DeRay, Brittany and Sam are LIVE from The Bell House with founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight Nate Silver and comedian Hari Kondabolu.
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DeRay: Hi, everybody.
Brittany: Hey. What’s up, guys? Hey, Brooklyn. I heard y’all spread love here, is that true? I heard it’s the Brooklyn Way. See what I did there?
Brittany: It’s the news. I’m Brittany Packnett, @MsPackyetti on all social media.
Sam: I’m Sam Sinyangwe, @samswey on Twitter.
Clint: Hey, everybody. This is Clint. I’m so sorry I can’t be there. I’m bummed to miss out on what I know is going to be a great, phenomenal, amazing show. Me, my wife, and baby Jay are currently expecting the newest addition to our family any day now, so I couldn’t just be out of town. I hope you understand. I’m grateful to all of you for coming out to the show and for the work you do in helping us try to build a better world.
Clint: Shoutout especially to the parents in the audience, whoop whoop, holding it down. I see you out here after the sun goes down, getting wild, doing your thing. Special shoutout to y’all. Have a great show, y’all. Peace. See you next time.
DeRay: Aye, aye, aye. We love Clint. Love Clint. You’re the first set of people to hear that they’re expecting another child. Sad that we can’t have Clint with us, but we love Clint. I’m DeRay, @deray, D-E-R-A-Y, on Twitter.
DeRay: You can’t replace Clint because Clint is special, but we do have somebody joining us for the news. It is Hari Kondabolu, who is a comedian, podcaster, and Hari and I actually went to college together, which is crazy. He has a Netflix special called, Warn Your Relatives, which was released last year. He’ll be touring Charlottesville, Atlanta, Athens, and Asheville in two weeks. Hari, let’s go.
Brittany: Welcome, welcome.
Hari Kondabolu: Thank you, thank you.
Brittany: I feel like we’re about to go on an emotional roller coaster because sad news, Clint can’t be here. Good news, Hari is here. Sad news, starting today Payless shoe stores across the country are closing. I know people are chuckling, but there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with Payless for me. I feel like where am I going to go buy my child’s patent leather church shoes that are going to get destroyed in a month, so I’m not going to pay more than $20 for them, besides the fact that obviously people need affordable, quality footwear. 21,000 stores across the country. Some will close at the end of March, and some will close at the end of May.
Sam: I’m still getting over Toys R Us. You remember those sad pictures of Geoffrey the Giraffe?
DeRay: Did Toys R Us actually close? Or was that it like a fake closing?
Hari Kondabolu: Oh no. I heard it close. We saw all the pictures. By a show of hands, how many of you saw the pictures of the sad-
Sam: Giraffe. I don’t know what gives. I don’t know what gives.
Brittany: Somebody did tweet though, that if you can afford it, to go to the Payless near you, buy up all the shoes you can, and take them to a homeless shelter, which I thought was a fantastic idea and one that I plan on doing myself. So make it happen.
Hari Kondabolu: I was the king of the Payless Velcro. I just feel like there’s going to be a generation that will grow up without that.
Brittany: That’s really sad.
DeRay: Is there a question of you think about malls, there aren’t as many malls being built as there used to be. Where do people go for cheap shoes? That is interesting. Did somebody say something? Martin’s?
DeRay: Oh, I was like, what is Martin’s? I don’t know Martin’s.
Brittany: It’s like I ain’t ever been to Martin’s.
DeRay: Marshall’s. Maybe you have Ross. We had Value City. That’s what we had.
Brittany: Value City. You know Value City sells furniture too.
DeRay: Yes. And then we had a Burlington Coat Factory. Burlington Coat Factory.
Brittany: They are more than great coats.
DeRay: Was it great coats or just coats? Was it great coats or just coats?
Brittany: (singing) Trust me.
DeRay: I thought it was great coats. Okay, okay, whatever.
Brittany: Trust me. DeRay: We covered on the pod not too long ago in the news section about how dollar stores are actually the biggest threat to mom and pop shops, if you remember that. This week’s we think about, I’m interested in what is causing, who is getting the business from Payless.
Brittany: It’s probably a lot of the online retailers, which is a large reason why places like Payless are closing, the brick and mortars. Obviously you all have had some conversations with Amazon here in New York City. They went y’all’s way and not the way of Amazon.
Brittany: From sad news to more sad news, I’m convinced that people are trying to kill the word intersectionality. Follow me here. Esquire magazine released a cover during the 10th tortured day of Black History Month 2019.
DeRay: It’s been quite a month, y’all.
Brittany: Let’s be very clear. Black History Month has been blackface, Liam Neeson, and the Esquire cover. We’re not batting 1000 this year. But they released an Esquire cover that is apparently the first in a series following American young people. But the first one that they decided to do was an American boy. So when you look at it, there’s this forlorn, middle-America, white young man sitting on a bed looking, I don’t know, torn up about the fact that Americans are actually calling white men out on their stuff. The subtitle was, What it’s like to grow up as a white boy in the era of Me Too and-
DeRay: Devastating. Devastating. I can’t imagine.
Brittany: The implication that white men are suddenly the most oppressed group in America was frustrating, to say the least, for folks to read.
Hari Kondabolu: For the first time, we’re going to do a series about boys and your groundbreaking thing is to start with a white kid and how he feels alienated that things are changing? To me, this is kind of what they probably wanted. They wanted us to talk about it, and they wanted the fuss. They wanted to be angry. It’s a cheap trick because there are a lot of stories that haven’t been heard. And if I want to hear about white kids, I could watch, I don’t know, most television.
Brittany: Literally all of it. You can clap for that, for sure. But this is my point about … Somebody tweeted and they were like, “This is a perfect and prime example of intersectionality because the author is transgender and the subject is a straight, cisgender, American white boy.” I was like, “Hi. You need to read what the definition of intersectionality because is-”
DeRay: Not it, not it.
Brittany: “… because it’s not that.” It’s not the re-centering of dominant groups. That’s literally the opposite of what it is.
Sam: They appropriated intersectionality?
Brittany: Yes. They tried to kill it in Black History Month.
Hari Kondabolu: You knew it was going to happen.
Brittany: Didn’t want it to happen this month though.
DeRay: There’s been a petition to make July the other Black History Month and I am completely okay with that. It’s like we need a redo.
Brittany: I celebrate Black history all year, so I’m good.
DeRay: Okay, Brittany. Okay.
Brittany: However …
DeRay: July. We need July.
Hari Kondabolu: My news for the week is about Colin Kaepernick. You’re familiar? You’re familiar?
Hari Kondabolu: First of all, I find it amazing in the last few years that really progressive audiences know the name of a football player. I find that every one of my Socialist friends that I’ve seen wear a Kaepernick jersey just … But this week Colin Kaepernick and his former teammate, Eric Reid, they settled their collusion case with the NFL. They’d accused the NFL of colluding. Collusion is basically two or more teams, I want to say, eliminating a player, but that’s a little too much. Essentially, yeah.
DeRay: She’s like, tell the truth. Go ahead.
Hari Kondabolu: I mean collusion is basically they agreed not to sign these players in tandem. They worked together to make sure they would not have a career. Eric Reid eventually signed, but far under his value. He recently signed a three-year contract, which is he’s getting some of the money back. But clearly because he was connected to Colin Kaepernick, didn’t get what he deserved and Colin Kaepernick lost key years of his career. The rumor is that they settled for 60 to 80 million dollars.
Brittany: Bags, real bags.
Hari Kondabolu: Yes. The NFL likely did it for a couple of reasons. First, they wanted the bad press to end, which if that’s true, they’re foolish. And then the second thing is there must have been some kind of smoking gun is the thought, maybe-
Hari Kondabolu: Yeah. Some emails leaked that says, “Hey, maybe none of us should ever sign him.” Something came out. The thing is, we’re never really going to know as of now just because Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid signed nondisclosure agreements as part of the settlement, so they’re not allowed to talk about the details of the case. There’s two sides to it because some people feel as if that he sold out the movement by taking the money. Some people are like, “Now we can’t continue going after the NFL.” Now all of a sudden, this is a big piece of publicity.
Hari Kondabolu: He was basically this figure that was martyred. Now that he has a settlement, that takes it away a little bit. I am on the end that believes that this wasn’t really about the NFL or taking a knee or lawsuits. It was about police brutality and all these bigger issues that have been addressed since then. So whether it’s the 95 million dollars that the Players Association got from the NFL to work in communities seeking justice or whether it’s the work Colin Kaepernick has done and all the support he’s gotten, that doesn’t change whether or not he got this settlement. Secondly, he sacrificed his career. He gave up everything. He might have made much more than 60 to 80 million dollars.
Hari Kondabolu: He sacrificed that because he believed in something greater. Honestly, most times when people sacrifice things, they never get a chance to get any of it back. This is a rare example where it’s possible. Also, it’s proof that the NFL folded. One person, two people were able to make this incredible, large organization buckle. I think that’s incredible.
Brittany: I think that’s the entire point. I mean, look, when Kap didn’t know if he was going to make any of that money back, he was still giving most of his wealth away.
Hari Kondabolu: That’s right.
Brittany: This idea that he was … I know I made the money bag jokes. I’ve been listening to Cardi B. But clearly that is not the point. I immediately thought of Ali when he was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. It was literally Ali versus the entirety of the United States government and he stood up in front of that thing, proclaimed himself to be a man full of dignity, stood up to it, and won. I feel the same sense of pride here. I recognize that the scale is different, but I feel the same sense of pride, and I’m hoping that because we recognize now that the NFL is fallible, that they can fold, that they can be taken on, that conversations about CTE and domestic violence in the league will be things that people actually begin to take seriously.
Sam: The only thing that I’ll add is I’m curious what the smoking gun was because you can imagine these owners, folks who are so out of touch when you hear some of the statements that they’ve made, the way that they’ve been caping for Trump for no apparent reason, except white supremacy. I imagine whatever they had was really, really bad. I’m hopeful that more details might come out, might get leaked. I don’t know. But I want to know because I think it’s probably really bad, and I want them to be exposed for it.
DeRay: I met Colin when he first kneeled. I get a text from somebody being like, “Colin Kaepernick would like to talk to you.” It’s like I literally know nothing about football, so I’m like, who’s … I’m like I don’t know anything about football. I get on the phone. I’m literally Googling who is … I don’t know this football player. We have a great call. I know him. I was just with him two weeks ago because they’re unveiling a new jersey’s that’s going to come out very soon, which is dope.
DeRay: But the thing about Colin that sticks out, that I want him to do interviews just so people can appreciate it, is that he’s actually really kind. He’s just a kind person. The first call we have, he goes, “DeRay …” We’re talking about issues and he goes, “I really want to meet … Can you put me in touch with Mike Brown’s mom, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and somebody else.” So I’m like, okay, I can figure out a way for you to get to Mike Brown’s mom. I don’t know Kareem Abdul- Jabbar. I don’t remember who the third person was, but I call somebody else. I’m like, “Hey. One of my friends is trying to get in touch with Kareem Abdul- Jabbar.”
DeRay: I don’t think I’ve ever told this story publicly. They’re like, “I’m trying to get in touch with Kareem.” They’re like, “Here’s Kareem’s manager’s number.” I’m like, “Cool.” I literally cold call this woman. I’m like, “Hello. I’m name is DeRay McKesson. I’m calling on behalf of Colin Kaepernick, would like to see Kareem.” Real serious. She’s like, “Colin needs to call in 30 minutes. We’re getting on a flight.” I’m texting Colin. I’m like, “Please call this woman. I don’t know her.” And it worked. But it’s random.
DeRay: But what people don’t know about Colin, but they should, is that he still works out every day. Every morning he goes out. His friends help hold the, whatever the football things are that you throw. You know those orange things with the whatever, his friends help hold them. I’m sure they have a name. He still wants to play. I asked him two weeks ago. “Are you still working out every day?” He’s like, “Yes. Because I think I’ll play again.” That is real. The Know Your Rights camps. I remember we had dinner once. I was like, “Who helps schedule the camps?” He’s like, “We do.” I was like, “You call the venues?” He’s like, “Yeah. Who else is going to call?” I’m like, “Colin. I think we can help you get a team around you.”
DeRay: He’s actually just really kind. His heart is in the right place. I do agree that there must have been emails or texts or something that were so damning that made them fold. But it might be another way for us to get to that. I’m not swayed by this Players Association money thing. Just like where Stephon Clark got killed by the police in Sacramento, I remember I was on the news talking about it. Somebody’s like, “DeRay, what do you think about the million-dollar opportunity fund?” The lack of opportunity isn’t what killed Stephon Clark. Yes, it’s dope that there are more afterschool programs, but the police killed Stephon. Having a new million-dollar thing around afterschool is cool, but has nothing to do with why he got killed in the first place.
DeRay: I worry about some of the programming, some of this 95 million. I’m like I don’t know if it’s going to actually end in the things we know could end police violence. It’s going to other things. People don’t necessarily understand that. So they’re like, “Yeah. We should help poor people.” You’re like, “Yeah. That isn’t why they got killed by the police.”
Hari Kondabolu: Right, right, right. I worry about that.
Brittany: We’ve said it on the pod before, if we could program our way out of oppression, we’d be free already. Clearly that’s not going to get us there. I distinctly worry about the police-community relations programs, and for the people listening, I’m using very vigorous air quotes in this moment. I say that as somebody who was on President Obama’s policing task force and would have people sit and-
DeRay: Light flex, light flex.
Brittany: Wait a minute. You just talked about a phone call between you, Colin Kaepernick, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I’m flexing? Let’s not.
DeRay: Okay. You got me. You got me.
Brittany: I love you too much to let you lie. I love you too much to let you lie. Nope.
DeRay: At the end of the day is that Brittany is shady. She’s not being shady tonight. She was shady yesterday in Philadelphia.
Brittany: But I didn’t start the shade. I will finish it, but I didn’t start it. I love you.
DeRay: I forgive you that one though. You got me.
Brittany: But we had folks testify in front of us and their testimony would be 10 minutes of them talking about ice cream and basketball programs. I’m like, I don’t think rocky road saved anybody’s life. We have to continually press on these kind of feel-good moments where folks say we’re committing money. Money to do what and to challenge what and to fix what?
DeRay: We often say we never let the system off the hook. The programs are important, but we know that most programs exist because the system failed in the first place. So the reason why we need to feed a million people who are homeless under the bridge is because they’re homeless. The reason why we need to teach kids how to read afterschool is because they didn’t learn how to do it during the school day. Programs are interesting. They can be proof points, but we hold the system accountable.
Sam: My news is a new study that is coming from Evan Rose at Berkeley. It’s called The Effect of Job Loss on Crime. It’s no secret that crime and poverty and systemic oppression are linked, and that an absence of opportunity is often correlated with higher crime rate. What this paper does, in particular, is try to tease out the causalities determining using data, a cause and effect from job loss and crime.
Sam: What they do, they get data from millions and millions and millions of arrest records from Washington state combined with information on employment and unemployment benefits. What they’re able to find is that job loss, so when people are laid off from their jobs, there is a spike in crime of about 30% over the next three years and that people are more likely to be engaged in either property crimes, so things like theft and things that make sense if you don’t have money, and domestic violence.
Sam: I wanted to bring this to the conversation because oftentimes we think about what are the determinants of crime. What are the structural and systemic factors that leave people desperate, that leave people with few other choices? This is a paper that uses data in a way that’s really powerful to determine that relationship.
Hari Kondabolu: It’s almost insulting that people have to spend this much time and this much money and put this much effort into prove something we already know. I think that there’s a part of whether it’s white people or rich people, this idea that poor people are poor because there’s some biological weakness. People commit crimes because there’s some biological connection. It feels that you have to put so much effort to say, “Well, see, when people don’t have jobs and they’re desperate, you do what you can to survive.” It’s like you have to do all this work to say something so obvious.
Hari Kondabolu: I think about that every time there’s a gala for a nonprofit and all these rich people are there and they all know that the programs need money. But it’s like, “Okay, we know you need the money, but sing and dance for us first. Feed us for an hour. Tell us how sad things are, and then we’ll give you the money.”
Brittany: An element of white dominant culture is that we prioritize and worship the written word. People will explain to you their lived experience over and over and over again in the aggregate in ways that research would uphold. But you have to have the white paper. You have to have the abstract. You have to have the research budget to prove what people have been telling you all along as if they’re liars and their humanity doesn’t matter. I think that that’s a critically important point.
Brittany: The thing that really stuck with me, it wasn’t shocking, but it really struck me, is that 80% of all the arrestees in the study had no income in the quarter of their arrest, zero income. 80% of the folks who had been arrested, which just makes me think critically about the cycle of poverty and therefore the cycle of recidivism. If you are persistently living in impoverished circumstances, living in low-income circumstances, and there is no end in sight, then we’re going to keep this revolving door open. There’s so many causes here and if folks cannot afford to feed their families before they get in, it’s even harder to feed your family when you come out. I mean, so we’re just going to see the problem continue to be persistent.
DeRay: There are many studies that actually explore this relationship between unemployment and crime. What most of them conclude is that unemployment does lead to some variations in crime, but can’t explain it alone, that there are other factors. This is one of the first that makes this link between domestic violence, which I was fascinated by, that domestic violence increases. We’ve covered before that we are nervous about Obama phones. Have you heard about Obama phones? Or the FCC program that allows people to get phones because what we know about domestic violence is that what abusers will do, men will ruin the credit of women so that women can’t open up accounts in their own names.
DeRay: This program is one of the only programs that allows women to get phones without having to go do the credit process, which is interesting. Always interested in the way domestic violence, and there’s another police thing that maybe I’ll queue Sam up to talk about in the next piece of news. But domestic violence is a fascinating, under-explored area of different policy issues. What I’ll say, this is also set up for Sam, Sam hates when I set him up. This is about violent crime in the United States. Raise your hand if you think, of the total arrests in the country, what percentage of arrests are violent crime? If you think more than 50% of the arrests are violent crime, raise your hand. 50, 5-0.
Brittany: She’s like no, that is not the answer.
DeRay: She’s like, I’m not raising my hand and I got a comment. Okay.
DeRay: 40 to 50%, raise your hand.
Brittany: Well, she’s intimidated everybody from raising their hands.
DeRay: There is another one, 30 to 40%. Okay. 20 to 30%. 10 to 20%. Less than 10%.
Sam: It’s 5%.
Hari Kondabolu: Wow.
Sam: Now you set me up, I’m just going to … I have to knock him down. I have to knock him down. So yeah. Nationwide, according to Uniform Crime Report, only 5% of all arrests made in this country, of the millions of arrests made every year are for violent crimes. Another 12% of arrests are for property crimes. The vast majority of arrests are for low-level offenses, things like trespassing and loitering-
Brittany: Selling loose cigarettes.
Sam: Selling loose cigarettes. There are actually more people arrested for drug possession than for all violent crimes combined. So when you think about who are the police arresting and why, what are they spending their resources actually doing? That’s what they’re doing. Actually addressing issues of public safety and protecting property is actually a smaller proportion compared to this broader targeting people for low-level offenses.
DeRay: See. Fascinating. My news is about in Houston recently, I don’t know if you saw, but there was a no-knock raid in Houston where the police raided a house. No- knock means that they didn’t knock. They just barged in. They killed two people. They killed a man and a woman, and they killed the dog. It was based on an informant who said that there was a drug operation happening in the house. Those are the facts. Then what happened after the people got killed is that they were like, “We don’t know who the informant is,” all of a sudden. They’re literally like, “We can’t find the informant.” We think that the police falsified the documentation.
DeRay: The police chief publicly said that they’re going to hold the police officer who filed for the warrant because he lied. Literally, they are like, “We don’t know who the informant was.” That is the news. What is fascinating about this is that I didn’t know there are over 20,000 no-knock raids that happen every year. What I also didn’t know is that no-knock raids … Because you think about what would you even justify somebody barging into somebody’s house around? To me, it seems like violent crime would be the thing. But no-knock raids actually started from the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is where the legal precedent for no- knock raids actually began in the 1970s.
DeRay: It was because people thought that drugs were the worst thing ever. The way that the police justified it is that they said that they needed not to knock because they needed to protect the evidence. If they knocked, you might flush the drugs down the toilet. That was cause enough for them to just knock. There’s also something called a quick-knock raid, which they knock twice and barge your door down. It’s like same thing. Just like in New York City, which applies to you, you know Eric Garner who got killed by the police, is that in New York City at the time of his killing, choke holds were banned in the city of New York, but strangle holds were not banned. Raise your hand if you think you know the difference between a choke hold and a strangle hold?
DeRay: A choke hold is like your Adam’s apple. It restricts your airway. Strangle hold restricts your muscles. We’re like, I don’t know. That all seems like the airway to me. I brought this up because I’m fascinated by it. The other thing I’ll say and the last thing I’ll say is that there’s this question why do the police like no-knock raids so much? What the long game of a no-knock raid is is that when they raid your house and they find drugs, they actually can seize all other assets that are in the vicinity.
DeRay: It actually is one of the biggest ways that the police interact with civil asset forfeiture and they can seize the car, all the clothes, any money they find, any jewelry. They actually can seize it. What’s fascinating about it is that in most places, the police literally can just seize the property and sell it and they get all the money. That’s how civil asset forfeiture works.
Sam: Speaking of civil asset forfeiture, another fun fact, the police confiscate … confiscate, steal more money and value in civil asset forfeiture, taking your cash, taking cars, property, every single year than the total value of all of the property stolen in every burglary that happens.
Brittany: So the police are the biggest robbers of all?
Sam: Yes. Yes, that is a fact. The second thing about this news in particular was that the officer, his last name is Goines, he had, surprisingly, a record of misconduct.
Brittany: Fancy that.
Sam: He shot two people previously, before this raid that killed two people. He’d shot two people previously, had a whole bunch of complaints against him, including complaints by people who said that he made up information to justify drug raids. So it was pretty clear that he should not have been on the force in the first place. This adds to a growing body of evidence that’s just plainly apparent that officers that end up shooting, there are these patterns. You can predict who these officers are going to be.
Sam: For example, The Invisible Institute did a study of the Chicago police department. They got data on all of the use of force by police, the complaints against the police, the lawsuits against the police. They found that over a 13- year period from 2004 to 2016, 95% of the officers in the department did not shoot anybody. 5% shot people, but 130 officers shot multiple people and 24 officers shot three or more people. So they wanted to understand. These officers who had shot multiple people, what were the predictors? It turns out they were much more likely to have used force multiple times before that incident. They had more complaints against them. They had more misconduct lawsuits against them.
Sam: Another study from Pew Research Center, they polled 8000 police officers across the country. They asked them whether they had discharged a firearm on duty during their career. 27% of police officers said yes. Now again, this doesn’t mean they shot a person or they killed a person. They may have missed. They may have shot at a dog or something. But about 27% of those officers said they had shot at something while they were on duty during their career. So demographically, surprisingly, those officers tended to be white, male, more likely to be veterans who had been in combat, and they were more likely to have views about race that racism no longer existed.
Sam: This is not surprising to anybody, but the data’s pretty clear on what the profile of the officer who tends to shoot people looks like. We talk about predictive policing and all kinds of data systems that are being used to target us using all kinds of faulty data. Well, there’s a whole bunch of data that is much more reliable that could be used to actually predict who these officers are going to be if the police departments actually cared about stopping these shootings.
Brittany: And if policing doesn’t stand in the way of that, right?
Brittany: Again, back to the task force, I remember after we had turned in the report, the
White House, one of their greatest powers is the power to convene. The task force members that were able to come into town sat with police union chiefs from all across the country at the national level. We’ve done a lot of reporting on police unions, and I myself am from a labor family. I used to belong to the teachers union, so this is not an anti-union diatribe. What it is though, is clarity about police unions specifically and all of the ways in which they have consorted to block justice for folks.
Brittany: We sat across them at that meeting. I said, “Have you all … What have you all done with these recommendations?” Every response we got was, “We did a presentation, but a lot of the things you’re asking are too expensive.” I was able to, because of the research that we had done, pull out all of this data to say, “Actually if you just change some of the regulatory policies in the departments that you oversee and that you work with, and you get rid of some of these things in your contracts, all of these things that you can do for free would actually dramatically change outcomes in your community.” They looked at me like I had a green face because they don’t expect us to actually come with this information and require them to do anything about it.
Brittany: That’s our job. Our job is to hold folks accountable. Our job is to say, “You’re not telling the truth. We can predict these things. You cannot convince us that the most extreme cases are an anomaly.” They’re actually far too common. If the police are robbing everybody, if we know who we can predict that kill people, if we know who we can predict to engage in civil asset forfeiture, if we know all of these things, then it is our job as taxpayers and the folks that pay your salary and give you any power at all, to hold you accountable to doing something about that stuff.
Hari Kondabolu: Just a couple of quick thoughts. Usually when police do things like this, I assume they’re going to be set free, that nothing’s going to happen. But this time they killed a dog. White people like dogs.
Brittany: It’s a true story.
Sam: Fun fact actually, the NYPD-
Brittany: You might be overusing the phrase, fun fact.
Sam: It is not fun at all, but it’s kind of wild to me. New York City, the NYPD’s use of force policy determining how and when police are authorized to shoot people is more restrictive on when police can shoot a dog than a person. That’s also a fact.
Hari Kondabolu: Also, I wanted to because you mentioned Gerald Goines, who’s the detective that was named in here. I just wanted to read his accusations because I think it’s shocking. In this particular case, he’s being accused of planting heroin, lying about using a confidential informant to conduct a buy. In the past, he’s also been accused of multiple shootings, written reprimands. He’s involved in several lawsuits, fabricating a drug deal, lying about it in a court to win a conviction.
Brittany: So a good guy?
Hari Kondabolu: Yeah. But it’s like every time I watch a Law & Order I’m like, “How is this guy still on the force when he’s committed all these crimes and he somehow gets away with them? This is unrealistic.” Nah, it’s realistic. It’s exactly how it works.
DeRay: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.
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DeRay: Now we’re going to bring out … We rarely have five people on the stage, but we are going to bring out our dear friend who is going to join us for the last part of the news, and then I’m interviewing him. It is America’s pollster, Nate Silver.
DeRay: You know Nate because Nate is the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight and the author of The Signal and the Noise. You also know him because he’s one of the only people who can correctly predict what’s happening in the presidential anything. So Nate’s going to do his piece of news and then we’re going to talk about the presidential candidates, which we waited to do until Nate got on the stage. And then Nate and I are having a conversation.
Nate Silver: Thank you.
Brittany: You’re welcome.
DeRay: Nate, lead the way for your news.
Nate Silver: My news is that on Friday, President Trump declared a national emergency. There is a humanitarian crisis on the border, the president claims, and he’s going to try and find a way to fund part of the wall, to redirect funds from other military projects to fund part of the wall. This is not the last you’re going to hear about this, obviously. For one thing, there are legal questions about whether this is something you’re able to do or not. The emergency itself is probably not the controversial part.
Nate Silver: There’s a National Emergencies Act of 1976 that gives the president broad
discretion over it, however also gives Congress the power to basically nullify the declaration. So you’ll probably have Democrats in the next week introduce a resolution in the House. It will pass the House and go to the Senate where it’s not like a normal bill where McConnell can table it. They have to vote on it. You had, by my count, about eight or nine Republicans who have said, “This is a bad idea.” You’ve had about 20 Republicans who’ve said, “We have concerns about this.” You know what happens when people have concerns about things. Concerns means we’re going to vote yes, right, but after-
Brittany: It means you’re going to give me something first.
Nate Silver: What will probably happen is that it will pass the Senate and then President Trump will veto it. And then you’ll have an effort to override the veto that will probably fail, although not for sure, because there are a fair number of Republicans who are more unhappy about this than usual. But still, to get 20 of them is a lot. That’s what you’d need, if all Democrats, including Joe Manchin were to vote.
Nate Silver: Yeah. It’s a very politically aware audience obviously. But yeah. Some people say this is a Constitutional crisis. To me, it wouldn’t quite be in that category because Congress does have the power to actually nullify this. However, legally the question is, it’s not the emergency part, it’s the can you redirect money that Congress has not appropriated and authorized for you to spend in a way that, in this case, explicitly went against their intentions. Also, the emergency part, although the president’s latitude may be broad. For him to literally have said, “I didn’t need to do this,” might make it a little bit more dubious of a claim than you might ordinarily have.
Nate Silver: From my standpoint, this is the latest in a series of actions where President Trump believes that by catering to his base, that that’s the best way for him to sustain or improve, I guess, his political standing, which I kind of think is a pretty big mistake on his part. The math doesn’t work that well if you’re the GOP. Number one, there are more people who are Democrats than Republicans.
Nate Silver: It’s not a huge edge, but when you are the party that represents a more diverse array of Americans, then that matters. So the question is, number one, can you get Democrats to turn out to vote in the same numbers as Republicans? In the midterm elections, you did. We had very, very high turnout in the midterms. We had turnout that was almost approaching a presidential year. So the president’s voters actually turned out in huge numbers, but Democrats also turned out in equally huge numbers and there are more Democrats than Republicans and independents went by about 12 points for Democrats in the race for the House.
Nate Silver: When that happens, you have a condition where Trump lost and the
Republicans lost 40 seats in the House. So it was a landslide against them. That formula therefore is I think not a winning one for Trump and in some ways, it’s kind of politics 101 where, hey look, a lot of presidents have had a bad beating at the midterms and then come back to win reelection. Obama, Clinton, Reagan, it’s pretty normal in some sense. But usually presidents say, “Okay. Well, we have to triangulate and try and find ways to appeal to independents and moderates and so on and so forth.” Trump has taken the opposite tack. I think it’s not the best strategy.
Nate Silver: I think actually one thing about Trump is the fact that he won unexpectedly in 2016. I think he kind of feels like he walks on water a little bit politically. The Republicans say, “Well, first of all, we lost a Senate race in Alabama, which a lot of things had to go wrong. The candidate had to be maybe a little bit of a-”
Brittany: A pedophile?
Nate Silver: Pedophile, yeah.
Brittany: Is that the word you were looking for?
Nate Silver: But still, it’s Alabama. So it’s always hard to lose. And then they lost the midterms badly in the shutdown. You saw President Trump’s approval rating decrease from around 42% to 39%. It has since bounced back to 41 or 42%, however-
DeRay: It bounced back?
Nate Silver: It bounced back, yeah. I mean people are like … The news cycle moves so fast now that things can have a fairly temporary effect. He gave his State of the Union and usually that can help presidents a tiny bit at the margin. I mean still, 42%, 41%, whatever it is, is fairly low. People have come and said, “Okay, there’s this and that. How can 41% of Americans approve of the job the president’s doing?” The answers are two-fold. Number one, it’s a very partisan country that doesn’t need that much justification, I don’t think.
Nate Silver: But number two, ordinarily you would think a president in a time when you have an economy that people feel pretty good about where unemployment is low and inflation is low, historically economic data like that, I know there are people who are not participating in that economy as much as they might like. But still, when you have that data and the economy, usually the president’s approval rate is 55% or 60%. So these things actually do have a toll on Trump more than people might think.
Brittany: I’m one of those folks who is very clear that there are lots of national emergencies, and what’s happening at the border is not one of them in the way that he defines it. Putting children in cages, that is a national emergency to me. Separating families is a national emergency to me. The fact that we sit here right now and Flint still doesn’t have any clean water, that’s a national emergency. Gun violence, national emergency. Police brutality, national emergency. But not I need to build a wall and apparently also harm the potential for butterflies to grow and evolve in that area. That is not a national emergency.
Brittany: I want him to lose that so that that conversation can take center once and for all.
Nate Silver: Well, some people would say that if you have the courts uphold this, then the next president who could be a Democrat would say, “Okay, climate change or gun violence or a million other things are national emergencies and now I have the power to reappropriate funds that were intended for some other purpose, sits adjacent to it, but not quite like what Congress would have done and now I can find ways to-”
Brittany: So you’re saying I don’t want him to lose? I’m confused.
Nate Silver: It depends on if you think the next president’s going to be a Democrat, then maybe you think you’d want a more-
Brittany: Oh, they better be.
DeRay: We’re going to talk about a next president in a minute.
Nate Silver: I mean, it’s worth thinking too about the structural elements here where Republicans can basically run on a strategy where they are only appealing to a minority of the electorate of the Electoral College favors the Trumpian coalition. Working-class white people are over-represented in the Electoral College based on where the swing states are. In the Senate, you obviously have each state … There are a lot of states. If you go and count the states-
DeRay: Thank you.
Nate Silver: … there are a lot of states. Wyoming has two senators. Idaho has two senators. Nice state, I like Idaho. Both the Dakotas have two senators each. Whereas all of New York-
Nate Silver: All of New York has two senators. So if you look at that, as the Democratic coalition becomes more urban and more college-educated and more diverse, then it helps Democrats in more states than you would think, including states like Texas and Arizona potentially. However, there are a lot of white rural states in the Midwest and in the West that have very low populations but have two senators, so that makes it very challenging for any Democratic priorities to really garner a large majority in the Senate.
Sam: And can we talk about how wild that is, that we’re having to talk about accounting for the disproportionate representation of white people in government, the disproportionate voting power of white people because an institution called the Electoral College was created intentionally to preserve slavery back in the 1700s. That’s why we’re having this conversation. Only reason this even is happening is because of that. You talk about the legacy of institutional racism, the legacy of slavery. This is it. These are the conversations that wouldn’t be happening except for that racist legacy.
DeRay: Now, I will say, this is the only time I’ve ever agreed with Ann Coulter about anything, with her statement about Trump. She’s like the only national emergency is that the president’s an idiot. And you’re like, yes. That is true. That last press conference was so bad. You were like, they’ve all been bad, but this one you’re like wow, this is really bad.
Brittany: And we get the press release on iOS Notes.
DeRay: Right. You’re like, official White House correspondent, Sarah Sanders. You’re like, really? Is that-
Brittany: Sarah Sanders shares her news the same way an Instagram influencer does.
DeRay: Right. Okay. Now we’re going to do a lightning round of presidential candidates. Then I’m going to interview Nate. I hope I didn’t forget anybody. Pete Buttigieg.
Nate Silver: I mean, there’s this question of at what point do you hit the notoriety where you should be covered as a major presidential candidate? I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people who have held at least elected office before, so South Bend, Indiana, not a huge town, 100,000 people. But I’d rather have him have a Town Hall on CNN than Howard Schultz, for example.
DeRay: That was good. I interviewed Pete when he was trying to be somebody at the DNC. Like Pete, interested in his policy platform. Next person is Howard Schultz.
Nate Silver: My thing is just that I don’t think he’s very well-informed on public policy. When he was asked, “Who is your favorite Democratic president in the past 50 years?” He said FDR, which way more than 50 years ago. And also, FDR would not like the Howard Schultz platform of winding down retirement programs to keep the budget lower.
DeRay: I’m always interested in the people who say that they see no color. It’s like they magically seem to hire no Black people. They don’t see color, but no diversity anywhere around them. It’s like, okay.
DeRay: Okay, next person is Castro.
Nate Silver: I mean there are a few phases. The first phase is, can you launch your campaign and get a big boost based on that? I don’t think he was one of the people who did. I think we can talk about maybe Kamala Harris or someone who did get that boost. But you are going to have umpteen debates, all of them are going to be live-blogged on FiveThirtyEight.
DeRay: That was a good plug.
Nate Silver: You have to have a viral moment in the debate at some point. If you have that moment, then you can gain traction. By the way, the candidates who declared so far are very quite remarkably diverse. There are very few straight white men in particular. However, it’s interesting. Look at all the people who have not yet declared. It’s a lot of straight white men. Biden and Beto and Bernie and Brown, all the Bs. If you are someone who is … If you’re a white dude you can sit back and wait and see how things develop and all the candidates who declare early are the candidates who are people of color or women or gay. It’s an interesting dynamic.
DeRay: I’m interested in Castro. I do think he might be a sleeper. I think it’ll be interesting to see him in the debates. Let’s go to Klobuchar.
Nate Silver: I mean, I’m from the Midwest so I feel like I have to represent the Midwest and be like, it is the most important region in terms of winning the Electoral College. So a lot of her arguments is from around, look, I have always performed really well in Minnesota. So I’ll win Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania. So it’s an electability case, I think, first and foremost. There are stories about her mistreating her staff and there’s stories like that about Biden and Bernie too, for example. I do think she’s going to run on, I’m actually the tough one. I’m not Minnesota nice, but I’m going to tell it like it is and be the candidate you’d want to drink a beer with.
Nate Silver: It’s interesting because this is usually how the male candidate runs. She’s kind of running in that lane in different ways. I think her candidacy is more interesting than you might think from the, here’s a senator from Minnesota. She has an accent. She’s boring. I think she won’t be boring. I’m not sure the candidacy is going to work. But I wrote our profile of her for FiveThirtyEight. Her campaign does have a strategy that may or may not work, but there is a coherent path there.
DeRay: I think too I’m interested with Klobuchar. I didn’t realize she was a prosecutor. I just didn’t know anything about that. It’s like we’ve heard more about her throwing things at people than we have about her record. I mean, the throwing things is not good. But we should also hear about her record, so I’m interested in that. Let’s talk about Warren.
Nate Silver: I think she is someone who as the party moves left, is someone who can bridge the divide potentially between the left and the Democratic establishment, which is something that Bernie would have a lot more problems with, I think. In theory, she’s very well-positioned to bridge the left and the moderate part of the Democratic party. I do think though that, look, about 40% of the Democratic electorate is not white, so Hispanic, Black, Asian, indigenous, et cetera. She is a candidate from a state that’s quite white. She is white herself. Well, okay.
DeRay: That was shady. Okay.
Nate Silver: But the question is, which candidate can expand their appeal beyond that just Iowa and New Hampshire electorate. If it’s not a candidate who is themselves a person of color, then it might be a candidate from a state that itself is a little bit more diverse or has a track record of working with more diverse groups. So I do wonder when you begin to have that conversation, what would people who are not indigenous but are Black or Hispanic and are involved with issues of identity think about how she handled that.
Nate Silver: It is also, it does seem sometimes like the female candidates get one thing tagged about them and that becomes a thing they’re kind of known for. I think she has had a successful rollout in other ways. I do think at some point Bernie is probably going to run. I do think at some point for one of them to be effective, the other one has to be kind of defeated. If you have two candidates competing for that same vote, then it’s hard for either of them to rise to first or second place, I think. But she’s one of the most interesting candidates in the field, obviously.
DeRay: I think that two questions that will actually divide the candidates in the end will be, what is the role of extreme wealth? What do we do about extreme wealth? I think that Warren will literally set the tone for where we go in that direction. The other will be, what is America’s role in the world? I think that I don’t know who of these people right now will set the tone for that. But this question of Israel, Palestine, America in the Middle East, I think that that question will actually be one where people are very, very different in the end.
DeRay: Let’s do Cory Booker.
Nate Silver: It’s a little bit unclear which lane that Booker is running in. Is he competing against the Elizabeth Warrens, for example, on the left? Or is he running as the more moderate, build bridges kind of version of Cory Booker? He is thought to be a good retail candidate, which means that he might actually try to build a coalition in Iowa and so forth. So I think he has different strengths that are interesting. Is he top of mind in the field? Is he someone around which the rest of the field bends? I think maybe not yet. But he’ll be probably pretty good in those debates. I think he actually has some supporters in Iowa and so forth. He might be someone who’s not top of mind right now, but certainly one of the viable realistic possibilities.
Marshall: Hi. My name’s Marshall. I’m curious what you all think about Kirsten Gillibrand and her chances. She was on the [inaudible 00:50:33].
DeRay: Kirsten is a friend of the pod too.
Nate Silver: I mean, she’s our senator so I think the awareness of her is a little bit higher here than it might be nationally. So she does have to make more of an impression-
DeRay: That was gentle. That was very gentle, Nate.
Nate Silver: Look, but she is someone when you talk about a narrative setting in that may be unfair. She has a big narrative that I think is that she is too opportunistic, which is something people say about certain type of women a lot more, I think, than about men. But it’s like she was conservative when she was upstate and now she’s from all the state and therefore she’s more liberal. I mean, it is a representative democracy. So maybe it’s not the worst thing where you’re trying to represent your community overall.
Nate Silver: I think she gets pushback over, she was responsible for Al Franken being ousted from the Senate. I think probably Al Franken was responsible for that.
DeRay: Now, Kamala.
Hari Kondabolu: I’m of two minds because on one hand, same issues regarding when she was a prosecutor and also I have some questions about her views on Israel and Palestine. But on the other hand, she’s half Indian though. She’s half Indian though. Do you guys … what a big step this would be for us? We had Bobby Jindal running last time. Half of Kamala Harris, that’s definitely more than Bobby Jindal.
Nate Silver: I think she is the front runner, both in the sense of being the single most likely person to win and no one’s that likely when you’re eventually going to have 17 candidates, and the sense of being the center of attention for the time being. But yeah. I talk about what narratives are setting around her. I mean, you see people push the narrative now where, is she the new Hillary where she’s a little bit too calculated and she’s not as good at retail politics. There was some stupid thing about she had a bottle of hot sauce now. Apparently you’re not allowed to use hot sauce if you’re a Democratic candidate unless you want to be compared to Hillary Clinton.
Nate Silver: I do think it would actually help her to have a foil, so when you have a Biden enter or a Beto enter or whatever else to kind of push back against them and push back against them probably from the left, I think, could help her potentially. Because right now, I mean I think she’s done … She is the one candidate who had an announcement and did get a boost in the polls, went from 6% to 14%. She’s raised a lot of money. She has hired good staff. She has a big advantage electorally because California is one of the first states to vote. In fact, early voting in California starts the day of the Iowa Caucus. So therefore you can gain a lot of delegate momentum that way.
Nate Silver: She’d do well in South Carolina, by the way, too and probably Nevada, being next to California. She has, I think, the most robust set of options for how to win the nomination. But still, there’s going to be the scrutiny you get as a front runner. I think she’s dealt with it okay so far, but there’s going to be more of this for … I mean this thing’s going to last for more than a year. It’s really long. You have to survive multiple cycles of scrutiny. So we’re kind of really just in the first inning here.
DeRay: That’s the news.
DeRay: Hey, you’re listening to Pod Save the People. Don’t go anywhere. There’s more to come.
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DeRay: Now I’m going to talk to Nate. Nate, you’ve already talked about some of the presidential stuff. What is interesting about what you know about the polling that you wish more people knew?
Nate Silver: I mean certainly I think people understanding the role of probability and uncertainty more. That if you’re a candidate, for example, who’s only ahead by three or four points, that candidate’s going to lose the race fairly often. I think that people especially need to understand that polling right now for the primary is in a phase where things are really, really uncertain, where the person leading the polls now, which I guess is Joe Biden, probably only has a 20 or 25% chance of winning, for example. So knowing when polls are more and less reliable and also being able to look at polls where we don’t just use them to confirm the narrative in your head.
Nate Silver: You can actually say, okay, here’s what I thought about this. But if I’m looking at the polls, looking at other types of data or reporting or whatever else, that it doesn’t match those preconceived notions I have. So instead of saying the poll must be wrong, it might mean that your preconceived notions were wrong instead. So people being more open-minded, I think, about hearing news they don’t want to hear, I think, is important.
DeRay: There are a lot of people who have said … I’ve been in a lot of rooms with progressives who are worried about Trump winning again and have said that they don’t think that America will elect a woman. Do you think that there’s any data that suggests that that is true?
Nate Silver: I mean a woman did win the popular vote two and a half years ago.
DeRay: Yes, she did.
Nate Silver: I think women candidates face different challenges. This is a Howard Schultz-y kind of answer, I’m afraid. I think you face a lot of different expectations in the media as a woman candidate. I think it tends to make smaller scandals seem much bigger scandals potentially. You get typecast a lot more easier I think. They can more concerned about a candidate’s health and issues like that. So if you go back and diagnose what happened in 2016, how did Hillary Clinton become so unpopular, then I think sexism is a big part of that story potentially.
Nate Silver: At the same time, if you look at what happened in the midterm elections this year, you had a lot of Democratic candidates who are women who did very well in Senate and gubernatorial races for example. Those candidates, by the way, often beat male candidates in the primaries when you had a woman candidate against a man in the primaries. Women won two-thirds of the time or something like that. So look, I think it is a disadvantage, other things being held equal. But I don’t think people should necessarily take it as baked in. They should say, okay, the disadvantage might probably be because people are sexist. People in media treat women differently.
Nate Silver: People should, I think, be looking out for examples where a candidate who is a woman or a person of color or whatever else, or gay, where you see certain stereotypes applied or the candidate is typecast and should be pushing back against media coverage that they think is unfair or incorrect.
DeRay: Do you think that Russia will matter at polls? Or do you think that Russia is an inside game issue?
Nate Silver: I mean, look, I think it’s one of the reasons why Trump is at a 41% approval rating despite the economy being pretty good is because people do care about Russia. I do think expectations have been set awfully high, both by Democrats and by the White House moving the goalposts and saying, okay, it’s gotta actually be red-handed collusion now, never mind the obstruction of justice. Of course, there’s a little bit of obstruction, but who cares? It has to be collusion is kind of the narrative they’re going for. The way people get acclimated to the fact that just even the fact that he fired the FBI directors is pretty crazy, for example, and kind of ushered out the attorney general and whatever else.
Nate Silver: He’s tweeting about how it’s all a hoax and everything like that. I mean you get used to it after a while and so that means that it maybe makes it hard for any one thing to have that large of an impact. But it’s, again, there are lots of issues that are baked into why Trump is not very popular. I think you talk about people wanting to read the polls. I mean a 41% approval rating is not very good.
DeRay: Can you measure the impact of the tweets, of him tweeting? Is there anything measurable there? Or it’s sort of like a wash?
Nate Silver: We tried to measure it a little bit. It seems like it probably forces things down a bit when he’s more active on Twitter. I mean it’s a thing where there is a correlation where when he tweets more, he tends to be less popular, but it might be because things happen that make him angry. It’s the thing that makes him angry that both causes the drop in popularity and causes him to tweet a little bit more. I think it hurts him. I think it prevents him from achieving an equilibrium where people see him in a more positive light.
DeRay: Do you think that Obama’s quietness right now is effective? There are people who say that if Obama stuck his head in, he’d be a foil for Trump and it would motivate his base and same thing about Hillary. Do you think that if Obama inserted himself a little bit more, which would be sort of unprecedented, but Trump is unprecedented in so many ways, that that might actually help? Or are you in the camp of he should probably be quiet because it might amplify the base in a way that we could suffer?
Nate Silver: I mean I think Obama has a lot of humility to understand that sometimes when you’re a president or an ex-president that you can move the needle in the wrong direction. There’s a whole theory of public opinion called thermostatic public opinion where like a thermostat, people adjust in the opposite direction of where if the room feels too blue, they shift it red, and too red, they shift it blue. So a lot of times when Trump goes and tries to give a speech, for example, on the border wall then the border wall actually becomes less popular potentially.
Nate Silver: There are lots of things where actually America by the polls is actually more pro- immigrant than it has been in a long time. People are more worried about climate change than they have been in a long time. Now, that’s a long way from meaning that you can actually have a government that can do very much about it, more people in power, I should say who want to do very much about it. But still, I think Obama’s instinct that hey, you gotta use a lot of discretion for when you speak because when you reinsert yourself as a partisan voice, the things shift in the direction.
Nate Silver: But I don’t know. I’m sure he’ll become more involved in the campaign in 2020, probably go on the stump and campaign in that role as a lot of ex-presidents do. But I think he’s probably smart to hold his fire. Actually now it’s up to Kamala Harris or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar, or whatever else to become that person that is a leader of the party.
DeRay: Thanks guys.
Brittany: February isn’t just about one super-sized football game. On Spotify, there’s thousands of free sports podcasts that agonize over the preseasons, off seasons, and plain old regular seasons of nearly every sport imaginable, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, curling, and even hurling. Yes, that is a real sport. Now it’s so easy to say updated with the latest trade rumors, predictions, and scorching hot takes from some of your favorite games and biggest names. So take it one episode at a time and give 110% of your attention to the thousands of free sports podcasts on Spotify because the best offense is a good podcast.
DeRay, Brittany and Sam are LIVE from San Francisco with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Katherine Maher, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation.
DeRay, Brittany, Sam and Clint talk about the unequal distribution of federal disaster funds, how a messenger’s identity affects a movement’s momentum, kidney donations, and artificial intelligence. Actor André Holland joins DeRay to discuss his new film "High Flying Bird," the commodification of Black athletes and how art helps him work through trauma.
DeRay, Clint, Brittany and Sam talk about a Black man who outsmarted a neo-Nazi group, the high cost of insulin, a decrease in Black homeownership, and the trauma of attending a school proximate to homicides. Nedgine Paul Deroly, co-founder & CEO of Anseye Pou Ayiti, joins DeRay to discuss how she's working to improve education in Haiti.