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Elizabeth Warren's "Most Watched" Video Is Absolutely Fantastic

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 6:05 PM EDT

Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren participated in a conference hosted by tech website Re/Code, where she was asked a policy question about infrastructure spending. What followed was an incredibly powerful response that touched upon the Massachusetts senator's signature issues—student loans, misplaced Washington interests, and the systematic problems hurting middle class Americans.

"The only way we get change is when enough people in this country say 'I'm mad as hell and I'm fed up and I'm not going to do this anymore," Warren said. "You are not going to represent me in Washington, DC, if you are not willing to pass a meaningful infrastructure bill. If you are not willing to refinance student loan interest rates and stop dragging in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of kids who otherwise can't afford to go to college. If you don't say you're going to fund the NIH and the NISF, because that is our future. We have to make these issues salient and not just wonky."

The video is now officially Warren's most watched video, according to her digital director. Watch below:

(h/t Vox)

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Well, Well, Well, Look Who Just Endorsed a Bold Fix For Climate Change

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 5:38 PM EDT
Shell's Arctic drilling rig docked in Seattle last month. The company now supports carbon pricing but hasn't changed plans to drill for oil.

Oil companies are pretty much the last ally you'd think of when it comes to advancing big-picture solutions to climate change. These are the companies, after all, whose product is responsible for causing a significant amount of climate change in the first place—and pretty much every proposed fix for global warming necessarily involves burning less oil.

So it came as a bit of a surprise Monday when six of the leading European oil companies, including BP and Shell, unveiled a letter addressed to the United Nations climate chief calling for a price on carbon emissions (read the full letter below).

"We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element" of ongoing UN-led international climate negotiations, the letter said. This week representatives from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany, to prepare for a summit in Paris this winter where they hope to produce a powerful global accord on fighting climate change. The letter called on the world's governments to create new national carbon markets where they don't currently exist (like most of the United States, for example), and to eventually link those markets internationally.

"We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element" of global climate talks, a letter from several European oil companies said.

As Bloomberg Business pointed out, the letter is "unprecedented," in that it's the first time a group of major oil companies have banded together to advocate for a serious climate change policy. It was welcomed by the UN's top climate official, Christiana Figueres, who said that the "oil and gas industry must be a major part of the solution to climate change."

Most environmental economists and policy wonks agree that making companies pay for their carbon pollution—whether through a tax or a cap-and-trade system—is a fundamental step for any meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The basic idea is that making carbon pollution expensive will drive big polluters to clean up. Policies like this are already gathering steam across the globe, from Canada to China. (California and a few Northeast states have regional carbon markets, but a national carbon price is still a non-starter in the US Congress.) Recently, Australia demonstrated just how effective carbon pricing can be, in a counterintuitive way: Carbon emissions dropped immediately after the country implemented a carbon tax, then jumped right back up when the tax was repealed.

If Monday's letter is any clue, oil companies are reading the writing on the wall, and they know that one way or another, it's time to start planning for a future when carbon pollution is more expensive and tightly regulated. Well, some oil companies: Conspicuously absent from the letter are any US oil companies, like Chevron or ExxonMobil; all the signatories are European. In fact, just last week Exxon chief Rex Tillerson implicitly blasted his European peers for cozying up to the UN on climate issues, saying his company wouldn't "fake it" on climate change and that investing in renewable energy is tantamount to "losing money on purpose."

The head of French oil giant Total addressed the cross-Atlantic schism in comments to Reuters, saying that the European companies were set on throwing their weight behind carbon pricing "without necessarily waiting for an American to come on board."

Although carbon pricing "obviously adds a cost to our production and our products," the letter says, the companies would prefer consistency and predictability over the patchwork of policies that exists now. In other words, it's easier to justify and plan investments in lower-carbon projects, such as replacing coal with natural gas, when carbon prices are stable and "even-handed," the letter said. At the same time, these companies have come under increasing pressure from shareholders to address how they'll stay profitable in the future, as restrictions on carbon emissions are tightened.

To that end, a few of the signatories already have their own internal "shadow" carbon price, where investment options are calculated with a hypothetical carbon price added in, as a way of anticipating future policies.

Still, progressive-sounding statements notwithstanding, oil companies are oil companies, and the letter gives no indication that any of them have plans to replace fossil fuels as their primary product. Shell, for one, is just weeks away from a new foray into offshore drilling in the Arctic. And according to Bloomberg, the European companies are no better than their American counterparts in terms of their actual carbon footprint. So it remains to be seen how committed the companies will be to supporting sweeping changes to the global energy system, or if letters like this are just a clever way to stay relevant as the international climate talks forge ahead. Either way, the paradox of a corporation calling for a carbon price while still pursuing fossil fuel extraction is just more evidence that the free market won't fix climate change voluntarily—governments have to create new policies, like an international carbon price, that energy companies can't evade.

Here's the letter:

 

Oh Snap. The Feds Are Reportedly After Sepp Blatter.

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 4:50 PM EDT

The New York Times reports that authorities are confirming to them that Sepp Blatter is indeed the subject of a federal corruption investigation:

Mr. Blatter had for days tried to distance himself from the controversy, but several United States officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that in their efforts to build a case against Mr. Blatter they were hoping to win the cooperation of some of the FIFA officials now under indictment and work their way up the organization.

No one could have predicted.

Google's New Diversity Stats Are Only Slightly Less Embarrassing Than They Were Last Year

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 4:36 PM EDT

Around this time last year, Google shocked Silicon Valley by voluntarily releasing statistics on the diversity of its workforce. The move helped shame other large tech companies into doing the same, and the picture that emerged wasn't pretty: In most cases, only 10 percent of the companies' overall employees were black or Latino, compared to 27 percent in the US workforce as a whole. For its own part, Google admitted that "we're miles from where we want to be," and pledged to do more to cultivate minority and female tech talent.

Now Google has an update: Its 2015 diversity stats, released yesterday, show that it has moved inches, not miles, toward a workforce that reflects America. The representation of female techies ticked up by 1 percentage point (from 17 to 18 percent), Asians gained 1 point, and whites, though still the majority, slipped by 1 point. Otherwise, the numbers are unchanged:

Google

"With an organization our size, year-on-year growth and meaningful change is going to take time," Nancy Lee, Google's vice president of people operations, told the Guardian. Last year, Google spent $115 million on diversity initiatives and dispatched its own engineers to historically black colleges and universities to teach introductory computer science courses and help graduating students prepare for job searches. But unlike Intel, another big tech company that has prioritized diversity, Google has not set firm goals for diversifying its talent pool.

"While every company cannot match Intel's ambitious plan, they can set concrete, measurable goals, targets, and timetables," said a statement from the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who last year played a key role in convincing Google and other companies to disclose their diversity stats. "If they don't measure it, they don't mean it."

Don't Pay Attention to Obamacare Rate Increase Horror Stories

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 2:24 PM EDT

I wrote about this once before, but it's worth repeating: don't pay too much attention to scare stories about gigantic increases in Obamacare premiums next year. Insurers that request increases of more than 10 percent are required to get clearance from state and federal regulators, which means that the only increase requests that are public right now are the ones over 10 percent. Jordan Weissmann explains what this means:

“Trying to gauge the average premium hike from just the biggest increases is like measuring the average height of the public by looking at N.B.A. players,” Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation told the Times. Moreover, some states may ultimately end up rejecting the gaudiest requests if they're deemed unjustified.

How skewed is the federal database? Here's one telling illustration from ACAsignups.net founder Charles Gaba. In Washington State, 17 insurers submitted health plans for next year, requesting an average rate increase of 5.4 percent. Only three of those companies asked for a big enough hike to show up on the federal rate review site. Together, they requested bumps averaging 18 percent, more than three times larger than the actual statewide mean. That gap should make everyone think twice before drawing conclusions from yesterday's data dump.

This will be the first year in which insurance companies have a full year of experience with Obamacare to draw on. Does that mean it's possible that rates will go up a lot, now that they know what they're in for? Sure, it's possible. But so far there's really no evidence that the demographics of the Obamacare population are very different from what the companies expected. Nor are companies dropping out of Obamacare. In fact, in most states competition is increasing. All that suggests that Obamacare premiums will rise at a fairly normal rate next year. For the time being, then, don't pay too much attention to the Fox News horror stories. We've heard them all before.

Mike Huckabee Wishes He Lied About Being Transgender So He Could Have Showered with High School Girls

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 2:17 PM EDT

While speaking at a religious convention in Nashville earlier this year, Mike Huckabee's trademark candor reached a new level of absurdity, as he joked about wishing he "could have felt like a woman" back in high school…in order to get access to female locker rooms.

"Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE," Huckabee said on stage at the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters Convention back in February. "I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.'"

The remarks, reported by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, were meant to warn the crowd about Americans' growing tolerance of the transgender community and  support for laws protecting transgender people's access to the restroom of their choice.

"For those who do not think that we are under threat, simply recognize the fact that we are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your seven-year-old daughter—if she goes into the restroom—cannot be offended and you can’t be offended if she's greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man," he said.

For more on the conservative assault on where transgender people use the bathroom, check out our primer here.

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FIFA President Sepp Blatter Resigns Amid Corruption Scandal

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 1:13 PM EDT

FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced Tuesday that he will step down after 17 years at the head of soccer's international governing body, in the wake of a corruption probe that has rattled the sport. In a press conference, Blatter called for a special election to find his replacement, just days after he was elected to a fifth term.

Here's an excerpt of Blatter's resignation letter

I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the forty years in which my life has been inextricably bound to FIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish FIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for FIFA and for football. I felt compelled to stand for re-election, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organization. That election is over but FIFA’s challenges are not. FIFA needs a profound overhaul. While I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA. Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective Congress. I will continue to exercise my functions as FIFA President until that election.

Is Campaign Finance Reform Really the Key to Winning the White Working Class?

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 11:10 AM EDT

Stan Greenberg says that white working-class voters aren't lost to the Democratic Party. In fact, most of them strongly support a progressive agenda in the mold of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. The problem is that they don't trust the system, and they want to see reform first, before they're willing to vote for Democratic candidates with expansive social welfare programs:

Three-quarters of voters in the twelve most competitive Senate battleground states in 2014—states flooded with campaign money—support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling. Three in five of those voters support “a plan to overhaul campaign spending by getting rid of big donations and allowing only small donations to candidates, matched by taxpayer funds.”

....Yet most important for our purposes are the results for white unmarried women and working-class women. These groups both put a “streamline government” initiative ahead of everything except protecting Social Security and Medicare. They want to “streamline government and reduce waste and bureaucracy to make sure every dollar spent is a dollar spent serving people, not serving government.” They gave even greater importance than white working-class men to streamlining government. For these women, being on the edge means feeling more strongly that government should pinch pennies and start working for them.

....What really strengthens and empowers the progressive economic narrative, however, is a commitment to reform politics and government. That may seem ironic or contradictory, since the narrative calls for a period of government activism. But, of course, it does make sense: Why would you expect government to act on behalf of the ordinary citizen when it is clearly dominated by special interests? Why would you expect people who are financially on the edge, earning flat or falling wages and paying a fair amount of taxes and fees, not to be upset about tax money being wasted or channeled to individuals and corporations vastly more wealthy and powerful than themselves?

I'll admit to some skepticism here. Are working-class voters, white or otherwise, really pining away for campaign finance reform? The evidence of the past 40 years sure doesn't seem to suggest this is a big winner. Still, times have changed, and the influence of big money has become far more obvious and far more insidious than in the past. Maybe this really is a winner.

As for streamlining government, my only question is: where's the beef? That is, what kind of concrete plan are we talking about here? "Streamlining" seems a little too fuzzy to capture many votes.

In any case, read the whole thing if this is the sort of thing you enjoy arguing about. It's food for thought at the very least. As for me, I'm off to see my doctor. I'll be back sooner or later depending on how streamlined his office is.

This Is How Miserably the TSA Is Failing at Airport Security

| Tue Jun. 2, 2015 10:15 AM EDT

An undercover investigation lead by the Department of Homeland Security uncovered devastating holes in the Transportation Security Administration's security procedures, with investigators able to smuggle fake explosives and banned weapons 67 out of 70 times at some of the country's busiest airports.

"In one case, agents failed to detect a fake explosive taped to an agent's back, even after performing a pat down that was prompted after the agent set off the magnetometer alarm," ABC News reports.

The alarming 95 percent failure rate, during an investigation that spanned a decade, has lead to the reassignment of the agency's chief Melvin Carraway.

"The numbers in these reports never look good out of context but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security," Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. "We take these findings very seriously in our continued effort to test, measure, and enhance our capabilities and techniques as threats evolve."

Following the internal investigation, Johnson also ordered for more routine undercover investigations and mandatory retraining for all TSA officials.

The full Homeland Security report is slated to be released later this summer.

Here Is a Study About Sad Little Men Having Affairs for Sad, Boring Reasons

| Mon Jun. 1, 2015 6:52 PM EDT

Society tells us that men are supposed to go out into the world and earn the wages while women are supposed to stay at home and raise kids. Society, as many great thinkers have said, is stupid. It's all very 1950s and Revolutionary Road and most people not from the fever swamp would acknowledge that these gender roles are detrimental to the world and terrible and dumb. Still, the pernicious effects remain in our psyche! Now, you can either believe that even the most enlightened people are still sick on some deep down interior level, or you can be the sort of person who doesn't believe things, but either way it's true.

How true is it? This true:

This new study, showcased in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, found that men who are 100% economically dependent on their spouses were most at risk for cheating, three times more at risk than women married to male breadwinners.

While, on average, women who are completely financially dependent on their husbands face about a 5% chance that they will stray, there is about a 15% chance that a man married to a female breadwinner will cheat, the study concluded.

"I think it has to do with our cultural notions of what it means to be a man and what ... the social expectations are for masculinity," the study author, Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, told CNN.

Being economically dependent on their wives may threaten their manhood, Munsch said, and having an affair is a way to re-establish their masculinity, even if it's all done subconsciously.

God is a lazy screenwriter.

UPDATE: 

No.