More panic about blind spots

A lot of people are getting that sinking feeling, apparently.  Here's another NYT piece from someone who just noticed that you can find out a lot about what those "silent majority" voters think if you look at their unfashionable Facebook pages instead of spending all your time on Twitter.   (I won't link to the NYT, but you can find this article by searching for "What If Facebook Is the Real Silent Majority?" 

Listen, liberals. If you don’t think Donald Trump can get re-elected in November, you need to spend more time on Facebook.
They're just now learning that it can be frustrating to deal with a media machine hostile to one's own narrative:
Pro-Trump political influencers have spent years building a well-oiled media machine that swarms around every major news story, creating a torrent of viral commentary that reliably drowns out both the mainstream media and the liberal opposition.
The result is a kind of parallel media universe that left-of-center Facebook users may never encounter, but that has been stunningly effective in shaping its own version of reality. Inside the right-wing Facebook bubble, President Trump’s response to Covid-19 has been strong and effective, Joe Biden is barely capable of forming sentences, and Black Lives Matter is a dangerous group of violent looters.

Um, well, yeah. 

Maybe Mr. Trump’s “silent majority,” in other words, only seems silent because we’re not looking at their Facebook feeds.
“We live in two different countries right now,” said Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist and digital director of Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign. Facebook’s media ecosystem, he said, is “a huge blind spot for people who are up to speed on what’s on the front page of The New York Times and what’s leading the hour on CNN.”
The closing argument is that right-wingers have an unfair advantage in emotional engagement, and Facebook doesn't help censor them enough.

Chaser from the Atlantic:
After the 2016 election, the Times admitted that it had somehow missed the story, and it earnestly set about at self-correction. Like many other outlets, the paper sent reporters to talk to Americans who had put Trump in the White House. It was a new beat, almost a foreign bureau—heartland reporting—but that focus soon faded as the president’s daily depredations consumed the media’s attention. This election year, news organizations grown more activist might miss the story again, this time on principle—as they avoid stories that don’t support their preferred narrative. Trump supporters are hoping for it. . . . Nothing will harm a campaign like the wishful thinking, fearful hesitation, or sheer complacency that fails to address what voters can plainly see.
As Glenn Reynolds warns nearly every day, though, don't get cocky.

Yep, that would be the problem

The Guardian is starting to panic, too: 

But the right has a very clear message and they hammer it home with relentless force: the Democrats want lawless anarchy in the streets and destructive socialist economic policy, your children will not be safe. There will be mob rule, riots, looting. Immigrants will pour across the border. Anarchy and mayhem will take hold. The Republicans are the voice of our patriotic heroes, while Democrats want to tear down the Washington Monument, defund the police, and silence your political opinions with their “cancel culture”.
Of course, a great deal of this is utterly ridiculous, considering that the Democratic candidate is Joe Biden rather than Bernie Sanders. Those of us on the left certainly wish Biden would promise full socialism, amnesty for unauthorized immigrants, and prison abolition. But Biden won’t even support popular social democratic policies like Medicare for All, and by appointing controversial “top cop” Kamala Harris as his running mate, he’s doing anything but show support for “anarchists” and rioters. Biden is a conservative Democrat who supported the Iraq war and helped to build the contemporary system of mass incarceration, which is why those of us on the left are so deeply unenthused about having to drag ourselves to the polls for him.
. . . Trump’s message is a simple and powerful one: I love America, they hate America, I will create greatness, they will create poverty, violence and misery.

North Country Blues

News that President Trump is sweeping the Minnesota Iron Range brought to mind this song.

They complain in the East that they're paying too high;
They say that your ore ain't worth digging.
They'd rather go down to South American town
Where the miners work almost for nothing.

If that's not Trump, I don't know what is.  It's time for a realignment.

Made in the U.S.A.

 The Spectator didn't much like President Trump's acceptance speech, but I did:

Then he went for the jugular, ‘Joe Biden is not a savior of America’s soul,’ he said.
‘He is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of America’s greatness. For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue-collar workers, gave them hugs, and even kisses, and told them he felt their pain, and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship our jobs to China and many other distant lands.
‘Joe Biden spent his entire career outsourcing their dreams and the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars, wars that never ended.’
* * *
‘Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime… He has spent his entire career on the wrong side of history. Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted. He supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time. After those Biden calamities, the United States lost one in four manufacturing jobs. We laid off workers in Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and many other states. They did not want to hear Biden’s hollow words of empathy. They wanted their jobs back.’
. . . ‘Joe Biden’s agenda is Made in China. Mine is Made in the USA.’ Trump defended his record on COVID-19, widely seen as his weakest point in this election. He contrasted all his achievements with what he said Biden would do. He echoed the ‘Trojan horse for socialism’ theme which Mike Pence has touched on. Biden, he said, would not stand up to the ‘wild-eyed radicals’ and added that Biden would ‘abolish cash bail, immediately releasing 400,000 criminals onto the streets and into your neighborhoods. When asked if he supports cutting police funding, Joe Biden replied, “yes, absolutely“.’
Trump also pointed out that the Democrats had not mentioned ‘the rioters and criminals spreading mayhem in Democrat-run cities’ in their convention. ‘Now, they are starting to mention it because their poll numbers are going down like a rock in water,’ he added.

Pushing Back on the Narrative of Modern Systemic Racism

 A former infantryman and current electrical engineer takes on the narrative of modern systemic racism and white privilege.

Swing states

 This is a good 538 piece about red-blue swings in key states.

The New York Times gets the memo

Don Lemon let the cat out of the bag by complaining that the rioting was affecting the polling now, you guys, time to cut it out.  By the next day the memo clearly had gone out to practically everyone, because the messaging was disciplined and unified.  The New York Times made it official by running a piece that actually quotes moderate voters and attempts to explain their disgust with the collapse of law and order and the paralysis of leaders in its face.

I try not to link to the NYT, but you can read excerpts from it here at Powerline.

Backup Contact Info

I'd like to have a way to stay in touch with the regulars if the blog ever goes away, or if we ever decide to have a reunion party (Can it be a "re" union if we've never met?) or whatnot.

I'm putting a contact email in the comments for anyone else who is interested in staying in touch. Just send me an email and I'll add you to the list.

Laboratories of democracy

My messy local government spat over tax policy, debt, and voters' rights is still evolving.  To my amazement, the relatively non-functional county government managed to get its act together in time to put our proposed bond on the November ballot by the August 17 deadline, thus ensuring that (if we win voter approval) we can borrow our funds by early 2021 and not blow the construction schedule for our new courthouse or imperil our partial grant funding.

Meanwhile, the comparatively transparent and orderly city government simply didn't.  They'd just witnessed a rapid and successful petition effort to force an election on the county's separate $20MM bond proposal to build a courthouse.  The city was using the same negative-notice bond proposal statute to attempt to borrow its own $20MM for a city hall without an election.  The petitioners moved off their county bond triumph to mount a petition drive on the city bond.  It was obvious they would quickly succeed--it took only one weekend--but their deadline for presenting the petition was the day after the deadline for putting the city bond on the ballot.  The city, which should have taken the same pre-emptive action the county took, simply missed its deadline to put the city bond on the November ballot.  Denial?  Fury?  Distraction?  Inability to escape the bubble of their like-minded friends?  I really don't get it.  They're usually pretty sober.  Now the city has to wait until next May for an election to approve its bond, if they don't abandon the bond effort completely.  This is disastrous for the city but not an overwhelming problem for the petitioners.  It makes no sense.

Meanwhile, as we all gear up for a November election on the county bond, both the county and the city boosters seem to want to continue to spend time complaining about those deplorable voters who exercised their right to demand an election.  Why, oh why, did they demand it at the last minute?  Why didn't they get comfortable with the proposed bonds, as the government leaders vaguely hoped they would, though without troubling themselves to inform or convince anyone that $40 million in debt was a fine idea?  I find myself having to say repeatedly that the city and the county had complete control over their own schedules for when to publish the twin 45-day notices of intent to borrow without an election, both of which were always and by statute subject to the right of voters to petition for an election.  The voters could not force the city or county to publish the notices weeks or months earlier, but I cannot find any reason why the city or county couldn't have done so.  The numbers may not have been crystal clear last spring, but they're not crystal clear now, either.  You pick the best number you can and try to borrow that, explaining to the public as best you can why it's the right number.  What is the difficulty here?

There is also continued grousing over the idea that 5% of voters can override the presumptive will of most voters to approve these wonderful bonds.  My own view:  the alternative is to let 5 people control the bond decision for the entire city full of voters, and another 5 people control the bond decision for the entire county full of voters.  At least this way, all the voters will get a chance to decide how wonderful the bonds are.

Did either the county or the city leadership deliberately wait until the last minute?  I can't think why they would, but I guess it's possible.  They're not talking.  They're just resentful it didn't work.  I understand the resentment, in a way, but I'll be darned if I can understand why they think it's a good idea to keep talking about the resentment when what they really need is to win a vote on the bonds.  They should be falling all over themselves to congratulate the voters on their franchise rights, and working hard to give them good facts and arguments in favor of the bonds.  Instead, they're up to their usual strategies of fighting transparency with a bitter determination born of the conviction that it's simply wrong to distrust them and joggle their expert elbows.  Monday's Commissioners Court meeting was practically a morality play entitled "what local government officials act like when you presume to ask questions and they despise you for it."

Not many people watched the Democratic National Convention

. . . and that's the good news, says Glenn Reynolds.

He also says he got an unusual amount of hate speech for this USA weekly article, which he attributes to people having moved from the denial to the anger stage of bereavement. 

Choosing America

 Cuban-American Maximo Alvarez warns us what his father warned him when they arrived in this county:  Don't lose this place.  If we let happen here what we let happen in Cuba, there is nowhere else to go.

How transmissible is COVID really?

 A Chinese study (I know, I know) of 391 primary COVID cases did some good work sorting out the incidence of transmission to the patients' aggregate 3,410 close contacts--about 9 close contacts per index patient.  It found that only 3.7% of those close contacts caught the disease.  Of that 3.7%, 6.3% of cases were asymptomatic, 16.8% were mild, 73.1% were moderate, and 10.1% were severe or critical.  That means less than half a percent of the close contacts of the original patients picked up a severe or critical disease as a result.

There was considerable difference in the kind of contact that encouraged transmission as well.  The transmission rate to household members was 10.3%, much higher than the average 3.7% rate.  The transmission rate to healthcare workers was 1.0%, much lower than the average rate.  The transmission rate on public transportation was even lower:  0.1%.

It also makes a big difference whether the index case is mild or severe.  For asymptomatic index cases, the transmission rate was only 0.3%.  For mild index cases, it was 3.3%; for moderate cases, 5.6%; and for severe or critical cases, 6.2%.  The highest transmission rate was for index cases "with expectoration," 13.6%.  The overall transmission rate for all kinds of cases without expectoration was 3.0%.

The lesson here is that the transmission rate is surprisingly low, even for obviously ill index patients, and the biggest societal risk factor is the size of their group of "close contacts."  If infected people managed to keep their close contacts under 9, they'd be spreading their illness even less on average.  That might prove difficult for severely ill people who require intensive care, but it shouldn't be that hard for anyone with a moderate case.  The spread rate for asymptomatic cases is so small--a tenth or twentieth of the spread rate for symptomatic cases--that it barely figures into public policy.

The bottom line is that the disease will bounce off of 86% even of people in close contact with an "expectorating" COVID patient.  It will bounce off an astounding 99.7% of people whose only exposure is to a completely asymptomatic COVID patient.