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David Dayen reminds us opioid emergency ends in a couple weeks

Lest we forget:

Politico notes today that the 90-day emergency declared actually ends in a couple weeks, and we’re in essentially the same place that we were before the declaration.
Trump has not formally proposed any new resources or spending, typically the starting point for any emergency response. He promised to roll out a “really tough, really big, really great” advertising campaign to spread awareness about addiction, but that has yet to take shape. And key public health and drug posts in the administration remain vacant, so it’s not clear who has the authority to get new programs moving.

A senior White House official said that the president has used the “bully pulpit” to bring urgency to the crisis, and if there’s one thing you want for your cause these days, it’s Donald Trump talking about it. Also it’s the equivalent of thoughts and prayers. By the way, Congress hasn’t really appropriated anything either, so this is a whole-of-government neglect.

Meanwhile, there’s a class divide among those suffering. Those with the means can get better treatment, in New York City and likely nationwide. The poor have to line up for their methadone treatment every day, putting extreme hassle into their lives.

The story is that an epidemic affecting white people would lead to a far more robust response than one that only affects minorities. With the opioid epidemic that’s only partially true.

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“I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.”

This column was written February 16, 2016 by Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe and is entitled; “The man who didn’t want to be president.” It was referenced in another column by Jeff Jacoby called “The Great I Am“. After hearing Trump’s “Like, being really smart” and a “stable genius” remarks, this column “kind of fits” in reply. I would hope our Democrat candidate going into 2018 is of the same ilk for personality as this president.

NEARLY 1,000 days stretch between this Presidents’ Day and the next presidential election. Yet already it is impossible to escape the maneuvers, machinations, and media coverage of men and women so consumed with winning the highest office in the land that the lust for power all but oozes from their pores. For as long as most of us can remember, the obsessive quest for the presidency has been an indelible feature of American politics. Try to envision successful candidates for the White House who don’t have that “fire in the belly”: candidates prepared to accept the job if it seeks them out, but not driven by such insatiable ambition for it that everything else pales by comparison. It would be easier to envision a team of unicorns.

And yet America once had such a president. He was James A. Garfield of Ohio, a remarkable individual who rose from grinding poverty to the presidency of the United States without ever thrusting himself forward as a candidate for election to anything. It is a shame that Americans don’t know more about this gifted yet modest leader, as they doubtless would had he not been shot by an assassin just four months after becoming president.

On the eve of Garfield’s inauguration as the nation’s 20th chief executive, he told a group of old friends: “This honor comes to me unsought. I have never had the presidential fever, not even for a day.”

It was true. At every step of his political career, Garfield had to be urged to serve for the good of the country. He was first elected to Congress during the Civil War in 1862, while he was on active duty as a major general in the Union Army. The 31-year-old Garfield, a Republican and ardent abolitionist, “receiv[ed] nearly twice as many votes as his opponent, although he had done nothing to promote his candidacy,” writes Candice Millard in “Destiny of the Republic,” her 2011 history of Garfield’s election and tragic death. He didn’t take his congressional seat for another year — and then only because President Lincoln pressed him to do so. “I have resigned my place in the army and have taken my seat in Congress,” Garfield wrote in a letter home. “I did this with regret . . . [b]ut the President told me he dared not risk a single vote in the House.”

A competent lawmaker with a reputation for conciliation, Garfield served nine terms in the House, before being elected to the US Senate in 1880. It was as Ohio’s senator-elect that he arrived that June at the Republican National Convention in Chicago. He had come to serve as floor manager for Treasury Secretary (and fellow Ohioan) John Sherman in what was expected to be a three-way fight for the GOP nomination. The other leading contenders were former president Ulysses S. Grant and US Senator James G. Blaine of Maine.

But none of the three could win the 379 votes needed for nomination. As the convention remained deadlocked through ballot after ballot, some delegates began floating Garfield’s name as a compromise. On the 34th ballot, after a day and a half of voting, 17 votes were unexpectedly cast for Garfield. Dumbfounded, he rose to protest, objecting vehemently to any effort to nominate him.

“The announcement contains votes for me,” said Garfield, who had remained loyal to Sherman. “No man has a right, without the consent of the person voted for, to announce that person’s name and vote for him in this convention. Such consent I have not given—”

Before he could finish, the convention chairman gaveled him out of order. The polling continued. On the 35th ballot, there were 50 votes for Garfield. By the 36th, with even Sherman throwing his support to his ally, it was all over. Garfield was nominated with 399 votes. As the convention erupted in cheers and song, a “shocked and sickened” Garfield was beset by well-wishers. To one delegate’s congratulations, he replied: “I am very sorry that this has become necessary.”

Five months later, he was elected president. On March 4, 1881, he was sworn in, and delivered an inaugural address passionate in its emphasis on the rights of freed blacks. “Former slaves in the crowd openly wept,” Millard recounts. Many more Americans wept six months later, when Garfield died of the gunshot wound he had received on July 2, 1881.

“I suppose I am morbidly sensitive about any reference to my own achievements,” Garfield once acknowledged. “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.”

Not many presidents have been more suited for high office than this admirable man who never lusted for power. Would that his like were in the mix for 2016.

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Why Inequality Predicts Homicide Rates Better Than Any Other Variable

By Maia Szalavitz via Naked Capitalism and cross posted from Evonomics; originally co-published at the Guardian and Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Why Inequality Predicts Homicide Rates Better Than Any Other Variable

– research suggests that inequality raises the stakes of fights for status among men.

The connection is so strong that, according to the World Bank, a simple measure of inequality predicts about half of the variance in murder rates between American states and between countries around the world. When inequality is high and strips large numbers of men of the usual markers of status – like a good job and the ability to support a family – matters of respect and disrespect loom disproportionately.

Inequality predicts homicide rates “better than any other variable”, says Martin Daly, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McMaster University in Ontario and author of Killing the Competition: Economic Inequality and Homicide.

This includes factors like rates of gun ownership (which also rise when inequality does) and cultural traits like placing more emphasis on “honor” (this, too, turns out to be linked with inequality). “About 60 [academic] papers show that a very common result of greater inequality is more violence, usually measured by homicide rates,” says Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level and co-founder of the Equality Trust.

According to the FBI, just over half of murders in which the precipitating circumstances were known were set off by what is called the “other argument” – not a robbery, a love triangle, drugs, domestic violence or money, but simply the sense that someone had been dissed.

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The end game is privatization…vouchers are one step

Jennifer Berkshire pointed Peter Greene to:

The election of Donald J. Trump as president offers the best opportunity in decades to shrink the size and power of government and increase individual liberty. 

So writes the Heartland Institute, a libertarian thinky tank, on a page devoted to all the Trumpian actions they approve of. This outfit was founded in 1984 by David H. Padden, a Chicago investor who had also been a director of the CATO Institute. They’ve advocated for fracking, stood up for tobacco companies, and advocate tireless for global warming denial. Plenty of related industries have been generous in supporting them, though they like to keep their money dark So, yeah– they’re Those Guys.

So it will come as no surprise that fifteen years ago they were laying out the program by which vouchers could be used to privatize education. Hat tip to Jennifer Berkshire, who turned up this article from Heartland’s website for February of 2002. As always, it’s interesting to see what some reformsters used to say back when they were just spitballing and not trying to spin.

Bast believed that we were at a tipping point, with vast support for vouchers poised to make them reality. As it turns out, his enthusiasm was overstated, a fact that he came to understand himself. Here he is quoted on the subject in a New York Times piece from just one year ago:

Complete privatization of schooling might be desirable, but this objective is politically impossible for the time being. Vouchers are a type of reform that is possible now…

And the NYT actually cut that quote short– the rest of the sentence is:

and would put us on the path to further privatization.

That quote goes back almost a decadeThe folks at Heartland are patient, and they have something now that they haven’t had for fifteen years– a Secretary of Education who has supported their group financially, and who is deeply in tune with their goals.

If you take nothing else from this piece, remember this– for many of the most ardent voucher supporters, school vouchers are not a destination, but just a stop-gap, something that will have to do until they can finally move on their real goal– the complete dismantling of public education in this country, replaced with a loose system of unaccountable, unregulated private schools. That fully privatized system, not a voucher system, is the goal. Keep your eye on the ball.

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Evergreen: So Much Stranger than That

Evergreen: So Much Stranger than That

I’m a professor at Evergreen State College, currently on leave.  Last year I lived through the events that were captured on videotape and brought the college a lot of unwanted publicity.  As a social scientist, long interested in organization theory and social movements, I found the experience grimly fascinating, an extraordinary case study.  In my writing on it, I try to focus on understanding how such things could occur, rather than apportioning blame to specific individuals, which, from what I can see, has been the main sport.

Today I read another post mortem by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, published in the right wing Washington Examiner.  Disclosure: I know both of them, and I had a positive experience co-teaching for a quarter with Heather several years ago in Evergreen’s environmental masters program.  I’m not socially connected to either of them, and I haven’t had political discussions with them either.  I agree with some of what they say in their latest missive, and disagree with other parts.  Readers of this blog, who are far from the scene and wonder who and what to believe, might find my reactions interesting.

There is an obvious, fundamental point on which the three of us see eye to eye: Evergreen descended into an atmosphere of intimidation, in which the right to speak, no matter how civilly, was openly attacked.  There was a group solidarity logic at work: if you affiliated with one group on campus, you could speak your mind in public and be immune from any scrutiny regarding the tone or logic of your utterances; if you didn’t you were expected to remain silent.  This pressure was felt by faculty and students alike.  It was in this context that disruptive actions by students escalated over many months until they paralyzed the college.  It’s remarkable that it even needs to be said that this situation is intolerable for an institution of higher education.

Personally, I think it is bizarre that Weinstein and Heying would be sent packing by the college under the same terms—the same monetary settlement—as Naima Lowe, whose verbal attacks on her colleagues caused enormous damage to Evergreen.  This is not a verdict of the “which side are you on” sort.  It’s not about whose political views you agree with or who you like or don’t like on a personal level.  Weinstein and Heying had a case against the college, and the college had a case against Lowe.  There wasn’t a shred of symmetry in this situation.

One critical aspect of the Evergreen imbroglio goes unmentioned in the Weinstein-Heying account, the barrage of terrifying, intimately threatening emails that bombarded students and faculty after Bret appeared on Fox News.  The wording in these emails reeked of racism and was often graphic, about specific acts of violence, and some students went into hiding because they couldn’t be sure the hatred was only verbal.  To be clear, I don’t blame Bret for that, at least in this sense: I’m pretty sure it never occurred to him that this would result from coverage by conservative media, and no doubt most of it would have taken place even if he had said “no” to Tucker Carlson.  Still, it’s an important part of the larger story, and if you offer an account of what happened you shouldn’t cherry-pick the parts that support your side.  Speaking for myself, I was appalled by this tsunami of hate, and I didn’t feel it was enough to say, this is just the alt-right being the alt-right.  We are all of us responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions, even if we aren’t the ones carrying them out.

But there is also an aspect of the Evergreen story, in many ways the most important one of all, that I think Weinstein-Heying got wrong.  The way they tell it, a left wing minority made a power play on campus in order to enact a radical, identity-fixated political program, the notorious Equity Plan.  This plan, they say, would have destroyed much of what made Evergreen a vital force in education, and the purpose of the intimidation was to push it through.  They cite one sentence from the plan document that calls for bringing diversity and equity criteria into decisions of what faculty specializations to hire in.  It is the Equity Plan that, in their account, makes the conflict political, a battle over which policies would be adopted by the college.

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The Language of a Dictatorship

Worth a discussion at the least:

By Masha Gessen Gessen is the author of nine books, including “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

The New Yorker  23 December 17

Donald Trump has scored a legislative victory with staggering costs. The price of the tax bill has to be measured not only in the loss American society will face in the increase in inequality, in the impact on public health, and the growth of the deficit, but also in the damage to political culture inflicted by the spectacle of one powerful man after another telling lies of various sorts.

All along there has been Trump claiming that the bill was a “gift” to the middle class. That this assertion appears to have no basis in fact has not affected the President’s statements. The President’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, maintained that his department had run the numbers and had shown that the tax bill would pay for itself. It appears that he lied, not so much about the result of the Treasury’s study but about the existence of the study itself: the Times reported last month that the analysis had not been done.

This was a Trumpian lie, which is distinct from other kinds of political lying. It might be called a power lie: its purpose is not to convince the audience of something that isn’t true but to demonstrate the power of the speaker. Trump tweets blatant lies, repeatedly, to show that he can—and that by virtue of his bully pulpit, his words, however absurd, always have consequences. Mnuchin showed that he can do the same thing, and that he has more power than the opposition.

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Republicans Reject the NFL, the CIA and the FBI

(Dan here…Lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Republicans Reject the NFL, the CIA and the FBI

I forget who said she never expected that, after the national divorce, liberals would get custody of the NFL. But it’s beyond that. Now Republicans reject the CIA and the FBI too. Donald Trump sometimes sounds like a paranoid 60s hippy claiming he is being persecuted by the evil FBI (except some of them really were persecuted).So what else can they reject and abandon ? Hmm the flag. Some of it is blue like blue states — they can’t have that, and some is commie red. So they will probably decide to purify it.

I can’t wait to see Republicans wave their white flag.

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October JOLTS report: a good post-hurricane rebound

October JOLTS report: a good post-hurricane rebound

The August and September hurricanes continue to make their impacts felt in the economic data.  Yesterday’s JOLTS report for October, like the October and November jobs reports, shows a rebound from those impacts.  The best way to look at the data is to average the last two months (and this will be true for the next JOLTS report as well, which will be best viewed by averaging all three months).Let’s start as usual by updating the disconnect between the “soft data” of openings in this survey and the “hard data” of actual hires and discharges. As I have pointed out many times, openings can be just chumming the water for resumes, or even laying the groundwork to hire foreign workers. The disconnect betrays an unwillingness to pay new hires more, or to engage in on the job training.

In October. openings continued to run about 10% higher than actual hires:

Hires have been basically flat for the last 2 years — specifically since December 2015 — while openings have continued to increase, although they too have been flattish for the last 5 months (especially if we average the last two months):

One of my mantras is that hiring leadis firing. To reeiterate, the major shortcoming of this report is that it has only covered one full business cycle. In that cycle, in acord with my mantra, hires peaked and troughed before separations:

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The End Of The “Islamic State.”

The End Of The “Islamic State.”

There are two aspects of this debate, one about the term, “Islamic State,” and the other about the its application. So, until about a month ago the entity calling itself ” al-Dawla al Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al Sham(s),” was claiming to be the most important Muslim political entity in the world, the center of its “Caliphate” which claimed to be the only legitimate and supreme ruler and polltical state for the entire Islamic/Muslim world. As of this moment it remains unclear what the status of the self-proclaimed al-Khalifa, Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi. Rumors have had him dead while others say he remains alive and in charge of the remnants of his group.

Regarding its real world actual existence, well, I am posting this because about a month ago this group lost control of the last good sized town that it controlled, Abu Kamal, reported by the seriously ignorant western media as “Bukamel,” about 40,000 in population, a town on the Euphrates River just over the border from Iraq on the Syrian side.  Apparently it now controls no town or city of any size, although supposedly it continues to operate in rural desert areas along the Syria/Iraq border. But as an entity that rules any sort of meaningful government as a “state,” well, it has ceased to exist  as that as of the takeover of Abu Kamal by Syrian state forces backed by both Russia and  Iran as well as the US to a lesser degree, and has returned to its earlier roots as a guerrilla rebel movement, not a status as a “state,” according to any serious definition of that term.

The second part of this involves mainstream western media.  Somehow somebody in control of these things decided and enforced that what al-Dawla al Islamiyya fi al-Iraq wa al Sham(s) would be known as “officially” in western mainstream media (to be specific the “papers of record,” the New York Times and the Washington Post), would be the seriously misleading and ideologically/theocratically inaccurate term, “the Islamic State.”

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An astute progressive critique of the Trump Administration from … CNBC?!?

An astute progressive critique of the Trump Administration from … CNBC?!?

John Harwood of that well known lefty outlet, …. ummm, CNBC …. writes this morning that “Trump has Forgotten his ‘Forgotten People’:”

He forgot them on health care. Jettisoning his campaign pledge to “take care of everybody” regardless of income, he proposed cutting federal health subsidies for the hard-pressed blue-collar voters who put him into office.

He forgot them on financial regulation. Abandoning talk of cracking down on Wall Street executives who “rigged” the economy to hobble the working class, he seeks to undercut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ….

And he forgot them on taxes. Discarding his vow to reshape taxation for average families at the expense of rich people like himself, he’s working with Republican leaders to hand the biggest benefits to corporations and the wealthy.

To the contrary, his budget includes big cuts to Social Security disability program. Meanwhile his much-vaunted infrastructure plan has ‘failed to materialize.”

But, Harwood points out:

The president hasn’t forgotten everything. In lieu of big financial benefits, Trump has steadily given “the forgotten people” at least one visceral commodity [: ]  affirmation of shared racial grievances.

I think this is a good summary of Trump’s domestic policies as revealed by the past year.  On social issues, he has governed exactly as he promised during his campaign, issuing a de facto ban on Muslim immigration, unleashing ICE against Latinos, and fulminating against protesting black NFL players.

But on economic issues he has behaved exactly like a standard issue country club republican.The requirement that the GOP enact a “replacement” for Obamacare? Gone. Preventing the offshoring of manufacturing jobs? Gone. Enacting at least something like a tariff at the borders? Gone. Actually *doing* something about the opioid crisis, which is strongly correlated with areas of economic distress (as opposed to lip service)? Nothing.

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