For Every Action

Good news. Governor Cuomo (people remember our savior from April?) has announced a “Say Their Name” reform agenda, so I think we’re all set on the protests now…

A week ago, I wrote – of my experience as a (naive, confused, but committed) participant in the movement in Oakland that rose up in response to the police murder of Oscar Grant in early 2009 – that I was involved “from the time of the initial explosion of anger, through the cooptation of the movement, and to the point of its eventual suppression under withering assault by militarized police and a politicized judiciary.” When we see Andrew “#PAndrew” Cuomo moving to usurp the rhetoric of the moment, and when Al Sharpton is eulogizing George Floyd (nothing against the Reverend, but he has a way of materializing whenever popular anger over police brutality and killings boils over; he was there after Oscar Grant was murdered, just as he was there after the police killing of Michael Brown), you know that the status-quo-preservation machine is whirring away as it’s meant to. Whether or not its successful is another matter, but people ought to remain vigilant about what’s real and what’s not. (Campaign Zero put out a thorough, robust program for police reform in August of 2015; where was the Governor then?)

Speaking of not real, if you saw reports (say from The Daily News, Fast Company, CNBC, the New York Post…) suggesting that there were no new confirmed COVID-19 deaths in NYC on Wednesday, they were misinformation. Sadly, David Dayen (whose Unsanitized newsletters I often reference) and Tech:NYC (whose COVID-19 newsletters I, at least, receive) both referenced this claim without fact checking. Here’s what I wrote to David:

Re: the Daily News reporting on “zero confirmed deaths” on Wednesday the 3rd, this is more of the same smoke and mirrors that innumerate (or dishonest) reporters have been engaging in since March. A quick visit to the official NYC COVID-19 data portal will show that: 1) at the top of all the graphs, it clearly reads, “Due to delays in reporting, recent data are incomplete”; and 2) now, three days later, the City is showing what looks like at least dozens of deaths on Wednesday. (I checked the spreadsheet, and current Wednesday numbers stand at 7 confirmed, 18 probably; usually, the numbers aren’t finalized for at least a week, and they also still reflect an undercount as you’ve addressed repeatedly.)

Against the backdrop of the mass protests and COVID-19 amnesia/delusion, this misreporting can be quite dangerous.

See the bottom of the page for screen captures that document this point. On the positive side, I thought Dayen’s take on epidemiologists overstepping their mandate was spot on:

It’s possible and even reasonable to say that systemic racism is an ongoing health threat and therefore worth risking COVID-19 to fight it. But an epidemiologist shouldn’t be in the position to make that call. This continues a troubling run: the wild swings in modeling expected deaths despite a lack of data, the initial claim that masks don’t work unless you’re a doctor, and now this.

Epidemiological warnings against outdoor gatherings were widespread when there were “reopen the country” rallies. I’d prefer my science come unfiltered. If the evidence is that it’s hard to spread this virus outdoors and people who wear masks should be fine, say that and leave it there. To editorialize risks the integrity of scientific study, in my view.

The Intercept reports that the Pentagon war-gamed, in 2018, a “Gen Z Rebellion” scenario dubbed “Zbellion”; the short synopsis of the scenario, drawn from the Pentagon’s own FOIAed strategic document, makes for interesting reading. The Wire – an independent media outlet in India – writes, “The diversity of the [never before seen] protests [in the US] is similar to the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act marches in India.” And this demonstrator playing the Star Wars “Imperial March” as riot police troop by still has me laughing.

People may appreciate these long Twitter threads from Leo Gertner (summarizing his findings from a law school capstone paper on “police union contracts & the use of force”; I’ll highlight this line, “All that said, the problem of police unions shouldn’t be an invitation to attack public sector unions”); andi zeisler (dismantling the concern/question: “But if there are no police who will go after RAPISTS???” by outlining for just how much sexual violence police themselves are responsible, and pointing to how dismal the record of the NYPD has been, in particular, on “Systematically Undercount[ing] Rapes”); and Hannah Shaw, a former staffer in Mayor de Blasio’s office who “was arrested by NYPD for violating @NYCMayor’s curfew while participating in a peaceful protest, and then questioned by the FBI” about her political beliefs. (Such FBI questioning has, apparently, been widespread.) This damning satire of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s response to police brutality unleashed on peaceful protesters also merits a watch, and I’ll recommend again the latest episode of Glenn Greenwald’s System Update – I found comments on goals, strategy, and tactics for the uprising from Benjamin Dixon especially illuminating.

As I’m now hearing helicopters directly overhead again, and a demonstration starts at Washington Square Park soon, I’ll take the noise as my sign to wrap and head over there to socially-distantly get involved.

Postscript: As promised, screenshots from NYC’s COVID-19 data portal follow:

Obviously, things have improved dramatically since April
But if you examine the long tail, you’ll see there are indeed deaths (both probably and confirmed) for Wednesday, June 3rd. As is clearly indicated above, there are simply “delays in reporting”
IMG_5673 2
Here’s the spreadsheet – as of the morning of Saturday, June 6th – showing the City’s official daily COVID-19 death counts. Note, in general, these numbers aren’t finalized for a given day for at least a week after it has passed. All told, it took me about 30 seconds to confirm that the reporting of many major news outlets was inaccurate and deeply misleading…

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