Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

When White America Becomes a Minority

Announcement of a Looming White Minority Makes Demographers Nervous.” NYT’s article makes this announcement of White America becoming a minority in the 2040’s like it is new news. It is not. Back in 2006, I exchanged emails with Joel Garreau about the same topic in his article 300 Million and Counting. Joel concentrated on the arrival of immigrants to the country being good news as it keeps our labor force younger than other countries such as Germany, Russia, etc.

One AB commenter asked whether it makes sense to have an educated populace if they can not pay back the cost of an education. It does makes sense to educate the population as they are better equipped to take on the requirements of the economy whether it is manufacturing or service based. Burdensome student debt in which excessive interest payment resulting from economic hardship being a precursor to paying loan principal only aggravates the problem of debt shackling the borrower to a longer period of time of debt servitude before becoming productive and contributing to society. It behooves the nation to minimize the costs associated with getting an education with low loan interest rates, forgiveness over time, and complete eradication.

A younger work force coupled with educational skills pays off in productivity gains at many different levels.

Joel Garreau also talked of immigration in 2006 in a positive sense:

“One fortuitous result of the enormous wave of immigrants coming to the United States is that the median age here is only a little over 35, one of the lowest among the world’s more developed countries. This country also has the most productive population per person of any country on the planet—no matter how you measure it, and especially compared with Japan and the members of the European Union.”

It has changed somewhat with the 2008 recession and the slack in the Labor Force amongst the prime age.

NYT approaches the issue in a nervous manner.

“The presentation of the data disturbed Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director, who saw it while looking through a government report. The graphic made demographic change look like a zero-sum game that white Americans were losing, he thought, and could provoke a political backlash.”

Expectations? White nationalists worried about losing racial dominance. Progressives envisioned greater political power from greater diversity and a white minority. Others look to the immigration of new people as a way to fill the gap left by retiring baby-boomers.

With each arrival of a new class of immigrant, there has always been a backlash as to how to categorize them. In this instance, the change coming is already here, has been for a couple of decades, and will come to pass in the 2040s well after baby-boomers have passed. Whether politicians or white America resists it, it will not matter as this change will occur. What will matter is whether we give them the proper tools now to be productive later.

As Charles King, a political science professor at Georgetown University stated; “The closer you get to social power, the closer you get to whiteness.” King is the author of a new book on Franz Boas, the early 20th-century anthropologist who argued against theories of racial difference. The one group that was never allowed to cross the line into whiteness was African-Americans and the long-term legacy of slavery.

Just an opinion, when Mexicans, African-Americans, and other groups were and are in the minority, white America didn’t care. Now the status of white America is changing, they are waking up to it, and they care.

I urge you to read both articles.

Comments (8) | |

Passed on the Romaine Salad This Year

My wife was in charge of making the salad for Thanksgiving. For her easily done as she makes her own Italian dressing. I bought enough Romaine Hearts to feed 20 people. On Wednesday, we pitched them all as CDC said not to eat any Romaine as it was contaminated with E. Coli. We moved on to Spinach and Arugula.

It is not the first-time leafy vegetables have been removed from the grocery shelf and the dinner table. Indeed, if you glance at the attached chart, it has happened frequently over the years. Since 2006, there has been at least one outbreak of E. Coli yearly caused by leafy vegetables.

The Center for Investigative Reporting on its website Reveal was one of the first to break the story of why it has become hazardous to eat vegetables in the US. “5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteria.”

Congress legislated actions to be taken in 2011 after several out breaks of E. Coli and the resulting illness. The testing of the water used to irrigate the fields growing the plants was to start in 2018. Six months before people were sickened by the contaminated Romaine, in response to pressure from the farm industry, and Trump’s mandate to eliminate regulations, the FDA delayed the water-testing rules for at least four years.

This particular outbreak originated in Yuma Arizona and is believed to be from irrigation water which is typically a prime source of food contamination and foodborne illnesses. When livestock feces flow into and contaminates a creek, the tainted water can seep into wells or is sprayed onto produce which is then harvested, processed, and sold at stores and restaurants. Salad leafy greens are particularly vulnerable and they are often eaten raw and can harbor bacteria when torn. In 2006, most California and Arizona growers of leafy greens signed agreements to voluntarily test irrigated water which minimizes the risk of contamination.

Farm groups contend the testing of water is too expensive. Some farmers contend the whole thing is an overblown attempt to exert government power on them. Postponing the water-testing rules would save growers $12 million per year. It would also cost consumers $108 million per year in medical expenses, according to an FDA analysis.

Go Figure . . .

Reveal: “5 people died from eating lettuce, but Trump’s FDA still won’t make farms test water for bacteria.” The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Tags: , Comments (7) | |

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running”

Two years ago in a post entitled “Those who cannot see must feel”, I wrote:

That’s the translation of an old German saying that I used to hear from my grandmother when I misbehaved.  It is pretty clear that, over the next four years, the American public is going to do a lot of feeling ….  The results will range somewhere in between bad, disastrous, catastrophic, and cataclysmic, depending on how badly foreign affairs are bungled ….

I have some hope … because both China and Russia are smart enough to figure out that they can get what they want by bribing Trump without resorting to armed conflict.

Although I never published it here, below is the conclusion of an email I sent to several correspondents six months ago:

Ever since Trump’s election, the lyrics of Al Stewart’s song about the 1937 Spanish Civil War, “On the Border,” have been going through my mind:

“On my wall, the colors on the maps are running …”

and I have thought that 2019 is the time of maximum peril to Taiwan and Ukraine.

The midterms were less than three weeks ago. Today Russia blocked the Kerch Strait, entrance to the Sea of Azov, effectively cutting off one of Ukraine’s ports. Ukraine says its navy is leaving port.

Between now and the end of 2019 is the most dangerous time, because any potential U.S. Foe will want to have any aggressive move be a fair accompli by the time the 2020 U.S. Elections are underway, let alone by the time a replacement for Trump can be inaugurated.
Good luck to us all.
[UPDATE: In case you’ve never heard it, here’s a link to the song.]

Comments (2) | |

District Federal Court Rips Administration on Census

I have had enough court time to last a life time. While mine was not fun and it was a battle, this I find hilarious. It is a well placed shot across the bow of someone who believes they are impervious to society, the courts, and morality.

The census case arrived in front of Manhattan District Federal Judge Furman requesting that he delay proceedings. Calling it the ‘latest and strangest effort’ in its crusade to delay proceedings in the case. He said what made the request ‘most puzzling, if not sanctionable’ is that the Trump administration had made a similar request before the trial started, and had been rejected by not only the district court judge, but by an appeals court and the Supreme Court.

Furman pointed out, “when the Supreme Court announced last week it was taking up the case, “it knew that this Court had completed trial, and it presumably expected that the Court would enter final judgment before the date that it set for oral argument.”

Bashing the administration for taking its request to an appeals court before he had a chance to rule on it. The appeals court again denied that request as premature.

“If Defendants’ motion in this Court comes close to the sanctionable line, that filing would sure seem to cross it,” Furman wrote in his order.”

Other quotable quotes?

– “Unless burdening Plaintiffs and the federal courts with make-work is a feature of Defendants’ litigation strategy, as opposed to a bug, it is hard to see the point. To borrow from Camus, “[o]ne must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

– “Tellingly, this time, Defendants do not even attempt to argue that they are entitled to the extraordinary relief of a stay of all proceedings under the traditional factors…In fact, the words ‘harm” and ‘injury’ do not appear anywhere in their motion. That is for good reason, as the notion that they — or anyone else — would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ without a stay is laughable.”

– “Defendants’ motion makes so little sense, even on its own terms, that it is hard to understand as anything but an attempt to avoid a timely decision on the merits altogether.

– “Enough is enough.”

State of New York vs US Department of Commerce

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

Pelosi Challenging Outdated Norms

From Washington Monthly Nancy LeTourneau

On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Pelosi Nov 13, 2018

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

As it happened on the same day some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House, there are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments. But the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership is completely different.

As Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

The theme demonstrated by Nancy Pelosi and well articulated by Nancy LeToureau at WM? In her leadership role, Pelosi is challenging some of the old vestiges of power and strengthening the small “d” democratic processes in overall party. It should come as no surprise that these changes are being resisted as power shifts from top-down to bottom-up. But it’s important for all of us to be clear about exactly what’s happening and weigh in accordingly.

Tags: , , Comments (21) | |

The AMA is Calling for a Relaxing of CMC Opioid Prescription Restrictions

A little history:

In 1980, the Porter and Jick letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine by the Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program stated:

“the risk of addiction was low when opioids such as oxycodone were prescribed for chronic pain.”

It was a brief statement by the doctors conducting the study, taken out of context, and cited many times afterwards as justification for the use of oxycodone.

In a June 1, 2017 letter to the NEJM editor, the authors reported on the broad and undocumented assumptions made as a result of the 1980 Letter on the Risk of Opioid Addiction.. Using bibliometric analysis of the impact of this letter to the editor, the citations of the 1980 letter were reviewed to determine the citation’s portrayal of the letter’s conclusions.

Identified in the bar chart are the number (608) of citations of the 1980 letter over a period of time from 1981 to 2017.

“72.2% (439) of the citations, quoted the letter or used it as evidence addiction was rare in patients when treated with opioids such as oxycodone. 80.8% or 491 of the citations failed to note the patients described in the letter were hospitalized at the time they received the prescription.”

There was a sizable increase of citations after the introduction of OxyContin (extended release oxycodone) in 1995. As the analysis noted “affirmational citations of the letter have become less common in recent years in contrast to the 439 (72.2%) positive and supporting citations of the 1980 correspondence in earlier years. The frequency of citation of this 1980 letter stands out as being unusual when compared to other published and cited letters. Eleven other published, stand-alone, and more recent letters on different topics published by the NEJM were cited at a median statistic of 11 times each.

Citations of the 1980 standalone letter on “addiction being rare” from the use of opioids such as oxycodone failed to mention, the patients administered to were in a hospital setting as noted in the Porter and Jick letter. Overlooked, a mistake, intentional misquote by the people citing this letter?

In 2007 in the pharmaceutical industry, “the manufacturer of OxyContin and three senior executives of Purdue Pharma plead guilty to federal criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors, and patients about the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin.”

This year, law makers questioned Miami-Luken and H.D. Smith wanting to know why millions of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were sent (2006 to 2016) to five pharmacies in four tiny West Virginia towns having a total population of about 22,000. Ten million pills were shipped to two small pharmacies in Williamson, West Virginia. The number of deaths increased along with the company and wholesaler profits.

60% of all drug-poisoning deaths in 2013 involved prescription opioids and/or heroin. Among individuals aged 25 to 64 years, deaths from a drug overdose—the majority of which were opioid-related—exceeded motor vehicle collisions as the leading cause of accidental death in 2013. Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.

The information is out there as to why the abuse of opioids and related drugs is increasing. It is being ignored or argued against as limiting a patients rights to have unhindered access to opioids by doctors and patients alike. Sound familiar, similar to the gun lobby?

Today

AMA Delegates Back Physician Freedom in Opioid Prescribing At best, 20% of all doctors are members and the percentage has been declining. From the meeting; “The CDC’s guidelines on the use of opioids for pain management are well-intentioned, but some insurers and pharmacists have used them to restrict providing and need to be discouraged from doing so, members of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates said Tuesday.”

And the CDC response as told by one doctor. “a member of a pain management task force being convened by the Department of Health and Human Services. “Draft comments will be coming out in a couple of weeks and will very specifically address the misinterpretation of the CDC guidelines,” he noted. “This is really timely because the comments from the AMA will be extremely important in weighing in [on the issue].”

Doctors do no want interference with decision- making when it comes to patients. At the same time, little has been done to rein in addiction due to prescription opioids which lead to other addictions because prescriptions are expensive or are limited in access. Here is Janet from stopnow blog and who writes about addicted babies due to mothers taking opioids:

More overdose deaths last year than the entire Viet Nam War. The FDA approves sufentanyl 10 times stronger than fentanyl. Yesterday the AMA President was quoted using the same verbiage as Big PhRMA- undertreatment of pain. And now a campaign to undo the CDC guidelines which until they were released doctor education was coming from the drug companies. We need full disclosure – is this funded by Big PhRMA.

Here is a counter argument from a pharmacist where he misapplies the stats to suit his argument:

“it depends what numbers of overdose deaths you are referring to because it is certainly not more deaths due to opioid pain medications. There were 72,000 overdose deaths which includes ALL overdoses from ALL classes of medications. Overdoses from opioids were 49,000 and within that group only 19,354 were from opioid pain relievers. Deaths from fentanyl (illicit) totaled over 29,000, heroin almost 16,000, and cocaine 14,500. (One death could be counted in more than one category, numbers from NIH.) Vietnam war deaths totaled 58,220 versus 19,354 deaths from opioid pain medications. By the way, there were 10,684 deaths due to benzodiazepines, should the CDC mandate doses and days of therapy for those also?

I have no connections with or any payments/gifts from any drug manufacturer. My only concern is that in the national noise of the ‘opioid epidemic’ the focus is on those who abuse opioids and I want to make sure that we still hear the cry of the patient who needs pain relief and who does NOT abuse the medications.”

Yes the pharmacist is correct when he says of the 72,000 deaths only 19,354 can be attributed to opioid pain relievers in 2018. Janet cited the 20 years of Vietnam deaths. The pharmacist conveniently sidesteps the time periods involved here. In three years and if the numbers stay the same (they have been increasing YOY), the numbers of opioid deaths will be slightly less than 20 years of Vietnam if it were to remain at 19,000/year. Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. Of recently cited 150,000 accidental deaths, 72,000 (a record high) can be attributed to drug overdose deaths, a record high.

And this is ok?

60% of opioid deaths occur in those who were given a prescription by a physician. The other 40% of deaths are caused by people who obtained opioids by “doctor shopping,” and receive multiple scripts at once. The perceived safety and easy accessibility of these drugs have presented the highest risk for most users, even if they eventually seek out illicit opioids or “street drugs.” In 2014, only 22.1% of non-medical users obtained opioids through a doctor, meaning that the diversion rate of these drugs is very concerning. Many people are getting these medications illegally or without doctor supervision.”

Tags: , Comments (12) | |

A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

Now that the 2018 midterm elections are behind us, let’s take a preliminary look at 2020.
It occurred to me that a decent baseline for that election is to simply take the total 2018 House votes for each state, assume that the Presidential vote in 2020 in each state will be the same, and apply that to the Electoral College. Alternatively, you could use the results of the 2018 Senate races in those states where there were races in 2018, and apply those results for those states. That’s because the midterm turnout approached Presidential election levels, and Trump is going to engender the same intensity in two years as he did this past week.
So, using the 2018 results as the template for 2020, who wins?
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had that thought. Nate Silver already had the same idea and did that for the House vote. Here’s what that hypothetical 2020 Electoral College map looks like:
If you apply the 2018 House votes to the Presidency in 2020, the Democratic candidate wins handily.  As Nate Silver points out, it is a virtual duplicate of the 2012 map.
[Before I go further, let me just note that the above House map has a few glitches. Florida only went Democratic when the votes in House districts where there was no GOP candidate are added. Conversely, in North Carolina, there was a House district without a Democratic candidate. If we were to add just 2/3’s of the typical democratic vote in other GOP-dominated districts in NC to that district, then NC flips to the democratic column.]

Comments (2) | |

A Washington State Carbon Tax Goes Down in Flames

A Washington State Carbon Tax Goes Down in Flames

Initiative 1631, which would have created a carbon tax in Washington State, lost by almost 12% of the vote this week.  Commentators on all sides have interpreted this as a decisive defeat for carbon pricing, making more indirect policies like subsidies to renewables the only politically feasible option.*

I don’t have time for a lengthy analysis, but in a few words I want to suggest that this conclusion is premature.  I live in Washington State and saw the battle unfold first hand in real time.  Voters were not asked by opponents of 1631 to reject carbon pricing; on the contrary.  And it was the failure to draft and promote a straight-ahead carbon pricing law that doomed it.

While supporters of 1631 point to money from fossil fuel interests as the “cause” of their defeat, the actual propaganda of the No side did not belittle the threat of climate change, nor did it even argue against the need for action to reduce emissions.  It hammered on these points:

1. 1631 was weak.  It excluded too much of the state’s emissions and wouldn’t have a meaningful impact on them.

2. Nevertheless it would raise energy bills for virtually all the state’s residents.

3. It proposed an undemocratic procedure for allocating carbon revenues.

The money behind this message may be “bad”, but the message itself was correct.  1631 was so poorly conceived that the arguments of the troglodytes were closer to the truth than those of the progressives.  Take them one by one:

1. 1631 was the second carbon tax initiative in two years.  Last year’s effort, I-732, had broader coverage and allowed for higher carbon prices over time.  It was opposed by progressives, who organized to defeat it and then drew up their own, weaker proposal.  There is a lot of detail to go into, but the short version is that 1631’s carbon price was essentially symbolic, a few cents on the carbon dollar.  It was not a meaningful action to deal with the threat of a climate catastrophe.

Comments (8) | |

Kristallnacht: Lights left on to mark 80th anniversary

Between 9 and 10 November 1938, more than 1,400 synagogues and prayer rooms, thousands of Jewish-owned homes, hospitals, shops and cemeteries were damaged or destroyed across Nazi Germany and Austria.

At least 91 Jewish people were killed and an estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.

It does not look like much has changed in the last 30 years and indeed has worsened for Jews and minorities as the white majority exercises its rule and capability to inflict upon them poverty. Poverty is more than just being poor. It is the loss of freedom to pursue religion, education, safety, etc. Ghandi had it right when he said Poverty is the worst form of violence. It comes is so many different forms.

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

Why Gerrymandering Matters

Gerrymandering is not going away any time soon. It will just be used in different manner, a manner in which to achieve congressional districts with a fairer representation of the district’s constituency.

Why won’t gerrymandering go away? The districts are too big at an average of 700,000 people per district. This is the result of Congress freezing the number of Congressional Representatives at 435 in 1929 and reapportioning the districts of each state based upon population every 10 years. The inequality of this methodology can be seen in a comparison between Wyoming with its one Congressional Representative and it population of 586,000 as compared to California and its average size of 700,000 for each Congressional District. If the average was set at 586,000 people per district as Wyoming has, then California would gain 15 more Congressional Representatives.

The Washington Post has an article up on the impact of both unfair gerrymandering and a fairer version of gerrymandering as dictated by the court The later achieves a much fairer split of the districts meant to represent the makeup of the population within the state and their political interests as discovered through national elections.” One state fixed its gerrymandered districts, the other did not.“

The picture depicts the change in numbers of Republicans and Democrats elected to office as determined by the Congressional districts make up. Pennsylvania had its districts redrawn by the court and “a 53 percent majority in the popular vote yielded a hair under half of the contested seats for Democrats — a big difference from 2016, when 48 percent of the vote gave Democrats 27 percent of the seats.”

In North Carolina, the districts were not redrawn. “The old maps were still in place and a electoral result in 2018 was identical to that of 2016. Despite a Democratic wave in which more than half the state’s voters opted for a Democratic House candidate, Democrats won one-quarter of the contested seats.”

Michigan passed Proposal 2 which established a civilian board to redraw the boundaries of the Congressional districts. I suspect it will still have issues as it will be selected by the legislature.

Tags: , , , Comments (2) | |