Republicans to hold open an unusually large number of judicial vacancies under President Obama and then fill them under President Trump, including a Supreme Court vacancy that began during Obama’s final year in office. Trump filled two additional vacancies on the Supreme Court in 2018 and 2020 after deeply contentious Senate hearings and nearly party-line votes. These appointments cemented a conservative Supreme Court majority.

Biden sought to return to a more traditional use of presidential clemency powers in 2022, focusing largely on commuting the sentences of people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. President Trump had repeatedly used his pardon authority in an arbitrary or politicized fashion, bypassing Justice Department processes and awarding pardons to many of his own personal associates or individuals whose cases were championed by his political allies.

In many states, judges are chosen through either partisan or nonpartisan elections, and a rise in campaign fundraising and party involvement in such elections over the last two decades has increased the threat of bias and favoritism in state courts. In addition, executive and legislative officials in a growing number of states have attempted to exert greater control over state courts in recent years.
5. Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3/4
the criminal justice system suffers from a number of chronic weaknesses, many of which are tied to racial discrimination and contribute to disparities in outcomes that disadvantage people of color, particularly Black Americans. Media reports and analyses in recent years have drawn new attention to the extensive use of plea bargaining in criminal cases, with prosecutors employing the threat of harsh sentences to avoid trial and effectively reducing the role of the judiciary and juries; deficiencies in the parole system; long-standing funding shortages for public defenders, who represent low-income defendants in criminal cases; racial bias in risk-assessment tools for decisions on pretrial detention; and the practice of imposing court fees or fines for minor offenses as a means of raising local budget revenues, which can lead to jail terms for those who are unable to pay.

These problems and evolving enforcement and sentencing policies have contributed to major increases in incarceration over time. The population of sentenced state and federal prisoners soared from about 200,000 in 1970 to more than 1.6 million in 2009, then gradually decreased to roughly 1.2 million as of the end of 2021, according to the most recent data available. The incarceration rate based on such counts rose from around 100 per 100,000 US residents in 1970 to a peak of more than 500 in the late 2000s, then fell to about 350 as of the end of 2021. There are also hundreds of thousands of pretrial detainees and short-term jail inmates behind bars. Despite gradual declines in the number of Black prisoners, Black and Hispanic inmates continue to account for a majority of the prison population, whereas Black and Hispanic people account for roughly a third of the general US population. Lawmakers, elected state attorneys, researchers, activists, and criminal justice professionals have reached a broad consensus that the current level of incarceration is not needed to preserve public safety.

In recent years, Congress and the executive branch have enacted modest reforms to address mass incarceration and racial disparities in sentencing, such as a 2018 law that eased federal mandatory-minimum sentencing rules and a 2022 Justice Department policy that would reduce sentencing gaps between similar drug offenses. A majority of states have also passed laws in recent years to reduce sentences for certain crimes, decriminalize minor drug offenses, and combat recidivism. However, such gradual steps slowed amid fears of rising crime in 2022. Some states have restricted the use of cash bail, which can unfairly penalize defendants with fewer resources and enlarge pretrial jail populations.
6. Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3/4
Both the US homicide rate—at 6.9 per 100,000 inhabitants as of 2021, according to FBI data—and overall crime rates have declined substantially since the 1990s. However, the figures are high when compared with other wealthy democracies, and the homicide rate rose by 30 percent between 2019 and 2020, with even higher spikes in a number of large cities. The number of murders continued to rise nationally at a slower pace in 2021, then appeared to decline slightly in 2022.

The increased policy focus on reforming the criminal justice system in recent years has coincided with a series of widely publicized incidents in which police actions led to civilian deaths. Most of these prominent cases involved Black civilians, while Native Americans are reportedly killed by police at a higher rate per capita than any other group. Only a small fraction of police killings lead to criminal charges; when officers have been brought to trial, the cases have often ended in acquittals or sentences on reduced charges. In many instances, long-standing and rigid labor protections prevent municipal governments and police departments from imposing significant administrative sanctions on allegedly abusive officers. Nevertheless, some officers have received substantial prison sentences in recent years, including for the 2020 murder of George Floyd. That year’s protests against police violence and racial injustice succeeded in drawing media and advocacy attention to many police departments’ deep resistance to any reform or accountability mechanisms. A push by some reform advocates to cut police departments’ funding and direct it to other public services faced criticism amid rising crime rates, however, and many such efforts were subsequently diluted or reversed.

Conditions in prisons, jails, and pretrial detention centers are often poor at the state and local levels, and death rates in jails appear to have risen in recent years, driven not only by the COVID-19 pandemic but also by increased suicides and drug overdoses, with negligence or understaffing among corrections officers a contributing factor in some deaths.

Use of the death penalty has declined over time. There were 18 executions carried out by six states in 2022—up from 11 executions in 2021, but significantly down from a peak of 98 in 1999. The death penalty has been formally abolished by 23 states; in another 16 states where it remains on the books, executions have not been carried out for the past five years or more. In 2020 the federal government resumed executions for the first time since 2003, and 13 federal executions were carried out before the Biden administration imposed a moratorium in 2021. Factors encouraging the decline of the death penalty include clear racial disparities in its application; a pattern of exonerations of death-row inmates, often based on new DNA testing; states’ inability to obtain chemicals used in lethal injections due to objections from producers; multiple cases of botched executions; and the high costs to state and federal authorities associated with death penalty cases. 
7. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2/4
women and some minority groups continue to suffer from disparities on various indicators, and a number of recent government policies have infringed on the fundamental rights of asylum seekers and immigrants.

Although women constitute almost half of the US workforce and have increased their representation in many professions, the average compensation for female workers is roughly 83 percent of that for male workers, a gap that has remained relatively constant over the past several decades. Meanwhile, the wage gap between White and Black workers has grown in recent decades, meaning Black women, who are affected by both the gender and racial components of wage inequality, made about 69 cents for every dollar earned by White male workers as of 2020, according to the most recent data available. Women are also most often affected by sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. A popular and ongoing social media campaign that began in late 2017, the #MeToo movement, has encouraged victims to speak out about their experiences, leading to accountability for some perpetrators and underscoring the scale of the problem in American society.

In addition to structural inequalities and discrimination in wages and employment, racial and ethnic minority groups face long-running and interrelated disparities in education and housing. De facto school segregation is a persistent problem, and the housing patterns that contribute to it are influenced by factors such as mortgage discrimination, which particularly affects Black and Hispanic homeowners. Black homeownership has fallen steadily from a peak in 2004, despite gains for other groups in recent years. This in turn influences overall gaps in wealth and social mobility. For example, the median wealth of White families is 12 times the median wealth of Black families. Black people also face discrimination in health care and experience worse outcomes than their White counterparts; during the COVID-19 pandemic, people of color experienced strikingly higher mortality from the virus.

Violence motivated by racism or other forms of group animosity is a regular occurrence in the United States. Asian Americans were the victims of a surge in discrimination and hate crimes in 2020 and 2021, attributed in part to President Trump’s attempts to focus blame for the pandemic on China, where the initial outbreak occurred. A White gunman’s racist killing of 10 Black people in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May 2022 illustrated the continuing threat from violent White supremacism, while the November murder of five people in a Colorado nightclub that was popular with LGBT+ people reflected the persistence of hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. . . .

In March 2022, Florida lawmakers adopted a bill that banned discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in most primary-school classrooms, prompting multiple lawsuits attempting to block enforcement; similar bills were introduced in at least a dozen additional states during the year. A number of other new state laws have restricted the rights of transgender people in particular.

Throughout 2022, the Biden administration continued to use a COVID-19-related public health authority known as Title 42 to rapidly expel or deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers. However, a growing proportion of migrants and asylum seekers came from countries that were exempt from Title 42. Some Republican state governors took unilateral steps to draw attention to the administration’s alleged failure to protect the border. Starting in April, Texas officials conducted trade-disrupting inspections of vehicles crossing from Mexico and arranged for the busing of thousands of newly arrived migrants to New York, Washington, DC, and other cities governed by Democrats. In September, Florida governor Ron DeSantis oversaw the air transport of nearly 50 migrants from Texas to a wealthy island in the state of Massachusetts; the move triggered multiple investigations into whether the migrants in question had been illegally deceived or federal funds had been misused to finance the operation.

Since 2021, immigration authorities have moved away from maximizing arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants and back toward the Obama-era policy of focusing deportation efforts on those individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety. Nevertheless, the backlog of cases in immigration courts continued to balloon; as of the end of 2022 there were over two million pending cases, with average wait times of more than two years for a case to be resolved—though the cases of those held in immigration detention tend to move more quickly. Human rights and immigrant advocacy groups criticized the government for taking inadequate measures to address poor conditions in immigration detention facilities. In August 2022, the Biden administration announced steps intended to strengthen the legal standing of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. However, in October a federal appeals court ruled that the program was illegal, leaving it in limbo as appeals continued at year’s end.
8. Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3/4
Rape and domestic or intimate-partner violence remain serious problems. The applicable laws vary somewhat by state, though spousal rape is a crime nationwide. Numerous government and nongovernmental programs are designed to combat such violence and assist victims.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned a 1973 precedent and found that the federal constitution did not guarantee a right to abortion, thereby returning the issue to the states. By year’s end, near-total bans on abortion had taken effect in at least 12 states, with only narrow exceptions that would make access extremely difficult or dangerous in practice. Increased restrictions were in effect in an additional five states, and court injunctions temporarily blocked near-total or significant bans in six other states. The populations of states where abortion was effectively unavailable or severely restricted accounted for nearly a third of US women of reproductive age. Critics of the new or revived state restrictions noted that their vague language introduced considerable uncertainty about whether doctors would face prosecution even for providing potentially life-saving care. Scores of clinics—nearly 70 as of October—were forced to stop offering abortion services or close entirely, compelling women in the affected states to travel to jurisdictions with more liberal laws in order to seek treatment, a constraint that disproportionately burdened women with lower incomes. Although reproductive rights advocates mobilized to help pay for travel and facilitate access to abortion medication, access to abortion demonstrably declined, particularly in the 12 states with near-total bans in effect; even in states where abortion remained legal, providers sometimes lacked the capacity to serve both local patients and those traveling from other states. Voters in six states were presented with referendums on abortion rights in August and November, and in each case majorities supported the option that would preserve wider access to abortion.

The recent pattern of state laws restricting the rights of transgender people has also affected their access to medical treatments related to bodily autonomy and appearance. . . .

The score declined from 4 to 3 because the Supreme Court’s ruling that abortion is not a constitutional right cleared the way for severe state-level restrictions that left a significant share of the population without access by year’s end.
9. Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3/4
In recent decades, however, studies have shown a widening inequality in wealth and a narrowing of access to upward mobility. A series of economic stimulus and relief packages introduced by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic successfully reduced overall poverty rates, but the temporary nature of some highly effective programs, such as an expanded tax credit for families with children that expired at the end of 2021, meant that the societal gains were often ephemeral.

One key aspect of inequality in the United States is the growing income and wealth gap between Americans with university degrees and those with a high school degree or less; the number of well-compensated jobs for the less-educated has fallen over time as manufacturing and other positions are lost to automation and lower-cost foreign production. These jobs have generally been replaced by less remunerative or less stable employment in the service and retail sectors, where there is a weaker tradition of unionization. The pandemic-related economic shock amplified that dynamic, disrupting employment and income for lower-earning, less-educated workers in particular. In 2021, a lockdown-induced spike in household savings, combined with fiscal and monetary stimulus policies, produced strong demand, greater bargaining power, and higher wages for such workers. However, the same factors, along with persistent trade disruptions caused by the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also produced high levels of inflation that tempered the effect of wage increases through 2022.

The inflation-adjusted national minimum wage has fallen substantially since the 1960s, with the last nominal increase in 2009, though many states and localities have enacted increases since then. Other obstacles to gainful employment include inadequate public transportation and the high cost of living in economically dynamic cities and regions. The latter problem, which is exacerbated by exclusionary housing policies in many jurisdictions, has also contributed to an overall rise in homelessness in recent years.
Compared to other countries

I put some of the surprises in bold.

What are some of the countries that rank higher?

Sweden, Norway, and Finland come in at a full 100, followed closely by New Zealand at 99 and Canada at 98. Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Denmark at 97, Switzerland, Uruguay, Japan, Belgium, and Portugal at 96, Slovenia and Australia at 95, Germany, Estonia, Chile, Barbados, Taiwan and Iceland at 94, Austria and the United Kingdom at 93, the Czech Republic and Cyprus at 92, the Bahamas and Costa Rica at 91, and Spain, Slovakia, and Italy at 90. Lithuania and France come in at 89. Latvia 88. Belize 87. Greece 86. Argentina 85. Croatia and Mongolia 84.

What are some of the countries that still count as "free" but fall behind us?

Poland 81. Ghana and Jamaica 80. Bulgaria and South African 79. Namibia and Israel 77. Guyana 73. Botswana, Brazil, and East Timor 72. Columbia and Ecuador 70. 

Then there are the partially free countries:

Peru is also at 70 but ranked "partially free" due to its very low level of political freedom. Senegal and North Macedonia and Dominican Republic 68. Albania and Montenegro 67. Hungary, India, and Bolivia 66. Paraguay 65. Sierra Leone 63. Moldova 62. Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Bhutan 61. Liberia, Mexico, Kosovo, and Serbia 60. Fiji 59. Georgia, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines 58. El Salvador and Tunisia 56. Sri Lanka, Armenia and Zambia 54. Malaysia 53. Bosnia and Kenya 52. Niger 51. Ukraine 50. Cote D'Ivoire and Guatemala 49. Honduras and Gambia 48. Singapore 47. Mozambique 45. Lebanon and Nigeria 43. Hong Kong 42. Bangladesh 40. Pakistan, Morocco, and Kuwait 37. Tanzania 36.

Ratings of 35 and below are "not free" and they include:

Uganda (35), Jordan (33), Algeria (32), Turkey (32), Haiti (31), Thailand (30), Iraq (29), Mali (29), Angola (28), Brunei (28), Zimbabwe (28), Qatar (25), Cambodia (24), Oman (24), Rwanda (23), Ethiopia (21), Nicaragua (19), Vietnam (19), Democratic Republic of Congo (19), UAE (18), Egypt (18), Republic of Congo (17), Russia (16), Venezuela (15), Chad (15), Cameroon (15), Laos (13), Iran (12), Cuba (12), Libya (10), Sudan (10), China (9), Yemen (9), Myanmar (9), Belarus (8), Somalia (8), Saudi Arabia (8), Afghanistan (8), Eritrea (3), North Korea (3), Syria (1), and South Sudan (1).

Rants And Good Stuff


* I am sick and tired of our nation's unnecessary gun violence, gun facilitated crime, and gun suicides. A lack of strong national gun control is the biggest problem, and the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Second Amendment is also at fault.

* It is appalling that our society is so callous that every major city has thousands of homeless people. Some of this is due to land use regulation and building codes that make the best the enemy of the good. Some of this is due to poor pay for entry level workers in many places. Some of this is due to a weak social safety net. Some of this is due to a deficient mental health care system.

* It is too hard for young adults to get started in life, mostly because of high housing costs in desirable cities with good jobs. More than any other reason, this is because land use regulation is too strict and building codes demand more than health and safe buildings.

* Another reason it is hard for young adults to get started in life is student loans. Too many academically able young people don't go to college, or don't finish college, because the cost of higher education deters them. We need better financial aid for people academically able to benefit from it, and should be admitting fewer people who are doomed to fail to higher education.

* We pay far too much for health care, but we don't have universal coverage and our population wide outcomes are poor. We have declining life expectancies and people are getting shorter, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. To a great extent this is because market failures pay medical industry providers of all kinds too much, and because we lack the political will to adopt the universal health care systems found in every other developed and not so developed country.

* I am sick and tired of a nation where we make bad decisions because we have a democracy, a huge share of our citizens are deeply disconnected from reality, and opportunistic demagogues cultivate their ignorance and fear and hate. Honestly, I really have no idea how to solve this, although holding their craven and criminal leaders and activists accountable when they engage in wrongdoing and defraud people would be a good start.

* I am frustrated with people who continue to advocate for more surface warships and tanks despite their clear extreme vulnerability, with people advocating for obsolete amphibious invasion forces, with Air Force planners who disregard their logistics and close air support duties, and with military planners who resist including unmanned systems in our military.

* I am mildly irritated that roughly three federal government agencies are preventing the fax machine from being retired.

* I am irritated at the uncomfortable, poor service, luggage issues, and unreliable schedules that commercial air travel has devolved into.

* I am mildly irritated at two-factor authentication, absurdly inhuman passwords, and voice mail.

* I am annoyed at how badly DeJoy has mismanaged and degraded the U.S. Postal Service.

* I am depressed at the demise of Roe v. Wade and the cruelty that this has spawned.

* I'm frustrated that we can't seem to adopt a public health approach to the opioid epidemic, resist fully legalizing marijuana, and think that making psychoactive drugs illegal is the solution.

* I'm frustrated that we aren't more vigorously supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, when decisive support could make a difference.

* I'm frustrated that we aren't taxing the rich and big businesses enough, while enduring some bad tax policies from the Trump era. We need to increase corporate tax rates, integrate individual and corporate taxes better, end gimmicks like the pass through entity tax break, tax capital gains more heavily, close tax loopholes, restore the casualty loss and cost of earning income deductions, abolish a lot of ineffectual tax credits, and end subsidies for fossil fuels.

* I'm frustrated that insurrectionist and secessionist Republican politicians aren't punished and shut down more vigorously. Politicians who defy the law should see swift, certain, and catastrophic consequences.

* I'm depressed at how bad the U.S. is at getting people vaccinated against COVID and everything else. We need to make spreading disinformation more costly.

* I'm sick of how poorly we treat immigrants. We need to welcome more immigrants, legalize immigrants who are here, and make the path to citizenship easier.

* I'm tired of how we neglect poor children and struggling single moms and families. We need a better social safety net. And we need a solution to men who aren't that smart and can't find a place for themselves in our modern economy.

* I am outraged at how bad our country is at correcting wrongful criminal convictions. This process could be vastly improved.

* I'm am frustrated that our courts are too slow because they are understaffed and have procedures that our slow and expensive and unfriendly to people who can't afford expensive lawyers. Simply hiring more judges and providing independent limited practice legal professionals would go a long way toward improving the situation.

* I am tired of our nation spending way to much money to subsidize a non-Northeast Corridor passenger rail system that performs worse than it did in the 1950s and undermines decent intercity bus service.

* We need to resist and shame book banners.

* I am livid at the scapegoating of transgender people we are seeing these days.

* We need to end the power of individual Senators and minorities of Senators to block popular legislation.

* We need a less extremist Supreme Court to bring about real justice.

* Puerto Rico needs to get in a position to choose between independence and statehood, with no middle ground.

* D.C. needs to have equitable representation in Congress.

* The President should be directly elected.

* First past the post voting should be replaced by either a majority to win requirement with runoff elections, or instant runoff voting, in single member districts, to reduce anti-third party spoiler effects.

* I am depressed at how much worse Ohio and Florida have become.

* I am baffled and sad about how many people support Trump despite his painfully obvious and well known profound flaws.

* I am concerned about the geopolitical impact and militancy of Russia, Iran and it proxies, and North Korea.

* I am concerned about the rise of political violence and threats of political violence as a tactic in the United States.

Good stuff

* We are doing an excellent job of reducing coal consumption.

* We are doing a good job of increasing wind and solar power supplies.

* We are energy independent and doing a decent job of replacing petroleum fueled vehicles with electric vehicles and other green alternatives. 

* Slowly, but surely, we are recycling more, wasting less, and composting more.

* We are slowly starting to build higher speed rail and improve higher speed rail in places where it makes sense.

* I am in awe that videoconferencing is now cheap and commonplace.

* The range of music and video we can access via inexpensive streaming services is amazing.

* I like the ability that social media provides to stay in touch with more distant family and friends from my past that I would otherwise have lost touch with.

* I am delighted to see our society rapidly becoming less religious.

* I am glad that we have the legal protections for gay rights that we've secured.

* I like the fact that groceries, household goods, and clothes are far cheaper than they used to be.

* I'm glad to be living in an era when scientific inquiry and research are vigorous.

* I am glad that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact Eastern European alliance collapsed.

* I am glad that Russia has suffered massive losses in the Ukraine war that undermine its ability to make war with other countries.

* I am glad that China has taken a more capitalist course and has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of deep poverty.

* I am glad that overpopulation of the planet is no longer a real worry.

* I am glad that wages are way up for lower income workers in Denver.

* I am glad that pro soccer finally got big.

* I am amazed at what computers and the Internet can do now.

* I'm glad that we're making progress in removing lead from pipes, and have already removed it from almost everything else.

* I'm impressed by the great variety of foods, both in grocery stores and in restaurants, that are available to us, and I'm a fan of the surge in food trucks.

* I'm pleased to see xeriscaping go mainstream.

* I'm glad that hunting is in a steep decline and that the wolves are being reintroduced.

* I'm glad that a smaller percentage of households own guns.

* I'm glad that rural areas are depopulating, and that our society is continuing to become more urban.

* I'm glad that supersonic commercial flights are soon to return.

* I feel good about the surge in the extent to which people can work remotely.

* I think its good that Plan B and Narcan are now available over the counter.

* I feel good about the strengthening YIMBY movement.

* I am glad that Colorado has gotten a lot more liberal, and that the state of Georgia seems to be heading in that direction.

* I am cautiously optimistic that junk robocalls are becoming less common.

* I think noise cancellation technology is cool.

* I don't miss landline home phones.

* I prefer electronic payments to paying for things by checks sent in the mail.

* It is good that marriage as an institution is strengthening among college educated couples.

* It is good that teen pregnancies are less common.

* It is good that many kinds of crime are still near record lows.

* It is good that fewer people are dropping out of high school.

* It is good that Florida Governor DeSantis is finally seeing his political star fall.

* It is good that bad cops are being held accountable more often.

* It is good that interracial marriage and dating is on the rise.

* It is good that roundabouts are being used more widely.

* It is good that Denver has a much more robust passenger rail system than it did when I moved here.

* It is good that Colorado has gotten some respite from a 1200 year plus drought.

* It is good that we know what causes M.S.

30 January 2024

The Business Cycle And Me

As an attorney, I have a practice that is a mix of litigation and transactional work. The exact proportions of each vary cyclically, and tend to be lagging indicators of the economy as a whole by a few months.

A few months after a recession starts, I start to get more litigation, mostly commercial, corporate, and real estate related, but also high net worth divorces, as people sue each other when business deals collapse and financial tensions in marriages grow.

A few months into an economic boom, in contrast, I start to get more transactional work, from business and real estate deals to business formation, and also more estate planning.

Right now, I'm seeing a noticeable shift away from litigation work (although I still have plenty of it persisting from when that was at its peak) towards new transactional work. 

This is consistent with the U.S. and Colorado economies that have been strong for a while, with the lag finally catching up to my work load. 

29 January 2024

Most Palestinians Support The October 7 Attack

Most Palestinians think Hamas did the right thing in launching the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel, even in Gaza, which this attack has unleashed catastrophic counterattacks on them. 57% of respondents in Gaza and 82% in the West Bank believe Hamas was correct in launching the October attack (Source).

28 January 2024

An Anti-Drone Warfare Idea

A Chinese language movie clip reel (it isn't entirely clear if this is in China, Taiwan, Singapore, or even somewhere else) depicts an interesting paramilitary response to a attack by insurgents or organized criminals on a festival of unsuspecting civilians with a small swarm of armed quadcopters (it isn't entirely clear, but they seem to be bomb carrying kamikaze drones). 

The paramilitary forces of the authorities deploy a squadron of slow moving ultralight aircraft with crews of two paramilitary soldiers each to scoop up the drones with what looks like parachute cloth nets at the end of poles, similar to the nets on poles that would be used in fishing.

As an aside, there are apparently lots of Chinese language movies these days depicting Chinese soldiers and/or paramilitaries in foreign deployed military missions or SWAT team style operations. But these movies almost never reach U.S. movie theaters, TV channels, or streaming services, so this little sub-genre is below the radar for American observers.

Of course, American movies and TV depict these kinds of situations all the time with American and/or European protagonists.

What makes this notable is that neither the People's Republic of China, nor Taiwan, nor Singapore, have engaged in any meaningful expeditionary military actions or foreign wars. Likewise, there haven't been meaningfully armed insurgent movements requiring paramilitary grade responses for more than 40 years (and these shows are generally set in the present).

Some of this is no doubt drive by pent up demand for dopamine surging action shows that a Chinese audience can related to (and, it seems like, at first, this high violence action genre for Chinese audiences started with science fiction and World War II or earlier settings). But, the People's Republic of China, at least, has a media sector that is pervasively subject to censorship and context regulation driven by Communist Party propaganda agendas. So, it is possible to read an agenda to prepare their Chinese audiences to be more receptive to the involvement of Chinese troops in foreign wars, and to robust paramilitary responses to any insurgencies that could arise (or perhaps to create a perception that it would be futile to try to do so).

25 January 2024

2024 Presidential Election Horse Race Redux

The anticipated outcomes of the 2024 Presidential election, assuming that the contest is between Biden and Trump in the general election.

Biden and Trump are in a statistical tie in battleground state and national polling. Major health events for either candidate, a conviction of Trump for a felony in one of the four criminal cases he's facing, a SCOTUS decision holding that Trump is not eligible to serve as President because he is an insurrectionist, and changing perceptions of the national economy as the election gets closer, could all profoundly influence the current status quo.

Biden starts the general election with 226 likely votes in the Electoral College and Trump with 235. To get to the 270 needed for victory, one of them will have to harvest some of the 77 votes up for grab in half a dozen states (shown with the number of EVs of each): Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Michigan (15), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (19), and Wisconsin (10).

Biden needs 44 of those electoral votes (3-5 of the six states depending upon which ones) to win. Trump needs 35 of those electoral votes (2-4 of those states, depending upon which ones) to win. If they each get 269 electoral votes, which is very possible, a contingent election in Congress resolved the Presidential race, and Trump probably wins in that forum, where each state gets a single vote (if a majority of that state's delegation can support a single candidate).

Biden won all six of these states running against Trump in 2020. Trump won all of these six states except Nevada in 2016, running against Hillary Clinton.

Michigan has a blue trifecta at the state level and both of its U.S. Senators are Democrats. Georgia has a red trifecta at the state level but elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.

In Arizona and Wisconsin Republicans control the state legislature but have Democratic Governors. Wisconsin has one U.S. Senator from each party. In Arizona, both of their U.S. Senators were elected as Democrats although Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party despite the fact that she still caucuses with the Democrats.

In Nevada, Democrats control the state legislature and both of its U.S. Senate seats, but there is a Republican Governor.

In Pennsylvania, both U.S. Senators and their Governor are Democrats and Democrats control the state house, but Republicans control the state senate.

Of course, other states where one candidate or the other is shown as likely to win, could defy expectations.

A One Time Anti-Aging Drug Works Wonders In Mice

A single shot of a treatment already approved in humans as a cancer treatment can dramatically extend the lives of mice, dramatically reducing age associated ailments, without significant side effects.

Scientists have found a way to reprogram T cells to fight aging. After using them to eliminate specific cells in mice, the scientists discovered they lived healthier lives and didn't develop aging-associated conditions like obesity and diabetes. Just one dose provided young mice with lifelong benefits and rejuvenated older mice. . . .

They discovered CAR T cells could be manipulated to eliminate senescent cells in mice. As a result, the mice ended up living healthier lives. They had lower body weight, improved metabolism and glucose tolerance, and increased physical activity.

All benefits came without any tissue damage or toxicity.

"If we give it to aged mice, they rejuvenate. If we give it to young mice, they age slower. No other therapy right now can do this, " says Amor Vegas.

Perhaps the greatest power of CAR T cells is their longevity.

The team found that just one dose at a young age can have lifelong effectsThat single treatment can protect against conditions that commonly occur later in life, like obesity and diabetes.
. . .

CAR T cells have been used to treat a variety of blood cancers, receiving FDA approval for this purpose in 2017.

From Science Daily, citing:

Corina Amor, et al., "Prophylactic and long-lasting efficacy of senolytic CAR T cells against age-related metabolic dysfunction." Nature Aging (2024) DOI: 10.1038/s43587-023-00560-5.

24 January 2024


TFR = total fertility rate. 

TFR is basically the average number of children per lifetime per woman in a population, but statistically modified so that it uses the current birthrate at each age that a woman could have children. So, for example, it uses the 2023 birthrate of 24 years olds, plus the 2023 birthrate for 25 years olds, plus the 2023 birthrate for 26 year olds, etc. 

The long term trend of a place's population (ignoring immigration and emigration) is stable when the TFR is 2.1 (it is 2.1 rather than 2.0, because about 5% of people die before having children, and because slightly more boys are born than girls). Below that, the population is on a path towards decline. Above that, the population is on a path towards "natural growth."  TFR is, roughly speaking, a highly accurate and data based 25 year forecast of the non-immigration based population change (since that is the age range over which the vast majority of women have children) in a place.

The actual change in population depends upon the ages of the women in the country, the current death rate (eventually 100% of people die and the vast majority die after having had all of their kids, so death rates don't impact TFR much), and immigration/emigration. 

Seoul, South Korea has the lowest TFR in the world at about 0.6. It can get up above 8 in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and Afghanistan. A few decades ago, the U.S. was close to 2.1. Now, every U.S. state has a TFR below 2.

The New Hampshire Primary

The Republicans

New Hampshire voters in the Republican Primary identified themselves as moderate by a 3-to-1 margin. Moderates did favor Haley over Trump, but only about 55% of them favored Haley in a one on one contest with Trump.

Then again, who are we kidding?

Getting 43% of the vote is amazing for a woman, who isn't white, and has recent immigrant origins, in the political party known for is misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. Haley can also expect a decent showing in the upcoming South Carolina primary, her home state where she is the Governor.

Haley had a 3rd place finish in Iowa with just under 20% of the caucus support (a nose behind Florida Governor DeSantis who won just over 20% and then endorsed Trump).

Trump got a little over 50% of the caucus support in Iowa and didn't break 55% in New Hampshire. This isn't much of a bump from DeSantis dropping out of the race and endorsing Trump, even though New Hampshire is a more moderate electorate than Iowa, not least because the New Hampshire primary is open to unaffiliated voters. Almost half of Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary voters in the Republican contest were willing to break with clear front runner Donald Trump, which isn't nothing, and it wouldn't be stunning if Haley could secure a thin majority in her home state (she is probably staying in the race, unlike DeSantis, in part, for just that reason).

Keep in mind that there are lots of ways that Trump could implode before the Republican National Committee selected it's party's Presidential nominee this summer.

While it is more likely than not that the U.S. Supreme Court will hold that he can't be kept off the ballot as an insurrectionist under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as the Colorado Supreme Court held, the legal argument that SCOTUS should affirm the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling is strong on the merits, and there are institutional reasons that it would make sense for it to do so.

Trump is currently facing four criminal felony prosecutions on 92 very solid felony charges, each of which is currently scheduled to go to trial before the 2024 general election. Polling has indicated that his support from unaffiliated voters and GOP moderates will fall enough to cost him the election, in a race that is currently polling as close to a statistical tie, if he is convicted of a felony in any of them. And, there won't be time for him to get any felony conviction reversed on appeal before the election, even if a reversal on appeal is a possibility.

Finally, Trump is 77 years old, is morbidly obese (despite obvious lies about his weight which his physicians have colluded in), which makes the possibility of his death or a disability which prevents him from running or serving as President statistically pretty likely.

Furthermore, within the last month or so, Trump hit new lows of incoherence in some of his campaign speeches, confusing Republican Presidential candidate Nikki Haley for former Democratic Party Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, calling for former President Obama to resign from the Presidency, and so on. While Trump is known for his confused word salad speeches that are only dimly connected to reality, there is a real possibility that his cognitive health has taken another big slide sometime in the past few weeks, and that it could slide into the intolerable zone before the Republican National Convention this summer.

As the only serious challenger to Trump for the Republican Presidential nomination, if Trump does implode prior to the RNC, Nikki Haley is well positioned to reap the benefit of that and become her party's nominee. There is also a long tradition in both political parties of naming one of the strongest challengers to the nominee at the RNC as the winner's Vice Presidential candidate. And, this year's Republican VP candidate will be especially relevant. If Trump implodes after the RNC but before the election, the RNC chosen VP will be his natural replacement. And, as a 77 year old man with serious physical and cognitive health problems, the probability that Trump won't be able to finish his second term as President if he is elected is significant.

Unless and until Trump names another running mate in his 2024 Presidential campaign (and he certainly won't be naming Cheney again), Haley is the third most likely person in the world to be President at some point from early January of 2025 to early January of 2029. She's less likely to be President than either Biden or Trump, but more likely than Kamala Harris and more likely than anyone else Biden might name as his running mate this summer (although I'd be surprised if he chose a different VP candidate this time). And, of course, at 81 years of age, the probability that Biden will die before he starts his second term of office, or if he is re-elected, during his second term of office, is also not negligible, even though it seems to me that Biden is less likely to suffer a sudden collapse in his physical or cognitive health in that time frame than Trump, despite being four years older and showing signs of deterioration in his old age himself.

The Democrats

Biden's two-thirds of the primary vote (with almost all of the 19% of the vote not yet counted being write-in ballots for Biden, it will probably be Biden 72%, Phillips 15%, and Williamson 3%, by the time all of the votes are counted) wasn't so bad given that he wasn't on the ballot and was merely a write in candidate, unlike 21 other candidates with absolute no chance of winning the Democratic Party nomination.

You have to feel a little bad for the 17ish people in the Democratic Party primary who thought maybe they were serious candidates, and got less than the 0.6% of "Vermin Supreme" (who secured about 666 votes).

No delegates were awarded in New Hampshire's Democratic primary because they refused to accept the second in the nation timing that the DNC gave them behind South Carolina. Democrats in Iowa complied with the DNC mandate.

Dean Phillips, a Democratic Congressman from Minnesota, as the second place finisher in New Hampshire's no delegate Democratic primary (the first Democratic race held in the 2024 primary season, even if it is really only a straw poll), probably deserves a little mention. I actually have a cousin who lives in his western Twin Cities area district.

His background is as a businessman in his family's liquor business (of which he was made CEO upon earning his MBA in 2000 at the age of 31) and running a two location coffee shop chain he founded in 2016, and a gelato product line. He is one of the wealthiest members of Congress with a net worth of about $77 million. He is a 54 year old white man and a Brown University graduate with a University of Minnesota MBA, whose father died in Vietnam when he was six months old after which he was adopted by his wealthy stepfather. He has generally supported President Biden's party line, backs Medicare for All, and is a bit more liberal than the average Democrat in Congress.
First elected in 2018, Phillips defeated six-term Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen. By flipping the previously Republican district, he became the first Democrat to win the seat since 1958. He has since been reelected twice.

In Congress, he is on the Committee on Foreign Affairs (where he is the ranking member on the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia Subcommittee) and the Committee on Small Business. He is a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus, the New Democrat Coalition, and the Problem Solver's Caucus.

Honestly, but for the fact that the Democrats have an incumbent President running for re-election, he'd be fine Presidential nominee. Indeed, he'd probably be a significantly better President than a re-elected President Biden.

The same cannot be said of third-place Democratic New Hampshire primary finisher Marianne Williamson, a nice person and New Age-ish former Unity Church pastor raised Jewish, and non-profit director from Texas, who simply put, doesn't have the experience or competence to be President and didn't even run on the Democratic Party ticket in a failed 2014 Congressional candidacy in California.

23 January 2024

Metric Meters And Seconds

The speed of light is, by the current definition of the meter, 299,792,458 m/s. The second, in turn, is currently defined in terms of the rate of radioactive decay of a certain isotope of an unstable atom. Specifically:
The second [...] is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the caesium frequency, ΔνCs, the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the caesium 133 atom, to be 9192631770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s−1.

The second was originally based upon 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day on Earth. The new definitions, however, are independent of the properties of planet Earth.


The metre was originally defined in 1791 by the French National Assembly as one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the North Pole along a great circle, so the Earth's polar circumference is approximately 40000 km. . . . today Earth's polar circumference measures 40007.863 km, a change of 0.022% from the original value of exactly 40000 km, which also includes improvements in the accuracy of measuring the circumference.

If the original definition of the meter from 1791 had been carried through to the currently accurately measured distance from the North Pole to the Equator, then the speed of light would have been: 299,858,412.340 76 m/s, about 0.05% less than the nice round number of 300,000,000 m/s.

It would have be nice if the definition of the meter could have been changed to make the speed of light 300,000,000 m/s (which would be a meter that is is 0.0691806666667% longer than the current definition), or better yet, 100,000,000 new meters/s which would be 33333.3333 old mm per per new meter (about 13.12 Imperial inches). But the speed of light wasn't possible to measure until the length of the meter had been established to high precision, and the slight adjustments to precision metric measurements weren't deemed worth the numerological convenience by the time that the speed of light started to be used to define the meter.

A 300,000,000 m/s speed of light would slightly increase the size of the kilogram (by a fraction of a gram) which was originally based upon the mass of 1000 cubic centimeters of water at room temperature at sea level air pressure.

It would also slightly tweak the electromagnetic units that were originally based upon interactions that are a function of the meter.

Incidentally, the Imperial system of length measurement is defined in terms of the metric system, with one Imperial inch equal to exactly 25.4 mm, and all other Imperial length measurements flowing from that definition.

19 January 2024

Racists Tend To Be Unsuccessful Whites

In the U.S., anti-black racism from whites flows from a desire to be superior to someone when they know they have low status relative to other whites.
Despite the persistence of anti-Black racism, White Americans report feeling worse off than Black Americans. We suggest that some White Americans may report low well-being despite high group-level status because of perceptions that they are falling behind their in-group. Using census-based quota sampling, we measured status comparisons and health among Black (N = 452, Wave 1) and White (N = 439, Wave 1) American adults over a period of 6 to 7 weeks. We found that Black and White Americans tended to make status comparisons within their own racial groups and that most Black participants felt better off than their racial group, whereas most White participants felt worse off than their racial group. Moreover, we found that White Americans’ perceptions of falling behind “most White people” predicted fewer positive emotions at a subsequent time, which predicted worse sleep quality and depressive symptoms in the future. Subjective within-group status did not have the same consequences among Black participants.