Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2014/10/most-latinos-dont-hold-obamas-immigration-delay-agains http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Why Do So Many Obvious Losers Think They Can Be President? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/what-do-so-many-obvious-losers-think-they-can-be-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>My body is continuing its revolt against all things good and true, so my mental acuity is scattered at best. But here's something I've wanted to get out of my brain and onto pixels for a while. It's based on nothing at all except my personal opinion. It's not based on polls, nor anything the candidates have said, nor any detailed analysis of which blocs of voters each one will appeal to. It's just my gut feeling. So here it is: my ranking of the 2016 Republican presidential field:</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_2016_republican_field_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><strong>Vanity candidates&nbsp;&mdash; 0 percent chance of winning</strong></p> <ul><li>Rand Paul</li> <li>Ben Carson</li> <li>Carly Fiorina</li> <li>Mike Huckabee</li> <li>Rick Santorum</li> <li>George Pataki</li> <li>Lindsey Graham</li> <li>John Kasich</li> </ul><p><strong>Not quite 0 percent, could maybe catch on if something really lucky happens</strong></p> <ul><li>Bobby Jindal</li> <li>Ted Cruz</li> <li>Marco Rubio</li> <li>Chris Christie</li> <li>Rick Perry</li> </ul><p><strong>Legitimate candidates with a real shot at the nomination</strong></p> <ul><li>Jeb Bush</li> <li>Scott Walker</li> </ul><p>Right off the bat, I know there are at least two people on my list who will generate some dissent: Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. But Rand Paul has no chance. Sorry. He has nearly Sarah Palin's instincts at working the press and getting his based excited, but his views are just flatly too far out of the tea party mainstream to win the Republican nomination. As for Rubio, I just don't see it. I know most people would put him down with Bush and Walker as having a legitimate shot, but.....really? The guy kinda reminds me of Pete Campbell on <em>Mad Men</em>. He's got some talent, but no one really likes him that much. And he's kind of an idiot, really. Still, he's young, good looking, and appeals to older tea party types. To me, that means he's an ideal running mate, but has no chance at the brass ring.</p> <p>The thing that strikes me whenever I actually type up this list is how few legitimate contenders I find. But maybe I shouldn't be surprised. In 2012, I thought from the very start that Romney was the only legitimate contender, and there are twice as many in 2016. Maybe that's fairly normal, actually.</p> <p>So here's my question. You might disagree with my ranking, but probably not by a whole lot. There just aren't very many candidates who have a serious chance at winning the nomination. So why are so many running? When guys like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul ran, I understood why. They just wanted a chance to present their views to a national audience. But that can't be what's motivating everyone on this list. So what is it? What is it that's somehow convinced so many obvious losers that they actually have a shot at becoming the next president of the United States?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Jun 2015 16:39:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 276506 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Pay Attention to Obamacare Rate Increase Horror Stories http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/dont-pay-attention-obamacare-rate-increase-horror-stories <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>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. <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2015/06/02/obamacare_2016_premiums_insurers_ask_for_big_rate_hikes.html" target="_blank">Jordan Weissmann explains what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;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,&rdquo; Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Foundation told the <em>Times</em>. Moreover, some states may ultimately end up rejecting the gaudiest requests if they're deemed unjustified.</p> <p>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.</p> </blockquote> <p>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.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Jun 2015 18:24:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 276421 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Campaign Finance Reform Really the Key to Winning the White Working Class? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/campaign-finance-reform-really-key-winning-white-working-class <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>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 <em>first</em>, before they're willing to vote for Democratic candidates <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaugust_2015/features/the_average_joes_proviso055824.php?page=all" target="_blank">with expansive social welfare programs:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Three-quarters of voters in the twelve most competitive Senate battleground states in 2014&mdash;states flooded with campaign money&mdash;support a constitutional amendment to overturn the <em>Citizens United</em> ruling. Three in five <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_money_elections.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of those voters support &ldquo;a plan to overhaul campaign spending by getting rid of big donations and allowing only small donations to candidates, matched by taxpayer funds.&rdquo;</p> <p>....Yet most important for our purposes are the results for white unmarried women and working-class women. These groups both put a &ldquo;streamline government&rdquo; initiative ahead of everything except protecting Social Security and Medicare. They want to &ldquo;streamline government and reduce waste and bureaucracy to make sure every dollar spent is a dollar spent serving people, not serving government.&rdquo; 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.</p> <p>....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?</p> </blockquote> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Jun 2015 15:10:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 276396 at http://www.motherjones.com Rand Paul Didn't Kill the Patriot Act http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/rand-paul-didnt-kill-patriot-act <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was down with a stomach bug this weekend, so I didn't follow events in the Senate as closely as I usually would have. But Rand Paul sure seems to be getting a lot more credit than he deserves for how things went down. As near as I can tell:</p> <ul><li>Mitch McConnell just flat screwed up. He figured he could panic everyone into extending the Patriot Act by waiting until Sunday to reconvene the Senate, and he figured wrong.</li> <li>Rand Paul did indeed delay things by refusing unanimous consent to take up a compromise bill.</li> <li>But events went the way they did because a majority of the Senate opposed McConnell and wanted a compromise bill, not because of anything Rand Paul did.</li> <li>The upshot of Paul's actions is that the compromise bill has to wait until Tuesday for a vote, which means the Patriot Act will be expired for a couple of days. This is not really a big deal in anything other than symbolic terms. The compromise bill is going to be passed one way or another, and that would have been the case regardless of anything Paul did.</li> </ul><p>Am I missing something big here? I don't begrudge Paul getting some good press for what he did. Politics is theater, and Paul has worked hard to make this a front-page issue. Still, there just wasn't a majority in favor of extending the Patriot Act, and that's what made the difference.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 01 Jun 2015 15:22:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 276326 at http://www.motherjones.com Bonus Homecoming Cat Blogging - 30 May 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/bonus-homecoming-cat-blogging-30-may-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Everyone is back home. It took Hilbert about a minute to settle in and recognize everything. Hopper took a little more convincing. She spent several hours sniffing everything in sight before she finally decided things were OK.</p> <p>In the top photo, Hilbert has taken possession of his favorite teal chair. It's as if he never left. Below, Hopper finally hopped into my lap after lunch and purred herself to sleep, which surely means she's now settled in too. If you look closely, you'll also see that my hair is starting to grow back. But you have to look pretty closely.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_may_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_may_30.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 30 May 2015 21:39:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 276281 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 29 May 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/friday-cat-blogging-29-may-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For the past two weeks, Hopper and Hilbert have apparently been fighting a rearguard battle over their latest acquisition: a cardboard box. Hilbert took possession first, but Hopper got into the act pretty quickly. Her expression is clearly a declaration that this is <em>her</em> box now, and other cats better stay away. I'm reliably informed that she backed this up with some fancy paw action and sent Hilbert scampering away.</p> <p>And with that, let's all give three cheers for my sister, who has taken such good care of Hilbert and Hopper that we're not sure they'll even recognize us when they come home. I should add that her six weeks of catsitting was an even bigger favor than you might think, given H&amp;H's penchant for destruction of anything left lying around accidentally. But tomorrow they come home. Marian has been catproofing our house for the past week, and on Saturday Karen will deliver the furballs back to us. I'm sure they'll show us very quickly if there are any catproofing spots we missed.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_may_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_may_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 May 2015 18:30:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 276256 at http://www.motherjones.com News Flash: Bill Clinton Has a Pretty High Speaking Fee http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/news-flash-bill-clinton-has-pretty-high-speaking-fee <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/30/us/politics/an-award-for-bill-clinton-came-with-500000-for-his-foundation.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">Over in the <em>New York Times</em> today,</a> Deborah Sontag has a 2,000-word piece about a charity called the Happy Hearts Fund. There seem to be two big takeaways: (a) celebrities use their fame to promote their charities, and (b) Bill Clinton usually won't appear at your event for free. His speaking fee is a donation to the Clinton Foundation. In this particular case, Happy Hearts donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation, and in return Clinton appeared at their event to receive a lifetime achievement award.</p> <p>I'm racking my brain here. I know I'm partisan about this and would just as soon not attribute dark motives to Clinton. But even putting that aside, what's the story here? Celebrities use their fame to promote their pet causes? Bill Clinton commands a high speaking fee? Is there something that's even unsavory about this, let alone scandalous? Is there something that's out of the ordinary or not already common knowledge? If the story featured, say, George W. Bush instead of Clinton, would I be more outraged? What am I missing?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 May 2015 17:36:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 276251 at http://www.motherjones.com If You Want to Be Part of the Top 1 Percent, You'd Better Be Working For a Top 1 Percent Firm http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/if-you-want-be-part-top-1-youd-better-be-working-top-1-firm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What has caused the explosive growth of income inequality over the past three decades? Is it the fact the CEO pay has skyrocketed, leaving everyone else behind? Maybe. <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21199.pdf" target="_blank">But according to a new paper,</a> that's not quite the right story.</p> <p>Basically a group of researchers at NBER have concluded that inequality <em>between firms</em> has skyrocketed, and employees of those firms all go along for the ride. A small number of "super firms" have become enormously successful, and within these super firms inequality between the CEO and the worker bees hasn't changed much at all. They pay <em>all</em> their employees more than the average firm, from the CEO down.</p> <p>The chart on the right tells the story. Ignore the green line for the moment and just look at the blue and red lines. The red line shows that the top tenth of firms have far outperformed everyone else. The blue line shows <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_firm_individual_income_inequality.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that workers follow the same pattern. The ones who work for the top firms get paid a lot more than the folks who work for average firms.</p> <p>As it turns out, some industries have more super firms than others and thus contribute more to growing income inequality. The FIRE sector&mdash;Finance, Insurance, Real Estate&mdash;is the most obvious example. Both firm revenue and individual compensation has gone up far more than in any sector. But other sectors have their superstars too, and individuals at those firms get paid a lot more than a similar worker at a firm that's not doing so well.</p> <p>So in addition to talking about the top 1% of individuals, we should be talking about the top 1% of firms. But what does that mean? Things get a little hazy at this point:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Instead of top incomes rising within firms, top-paying firms are now paying even higher wages.</strong> This may tend to make inequality more invisible, as individuals do not see rising inequality among their peers. More research needs to be done to understand why inequality between firms has increased so much more than inequality within them. <strong>But this fact of stable inequality within firms should inform our understanding of the great increase in inequality within the United States over the last three decades.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/05/29/economists-have-figured-out-whos-really-to-blame-for-inequality/" target="_blank">Matt O'Brien suggests</a> that this means nearly every industry is now part of the winner-take-all economy. In the same way that modern technology allows a tiny subset of superstar singers or actors to earn huge audiences (and huge paychecks), perhaps it also enables modern firms to do the same. And it could be self-reinforcing. The super firms can afford to hire the best workers, and that in turn drives even more unequal growth.</p> <p>In any case, if the authors are right, it matters a lot which firm you work for. If you pick the right one, you might ride the income inequality gravy train right to the top. In not, you probably won't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 May 2015 15:53:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 276241 at http://www.motherjones.com Economy Shrinks in Q1; Annual Growth Still Stuck in the Doldrums http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/economy-shrinks-q1-annual-growth-still-stuck-doldrums <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today brings disappointing economic news. The economy didn't just grow slowly in the first quarter, it actually shrunk by 0.7 percent. As usual, winter weather is getting part of the blame, and some economists are going even further, wondering if we need to step back and take a look at the formula for seasonal adjustments. Perhaps, for some reason, the formula is no longer reflecting reality during the winter quarter.</p> <p>Maybe. But what this shows is that although the US economy continues to putter along in decent shape, it still hasn't reached takeoff velocity. The economy has been growing at a rate of 2-3 percent per year for the past five years, and there's little evidence this is going to change anytime soon.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2015_q1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 May 2015 14:29:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 276221 at http://www.motherjones.com Havana Nights, Indoors http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/havana-nights-indoors <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>Friend of the blog Jay Jaroch recently spent some time in Cuba. Here's the third of three posts about what he observed while he was there.</em></p> <hr width="20%"><p>One of the nice things about getting out of LA is taking a break from listening to your friends talk about all the television shows they <em>can&rsquo;t believe you&rsquo;re not watching.</em> I&rsquo;m not sure I&rsquo;ll be accepted back at work until I&rsquo;ve turned in my term paper on the Mad Men finale. In terms of getting a reprieve, I figured Cuba was as good a place as any.</p> <p>Little did I know that many Cubans are binge watching the same shows we are.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tv.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">&ldquo;I watched all seasons of Dexter,&rdquo; one Havana man told a wide-eyed me. &ldquo;Now I&rsquo;m watching The Following. You like The Following?&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Which one is that?&rdquo; I asked.</p> <p>&ldquo;With Kevin Bacon.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Oh, right.&rdquo;</p> <p>Homeland, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black&mdash;you name it. They may be a few episodes behind your friends in the states, but not by much. In a country where cable and satellite dishes are banned, and internet service is mostly confined to hotels and about as functional as the dial-up days, Cubans get their favorite shows via something called &ldquo;the package.&rdquo; Basically, it&rsquo;s a cross between Netflix and a drug deal&mdash;for a small fee and a handshake, someone will hook you up with a flash drive full of Hollywood.</p> <p>&ldquo;You order what you want to see, which season, and a few days later you get the package,&rdquo; a guide in Havana explained to me. &ldquo;With Spanish subtitles. A good way to learn English.&rdquo;</p> <p>It was technically illegal, but also ubiquitous. And apparently Raul&rsquo;s government doesn&rsquo;t care.</p> <p>&ldquo;As long as you are not bringing in pornography, they don&rsquo;t bother you,&rdquo; the guide said.</p> <p>(Cuba takes their anti-pornography laws seriously. My surly immigration official asked me only two questions: had I been to any Ebola affected areas, and was I bringing in pornography? One got the sense that you could have just about anything in your bag so long as it wasn&rsquo;t an old copy of <em>Swank</em>.)</p> <p>Another option in Havana was to watch TV in one of the better hotels, some of which were equipped with cable for their international clientele. One man I met seemed to be more up on American television than I was, and I work in <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_us_interest_section_havana.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">television. I almost wanted to say &ldquo;Clear eyes, full hearts!&rdquo; just to see if he&rsquo;d yell, &ldquo;Can&rsquo;t lose!&rdquo; back at me.</p> <p>Don&rsquo;t worry. I didn&rsquo;t.</p> <p>This is new territory, and not for Hollywood&mdash;we&rsquo;re used to having our product stolen and distributed on foreign streets. As recently as a few years ago, getting any sort of American dispatch, much less television, would have been impossible in Cuba. In 2006, at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (what passes for our embassy) we began broadcasting news and pro-American messages from an electronic ticker we&rsquo;d installed at the top of the building. In response, Castro&rsquo;s government erected 140 flagpoles in front of the ticker so Cubans couldn&rsquo;t see the messages. Now, in 2015, Cubans are freely downloading American Idol, or any of our wonderful shows about pawn shops.</p> <p>Change is afoot, and there&rsquo;s certainly more to come. As I sat waiting for my flight out of Jos&eacute; Mart&iacute; Airport, half of the lights in the terminal flickered, and then went out. None of the electronic screens worked, and there was little evidence that they ever had. An announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us that the air conditioning was also out, and that they were working on it. No one seemed surprised at any of this. We all just continued fanning ourselves with our boarding passes.</p> <p>As my Cubana plane finally arrived at the gate, I noticed an American Airlines plane was landing on the runway. It seemed appropriate. In Cuba, nobody knows what kind of change is on its way. But everyone knows that it&rsquo;s coming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 May 2015 13:00:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 276206 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/health-update-1 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I spent all morning up at City of Hope for a follow-up appointment with my transplant doctor. My counts all look good. My white blood count is 5500 and my ANC count is at 2800. Both are right in the middle of the normal range, which means my immune system is rebounding as expected. That's very encouraging.</p> <p>On the actual cancer front, the lab results are frustratingly hazy. The key thing my doctor wants to see is a big drop in my M protein level. Today I got the results from two weeks ago (it takes a while for the lab to do this particular test), and my M protein level had dropped from 1.0 to 0.38. The good news is that this means I responded to the chemotherapy. The hazier news is that it hasn't dropped to zero, as we'd like it to. I won't have the results of today's test until next week, but hopefully it will show a drop that gets me close to zero. Following that, around the end of June, I'll have a biopsy that will provide firm results on how well I responded to the chemo.</p> <p>So....we wait. I'm not super thrilled with the 0.38 number, but my doctor assures me that this might represent nothing more than old cells lying around that haven't quite died off yet. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 May 2015 22:53:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 276196 at http://www.motherjones.com Americans Now Approve of Suicide, But Only With a Doctor's Note http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/americans-now-approve-suicide-only-doctors-note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8673403/social-issues-poll" target="_blank">Via Matt Yglesias,</a> here's an interesting Gallup poll measuring American attitudes toward a variety of social behaviors. Unsurprisingly, there's been a general shift leftward. Support is higher than it was 2001 for gay relations, sex between unmarried partners, medical research on human embryos, etc. <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/183413/americans-continue-shift-left-key-moral-issues.aspx" target="_blank">Here's the full table,</a> with the result I found oddest highlighted in red:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_suicide.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>Note that the moral acceptability of suicide has gone up slightly, but it's still very low. Less than one-fifth of the country approves of it. But <em>doctor-assisted</em> suicide is a whole different story. More than half of all Americans approve of it.</p> <p>I'm not quite sure what this means. Does approval by a guy in a white coat really mean that much to most Americans? Is there an assumption that "doctor-assisted" means that everything possible has been done to talk the patient out of suicide? Or is there an assumption that doctor-assisted suicide is always for people with end-stage diseases that leave them in constant pain?</p> <p>I'm not sure. In any case, it's also worth noting that public opinion has barely budged on several hot button issues. In particular, support for abortion, cloning, marital affairs, and the death penalty remains virtually unchanged over the past 15 years.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 May 2015 14:59:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 276131 at http://www.motherjones.com Cubans Really Don't Like Marco Rubio http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/cubans-really-dont-marco-rubio <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>Friend of the blog Jay Jaroch recently spent some time in Cuba. Here's the second of three posts about what he observed while he was there.</em></p> <hr width="20%"><p>For obvious reasons, it can be difficult to get a Cuban to open up about their political views. It usually took some time to establish trust, and a certain amount of privacy. Sharing a few rum drinks didn&rsquo;t seem to hurt either.</p> <p>But they often did open up, especially when I offered to answer any questions they had for me. And the one question virtually everyone had was this: is Hillary Clinton going to be the next president? When I&rsquo;d tell them I gave her a 75%-80% chance of winning based on demographic trends alone, they&rsquo;d exhale. It wasn&rsquo;t because they had any particular love for <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marco_rubio.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Hillary Clinton. It&rsquo;s that they expected that she would continue Obama&rsquo;s Cuba policies, whereas a Republican president would reinstate the full embargo. So, viva Hillary.</p> <p>The more interesting thing, to me, was that they saved a particular brand of venom for Marco Rubio. Cab drivers, bartenders, artists&mdash;everyone seem to have something to say about Marco Rubio, and none of it was kind. A few suggested that as a Cuban-American Rubio should display some concern for economic struggles of every day Cubans, or to at least recognize that he was afforded an opportunity that millions of poorer Cubans never had, namely having parents who moved to the United States before Castro took over. (Or as Rubio used to tell it, barely escaping the revolution while Castro personally shot at their raft.) The fact that he was pledging to double down on the embargo was a pledge to make their lives worse, to deny them the new hope they&rsquo;ve been given these last few years, all to suck up to the aging exile community in Florida.</p> <p>Yes, I found something Cubans don&rsquo;t like about America&mdash;it&rsquo;s where Marco Rubio lives.</p> <p>President Obama, on the other hand, received a fair amount of praise. According to a recent Gallup survey, Obama enjoys a 80% approval rating among Cubans. And it was pretty obvious why. &ldquo;I loved Obama when he was elected,&rdquo; one man in Havana told me. &ldquo;Then I hated him when he turned out to be like every other president. But now, I like him again.&rdquo;</p> <p>Not surprisingly, when it came to their view of American politics and politicians, the embargo was a bit of a litmus test. Opinions on our Cuba policy ranged from anger to bewilderment. One man in Cienfuegos asked me, &ldquo;Why do you bother? You have all the money. We are a poor island. Only 11 million people. Why do you care?&rdquo;</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rincon_cretinos.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Another made a smart point. &ldquo;Our government blames all our problems on you. If you don&rsquo;t have the embargo, then who can they blame?&rdquo;</p> <p>A visit to the Museo de la Revoluci&oacute;n in Havana drove the man&rsquo;s point home. Before you even exit the lobby you come to the Rincon de los Cretinos, or &ldquo;The Corner of the Pricks.&rdquo; Four panels featuring cartoon versions of Fulgencio Batista, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, each with a note of thanks translated into three languages.</p> <p>On George W. Bush&rsquo;s panel the note read, &ldquo;Thank you cretin for helping us MAKE SOCIALISM IRREVOCABLE!&rdquo;</p> <p>Socialism was misspelled.</p> <p><strong>Next: How Cubans binge-watch American television.</strong></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 May 2015 13:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 276116 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/health-update-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/so-how-did-my-experiment-turn-out" target="_blank">Last Saturday</a> I wrote a post whining about how tired and nauseous I was and how I crashed every day around 2 pm. I wrote that post a little before noon, and then....nothing. No crash. Sunday: no crash. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: no crash. And the nausea has improved dramatically. There are two possible explanations for this:</p> <ul><li>It's just a coincidence.</li> <li>Whining in public is really therapeutic and helped me feel better.</li> </ul><p>So which is it? Who knows. I suppose it was just a coincidence, but that's not a very satisfying explanation for us pattern-obsessed primates, is it? In any case, I'm still tired and I still make sure to rest frequently throughout the day. But my energy level is distinctly better than last week, and my nausea is clearly getting better too. Genuine progress! Hooray!</p> <p>Unfortunately, the foul taste in my mouth is still hanging around. In theory, full recovery from the chemo side effects should take 6-7 weeks, and I'm now at week 5. Hopefully this means in another week or two I'll be feeling pretty sprightly and foulness free. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 May 2015 18:39:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 275961 at http://www.motherjones.com Note to Politicians: Stop Being So Self-Centered About Medical Research Funding http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/note-politicians-stop-being-so-self-centered-about-medical-research-funding <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_test_tubes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Steve Benen mentions one of my pet peeves today: politicians who want to cut spending on everything except for research on one particular disease that happens to affect them personally. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/politicians-should-learn-bigger-lessons-their-pet-causes" target="_blank">A couple of years ago,</a> for example, Sen. Mark Kirk suddenly became interested in Medicaid's approach to treating strokes after he himself suffered a stroke. The latest example is Jeb Bush, whose mother-in-law has Alzheimer's. I suppose you can guess what's coming next. <a href="http://mariashriver.com/blog/2015/05/i-emailed-jeb-bush-about-alzheimers-and-he-responded-maria-shriver-jeb-bush/" target="_blank">Here's Jeb in a letter he sent to Maria Shriver:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I have gotten lots of emails based on my comments regarding Alzheimer&rsquo;s and dementia at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire. It is not the first time I have spoken about this disease. I have done so regularly.</p> <p>Here is what I believe:</p> <p><strong>We need to increase funding to find a cure.</strong> We need to reform FDA [regulations] to accelerate the approval process for drug and device approval at a much lower cost. We need to find more community based solutions for care.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/why-jeb-bushs-line-alzheimers-matters" target="_blank">As Benen points out,</a> Bush vetoed a bunch of bills that would have assisted Alzheimer's patients when he was governor of Florida. I guess that's changed now that he actually knows someone with the disease. However, it doesn't seem to have affected his attitude toward any other kind of medical research spending.</p> <p>I'm not even sure what to call this syndrome, but it's mighty common. It's also wildly inappropriate. If Jeb wants to personally start a charity that helps fund Alzheimer's research, that's great. But if he's running for president, he should be concerned with medical research for everyone. I mean, where's the billion dollars that <em>I'd</em> like to see invested in multiple myeloma research? Huh?</p> <p>Presidents and members of Congress represent the country, not their own families. They should get straight on the fact that if their pet disease is being underfunded, then maybe a lot of other diseases are being underfunded too. It shouldn't take a family member getting sick to get them to figure that out.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 May 2015 17:14:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 275946 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Find Yet Another Ingenious Way to Suppress Democratic Votes http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/republicans-find-yet-another-ingenious-way-suppress-democratic-votes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The number of ways that Republicans invent to reduce the voting power of the Democratic Party is truly impressive. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/us/supreme-court-to-weigh-meaning-of-one-person-one-vote.html" target="_blank">Here's the latest:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The court has never resolved whether voting districts should have the same number of people, or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places with large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally, including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants, children and prisoners. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.</p> <p><strong>A ruling that districts must be based on equal numbers of voters would move political power away from cities, with their many immigrants and children, and toward older and more homogeneous rural areas.</strong></p> <p>....The Supreme Court over the past nearly 25 years has turned away at least three similar challenges, and many election law experts expressed surprise that the justices agreed to hear this one. But since Chief Justice John G. Roberts has led the court, it has been active in other voting cases.</p> </blockquote> <p>Over the past few decades we've seen pack-n-crack, photo ID laws, old fashioned gerrymandering, mid-decade gerrymandering, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, reductions in early voting, the crippling of campaign finance law, illegal purges of voter rolls, and now this: a change in the way people are counted that would favor Republican-leaning districts.</p> <p>From a purely academic view, you really have to be impressed by the GOP's relentless creativity in finding ever more ways to trim the votes of groups who lean Democratic. They've done a great job. Sure, it's been a violent and cynical assault on our country's notions of fairness in the voting booth, but that's for eggheads to worry about. After all, it worked. Right? Maybe its made a difference of only a point or two in presidential elections and fewer than a dozen districts in congressional elections, but in a closely balanced electorate that counts for a lot.</p> <p>So: nice work, GOP. You've realized that all the woo-woo talk about democracy and the sacredness of the vote is just a bunch of blah blah blah. We all mouth the words, but no one really cares. There are just too many good shows on TV to pay attention to boring stuff like this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 May 2015 15:07:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 275931 at http://www.motherjones.com Cuba Is Cautiously Hopeful and You Should Be Too http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/cuba-cautiously-hopeful-and-you-should-be-too <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>Friend of the blog Jay Jaroch recently spent some time in Cuba. Here's the first of three posts about what he observed while he was there.</em></p> <hr width="20%"><p>If you&rsquo;re looking for a country that has solved the problem of income inequality, look no further than Cuba, where everyone has next to nothing. And that&rsquo;s not snark. It&rsquo;s an economic reality that quickly presents itself to any Westerner who spends some time there, as I did this month.</p> <p>Soon after President Obama loosened the travel restrictions, domestic debate about Cuba&rsquo;s economic future in a post-embargo world split into two predictable camps: those who worried that America would &ldquo;ruin&rdquo; Cuba with a heavy dose of fanny-packed tourists and Panera Breads, and those who dismissed this as the &ldquo;fetishization of poverty&rdquo; and welcomed the introduction of American-style capitalism as a long overdue tonic. The reality is that these are mostly debates Americans are having about their views of America. Cubans, one quickly learns, are too economically desperate to care.</p> <p>Havana is unique and dilapidated and strangely beautiful. You almost admire it in the same way you would distressed furniture, or Keith Richard&rsquo;s face. Havana looks a bit like a hurricane hit the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1965 and no one bothered to clean it up. Zoom in and you&rsquo;ll find <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_jaroch_cuba_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">men standing in front of a partially collapsed building holding menus imploring you to come to their <em>paladares</em> next to stray dogs fucking in the street next to a group of Canadian tourists in faux revolutionary berets next to a woman selling fruit from a cart that most Americans wouldn&rsquo;t eat on a dare. It&rsquo;s all here.</p> <p>Without exception, the Cubans I talked to welcomed the thawing of relations with the US, and even more so the coming influx of American tourists. One quickly learns why: because too much of their day-to-day economy is reliant on tourist dollars and euros. America is simply the biggest account they could land, and that&rsquo;s why they&rsquo;re hopeful. Also cautious, and not so much because they&rsquo;re worried about Starbucks; it's because they&rsquo;re worried their government will mismanage their chance at a better life. The sense was: Raul is finally allowing for some small, common-sense reforms that would have been impossible under Fidel. President Obama is allowing for some small, common sense reforms that will allow Cubans greater access to American dollars. Let&rsquo;s not screw this up. (More on that tomorrow.)</p> <p>Outside Havana, the economic stagnation is even more acute. In Cienfuegos, a middle school English teacher named Alex, who had never spoken to an American before, wanted to know what a teacher of his experience would make in Los Angeles. I told him around $75,000 a year. &ldquo;$75,000 American dollars,&rdquo; he replied, shaking his head. &ldquo;I earn 18 dollars a month.&rdquo; Alex was hardly unique&mdash;monthly salaries in Cuba run from about $14 to $20.</p> <p>In Trinidad, a city about five hours southeast of Havana, an older man sitting in his doorway stopped me on my way down the street. He wanted me to give the Americans a message: &ldquo;Hay mucha musica, pero nada de trabajo.&rdquo; We have lots of music, but no work.</p> <p>This jibed with what I&rsquo;d seen of Trinidad. Other than the jobs related to tourism, I couldn&rsquo;t discern any other source of employment. Pablo, my host in Trinidad, was a civil engineer by trade, but a taxi driver by necessity. On one trip through town I asked him what jobs were available to locals beyond the tourist trade. He replied that there weren&rsquo;t any. I found that hard to believe so I asked the same question of an art gallery employee. I got the same answer&mdash;there aren&rsquo;t any other jobs. The only money coming in to that part of the country came from abroad, either in the form of remittances from family members or from tourism. We were, quite literally, the only game in town.</p> <p>In some respects, both sides of the American debate can stand down. Cuba is neither ready for Pizza Hut nor gearing up for broad-based market reforms. Yes, Cuba is changing. People who had been there five or even two years before would tell me how much had already changed. But the reality is that they&rsquo;re starting, slowly, to dig out from a half century deep hole. The infrastructure is in such disarray that they couldn&rsquo;t take a large scale influx of American tourists if they wanted to. And they want to.</p> <p>No one really knows what happens next. But this much seems clear: if you want to see what Cuba was like under socialism, you can come next year. You can come in three years. Five. Ten. It will still be there.</p> <p><strong>Next: What Cubans think of Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio.</strong></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 May 2015 13:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 275921 at http://www.motherjones.com Judges Are Just Extensions of Political Parties These Days http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/judges-are-just-extensions-political-parties-these-days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>From a post by Dara Lind about a court ruling on <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/5/26/8662523/immigration-fifth-circuit" target="_blank">President Obama's immigration plan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The two Republican-appointed judges hearing the case sided against the administration, while the Democratic-appointed judge on the panel sided with the White House.</p> </blockquote> <p>How many times have we read sentences exactly like this? It's a wonder that anyone in the country still believes that federal judges are honest brokers these days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 May 2015 21:33:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 275866 at http://www.motherjones.com How Many US Troops Will Be In Iraq By the Time Obama Leaves Office? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/how-many-us-troops-will-be-iraq-time-obama-leaves-office <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over the past few days I've been trying to catch up with the fall of Ramadi and what it means for the war against ISIS. But it's not easy figuring out what really happened.</p> <p>According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Ramadi was <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/05/24/us/politics/ap-us-united-states-iraq-.html?_r=0" target="_blank">yet another debacle for the Iraqi military:</a> <strong>"What apparently happened is the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.</strong> They were not outnumbered; in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. That says to me, and I think <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ramadi_isis.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves."</p> <p>The inevitable Kenneth Pollack, however, <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2015/05/22-iraq-ramadi-isis-islamic-state-washington" target="_blank">says that just isn't the case:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think it important to start by putting the fall of Ramadi in its proper perspective. Da&rsquo;ish [ISIS] forces have been battling for Ramadi since December 2013, so while the denouement may have come somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly, this is not a new front in the war and it ultimately took Da&rsquo;ish a very long time to take the city. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) did eventually retreat from the town and abandoned at least some heavy weapons doing so, <strong>most reports indicate they fell back to defensive positions outside the town. They did not simply drop their guns and run pell-mell, as many did in June 2014.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So what does Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi think? He's certain that Carter was fed bad information. Iraqi troops, he says, are just fine: "They have the will to fight, but when they are faced with an onslaught by [the Islamic State] from nowhere . . . with armored trucks packed with explosives &mdash; <strong>the effect of them is like a small nuclear bomb &mdash; it gives a very, very bad effect on our forces,&rdquo;</strong> he said.</p> <p>Contra Pollack, then, Abadi thinks ISIS did indeed come "from nowhere." Also, he wants us to know that his troops have the will to fight, but not when facing an enemy that uses actual weapons. Or something.</p> <p>Beyond this, all the usual suspects blame the whole thing on President Obama and his usual weak-kneed reluctance to support our friends overseas. Unfortunately, that matters, regardless of whether or not it's just reflexive partisan nonsense. When it's loud enough and persistent enough, it starts to congeal into conventional wisdom. And if conventional wisdom says that things aren't going well in the war against ISIS, then the pressure to <em>do something</em> ratchets up steadily&mdash;and not just from the usual suspects. The pressure also comes in more reasonable form from sympathetic critics. For example <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0524-mcmanus-isis-strategy-20150524-column.html" target="_blank">here, </a>from Doyle McManus of the <em>LA Times</em>, and <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2014/09/26-pollack-assessing-obama-administration-iraq-syria-strategy" target="_blank">here,</a> from Pollack himself.</p> <p>Zack Beauchamp thinks this friendly criticism matters a lot. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/5/26/8657965/isis-pollack" target="_blank">Here he is responding to Pollack's piece:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>First, Pollack is right on certain points. For example, the US campaign to equip some Sunni fighters hasn't panned out very well....Second, critics like Pollack are going to jack up the pressure on the administration to put American troops in harm's way. Pollack wants Obama to put American forces on the front lines to more accurately call in US airstrikes. He blames the administration's insistence "that not a single American be killed in this fight" for why this hasn't happened.</p> <p>It's true that the administration has strongly resisted putting American troops in combat positions. That's because they're trying very hard to avoid slouching toward another Iraq war, with a large and growing US combat force that very well might do more harm than good. No combat troops is a red line designed to prevent that escalation.</p> <p>....The foreign policy consensus in Washington is relatively hawkish, so problems with US interventions tend to be seen as problems resulting from not using enough force or committing enough resources. The more the elite consensus shifts against Obama, the more political pressure to escalate will mount. Obama probably will resist it, but the costs of doing so are going up &mdash; as Pollack's piece demonstrates.</p> </blockquote> <p>So now I feel like I've caught up a bit on this. And it hardly matters. It's the same old stuff. On the surface, everyone agrees that this is an Iraqi fight and Iraqis need to fight it. But of course our training of Iraqi troops is woefully inadequate&mdash;something that should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers that a decade wasn't long enough to train Iraqi troops back when George Bush was running things. If Obama could make it happen within a few months, he really would be a miracle worker.</p> <p>But if our training mission isn't working, the alternative is wearily obvious: more American boots on the ground&mdash;which is to say, on the front lines. And again, this comes as no surprise. Anyone who was paying attention knew that Obama's lightweight training-first strategy was likely to take years. We also knew that virtually no one in Washington has that kind of patience. Six months is the usual limit. So even among centrists and moderate hawks, pressure is going to grow to adopt a more aggressive strategy. And that means more Americans fighting on the front lines. And when that isn't enough, even more Americans.</p> <p>Can Obama resist this pressure? If anyone can, it would be him. But I'm not sure that even he can hold out for too long.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 May 2015 17:10:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 275816 at http://www.motherjones.com Sen. Lindsey Graham: Iranians in Pool Halls Are All Liars http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/sen-lindsey-graham-iranians-pool-halls-are-all-liars <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Lindsey Graham is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the US Senate. Here he is, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32850481" target="_blank">slipping into his Mr. Hyde role:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Senator Lindsey Graham, the first speaker Friday morning, appearing from Washington via video, spoke of losing his parents as a teenager, working in a pool hall and having to help raise his younger sister&nbsp;&mdash; and how it <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_graham_jekyll_hyde_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relates to his leadership style.</p> <p><strong>"Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room," he said. "I met a lot of liars, and I know the Iranians are lying."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there you have it. It's not entirely clear to me how you'd become so adept at spotting liars in an open game like pool, but I guess ol' Lindsey managed it.</p> <p>In any case, this is certainly the level of nuance and understanding of world affairs that we're getting accustomed to from the Republican presidential field&mdash;and it's only May. By the time, say, September rolls around, they're going to be competing with each other the same way they did four years ago over border security. It won't be long before we start hearing about nukes, giant domes, and Iron Curtain 2.0. Should be lotsa fun.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The BBC has corrected its Lindsey quote. He didn't say "I know the Iranians are liars." He said, "I know the Iranians are lying." I've corrected the text.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 May 2015 15:20:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 275811 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart: America Is More Liberal Than Politicians Think http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/chart-day-politicians-dont-know-their-own-districts-very-well <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_conservative_attitudes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's a fascinating tidbit of research. <a href="https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~broockma/broockman_skovron_asymmetric_misperceptions.pdf" target="_blank">A pair of grad students surveyed 2,000 state legislators</a> and asked them what they thought their constituents believed on several hot button issues. They then compared the results to actual estimates from each district derived from national surveys.</p> <p>The chart on the right is typical of what they found: Everyone&mdash;both liberal and conservative legislators&mdash;thought their districts were more conservative than they really were. For example, in districts where 60 percent of the constituents supported universal health care, liberal legislators estimated the number at about 50 percent. Conservative legislators were even further off: They estimated the number at about 35 percent.</p> <p>Why is this so? The authors don't really try to guess, though they do note that legislators don't seem to learn anything from elections. The original survey had been conducted in August, and a follow-up survey conducted after elections in November produced the same result.</p> <p>My own guess would be that conservatives and conservatism simply have a higher profile these days. Between Fox News and the rise of the tea party and (in the case of universal health care) the relentless jihad of Washington conservatives, it's only natural to think that America&mdash;as well as one's own district&mdash;is more conservative than it really is. But that's just a guess. What's yours?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts 2016 Elections Elections The Right Top Stories Sun, 24 May 2015 15:28:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 275786 at http://www.motherjones.com So How Did My Experiment Turn Out? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/so-how-did-my-experiment-turn-out <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/its-experiment-week" target="_blank">On Monday</a> I announced that this was Experiment Week. Today is Saturday, and Science&trade; has spoken.</p> <p>It turns out that I'm kinda sorta OK for about four or five hours in the morning. As long as I rest every hour or so, I can indeed write a couple of light blog posts, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_2_oclock.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">take a walk around the block, and shower and shave. That's the good news.</p> <p>However, the deadline for my second walk of the day is about 2 pm. On Monday I walked at 5 pm, and when I was done I felt like I'd just run a marathon. It took me all evening to recover. On Tuesday I walked at 4 pm. This time it felt like I'd run a mile, and I recovered in about an hour. Basically, I've learned that my body wants to crash at about 2 pm every day. Maybe I doze for a couple of hours, maybe I actually sleep a bit, but either way I'm good for nothing. By 5 pm I'm back up, but all my chemo side effects have started to get worse. The neuropathy is worse, the nausea is worse, and the fatigue is worse. This continues until bedtime, getting steadily worse the entire time.</p> <p>So that's that. I have the energy for light activity from about 7 am to 2 pm. Then I collapse, and when I get up I spend the next five or six hours enduring crappy side effects of the chemo. Oh, and this includes a terrible taste in my mouth that never goes away. Ugh.</p> <p>But it could be worse! In fact, it's <em>been</em> worse before. Still, it's frustrating that recovery seems to come so slowly. I don't know if I'll be spending another week like this or another couple of months. All I can do is wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 23 May 2015 17:42:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 275776 at http://www.motherjones.com Ireland Is Latest Country to Approve Gay Marriage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/ireland-latest-country-approve-gay-marriage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ireland_gay_marriage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I don't have anything profound to say about this, but it's just a nice piece of good news. And I could use <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/yes-side-joyous-as-count-starts-in-irish-gay-marriage-vote/2015/05/23/3e7d509a-012b-11e5-8c77-bf274685e1df_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">some good news these days:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday after the world&rsquo;s first national vote on the issue.</p> <p>As the official ballot counting continued, the only question appeared to be how large the &ldquo;yes&rdquo; margin of victory from Friday&rsquo;s vote would be. Analysts said the &ldquo;yes&rdquo; support was likely to exceed 60 percent nationally when official results are announced later Saturday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Congratulations to Ireland. This is both a human <em>and</em> humane gesture in a world that could use more of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 23 May 2015 15:38:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 275771 at http://www.motherjones.com For the First Time Ever, Social Conservatives No Longer Outnumber Social Liberals in America http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/first-time-ever-conservatives-no-longer-outnumber-liberals-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_05/no_more_social_conservative_te055694.php" target="_blank">Via Ed Kilgore,</a> here's an interesting chart <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/183386/social-ideology-left-catches-right.aspx" target="_blank">from the good folks at Gallup:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_liberal_conservative_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 55px;"></p> <p>What's interesting about this is that the change is due almost entirely to Democrats and Democratic leaners. Since 1999, that group has gone from 35 percent socially liberal to 53 percent, and from 20 percent socially conservative to 14 percent conservative.</p> <p>Republicans and Republican leaners, by contrast, have barely budged. In the 2015 polling there's a slight dip in conservative ID and a slight spike in moderate ID, but it's probably just noise. Generally speaking, the lines are pretty flat over the past couple of decades.</p> <p>So why have Democrats changed so much? Perhaps it's the impact of Millennials. Perhaps it's the impact of gay marriage, which Democrats have been far more willing to accept than Republicans. Maybe MSNBC and liberal blogs have had a bigger impact than I would have guessed. I'm not sure. But the increase has been steady enough that it can't be blamed on any specific event, like the Bush presidency or the financial crisis.</p> <p>In any case, this really is a milestone. For a long time, one of the rocks of political analysis in America has been the simple fact that conservatives outnumber liberals. That's been true since at least the 60s, and probably for the entire postwar period&mdash;and it's been a perpetual millstone around Democratic necks. They couldn't win national elections just by getting the liberal vote and a little bit of the center-right vote. They had to get a <em>lot</em> of the center-right vote.</p> <p>But it now looks like that era is coming to an end. With social issues increasingly defining politics, a social liberal is, for all practical purposes, just a plain old liberal&mdash;and the trend of <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/180452/liberals-record-trail-conservatives.aspx" target="_blank">increasing liberal ID is already underway.</a> It's still got a ways to go, but the liberal-conservative gap is definitely closing. This probably goes a long way toward explaining why Hillary Clinton and other Democrats seem much more willing to move left than in the past. It's because they no longer think they have to capture a huge chunk of the moderate vote to win. They still need some moderates in their camp, but they no longer need to capture two-thirds or more of them. Like Republicans, they can make do with half or even a bit less.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The headline initially just said "liberal" and "conservative" without mentioning that it was about <em>social</em> liberals and conservatives. Too much shorthand. Sorry about that. I've changed the headline and a few words of the text to make everything clear.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 May 2015 16:40:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 275726 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging Counterpoint: I Don't Care About Your Cute Cat http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/cats-dogs-pets-pandas-whatever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/housekeeping-note" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some remarkable writers, thinkers, and Friends of Kevin to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today, in the spirit of open debate, we interrupt our regularly scheduled <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/05/friday-cat-blogging-22-may-2015" target="_blank">cat blogging</a> for a counterpoint by <a href="http://annfriedman.com/clips" target="_blank">writer</a>, <a href="http://annfriedman.com/day-jobs" target="_blank">editor</a>, <a href="http://annfriedman.com/cyg" target="_blank">podcaster</a>, <a href="http://annfriedman.com/speaking" target="_blank">speaker</a>, <a href="http://annfriedman.com/tagged/pie+charts" target="_blank">chartisan</a>, <a href="https://tinyletter.com/annfriedman" target="_blank">newsletterer</a>, and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/11/mail-order-abortions" target="_blank">former </a></em><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/11/mail-order-abortions" target="_blank">MoJo</a><em><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2006/11/mail-order-abortions" target="_blank">er</a></em><em> <a href="http://annfriedman.com/bio" target="_blank">Ann Friedman</a>.</em></p> <p>I don't like cats. And it's even worse than you think: I don't like dogs, either. In fact, I have virtually no interest in animals at all&mdash;even eating them. I am really happy that you are comforted by the presence of your dog. I am thrilled that you and your cat "rescued each other." But, no, I do not want to cuddle with or even see photos of your pet. And please don't bother sending me that video of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Se6flT2EWs">baby red pandas</a> cuddling each other or a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co3N4-6B2pM">lion reuniting</a> with its long-lost human pal.</p> <p>I feel nothing.</p> <p>On this point, especially among my feminist peers on the internet, I am in the minority. In honor of the man who <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/28/technology/circuits/28cats.html">pioneered Friday cat blogging</a>, I'm going to reckon with the fact that I am just not very interested in furry creatures. The last time I wrote about this was seven years ago, in ancient internet times when I was a blogger for <em>Feministing</em> and <a href="http://feministing.com/2007/08/31/friday_anticat_blogging_1/">dared</a> to do some "Friday anti-catblogging." The commenters weren't having it. "I honestly think that there is a valuable conversation to be had about the correlation of cat-hating with misogyny," one wrote.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/kevin-drum/2015/05/cats-dogs-pets-pandas-whatever"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Kevin Drum Animals Top Stories Fri, 22 May 2015 16:34:47 +0000 Ann Friedman 275621 at http://www.motherjones.com