House Tea Partiers to the World: Burn, Baby, Burn.

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 4:45 PM EDT

Chaos, chaos, and chaos. Rep. Kevin McCarthy's withdrawal from the speaker's race has caused disarray—that is, greater disarray—within the House GOP conference. Hours after McCarthy's announcement, there was no word of what comes next. Who might jump in? Would a caretaker candidate emerge? How long could Speaker John Boehner stay in the job? And, it seemed, the House tea partiers who had somewhat caused this crisis—they had succeeded in driving Boehner from the job and had deemed McCarthy insufficiently conservative—were yearning for more chaos. The House Freedom Caucus, the tea party GOPers, put out this statement:

Note that last sentence: "The next Speaker needs to yield back power to the membership for the sake of both the institution and the country." In other words, we don't want a speaker who is going to try to govern in a time of divided government; we don't want a speaker who will endeavor to forge a compromise on behalf of the GOP conference and make the system work; and, as a government shutdown looms and a possible debt ceiling crisis approaches, we want a speaker who will step to the side and let the chaos reign. This is the congressional equivalent of "burn, baby, burn."

Advertise on

Let These Awesome Transgender Kids Show You What Their Lives Are Really Like

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 4:28 PM EDT

Despite the strides made by the transgender community in recent years, the lives of transgender people remain largely out of sight, even taboo, for most people.

With all the misinformation, and often hateful noise, still present in society over the issue, one British documentary series is telling the real life stories of transgender youth in hopes to shed an empathetic light on what life is actually like for people making the incredibly challenging, but brave journey.

Take the story of 7-year-old Paddy from Leicester, England and her father, also named Paddy. The two engage in a simple, remarkable conversation about Paddy's decision to transition into a girl. Watch below:

But as told by Paddy's mother, Lorna, the transition hasn't exactly been easy for many family members. No matter how supportive of their children's decision, the experience for everyone involved can still be a difficult one. In the clip below, Lorna reads aloud a poem to Paddy describing a caterpillar's choice to become a butterfly to help describe her complex feelings,

"I loved and supported still wondering why, till the day my boy said goodbye," she reads. "Sometimes I miss my caterpillar boy, but my butterfly girl fills my heart with joy."

"My Transgender Kid" is a part of Channel 4 in Britain's "Born in the Wrong Body" series, which will continue in the coming weeks with different personal stories. Next up is "Girls to Men" and it will feature 21-year-old Jamie Raines' stunning, three-year photo project in which he took a selfie everyday of his transition. That video has already catapulted to the number one viewed video on YouTube.

California Is About to Stop People From Pumping So Many Drugs Into Meat

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 4:04 PM EDT

After decades of ignoring a deadly problem, the Food and Drug Administration finally came out with rules restricting the meat industry's heavy reliance on antibiotics back in 2012. But the new regime had two major flaws: (1) It was voluntary, relying on the benevolence of two industries (pharmaceuticals and meat) with long records of lobbying hard for their own interests, and (2) it contained a loophole that allowed meat producers to maintain their old antibiotic habit if they so desired.

Enter California, with new legislation—expected to be signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown any day now—that would retract those regulatory gifts from the state's teeming livestock farms. 

California's bill would forbid daily, indiscriminate dosing of antibiotics based on some vague notion of "prevention."

The bill would make California's regulation of animal antibiotic use more stringent than the federal government's simply because it's compulsory and not voluntary, according to Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Avinash Kar. But it also snaps shut the infamous "prevention" loophole in the FDA's policy, he adds.

Antibiotics are used in three ways on factory livestock farms: (1) growth promotion—when animals get small daily doses of the the stuff, they grow faster; (2) disease prevention—animals stuffed together in stressful conditions are prone to infection, they pass diseases among themselves rapidly, and antibiotics provide a kind of pharmaceutical substitute for a natural robust immune system; and (3) disease treatment—an animal comes down with a bug and gets treated with antibiotics.

The FDA's policy phases out growth promotion but leaves prevention intact—even though giving animals small daily doses of antibiotics to "prevent" disease is virtually indistinguishable from giving them small daily doses to promote growth. A 2014 Pew analysis found no fewer than 66 antibiotic products that the FDA allows to be used for "disease prevention" at levels that are "fully within the range of growth promotion dosages and with no limit on the duration of treatment." In other words, you change the language you use to describe the practice and continue giving your herd of 4,000 confined pigs the same old daily dose of antibiotics.

The California bill, too, allows antibiotic use as "prophylaxis to address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection," but it adds an important qualification, Kar points out: The drugs can't be used "in a regular pattern." In other words, no more daily, indiscriminate dosing based on some vague notion of "prevention." "We think this [the "regular pattern" language] puts serious restraint on the routine use of antibiotics," Kar said.

The California law won't have an immediate  impact on national policy, Kar said, but he pointed out that the bill's passage might embolden several other states with significant livestock production, including Oregon and Maryland, that are considering similar legislation. And California itself is a massive producer of dairy, beef, and chicken.

The Pharma Jerk We All Hated Last Month Still Hasn’t Dropped the Price of That Drug

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 3:41 PM EDT

Two weeks ago, Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli promised to drop the price of Daraprim, a parasite-fighting drug, after raising it from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. But so far the price tag hasn't budged.

Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager who acquired Turing in August, first drew criticism after a USA Today article reported the 5,000 percent price hike. He then told ABC News in September that the company would "lower the price of Daraprim to a point that is more affordable and is able to allow the company to make a profit, but a very small profit."

Business Insider writes:

That hasn't happened yet. A 30-day, 30-pill supply of Daraprim would cost me $27,006 at my local pharmacy.

That boils down to about $900 a pill, which includes the wholesale cost, along with specific pharmacy fees based on the zip code I gave the pharmacy.

So while the price of the drug hasn't gotten any higher since Shkreli hiked it 5,000%, it hasn't gotten any lower since he promised to reduce it either. Turing did not respond to Business Insider's request for clarification about this price.

Ben Carson Links Gun Control to Hitler's Rise

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 3:23 PM EDT

As he defends a string of controversial comments he made in the wake of last week's mass shooting in Oregon, Ben Carson just keeps one-upping himself. Appearing on CNN on Thursday afternoon, Carson was questioned by Wolf Blitzer on a claim in his recent book, A More Perfect Union, in which he connects the rise of Adolf Hitler to gun control. "There were a number of countries where tyranny reigned, and before it happened, they disarmed the people," Carson said. "That was my point." 

When Blitzer pressed further and asked whether an absence of gun control laws in Europe would have saved 6 million Jews from being slaughtered, Carson responded: "I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed."

Oops. Putin's Cruise Missiles Still Need a Little Work.

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 3:02 PM EDT

I guess Vladimir Putin's cruise missiles aren't quite as awesome as he thought:

Cruise missiles fired by Russia from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria crashed in a rural area of Iran, senior United States officials said on Thursday.

Bummer, dude. Can we now have at least one day where we don't have to hear about how Russia's crappy military is going to upend everything in the Middle East and send the US scurrying for cover?

Advertise on

Put Frances Perkins on the Ten-Dollar Bill

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 2:46 PM EDT

Wonkblog informs me that the Treasury Department really, really wants me to vote on which woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. OK. So how do I do that?

Apparently I can use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to submit my vote with the hashtag #TheNew10. So that takes care of all the people who are on social media. What about everyone else? Well, the Treasury still wants to hear from you! That's not immediately obvious, mind you, but it turns out that if you click here, provide your name and your email address, and then answer a question to prove you're a human, you can tell them your thoughts.

FWIW, my choice is Frances Perkins. I feel like it's a good idea to keep up the tradition of having people on our currency who have been in government service (mostly presidents, but also cabinet members like Hamilton or key members of the constitutional convention like Benjamin Franklin). It also, for obvious reasons, ought to be somebody whose fame was gained at least 50 years ago. Perkins fits all those requirements. She was the first woman to serve in the cabinet, and more than that, her fame doesn't come merely from being first. She was also an unusually effective Secretary of Labor during a period when the labor movement was a tremendous and growing power in American politics. Add to that her authorship of the Social Security Act and her key role in a wide variety of other New Deal legislation, and she's not just the most influential Secretary of Labor of all time, but arguably one of the four or five most influential cabinet members ever.

Sadly, the whole New Deal thing will probably make her too politicized to win. She's my choice, but my prediction is Rosa Parks. We'll find out next year.

Kevin McCarthy: "I'm Not the Guy"

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 1:14 PM EDT


North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R) sent a letter to the No. 4 House Republican saying any candidate for leadership who has committed any "misdeeds" since joining Congress should "withdraw" from the contest.


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner for speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest....Said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus: “I was shocked just like everyone else…he said something to the effect of I’m not the guy.”

Ummm....WTF? I will put off further comment until I pick up my jaw from the floor.

UPDATE: From no less a conservative icon than Erick Erickson, we get this:

There’s a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.

A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) of North Carolina. It is worth nothing that the two deny a relationship.

But the email began circulating pretty heavily. Conservatives were buzzing about it. The first line pointed to the current scandal about Denny Hastert and concluded suggesting that if the rumor about McCarthy and his personal life were true, he was a national security risk.

Okey dokey.

We Get It: Paul Krugman Has Been Right All Along

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 11:46 AM EDT

Here is Paul Krugman just in the past month:

  • It’s now seven years since I warned....
  • Who could have predicted such a thing? Well, me....
  • Many of us warned from the beginning that the multiplier was probably much larger....
  • Those of us who took our Hicks seriously calling the big stuff — the effects of monetary and fiscal policy — right, and those who went with their gut getting it all wrong....
  • As I’ve been trying to point out....
  • As I’ve written many times....
  • Attacks on Keynesians in general, and on me in particular....
  • Here’s what I wrote three years ago....

And that's not even counting his print columns, which I didn't have the patience to plow through. I'm a pretty big fan of Krugman, but even for me this stuff has long since gotten old. Maybe it's time to go cold turkey on the whole "I was right" meme and just concentrate on the economics.

Quote of the Day: Japanese Mathematician Discovers Marvelous Brain-Altering Proof

| Thu Oct. 8, 2015 11:10 AM EDT

From Davide Castelvecchi, writing about an impenetrable 500-page mathematical proof that might change the field forever if it's verified:

But so far, the few who have understood the work have struggled to explain it to anyone else. “Everybody who I'm aware of who's come close to this stuff is quite reasonable, but afterwards they become incapable of communicating it,” says one mathematician who did not want his name to be mentioned. The situation, he says, reminds him of the Monty Python skit about a writer who jots down the world's funniest joke. Anyone who reads it dies from laughing and can never relate it to anyone else.

Apparently Shinichi Mochizuki essentially invented a whole new branch of arithmetic geometry in order to complete his proof of the abc conjecture. So you have to learn a whole new field of math and then work your way laboriously through the actual proof. There are, according to Castelvecchi, something like four or five people in the whole world capable of doing this. Good luck, guys!