top of page

BAPB--Bouncing Around Paul's Brain:
What we're reading, hearing, watching and (uh oh!) thinking


Police Car Lights_edited_edited.jpg
BAPB (Bouncing Around Paul’s Brain) No. 2, –Police use of force, our use of energy, the use of nuclear weapons, and music to make things seem less useless

Mar. 14, 2022

Been reading:


  • Does Race Matter for Police Use of Force? Evidence from 911 Calls, by Mark Hoefstra and Carly Will Sloan. The authors study over a million police interactions in two mid-sized US cities in the 2010s. Their research design controls for many factors and benefits from city policies that eliminate discretion in who is sent to a call. I’m persuaded by their conclusion that race does matter. In the first city, White officers are 64 percent more likely to use force than Black ones on average, and about twice as likely to use force in largely Black neighborhoods. White officers are less likely than Black to use their guns in White neighborhoods but almost four times as likely in mostly-Black neighborhoods. While their research methods are past my skill set, they indicate the difference is not due to a few officers but is widespread across the police force.


In the second city, which has a high Hispanic population, there’s no overall difference in use of force by officer race but, as in the first city, White officers are more likely to use force in neighborhoods with high minority populations.


While some recent studies in other cities have shown no difference in use of force by officer race, Hoefstra and Sloan documented important differences in the cities they studied. 


I’ve got three takeaways from this study:


  1. Police culture and actions vary across the country, as one would expect of a function that is locally-funded and -controlled and has little direct state or federal oversight. That variation suggests there’s room to reduce unnecessary use of force through recruiting, training, and more local oversight. 

  2. Police action often reflects the fact that our cities remain highly racially segregated. If we really want to reduce police violence and overall violence, we’ll have to work harder on both reducing segregation and making minority neighborhoods better places to live. Over-dramatized arguments about defunding police should be channeled into discussion about how we can invest in making neighborhoods safe in addition to responsible policing.

  3. It’s important to keep use of force in perspective. In the first city, force is used only in about 1 in 1,000 police calls and police use a gun in 1 in 13,000 calls. We’ve seen so many videos that rightly provoke outrage among people across the country. We also know that there’s unacceptably high distrust between White officers and minority residents. But we also need to refrain from assuming that the horrific cases represent everyday life in our cities.

The article is in the March edition of American Economic Review. Here’s the abstract, but you’ll have to join the American Economic Association (a must for all true nerds) or crash your college library for the full article.


  • Germany’s Northern Data selects Oklahoma for North American Headquarters, by Tres Savage, NonDoc, March 9, 2022. Northern Data announced it will put a data center in Pryor, Oklahoma, which is nabbing lots of new businesses these days. I’ve always made it clear I hate public subsidies for new businesses, because they let the government (usually headline-seeking governors) pick winners and losers, hurt existing businesses, and waste tax dollars that could be used for, like, actual people. The track record of data centers is particularly horrible in this regard. So I’m happy to see that Northern Data isn’t participating in the legal blackmail of demanding “incentives” for their center, and I welcome them to Oklahoma. However, I’m struck by the electricity demand, “...the equivalent of about 225,000 homes.” I’m aware that I probably used the services of a few dozen data centers in researching, writing, and sharing this article, but if we’re going to get serious about greenhouse gas, we’re going to have to address the unsustainable demands of cloud computing. Any ideas?


Oh, also, a shout out to sources for this article. NonDoc is one of several excellent reader-funded state news sources in Oklahoma. If you live in or care about Oklahoma and can afford it, please help them out!  Same for Pat Garofalo, who keeps a watchful eye on and exposes the absurdity of public subsidies for private greed in her Boondoggle newsletter and her book The Billionaire Boondoggle: How Our Politicians Let Corporations and Bigwigs Steal Our Money and Jobs.


Been listening:


This week, WBUR’s On Point has a fascinating, balanced, terrifying, and perhaps comforting take on how possible nuclear war is right now. Remember a couple months ago when we only need to worry about dying from a virus? Ahh, good times.


Music that’s resonated with me lately:

  • Florence and the Machine, “Heaven is Here”: I’m a big fan of Florence’s arena-rock anthems, but this new single is a nice turn toward more complex material. Looking forward to where she goes with this.

  • Nilufer Yanya, Painless: Been eagerly waiting on this one after her 2019 debut Miss Universe. So far I'm more a fan of the debut, but Painless is cool, too!

  • Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You: I’m still not as in love with this band as the middle-aged indie crowd at NPR Music, but the song “Little Things” from their latest album popped up on a playlist and really caught my ear. I might rethink. Great use of nearly over the edge instruments with Adrian Lenker’s voice.

  • Blanke, Land of the Wayfarer: Australian producer who accompanies nearly terrifying electronics with some really cool featured vocals. “Only You,” featuring 20-year-old Cincinnatian Meggie York, gives a good feel for both.

  • Handful of new albums that make great accompaniment to driving, working, cleaning the house: Band of Horses, Things are Great (guitar rock), Peach Pit, From 2 to 3 (updated bubble gum), Widowspeak, The Jacket (not unlike Big Thief, Phoebe Bridgers; Emmylou Harris fans should check this out!).

Ukrainian Flags_edited.jpg
BAPB No. 1: Ukraine, Turnpikes, Transgender Children

Mar. 8, 2022


Russia’s Attack on Ukraine… a complete over-reaction to, and undercuts the legitimacy of, its argument that its sphere of influence is being infringed on by the European Union, NATO, and the United States. Instead, it’s a cynical, unjustified, and unprovoked attack on a nation that has shown through the democratic process that it values independence and closer ties with the west. Now isn’t the time to intellectualize this; it’s a human tragedy and we should respond as such. Ukraine is fighting for its life and needs all the support it can get from all quarters. The U.S. and European governments are doing this effectively, given that they are unwilling and possibly unable to respond militarily. Relief organizations are mobilizing and they need help from anyone who is able to give.


What can Americans who value democracy and peace do? Expressions of solidarity on social media are plentiful and they are helpful. A faraway war is easy to ignore in the face of everyday life, but we cannot ignore it. This is a long haul fight and Ukraine can’t win it without continued support from across the globe. Without that, it’s just another Syria, where the world has shrugged its shoulders as autocracy wins. If you can, give money. We can all let your Congressional representatives know this matters to us and that it will keep on mattering. If you have friends with family in Ukraine, the Baltics, Poland, or Hungary, see if there’s anything they need, even if it’s just an ear or a hug. 


OK, now it’s time to intellectualize this. The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of an oppressive government, widespread corruption, an insulated and weak economy, unsustainable military spending and a disastrous foreign war. President Vladimir Putin had already supplied the first four ingredients in his effort to create a new Soviet Union. His government denies basic rights of speech and the press, rigs elections and tortures its citizens. He’s raised Soviet corruption to new, more global, and more sophisticated heights. Measured by gross domestic product per person, Russia’s economy ranks 82nd in gross domestic product per person , ahead of Argentina and behind Costa Rica.  It’s the world’s 20th largest exporter, on a par with Spain and Poland. It ranks behind most of Europe and Canada, but ahead of the United States, in income equality. But too much of the money they have is spent on the military; it’s fourth highest in the world, behind the U.S., China, and India. 


Last week, Putin may have just marched into the fifth secret of Russian regime failure. Ukraine is reasonably well-armed, determined to fight for every inch, and heavily supported by world opinion and government actions. The U.S. and allies won the Cold War by helping insurgents in Afghanistan, by cranking up military spending that we could afford and the Soviets could not, and by further isolating Russia economically and culturally. Those options are on the table for us and our allies and they are just as likely to be successful.


Here’s some interesting multiple takes on the lessons and long term implications of this war from the right and the left(ish).


The Dream of the '50s is Alive in Oklahoma…


…and, no, not the 2050s. As the rest of the world figured out a while ago, building new expressways encourages urban sprawl, damages cities, and increases greenhouse gas production. In fact, in metropolitan areas, adding highway capacity doesn’t reduce traffic congestion in the long run. Oklahoma’s plan to add lanes, concentrated heavily in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metros, won’t accomplish anything other than line pockets of road contractors and politicians they support. We could have more of an impact on mobility, traffic congestion, and temperatures by investing in transit and reducing the cost of poor roads by maintaining what we already have.  


But at Least we aren’t Texas…


…or Saudi America, as the state is branding itself. On the heels of abortion restrictions that force women (at least those who can afford the time and money) to drive an average of 14 times as far to get what’s really just a basic reproductive service, Texas has found a new and even less powerful victim: transgender children and their families. In a typical yet still outrageous example of hyperconservative doublespeak, parents, as well as teachers and medical professionals who help children get the mental and physical care they so desperately need, are now legally committing child abuse. If enforced, this decision would remove children from loving, supportive homes and put them in foster care, and would divert the effort of child welfare workers who are trying their best to protect and remove children from actual abuse.


Related or not, tourism directly accounts for $80 billion a year in Texas and the six largest Texas-based consumer product companies are Exxon Mobil, AT&T, Phillips 66, Valero, and Dell. And the most recent addition is Tesla. Bet those transfers from California love their new home so far! 

bottom of page