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Productivity Is the Key to Economic Growth

Mother Jones

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Mick Mulvaney says the haters don’t know what they’re talking about:

In his remarks Tuesday, Mulvaney mentioned that the economy had often grown in the past at rates of 3 percent and called people’s objections to the Trump administration’s expectation of growth rates that high “absurd.”

“It used to be normal. Ten years ago, it was normal. In fact, it’s been normal for the history of the country,” said Mulvaney.

Mulvaney is sort of right about this. But there’s more to it. The basic formula for economic growth is simple: Economic growth = Population growth + Productivity growth. Population growth has been slowing down for decades, and Mulvaney isn’t going to change that. We know exactly what the population of the country is going to be over the next few years.

So that leaves productivity growth, which the BLS estimates here. Here’s what all three factors have looked like since 1960:

In order to achieve 3 percent economic growth, we need productivity growth of about 2.3 percent. This is decidedly not normal for the history of the country—not in the past 50 years, anyway. With the brief exception of the unsustainable housing bubble era, we haven’t hit that since the end of 60s.

Productivity growth is a real problem, and it’s something of a mystery why it’s been so low lately. But it’s a mystery to Mulvaney too, and it’s certainly not due to punitive tax rates or heavy-handed regulations. Despite this, Mulvaney is suggesting that Trump can more than double the productivity growth rate of the past ten years, reaching a target we haven’t hit in a normal, healthy economy for the past half century. There’s simply no reason to believe this, and Mulvaney hasn’t even tried to explain how he thinks Trump can accomplish it. Not even hand waving. He’s literally said nothing about productivity growth at all.

Until he does, nobody should believe his growth estimates. It all comes down to productivity, and that’s what Mulvaney needs to talk about.

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Productivity Is the Key to Economic Growth

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Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved!

Mother Jones

Yesterday I wrote about the mystery of drunk driving: if stricter laws and harsher punishments really are responsible for a decline in drunk driving, why is it that alcohol-related fatalities have only declined at the same rate as every other kind of road fatality? Is it possible that all those laws have been useless?

I got several good responses, which confirmed that there’s a bit of a mystery here but pointed out that my data only went back to 1994. This misses the significant drop in drunk driving during the 80s and early 90s. Then I got an email from Darren Grant, an economics professor at Sam Houston State University, pointing me to a paper that decomposes exactly what happened and when. Grant’s paper, which relies on a microdata-based model of traffic fatalities, concludes that it’s legitimate to use the percentage of all road fatalities that involve alcohol—which has been flat for many years—as a proxy for the amount of drunk driving. It also breaks down the reason for the decline in drunk driving during the 80s and 90s. Without further ado, here is his chart:

There are several takeaways from this:

During the 80s and early 90s, drunk driving decreased significantly.
By the mid-90s, the level of drunk driving flattened out and has been flat ever since.
The effect of laws on drunk driving has been pretty modest. That’s the red band in the chart. Stricter laws are responsible for only a small fraction of the total decline.

There’s potentially some good news here. Grant concludes that the biggest effect by far has been from social forces, namely the increased stigma associated with drunk driving. If you discount demographics, which we have no control over, social stigma accounts for about half the drop in drunk driving. This suggests that what we need isn’t so much stricter laws, but a revitalized campaign to even further stigmatize drunk driving. I’m on board with that.

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Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved!

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The Genius Who Helped Unlock the Human Genome Is Taking On the Opioid Crisis

Mother Jones

Francis Collins, the gregarious 67-year-old who directs the National Institutes of Health, doesn’t shy away from a challenge. Collins made a name for himself in the early 2000s when, as director of the Human Genome Project, he oversaw the completion of sequencing 3 billion genes. Now, as the head of the nation’s foremost biomedical research engine, Collins faces a new task: finding solutions to the opioid epidemic, which killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015.

At the Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Conference last month, Collins announced a public-private partnership, in which the NIH will collaborate with biomedical and pharmaceutical companies to develop solutions to the crisis. President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price “strongly supported” the idea, he said. This isn’t Collins’ first such partnership: During his tenure as director—Barack Obama appointed him in 2009—Collins has developed ongoing collaborations with pharmaceutical companies such as Lilly, Merck, and GlaxoSmithKline for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. For each partnership, the NIH and the companies pool tens of millions of dollars, with the agreement that the resulting data will be public and the companies will not immediately patent treatments. The jury’s still out on results—the partnerships are about halfway through their five-year timelines. But Collins, a self-described optimist, remains hopeful. “Traditionally it takes many years to go from an idea about a drug target to an approved drug,” said Collins at the conference. “Yet I believe…a vigorous public private partnership could cut that time maybe even in half.”

I talked to Collins about the partnership, potential treatments in the pipeline, and the NIH’s role in confronting the ongoing epidemic.

Mother Jones: Why is a public-private partnership needed?

Francis Collins: While NIH can do a lot of the good science, and we can accelerate it if we have resources, we aren’t going to be the ones making pills. Many of the large-scale clinical trials are not done generally by us but by the drug companies. A successful outcome here—in terms of ultimately getting rid of opioids and the deaths that they cause—would not happen without full engagement by the private sector.

MJ: Which companies will be involved?

FC: It will be a significant proportion of the largest companies. I can’t tell you the total list—as I said, the 15 largest were there. Certainly the groups that already have some drugs that are somewhere in the pipeline will be particularly interested in ways to speed that up.

MJ: What do you hope will come out of it in the short term?

FC: I think that we could increase the number of effective options to help people get over addiction, and the treatments for overdose, particularly when fentanyl is becoming such a prominent part of this dangerous situation. The current overdose treatments are not necessarily as strong as they need to be. We could make progress there pretty quickly, I think—in a matter of even a year or two—by coming up with formulations of drugs that we know work but in a fashion that would have new kinds of capabilities. The drugs would be stronger, as in the overdose situation, or have the potential of longer-acting effects, as in treating addiction. It’s not necessarily a different drug, but a different formulation of the drug. And drug companies are pretty good at that.

MJ: And in the long term?

FC: The goal really needs to be to find nonaddictive but highly potent pain medicines that can replace the use of opioids given the terrible consequences that surround their use. This will be particularly important for people who have chronic pain, where we really don’t have effective treatments now. The good news is that there’s a lot of really interesting science pointing us to new alternatives, like the idea of coming up with something that interacts with that opioid receptor but only activates the pathway that results in pain relief—not the somewhat different pathway that results in addiction. That’s a pretty new discovery that could actually be workable, and a lot of effort ought to be put into that.

I’d like all of us, the academics, the government, and the private sector, to think about this the way we thought about HIV/AIDs in the early 1990s, where people were dying all around us in tens of thousands. Well, that’s what’s happening now with opioids. This ought to be all hands on deck—what could we do to accelerate what otherwise might take a lot longer? It’s interesting talking to the drug companies, who have really gotten quite motivated and seem to be determined to make a real contribution here. There are quite a number of new drugs that are in the pipeline somewhere, and they haven’t been moving very quickly, because companies haven’t been convinced there was enough of a market—opioids are relatively cheap. And also they’ve been worried that it would be hard to get new pain medicines approved if they had any side effects at all. Now that we’ve seen opioids have the most terrible side effect of all—namely, death—it would seem that as new analgesics come along, that the ability to approve some that might give you a stomachache now and then would probably be better.

MJ: There’s a lot of wariness of big pharmaceutical companies right now, given Big Pharma’s role in creating this problem to begin with. How do you make sure that whatever treatments are developed are affordable?

FC: That’s a very big concern for everybody right now. It’s front and center in these discussions about development of new drugs and pricing of existing drugs. And I don’t know the full answer to that. This is just part of a larger discussion about drug pricing which applies across the board, whether we’re talking about drugs for cardiovascular disease or cancer or, in this case, alternatives for opioids. But we need them. As much as people might want to say, “Oh, pharmaceutical companies, they’re all just out to make money,” they also have the scientific capabilities and they spend about twice what the government does on research and development. If they weren’t there, we’d be completely hopeless as far as new treatment.

MJ: Trump’s latest budget proposes a 20 percent cut to the NIH for 2018. Are you worried about having enough funding?

FC: Of course I am. And not just for this, but for all the other things that NIH is called upon to do as part of our mission. I’m an optimist, and what I have seen in my 24 years at NIH is that opportunity in medical research is not a partisan issue—it’s not something that’s caught up in politics most of the time. And having seen the enthusiasm represented by the Congress in their passage of the 21st Century Cures Act just four months ago with incredible positive bipartisan margins, I think when the dust all settles, people will look at these kinds of investments and see them as a high priority for our nation. But of course, that’s my optimistic view.

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The Genius Who Helped Unlock the Human Genome Is Taking On the Opioid Crisis

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

Mother Jones

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Following the explosive report that President Donald Trump leaned on then-FBI director James Comey to go easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn—and the explosive report that Trump’s transition team knew Flynn was under FBI investigation when Trump tapped him to be his top national security aide—an increasing number of congressional Republicans have begun to accept the need for full-scale investigations along with the appointment of Robert Mueller as the new special counsel to examine the Trump-Russia affair. But party leaders have not reached the point where they are willing to truly confront the scandal-plagued president. The GOP establishment can’t and won’t thoroughly challenge Trump over the assorted controversies brewing within his chaotic administration. To do so would risk a nuclear civil war that could blow their party to smithereens.

Ever since Trump moved into the White House, liberals (and others) have plaintively asked, why aren’t Republicans fiercely investigating Trump and his crew and seeking to hold them accountable for various instances of improbity? There’s been plenty to choose from: the Trump-Russia scandal, the smorgasbord of financial conflicts of interests involving Trump and his family members in and out of government, other possible ethics violations (including nepotistic hiring), the ever-widening Michael Flynn affair, and so on. In the wake of Trump’s firing of Comey, the guy in charge of a FBI investigation that could land on Trump’s doorstep, and the subsequent report (denied by the White House) that Trump pressured Comey on Flynn, some GOPers on Capitol Hill have gently called for probes into these matters. But by and large, Republican leaders have not dared to take on Trump vigorously. “The last thing I’m going to do is pre-judge anything,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday.

One reason Republicans have been reticent to criticize Trump is obvious: they care more about working with—that is, using—Trump to attain their most beloved policy desires: generous tax breaks for the wealthy, draconian budget cuts for government programs (including those that assist low- and middle-income Americans), and the repeal-and-replace-or-whatever of Obamacare. But there’s a related reason: if congressional Republicans were to challenge Trump in forceful fashion, it could destroy the GOP.

Pop quiz: who’s the most vengeful politician on the scene today? Yes, it’s Trump. As I reported before Election Day, Trump is completely obsessed with revenge. For years, Trump often said in paid speeches that a key to success is that you have to be a merciless SOB when dealing with foes. Here’s how he spelled it out: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.” Another time, he elaborated:

One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you’ve got to hit ’em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You’ve got to get even. Get even. And the reason, the reason you do, is so important…The reason you do, you have to do it, because if they do that to you, you have to leave a telltale sign that they just can’t take advantage of you. It’s not so much for the person, which does make you feel good, to be honest with you, I’ve done it many times. But other people watch and you know they say, “Well, let’s leave Trump alone,” or “Let’s leave this one,” or “Doris, let’s leave her alone. They fight too hard.” I say it, and it’s so important. You have to, you have to hit back. You have to hit back.

With the president showing signs of narcissism and paranoia—on Tuesday, he declared, “No politician in history…has been treated worse or more unfairly” than he has been—Republican politicians who dare to confront Trump can expect to be targeted and mowed down by Trump.

Prior to the recent Comey and Flynn controversies, many GOPers were scared of Trump. A House Democrat a few weeks ago told me of a conversation he had with a Republican colleague whom he was close to persuading to sponsor a piece of legislation that would likely be popular in the GOPer’s district but not fancied by the Trump White House. “I just can’t do it,” the Republican finally admitted to the Democrat. “He’ll come after me on Twitter.” The wrath of Trump was something this Republican feared deeply—just over a policy disagreement.

Imagine if Republicans squared off against Trump regarding a matter involving his integrity—or one that could pose an existential threat to his presidency. (Examining the Comey issues as possible acts of obstruction of justice could well lead to the question of impeachment.) Trump certainly would not consider such action kindly. And if he were going to screw them back 10 times as hard, what would that mean for congressional Republicans?

It would be quite improbable that a raging and revenge-seeking Trump would be able to collaborate with Republicans on legislative priorities. What would be more important for Trump: working with Republicans to achieve tax reform or extracting payback?

If the going gets tougher, Trump will insist on fealty from his fellow Republicans. Yet if some opt to join the forces of investigation, a dividing line would be created within the party: you’re with Trump, or you’re not. Of course, Trump and his minions would be keeping score. During the the first and chaotic effort of House Republicans to gut Obamacare, the Trump White House considered compiling an enemies list of those GOPers who opposed the Trump-backed bill. Republicans who threatened his presidency could expect much worse than being placed on a roster of unfriendlies.

This is far more than an inside-Washington affair. Trump’s base is the party’s base. Despite all the screw-ups, false assertions, broken promises, and flip-flops of Trump’s still young (but exhausting) presidency, he remains hugely popular among Republicans—84 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump in the latest Gallup poll—who presumably buy his “fake news” attacks on media reports that cast him as an autocratic, truth-challenged, and bumbling president. If Republicans on Capitol Hill turn against Trump they could well encounter the fury of their most dependable voters. In the fight for the soul of the party, could GOP leaders (Washington insiders!) best the demagogic Trump? Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Paul Ryan would be no match for him. The idea of a President Pence would likely be little consolation for the base during a clash between Republicans and Trump.

The Republican establishment has already demonstrated that political calculations, not principles, are its driving force. And one calculation is easy to process: if the GOP breaks rank with Trump on any of these scandals, there will be no turning back. An irate (and irrational?) Trump would demand retribution. A base already suspicious of GOP insiders could become furious. Tax cuts and the like would be at risk. The party itself would be endangered. Of course, as is so often noted, if the Republicans start to feel Trump-related electoral pain—say, they lose one of the upcoming special House elections in GOP-leaning districts—they might reevaluate their situational loyalty to Trump. But the smart ones know the costs of such a course—even if necessary for survival—could be exceedingly high.

There is no good answer for congressional Republicans facing the dilemma of what to do about Trump. They long ago decided to lash themselves to a man with a decades-long record of dishonesty, arrogance, bullying, sleazy deal-making, and score-settling. There are no easy escape routes. No convenient off-ramps. No lifeboats on this ship. He made the bed, and they leaped into it. (Oh, Donald!) Now they’re screwed. The old cliché is that you don’t go after the king unless you can kill the king. But for Republicans, the situation is worse that that: it may not be possible for them to battle their king without razing their kingdom.

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There’s No Way Republicans Will Truly Confront Trump on His Scandals. It Would Destroy Their Party.

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Is Trump Looking For a New Press Secretary?

Mother Jones

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Seriously?

That’s from the San Jose Mercury News. There are only a few possibilities here:

  1. Sean Spicer has already resigned and is only staying on until a replacement is hired. So he knows all about this.
  2. Spicer doesn’t know Trump is planning to fire him and Guilfoyle was supposed to keep it confidential.
  3. Spicer doesn’t know but nobody in Trumpland gives a shit how he finds out he’s been fired.

It must be a real joy working in the White House these days.

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Is Trump Looking For a New Press Secretary?

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Obama says we’ll have to speed up innovation to avoid eating our way to climate catastrophe.

“There is such a thing as being too late,” he told an audience at a food summit in Milan, Italy. “When it comes to climate change, the hour is almost upon us.”

The global problems of climate change, poverty, and obesity create an imperative for agricultural innovation, Obama said. This was no small-is-beautiful, back-to-the-land, beauty-of-a-single-carrot speech. Instead, Obama argued for sweeping technological progress.

“The path to the sustainable food future will require unleashing the creative power of our best scientists, and engineers, and entrepreneurs,” he said.

In an onstage conversation with his former food czar, Sam Kass, Obama said people in richer countries should also waste less food and eat less meat. But we can’t rely on getting people to change their habits, Obama said. “No matter what, we are going to see an increase in meat consumption, just by virtue of more Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, and others moving into middle-income territory,” he said.

The goal, then, is to produce food, including meat, more efficiently.

To put it less Obama-like: Unleash the scientists! Free the entrepreneurs!

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Obama says we’ll have to speed up innovation to avoid eating our way to climate catastrophe.

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I Met the White Nationalist Who "Falcon Punched" a 95-Pound Female Protester

Mother Jones

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Punching a 95-pound woman in the face might be the best thing that ever happened to Nathan Damigo. The 30-year-old Marine veteran and leader of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa was until recently an obscure ex-con and member of a marginal hate group, but in the past three weeks he’s suddenly became an icon to the alt-right for being the man behind the fist that clocked anti-fascist protester Emily Rose Marshall at a rally of far-right groups on April 15 in Berkeley, California. 4Chan users created memes celebrating him for his “falcon punch.” The neo-nazi site Daily Stormer hailed him as a “true hero.” Berkeley police, meanwhile, have declined to state whether they are pursuing charges against him.

Twelve days after that encounter, at another far-right gathering—billed as a “fuck antifa” rally—admirers approach Damigo, who is dressed in a white hoodie, to shake his hand and pat him on the back. “You’re sort of famous now,” says Faith Gold from the anti-semitic Canadian website Rebel Media.

A video of Nathan Damigo (top) and Emily Rose Marshall (below) during the street fighting in Berkeley on April 15 went viral. Stephen Lam/Reuters via ZUMA Press

“I’ve just been really humbled,” Damigo tells Gold. “A lot of people have shown support and come up to me today and said thank you for fighting for our ability to come here and speak.”

The rally, held in MLK Civic Center Park, includes speakers Brittany Pettibone, a writer for AltRight.com who promotes the conspiracy theory of “white genocide,” and Vice cofounder Gavin McInnes, head of the Proud Boys, a “Western Chauvinist” street brawling fraternity. Large white men in motorcycle helmets, carrying sticks and bats, guard the stage. There are a surprising number of people of color in red MAGA hats including “Latina for Trump” Irma Hinajosa. Anti-fascist counter-protesters like Marshall are, for the most part, nowhere to be seen.

When I approach Damigo and ask him about the response he’s received to the video of the assault, he says it’s been “great.” Recruitment for Identity Evropa has “gone through the roof” since Trump’s inauguration, he adds, growing from just 12 people last year to more than 450 members across dozens of campuses. Cal State Stanislaus, where Damigo is a social sciences major, launched an “immediate investigation” after the video was posted online. Damigo says he thinks the investigation is “funny.”

After the punching video went viral, the alt-right unleashed a doxing campaign against Marshall and her family, publishing their home addresses and phone numbers online. Marshall received rape threats and other abusive messages and images of pornography work she’d done were turned into memes and posted to her grandmother’s Facebook page. Damigo tells me these actions were justified. “I think we’re engaged in cultural warfare right now,” he says. Anti-fascists, he claims, doxed him and his family last year. “This is part of that culture war.”

Damigo’s assault and the adulation that followed may indeed be new battles in a long culture war, but his story also shows how a young man from California has slowly been radicalized—in the military, in prison, and on the internet—and in turn how he’s helping “racialize,” or make racially conscious, a new generation of young white conservatives.

Damigo tells me he has returned to Berkeley because he supports free speech, which he’d like to exercise in order to promote Identity Evropa’s message that white people should take pride in their race and resist being “ethnically cleansed.”

As we talk, he forces a smile, but his quivering lip betrays an underlying frustration. He repeats catchwords like “radical diversity,” “radical inclusion,” and “multiracialism” throughout our interview. He speaks like someone who has practiced his talking points—a skill he teaches other white nationalists—but he hasn’t quite learned how to integrate them into a back and forth with a reporter.

I ask Damigo whether the free speech he is advocating for in Berkeley applies to everyone and not just white people, especially given the fact that he promotes the creation of an ethnically pure, white “ethnostate.” He pauses. His lip quivers. “We have a right to exist,” he says. “We have a right to an identity.”

When I press him and ask what measures he would go to in order to create that ethnostate, he admits that violence might be needed. “Politics,” he says, “is essentially the use of force and power.”

Damigo is a product of the rapidly growing right-wing ideology known loosely as “identitarianism,” and his current 15-minutes of fame has, in turn, made him one of its newly anointed popularizers. Born in Lewiston, Maine, to parents he describes as “fundamentalist Baptists,” his family later moved to San Jose, California, where Damigo attended a “small, private Christian school.” White people make up about half of San Jose’s population but for Damigo, it felt like “everybody was kind of a minority,” as he once told Countercurrents TV, a white nationalist YouTube channel. Many of his friends were Filipino and Latino and he noticed that they “had a very tight-knit group thing going on. I would go and I would hang out and there was always something that was kinda off, that wasn’t really fitting.”

Damigo’s parents imparted on him their “hawkish, neocon views,” and in 2004, at age 18, Damigo joined the Marine Corps and completed two tours in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province. “For the first time in my life, I was around a lot of white people,” he said. “I noticed that they seemed to share a lot of my views.” His friends of color back home were never mean to him, but he felt an ease with his new white comrades that felt much more “natural.” With his friends of color “it seemed like on every single issue politically we disagreed. No matter how hard I tried to convince them of the logic of the views I was espousing, it just didn’t seem to sink in and I couldn’t understand why.”

Damigo lost several friends in combat and when he returned home, “There were a lot of demons I was facing,” he said. “I felt betrayed by the government.” He found it hard to reintegrate and began drinking heavily. About a month after returning from his second tour, he went on a binge and held up an Arab taxi driver at gun point, robbing him of $43. He was convicted of armed robbery and spent a year in county jail followed by four years in prison.

Damigo was featured in Wartorn 1861-2010, a 2010 HBO documentary about PTSD coproduced by Sopranos star James Gandolfini. The film follows Damigo as he awaits sentencing. When Damigo’s brother asks him if PTSD made him do it, he replies, “I know it was PTSD.” His mother says that at the time of the crime, “he was drunk, he was confused, he was probably suicidal. And when he came up on this guy, all of a sudden he went into combat mode. He was back in Iraq in a heartbeat.” After Damigo was sentenced to six years in prison, his mother told the film crew, “They took him when he was 18 and put him through a paper shredder and then sent him back to us. We get to try to put all the pieces back together. Sometimes it’s like Humpty Dumpty: they don’t go back together.”

Prison, Damigo told Countercurrents TV, ended up “perhaps being the best thing that ever happened to me.” While locked up, he became “racialized.” Because California was under a federal court order to depopulate its prisons, Damigo was sent to a private facility in Oklahoma run by the Corrections Corporation of America. In prison, he told me, “everybody kind of breaks down on race. It’s constantly present.” He took to a white man who seemed to have a deep interest in politics, and who recommended Damigo read My Awakening by former KKK leader David Duke. This in turn led him to more serious sociological works like Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society and esoteric white nationalist texts like Guillaume Faye’s Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance. “From there,” Damigo said, “I think the rest is history.”

Damigo’s activism started after he was released in 2014. He became enamored with the French nativist movement Bloc Identitaire, whose so-called identitarian ideology aims to extend the insights of identity politics to white people in order to preserve and promote “white” culture. Identitarianism was a far-right, anti-immigration movement, but it was influenced in part by socialist ideas. It opposed “imperialism, whether it be American or Islamic.” But most of all Damigo was impressed by the movement’s “professionalism” in advocating for the “interests” of white Europeans. “They have mastered this branding, this aesthetic. They’ve really done an amazing job with it.”

Around the same time, Damigo came across YouTube videos by a man named Angelo Gage, another white nationalist Iraq veteran who has struggled with severe PTSD. Damigo commented on Gage’s videos and the two struck up a friendship online. Damigo eventually assisted Gage in founding the National Youth Front (NYF), a youth-oriented offshoot of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. The NYF’s main tactic was to wage provocative, media-courting campaigns against college instructors. “A lot of what we were going after were…professors…teaching these cultural Marxist, anti-white theories like white privilege theory and critical race theory, who were publicly making anti-white statements on social media.” They posted flyers on campuses with professors’ pictures, branded with the term “anti-white.” At Arizona State University NYF members pressured administrators to discontinue a class called “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.” Damigo seems to see no contradiction between his claim to defend free speech and his efforts to silence a professor. “I’m pretty big on freedom of speech obviously…but right now in the school system what they have is really just indoctrination…We had an issue with that.”

When another organization named Youthfront threatened to sue NYF for using its name, NYF fell apart. Damigo saw it as an opportunity. He had wanted NYF to be more overtly “pro-white.” At the same time, a broader, loosely knit movement was forming called the alt-right, which mostly existed on the internet. Damigo thought it was “the next natural step to take this decentralized internet-based movement into the real world. We’re trying to create a fraternity and brotherhood for people who have awakened and who see the world in a different light. We want to get the normies’ attention.”

Identity Evropa, formed in 2016, is an exclusive organization with a stringent interview process for membership. “We want people who represent us with their presence,” Damigo said. The organization tries to challenge stereotypes about white nationalism, which is part of its seduction. There are no skinheads or white hoods or swastikas. Its members wear suits and focus on debate and rhetorical strategy. Its main focus over the past year has been branding. Members hang posters and put stickers around campuses and busy downtown areas, trying to build name recognition and “bring attention to the concept of becoming racialized.”

The biggest obstacle to getting that attention, according to Damigo, is restrictions imposed by online platforms. Google began cracking down on alt-right YouTube accounts after companies threatened to pull advertisements. White nationalists, in turn, have migrated en masse to Twitter, where they are relatively unrestricted. Damigo says when he joined Twitter a couple years ago, there were “perhaps only 20 pro-white accounts and I just watched it blossom over the last couple years.”

“We are exponentially growing right now,” Damigo said. “Next semester, Identity Evropa is going to have much more of a face than we’ve had over the last semester. We’re going to be going to schools, setting up tables. Our members are going to be out there talking to students.”

At the rally in Berkeley, an argument has erupted. A black woman is yelling at a group of white men on the right-wing side. “You’re racist!” she shouts.

“She’s pulling the black card,” someone mutters.

“You’re racist!” she repeats.

“Fuck Donald Trump!” a Latino man standing next to her shouts.

Damigo is off standing at a distance by himself, aloof. One of the white men goes and finds a black woman with a Trump shirt and brings her back to argue.

I later ask Damigo what he thinks about the fact that there are people of color at the rally on his side. “I’m fine with it,” he says. “It’s not the same movement, but this is a big tent coalition.” He says he is okay making strategic alliances with everyone on the far right, even if they aren’t white, united by shared issues like pressuring Trump to build a border wall or end the amnesty program for illegal immigrants. But none of this, he makes clear, amounts to a belief in racial equality. “No one’s really equal to anyone else in a biological sense,” he says.

“We have a right to preserve our heritage,” he adds. “And part of that requires having a nation and having a country where we can preserve ourselves.” He recognizes that a whites-only ethnostate is a “utopian idea”—or a dystopian one, to everyone else—that will take many steps to achieve. For now, he’s content to focus on “racializing” white people and stopping immigration. “It’s not a human right to live in a white country,” he tells me, “or live next to white people.”

Two white women in Trump t-shirts stand by politely as we talk. When Damigo looks over, one mouths, “I support you.” She holds her phone forward, asking for a picture. Damigo excuses himself from me. The woman thanks him for punching Emily Rose Marshall. They take a selfie together. Damigo smiles wide.

Source: 

I Met the White Nationalist Who "Falcon Punched" a 95-Pound Female Protester

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

Mother Jones

Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There’s loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. Here it is:

Premiums dropped in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn’t spike under Obamacare.

Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What’s more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).

However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums should have gone up under Obamacare.

But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven’t caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they’re still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

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How Bad Was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign?

Mother Jones

A couple of hours ago I tweeted this:

Shattered tells us in loving detail about every mistake the Clinton campaign made, but every losing campaign gets that treatment. Her campaign also did a lot of things right. My horseback guess is that when you put it all together, she was about average as a candidate and her campaign was about average as a campaign.

But that got me curious: how do Clinton and her campaign compare to past elections? There’s no way to measure this directly, but you can get an idea by comparing actual election outcomes to the predictions of a good fundamental model. So I hauled out Alan Abramowitz’s model, which has a good track record, and looked at how winning candidates performed compared to the baseline of what the model predicted for them. Here it is:

According to this, Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent. Without the Comey effect, she would have outperformed her baseline by a truly epic amount.

Now, was this because she ran a good campaign, or because she had an unusually bad opponent? There’s no way to tell, of course. Donald Trump was certainly a bad candidate, but then again, no one thinks that Dole or Gore or Kerry or McCain were terrific candidates either.

Bottom line: we don’t have any way of knowing for sure, and this is an inherently subjective question. But the evidence of the Abramowitz model certainly doesn’t suggest that Hillary Clinton ran an unusually poor campaign or that she was an unusually poor candidate. Maybe she was, but aside from cherry-picked anecdotes and free-floating Hillary animus, there’s not really a lot to support this view.

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How Bad Was Hillary Clinton’s Campaign?

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Urban vs. Rural Recovery From the Great Recession: Another Look

Mother Jones

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Thomas Edsall writes that as we recovered from the Great Recession, big cities did pretty well but rural areas didn’t. “The fact that people living outside big cities were battered so acutely by the recession goes a long way toward explaining President Trump’s victory in the last election,” he says, which he illustrates with this chart:

I don’t think there’s much question that Edsall is right in general, but this particular chart seemed off somehow. It combines both population growth and employment rate in a confusing way, and it covers the whole country, so it doesn’t account for the way different states responded to the recession. I pondered for a while what I’d rather see, and decided to examine the unemployment rate in California counties. California has a good mix of big cities and rural counties, including a lot of farming counties that voted heavily for Trump, and every county benefited from identical state policies since they’re all in the same state. Here’s the chart, which compares unemployment at the peak of the last expansion to today:

There are four points I can make about this:

If you draw an overall trend line (light gray line), it turns out that that unemployment declined a bit more in smaller counties than in larger counties.
The big cities (purple) all fall into a very small cluster, showing declines between about -1 percent and 0. The smaller counties (orange) are scattered all over the place, from -3 percent all the way up to +4 percent.
The average drop in unemployment is roughly the same in both big cities and the rest of the state. Big cities (-0.39 percent) did marginally better than everyone else (-0.25 percent).
The main farming counties have done poorly. Their unemployment rate has increased by +1.0 percent.

This is just one state, and I’m not trying to pretend that this data offers anything conclusive. What’s more, Edsall has some other facts and figures to back up his point. Still, I’ll toss out two guesses:

Big cities may have recovered better than rural areas, but only modestly. The difference isn’t huge, and by itself doesn’t really explain why Trump won.
The large effect Edsall sees may be due to differing state responses to the recession. I suspect that rural red states shot themselves in the foot by adopting conservative policies (cut taxes, slash spending) that hurt their recovery. This may have been an especially big factor in the 2008-09 recession, since the federal government did less than usual to cushion the blow.

I don’t know if anyone with real econometric chops has tested my second guess. If I find anything, I’ll follow up.

Original source: 

Urban vs. Rural Recovery From the Great Recession: Another Look

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