Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2008/12 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-confirms-his-intel-blabbing-originated-israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Remember the top secret intel that President Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office? We all pretty much know that it came from Israel, but for some reason Trump decided to confirm this today:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Really confusing moment here where Trump stops the press from being ushered out of his photo spray with PM Netanyahu. Full video&mdash;&gt; <a href="https://t.co/A7UVcw3Zt2">pic.twitter.com/A7UVcw3Zt2</a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="https://twitter.com/TomNamako/status/866673737684455425">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Here&rsquo;s a more definitive rundown from the pool reporter in Israel: <a href="https://t.co/bEKnCPwG9f">pic.twitter.com/bEKnCPwG9f</a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="https://twitter.com/TomNamako/status/866674733064089600">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>As many people have pointed out, this was just a photo op. Trump didn't have to say anything. But he's Trump, so he had to have the last word. It continues to be remarkable how easy it is to bait the guy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:58:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 333271 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Continues Game Playing In Hopes of Destroying Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-continues-game-playing-hopes-destroying-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The campaign to destroy Obamacare <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/22/white-house-to-seek-90-day-delay-in-obamacare-subsidy-suit-238674" target="_blank">continues apace:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration on Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August. The suit, <em>House v. Tom Price</em>, <strong>centers on Obamacare&rsquo;s cost-sharing program,</strong> which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the suit filed by the House against Obamacare's CSR subsidies. The delay means insurers won't get assurance one way or the other about the fate of these subsidies, which in turn means they have to assume they're going away. Anything else would be irresponsible.</p> <p>And that means insurers have to raise premiums substantially to make up for the potential loss of CSR payments. The Obamacare market could be stabilized easily by continuing them, but that's not what Trump wants. He wants Obamacare to fail without his fingerprints all over it, and this is his best try. Premiums will almost certainly rise 20-25 percent this year thanks to uncertainty about the CSR payments, and that will contribute to a narrative that Obamacare is imploding. Republicans are betting that no one will connect it to their lawsuit, and that might be a good bet.</p> <p>Unless, of course, Democrats and the media make it crystal clear what's going on here. Remember: this won't affect poor people much because their premiums are capped. But it <em>will</em> affect middle-class people who don't qualify for Obamacare tax credits. They're going to see their premiums spike up yet again, and Democrats need to make it clear just whose fault that it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:21:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 333261 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Officially Breaks Promise Not to Cut Medicaid http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-officially-breaks-promise-not-cut-medicaid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Good times:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://dailysignal.com/2015/05/21/why-donald-trump-wont-touch-your-entitlements/" target="_blank"><strong>May 2015:</strong></a> "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and <strong>I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid</strong>."</p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-to-propose-big-cuts-to-safety-net-in-new-budget-this-week/2017/05/21/62c01f44-3e34-11e7-adba-394ee67a7582_story.html?utm_term=.b54b8277548a" target="_blank"><strong>Today:</strong></a> "President Trump's first major budget proposal on Tuesday <strong>will include massive cuts to Medicaid</strong>....Trump's budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade."</p> </blockquote> <p>In fairness, back in 2015 Trump probably had no idea that Medicare and Medicaid were different things. By now, however, he understands that Medicaid is a whole separate program that's mainly for poor people. So naturally he wants to slash it. What's the point of spending money on people who aren't already rich, after all?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 14:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333246 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork For Their Normal Blue Slip Hypocrisy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/republicans-are-laying-groundwork-their-normal-blue-slip-hypocrisy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Blue slips. Remember those? They are actual slips of paper, and they are actually blue. Senators sign them to indicate their approval of judicial nominees from their home states. There is no actual rule about this, however, so whoever's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee can play games with them pretty easily.</p> <p>Here's how it works. If you require only one blue slip to proceed, that makes it easier for a president to get his nominees confirmed. If you require two blue slips, it's harder.</p> <p>So when do you want to make it easier? When the president comes from your own party. When do you want to make it harder? When the president is from the other party. Here's how that's worked:</p> <ul><li><strong>Pre-1994:</strong> Generally speaking, only one blue slip is required.</li> <li><strong>1994:</strong> Republicans gain control of the senate. The president is a Democrat. Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch decides to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2001:</strong> A Republican becomes president. Hatch decides one blue slip is plenty.</li> <li><strong>2005:</strong> Hatch gets tired of Democratic opposition and decides that no blue slips are required at all.</li> <li><strong>2007:</strong> Democrats win control of the Senate. The president is a Republican. Sen. Patrick Leahy goes back to requiring two blue slips. This seems like normal politicking, but....</li> <li><strong>2009:</strong> A Democrat becomes president. In a stunning display of integrity, Leahy continues to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2015:</strong> Republicans take control of the Senate. Sen. Chuck Grassley naturally continues to require two blue slips since this helps obstruct Obama's nominees.</li> <li><strong>2017:</strong> A Republican becomes president. <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/334296-gop-talks-of-narrowing-blue-slip-rule-for-judges" target="_blank">Suddenly there is chatter about eliminating the blue slip requirement completely.</a> The official excuse is that it should apply only to district court judges, not to circuit court judges. This is pretty obviously ridiculous, but that's their story and they're sticking to it. It will undoubtedly prompt dozens of earnest thumbsuckers about the history of the blue slip and whether there's a case for not applying it to circuit court judges.</li> </ul><p>Patrick Leahy, the Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman from 2007-2014, applied the blue-slip rule impartially regardless of who was president. This was despite a vast level of obstruction from Republicans to all of Obama's nominees. On the one hand, good for Leahy. We could use more displays of integrity like this. On the other hand, Democrats lost out on a whole bunch of judges that they otherwise would have gotten confirmed.</p> <p>By contrast, Republicans have a two-decade history of flipping the blue-slip rule whenever it conveniences them. Is there really much doubt that Grassley is going to nuke it just as soon as a single Democratic fails to return a blue slip on a Trump nominee and Fox News starts screaming about obstruction? I don't think so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 13:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333241 at http://www.motherjones.com Newt Gingrich Swan Dives Into the Fever Swamps http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/newt-gingrich-swan-dives-fever-swamps <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Have you heard of Seth Rich? He's a DNC staffer who was murdered at four in the morning last July in the Washington DC neighborhood where he lived. For no good reason except his vague proximity to Hillary Clinton, Rich became the subject of conspiracy theories suggesting that he, not the Russians, had hacked thousands of emails from the DNC's email server and passed them along to WikiLeaks. When Hillary found out about this, she presumably gave the order to have him rubbed out.</p> <p>Needless to say, this is completely ridiculous. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/20/the-seth-rich-conspiracy-shows-how-fake-news-still-works/?utm_term=.9864a61ab17f" target="_blank">Dave Weigel explains it all here</a> if this is new to you.</p> <p>But last week the conspiracy theories re-emerged after a local news station claimed it had uncovered new evidence. Their evidence was a single source, an occasional Fox News legal analyst named Rod Wheeler, who recanted his claim within a day. But it was too late: Twitter bots were already running wild, Drudge and Rush Limbaugh were talking about it, and Sean Hannity devoted three nights to the Rich murder. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/05/21/gingrich-spreads-conspiracy-theory-about-slain-dnc-staffer/?utm_term=.817aa63830da" target="_blank">Now Newt Gingrich has weighed in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,&rdquo; Gingrich said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nobody&rsquo;s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what&rsquo;s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn&rsquo;t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He&rsquo;s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I&rsquo;d like to see how [Robert S.] Mueller [III] is going to define what his assignment is.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Naturally Gingrich said this during an appearance on <em>Fox and Friends</em>, whose hosts offered no pushback at all.</p> <p>This is vile and disgusting. Seth Rich's parents are distraught enough already about their son's murder, and it's unconscionable for a supposedly serious Republican politician and a supposedly serious Republican news network to drag themselves into the Seth Rich fever swamps like this. As usual, though, I suppose there will be no price to pay. Gingrich will continue to be welcomed on American news shows and his wife will be quickly confirmed as US ambassador to the Vatican. And Republicans will learn, once again, that there are really no depths they can sink to that will get them shunned from polite society.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 00:47:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333236 at http://www.motherjones.com Road to Riyadh, Day Two http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/road-riyadh-day-two <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When I first saw this picture, I figured it was just a dumb Photoshop and skipped on by. But no. This is real:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>King Salman seems genuinely fascinated by this modern miracle. El-Sisi obviously doesn't give a shit and is just being polite. Trump looks like he's trying to commune with Sauron. Naturally this turned into a huge Twitter meme instantly, and I imagine we're going to be seeing this picture around for years.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The advance work on this trip is hilarious:<br><br> Sword dance, all-male Toby Keith concert, secret Tillerson press conference, magic globe, ...</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/866386055125184513">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"Elites scoff, but in the working class suburbs of Grand Rapids voters are glad Trump is practicing orb magic with Arab dictators."</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/866386899421863936">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And contrary to what I reported <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-sets-new-bar-presidential-success" target="_blank">earlier,</a> it turns out that Trump <em>didn't</em> quite manage to recite today's speech off the teleprompter correctly. He was apparently so nervous about the whole <em>radical Islamic terrorism</em> vs. <em>violent extremism</em> vs. <em>Islamist extremism</em> thing that he blew it:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Asked about line in speech today when Trump said Islamic instead of Islamist, a senior White House official said: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s an exhausted guy."</p> &mdash; Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) <a href="https://twitter.com/jeffzeleny/status/866381058073399296">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump had been in Saudi Arabia for about 36 hours at that point. Only 150 hours to go.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> ZOMG! The full picture of Trump and the orb might be even more awesome than the cropped shot.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 21:46:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333231 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Sets New Bar for Presidential Success http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-sets-new-bar-presidential-success <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>By the way, Donald Trump is getting good marks for today's speech in Saudi Arabia because he managed to recite it adequately off the teleprompter and didn't veer off topic into any of the usual Trump idiocy.</p> <p>Seriously. This is what the coverage is like. Apparently that's all we expect from a president these days.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>One other note: I'm not sure how many people have noticed this, but Trump has a long history of talking big when he's on a stage or on TV but backing down when he meets people face-to-face. It's already happened with China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and a host of others. Now it's happening with Saudi Arabia, which seems to have Trump practically in thrall. This should come as no surprise to anyone.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, the last time this happened was Trump's state-of-the-union address, and he managed to bollox that up within two days. I won't be surprised if he does the same this time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 17:06:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 333226 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why the Saudis Love Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/heres-why-saudis-love-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last year, President Obama offered Saudi Arabia an arms deal worth $115 billion. President Trump just closed a deal valued at only $110 billion. He's also spoken viciously about Islam on the campaign trail and tried to ban the entry of visitors from seven Muslim countries. And yet the Saudis are thrilled to have Trump in office. Why? <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-trump-arabs-20170519-story.html" target="_blank">Molly Hennessy-Fiske explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House they see now is presided over by a strong leader &mdash; a model Gulf monarchs recognize from their own governing styles &mdash; <strong>and if Trump surrounds himself with business-friendly family members high in his administration, well, so do they.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;The GCC countries are not only excited about Trump, but the people he&rsquo;s chosen to have around him,&rdquo; said Alibrahim, who dismissed Obama as &ldquo;the worst president ever,&rdquo; <strong>unwilling to confront Iran and its Shiite Muslim proxies</strong> in Syria and neighboring Yemen, whom the Sunni leaders of the Gulf see as rivals.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Trump is a welcome change from Barack Obama because he does not remind them, does not pressure them, about American values and ideas about human rights and democracy.</strong> This president is a hardcore realist: He just doesn&rsquo;t care. This goes well with many leaders in this part of the world,&rdquo; Gerges said.</p> <p>Trump has already impressed Gulf Arab leaders by escalating the war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and <strong>supporting the Saudi fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, Trump's anti-Muslim rabble-rousing is just red meat for the American rubes. They don't take anything Trump says seriously, only what he does. And what's clear is that (a) Trump's personal brand of corruption is reassuringly Middle Eastern, (b) he hates Iran, (c) he's not going to harass the Saudis over trivia like human rights, and (d) he doesn't care how brutal they get in their war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.</p> <p>That's it. That's all they care about. Trump isn't bringing in more business and he's not selling them more arms. Nor is his actual policy toward Iran and Yemen more than a few degrees different from Obama's. He's just carrying it out with no strings attached. They like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 16:45:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 333221 at http://www.motherjones.com What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/what-do-millennials-spend-all-their-money <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few days ago, Australian real-estate mogul Tim Gurner had some harsh words for millennials who are unhappy that they can't afford to buy a house:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;When I was trying to buy my first home, <strong>I wasn&rsquo;t buying smashed avocado for $19</strong> and four coffees at $4 each,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.</p> <p>&ldquo;The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it,&rdquo; he said, adding that they &ldquo;saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>This prompted a snarky, avocado-centric Twitter meme for a while, and the next day the <em>New York Times</em> even tried to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/business/avocado-toast-millennials.html" target="_blank">fact check Gurner's claim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the Food Institute, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics expenditure data from 2015, people from 25 to 34 spent, on average, $3,097 on eating out. <strong>Data for this age group through the decades was not readily available</strong>....As for Mr. Gurner&rsquo;s second suggestion &mdash; skipping the European vacation &mdash; there is indeed an opportunity for savings, <strong>but research suggests millennials are the generation spending the least on travel.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is some strange stuff. In its current form, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey <a href="https://www.bls.gov/cex/csxstnd.htm" target="_blank">goes back</a> to <a href="https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/archive.htm" target="_blank">the 80s,</a> so this data is indeed available through the decades. Still, at least this is an attempt to take Gurner seriously: he's not literally complaining about avocados on toast, but about a cavalier attitude toward money in general. So let's take a look at that. First, here are total expenditures for 25-34-year-olds:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_income_expenditures_percent_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>As you can see, millennials spend a smaller proportion of their income than 25-34-year-olds did a generation ago. In the Reagan era, this age group spent 91 percent of their income. Today's millennials spend only 81 percent of their income.<sup>1</sup> Still, thanks to rising incomes their total expenditures clock in about $3,000 higher (adjusted for inflation) than young households in the 80s.</p> <p>But do they spend a big part of that income on fripperies, like lavish vacations and expensive dinners out? Let's look:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_dining_entertainment_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Three decades ago, 18-34-year-olds spent 10.5 percent of their income on entertainment and eating out. Millennials spend 8.6 percent. In real dollars, that represents a small decline. In other words, millennials are <em>more</em> frugal about dining and entertainment than past generations.</p> <p>So what <em>do</em> millennials spend their money on each year? They may have $3,000 more in disposable income than young families of the 80s and 90s, but they also spend:</p> <ul><li>About $1,000 more on health care.</li> <li>About $1,500 more on pensions and Social Security.</li> <li>About $2,000 more on overall housing (rent, maintenance, utilities, etc.).</li> <li>About $700 more on education.</li> </ul><p>If they're not buying houses, this is why. It's not because houses are more expensive: the average house costs about a third more than it did in the 80s and early 90s, but thanks to low interest rates the average mortgage payment is about the same or even a bit lower. But it's tough to scrape together a down payment when you're already running a tight ship on dining and entertainment and paying more than previous generations for health care, education, retirement, and student loans.</p> <p>That said, I'll add one more thing: our perceptions are probably a bit warped about this. Millennials who write about this stuff tend to live in media centers like New York or San Francisco or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. Even with a decent income it's hard to afford anything more than a cramped apartment. In the rest of the country things are different, but we don't hear as much about that. Caveat emptor.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The share of income not counted as expenditures includes taxes, student loans, credit card payments, savings, etc.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 14:23:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 333216 at http://www.motherjones.com Road to Riyadh, Starring Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/road-riyadh-starring-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia is going great! Here's the first family arriving in Riyadh:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I wonder if Trump's supporters will be upset to see how different Melania dressed on her departure vs arrival to Saudi.. <a href="https://t.co/v6EjUTHijp">pic.twitter.com/v6EjUTHijp</a></p> &mdash; Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) <a href="https://twitter.com/LibyaLiberty/status/865828887095369730">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>At least Melania isn't kowtowing to sexist Muslim custom by wearing a headscarf. Oh wait:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There really is a tweet for everything. <a href="https://t.co/tWPf5fTncb">pic.twitter.com/tWPf5fTncb</a></p> &mdash; Yashar (@yashar) <a href="https://twitter.com/yashar/status/865956485385334785">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Fine. But Trump himself is standing up for masculine American values, right?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump once criticized Obama for bowing to foreign leaders (as is customary).<br><br> Trump CURTSIES instead.<br><br><a href="https://t.co/SOEZy7IqGx">pic.twitter.com/SOEZy7IqGx</a></p> &mdash; Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mikel_Jollett/status/865966746036879360">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And here's the official readout of Trump's visit with the Saudi king:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_readout_saudi_arabia.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>What kind of pusillanimity is this? "Violent extremism" is an Obama-era euphemism used by people who refuse to look reality in the eye:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/742053354189299712">June 12, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>If Trump isn't even willing to name the problem when he meets with the Saudi king, how can he possibly fight it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 17:08:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333206 at http://www.motherjones.com Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/drunk-driving-followup-mystery-solved <!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/2017/05/has-campaign-against-drunk-driving-been-successful" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I wrote about the mystery of drunk driving: if stricter laws and harsher punishments really are responsible for a decline in drunk driving, why is it that alcohol-related fatalities have only declined at the same rate as every other kind of road fatality? Is it possible that all those laws have been useless?</p> <p>I got several good responses, which confirmed that there's a bit of a mystery here but pointed out that my data only went back to 1994. This misses the significant drop in drunk driving during the 80s and early 90s. Then I got an email from Darren Grant, an economics professor at Sam Houston State University, pointing me to a paper that decomposes exactly what happened and when. Grant's paper, which relies on a microdata-based model of traffic fatalities, concludes that it's legitimate to use the percentage of all road fatalities that involve alcohol&mdash;which has been flat for many years&mdash;as a proxy for the amount of drunk driving. It also breaks down the reason for the decline in drunk driving during the 80s and 90s. Without further ado, <a href="http://www.shsu.edu/dpg006/dynamics.pdf" target="_blank">here is his chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_four_effects_drunk_driving.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>There are several takeaways from this:</p> <ul><li>During the 80s and early 90s, drunk driving decreased significantly.</li> <li>By the mid-90s, the level of drunk driving flattened out and has been flat ever since.</li> <li>The effect of <em>laws</em> on drunk driving has been pretty modest. That's the red band in the chart. Stricter laws are responsible for only a small fraction of the total decline.</li> </ul><p>There's potentially some good news here. Grant concludes that the biggest effect by far has been from social forces, namely the increased stigma associated with drunk driving. If you discount demographics, which we have no control over, social stigma accounts for about half the drop in drunk driving. This suggests that what we need isn't so much stricter laws, but a revitalized campaign to even further stigmatize drunk driving. I'm on board with that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 16:30:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 333201 at http://www.motherjones.com Saudis Suck Up to Trump With Shiny Gold Medal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/saudis-suck-trump-shiny-gold-medal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Look, I get that the Saudis want to ingratiate themselves with our gold-obsessed president. It makes total sense. But isn't this just a little too obvious?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump receives Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s highest civilian honor <a href="https://t.co/HVQqePVV9o">https://t.co/HVQqePVV9o</a> <a href="https://t.co/MnWBcyV3eh">pic.twitter.com/MnWBcyV3eh</a></p> &mdash; The Hill (@thehill) <a href="https://twitter.com/thehill/status/865944465575378944">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Meh. Maybe not. Anyone with any self-awareness would sense overtones of mockery in such an over-the-top attempt to suck up, but not Trump. Subtlety is not the way to his heart. It's shiny! He likes it!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 15:27:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 333196 at http://www.motherjones.com Dropping Shoe Watch: "Every Day He Looks More and More Like a Complete Moron" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/dropping-shoe-watch-every-day-he-looks-more-and-more-complete-moron <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Daily Beast</em> has talked to a bunch of folks close to Donald Trump, and as usual <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/05/19/trump-officials-he-looks-more-and-more-like-a-complete-moron" target="_blank">they can't help themselves:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Okay, he fired Comey,&rdquo; the official conceded. &ldquo;With a semi-competent comms operation, that would blow over in 24 hours. And that&rsquo;s the worst part: he has a competent comms staff. <strong>But they can&rsquo;t do their jobs because he keeps running his mouth.</strong>&rdquo;</p> <p>....Trump&rsquo;s repeated media missteps have frustrated even longtime supporters. <strong>&ldquo;Every day he looks more and more like a complete moron,&rdquo; said one senior administration official</strong> who also worked on Trump&rsquo;s campaign. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t see Trump resigning or even being impeached, but at this point I wish he&rsquo;d grow a brain and be the man that he sold himself as on the campaign.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked whether an administration staff change-up would ameliorate this latest crisis, a Republican source formerly involved with a pro-Trump political group told <em>The Daily Beast</em>, <strong>&ldquo;yes, if it comes with a frontal lobotomy for Trump.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Remember, these are people <em>who are on Team Trump</em>. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Trump is already working on ways to <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-mueller-idUSKCN18F2KK" target="_blank">sabotage its own special counsel:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.</p> <p>....Within hours of Mueller's appointment on Wednesday, <strong>the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm&rsquo;s clients for one year after their hiring,</strong> the sources said....Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Preventing the special counsel from investigating Manafort hardly seems worth the trouble. He's not close enough to the White House to cause too many problems even if he does turn out to be involved in something fishy. So that leaves Kushner. Is he the guy the Trumpies are trying to protect?</p> <p>On the bright side of all this, if you have some embarrassing news you've been waiting to release, now would be a good time. It's almost sure to be forgotten as soon as the next Trump shoe drops, which will probably take no more than a few hours.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 01:16:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 333176 at http://www.motherjones.com FBI Russia Probe Is Targeting "Someone Close to the President" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/fbi-russia-probe-targeting-someone-close-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/us/politics/trump-russia-comey.html" target="_blank">Oh come on:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved &ldquo;great pressure&rdquo; on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,&rdquo;</strong> Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to <em>The New York Times</em> by an American official. <strong>&ldquo;I faced great pressure because of Russia. That&rsquo;s taken off.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....The White House document that contained Mr. Trump&rsquo;s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to <em>The Times</em>, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion. <strong>Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's from the <em>New York Times</em>, and it's what Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister the day after he fired Comey. Of course, Trump probably didn't realize that the Russians were already keenly familiar with Comey since the FBI is America's primary counterintelligence agency&mdash;that is, the agency that tracks down Russian spies. So they know perfectly well he's not crazy and not a nut job. I'll bet they also knew perfectly well that firing Comey was only going to <em>increase</em> the pressure on Trump over Russia. That's because they aren't idiots.</p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em> reports on just <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russia-probe-reaches-current-white-house-official-people-familiar-with-the-case-say/2017/05/19/7685adba-3c99-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_fbiprobe-banner%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.404db3cb8eee" target="_blank">what this increased pressure is turning into:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign <strong>has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest,</strong> showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.</p> <p>The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is <strong>someone close to the president,</strong> according to these people, who would not further identify the official.</p> </blockquote> <p>Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 19:24:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 333156 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 19 May 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/friday-cat-blogging-19-may-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>First things first: the answer to the origin of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/lunchtime-photo-9" target="_blank">yesterday's lunchtime photo.</a> It's a picture of the neon-lit Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. It's a 1-second exposure at night, one of several I took where I deliberately moved the camera while the shutter was open. Then I ran it through the dry brush filter in Photoshop.</p> <p>And now for catblogging. Here is Hopper trying to leap from one branch to another on one of our trees. It looks touch-and-go, but it actually wasn't. She immediately chinned herself onto the target branch, but the camera just happened to catch her mid-swing. I assure you that no cats were harmed in the making of this photo.</p> <p>However, you're all lucky I didn't make this into some variation on "donate to <em>Mother Jones</em> or the cat gets it." That would have been totally tasteless, and I'd never do that. But I <em>could</em> do it if I were that kind of person&mdash;and maybe I will if we don't make the $500,000 goal for our muckraking fund to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. We're getting close, but we're not quite there. So donate! Read more about it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/05/facts-trump-russia" target="_blank">here.</a> Or go straight to the donation page <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnx/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;pub_code=SDN&amp;term_pub=SDN&amp;term_pub_override=SDN&amp;b_country=United+States&amp;list_source=7H75CEN12&amp;term=XX.1.20.00.SDN.D.0.5533&amp;t=6ccdcbcb1640i4290cb2a0n4994d55addba" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/hopper_hanging_tree.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 19:10:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 333151 at http://www.motherjones.com The Dead Pool - 19 May 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/dead-pool-19-may-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today we learned that Jim Donovan, a 25-year Goldman Sachs banking and investment management executive, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/19/jim-donovan-trump-deputy-treasury-secretary-238611" target="_blank">is pulling out as Trump's nominee to serve as Deputy Treasury Secretary.</a> Why? "Family concerns." That may be true, but it's also likely that he's rich and doesn't want to divest everything he owns just to be a deputy in a dysfunctional administration where he could get fired at any moment if the president gets annoyed with him.</p> <p>In other news, I've removed Sebastian Gorka from the dead pool since he still seems to be around. I'll put him back if and when he takes a position elsewhere in the administration that's allegedly more important than being on the president's staff.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_05_19.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 18:52:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 333146 at http://www.motherjones.com Trumpcare Still Hasn't Been Sent to the Senate http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trumpcare-still-hasnt-been-sent-senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As we all know, the Republican health care bill can't survive a Democratic filibuster, so it's being considered via reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate. That means the bill has to obey reconciliation rules.</p> <p>Normally, this is not a big problem. If some aspect of the House bill violates the rules, it gets removed in the Senate and life goes on. But what if the bill violates the prime rule of reconciliation&mdash;namely that it reduce the deficit? Then it's dead and everyone has to start all over. This means the House has to be pretty careful that their bill does indeed reduce the deficit.</p> <p>But how do they <em>know</em> if it reduces the deficit? Easy: the CBO scores the bill and tells them. But Paul Ryan famously rushed passage of the bill in the House before CBO had time to deliver a score, so no one knows for sure if it still reduces the deficit. <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-05-18/house-may-be-forced-to-vote-again-on-gop-s-obamacare-repeal-bill" target="_blank">Bloomberg reports on what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn&rsquo;t yet sent the bill to the Senate</strong> because there&rsquo;s a chance that parts of it may need to be redone, depending on how the Congressional Budget Office estimates its effects...."I had no idea," Dennis Ross of Florida, another member of the vote-counting team, said Thursday, <strong>adding that the prospect of another vote "does concern me."</strong> GOP leaders never said publicly they were planning to hold on to the bill for two weeks or longer.</p> </blockquote> <p>In the end, I imagine the bill will get scored as a deficit reduction and then be sent to the Senate. But the fact that Ryan is still holding onto the bill shows that he knew perfectly well how irresponsible it was to force a vote before the CBO delivers a score. In addition to being callous and malignant, the whole thing is also a massive FUBAR.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 18:28:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333136 at http://www.motherjones.com Has the Campaign Against Drunk Driving Been Successful? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/has-campaign-against-drunk-driving-been-successful <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at NRO, Kevin Williamson takes Chris Hayes to task for implying that we <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447764/drunk-driving-reduction-success-story" target="_blank">don't pay enough attention to drunk driving:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The fight against drunk driving is a success story.</strong> A big one....In fact, the campaign against drunk driving is one of the great examples of how policy-driven social changes of the sort imagined by progressives such as Chris Hayes can succeed &mdash; and it also demonstrates the shortcomings of that model.</p> <p>....Overall, we&rsquo;ve cut DUI deaths and injuries by about 50 percent. Well done, us. <strong>We did it with invasive and paternalistic laws that lend themselves to occasional abuse and wanton mission creep, punishments that have tended toward the draconian, a campaign of social stigmatization, and heavy expenditures</strong>....That&rsquo;s what real, effective social change looks like: a role for public policy, sure, but also changes in personal behavior, social norms, and economic activity, coupled with trade-offs and progress that is meaningful if modest.</p> </blockquote> <p>This gives me an excuse to put up some statistics that have puzzled me for a while. Williamson is right that plenty of people credit stricter laws, checkpoints, social stigma and so forth for cutting drunk driving deaths over the past few decades. But does the data actually support this notion? I'm not so sure. For starters, here's the DUI arrest rate in California over the <a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/426a/579eae508d6844443ae2138fc4320334888b.pdf" target="_blank">past</a> 20 <a href="https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/77b8b0e3-c20b-42b0-8670-451d9c9262cd/S5-250.pdf?MOD=AJPERES" target="_blank">years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_dui_arrests_1994_2013.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>I'm sure that nationwide data for this is available somewhere, but I'm not sure where. In any case, I imagine that California is pretty typical, and the data on DUI arrests sure doesn't suggest that police activity toward drunk driving has gotten a lot more severe over the past couple of decades. Just the opposite, in fact. Of course, this decline in arrest rates is partly because there are just fewer drunk drivers to arrest, thanks to social stigma etc. Right? National data <a href="http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Trends/TrendsAlcohol.aspx" target="_blank">doesn't really back that up:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_traffic_fatalities_alcohol_1994_2014_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Drunk driving fatalities have almost perfectly followed the overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities as people drove less during the Great Recession. Outside of that period, both overall fatalities and drunk driving fatalities were pretty flat (or down modestly if you account for population growth and total miles driven). Fewer people are killed by drunk drivers these days, but it appears to be for the same reasons&mdash;air bags, fewer miles driven, etc.&mdash;that fewer overall people are killed on the road.</p> <p>It's unquestionably true that drunk driving laws are stricter, social stigma has increased, and punishment is heavier than in the past. But in the past two decades, at least, this really doesn't seem to have changed things much. Relative to our our overall penchant for killing people on the road, drunk drivers are killing people at about the same rate as always.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 17:02:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 333131 at http://www.motherjones.com Republican Incompetence May Finally Sink Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/republican-incompetence-may-finally-sink-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump may or may not be <em>trying</em> to destroy Obamacare, but his sheer incompetence is doing the job regardless. Noam Levey spoke to health insurance companies about <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-obamacare-trump-mismanagement-20170518-story.html" target="_blank">their plans for 2018:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid <strong>growing exasperation with the Trump administration&rsquo;s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.</strong></p> <p>....Privately, many executives, including chief executives of major health plans, offered withering criticism of the Trump administration&rsquo;s lack of leadership. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to know who&rsquo;s home,&rdquo; said one chief executive. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t know who is making decisions.&rdquo; Another chief executive said: &ldquo;There seems to be no coordination or coherent planning....It&rsquo;s a mess.&rdquo; A third official observed: <strong>&ldquo;There is a sense that there are no hands on the wheel and they are just letting the bus careen down the road.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....The uncertainty created by Trump comes as some Obamacare markets were beginning to stabilize, according to many industry and government officials. In several states, insurers and regulators noted that 2017 was shaping up to be a better year than the first several years of the marketplaces.</p> </blockquote> <p>In addition, Trump's team continues to haul out the threat of killing CSR subsidies. Trump has done it twice with Democrats, and Levey reports that a Trump appointee has also done it with insurers: "At one recent meeting, Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 'It made no sense,' said one official at the meeting."</p> <p>(The Trump administration denies Verma said this. But I assume they're lying.)</p> <p>Trump is both incompetent and a terrible negotiator&mdash;and that combination is wreaking havoc with the insurance market. If Trump really does kill the CSR subsidies and stops enforcing the individual mandate, insurance prices are going to go through the roof. Ironically, that wouldn't affect the poor too much, since their premiums are capped at a percentage of income. But for middle-class buyers, especially those over 50, it would be a disaster as premiums skyrocket.</p> <p>Republicans have been claiming forever that Obamacare is failing. That's been flatly untrue: Obamacare has its issues, but has basically been running just fine&mdash;and the Congressional Budget Office projects that it will continue to to run just fine for years. Apparently this is too much for Republicans to bear, so now that they're in power they're going to <em>force</em> it to fail. The sheer callousness and venom this displays is breathtaking.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_coverage_2013_2021_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 14:40:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 333106 at http://www.motherjones.com Evening Trump-Comey Roundup http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/evening-trump-comey-roundup <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Let's finish the evening with a quick roundup of all the shoes that dropped today. By Trumpian standards it was actually a calm day, but not totally free of shoes. First up is deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who testified before Congress today about how and why he came to write a memo justifying President Trump's firing of James Comey. How did it go?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Rosenstein testimony to Senate was profoundly disturbing.</p> &mdash; Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) <a href="https://twitter.com/SenJeffMerkley/status/865350483006959616">May 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Rosenstein says he knew that Trump planned to fire Comey, and provided a memo justifying it at Trump's request. This was apparently typical of Trump's relationship with the Justice Department: they work for him, so of course they should provide him with anything he needs. The same seems to have been true of the FBI. Ben Wittes tells us what was going on between Comey and the Trump administration <a href="https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-james-comey-told-me-about-donald-trump" target="_blank">during its early days:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Comey was preoccupied throughout this period with the need to protect the FBI from [] inquiries on investigative matters from the White House. Two incidents involving such inquiries have become public: the Flynn discussion and Reince Priebus&rsquo;s query to Andrew McCabe about whether the then-Deputy FBI Director could publicly dispute the <em>New York Times&rsquo;</em> reporting regarding communications between Trump associates and Russian officials. Whether there were other such incidents I do not know, but I suspect there were. What I do know is that <strong>Comey spent a great deal of energy doing what he alternately described as &ldquo;training&rdquo; the White House that officials had to go through the Justice Department and &ldquo;reestablishing&rdquo; normal hands-off White House-Bureau relations.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This fits with everything we know. Trump just doesn't understand the concept of the FBI being an independent agency free of presidential interference. Comey knew this and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/comey-prepared-extensively-for-his-conversations-with-trump/2017/05/18/e53b1734-3bf1-11e7-a058-ddbb23c75d82_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumpcomey-405pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.d9421b05ffd5" target="_blank">prepared diligently for his meetings with Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Comey was very apprehensive heading into a dinner with the president in late January, because of his previous encounters with Trump during the transition and immediately after the inauguration, according to one associate.</p> <p>....Before going to the dinner, Comey practiced Trump&rsquo;s likely questions and his answers with a small group of his most trusted confidants, the associates said, in part to ensure he did not give Trump any ammunition to use against him later. The director did not take notes during the dinner with the president, <strong>but there were times, one associate recalled, when after meeting with Trump, Comey started writing notes as soon as he got into a car, &ldquo;to make sure he could accurately record what was said.&rsquo;&rsquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In the Trump administration, the Justice Department is an arm of the White House, and the FBI is expected to follow the president's direction. The weird part of this is not that Trump believes it&mdash;of course he does&mdash;but that plenty of other folks in the White House seem to believe it too. At the very least, you'd think Reince Priebus would know better, but he's as bad as the rest. There hardly seems to be anyone in the entire building with any genuine knowledge of how the government works and how other people are likely to react to Trump's actions. Very peculiar.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 05:39:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 333091 at http://www.motherjones.com President Trump Is Mad As Hell and He's Not Going To Take It Anymore http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/president-trump-mad-hell-and-hes-not-going-take-it-anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I missed President Trump's press conference this afternoon, <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/that-didnt-go-great" target="_blank">but Josh Marshall sums it up for me:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The only real consistency in Trump&rsquo;s remarks are that he did nothing wrong and his anger at whomever he&rsquo;s angry at at that moment. Everything else is mutable and up for grabs. He&rsquo;s mad, mad at everyone, mad at Comey, also mad at Rosenstein and he made that anger clear in something like a million ways during this brief performance.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's our president. Mad at everybody, all the time&mdash;except himself. I wonder if he really lacks self-awareness so utterly that he has no idea he's the one causing all the chaos? Or that he almost certainly broke the law pretty seriously when he asked Comey to kill the Russia investigation? Is he that clueless?</p> <p>Probably. Trump always thought the business world was a lot tougher than politics, so being president would be a breeze. That was a level of cluelessness that's truly mind-boggling. Leaving aside the fact that Trump never actually ran his business in any real sense of the word&mdash;and was never as successful as he thought he was&mdash;that world was patty-cake compared to big-league politics. In only a few months&nbsp;Washington DC has eaten him alive.</p> <p>And the rest of the planet is even worse. Trump has already shown signs of being taken to the cleaners by foreign leaders, and this is almost certain to continue. That's because despite his big talk, he's never shown any real talent for negotiation. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/05/15/donald-trump-desperate-dealmaker/?utm_term=.4a59c30f3baa" target="_blank">Dan Drezner makes the case here,</a> and it's not pretty.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 May 2017 22:48:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 333066 at http://www.motherjones.com Lunchtime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/lunchtime-photo-9 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This photo has been run through a Photoshop filter, and I was sort of taken by the final result. It's certainly very colorful, and sometimes that's all you need to get through the day. Can anyone guess what it was originally a picture of? It was taken a couple of days ago. Answer tomorrow in Friday Catblogging.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_mystery_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 May 2017 19:45:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 333051 at http://www.motherjones.com Charles Murray Still Convinced That Whites Are Smarter Than Blacks http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/charles-murray-still-convinced-whites-are-smarter-blacks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I didn't realize that Charles Murray was still talking about his belief that African-Americans are genetically less intelligent than whites. But he is. Over at Vox, Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett report on a <a href="https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/18/15655638/charles-murray-race-iq-sam-harris-science-free-speech" target="_blank">two-hour podcast he did recently with Sam Harris:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The consensus, he says, is that <strong>IQ exists</strong>; that it is <strong>extraordinarily important</strong> to life outcomes of all sorts; that it is <strong>largely heritable</strong>; and that we <strong>don&rsquo;t know of any interventions</strong> that can improve the part that is not heritable. The consensus also includes the observation that the <strong>IQs of black Americans are lower</strong>, on average, than that of whites, <strong>and &mdash; most contentiously &mdash; that this and other differences among racial groups is based at least in part in genetics.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've read <em>The Bell Curve</em>, so I'm not just talking out of my ass about it. And it's a weird book. The vast bulk of it is about the first five bolded items above, which really are part of the scientific consensus. You can argue the details, but it's safe to say that intelligence is real; it's important; it's partly genetically heritable; it's difficult to change; and blacks score lower on IQ tests than whites. The evidence in <em>The Bell Curve</em> on these scores is fine. But then the book gets to a couple of chapters about the genetic basis of the black-white IQ gap, and suddenly the evidence gets very, very fuzzy. In fact, I want to share a brief boxed item included on page 310:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The German Story</strong></p> <p>One of the intriguing studies arguing against a large genetic component to IQ differences came about thanks to the Allied occupation of Germany following World War II, when about 4,000 illegitimate children of mixed racial origin were born to German women. A German researcher tracked down 264 children of black servicemen and constructed a comparison group of 83 illegitimate offspring of white occupation troops. The results showed no overall difference in average IQ. The actual IQs of the fathers were unknown, and therefore a variety of selection factors cannot be ruled out. The study is inconclusive but certainly consistent with the suggestion the B/W difference is largely environmental.</p> </blockquote> <p>In one sense, I applaud Murray and his co-author for including this. At the same time, they spend no time engaging with it in the text of the book. But they should: it's only one study, and as they suggest, it has some missing pieces. Still, it's one of the very few studies of African-American and white American children raised in middle-class environments <em>outside of America</em>. The fact that it shows no difference between black and white children is pretty significant&mdash;especially since it's highly unlikely that any of these children received any kind of special treatment.</p> <p>I don't want to pretend that this study is definitive. It's not. But a single disconfirming case is all you need to demonstrate that the black-white IQ gap is entirely non-biological, and this one is pretty close.</p> <p>It's not impossible that there's a biological difference in intelligence between blacks and whites. That's fundamentally a scientific question, and it hasn't been conclusively proven one way or the other. But the effect of American culture on blacks is so toxic that it's all but impossible to believe that any conclusions drawn in a study of Americans can ever be free of environmental contamination. After all, the Irish used to have low IQs. Jews used to have low IQs. And everyone was quite sure it was due to biology. But when anti-Irish and anti-Semitic animus died out, their IQs increased to normal levels. Amazing, isn't it?</p> <p>Maybe eventually Murray will find his long-sought gene complexes for cognitive ability, and will be able to show that there really is a genetic difference between blacks and whites. But I doubt it. The evidence just doesn't point in that direction. Maybe in ten or twenty years we'll know for sure.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 May 2017 19:31:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 333056 at http://www.motherjones.com President Trump Won't Take the Cable Car Up to Masada http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/president-trump-wont-take-cable-car-masada <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is getting <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/trump-cancels-visit-ancient-masada-site-after-israel-blocks-helicopter-landing-611287" target="_blank">a lot of snarky play today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Donald Trump has canceled a planned visit and speech at the ancient mountain fortress of Masada in Israel after authorities told him that he could not land his helicopter on top of the UNESCO-listed site....Unlike former presidents who have made the trip, such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, <strong>Trump declined to land the helicopter at a base of the historic site and then take the cable car up,</strong> preferring to cancel the visit altogether.</p> </blockquote> <p>Trump's Razor, of course, suggests that Trump is just being an asshole. But it's also possible that he has acrophobia in some form or another, and doesn't like the idea of swinging in the air from a cable for three minutes. I don't suppose Trump would ever admit to such a weakness, so we'll never know unless someone leaks about it. And what are the odds of that in this buttoned-down administration?</p> <p>Anyway, it's possible there's a benign explanation for this. Just saying.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/cw6VmDqqZrA?start=0" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 May 2017 17:36:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333046 at http://www.motherjones.com Turkey Says They Beat the Crap Out of Protesters Because of a "Provocative Demonstration" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/turkey-says-they-beat-crap-out-protesters-because-provocative-demonstration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This would normally be big news, but it's been <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/17/us/turkish-embassy-protest-dc.html?_r=0" target="_blank">overshadowed by all things Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>WASHINGTON &ndash; Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, <strong>including his government security forces</strong> and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador&rsquo;s residence here on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as &ldquo;a brutal attack.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Eleven people were injured, including a police officer,</strong> and nine were taken to a hospital, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Two Secret Service agents were also assaulted in the melee, according to a federal law enforcement official.</p> </blockquote> <p>The current story from Erdogan is that his folks were <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/international/333995-turkish-embassy-calls-violent-clash-with-protesters-self-defense" target="_blank">acting in "self defense,"</a> which is absurd. Eyewitness accounts, along with the testimony of Washington DC's police chief, confirm that the protest was loud but peaceful until Erdogan's goons waded in and attacked.</p> <p>This was all happening while President Trump was hosting a visit with Erdogan in the White House. Naturally they haven't said anything about this. Hell, Trump probably wishes <em>he</em> had a security force that would do stuff like this.</p> <p>I don't have anything non-obvious to say about this. The descent of Turkey into a strongman state is discouraging, and there's no sign that it's going to turn around any time soon. I just didn't want to let this pass without at least a mention.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 May 2017 16:46:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 333041 at http://www.motherjones.com