Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/03/createASLId.jsp http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Does Obama Still Have That Old-Time Magic? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/does-obama-still-have-old-time-magic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In a few minutes President Obama will be back in Springfield making a speech addressed to his supporters. "You've taken on the painstaking work of progress," he says. "You've helped us find that middle ground where real change is won....I hope you'll tune in today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern." <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Obama_FDR.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Andrew Sprung figures this is basically going to be <a href="http://xpostfactoid.blogspot.com/2016/02/coming-today-obama-message-for-hillary.html" target="_blank">an endorsement of Hillary Clinton:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama just sent an email to supporters announcing a speech to be delivered this afternoon. I imagine it will be a message "for" Clinton&nbsp;&mdash; both to support her and to model a coherent pitch for incremental change.</p> <p>....Then there's "the painstaking work of progress" and the 'middle ground where real change is won." Those are memes pointed at this moment, in which the frontrunners in both parties are calling for radical, fundamental change.... Incrementalism is a tough sell, but Obama has made it throughout his career, and he does so more effectively than Clinton. He's more successful because he's better at articulating the long-term goal and how the incremental steps move toward them, as well as the historical framework in which those steps fit.</p> </blockquote> <p>But will it work? Personally, I've always viewed Obama as a cautious, pragmatic, mainstream liberal. But his strongest supporters never saw him that way. They really believed he was going to revolutionize Washington DC and end all the bickering. He'd pass universal health care, rein in Wall Street once and for all, and stop climate change in its tracks.</p> <p>But he didn't. And the conventional wisdom says that his supporters from 2007&mdash;when he first went to Springfield to announce his candidacy&mdash;are disappointed in him. He turned out to be just another go-along-get-along guy, and now he wants to foist a go-along-get-along gal on us. Sorry. No sale. We're feeling the Bern these days.</p> <p>We'll see. But I will say this: If Obama really wants to help Hillary Clinton, he can't afford too much subtlety. Any criticism of radical change will be read by liberals as primarily an attack on Donald Trump unless he makes it crystal clear what he's talking about. Tune in at 2:30 and find out!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:21:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 296536 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why Bernie Sanders Doesn't Say Much About Welfare Reform http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-why-bernie-sanders-doesnt-say-much-about-welfare-reform <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Clio Chang and Samuel Adler-Bell want to know why Bernie Sanders hasn't spent more time blasting the Clinton-era welfare reform law and proposing <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/128878/missing-bernies-revolution-welfare-reform" target="_blank">concrete ways to address poverty:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>While Sanders frequently repeats and laments the statistic that one in five American children live in poverty, neither he nor Clinton has put forward a specific plan to address it. And neither spends much time talking about food stamps, housing subsidies, or the Earned Income Tax Credit, all essential programs for the poor.</p> <p>Liberal pundits have criticized Clinton for defending her husband&rsquo;s welfare legislation&mdash;and for parroting the conservative caricature of welfare beneficiaries as "deadbeats"&mdash;but so far, it hasn&rsquo;t created any serious problems for her campaign. But this, perhaps, is to be expected from a more moderate Democrat. <strong>The oversight is arguably a more glaring problem for Sanders, who voted against the welfare bill and harshly condemned it in his 1997 book, but hasn&rsquo;t made it an issue in the primary.</strong> In August, he told Bloomberg, with uncharacteristic restraint, "I think that history will suggest that that legislation has not worked terribly well."</p> </blockquote> <p>One reason for this restraint may be simple: perhaps Sanders believes that the best approach to poverty is to enact his broad economic revolution. Once that's done, poverty will start to decrease.</p> <p>But there's another possible reason: maybe welfare reform has turned out not to be an especially big deal. After all, by 1996 the old AFDC program accounted for <a href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/180706/4spending.pdf" target="_blank">only about $20 billion in spending,</a> a tiny fraction of total welfare spending&mdash;and the difference between AFDC spending and the TANF spending that took its place is <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/49887-TANF.pdf" target="_blank">even more minuscule.</a> The truth is that it's barely noticeable compared to <em>increases</em> in social welfare spending during the 90s from changes to CHIP, EITC, the minimum wage, and so forth.</p> <p>On that score, it's worth taking a look at social welfare spending more broadly. But what's the best way? We spend just shy of a trillion dollars a year on social welfare and safety net programs, but that number bounces up and down when the economy goes into recession and more people need help. That tells us more about the economic cycle than it does about anti-poverty programs. Instead, we need to look at spending per person in poverty. This gives us a better idea of how <em>policy</em> has responded to poverty over the past few decades. So here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_welfare_spending.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 13px;"></p> <p>I chose 150 percent of the poverty level as my metric, but the truth is that it doesn't matter much. This chart looks pretty much the same whether you show total spending, per capita spending, or spending per family below the poverty level. If you remove Medicaid from the mix, the spending increase isn't as steep but otherwise looks little different.</p> <p>There are two obvious takeaways from this. First, overall spending on social welfare programs has increased by 3x since 1980. That's pretty substantial. Second, if the 1996 welfare reform act had any effect on this steady rise in spending, you'd need a chart the size of my house to make it out. Perhaps Bernie Sanders knows this, and understands that in the great scheme of things, welfare reform just isn't worth fighting over anymore.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:24:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 296521 at http://www.motherjones.com The 2016 Election Is Likely to Be a Close One http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/2016-election-likely-be-close-one <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><span class="trb_ar_by_nm_pm"><span class="trb_ar_by_nm_au" data-byline-withoutby=""><span itemprop="author">In the <em>LA Times</em> today, Maria Bustillos says she can't support Hillary Clinton because of her vote for the Iraq War, her ties to Wall Street, her sellout "pragmatism," and the fact that Henry Kissinger recently said complimentary things about her. "</span></span></span>Those are words that should cause any real progressive of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sanders_pointing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">any gender to damn near have an aneurysm." It's hard to argue with that.</p> <p>So far, no problem. Those are all good reasons to vote for Bernie. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0210-bustillos-female-bernie-voter-20160210-story.html" target="_blank">But what comes next is pretty disturbing:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Much as I support Sanders' lifelong, rock-ribbed liberalism, I might have been persuaded to vote for a Democrat somewhat to the right of him in hopes of bringing some moderate Republicans along for the ride&mdash;especially in view of that party's clown car primary. But none of those halfway-reasonable leftists ran: not Al Gore, not Russ Feingold, not Elizabeth Warren. And the very clownishness of that madly tootling Republican vehicle, I believe, <strong>virtually ensures that whichever Democrat secures the nomination will win the general.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder how common this belief is? Not too common, I hope, because it's wishful thinking in the extreme. Democrats have held the White House for eight years and the economy is in okay but not great shape. Those are not great fundamentals for a Democratic victory.</p> <p>Now, it's also true that demographic shifts are making the electorate steadily more Democratic. And candidate quality matters: If Republicans nominate a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz, they'll be shooting themselves in the foot. Nonetheless, every bit of history and political science modeling suggests that this will <em>at least</em> be a close election&mdash;and possibly one that favors Republicans at the start.</p> <p>You should vote for whomever appeals to you. But if you're operating under the delusion that Democrats can literally nominate anyone they want because nobody sane will vote for any of those crazy Republicans, you'd better think twice. This is a belief that betrays both a lazy liberal insularity about the nature of the electorate and an appalling amnesia about a political era that's brought us Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, Paul Ryan, and the entire tea party. This election is no runaway, folks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 17:06:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 296506 at http://www.motherjones.com You May Officially Stop Wigging Out About Twitter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/you-may-officially-stop-wigging-out-about-twitter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Finally we have some closure. Not in the presidential campaign, of course, which remains in chaos, but in our Twitter feeds. Today we learned that Twitter's new "algorithm" is apparently a feature that curates which tweets you see first <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/11/technology/twitter-announcement-q4-earnings.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">if you've been away for a while:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The company, based in San Francisco, announced on Wednesday that it would start showing a selection of tweets that a user who has been away from the service might want to see. &ldquo;There are lots of people on Twitter who follow hundreds or even thousands of accounts,&rdquo; Jeff Seibert, Twitter&rsquo;s senior director of product, said in an interview. <strong>&ldquo;When they come back to Twitter, there&rsquo;s actually too much for them to catch up on.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Tweets in this update can come from any time, from minutes to hours ago. The idea is to put important tweets up top so the user does not have to wade through less interesting information.</p> <p>....To avoid another panic among its more loyal users, Twitter is carrying out the latest change slowly. <strong>Users will initially have the option to switch on the new feature in the settings menu before it becomes a default setting. Everyone who doesn&rsquo;t like it will be able to turn it off.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Now see? That's not so bad, is it? I will definitely be giving this a try. If it doesn't work out for me, I'll turn it off.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 16:03:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 296491 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Evening: America Currently Suffering Worst Economic Catastrophe in Recorded History http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/quote-evening-america-currently-suffering-worst-economic-catastrophe-recorded-his <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I know Trump has said this before, so technically it's hardly new. Still, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10956660/donald-trump-new-hampshire" target="_blank">I mean, it's...it's...oh hell:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>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?</p> </blockquote> <p>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?</p> <ul><li>Trump fans are really bad at arithmetic.</li> <li>Trump fans know an ungodly number of unemployed people in their immediate circle of friends.</li> <li>Trump fans are really eager to believe the government is lying to them.</li> <li>Trump fans don't actually know what unemployment is.</li> <li>Trump fans don't really have a clue what he's saying. It's just mumbo jumbo delivered with authority, and they love it.</li> </ul><p>I dunno. Could be all of the above, I suppose.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 04:55:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 296481 at http://www.motherjones.com Well, That Was a Boring Night in New Hampshire http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/well-was-boring-night-new-hampshire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>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 <em>they</em> did. Kasich <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_new_hampshire_primary_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 04:09:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 296471 at http://www.motherjones.com Heavy Drinking Is Primarily a Women's Problem http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heavy-drinking-primarily-womens-problem <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>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.</p> <p>So how has it worked out? According to a new study in <em>Lancet Psychiatry</em>, 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. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10952842/rand-sobriety-study" target="_blank">Mark Kleiman has more of the details here.</a></p> <p>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 <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_247_program_mortality.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">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.</p> <p>But why? The authors make a few suggestions:</p> <blockquote> <p>A well publicised programme such as 24/7 Sobriety...might promote a general deterrent effect. <strong>Another potential mechanism is a reduction in drinking-related problem behaviours among participants,</strong> which might reduce mortality among non-participants (eg, domestic violence).</p> <p><strong>With respect to circulatory deaths among women, one might consider reduced stress due to partner&rsquo;s cessation of heavy drinking.</strong> There might also be spillovers due to changes in the drinking behaviour of participants&rsquo; family and friends. A husband&rsquo;s drinking affects his wife&rsquo;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.</p> </blockquote> <p>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.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Feb 2016 01:25:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 296456 at http://www.motherjones.com The Russians Are Doing Surprisingly Well in Syria http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/russians-are-doing-surprisingly-well-syria <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the interest of keeping myself honest, I should acknowledge that&mdash;so far, at least&mdash;the Russian incursion in Syria has apparently gone <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/after-four-months-russias-campaign-in-syria-is-proving-successful-for-moscow/2016/02/02/7a65d676-9dd0-11e5-9ad2-568d814bbf3b_story.html" target="_blank">a lot better than I expected:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>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....<strong>&ldquo;The operation is considered here to be quite successful,&rdquo;</strong> said Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired lieutenant general and senior vice president of the Russian Center for Policy Studies <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_russia_air_force.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in Moscow. It could probably continue for one year or longer, he said, &ldquo;but it will depend on the success on the ground.&rdquo;</p> <p>....<strong>&ldquo;Putin can afford to play geo&shy;political chess in the Middle East because it does not cost much,&rdquo;</strong> 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.</p> </blockquote> <p>In the past couple of days, thanks to Russian help, Assad has come ever closer to taking control of Aleppo, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-07/tipping-point-in-syria-as-russian-air-power-turns-tide-for-assad" target="_blank">Syria's biggest city:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>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.</p> <p>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. <strong>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.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 23:05:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 296426 at http://www.motherjones.com Arizona Is Paying a High Price for Cracking Down on Illegal Immigration http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/arizona-paying-high-price-cracking-down-illegal-immigration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> 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&mdash;<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-thorny-economics-of-illegal-immigration-1454984443" target="_blank">and it's stayed down since then:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>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.</p> <p>Economists of opposing political views agree the state&rsquo;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.</p> </blockquote> <p>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&mdash;though Arizona's unemployment rate more generally has been no better than its neighbors'. Beyond that, though, the <em>Journal</em> 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.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arizona_illegal_immigration_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 20:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 296401 at http://www.motherjones.com The Worst Argument Ever For Not Drafting Women http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/worst-argument-ever-not-drafting-women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I can't say that I've paid a lot of attention to the question of whether women should be required to register for the draft or allowed to serve on the front lines. There are, I'm sure, some good reasons to oppose allowing women in the infantry, <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431002/women-combat-selective-service-natural-law" target="_blank">but this sure isn't one of them:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Such a policy inverts natural law and the rules that have grounded our civilization for thousands of years. Men should protect women. They should not shelter behind mothers and daughters.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's a <em>National Review</em> editorial. Not a personal opinion piece or a blog post. It's the official and carefully considered institutional view of the magazine. Did they invite Vladimir Putin to guest edit this issue, or what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 17:41:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 296381 at http://www.motherjones.com Torture Is Having Another Star Turn http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/torture-having-another-star-turn <!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/2016/2/9/10950182/donald-trump-ted-cruz" target="_blank">From the "Fascinating Factlets" file:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The FCC, which regulates "indecent material" on broadcast radio and television, does not generally permit the word pussy to be aired between 6 am and 10 pm. That means that though a broadcaster can publish a story containing<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/XX4MO7YHqeg?start=0" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> the word online, it can't do the same on its main network, which has a far broader reach.</p> </blockquote> <p>So...it's fair game after 10 pm? This means that only night owls got to hear Donald Trump's latest bit of puerile insultmongering. Everyone else got the bleeped version, or perhaps no version at all because who needs the grief from pissed-off viewers? In any case, the key takeaway here isn't that Donald Trump called Ted Cruz a pussy. What else would you expect from Trump? The key takeaway is that he was mocking Cruz for not being gung-ho enough about waterboarding, <em>and it was a huge crowd pleaser</em>. The audience went completely gaga over Trump's fetishization of torture. If he had called for prisoners to be tortured on national TV&mdash;"Celebrity Interrogator" hosted by Dick Cheney, maybe&mdash;I think they might have expired on the spot from sheer bliss.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 17:09:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 296361 at http://www.motherjones.com Marco Rubio Is Running for Panicker-in-Chief http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/marco-rubio-running-panicker-chief <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>McKay Coppins <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/mckaycoppins/the-anxiety-of-marco-rubio" target="_blank">explains Marco Rubio to the rest of us:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To those who have known him longest, Rubio's flustered performance Saturday night fit perfectly with an all-too-familiar strain of his personality, one that his handlers and image-makers have labored for years to keep out of public view. Though generally seen as cool-headed and quick on his feet, Rubio is known to friends, allies, and advisers for a kind of incurable anxiousness&mdash;<strong>and an occasional propensity to panic in moments of crisis, both real and imagined.</strong></p> <p>&hellip;More than age, record, or wardrobe, it is Rubio's natural nervousness that makes him seem to so many who know him like he is swimming in his dad's sport coat&hellip;From the moment the 2010 primary turned negative, <strong>the candidate needed a fainting couch every time an attack was lobbed his way,</strong> his aides recalled to me.&hellip;When a state senator who was backing the governor referred to Rubio as a "slick package from Miami," he was aghast and ordered his aides to cry foul. <em>Dog whistle! Anti-Cuban! Racist! </em>When opponents accused Rubio of steering state funds toward Florida International University in exchange for a faculty job after he left office, he was indignant. <em>Outrageous! Slander!</em></p> <p>&hellip;<strong>"He just lets these little things get to him, and he worries too much,"</strong> a Miami Republican complained after spending close to an hour sitting next to Rubio on a flight as he fretted over a mildly critical process story about him in the <em>National Journal</em>. "I'm just like, &lsquo;Marco, calm down.'"</p> </blockquote> <p>Excellent! Rubio sounds like a great primary opponent to me. It should take the Clinton machine about 10 seconds to figure out how to turn him into a puddle of mush on the campaign trail. I think I might start rooting for him to get the nomination after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Elections marco rubio Tue, 09 Feb 2016 16:34:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 296351 at http://www.motherjones.com Here Are Your Final New Hampshire Poll Results Until 2020 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/here-are-your-final-new-hampshire-poll-results-until-2020 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's our first primary of 2016! To get you in the mood, here are the final Pollster aggregates for the Republican and Democratic races. Trump and Sanders both look like easy winners, so all the action is for second place. If Clinton pulls within 10 points, she'll probably declare victory and skedaddle down to South Carolina as fast as she can. The Republicans have a huge pileup in second place, so it should be quite the spectacle watching them all spin the results tonight.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_republican_new_hampshire_2016_02_16.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_democratic_new_hampshire_2016_02_16.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 75px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:34:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 296346 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's a Huge and Undercovered Obamacare Success Story http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-huge-and-undercovered-obamacare-success-story <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've mentioned this in passing a couple of times, but it really deserves a short post of its own. We've heard a lot about Obamacare not meeting the original enrollment projections published by the CBO in 2010, but those aren't the only projections that CBO published. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_private_insurance.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">They also predicted that Obamacare would <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/111th-congress-2009-2010/costestimate/amendreconprop.pdf" target="_blank">lead to the loss of 8 million people</a> from private insurance coverage by 2016.</p> <p>But that didn't happen. Thanks to Obamacare's individual mandate spurring the purchase of individual coverage and its employer mandate spurring an increase in employer coverage, total private coverage <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhis/earlyrelease/Quarterly_estimates_2010_2015_Q12.pdf" target="_blank">increased by more than 16 million</a> through the middle of 2015. The chart on the right tells the story. After four years of private coverage hovering around 61 percent of the population, it jumped up to 66 percent within the space of a single year.</p> <p>Was this due to the economic recovery? Probably a bit of it. But the economy has been puttering along at about the same pace ever since 2012. The only thing that changed in the fourth quarter of 2013 was the introduction of Obamacare.</p> <p>Bottom line: Obamacare may have missed CBO's target for exchange enrollment by 7 million or so, but much of this is because it <em>beat</em> CBO's target for private insurance by 24 million. This is great news all around since we'd always prefer having people insured by their employer rather than buying through the exchange. It's better coverage and it costs the taxpayers less. On any measure you can think of, this is a huge and undercovered success story.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 06:47:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 296331 at http://www.motherjones.com Marcobot Has Apparently Exceeded Its Rated Mean Time to Failure http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/marcobot-has-apparently-exceeded-its-rated-mean-time-failure <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oh hell, now I'm just starting to feel sorry for Marco Rubio. The whole Marcobot thing has apparently made him so self-conscious that he can barely even recite his stump speech anymore without getting flustered. Here he is delivering a line about values being rammed down our throats <em>right after he's just said it</em>. There's an almost poignant moment at 0:26 when Rubio suddenly realizes what he's just done.</p> <p>This reminds me of a Star Trek episode where Kirk uses some kind of sophomoric paradox to trick a computer into self destructing. That's about what Chris Christie seems to have done to Rubio.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="290" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xBX0Z1MkDyQ?start=9" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 90px;" width="450"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 09 Feb 2016 03:00:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 296321 at http://www.motherjones.com Arabic Social Media Goes Gaga Over Sisi's Red Carpet http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/arabic-social-media-goes-gaga-over-sisis-red-carpet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Nothing says "I care about poor people" like driving to a new housing project on a red carpet 2.5 miles long. Amirite? But this has a secret subtext: When Egyptian president Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi motored his way to a grand <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sisi_red_carpet.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">opening ceremony Saturday on a carpet this size, it was apparently a sign that the military is pleased with him. I guess the more they like you, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/08/abdel-fatah-al-sisi-gigantic-red-carpet-egypt-media-storm" target="_blank">the longer the carpet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Brig Gen Ehab el-Ahwagy explained on several talk shows on Sunday night that the carpet was not purchased by Sisi&rsquo;s administration and the same one had been used for more than three years for similar occasions.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;It gives a kind of joy and assurance to the Egyptian citizen that our people and our land and our armed forces are always capable of organising anything in a proper manner,&rdquo;</strong> Ahwagy told the TV talk show host Amr Adeeb. &ldquo;It is laid out in a way to beautify the general area, so it gives a good impression of the celebration that is being broadcast to the whole world.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>See? No big deal. And certainly no reason to postpone a speech warning that Egypt is in dire financial trouble and will soon have to stop subsidizing water and electricity bills for low-income families.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 08 Feb 2016 19:18:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 296271 at http://www.motherjones.com Maybe Cheaters Prosper After All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/maybe-cheaters-prosper-after-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The world seems to be awash in teensy little pieces of social science research that are (1) possibly fascinating but (2) also possibly meaningless. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2016/02/08/why-winners-become-cheaters/" target="_blank">Roberto Ferdman</a> points us to one today that suggests <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/01/25/1515102113" target="_blank">winning makes you more likely to cheat in the future.</a> The participants, as usual, are a small number of university students.</p> <p>Our eager young test monkeys were broken into pairs and then competed in a task. The winners were determined randomly, though the participants didn't know that. Then they went on to round 2, where they threw a pair of dice. The details are unimportant except for these: (1) the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cheating.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">higher the throw the better, and (2) it was pretty easy to cheat since no one could see the dice except the thrower. The chart on the right shows the basic result. The average throw should be 7, and in the control group that's what it was. In the test group, winners obviously cheated since their average throw was much higher than 7. Losers either didn't cheat or, possibly, actually underreported their throws a bit.</p> <p>Why? Who knows. The authors suggest that winning creates a sense of psychological entitlement, but: "We do not claim that a sense of entitlement is the only factor that accounts for dishonest behavior following a competition. Given the complexity of the situation under study and the variety of mechanisms that drive dishonest behavior, it is likely that other mechanisms also come into play."</p> <p>So...maybe this is interesting. Maybe it's meaningless. Maybe the authors should have run this experiment a dozen times to see if the results hold up. I'm not sure. However, it seems perfectly suited for drawing sweeping conclusions about the American psyche<sup>1</sup>&mdash;maybe David Brooks can do something with this?&mdash;and that alone makes it worth writing about.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Shhh. Don't tell anyone the study was done at an Israeli university.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:26:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 296251 at http://www.motherjones.com Marcobot Seems Unfazed by Saturday Unmasking http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/marcobot-seems-unfazed-saturday-unmasking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's not really any way of telling whether the Marcobot meme is hurting Marco Rubio. There was a little bit of polling yesterday, but not enough to show anything serious. Still, for what it's worth, here's the penultimate Pollster aggregate before tomorrow's primary. Really, there hasn't been a whole lot of movement at all over the past month or so. Rubio got a bit of a bump from his Iowa performance, but that's about it. Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion, after which we can all go back to forgetting New Hampshire exists.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_new_hampshire_pollster_2016_02_08.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:29:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 296236 at http://www.motherjones.com Just How Cozy Is Hillary Clinton With Wall Street? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/just-how-cozy-hillary-clinton-wall-street <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton has received a lot of campaign money from the financial industry over the years, and after she left the State Department she gave several lucrative speeches to Goldman Sachs and other big banks. As Michael Hirsh puts it, this has given her a reputation for being <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/04/hillary-wall-street-117092_full.html#.Vrg0qVKO7Q4" target="_blank">"more than a little cozy"</a> with Wall Street.</p> <p>But is she? The truth is that I haven't paid much attention to this question. In terms of the presidential campaign, it's pretty obvious that Bernie Sanders is a lot tougher on the financial industry than she is. The details of their plans don't really matter. Sanders has practically made a career out of attacking Wall Street. As president, he'd make financial regulation a top priority; he'd appoint tougher watchdogs; and he'd use the bully pulpit relentlessly to call out Wall Street's sins.</p> <p>Still, what about Clinton? How cozy with the financial industry <em>is</em> she? I asked about this on Twitter over the weekend, figuring that all the Bernie supporters would give me an earful. But no such luck. Mostly they just told me that she had taken Wall Street money and given Wall Street speeches. The only concrete criticism was one that<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/12mJ-U76nfg?start=0" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> Elizabeth Warren made in 2004: that Clinton had changed her view on the bankruptcy bill after she accepted lots of Wall Street money to get elected to the Senate.</p> <p><a href="http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/clinton-and-the-bankruptcy-law/?_r=0" target="_blank">But that didn't really hold water.</a> She opposed the bill in 1999 because she wanted alimony and child-support payments to take precedence over credit card companies during bankruptcy proceeding. The bill passed anyway, but Bill Clinton vetoed it. In 2001, she brokered a compromise that gave priority to alimony and child support, and then voted for the bill. It didn't pass at the time, and in 2005 her compromise was removed from the bill. She said then that she opposed it.</p> <p>This is classic Hillary. Once George Bush was president, she had no way of stopping the bill&mdash;so she worked hard behind the scenes to get what she could in return for her vote. Love it or hate it, this is the kind of pragmatic politics she practices. But there's no hypocrisy here; no change of heart thanks to Wall Street money (she supported the bill when it protected women and children and opposed it when it didn't); and no real support for the financial industry.</p> <p>What else? Clinton says she gave several speeches in 2007 warning about the dangers of derivatives and subprime loans, and introduced proposals for stronger financial oversight. <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jul/15/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-says-she-called-wall-street-regula/" target="_blank">Apparently that's true.</a> I'm not aware if she took a stand on the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, but I don't think this was responsible for the financial crisis and wouldn't hold it against her either way. (And it was supported by nearly the entire Democratic Party at the time.) The CFMA <em>did</em> make the financial crisis worse, but Bernie Sanders himself supported it. Clinton voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, but everyone else did too.</p> <p>Clinton has consistently supported increasing the minimum wage&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/hillary-clinton-wants-fast-food-workers-make-more-money" target="_blank">though not to $15.</a> She supported the Lilly Ledbetter Act. She supports higher taxes on the wealthy. She supported <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-privateequity-clinton-idUSN1339356720070714" target="_blank">repeal of the carried interest loophole</a> in 2007. The <em>Boston Globe</em>, after an extensive review of her voting record in the Senate, summed up her attitude with <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2016/01/16/clinton-record-wall-street-laissez-faire/Z2a3iOsj40wryeRN2iT6qK/story.html" target="_blank">this quote from a lobbyist:</a> "The financial sector viewed her as neutral. Not helpful, but also not harmful." <a href="http://www.taxjusticeblog.org/archive/2015/04/what_we_know_about_hillary_cli.php#.Vrg4M1KO7Q4" target="_blank">Citizens for Tax Justice</a> gives her a generally favorable grade on financial issues.</p> <p>The word "cozy" does a whole lot of heavy lifting in stories about Hillary Clinton and Wall Street. But what does it mean? Does she have an actual record of supporting Wall Street interests? By ordinary standards, is her current campaign proposal for financial regulation a strong one? (I've been impressed by her rhetorical emphasis on shadow banking, but it's not clear just how far her proposals go in real life.) Has she protected financial interests against the Bernie Sanders of the world?</p> <p>I think it's safe to say that Clinton has hardly been a scourge of the banking industry. Until recently, her main interests were elsewhere. But if there's a strong case to be made for "coziness," I've failed to find it. Anyone care to point me in the right direction?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:00:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 296221 at http://www.motherjones.com Sunday French Fry Blogging http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/sunday-french-fry-blogging <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few weeks ago I had lunch at my favorite diner and I asked what kind of oil they cooked their fries in. Corn oil, it turns out. But the owner of the place happened to be standing right there, and with no prompting he immediately grokked why I was asking:</p> <blockquote> <p>Nobody makes fries the old way anymore. They used to be so good. These days&mdash;phhht. There's no taste at all. But everybody got afraid of the health <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fries.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">stuff, so it's all vegetable oil now.</p> </blockquote> <p>The fries at this place range from good to spectacular depending on the whims of the deep fryer, so it's not impossible to get tasty fries from corn oil. Still, fries made in beef tallow&mdash;or a mixed oil that includes animal fat of some kind&mdash;are unquestionably better. So why hasn't anyone picked up on this? There's plenty of evidence suggesting that fries cooked in animal fat might be no worse for you than fries cooked in vegetable oil, and even if this is wrong there should still be a market for an "artisanal fries" menu item or some such. Upscale burger places are forever looking for ways to differentiate themselves for the foodie crowd, so why not this? I'd buy them.</p> <p>It's a mystery. Nobody should be afraid of some occasional fries cooked in animal fat. And if you are, nobody is going to take away your bland canola oil fries anyway. Someone needs to get on this bandwagon. Who will do it first?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 07 Feb 2016 18:45:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 296201 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Academic Science Hopelessly Corrupt? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/academic-science-hopelessly-corrupt <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech scientist who uncovered the lead poisoning in Flint, is absolutely brutal about the way funding priorities <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/The-Water-Next-Time-Professor/235136" target="_blank">have corrupted academic science:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We&rsquo;re all on this hedonistic treadmill &mdash; pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index &mdash; and the idea of science as a public good is being lost. This is something that I&rsquo;m upset about deeply. I&rsquo;ve kind of dedicated my career to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marc_edwards.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">try to raise awareness about this. I&rsquo;m losing a lot of friends.</p> <p><strong>....Q. Do you have any sense that perverse incentive structures prevented scientists from exposing the problem in Flint sooner?</strong></p> <p><strong>A.</strong> Yes, I do. In Flint the agencies paid to protect these people weren&rsquo;t solving the problem. They <em>were</em> the problem....I don&rsquo;t blame anyone, because I know the culture of academia. You are your funding network as a professor. You can destroy that network that took you 25 years to build with one word. I&rsquo;ve done it.</p> <p><strong>....Q. Now that your hypothesis has been vindicated, and the government has its tail between its legs, a lot of researchers are interested.</strong></p> <p><strong>A.</strong> And I hope that they&rsquo;re interested for the right reasons. But there&rsquo;s now money &mdash; a lot of money &mdash; on the table....The expectation is that there&rsquo;s tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to be made available by these agencies....I hate to sound cynical about it. I know these folks have good intentions. But it doesn&rsquo;t change the fact that, Where were we as academics for all this time before it became financially in our interest to help? Where were we?</p> <p><strong>....Q. When is it appropriate for academics to be skeptical of an official narrative when that narrative is coming from scientific authorities? Surely the answer can&rsquo;t be "all of the time."</strong></p> <p>I grew up worshiping at the altar of science, and in my wildest dreams I never thought scientists would behave this way....Science should be about pursuing the truth and helping people. If you&rsquo;re doing it for any other reason, you really ought to question your motives.</p> <p>Unfortunately, in general, academic research and scientists in this country are no longer deserving of the public trust. We&rsquo;re not.</p> </blockquote> <p>In academia these day&mdash;and especially in the hard sciences, which are expensive to support&mdash;funding is everything. To a large extent, at big research universities faculty members basically work on commission: they have to bring in enough money to pay their own salaries and bankroll their own labs. And when was the last time a salesman on commission badmouthed his own product?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 07 Feb 2016 16:56:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 296196 at http://www.motherjones.com Maybe Twitter Isn't Planning to Ruin Your Life After All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/maybe-twitter-isnt-planning-ruin-your-life-after-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Twitter, the big outrage over the past few days has been the news that the corporate suits are planning to change the way your Twitter feed works. Instead of simply listing every tweet from your followers in real time, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/twitter-to-introduce-algorithmic-timeline-as-soon-as-next-we#.lf8rQlJDP" target="_blank">they'll be rolling out an algorithm</a> that reorders tweets "based on what Twitter&rsquo;s algorithm <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_twitter_crash.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">thinks people most want to see." This is something Facebook has been doing for years.</p> <p>Power users are apoplectic, despite the fact that it's not clear what's really going on. A developer at Twitter hit back <a href="https://twitter.com/bhcarpenter/status/695811814244773892" target="_blank">with this:</a> "Seriously people. We aren't idiots. Quit speculating about how we're going to 'ruin Twitter.'" Nor is it clear when this is really going to roll out. And the rumors suggest that it will be an opt-in feature anyway. Chronological timelines will still be around for everyone who wants them.</p> <p>In any case, I'd suggest everyone give this a chance. Computer users, ironically, are notoriously change averse, which might be blinding a lot of us to the fact that chronological timelines aren't exactly the greatest invention since the yellow first down line. Maybe we really do need something better. More generally, here are a few arguments in favor of waiting to see how this all plays out:</p> <ul><li>I'm a semi-power user. I don't write a lot on Twitter,<sup>1</sup> but I read it a lot. Still, I have a job and a life, and I don't check it obsessively. And even though I follow a mere 200 people, all it takes is 15 minutes to make it nearly impossible to catch up with what's going on. Being on the West Coast makes this an especial problem in the morning. A smart robot that helped solve this problem could be pretty handy, even for those of us who are experts and generally prefer a real-time feed.</li> <li>One of my most common frustrations is coming back to the computer after a break and seeing lots of cryptic references to some new outrage or other. What I'd really like is a "WTF is <em>this</em> all about?" button. An algorithmic feed could be a useful version of this.</li> <li>As plenty of people have noted, Twitter is a sexist, racist, misogynistic cesspool. There are things Twitter could do about this, but I suspect they're limited as long as we rely on an unfiltered chronological timeline. Once an algorithm is introduced, it might well be possible to personalize your timeline in ways that clean up Twitter immensely. (Or that allow Twitter to clean it up centrally&mdash;though this obviously needs to be done with a lot of care.)</li> <li>One of the most persuasive complaints about the algorithm is that it's likely to favor the interests of advertisers more than users. Maybe so. Unfortunately, Twitter famously doesn't seem able to find a profitable business model. But if we like Twitter, the first order of business is for it to stay in existence&mdash;and that means it needs to make money. This is almost certain to be annoying no matter how Twitter manages to do it. A good algorithm might actually be the least annoying way of accomplishing this.</li> <li>Needless to say, all of this depends on how good the algorithm is. It better be pretty good, and it better improve over time.</li> </ul><p>So....stay cool, everyone. Maybe this will be an epic, New Coke style disaster that will end up as a case study in business texts for years. It wouldn't be the first time. Then again, maybe the algorithm will be subtle, useful, and optional. I'll be curious to try it out, myself.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Arguments on Twitter are possibly the stupidest waste of time ever invented. Everything that's bad about arguments in the first place is magnified tenfold by the 140-character limit. It's hard to imagine that anyone other than a psychopath has ever emerged from a Twitter war thinking "That was great! I really learned something today."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 07 Feb 2016 16:13:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 296191 at http://www.motherjones.com Last Night's "Marcobot Moment" May Have Ruined a Political Career http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/last-nights-marcobot-moment-may-have-ruined-political-career <!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_marco_rubio_covers.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I was out to dinner last night&mdash;the duck at Il Fornaio was great!&mdash;so I missed the Republican debate. That was too bad, because apparently the highlight of the night was Chris Christie's brutal beatdown of Marco Rubio over precisely the point I made a few days ago. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/let-us-all-take-random-walk-through-new-hampshire" target="_blank">Here's my version:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To me he seems like a robot: he's memorized a whole bunch of virtual index cards, and whenever you ask a question he performs a database search and recites whatever comes up. The index cards aren't bad, mind you, and I suppose they allow him to emulate a dumb person's notion what a smart person sounds like. This is despite the fact that he normally talks with the same kind of hurried clip employed by nervous eighth graders reading off actual index cards.</p> </blockquote> <p>This has always been my basic take on Rubio, and it makes me a little puzzled by his appeal among the conservative intelligentsia. But maybe they don't really care? Maybe they agree with Grover Norquist's take on the presidency <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/13/grover-norquist-speech-cpac.html" target="_blank">from four years ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go....We just need a president to sign this stuff....Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, Rubio has the requisite number of working digits, and he's reliably conservative even if he's not one of the great thinkers of our age. So maybe it doesn't matter if he's a callow empty suit. As long as he signs the stuff that Ryan and McConnell send him, and can give a good speech now and then defending it, he's aces. At a minimum, though, this requires Rubio to effectively hide his inability to think outside of sound bites. Christie shattered that illusion for good last night when he bluntly pointed out Rubio's robotic repetition of the exact same puerile talking point within the space of a couple of minutes. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/430906/marco-rubio-and-chris-christies-brutal-exchange" target="_blank">Here's conservative Rubio fan David French:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Marco Rubio&rsquo;s already-famous exchange with Chris Christie was indeed a brutal moment. I still can&rsquo;t believe that Rubio went back to the same talking point right after Christie called him on it. Watching it real-time, I honestly wondered if Rubio forgot what he just said. <strong>When he started to do the same thing<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/HNRNHgi1RzU?start=0" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> a third time, I couldn&rsquo;t believe my ears.</strong> Christie wasn&rsquo;t masterful &mdash; not by any means &mdash; Rubio just served him the worst kind of hanging curve.</p> </blockquote> <p>French compared this to Rick Perry's famous "Oops" gaffe from 2012. <a href="https://twitter.com/JamesFallows/status/696176435854229504" target="_blank">James Fallows</a> called it the "most self-destructive debate performance since Quayle &rsquo;88." Social media immediately branded it the "Marcobot" moment, and mashups of the Rubio/Christie exchange showed up everywhere. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/06/transcript-of-the-feb-6-gop-debate-annotated/" target="_blank">Here's the edited transcript:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>RUBIO:</em> And let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. <strong>Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country,</strong> to make America more like the rest of the world....</p> <p><em>RUBIO:</em> But I would add this. Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. <strong>He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world....</strong></p> <p><em>CHRISTIE:</em> That's what Washington, D.C. Does. The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information and <strong>then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.</strong> See Marco, the thing is this. When you're president of the United States, when you're a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn't solve one problem for one person.</p> <p><em>RUBIO:</em> Here's the bottom line. This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true. <strong>He knows exactly what he's doing.</strong></p> <p><em>CHRISTIE:</em> There it is. There it is. <strong>The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody....</strong>It gets very unruly when he gets off his talking points....</p> <p><em>RUBIO [an hour later]:</em> I think anyone who believes that Barack Obama isn't doing what he's doing on purpose doesn't understand what we're dealing with here, OK? <strong>This is a president who is trying to change this country.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: the exact same canned line three times in a row. And then, even after being called on it in humiliating fashion, he repeats it yet again for a fourth time an hour later.</p> <p>Will this hurt Rubio? If he's smart, he'll own it. He'll make it the centerpiece of his campaign going forward, sort of like "Make America great again." Unfortunately, now that Christie has pointed out Rubio's index-card habit, everyone is going to be looking for it on every other subject too. Reporters will be combing through his debates and stump speeches looking for canned talking points, and then doing side-by-side comparisons as if he's an author being accused of plagiarism.</p> <p>We'll see how this plays out. But it sure can't be good news for ol' Marcobot. He might need to think about getting an upgrade to his programming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 07 Feb 2016 14:26:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 296176 at http://www.motherjones.com Here Is Today's French Fiscal Horsepower History Lesson http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/here-todays-french-fiscal-horsepower-history-lesson <!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_kevin_4cv.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">No one is going to care about this post. Too bad. I feel like writing, and on a weekend you take what you can get.</p> <p>Anyway, I was musing the other day about the fact that I've always owned foreign cars. Partly this is just chance, partly the fact that I live in California, and, I suppose, partly because my parents always owned foreign cars. The first one was purchased around the time of my birth, and we kids called it the <em>bye-bye,</em> for reasons I presumably don't have to explain. It was, as it happens, a Renault. But which Renault?</p> <p>I did a bit of lazy googling last night, but nothing looked quite right. Then this morning, I noticed one of those Fiat 500s that J-Lo hawks on TV, and thought that it looked a little like the old Renault. Except I was sure the Renault had vents in the rear.</p> <p>But wait. Rear vents means a rear engine. So I googled that, and instantly got a million hits for the 4CV, which was clearly the old bye-bye. My mother confirmed this telephonically a bit later. And that got me curious. Citro<span class="st">&euml;</span>n, of course, produced the iconic 2CV, which first came off the assembly line at about the same time. What's with that? What's the appeal of __CV to postwar French auto manufacturers?</p> <p>The answer turned out to be pretty funky. CV stands for&nbsp;<span lang="fr"><i>chevaux vapeur,</i></span> or horsepower. But the 4CV is not a 4-horsepower car. CV, it turns out, is used to mean <em>tax horsepower</em>. After World War II, France (along with other European countries) wanted to encourage people to buy low-power cars, so they put a tax on horsepower. But just taxing horsepower would have been too simple. Instead, they used a formula that took into account the number of cylinders, the piston bore, and the stroke. Here's the formula for the 4CV:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_france_tax_horsepower.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>These numbers were undoubtedly carefully engineered to produce the highest result that would round down to 4. In fact, the 4CV had a whopping 17 horsepower, and could get to 60 mph in just under 40 seconds. Ours had a few wee problems chugging along at 6,000 feet in Flagstaff on the way to Denver in 1960, but what can you expect for 17 horsepower?</p> <p>So that's your history lesson for the day. Apparently the French tax the horsepower of cars to this day, though the formula has changed over time. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_horsepower#France" target="_blank">According to Wikipedia,</a> "Since 1998 the taxable power is calculated from the sum of a CO<sub>2</sub> emission figure (over 45), and the maximum power output of the engine in kilowatts (over 40) to the power of 1.6." The power of 1.6? I guess they still love a little pointless complexity in France.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 07 Feb 2016 01:35:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 296141 at http://www.motherjones.com A Nice Paragraph About Why Humans Are So Damn Paranoid http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/nice-paragraph-about-why-humans-are-so-damn-paranoid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm reading <em>Sapiens</em> right now, a history of early mankind published last year by historian Yuval Noah Harari. I haven't gotten very far into it, so I don't know <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sapiens.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">if his idiosyncratic theories will end up being persuasive. Still, it's the kind of learned but big-think book I tend to like regardless of how well it holds up. I wish more deeply accomplished people were willing to write stuff like this.</p> <p>That said, here's a nice excerpt about the dangers of moving to the top of the food chain too fast:</p> <blockquote> <p>[It was] only in the last 100,000 years&mdash;with the rise of <em>Homo sapiens</em>&mdash;that man jumped to the top of the food chain....Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into the position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc.</p> <p>....In contrast, <strong>humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust.</strong> Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. <strong>Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous.</strong> Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is just another way of saying that human intelligence evolved too fast for human emotions and morals to keep up. Either way, though, it sure rings true. Just take a look at the current presidential race. If any country should feel self-confident and safe, it's the United States. But boy howdy, we sure don't, do we?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 06 Feb 2016 17:39:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 296121 at http://www.motherjones.com