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Quote of the Evening: America Currently Suffering Worst Economic Catastrophe in Recorded History

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 11:55 PM EST

I know Trump has said this before, so technically it's hardly new. Still, I mean, it's...it's...oh hell:

I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. Remember that. Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 percent and 5 percent unemployment. The number's probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent. Do you think if we had 5 percent unemployment, do you really think we'd have these gatherings?

Yeah, Trump "heard" 42 percent recently. You betcha. Trump hears a lot of things, sort of like Joan of Arc. In any case, I assume Trump keeps saying this because it goes over well with his audiences. Why might this be?

  • Trump fans are really bad at arithmetic.
  • Trump fans know an ungodly number of unemployed people in their immediate circle of friends.
  • Trump fans are really eager to believe the government is lying to them.
  • Trump fans don't actually know what unemployment is.
  • Trump fans don't really have a clue what he's saying. It's just mumbo jumbo delivered with authority, and they love it.

I dunno. Could be all of the above, I suppose.

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Well, That Was a Boring Night in New Hampshire

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 11:09 PM EST

This has been a shockingly surprise-free evening. Trump and Sanders were both expected to win by about 20 points, and that's what they did. The next four Republicans were expected to bunch up, and that's what they did. Kasich did a little better and Rubio a little worse than the polls showed, but that's all. As for Chris Christie, he bet the farm on New Hampshire and now the mortgage is due. He's toast.

So is Kasich, by the way. I'm afraid a 16 percent showing in New Hampshire isn't going to be strong enough to do him any good. More and more, it's starting to look like Trump vs. Cruz for all the marbles, with Rubio and Bush still having outside shots as spoilers.

I guess Trump was the big winner tonight. He won big, he's got good numbers in South Carolina, and the race for second place was close enough that probably nobody is going to pull out. As long as Trump is competing with a bunch of rabble, instead of one or two well-funded competitors, he'll probably keep doing pretty well. The only question left is whether the chump faction of the Republican Party is big enough to actually deliver him the nomination. I think I no longer have an opinion about that.

Heavy Drinking Is Primarily a Women's Problem

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 8:25 PM EST

Back in 2005, South Dakota adopted a program called 24/7 Sobriety. It's pretty simple: if you're convicted of drunk driving, you have to take a breath test twice a day while you're on pretrial release or probation. If you fail, you get tossed in jail for a couple of days.

So how has it worked out? According to a new study in Lancet Psychiatry, pretty well. Previous studies had already demonstrated a 12 percent drop in repeat drunk driving, and the new study shows that 24/7 also contributed to a drop of 4.3 percent in all-cause mortality. That's a lot of lives saved. Mark Kleiman has more of the details here.

So far, none of this is a big surprise. But another result of the study is more interesting: the decline in mortality was largest among women even though men make up the vast majority of drunk driving cases. The chart on the right shows the numbers. All-cause mortality barely budged for men but was down 8.3 percent among women. Even more startling, the decline in mortality was mostly due to fewer deaths from circulatory problems and external injuries.

But why? The authors make a few suggestions:

A well publicised programme such as 24/7 Sobriety...might promote a general deterrent effect. Another potential mechanism is a reduction in drinking-related problem behaviours among participants, which might reduce mortality among non-participants (eg, domestic violence).

With respect to circulatory deaths among women, one might consider reduced stress due to partner’s cessation of heavy drinking. There might also be spillovers due to changes in the drinking behaviour of participants’ family and friends. A husband’s drinking affects his wife’s drinking during the transition into married life and early in the marriage, and transitions in drinking behaviour can have spousal effects even later in life.

This is, obviously, speculative. Still, it confirms our intuition that heavy drinking affects friends and family as much or more than it does the heavy drinker himself. Heavy drinkers are far more likely to assault their wives and girlfriends; are more likely to trigger drinking in others; and just generally cause lots of stress and anxiety in those around them. When you cut out the heavy drinking, all of those things are reduced significantly. And the biggest beneficiaries are women.

Donald Trump Wins GOP's New Hampshire Primary, Networks Predict

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 8:14 PM EST

The networks declared Donald Trump the winner of the New Hampshire GOP primary Tuesday night as soon as the polls had closed at 8 p.m. ET.

 

Trump had been polling ahead in New Hampshire for many months, and on Tuesday he showed he could turn those numbers into votes.

As of 8 p.m., several Republicans were vying for second place behind Trump, including John Kasich and Jeb Bush.

The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Huge Blow to Obama's Climate Plan

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 7:42 PM EST

In a setback for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily halted enforcement of Obama's signature climate initiative.

The Clean Power Plan, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last summer, requires states to limit coal-fired power plant emissions—the nation's largest source of greenhouse gases—by a third by 2030. The regulation was expected to revamp the energy industry in the coming decades, shutting down coal-fired plants and speeding up renewable energy production. But 29 states, together with dozens of industry groups, sued the EPA, claiming the rule was "the most far-reaching and burdensome rule the EPA has ever forced onto the states."

In a 5-4 vote today, the Supreme Court issued an unusual, one-page emergency order for the EPA to put the plan on hold until the US Court of Appeals, which will hear the case this summer, comes to a decision. While the hold is temporary, many see the order as a sign that the Supreme Court has concerns about the policy.

 

The Russians Are Doing Surprisingly Well in Syria

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 6:05 PM EST

In the interest of keeping myself honest, I should acknowledge that—so far, at least—the Russian incursion in Syria has apparently gone a lot better than I expected:

Under the banner of fighting international terrorism, President Vladimir Putin has reversed the fortunes of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad....Government forces are now on the offensive, and last week they scored their most significant victory yet....“The operation is considered here to be quite successful,” said Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general and senior vice president of the Russian Center for Policy Studies in Moscow. It could probably continue for one year or longer, he said, “but it will depend on the success on the ground.”

....“Putin can afford to play geo­political chess in the Middle East because it does not cost much,” said Konstantin von Eggert, an independent political analyst based in Moscow. Entering the conflict in Syria has allowed Putin to combat what he sees as a U.S. policy of regime change, show off his military muscle and reassure allies in the region that Moscow is a loyal partner, von Eggert said.

In the past couple of days, thanks to Russian help, Assad has come ever closer to taking control of Aleppo, Syria's biggest city:

Gains by Assad and his allies in the past month have squeezed overland supply lines to Turkey that may represent the last bulwark against defeat for the rebels in northern Syria.

Assad, who was on the verge of defeat in mid-2015 before Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped in with military support, has wrested back the initiative. His army last week broke a three-year siege of two villages north of Aleppo. The city is almost encircled, apart from a narrow stretch of contested territory.

The Russian air force has acquitted itself better than I expected, and Assad's forces have taken advantage of Russian air support better than I expected. It's still early days, of course, and there's a lot more to Syria than Aleppo. Russia could still find itself drawn into a long, pointless quagmire down the road. But it hasn't yet.

Over the past decade, Putin has taken on several small-scale military incursions: in Georgia in 2008; in Crimea in 2014; and now in Syria. But small though they may be, they've been executed competently and they've provided the Russian army with invaluable real-world experience. Apparently that's paid off.

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Arizona Is Paying a High Price for Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 3:15 PM EST

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting look today at the costs and benefits of immigration across the Southern border. After Arizona cracked down on illegal immigration in 2007, their population of undocumented workers dropped by a whopping 40 percent—and it's stayed down since then:

Arizona is a test case of what happens to an economy when such migrants leave, and it illustrates the economic tensions fueling the immigration debate.

Economists of opposing political views agree the state’s economy took a hit when large numbers of illegal immigrants left for Mexico and other border states, following a broad crackdown. But they also say the reduced competition for low-skilled jobs was a boon for some native-born construction and agricultural workers who got jobs or raises, and that the departures also saved the state money on education and health care. Whether those gains are worth the economic pain is the crux of the debate.

You should read the whole thing if you want all the details, including the fact that wages increased about 15 percent for a small number of construction workers and farmworkers—though Arizona's unemployment rate more generally has been no better than its neighbors'. Beyond that, though, the Journal provides only a graphic summary that doesn't really summarize much. So I've helpfully annotated it for you. It sure looks to me like Arizona has a very long way to go before the benefits of reducing illegal immigration will come anywhere close to the costs.

Donald Trump Says He Wouldn't Call Ted Cruz a "Pussy" If He Were President Because His Uncle Taught at MIT

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 3:05 PM EST

Donald Trump says he wouldn't call Ted Cruz a pussy if he were president because "when it comes to great steaks, I've just raised the stakes."

Just kidding!

He actually told Lester Holt that he wouldn't call Cruz "a pussy" as president because "I went to one of the best schools. I was a good student. I have an uncle who was one of the top professors at MIT. It's a good gene pool right there." So that doesn't make that much more sense than the steak thing.

Watch:

NRA Board Member Ted Nugent Is Having a Very Anti-Semitic Week

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 2:34 PM EST

Ted Nugent is no stranger to mounting outrageous defenses of the gun lobby. But this week, the musician's predictable inflammatory language reached new levels of offensive starting on Monday with the following anti-Semitic image posted to his Facebook page:

 

Know these punks. They hate freedom, they hate good over evil, they would deny us the basic human right to self defense ...

Posted by Ted Nugent on Monday, February 8, 2016

The info-graphic features the images of 12 Jewish-American politicians all paired with the Israeli flag and the banner question, "So who is really behind gun control?" As Media Matters noted, a similar image appeared on the white supremacist website Stormfront in 2014.

The next day, Nugent, who is a board member for both the National Rifle Association and for John Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center, posted another offensive image, this one appearing to compare gun control advocates to Nazis:

 

Soulless sheep to slaughter. Not me.

Posted by Ted Nugent on Monday, February 8, 2016

This isn't the first spasm of anti-Semitism and Nazi imagery to come from the NRA or its board members. Back in 2007, the group's official magazine published an image of then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg—who is featured in Nugent's social media ranting this week—depicting him as an octopus, a well-known symbol of anti-Semitism. The NRA denied the analogy.

Here's the One Thing Every Candidate in New Hampshire Has in Common

| Tue Feb. 9, 2016 1:27 PM EST

New Hampshire is different—so says New Hampshire. But it's unarguably true; no state combines as high a saturation of candidate visits with such a small, tightly concentrated population. (Just try having some breakfast poutine in Manchester.) The effect is that the candidates sometimes seem as if they spend as much time talking about the voters they meet as they do talking to them. As the Republican and Democratic contenders made their final pitch over the last eight days, they used New Hampshirites they've met to make substantive points about heroin addiction, drug prices, and college tuition—or just to have some fun with their audience. (We see you, Chris Christie.) Here's a sampling:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich:

One lady was sitting way up in the bleachers, at the end of the town hall...And she's sitting way up in the stands and she raises her hand and she says, 'I have a 31-year-old daughter, she developed cancer as a young kid, and we don't know where we can put her. She's on prescription drugs because of the pain and so we have to watch that and we don't know exactly where she should be.' And I looked at her and said, 'You're all alone aren't you?' And she said, 'Yeah, I am, I'm all alone.' And I said, 'Why don't you come down here?' And she came down to where I was. I gave her a big hug, and I said, 'You know you're not alone anymore.' And we followed up…

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

In short encounters with people, they sometimes tell you the most personal things…When I was canvassing in Manchester, a young man came up to me and he said, 'I'm supporting you.' I said, 'Thank you.' I said, 'I want to know why.' He said, 'Because you've been talking about addiction.' I said, 'Did you have a personal experience?' He said, 'Yeah, I'm a student athlete, I got injured my senior year in high school. I had to have surgery and I got a lot of pain pills. A lot of opioids. And I got hooked.' He said then when they cut him off, 'I turned to heroin. It was cheap and readily available.' He said, 'I'm two and a half years sober. It's really hard. Every single day, it's really hard.' He said, 'I want a president who thinks about people like me.'

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie:

It's funny, when you're a US attorney or a governor and you travel out of state from New Jersey, it's amazing the things people wanna ask you. So I had a guy in New Hampshire, he said, 'I need to ask you a question about something.' I said, 'Okay, what do you want to ask me?' He said, 'I wanna ask you about Tony Soprano.' So I said, 'Oh my God…'

Kasich:

A couple nights ago, there's a young woman sitting in the back, we were talking about the issue of heroin and prescription drugs and all the things that we've done, 'cause there's been so many things that we've done. She finally raised her hand back there and she said, 'My daughter's been sober for 11 months,' and everybody was stunned, and there were people out there that were tearing up. And I said to the crowd, I said, 'Do you have any idea what this lady's life is like? Eleven months sober? Well, we don't know what's gonna happen in the 12th month, or the 13th month. And it's a mom that loves her daughter.' Yeah I guess I'm now gonna call this daughter and say, 'You know, mom's counting on you.' Things like that have been happening all the time and I have become convinced that all of us need to slow down.

Christie:

I met a guy this morning who was talking to me about his dad, who's a truck driver. He was at a town hall this morning to ask me a question about his dad. His dad had to be out driving today. One of the things that we talked about was—I know how to drive, right? I know how to work the clutch and shift, I know how to use the steering wheel and pump gas. You don't want me driving an 18-wheeler truck. Believe me, you do not want me driving that truck. Right? It's a different skill set. You've got to have some experience and training. Especially on a day like today. It's raining out, the weather's wet, the roads are tough. You don't want somebody who doesn't know what they're doing behind the wheel of that truck. Even though I know how to drive, it doesn't mean I know how to drive an 18-wheel truck.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush:

At a town hall meeting today, someone came—told a story of their father who looked like he was 85. He had, he got a bill eight years later from an operation he had. Eight years it took. They couldn't resolve the dispute and then he was told that he died. Literally, the Veterans Administration sent a death certificate to this guy and it took nine months to clarify the guy [was alive]. I met him. He's voting for me. And he is—likely to be alive.

Failed steak salesman Donald Trump:

I was just up in Manchester, I met with the police officers yesterday. Tremendous people. They love the area, they love the people, they love all the people. They want to do their job. And you're going to have abuse and you're going to have problems, and you've got to solve the problems and you have to weed out the problems. But the police in this country are absolutely amazing people.

Christie:

Let there be no doubt that I want your vote...Earlier in New Hampshire, back last August, I gave a town hall meeting and a gentleman came up to me afterward, he said, 'Governor, I love everything you said, I agree with all your positions, I think you'd be a great leader for our country, and I'm not voting for you.' I said, 'You're not voting for me, what do you mean you're not voting for me?' He said, 'Well I agree with on your positions. I'm not voting for you but I wish you the best of luck.' He looked like he was in his mid '80s, and he started walking away from me. I said, 'Wait, wait, wait, come back here.' I said, 'Come on, tell me what I've got to do. That's fair.' He said, 'Alright—because you didn't ask for my vote.' He said, 'I sat here for two hours, I listened to all your positions, I loved them, I like you, but if you don't ask for my vote, you're not getting my vote. So you're not getting my vote, I'm sorry.'

I looked at him and said, 'Well can I have your vote?' He said, 'Too late.' I said, 'Too late?? It's August, man. You're not voting until February. How can it be too late!' He said, 'Alright, this is what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna come back to one of your town hall meetings later.' He said, 'I'm gonna sit in a place where you can't see me. And I'm gonna see if you remember what I told you. And if you do and you ask for my vote, then I'm gonna reconsider my position. And if you don't, I won't.' I said, 'Alright sir, thank you, I appreciate it.' And we shook hands. And he walked away, took about four or five steps away, and then he stopped and turned back and looked over his shoulder and he said, 'By the way, that's how we do things in New Hampshire, son.'

So I live in mortal fear of this guy.