Monday, July 31, 2017

Last Call For The Opioid Crisis Is The Jobs Crisis

The problem we hear from Trump voters in Ohio is that there are no jobs under Obama and the Democrats, so they rolled the dice on Trump and the GOP.  The reality is a lot more complicated of course.  The jobs are there, but qualified workers aren't, and the biggest culprit is not lack of training or immigrant labor or even the death of unions, but the opioid crisis.

Ohio's blue collar workers can't pass drug tests.

An Ohio factory owner said Saturday that though she has blue-collar jobs available at her company, she struggles to fill positions because so many candidates fail drug tests.
Regina Mitchell, a co-owner of Warren Fabricating & Machining in Hubbard, Ohio, told The New York Times this week that four out of 10 applicants otherwise qualified to be welders, machinists and crane operators will fail a routine drug test. 
In an interview Saturday with CNN's Michael Smerconish, Mitchell said that her requirements for prospective workers were simple.

"I need employees who are engaged in their work while here, of sound mind and doing the best possible job that they can, keeping their fellow co-workers safe at all times," she said. 
"We have a 150-ton crane in our machine shop. And we're moving 300,000 pounds of steel around in that building on a regular basis. So I cannot take the chance to have anyone impaired running that crane, or working 40 feet in the air." 
President Donald Trump addressed his blue-collar base in Ohio this week, returning to his campaign theme of getting local communities back to work and returning jobs to America from overseas. 
But Mitchell said she has jobs. She just doesn't have sober applicants. 
For 48 of the 50 years her company has been around, drug abuse had never been an issue, she told Smerconish. 
"It hasn't been until the last two years that we needed to have a policy, a corporate policy in place, that protects us from employees coming into work impaired," she said. 
Opioid use is on the rise across the country, but especially in Ohio. In 2014, the state had the second-largest number of opioid-related deaths in the United States and the fifth-highest rate of overdose. 
"This opioid epidemic that we're experiencing ... it seems like it's worse than in other places all over the country," Mitchell said.

Now keep in mind Ohio Republicans happily put major cuts to Medicaid and drug treatment programs in Ohio's state budget.  They were line-item vetoed by GOP Gov. John Kasich, but the bigger point is that if you want to see the real reason why Obamacare has grown begrudgingly popular out here in the Midwest, it's because for a lot of families the ACA and the treatment options it provides are the only thing standing between them and disaster when it comes to the opioid crisis here.

It's not just "an inner city" problem, either.  And people here damn well know it.

Regrets, He's Had A Few

Reince Preibus may have been unceremoniously booted out of the White House by Trump (having the dubious distinction of the shortest-serving WH Chief of Staff) but he's taking the massive public humiliation in stride, comforting himself on the fact that the GOP has gained control of pretty much the entire country under his watch.

Six years ago, a humble party hack from Kenosha, Wisconsin, took on the thankless job of turning around the Republican Party. As he exits the White House—battered, bruised, and humiliated—Reince Priebus argues he accomplished just what he set out to do. 
“We won,” Priebus told me in an interview. Calling from the golf course on Sunday afternoon, he sounded both defiant and relieved. “Winning is what we were supposed to do, and we won. That’s the job of the Republican Party. It’s in the best shape it’s been in since 1928.” 
The former White House chief of staff and Republican National Committee chairman said he was proud of his stewardship of the GOP, which culminated in the election of a Republican president, Republican Congress, and Republican gains up and down the ballot. 
But the White House is mired in chaos, and all that Republican power has yet to result in a single major policy achievement. Priebus’s critics view him as the man who sold his party out to Donald Trump. Was it really worth it, I asked?

It’s absolutely worth it,” Priebus said, pointing to the appointment of a conservative Supreme Court justice, regulatory reform, and a healthy economy, though he acknowledged health care remained “an obstacle.” “The president has accomplished an incredible amount of things in the last six months,” he added. “The future can be great, and the past has been pretty good.” Even in exile, he was still committed to spinning the Trump line. 
It has been a long, strange trip for Priebus, who came to Washington as GOP chairman in 2011 on a promise to reform a party in disarray. His story, in a way, is the story of the Republican Party itself: His initial wariness of Trump gave way to capitulation and then enabling. He swallowed his private qualms for the sake of the team, until his turn to be the victim of Trump’s pageant of dominance finally came—publicly disgraced, dismissed in a tweet. 
“I see him as kind of a tragic figure,” said Charlie Sykes, a former conservative radio host in Milwaukee who has known Priebus for many years. “What began as a matter of duty on his part—the decision to go all-in on Trump—ended with this scorchingly obscene humiliation.” 
Sykes’s pity for his friend was limited, however. “It’s sad, but it’s the result of choices he made,” said Sykes, a Never Trumper who is now an MSNBC commentator. “It’s not like he wasn’t warned.” 
Ironically, Priebus’s own career in national politics began with an act of disloyalty. In 2011, he won the RNC chair by running against his own boss, then-chairman Michael Steele. Despite big wins in the 2010 midterm elections, party activists had become dissatisfied with what they viewed as Steele’s mismanagement and penchant for gaffes. Steele knew he would have challengers when he sought another term as chairman—but he didn’t expect a challenge from Priebus, his general counsel, whom he considered a teammate.

“This is the bed Reince has been making for himself since he was my general counsel,” Steele told me. “He’s a guy who’s always positioning himself for the next thing. Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?”

And sure, Priebus almost certainly helped sell the country out to Vladimir Putin in order to win...but they won, and in the end in American politics, winning is the only thing that matters, because winners get to do things, and losers get to complain about it.

It's hard to say he's wrong, either. Laugh all you want at Reince, but it's true: right now the GOP controls 240 House seats, 52 Senate seats, both chambers in a whopping 32 state legislatures (plus de facto control of Nebraska's unicameral state government) and 33 governors...oh yeah, and the White House.  Outside of New England/Mid-Atlantic states and the West Coast, the Dems are also-rans across the board right now.

Of course with the rise of Priebus and the Trump GOP, America is the biggest loser.  Hopefully we'll try to correct this problem before it becomes too permanent, and that means mobilizing for 2018 *now*.  We're already seeing signs of this as Dems are recruiting and registering voters.

On the other hand, Priebus lasted a hell of a lot longer at the White House than Tony Scaramucci did.

He's got that going for him.

Hack The Vote 2018

The annual DEF CON hacker conference took place this weekend in Las Vegas, where corporations, enthusiasts and the the US government backed by Big Data challenge the hacker community in a friendly competitions to break the best defenses the experts have to offer, and pay a pretty handsome sum (not to mention job offers) for those who can find a way through.  It's a way for both sides to get better and stronger, but in the end the decision to implement tougher network defenses are always a business decision and not a security one.

Unfortunately as we've seen recently with Russia, that cost-benefit analysis mindset when applied to government means we still have a major vulnerability in this country with electronic voting machines and have for years.  One of the biggest exhibitions at DEF CON this year was a demonstration on just how easily those machines can be cracked.

Election officials and voting machine manufacturers insist that the rites of American democracy are safe from hackers. But people like Carten Schurman need just a few minutes to raise doubts about that claim.

Schurman, a professor of computer science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, used a laptop’s Wi-Fi connection Friday to gain access to the type of voting machine that Fairfax County, Virginia, used until just two years ago. Nearby, other would-be hackers took turns trying to poke into a simulated election computer network resembling the one used by Cook County, Illinois.

Elsewhere, a gaggle of hackers went to work on a model still used in parts of seven states, as well as all of the state of Nevada. Though the device was supposedly wiped before it was sold by the government at auction, the hackers were able to uncover the results the machine tallied in 2002.

They were among the hundreds of cybersecurity experts who descended on “Voting Village,” one of the most talked-about features of the annual DEF CON hacker conference. In a cramped conference room, they took turns over three days cracking into 10 examples of voting machines and voter registration systems — a reminder, they say, of the risks awaiting upcoming U.S. elections.

“I could have done this in 2004,” said Schurman, who could gain administrative-level access to the voting machine, giving him the power to see all the votes cast on the device and to manipulate or delete vote totals. “Or 2008, or 2012.”

In the wild, he estimated, it would take him about a minute to break in.

Anne-Marie Hwang, an intern at the digital security firm Synac, demonstrated that by bringing a generic plastic key to mimic the ones given to poll workers and plugging in a keyboard, she could simply hit control-alt-delete and enter the voting machine’s generic password to gain administrative access.

The lesson: “The bad guys can get in,” said Jake Braun, a panel moderator at the conference who advised the Department of Homeland Security on cybersecurity during the Obama administration.

And that means election officials must acknowledge that no security is foolproof. Instead, Braun said, they need to adopt the private sector model of working to better detect and minimize the effect of successful cyberattacks rather than trying to become impenetrable.

“‘Unhackable’ is absurd on its face,” Braun said. “If the Russians and Chinese and whoever else can get into NSA and Lockheed Martin and JP Morgan, they absolutely can get into Kalamazoo County or the state of Ohio or the [voting machine] vendor.”

So this means we either need to go back to paper machines, or massively boost detection and containment protocols.  Either would mean a lot of additional federal money set aside to help county election boards and various offices of Secretaries of State around the country.

The problem is in precisely zero instances can I find a Republican at the federal level who thinks we should do that. If anyone has an example of a Republican in Congress who wants to do it, let me know.

All I can find are Republicans who want to destroy voting in this country through cuts to implementation funds, voter ID laws, and neglect of the Voting Rights Act.

Ask yourself why in every instance why Republicans want to make voting harder and yet less secure.


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