Tag Archives: people

How Many People Actually Oppose Obamacare?

Mother Jones

Here’s some interesting polling news. However, the interesting part isn’t immediately obvious. First up is the Kaiser tracking poll, which asks if people have a favorable or unfavorable view of Obamacare:

Got it? Now here is today’s PPP poll, which asks if people support or oppose Obamacare:

Kaiser and PPP agree precisely on support for Obamacare: it’s at 47 percent. But they produce way different results on opposition: Kaiser has it at 46 percent and PPP has it at 31 percent. The difference is that PPP shows a large number of people who aren’t sure.

Why? Is this the difference between “view unfavorably” and “oppose”? Or a difference between Kaiser and PPP? It’s too big to be a mere statistical blip.

The most obvious interpretation is that there are lots of people who have unfavorable views of Obamacare but don’t outright oppose it. If that’s true, it seems like a pretty obvious opportunity for Democrats.

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How Many People Actually Oppose Obamacare?

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

Mother Jones

A month after President Donald Trump took office, khalid kamau was eating lunch in the cluttered kitchen of the Mayday Space, a leftist community center in Brooklyn. A year earlier, the 39-year-old (who prefers to spell his name without capital letters) had been driving a bus in Atlanta. Then his life took a hard left turn. When the city slashed public pensions, he became a union organizer. He then launched a Black Lives Matter chapter, became a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and led a walkout at the Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination. In December, kamau announced his candidacy for City Council in South Fulton, Georgia. Not long after that, he joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

kamau, who was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Don’t let your new president get your ass whooped,” had been a DSA member for all of a few weeks, but he already had big plans. Leaning forward on his wooden stool, he said, “I want to be the Obama of democratic socialism.”

First, kamau needed to win an election. Which is why, on an unseasonably warm weekend in February, he had come to Brooklyn for the Revolution at the Crossroads conference, a gathering of about 300 teen and twentysomething leftists that was sponsored by the Young Democratic Socialists, a subgroup of the DSA. After speaking on the kickoff panel the night before, kamau had taught the attendees how to use the free canvassing app MiniVAN and signed up dozens of volunteers for his campaign. (His organizing paid off; last Tuesday, kamau won his runoff election with 67 percent of the vote.)

Founded in 1982, the DSA claims to be the largest socialist organization in the country. It’s not a political party along the lines of the Communist Party USA or the Green Party. Many of its members are Democrats or the kind of left-­leaning independents who usually vote for Democrats. But just as the Obama era ushered in a boomlet of libertarianism on the right, the DSA is banking on Trump to make socialism great again. Its goal is not just to stop Trump’s worst policies, but to push the political conversation on the left even further to the left through a mix of political action and cultural engagement. There are signs it’s already working.

Fueled by disenchantment with the traditional institutions of the Democratic Party, the promise of Sanders’ candidacy, and the specter of Trumpism, DSA membership has more than doubled since the election. The DSA now boasts more than 20,000 members and more than 120 local chapters. Sure, you could fit just about everyone comfortably inside Madison Square Garden, but being a socialist hasn’t been this cool in years.

“The Bernie campaign really opened that Overton Window,” said Winnie Wong, a 41-year-old activist who co-founded the group People for Bernie and coined the phrase “Feel the Bern.” “We funneled thousands of people, hundreds of thousands—15 million people!—through to the other side. Are those people democratic socialists? No. Do they feel comfortable with the idea of socialism? Well, yeah! Because they voted for it.” Normalizing socialism, she said, is “the most important thing we can do.”

MAD LIBS: A quick guide to channeling your anti-Trump fervor

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Revolution at the Crossroads existed in a parallel universe to other political confabs, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference, known for its corporate sponsors, bad suits, and ritzy Beltway hotels. The opening panel was delayed because the speaker system was picking up an AM radio station. An attendee joked that “neoliberal capitalism”—”neoliberal” being the epithet of choice among the DSA set—was to blame. Sleeping bags littered the side walls. The dress code was plaid.

Socialism’s hipster makeover has been accelerated by a flowering of leftist media and culture. The DSA’s unofficial hype man is not Sanders—who is not a member—but the comedian Rob Delaney, who joined up after the election, inspired by his positive experiences with the British National Health Service as an expat living in England. Delaney has tweeted about the DSA more than 100 times since November and describes himself as a “fucking cockroach” for socialism, because of his persistence. “A lot of people have written me and said that they’ve joined because I won’t shut up about Democratic Socialists on Twitter,” he told me. He even raised money to defray expenses for some of the students who traveled to Brooklyn.

A popular gateway drug for democratic socialists is Chapo Trap House, a podcast hosted by a small clique of millennial Sandernistas that takes its deliberately head-scratching name from the jailed Mexican cartel king. It is incisive and irreverent but often scathing toward politicians, journalists, or anyone else insufficiently in line with its politics. (For instance: Clinton is an “entitled fucking slob,” and Democratic leaders should have “fucking killed themselves” after losing the election.)

Outside the conference, activists hawked Workers Vanguard, the ubiquitous Trotskyist newspaper. But inside, students chatted with writers from the two-year-old journal Current Affairs (“the world’s first readable political publication”) and Jacobin, a quarterly launched in 2010 by Bhaskar Sunkara, then an undergrad at George Washington University. Jacobin aims to do for socialism what National Review did for conservatism half a century ago. It’s polemical but not stodgy; its writers are as likely to discourse on the NBA as they are to inveigh against Uber. The magazine’s audience doubled, to 30,000 subscribers, in the four months after the election.

At the conference, where he was selling the most recent issue from a folding table along the wall, Sunkara, also a vice chair of the DSA, was a minor celebrity. “I think there’s a feeling that with the center kind of defeated, or at the very least temporarily discredited, we are the new center-left,” he told me. That newfound popularity has caused him to rethink the limitations of leftist politics. “Compared to where the goalposts were five years ago, we’re already basically there,” he said. Socialists won’t run Washington by 2020—but maybe they will in his lifetime.

But the DSA’s continued growth is hardly guaranteed. One challenge as it seeks to broaden its appeal is messaging. Members of the new socialist vanguard pride themselves on a certain degree of unfiltered vulgarity, and they target mainline liberals as often as they do Trump-backing conservatives. Amber A’Lee Frost, a Chapo co-host and YDS panelist, has referred to her cohort’s style as the “Dirtbag Left.” Frost contends that rudeness is essential to disrupting the political status quo. It is, however, a weird way to make new friends. Coalition politics are hard when everyone else is a sellout.

More pressing than its inability to play nice is the movement’s inescapable whiteness. If the audience at the conference was any indication, the DSA’s future is doomed to demographic failure—a point kamau emphasized on the event’s opening night. “I want you to look around the room,” he said, “and then I want you to realize that we’re in Flatbush, Brooklyn, right?” It was Bushwick, but the point stood. “I love Bernie, but I also think that the leaders of the Democratic Party and the leaders of the left are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the American left is a movement of black and brown people,” he told me. “And the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t look like that—the leadership of the DSA doesn’t look like that.”

In South Fulton, a mostly working-class, African American community of 100,000 people, kamau sees an opportunity to broaden the appeal of democratic socialism. He believed his race, which was nonpartisan, was a chance to act on a DSA manifesto that calls for running “openly democratic socialist candidates for local office, in and outside the Democratic Party,” and “taking out pro-corporate, neoliberal Democrats.” YDS had given each conferencegoer a three-page reading list with titles by writers such as Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Wong suggested that young socialists study up on the hard lessons of electoral politics instead. “Learn about the mechanics it takes to win these elections,” she said. “You’re not gonna learn those by reading all three volumes of Capital, I promise you.”

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

Mother Jones

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This is from the LA Times yesterday:

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before firing their guns — a policy shift that marks a significant milestone in the board’s attempts to curb shootings by police.

Wait. This is new? This hasn’t always been LAPD policy? Apparently not, and apparently not much of anywhere else, either:

As criticism of policing flared across the country, particularly after deadly shootings by officers, law enforcement agencies looked to de-escalation as a way to help restore public trust. Like the LAPD, other departments have emphasized the approach in training and policies.

The Seattle Police Department requires officers to attempt de-escalation strategies, such as trying to calm someone down verbally or calling a mental health unit to the scene. Santa Monica police have similar rules in place, telling officers to try to “slow down, reduce the intensity or stabilize the situation” to minimize the need to use force.

….The focus on de-escalation represents a broader shift in law enforcement, said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor and expert in police accountability. Now, he said, there’s an understanding that officers can shape how an encounter plays out. “This is absolutely the right thing to do,” he added.

This is especially important in Los Angeles:

African Americans continue to represent a disproportionate number of the people shot at by officers. Nearly a third of the people shot at last year were black — a 7% increase from 2015. Black people make up about 9% of the city’s population but 40% of homicide victims and 43% of violent crime suspects, the report noted.

The LAPD also topped a list of big-city agencies with the highest number of deadly shootings by officers. Police in Los Angeles fatally shot more people than officers in Chicago, New York, Houston and Philadelphia did, the report said. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department came in second, with 15 deadly shootings.

Go ahead and call me naive, but I would have figured that de-escalation was standard protocol everywhere. Not always followed in practice, of course, but at least theoretically what cops are supposed to do. But apparently not. It sounds like it started to catch on after Ferguson, and is only now being adopted as official policy in a few places.

Better late than never, I suppose, but I wonder what’s stopping this from being universally adopted? What’s the downside?

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

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Silicon Valley Has a Cold-Pressed Juicing Scandal

Mother Jones

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Behold the Juicero. It is sleek, internet-connected, built like a tank, uses custom bags of chopped produce, applies four tons of pressure, and makes the world’s trendiest cold-pressed juice:

But wait. Bloomberg reports that there’s a dark side to the Juicero. Well, another dark side, anyway:

After the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it. Bloomberg performed its own press test, pitting a Juicero machine against a reporter’s grip….In Bloomberg’s squeeze tests, hands did the job quicker, but the device was slightly more thorough. Reporters were able to wring 7.5 ounces of juice in a minute and a half. The machine yielded 8 ounces in about two minutes.

Hmmm. Tell me more about these reporters. Men? Women? Weakling nerds? Folks who hit the gym a lot? How much juice could I get from a Juicero bag? In any case, investors are upset:

After the product’s introduction last year, at least two Juicero investors were taken aback after finding the packs could be squeezed by hand. They also said the machine was much bigger than what Evans had proposed. One of the investors said they were frustrated with how the company didn’t deliver on the original pitch and that their venture firm wouldn’t have met with Evans if he were hawking bags of juice that didn’t require high-priced hardware. Juicero didn’t broadly disclose to investors or employees that packs can be hand squeezed, said four people with knowledge of the matter.

Oh come on. Juicero was recently forced to cut the price of its press from $699 to $399, so it probably isn’t even much of a moneymaker. The bags, on the other hand, are highway robbery at $5-7 each. At a guess, the gross margin on the press is around 50 percent at best, but the gross margin on the juice bags is probably 90 percent or more. If Juicero can sell the bags without the juicer—and maybe tout hand squeezing as a good workout regimen while they’re at it—they probably clear a thousand dollars per year. Maybe more. The press doesn’t add much to that, even if it is 802.11b/g/n compatible and notifies you when your juice packs are about to expire.

The hardware is only necessary for two reasons. First, people are lazy and don’t want to squeeze their own bags. Second, it makes everything high tech and cool. Regardless, differential pricing is a proven moneymaker, and now Juicero can sell its bags to cheapskates. There’s always been more money in the blades than the shaver.

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Silicon Valley Has a Cold-Pressed Juicing Scandal

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Are US Airlines Worse Than European Airlines? This Chart Won’t Tell You.

Mother Jones

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A couple of days ago I wrote that we, the traveling public, have conclusively demonstrated that we care about nothing but price. This is one reason air travel has become progressively more awful. Steve Randy Waldman is sick and tired of people like me saying things like this:

There are two things wrong with this line that air travel is awful because consumers’ true revealed preference is that it should be awful and cheap. First, there is the fact that air travel managed by the main domestic carriers in the United States is uniquely awful, and there is no evidence that US travelers are any more price conscious than consumers in other countries. No frills, discount air travel is popular in Europe as well, and it is sometimes awful, but it is on the whole much cheaper than “discount” air travel within the US. Mainstream carriers almost everywhere else in the developed world are notably less awful than the big American carriers, and often just as cheap.

When I was writing my post, this was actually at the top of my mind. Is American air travel really uniquely awful? The problem is not just that I couldn’t think of any data to bring to bear on this question, I couldn’t even think of any anecdotal data that would be meaningful. It’s true that I hear griping about American carriers a lot more than I do about European carriers, but then, living in California I would, wouldn’t I? Complaint rates might be germane, but should that be per flight or per 100,000 miles or what? And are fares really the same or lower than in the US? That’s hard to say, since Europe is simply a different environment: different regulators, shorter distances, more concentrated population centers, real competition from trains, etc. Nor do I know how subsidies play out among various countries.

The bottom line is that this would take some very careful research indeed. However, if you absolutely insist, I just spent the past few minutes doing some un-careful research. All I can say about it is that I promise I didn’t cherry pick. For the US, I chose the four biggest airlines. For Europe, I chose four representative big airlines, and I chose them before I looked at the data:

US data is for March 2017 here. European airline data is for Q1 2016 from Britain’s CAA here. For Europe, this is not continent-wide data. It’s only for complaints filed in the UK.1

I have absolutely no idea if these numbers are really comparable. Do Americans simply complain less than Brits? (Seems unlikely.) Is it easier to complain in Britain? Are “enplanements” (US) the same as “passengers” (Europe)? Or do European airlines really suck way worse than US airlines?

I don’t know, and you shouldn’t assume this chart tells you. Still, it definitely doesn’t suggest that US airlines are uniquely awful. The bottom line is that we need real research to come to any conclusions here. If I’m bored this weekend, maybe I’ll look for some.2

1One thing you can’t do is use US data to compare domestic and international carriers. The international carriers are flying exclusively international flights into the US, and the rules and flying experiences are very different for domestic and international flights. One way or another, you have to use local data so that you get a roughly comparable split of domestic and international flights for all carriers.

2But probably not. I’ve got other work to do.

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Are US Airlines Worse Than European Airlines? This Chart Won’t Tell You.

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