Friday, July 10, 2020

THe Incommensurability of American Politics, 2020

Alisdair MacIntyre writes about "incommensurability." The concept comes from the philosophy of science, as a way of talking about rival theories or paradigms.There incommensurability is "the inability to express or comprehend one conceptual scheme, such as Aristotelian physics, in terms of another, such as Newtonian physics. It's as if one group speaks one language--say French--and another speaks an entirely different one--say Mandarin.

Recently philosophers have extended the concept to values. I keep coming back to C. S. Lewis' analogy in Mere Christianity of morality as a fleet of ships. Each ship has to be seaworthy (character); the ships have to sail as a fleet, not crashing into each other (social ethics); and ultimately, the fleet has a destination--(the Good, or the Good Life.)

Alisdair MacIntyre's "Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry" is a study of what happens when conceptual schemes clash--when the ships have two different destinations.

IMO, the fleet that was America has finally split and is going in (at least) two different directions. They have two rival conceptions of the Good/Good Life. His Stable Genius and his Republican enablers have one conception that is based on self-interest. Then there are others whose conception includes the common good. These two fleets have two different destinations. I am tempted to wonder if they are not hell and heaven.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

George Jellinek, "The Vocal Scene"

As a young adult, I often tuned in to George Jellinek's radio program, "The Vocal Scene." With a gentle Hungarian voice , he would feature various artists, operas and art songs. How I wish we could hear reruns!

YOu can still hear a few of his shows on a WQXR website,

Monday, June 29, 2020

Metropolitan Anthony Bloom on Love, Suffering and Death

'Whenever we move from this concern about men onto concerns about things, we make things – it may be ideals, ideologies, world outlooks – into an idol, and there is no idol that doesn't claim blood, and blood is always human blood. It will always be men, and women, and children, who will have to pay the cost of it.'
"Death is really, with its sharpness, and its finality, the test of your readiness to love. I feel the great mistake which a Christian can make,,,is to love himself, to think,and consequently to feel, that with the best of a person things have come to an end. If we really believe what is our Christian faith, that God is a God of the living, that for him and in him everyone is alive, that there is a future which is eternity, then the death of the person is a moment--tragic, painful--of separation...

If a person is truly alive in God and so are you, there is a present and a future and not only a past, and instead of rehearsing the past to make the present more dark, one should face the present, which is a transitory separation, in the expectation of a future meeting, and not simply as wishful thinking, but as an active preparation for it, because in terms of love...if you have loved truly a person, if this life has been meaningful to you, the rest of your life can be marked by the life of the person who is now in God's keeping.

You may be on earth a continuation of all that was good and praiseworthy in the life of this person. You may be the undoing of all the wrong that was in the life of this person, so that this person can in a way continue to have a destiny on earth, because a day will come, thanks to you, what had been begun by this person will have been fulfilled and what had been done amiss might have been put right. And that is an active participation in the eternal destiny. And on the other hand, where our treasure is, there our heart is, and if we truly and earnestly believe that this person is alive, that we will meet, the death of a beloved person makes us already now citizen of the age to come. Not again, only in wishful thinking, but really."

SCBD commented:
Alas, too many people today forget that capitalism and consumerism are ideologies, too.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Masks: Protection or Political statements?

"Now This" is a biased news source, but these are real people and I expect they represent the beliefs of many Americans.  They believe His Stable Genius' opinion that people wear them as a political statement, showing their disapproval of him.

I cannot help but recall Jon Stewart's observations on Colbert's show: ""The mask is now the 'Don't Tread on Me' thing. It's a symbol of tyranny." [And yet, doctors ] "wear that in operating rooms, right? They do that not because they're listening to NPR... I just want to say to all those people, like, the next time you get an operation, you just say the doctor, 'You take that liberal bull$#!% somewhere else. You come in here with no covering, you don't wash those hands, and you stick them in my open wound, 'cause I'm an AMERICAN!"

Monday, June 15, 2020

WEALTH SHOWN TO SCALE: The 400 Richest Americans

A sobering exercise in understanding the disparity of wealth in the United States. Keep scrolling to the right to get a sense of the inequality.

Jeff Bezos may be insanely rich, but it is a drop in the ocean compared to the combined wealth of his peers. The 400 richest Americans own about $3 trillion, which is more than the bottom 60% percent of Americans.

A trillion dollars is such a large figure, that you might as well say "eleventy gajillion zillion dollars." So in this section, we will try to understand the scale of this figure by looking at what could be accomplished with various chunks of this wealth.

As we proceed, try to keep in mind: all of this wealth is controlled by a group so small, that they could fit on a single 747 airplane—with 260 seats left over.

400 richest Americans ($2.96 trillion)

As we proceed, try to keep in mind: all of this wealth is controlled by a group so small, that they could fit on a single 747 airplane—with 260 seats left over.

What could we do with 3% of this money?

Test Every American for Coronavirus

As of this writing, testing in the United States falls far short of what is needed to re-open the economy. By some estimates, sufficiently ramping up testing to around 30 million tests per week would cost around $100 billion total, or about 3% of the wealth currently controlled by the 400 richest Americans.

Wipe out malaria
Malaria is one of the worst infectious diseases ever visited on mankind, possibly killing more people than any other infectious disease in history. In the 20th century alone, malaria killed more people than the Black Death.

Coronavirus has shown us all the horrors of living with a deadly disease. Sadly, for much of the world, this horror was a constant feature of daily life even before coronavirus.
All of these deaths are preventable. Treating and preventing malaria is a well understood science, universally practiced in the developed world.

It is estimated that malaria could be globally eradicated by 2030 for a cost around $1.84 per at-risk person per year, or around $100 billion total. This would be around 3% of the wealth currently possessed by the 400 richest Americans.

Around 800 children will die of malaria today. A small group of super rich people could stop it for a sum of money so small that they would likely never even notice its absence. But they choose not to.

What could we do with 5% of this money?

Provide $1,200 to every American household.

The recent coronavirus stimulus was the largest ever passed by congress. It was financed entirely through deficit spending, which will be repaid by taxpayers for generations. The burden of repaying this debt could be erased in an instant with a tax on the super rich so small that they would not even feel it.

The wealth of 400 Americans could have financed the entire CARES act, including the corporate bailouts, expanded unemployment, and expanded testing—with nearly a trillion dollars left over. 
Instead, the American tax payer will be stuck with the bill.

What could we do with 5.7% of this money?

Lift every American out of poverty.

As of 2019, around 38 million Americans lived in poverty. If Americans in poverty were a state, they would be second largest by population. There are more Americans living in poverty than the entire population of Canada. There are likely millions more newly impoverished as a result of coronavirus, but those numbers are not fully known yet.

Every single person in America could be lifted above the poverty line with a one-time cash subsidy of around $10,000 per impoverished family (and about $7,000 for impoverished individuals). The total cost would be $170 billion, a little over 5% of the wealth currently controlled by 400 individuals.
It may seem counter intuitive that a one-time subsidy could have any lasting impact on chronic poverty. But one of the surprising truths about poverty is that it's fluid. Americans move in and out of poverty many times throughout their lives, and one good year can have a massive and long lasting effect.

A wealth of data now supports the idea that one-time cash transfers can permanently transform a local economy. Given a sudden windfall, people invest in their future. They go back to school, obtain transportation, pay for childcare, pay down debilitating debts, and do any number of things to improve their career prospects and financial future.

permanently transform a local economy. Given a sudden windfall, people invest in their future. They go back to school, obtain transportation, pay for childcare, pay down debilitating debts, and do any number of things to improve their career prospects and financial future.

In the US, for all of the people that escape poverty in any given year, about half stay out of poverty for at least five years afterwards. About a third are still out of poverty ten years l This would not be a permanent fix for all Americans. Surely, some would quickly return to poverty, and others face debts so large that the subsidy would make little difference. But for tens of millions of Americans, this would be a life changing event. It would be a generation defining social program that reshapes our economy for decades to come.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

"Could American Evangelicals Spot the Antichrist?"

  An oldie but goodie. There have been many antichrists; will the people of God remain faithful, and firmly “resist” this one?
Benjamin Corey asks,

"Could American Evangelicals Spot the Antichrist? Here Are the Biblical Predictions"


Want to help end racism? Get rid of the Electoral College!

Friends, we have an opportunity to change America, and one of the most powerful ways to do that is by voting. However, as long as the Electoral College persists, that way will be throttled for many Americans. The EC was originally created to appease Southern slave holders. Today it stands as a way for whites to suppress POC. If we hope to move our country toward greater equality and freedom, we need to dispense with this relic of the 18th century which perpetuates institutional racism.

I recently engaged in a FB discussion with someone who defended the EC by posting a video from Prager "University." Below is my response to that video (Prager's content is in quotes.)
PRAGER: "Why do we need the electoral college? the answer is critical to not only understanding the electoral college, but also America."

BETH:Yep. You can't understand America apart from slavery and racism, which were the reasons why the founders instituted the EC.

PRAGER: "The founders had no intention of creating a pure, majority rule democracy."

BETH: Correct.

Virginia emerged as the big winner—the California of the Founding era—with 12 out of a total of 91 electoral votes allocated by the Philadelphia Constitution, more than a quarter of the 46 needed to win an election in the first round. After the 1800 census, Wilson’s free state of Pennsylvania had 10% more free persons than Virginia, but got 20% fewer electoral votes. Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.

If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.

Southerner Thomas Jefferson, for example, won the election of 1800-01 against Northerner John Adams in a race where the slavery-skew of the electoral college was the decisive margin of victory: without the extra electoral college votes generated by slavery, the mostly southern states that supported Jefferson would not have sufficed to give him a majority. As pointed observers remarked at the time, Thomas Jefferson metaphorically rode into the executive mansion on the backs of slaves.

The 1796 contest between Adams and Jefferson had featured an even sharper division between northern states and southern states. Thus, at the time the Twelfth Amendment tinkered with the Electoral College system rather than tossing it, the system’s pro-slavery bias was hardly a secret. Indeed, in the floor debate over the amendment in late 1803, Massachusetts Congressman Samuel Thatcher complained that “The representation of slaves adds thirteen members to this House in the present Congress, and eighteen Electors of President and Vice President at the next election.” But Thatcher’s complaint went unredressed. Once again, the North caved to the South by refusing to insist on direct national election.

In light of this more complete (if less flattering) account of the electoral college in the late 18th and early 19th century, Americans should ask themselves whether we want to maintain this odd—dare I say peculiar?—institution in the 21st century.>

PRAGER: "They knew from careful study of history that pure democracies never worked."

BETH: Yeah, they must not have known about the Swiss
Good thing they didn't, or we would have wound up imploded like the way Switzerland is today! 🤪

PRAGER: "In a pure democracy, bare majorities can easily tyrannize the rest of the country." Oh dear. We wouldn't want that! It's far better that minorities tyrannize the rest of the country!

BETH: The EC is NOT why we have three branches of government. The reason we have (or had, until 2016) separation of powers is because the founders read Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, who had a dim view of political anthropology, and so championed the idea.

PRAGER: "The system encourages coalition-building."

BETH: Really? Then you'd expect that the country would be less divided, rather than more divided given that the last two elections where the EC ignored the popular vote. And if the founders were so interested in coaliton building, why didn't they institute a parliamentary democracy, which would have allowed more parties, and more potential for coalitions?

PRAGER: "In order to win, a candidate must have the support of many different types of voters, from all different parts of the country."

BETH: Oh, so His Stable Genius won the EC because the west coast, New England, MN, IL, NM, CO and VA aren't "different enough," You can win 270 EC votes as long as you don't count those parts of the country.

PRAGER: "If winning were only about getting the most votes, a candidate might concentrate all of his efforts in the biggest cities, or the biggest political party can ignore any state for too long without suffering the consequences."

BETH: Oh right. That's why candidates always spend as much time in AK, DE,WY, MT, SD and ND as in CA, TX, NY, FL, IL and PA! 🤪
(The six states with the most electors are California (55), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), and Pennsylvania (20). The District of Columbia and the seven least populous states — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming — have three electors each.)

PRAGER: "every voter in every state is important."

BETH: Really? If that were true, then why is Prager U so afraid to trust the voters, and have a popular democracy?

PRAGER: "Without the EC, any vote stolen in any precinct in the country could affect the national outcome!"

BETH: Thank goodness we can thank the EC for delivering us from the Russians meddling in the 2016 election! 🤪🤪🤪🤪
And isn't it remarkable how other parliamentary democracies seem to function without an EC?

PRAGER: "It discourages voter fraud."

BETH: Conservatives like to press the fear button about "voter fraud," but in actuality, it is a way of preserving the votes of whites and making it more difficult or impossible for POC to vote. .

Sorry, Prager U.  Racism is systemic, and the Electoral College  is simply perpetuating a racist institution.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice

Aug 13, 2017 · 15 min read

  1. Google whether your local police department currently outfits all on-duty police officers with a body-worn camera and requires that the body-worn camera be turned on immediately when officers respond to a police call. If they don’t, write to your city or town government representative and police chief to advocate for it. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter — This needs to be standard everywhere. Multiply your voice by soliciting others to advocate as well, writing on social media about it, writing op-eds, etc.
  2. Google whether your city or town currently employs evidence-based police de-escalation trainings. The racial make-up of your town doesn’t matter — This needs to be standard everywhere. Write to your city or town government representative and police chief and advocate for it. Multiply your voice by soliciting others to advocate as well, writing on social media about it, writing op-eds, etc.
  3. More and more stories of black folks encountering racism are being documented and shared through social media — whether it’s at a hotel, with the police, in a coffee shop, at a school, etc. When you see such a post, call the organization, company, or institution involved to tell them how upset you are. Then share the post along with the institution’s contact information, spreading the word about what happened and encouraging others to contact the institution as well. Whether the company initiated the event or failed to protect a POC during an onslaught by a third party, they need to hear from us.
  4. If you or a friend is an educator, buy said friend books that feature POC as protagonists and heroes, no matter the racial make-up of the class. A few good lists are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And/or purchase educational toys that feature POC, such as finger puppets, Black History Flashcards, etc for their classroom. Use these items year-round, not just in February. The racial make-up of students doesn’t matter — kids of every race need to know American history and be exposed to people from different races, religions, and countries. If the friend is interested, buy them for your pal’s classroom. Don’t be shy to ask Facebook friends that you haven’t actually talked to in ten years.
  5. If you or a friend or family member is an educator, watch or share this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson speaking about his experience as a black student telling people he wanted to be a scientist and astrophysicist. Tyson’s experience reminds me of a black friend whose high school teachers tried to dissuade her from taking AP classes, because, with the best of intentions, they thought the AP classes would be “too much” for her. Be an educator who supports and encourages, not one who dissuades. Talk to educators you know about being educators who support and encourage, not educators who dissuade.
  6. Work on ensuring that black educators are hired where black children are being taught. If you want to know more about why and how this makes a difference for black children, check out this episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. There are some really good nuggets in there about how schools can support the achievement of black students — from ensuring black students aren’t closed out of gifted programs by using test results instead of white teachers’ recommendations to the influence that having a black teacher has on a black student’s education to the importance to fostering a school ethos wherein black students think, “This school is here for me.”
  7. Many companies have recruiting channels that are predominantly white. Work with your HR department to recruit Americans who are descendants of enslaved Africans. Recruiting from HBCUs is a good start. Work to put descendants of enslaved Africans already hired under supportive managers.
  8. Donate to anti-white supremacy work such as your local Black Lives Matter Chapter, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, United Negro College Fund, Black Youth Project 100, Color of Change, The Sentencing Project, Families against Mandatory Minimums, A New Way of Life, and Dream Defenders. Join some of these list-serves and take action as their emails dictate.
  9. Support black businesses. Find them on WeBuyBlack, The Black Wallet, and Official Black Wall Street.
  10. Bank black. It doesn’t have to be all of your checking or savings. Opening up an account with some money is better than no account at all. You can use the link from #9 (type “banking” in the Category field) or this site to find a bank. At the very least, move some or all of your checking, savings, mortgage, etc out of Wells Fargo as a part of the divestment movement to protect Standing Rock.
  11. Don’t buy from companies that use prison labor. Find a good list here.
  12. Read up about mandatory minimum sentences and watch videos about this on Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM’s) website. FAMM’s website includes work being done at the federal level and state level. Call or write to your state legislators and governor about reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes.
  13. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Lee (R-UT)) Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 2850) which reduces the length of federal mandatory minimum drug sentences by half, makes the Fair Sentencing Act’s crack sentencing reforms retroactive, and expands the “safety valve” exception to mandatory drug sentences.
  14. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write to your federal legislators in support of the bipartisan (sponsored by Sen Rand (R-KY)) Justice Safety Valve Act (S. 399, H.R. 1097), which would allow judges to give sentences other than the mandatory minimum sentence for any federal crime.
  15. To reduce mandatory minimum sentences on a federal level, call or write your federal legislators in support of another great criminal justice reform bill, the Second Look Act, which would make reduced sentences for crack convictions from the previously passed Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, reduce mandatory minimums for people convicted more than three times for drug crimes from life without parole after the third offense to 25 years, reduce mandatory sentences for drug crimes from 15 to 10 years, limit the use of solitary confinement on juvenile prisoners, etc.
  16. Call or write to your state legislators and governor to support state-wide criminal justice reform including reducing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing sentences for non-violent drug crimes, passing “safety valve” law to allow judges to depart below a mandatory minimum sentence under certain conditions, passing alternatives to incarceration, etc. Study after study shows that racism fuels racial disparities in imprisonment, and most of the US prison population are at the state and local level.
  17. Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to decriminalize weed. No, not because black folks use weed more frequently than white folks. Because black Americans are arrested for marijuana possession far more frequently than whites.
  18. Call or write to state legislators to require racial impact statements be required for all criminal justice bills. Most states already require fiscal and environmental impact statements for certain legislation. Racial impact statements evaluate if a bill may create or exacerbate racial disparities should the bill become law. Check out the status of your state’s legislation surrounding these statements here.
  19. Find and join a local “white space” to learn more about and talk out the conscious and unconscious biases us white folks have. If there’s not a group in your area, start one.
  20. Join or start a Daughters of Abraham book club in your Church, mosque, or synagogue.
  21. Join your local Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group. There is a lot of awesome work going on locally — Get involved in the projects that speak to you.
  22. Do deep canvassing about race and racial justice. Many SURJ groups are organizing them, so many people can do it through your local SURJ group. If they’re not already doing it, start it.
  23. Research your local prosecutors. Prosecutors have a lot of power to give fair sentences or Draconian ones, influence a judge’s decision to set bail or not, etc. In the past election, a slew of fair-minded prosecutors were elected. We need more.
  24. Call or write to state legislators, federal legislators, and your governor to end solitary confinement in excess of 15 days. It is considered torture by the UN, and it is used more frequently on black and Hispanic prisoners. For more information on solitary, two good overviews can be found here and here.
  25. Watch 13th. Better yet, get a group of friends together and watch 13th.
  26. Watch The House I Live In. Or get a group of friends together and watch it.
  27. Read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article, The Case for Reparations. The US has already participated in reparations four times. Thank you to Clyanna Blyanna for suggesting this addition.
  28. Participate in reparations. One way is through this Facebook group. Remember reparations isn’t just monetary — share your time, skills, knowledge, connections, etc. Thank you to Clyanna Blyanna for suggesting this addition.
  29. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Better yet, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss.
  30. Read Caught by Marie Gottschalk. Better yet, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss.
  31. Read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Yep, get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss.
  32. Read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Thank you to Steve Senatori for suggesting this addition.
  33. Read Orange is the New Black. The information the author shares about the ease with which one can be charged with “conspiracy” to sell drugs, the damage done from long sentences that don’t fit the crime due to mandatory minimum sentencing, the ever-present threat of solitary confinement at a Correction Officer’s whim, and other specific harmful practices in the prison system are well done. Get a group of friends together to read it like a book club would — read, then discuss.
  34. Read The Color of Law. Get your friends on board reading it, too.
  35. Especially if you or a friend is an educator, read or share bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress.
  36. Read Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project.
  37. Buy books, choose TV shows and movies, and opt for toys for your kids, nieces, nephews, etc that show people from different races, religions, countries and that teach real American history. A few ideas: the books, toys, and flashcards from #4.
  38. Decolonize your bookshelf.
  39. Listen without ego and defensiveness to people of color. Truly listen. Don’t scroll past articles written by people of color — Read them.
  40. Don’t be silent about that racist joke. Silence is support.
  41. Follow @OsopePatrisse, @opalayo, @aliciagarza, @bellhooks, @Luvvie, @mharrisperry, @VanJones68, @ava, @thenewjimcrow, @Lavernecox, @deray, @thedididelgado, @TaNehisiCoats, Ally Henny on Facebook, and Lace on Race on Facebook. Follow them with the intention of listening and learning only. Pay lesser known activists like @thedididelgado here, Ally Henny here, and Lace on Race here for their teaching, time, and work.
  42. Follow Blavity, Madame Noir, The Root, and The Grio with a desire to learn and understand better the lives of black Americans.
  43. Find out how slavery, the Civil War, and the Jim Crow era are being taught in your local school. Advocate that history is taught correctly and certain parts are not skipped over or barely mentioned. Advocate that many voices be used in the study of history. Is the school teaching about post-Civil War convict leasing, the parent to our current mass incarceration system? Talking about slavery alone, is your school showing images such as Gordon’s scourged back, a slave ship hold, and an enslaved nurse holding her young master? Are explorers, scientists, politicians, etc who are POC discussed? Are male and female authors who are POC on reading lists? Are Japanese internment camps being discussed? Is history explained correctly in history books? As an example of a severe failure to teach the reality of slavery and its ramifications, check out image 1 and image 2 . There are a lot of great resources out there with a little googling, like PBS’s resources for teaching slavery, this POC Online Classroom blog, Teaching for Change, and The National Association for Multicultural Education.
  44. Arrange for cultural exchanges and cultural ambassadors in your local school’s classrooms. The International Classroom program at UPenn and People to People International are options. The Dept of Education has a good list. Cultural exchanges via the interwebs are very valuable. Actual human interaction between people from different races, religions, and countries (ie: cultural ambassadors) and students in the physical classroom is ideal.
  45. Seek out a diverse group of friends for your kids.
  46. Seek out a diverse group of friends for you. Practice real friendship and intimacy by listening when POC talk about their experiences and their perspectives. They’re speaking about their pain.
  47. Watch these videos to hear first hand accounts of what our black brothers and sisters live. Then read everyday people’s experiences through the hashtag #realizediwasblack. Share with others.
  48. Got people in your life who are black? Contribute to their kids’ college savings.
  49. Call or write to your national legislators, state legislators, and governor in favor of affirmative action. Encourage friends to do the same.
  50. Write to your college/university about implementing all or some of these diversity strategies that effectively promote racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity on campus. Write to the public universities your tax payer dollars support about implementing these diversity strategies.
  51. Recognize that in the same way saying “slavery is a necessary evil” (Thomas Jefferson’s words) was acceptable by many in 1820, the same way saying “separate but equal” was acceptable by many in 1940, choosing to not condemn white nationalism, the fact that black people are 2.7 times as likely to be killed by police than white people, the fact that unarmed black Americans are roughly five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer, that the fact the black imprisonment rate for drug offenses is about 5.8 times higher than it is for whites, etc are acts of overt racism in 2020.
  52. Write to the US Sentencing Commission ( and ask them to:
    — reform the career offender guideline to lessen the length of
    — change the guidelines so that more people get probation
    — change the criminal history guidelines so that a person’s
    criminal record counts against them less
    — change guidelines to reduce mandatory minimum
    sentences for non-violent crimes
    — conduct a study to review the impact of parental incarceration on minor children. With more data, the Commission could modify the Sentencing Guidelines and allow judges to take this factor into account when sentencing individuals for non-violent crimes.
    — conduct a study to review whether the Bureau of Prisons is following the Commission’s encouragement to file a motion for compassionate release whenever “extraordinary and compelling reasons” exist.
    — consider amending the guidelines to reduce sentences for first offenders.
  53. Read Van Jones’ short and to-the-point article about the racial biases of reporters. More examples are here. Check out this article discussing how media coverage of the opioid epidemic — which largely affects suburban and rural whites — portrays it as an outside threat and focuses on treatment and recovery, while stories of heroin in the 1970s, crack-cocaine in the 1980s, and other drug problems that impact urban people of color today have focused on the drug user’s morality. Keep an eye out for such biases, and use social media and direct communication to the media outlet to call them out when they occur.
  54. Donate to groups that are working to put women of color into elected office, to get out the vote, and to restore voting rights to disenfranchised voters.
  55. Know our American history. Watch Roots, 12 Years a Slave, Mississippi Burning, and Selma, to name a few.
  56. Check out black movies, TV, and other media that show POC as lead characters and in their full humanity. Queen Sugar, Insecure, Dear White People, The Carmichael Show, Blackish, Grownish, Atlanta, 2 Dope Queens, Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Get Out, Girls Trip, Mudbound, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, The Cloverfield Paradox, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, BlacKkKlansman, Little, If Beale Street Could Talk, Queen and Slim, PBS’ Great Performance of Much Ado about Nothing, youtube videos of Amber Says What, and Pose are a few. Share them with friends. In addition, if you can’t watch the whole video, watch 13:12 to 15:17 of this discussion about working in Hollywood when you’re not white.
  57. Know what indigenous land you’re living on by looking that this map and research the groups that occupied that land before you did. Find out what local activism those groups are doing and give your money and time to those efforts.
  58. When people say that Black Lives Matter is a violent/terrorist group, explain to them that there are fringe groups that are being misrepresented as part of BLM. If conservatives don’t want to be lumped in with the KKK, they can’t lump violent protesters in with BLM.
  59. When people ask, “Why aren't you talking about ‘black-on-black crime’?” and other myths about BLM, let Francesca Ramsey help you with those talking points.
  60. Stop shopping at Amazon and Whole Foods. They advertise on -that’s to say fund- white supremacist media.
  61. Be honest about our history. One genocide, another genocide, then apartheid. It sucks, but it’s true. We’ll never be free from our history unless we’re honest about it. Denial is our pathology, but the truth will set us free.
  62. If you have a close relationship with a young person of color, make sure he/she knows how much you love them. Love and affirm that child.
  63. Write to your city or town government representative to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day like these cities did.
  64. Donate to Standing Rock through the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
  65. Write to your city or town government representative to divest from banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, private prisons, and detention centers. Seattle and Davis, CA already did, as well as Los Angeles, and there are campaigns going on in many cities to divest. Start here:
  66. Personally divest your investments in private prisons and detention centers. Start here. Many people are divesting from Wells Fargo for their substantial role in Standing Rock and from private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S.
  67. Get your city/town, company, place or worship, etc to divest from private prisons and detention centers. Since the start of a national prison divestment campaign, cities like New York and Cincinnati, higher ed institutions, churches, and corporations have divested.
  68. Write to your state legislators to end cash bail. It means that a someone who is legally innocent is put in jail because they can’t afford bail. It means that a defendant can be released pre-trial because of their wealth, not how much of a flight risk they are. It puts more people in detention (which tax payers pay for) and affects a defendants’ ability to maintain employment, access mental and physical healthcare, and be in communication with their family and friends, etc. Housing the approximately 500,000 people in jail in the US awaiting trial who cannot afford bail costs US taxpayers $9 billion a year. Thank you to Elizabeth B. and Cynthia Astle for suggesting this addition.
  69. Support organized efforts to end of cash bail by donating to The Bail Project. Bail out a black mother through The National Bail Out. Thank you to Elizabeth B. and Cynthia Astle for suggesting this addition.
  70. Add attend town halls, candidate meet-and-greets, etc for political candidates and ask about ending mass incarceration, reducing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing or ending solitary confinement, decriminalizing weed, ending cash bail, divesting from private prisons, divesting from banks, divesting from banks that finance the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.
  71. Read this article about an overt white supremacist’s son’s journey to relinquish white supremacy and watch this video about Daryl Davis, a black man who gets KKK members to disavow by befriending them. For those you know who are overtly racist (see #51), think about ways you can create exposure for them to people who don’t look like them, share their religion, etc. Jane Elliott says, “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.” Frederick Douglass notes, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” It may be best to focus on children, adolescents, and young adults currently being raised by overtly racist parents. Maybe it’s tutoring them so they could get on a college track, encouraging them to study abroad, or turning them on to colleges where not everyone looks like them and shares their religion, etc. Maybe it’s spending time with them on some regularity and showing them the achievements and beauty of non-white cultures. Be creative.
  72. Talk to the white people you know who aren’t clearly upset by white supremacy. Use “I” statements and “I care” messages (“I feel [feeling] when you [behavior]”). They need to know you see a problem. Call them out, and call them in. As a start, ask them to watch the videos in #47. For people you know who’ve been radicalized by FOX News and other nationalist (not conservative) media, who’ve been so pummeled with fear and hatred of “the other” that they’ve become ISIS-like towards others, how can you and other family and friends guide them through conversation to show them that their actions are now in direct contrast with the values they feign to purport?
  73. A wise former teacher once said, “The question isn’t: Was the act racist or not? The question is: How much racism was in play?” So maybe racism was 3% of the motivation or 30% or 95%. Interrogate the question “How much racism was in play?” as you think about an incident. Share this idea with the people in your life when they ask, “Was that racist?”
  74. As a nod to #72, don’t become the monster, as you try to kill the monster. As Gloria Steinem says, “The ends don’t justify the means. The means are the ends.”
  75. Credit Black men and women. Kara Springer, a black woman artist, created the image/public art that begins this piece. It’s called A Small Matter of Engineering, Part II. Christian Campbell tweeted to ensure the art was attributed appropriately and correctly.

Risks of Covid-19 Infection for Various Activities

Remember the formula:
Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time

From Camping To Dining Out: Here's How Experts Rate The Risks Of 14 Summer Activities

(see article, )

1. A BYOB backyard gathering with one other household: low to medium risk

2. Eating indoors at a restaurant: medium to high risk

3. Attending a religious service indoors: high risk

4. Spending the day at a popular beach or pool: low risk (as long as you are socially distanced)

5. An outdoor celebration such as a wedding with more than 10 guests: medium to high risk

6. Using a public restroom: low to medium risk

7. Letting a friend use your bathroom: low risk

8. Going to a vacation house with another family: low risk

9. Staying at a hotel: low to medium risk

10. Getting a haircut: medium to high risk

11. Going shopping at a mall: risk varies

12. Going to a nightclub: high risk

13. Going camping: low risk

14. Exercising outdoors: low risk

  (Another excellent article, by Erin Bromage for the World Economic Forum COVID Action Forum:  

Coronavirus: Here’s how germs are spread and where you’re most likely to catch them

In order to get infected you need to get exposed to an infectious dose of the virus; based on infectious dose studies with other coronaviruses, it appears that only small doses may be needed for infection to take hold. Some experts estimate that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles are all that will be needed (ref 1, ref 2). Please note, this still needs to be determined experimentally, but we can use that number to demonstrate how infection can occur. Infection could occur, through 1000 infectious viral particles you receive in one breath or from one eye-rub, or 100 viral particles inhaled with each breath over 10 breaths, or 10 viral particles with 100 breaths. Each of these situations can lead to an infection.
How much Virus is released into the environment?
A Bathroom: Bathrooms have a lot of high touch surfaces, door handles, faucets, stall doors. So fomite transfer risk in this environment can be high. We still do not know whether a person releases infectious material in feces or just fragmented virus, but we do know that toilet flushing does aerosolize many droplets. Treat public bathrooms with extra caution (surface and air), until we know more about the risk.

A Cough: A single cough releases about 3,000 droplets and droplets travels at 50 miles per hour. Most droplets are large, and fall quickly (gravity), but many do stay in the air and can travel across a room in a few seconds.

A Sneeze: A single sneeze releases about 30,000 droplets, with droplets traveling at up to 200 miles per hour. Most droplets are small and travel great distances (easily across a room).

If a person is infected, the droplets in a single cough or sneeze may contain as many as 200,000,000 (two hundred million) virus particles which can all be dispersed into the environment around them.
A breath: A single breath releases 50 - 5000 droplets. Most of these droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. There are even fewer droplets released through nose-breathing.

Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled.

Unlike sneezing and coughing which release huge amounts of viral material, the respiratory droplets released from breathing only contain low levels of virus. We don't have a number for SARS-CoV2 yet, but we can use influenza as a guide. Studies have shown that a person infected with influenza can releases up to 33 infectious viral particles per minute. But I'm going to use 20 to keep the math simple.

Remember the formula: Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time
If a person coughs or sneezes, those 200,000,000 viral particles go everywhere. Some virus hangs in the air, some falls into surfaces, most falls to the ground. So if you are face-to-face with a person, having a conversation, and that person sneezes or coughs straight at you, it's pretty easy to see how it is possible to inhale 1,000 virus particles and become infected.

But even if that cough or sneeze was not directed at you, some infected droplets--the smallest of small--can hang in the air for a few minutes, filling every corner of a modest sized room with infectious viral particles. All you have to do is enter that room within a few minutes of the cough/sneeze and take a few breaths and you have potentially received enough virus to establish an infection.

But with general breathing, 20 viral particles minute into the environment, even if every virus ended up in your lungs (which is very unlikely), you would need 1000 viral particles divided by 20 per minute = 50 minutes.

Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold; ~200 virus particles per minute. Again, assuming every virus is inhaled, it would take ~5 minutes of speaking face-to-face to receive the required dose.

The exposure to virus x time formula is the basis of contact tracing. Anyone you spend greater than 10 minutes with in a face-to-face situation is potentially infected. Anyone who shares a space with you (say an office) for an extended period is potentially infected. This is also why it is critical for people who are symptomatic to stay home. Your sneezes and your coughs expel so much virus that you can infect a whole room of people.

What is the role of asymptomatic people in spreading the virus?
Symptomatic people are not the only way the virus is shed. We know that at least 44% of all infections--and the majority of community-acquired transmissions--occur from people without any symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people). You can be shedding the virus into the environment for up to 5 days before symptoms begin.

Indoor spaces, with limited air exchange or recycled air and lots of people, are concerning from a transmission standpoint. We know that 60 people in a volleyball court-sized room (choir) results in massive infections. Same situation with the restaurant and the call center. Social distancing guidelines don't hold in indoor spaces where you spend a lot of time, as people on the opposite side of the room were infected.

The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time. In all these cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a prolonged period (hours). Even if they were 50 feet away (choir or call center), even a low dose of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was enough to cause infection and in some cases, death.
Social distancing rules are really to protect you with brief exposures or outdoor exposures. In these situations there is not enough time to achieve the infectious viral load when you are standing 6 feet apart or where wind and the infinite outdoor space for viral dilution reduces viral load. The effects of sunlight, heat, and humidity on viral survival, all serve to minimize the risk to everyone when outside.

When assessing the risk of infection (via respiration) at the grocery store or mall, you need to consider the volume of the air space (very large), the number of people (restricted), how long people are spending in the store (workers - all day; customers - an hour). Taken together, for a person shopping: the low density, high air volume of the store, along with the restricted time you spend in the store, means that the opportunity to receive an infectious dose is low. But, for the store worker, the extended time they spend in the store provides a greater opportunity to receive the infectious dose and therefore the job becomes more risky.

Basically, as the work closures are loosened, and we start to venture out more, possibly even resuming in-office activities, you need to look at your environment and make judgments. How many people are here, how much airflow is there around me, and how long will I be in this environment. If you are in an open floorplan office, you really need to critically assess the risk (volume, people, and airflow). If you are in a job that requires face-to-face talking or even worse, yelling, you need to assess the risk.

If you are sitting in a well ventilated space, with few people, the risk is low.

If I am outside, and I walk past someone, remember it is “dose and time” needed for infection. You would have to be in their airstream for 5+ minutes for a chance of infection. While joggers may be releasing more virus due to deep breathing, remember the exposure time is also less due to their speed. Please do maintain physical distance, but the risk of infection in these scenarios are low. Here is a great article in Vox that discusses the low risk of running and cycling in detail.

While I have focused on respiratory exposure here, please don't forget surfaces. Those infected respiratory droplets land somewhere. Wash your hands often and stop touching your face!

As we are allowed to move around our communities more freely and be in contact with more people in more places more regularly, the risks to ourselves and our family are significant. Even if you are gung-ho for reopening and resuming business as usual, do your part and wear a mask to reduce what you release into the environment. It will help everyone, including your own business. This article was inspired by a piece written by Jonathan Kay in Quillete COVID-19 Superspreader Events in 28 Countries: Critical Patterns and Lessons.