Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Most Latinos Don't Hold Obama's Immigration Delay Against Him <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is just raw data, and I suppose you can take in two ways, but here's what <a href="" target="_blank">a new Pew poll</a> says about supposed Latino outrage over President Obama's decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the election. Basically, the whole thing was overblown. It turns out that only about 9 percent of Latinos are angry about the delay. David Lauter summarizes <a href="" target="_blank">the rest of the survey:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Pew survey showed that Latino support for Democrats has receded on a couple of key measures, including party identification and a question about which party better represents their interests. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_latino_executive_action.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But the decline was modest, <strong>noticeable mostly by contrast with very high levels of support achieved in 2012,</strong> when Obama won reelection.</p> <p>....Asked which party &ldquo;has more concern for Latinos,&rdquo; half named the Democrats and 10% said Republicans, with just over one-third saying they saw no difference. On that question, too, the Democrats&rsquo; standing has dropped from a high point reached during Obama&rsquo;s reelection, <strong>but only to the level that prevailed during most of his first term.</strong> The Republican standing has not changed significantly.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roughly speaking, Latino support for Democrats has dropped a bit from the sky-high levels of the 2012 campaign, when Republicans featured a presidential candidate who pandered to his tea-party base by refusing to support immigration reform and chattering instead about "self-deportation." But Latino support has only dropped to about the same levels it had before then. In other words, not much has changed.</p> <p>Obama made a mistake when he hinted that he might take immigration action before the election. That was politically inept, and sure enough, it sparked a revolt among Democratic Senate candidates running in red states. When Obama was forced to backtrack, it was a temporary embarrassment&mdash;but that's all it was. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that most Latinos understand politics just as well as everyone else, and don't really hold Obama's actions against him. They know perfectly well why Obama did what he did, and they know perfectly well that Obama will probably keep his promise after the election.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Obama Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:28:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 263586 at After Supreme Court Decision, Patent Trolls Getting Cold Feet? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few months ago, in <em>Alice v. CLS Bank</em>, the Supreme Court struck a modest blow against patent trolls. The court ruled that merely programming a computer to carry out a well-known process isn't enough to qualify for a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_patent_troll.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">patent. There has to be more to it.</p> <p>So how has that affected the patent troll business? Joff Wild reports on a new analysis of <a href="" target="_blank">third-quarter patent litigation activity:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the research, which covers the third quarter of this year (June to September), <strong>there was a 23% drop in the number of suits filed compared to the second quarter,</strong> and a 27% year-on-year reduction.</p> <p>The findings come just weeks after data released by Lex Machina showed that there had been a 40% fall in patent suits in September 2014 as compared to the same month in the previous year....The data shows that [the decline] can be almost completely explained by a drop-off in NPE suits in the high-tech sector. Litigation initiated by operating companies fell by just 19 quarter on quarter, <strong>but actions launched by NPEs dropped by 301, from 885 in Q2 to 554&nbsp;&mdash; a fall of 35%.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>An NPE is a "non-practicing entity"&mdash;that is, a company that doesn't actually make use of a patent in a product of its own, but has merely purchased it for the purpose of strong-arming payments out of other users. In other words, a patent troll. So what these numbers show is that generic patent litigation fell a bit in Q3, but that patent troll litigation fell by a lot.</p> <p>It's too early to jump to conclusions about this, but it seems reasonable that this decline is at least partly related to <em>Alice</em>. This is good news, though <a href="" target="_blank">Alex Tabarrok sensibly warns</a> that before long there will probably be an uptick in patent suits as people learn the new system. So hold off on the cheering.</p> <p>Still, we'll take good news where we can get it, and this is a step in the right direction. It will be even better if <em>Alice</em> is a sign that the Supreme Court plans to rein in the federal circuit court that handles patents, which in recent years seems to have been <a href="" target="_blank">far more friendly</a> toward software patents than the Supreme Court ever intended. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Regulatory Affairs Supreme Court Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:13:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 263536 at In NSA Bills, the Devil Is in the Details <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sen. Patrick Leahy says that his USA FREEDOM bill will stop the NSA's bulk collection of phone data. H.L. Pohlman says <a href="" target="_blank">it's not quite that easy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-28) issued in January 2014, the Obama administration defined &ldquo;bulk collection&rdquo; as the acquisition &ldquo;of large quantities of signals intelligence data which . . . is acquired without the use of discriminants (e.g., specific identifiers, selection terms, etc.).&rdquo; <strong>Thus, as long as the government uses a &ldquo;discriminant,&rdquo; a selection term, no matter how broad that term might be, the government is not engaged in a &ldquo;bulk collection&rdquo; program.</strong></p> <p>....The USA FREEDOM Act does not guarantee, then, that the government&rsquo;s database of telephone metadata will be smaller than it is now. It all depends on the generality of the selection terms that the government will use to obtain metadata from the telephone companies. And we don&rsquo;t know what those terms will be.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a longstanding issue that's been brought up by lots of people lots of times. It's not some minor subtlety. If the government decides to look for "all calls from the 213 area code," that's not necessarily bulk collection even though it would amass millions of records. It would be up to a judge to decide.</p> <p>If and when we get close to Congress actually considering bills to rein in the NSA&mdash;about which I'm only modestly optimistic in the first place&mdash;this is going to be a key thing to keep an eye on. As the ACLU and the EFF and others keep reminding us, reining in the NSA isn't a simple matter of "ending" their bulk collection program. The devil is truly in the details, and tiny changes in wording can literally mean the difference between something that works and something that's useless. Or maybe even worse than useless. As Pohlman points out, if you choose the right words, the NSA could end up having a freer hand than they do today. This is something to pay close attention to.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:35:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 263526 at Benjamin Netanyahu, "Chickenshit" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jeffrey Goldberg has an, um, unique new perspective on the steadily deteriorating relationship between President Obama and <a href="" target="_blank">Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and &ldquo;Aspergery.&rdquo;....<strong>But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a &ldquo;chickenshit.&rdquo;</strong> I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn&rsquo;t have a full understanding.</p> <p>....&ldquo;The good thing about Netanyahu is that he&rsquo;s scared to launch wars,&rdquo; the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. &ldquo;The bad thing about him is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Netanyahu.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that he won&rsquo;t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states.&rdquo;</p> <p>....I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. <strong>This official agreed that Netanyahu is a &ldquo;chickenshit&rdquo; on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he&rsquo;s also a &ldquo;coward&rdquo; on the issue of Iran&rsquo;s nuclear threat.</strong> The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran&rsquo;s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal.</p> <p>....Another manifestation of his chicken-shittedness, in the view of Obama administration officials, is his near-pathological desire for career-preservation. Netanyahu&rsquo;s government has in recent days gone out of its way to a) let the world know that it will quicken the pace of apartment-building in disputed areas of East Jerusalem; and b) let everyone know of its contempt for the Obama administration and its understanding of the Middle East.</p> </blockquote> <p>Netanyahu has always been a petty, small-minded pol, endlessly maneuvering to hold together his fragile and equally small-minded band of parochial coalition partners. As one of Goldberg's sources puts it, "The only thing he's interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He's not Rabin, he's not Sharon, he's certainly no Begin. He's got no guts."</p> <p>Goldberg believes that the American-Israeli relationship is finally at a crossroads, largely driven by the personal loathing Obama and Netanyahu have for each other. We've heard this before, of course, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, Netanyahu's open contempt for Obama, along with his obvious unwillingness to show even a pretense of interest in a peace process, might really be taking things to a breaking point. The whole thing is worth a read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:10:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 263501 at Why Do Republicans Hate the Beatles? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at the Facebook Data Science blog,</a> Winter Mason shows us how personal likes and dislikes line up with political ideology. Democrats like Maya Angelou, <em>The Color Purple</em>, and <em>The Colbert Report</em>. Republicans like Ben Carson, <em>Atlas Shrugged</em>, and <em>Duck Dynasty</em>. It's all good fun, though I'm a little mystified about why the Empire State Building is such a Democratic-leaning tourist destination. Maybe Republicans just dislike anything related to New York City.</p> <p>But it's music that I want some help on. I get that country tends to be right-leaning and Springsteen is left-leaning. But what's up with the Beatles being so distinctively associated with liberals? It's no secret that I know squat about music, so help me out here. No snark. I thought the Beatles had long since ascended into a sort of free-floating state of pop elder statehood where they were beloved of all baby boomers equally&mdash;and pretty much everyone else too. What do I not know that accounts for continuing Republican antipathy toward the moptops?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_music_ideology.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Music Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:17:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 263476 at Quote of the Day: Bush Would Have Punched Putin in the Nose <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Here is John Boehner,</a> the leader of the House of Representatives and third in line for the presidency:</p> <blockquote> <p>When you look at this chaos that&rsquo;s going on, does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No! Even Putin is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boehner_eyes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds.</p> </blockquote> <p>Look, I get it: I'm a partisan, and right now I'm blogging through a slight bit of a morphine haze. But WTF? Have our political leaders always talked like this? This is just ridiculously juvenile.</p> <p>And while we're on the subject, I note that Boehner also said this: "I talk to world leaders every week. They want America to lead. They&rsquo;re begging America to lead. Because when America leads and America&rsquo;s strong, the world is a safer place." Ten bucks says Boehner is basically lying, unless by "world leaders" he means Paul Ryan and the odd backbencher in London he happens to have played golf with a couple of years ago. As anyone with a pulse knows, world leaders simply have different priorities than we do. It's the Europeans who are resisting stronger action against Putin. It's the Turks who aren't too interested in saving Kobani. It's the Saudis who want us to devote all our attention to their longtime Shiite enemies. It's Angela Merkel who's single-mindedly intent on destroying the European economy. If John Boehner thinks all these folks are eagerly waiting for America to whip them into line, he's even more delusional than I thought.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:22:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 263421 at Question of the Day: Does Obama Plan to Flood America With Ebola Patients? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Fox anchor Megyn Kelly</a> to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee:</p> <blockquote> <p>So do you believe that the administration is planning on bringing Ebola patients from overseas here to America?</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, that's an actual question, and I probably don't have to tell you what Goodlatte's answer is. The only thing missing is whether Goodlatte also believes Obama is planning to naturalize these folks by executive order so they can vote in Tuesday's election.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media The Right Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:20:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 263401 at Republicans Coming on Strong in Election Homestretch <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_abc_poll_generic_congressional_2014.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's now seven days until Election Day, and unfortunately things are trending pretty badly for us liberal types. <a href="" target="_blank">The ABC/Washington Post poll</a> on the right shows that Democrats and Republicans are pretty much all planning to vote for their own party next week, which leaves the election in the hands of independents. That turns out to be grim news. We can argue all day long about whether independents are "really" independent, but at this point it doesn't matter. They represent about a third of the electorate, and at the moment they favor Republican candidates by nearly 20 percentage points.</p> <p>There doesn't seem to be any specific issue driving this. People are just generally unhappy. A huge majority think America is on the wrong track; Obama's approval rating remains mired only slightly above 40 percent; and far more people blame Democrats than Republicans for the rising dysfunction of the federal government.</p> <p>That last point is especially galling for Democrats, but it's a win for Republicans and yet another sign of change in the way Washington is likely to work in the future. Republicans have discovered that a sufficiently united party can obstruct everything and anything but largely escape blame for the resulting gridlock. This lesson has not been lost on Democrats, and it bodes ill for the future regardless of who wins our next few elections. There's just no reward for getting things done these days, and this probably means that less and less will get done. That's Political Economy 101 for you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Top Stories Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:52:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 263386 at Paying for Stuff Will Soon Be Almost as Easy and Reliable as Using Cash <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sarah Halzack describes the difference between between ApplePay and a competing system, CurrentC, <a href="" target="_blank">due to roll out next year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Apple Pay's system relies on near-field communication chips, allowing users to wave their smartphones in front of a reader and confirm the purchase with a fingerprint scan. CurrentC, on the other hand, <strong>will require shoppers to use their smartphone's camera to take a picture of a code generated by the retailer,</strong> a series of steps that may feel slower and more complex to consumers than Apple Pay.</p> </blockquote> <p>Say what? You have to pull out your phone, open the CurrentC app, and take a picture of a QR code that's displayed on the merchant's screen. If that doesn't work, you have to manually enter a numeric code.</p> <p>And this is faster and more convenient than swiping a debit card because....what? Am I missing something here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Tue, 28 Oct 2014 05:39:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 263371 at Refusing Medicaid Expansion Is Costing Red States a Bundle <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicaid_2015_spending_growth_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's a remarkable chart cobbled together from a <a href="" target="_blank">survey of state Medicaid directors by the Kaiser Family Foundation.</a> It's a little ugly, but bear with me.</p> <p>This is a projection of Medicaid enrollment and spending for 2015 that compares states that accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion with those that didn't. As you can see, in states that accepted the expansion, enrollment is forecast to cover 18 percent more people compared to only 5.2 percent more in non-expansion states. And as you'd expect, this will cost money: total Medicaid spending will rise faster in expansion states than non-expansion states.</p> <p>But most of that spending growth is covered by the federal government. It turns out that states which accepted the Medicaid expansion expect <em>state</em> spending to grow more slowly than in non-expansion states.</p> <p>In other words, the non-expansion states really are shooting themselves in the foot. They're enrolling fewer people, but paying more to do it. They actually prefer spending more money if the alternative is spending less but helping their own poor with medical coverage. Hard to believe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:22:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 263361 at John Boehner Still Hasn't Sued Obama Over Obamacare. Why Not? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Three months ago, John Boehner threw a bone to the tea-party faction that was nipping at his heels and demanding action against the lawless tyrant Obama and his executive orders that routinely defied both the Constitution and the duly enacted laws of the land. The bone took the form of a planned lawsuit against the administration because it had delayed certain aspects of the employer and employee mandates under Obamacare.</p> <p>At the time, I was <a href="" target="_blank">perfectly OK</a> with Boehner doing this. Why not let courts decide this kind of dispute, after all? That's what they're for. What's more, unlike most of the tea party complaints about lawless behavior, this one seemed <a href="" target="_blank">at least defensible.</a> And yet, three months later, we still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crs_boehner_lawsuit.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">have no lawsuit. Why? Simon Lazarus and Elisabeth Stein suspect that it has to do with Boehner asking for some legal advice from the Congressional Research Service and then quietly getting a report <a href="" target="_blank">that he wasn't expecting:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>CRS reports such as this one are generated in response to requests by members or committees of Congress, though the CRS does not make public the identity of the requester or requesters. This particular report&nbsp;&mdash; of which House Democrats were unaware until it appeared&nbsp;&mdash; bears the earmarks of an inquiry, requested by the Speaker or his allies, to give some color of legitimacy to their charges of rampant presidential illegality. Instead, the result validates the lawyers&rsquo; maxim not to ask a question when unsure of the likely answer.</p> <p>The Report offers two conclusions: First, under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), <strong>no rulemaking procedure was necessitated by the Administration&rsquo;s initial one-year delay in enforcing the employer mandate,</strong> past the ACA&rsquo;s prescribed January 1, 2014 effective date....Second, the Report states that, when, in February 2014, the Administration announced an additional year&rsquo;s postponement of full enforcement of the mandate, until January 1, 2016, &ldquo;informal rulemaking procedures&rdquo; appeared to be required. <strong>In fact, as the report&rsquo;s authors reference, the Administration had engaged in precisely the type of informal rulemaking process that, the report concluded, was called for.</strong> The Administration&rsquo;s action finalized a September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, making adjustments in response to comments from interested parties, precisely as prescribed by the APA.</p> <p>In other words, having been asked whether the Obama administration had crossed all its t&rsquo;s and dotted its i&rsquo;s, the CRS&rsquo; answer was unequivocal: yes it had. In bland CRS-speak, this seems like a veritable finger in the eye&nbsp;&mdash; or perhaps, a blunt warning to the Speaker to drop the lawsuit project.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oops. This doesn't mean Boehner can't still file his lawsuit, of course. It was all pretty much symbolism and bone-tossing in the first place, so it hardly matters if he ends up losing the case a year or two from now. But it could have proven embarrassing, especially if the CRS report became public, which, inevitably, it did. This stuff never stays under wraps forever.</p> <p>So perhaps Boehner has decided to hold his fire. He has bigger fish to fry right now, and I doubt he was ever all that excited about the lawsuit anyway. For now, it's become just another shard on the ever-mounting bone pile of tea party outrage about a president doing stuff they don't happen to approve of.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Regulatory Affairs Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:27:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 263326 at Here's Two and a Half Cheers for No-Drama Obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Saturday I promised to both agree and disagree with Matt Yglesias, but I never quite got around to the agreeing part. So let's do that today. Yglesias was writing in response to a fairly typical complaint from Josh Green that President Obama is too aloof, too cerebral, and too technocratic to satisfy the public's "emotional needs" in a national leader. But Yglesias points out that Obama's firm, low-key disposition served him well when the rest of the world went into panic mode over the passage of Obamacare <a href="" target="_blank">after Democrats lost control of the Senate in 2010:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There's no single optimal temperament for all times and all places. <strong>Obama, by temperament, is a cool cucumber. I am not.</strong> At times, Obama might have been better served by a more emotional approach and an itchier trigger finger. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_no_drama_obama.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But Obama was right during the political crisis of January 2010.</p> <p>He was also right back in October of 2008 when the American banking sector seemed to be collapsing....Obama's opponent, John McCain, was never one to underreact. Most observers greatly appreciated the younger senator's ability to keep things in perspective and his evident dedication to trying to learn the relevant facts....Similarly, two months earlier, McCain was proclaiming "we are all Georgians now" in response to Putin's incursion into South Ossetia. A systematic overreactor would have had his finger much more on the public pulse when Ebola first arrived in Dallas. But he also might have embroiled the country in a nuclear war with Russia.</p> <p>....Journalists have systematic professional incentives to overreact....The hot temperament consequently tends to dominate in the ranks of the media....But more than a political pose, an aversion to purely symbolic action has genuinely served Obama well at critical moments....Obama's approach to the economy has been far from flawless, but it's not a coincidence that the USA has performed better since 2008 than Europe or the United Kingdom and weathered its financial crisis far better than Japan did in the 1990s.</p> <p><strong>The Deepwater Horizon crisis passed. The American Ebola crisis will also pass. got fixed. The Russian economy is reeling in the face of sanctions. Osama bin Laden is dead. The economy is growing.</strong> Obama hasn't always been a very effective pundit-in-chief (acute crisis moments aside, his inability to articulate public anger at Wall Street has been remarkable) but that's not actually his job. On the big stuff, he's been effective. And that's not a coincidence.</p> </blockquote> <p>I always find it difficult to strike just the right tone on this. Unlike Yglesias, I <em>am</em> a fairly cool cucumber, and I'm frankly relieved to have a president whose temperament is roughly in sync with my own. At the same time, I'm well aware that I'm not typical, and that like it or not, the presidency is a bully pulpit that often demands a certain demonstrativeness in order to resonate with the public. Overtly emotional appeals worked well for Bill Clinton and overtly nationalistic ones worked well for George Bush. In Obama's case, however, it really is sometimes hard to tell if he's truly engaged with problems the way he should be. Occasional leaks from White House insiders that Obama is "furious" about something or other doesn't get the job done.</p> <p>That said, Obama has good reason to be contemptuous of the 24/7 news cycle and the way it's affected politics. Obviously reporters aren't much interested in writing "Problem X continues to be steadily addressed" day after day. They want action! They want news! And these days, they don't even want it daily. They pretty much want it hourly.</p> <p>But that's a crappy attitude toward problem solving. There have been times and places when Obama probably has been a little too disengaged, either in the planning process or in responding to crises. is an example of the former, and the sequester/debt limit/fiscal cliff battles may be examples of the latter. For the most part, though, his approach has been pretty sound. There was little the government could do about Deepwater Horizon, and high-profile interference probably would have been as counterproductive as the recent panic-stricken Ebola quarantine orders from the governors of New Jersey, New York, and Florida. Obama has instead been radiating calm and working behind the scenes to prevent Ebola from becoming just another partisan football. He's urging us to adopt evidence-based responses that don't undermine the longer-term fight against Ebola, and that's the right call.</p> <p>America is a big place. The world is even bigger. We have big problems that don't get solved in a day. I don't want to pretend that Obama has an ideal management style, when he plainly doesn't. But given what he's dealing with, Obama's management style is pretty damn good. And you know what? The dirty little secret of management is that half the battle&mdash;maybe more!&mdash;is avoiding lots of stupid stuff that you have to clean up afterward.</p> <p>Obama may not always give us the emotional sustenance we want, or mount a pretense of whirlwind action to satisfy the cable nets, but he gets things done. Anyone who can count on their fingers can pretty easily figure out, for example, that he's had a more successful presidency than either Clinton or Bush. Slow and steady doesn't win every race, but it wins a lot of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:01:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 263311 at Kobani Still Holding Out -- But Is That Good News? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Like Mark Thompson, I've been a bit out of circulation for the past couple of weeks&mdash;enough to pay only minimal attention to Iraq, anyway&mdash;and also like Thompson, I'm a little surprised to come back and discover that Kobani is still holding out against ISIS. This is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kobani_map.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400">largely thanks to the US bombing campaign, and Thompson <a href="" target="_blank">isn't sure what to think of this success:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>While that&rsquo;s obviously good news in the short term for the city&rsquo;s 200,000 largely-Kurdish residents, it&rsquo;s tougher to handicap what it means for the long-term U.S.-led effort to &ldquo;degrade and destroy&rdquo; ISIS.</p> <p>Earlier this month, U.S. military officers were speaking of ISIS&rsquo;s &ldquo;momentum,&rdquo; and how its string of military successes over the past year meant that quickly halting its advance would likely prove difficult if not impossible. Yet, as far as Kobani is concerned, that seems to be what is taking place.</p> <p>But that raises the stakes for the U.S. and its allies. Having smothered ISIS&rsquo;s momentum, an eventual ISIS victory in the battle for Kobani would be a more devastating defeat for the U.S. military than an earlier collapse of the town.</p> <p><strong>There are concerns that the focus on saving Kobani is giving ISIS free reign elsewhere in its self-declared caliphate&mdash;that the U.S., in essence, could end up winning the battle while losing the war.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess,&rdquo; Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote Friday. &ldquo;The U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The flip side of this is the obvious one: have patience. &ldquo;Here we are not three months into it and there are critics saying it&rsquo;s falling apart; it&rsquo;s failing; the strategy is not sound,&rdquo; Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. &ldquo;The strategy is sound and it&rsquo;s working and there&rsquo;s no plans to deviate it from right now.&rdquo;</p> <p>If we're really engaged in a years-long battle against ISIS, then a few months here or there doesn't matter much. And saving Kobani isn't just a moral good, but can also demonstrate to others that ISIS is not some magical, unstoppable force destined to overrun Iraq. It's just an ordinary group of guerrilla soldiers who can be defeated with determination and patience. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:20:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 263296 at Housekeeping Finale <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I am home and the cats are becoming re-acquainted with their long-lost daddy. Monday should bring a return to normalcy. That is all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Oct 2014 02:09:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 263271 at Profiles in Mainstream Media Courage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Laura Poitras, the journalist who first worked with NSA leaker Edward Snowden and later wrote groundbreaking stories with Glenn Greenwald about the stunning growth and reach of the US surveillance state, describes her <a href="" target="_blank">initial interaction with the mainstream media in an interview with Astra Taylor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Q: Other journalists were afraid to work with Snowden.</strong></p> <p>A: There&rsquo;s a strong culture of fear among journalists right now, because the government is cracking down on both journalists and sources....We involved [<em>Washington Post</em> journalist] Bart Gellman when Snowden wanted to release one document early, and Gellman used the Snowden archive to break the PRISM story about mass electronic surveillance. He was going to come with me to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, and the <em>Post</em> became very nervous and pulled out. They told me not to go. I felt like I couldn&rsquo;t live with myself if I didn&rsquo;t go, so I went.</p> </blockquote> <p>As they say, read the whole thing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Media Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 263261 at Social Networking Employs More People Than We Think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is a pretty amazing story from <em>Wired</em> reporter Adrian Chen about the army of workers who spend their days <a href="" target="_blank">monitoring the raw feeds of social networking sites</a> to get rid of "dick pics, thong shots, exotic objects inserted into <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_delete.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">bodies, hateful taunts, and requests for oral sex" before they show up on America's morning skim of Facebook and Twitter:</p> <blockquote> <p>Past the guard, in a large room packed with workers manning PCs on long tables, I meet Michael Baybayan, an enthusiastic 21-year-old with a jaunty pouf of reddish-brown hair....Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles &ldquo;content moderation&rdquo;&mdash;the removal of offensive material&mdash;for US social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been confronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet&rsquo;s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won&rsquo;t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video.</p> <p>....So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them&mdash;a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, <strong>estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world&rsquo;s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to &ldquo;well over 100,000&rdquo;&mdash;that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.</strong></p> <p>Given that content moderators <strong>might very well comprise as much as half the total workforce for social media sites,</strong> it&rsquo;s worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be.</p> </blockquote> <p>We often hear about how the new app economy is largely a jobless economy, but thanks to the general scumminess of human beings maybe that's less true than we think. Cleaning up the internet for grandma is a grueling, never-ending job that, for now anyway, can only be done by other, less scummy, human beings. Lots of them.</p> <p>It's true that the "basic moderation" jobs are largely overseas and don't pay much, but second-tier moderators are mostly US-based and are paid fairly well. As you'd expect, though, most don't last long. Burnout comes pretty quickly when you spend all day exposed to a nonstop stream of torture videos, hate speech, YouTube beheadings, and the entire remaining panoply of general human degradation. That's what the rest of Chen's story is about. It's a pretty interesting read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Tech Sun, 26 Oct 2014 16:39:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 263256 at Quick Treatment Update - And Thanks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I had my first round of chemo about six hours ago, and I had no reaction at all. No nausea, no vomiting, no nothing. I ate lunch an hour afterward. Obviously this may change as things progress, but so far I seem to be tolerating the treatment regimen well. That's good news. And my back continues to slowly get stronger and less painful.</p> <p>The outpouring of prayers and good wishes has been genuinely heartening. Thank you to everyone for all the comments, tweets, and emails. They truly mean a lot to me. And to Nora and Jason from Chicago: Thanks for the flowers! They're lovely.</p> <p>On a related note, several people have asked if I need any financial help. As it happens, MoJo provides excellent health coverage (mine is through Kaiser), so I'm well covered on that front. Beyond that, as many of you know, my previous career has left me in very good financial shape. So I'm one of the lucky ones: All I have to do is worry about following my treatment plan and getting better. I have no money worries, and plenty of family and friends (and cats!) rooting for me and ready to take care of me when I need help.</p> <p>That's the latest. And here's the best news: Depending on how things go tonight, I may be able to go home tomorrow. Hooray!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Sun, 26 Oct 2014 01:09:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 263251 at Amazon Must Be Stopped - Sort Of <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Enough of this cancer nonsense. Let's agree and disagree with Matt Yglesias today (not that I'm comparing him with cancer, mind you).</p> <p>First off, the disagreement. In the current issue of the <em>New Republic</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">Franklin Foer pens a righteous rant</a> against Amazon as an evil, marauding monopoly that needs to be crushed. It warmed the cockles of my heart, since Amazon's almost Luthor-like predatory strategies against startup competitors leave me cold. That's one reason I choose not to do much business with them. But legally? I may not like the way Amazon went after, but let's face it: they're nothing close to a monopolist in that space. <a href="" target="_blank">Yglesias is right</a> that in most of their business lines they should be left alone. Walmart and Target and Google and a tsunami of aggressive startups will keep them plenty busy.</p> <p>However, there's an exception: e-books. Yglesias has no sympathy for big book publishers, and he has a point. These are pretty gigantic companies in their own right, and although I suspect he gives their business practices <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_amazon_kindle_store.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">short shrift in some important ways, there's not much question they often seem pretty antediluvian. <a href="" target="_blank">But this goes too far:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It is undeniably true that Amazon has a very large share of the market for e-books. What is not true is that Amazon faces a lack of competition in the digital book market. Barnes &amp; Noble &mdash; a company that knows something about books &mdash; sells e-books, and does so in partnership with a small outfit called Microsoft. Apple sells e-books and so does Google.</p> </blockquote> <p>Amazon has a <em>huge</em> share of the e-book market, and pretty much everyone&mdash;including Yglesias, I think&mdash;believes that Barnes &amp; Noble is only a few steps from the grave. Unsurprisingly, Nook funding is in free fall. Sony has exited the e-book market and Kobo isn't far behind. Even Apple, as mighty as it is, has only a tiny market share after several years of trying.</p> <p>In theory, this is a great opportunity for an innovative startup. Startup costs are modest since there's no physical inventory to worry about. Publishers are eager for new entrants. Maybe a smart startup could appeal to consumers with a great new e-reader concept. Or a better recommendation engine. Who knows? There are loads of possibilities. The problem is that no startup can possibly compete with a huge incumbent that's willing to sell e-books at a loss. There's no VC on the planet willing to fund a trench war like that.</p> <p>So Amazon really does have a monopoly position in this market that it sustains via predatory pricing and heavy-handed business practices&mdash;against publishers both big and small&mdash;that might make John D. Rockefeller blush. <a href="" target="_blank">Tim Lee pinpoints a big part of the problem:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I mostly agree with my colleague Matt Yglesias's argument that Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers. But there's at least one way US law gives Amazon excessive power, to the detriment of publishers, authors, and the reading public: ill-conceived copyright regulations lock consumers into Kindle's book platform, making it hard for new e-book platforms to gain traction.</p> <p>....In 1998 [music publishers] got Congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which made it a federal crime to unscramble encrypted content without the permission of copyright holders.</p> <p>....While the law was passed at the behest of content creators, it also gave a lot of power to platform owners. If you buy a movie on iTunes, you're effectively forced to continue buying Apple devices if you want to keep watching the movie. Tools to transfer copy-protected movies you've purchased from iTunes onto another platform exist, but they're illegal and, accordingly, not very user-friendly.</p> <p>Amazon has taken advantage of the DMCA too. Kindle books come copy-protected so that only Amazon-approved software can read it without breaking the law. Of course, software to convert it to other formats exists, but it's illegal and accordingly isn't very convenient or user-friendly.</p> <p>And that creates a huge barrier to entry.</p> </blockquote> <p>Aside from my general distaste for Amazon, I happen to think the Kindle app is kind of sucky. The Nook app is better, so I buy my e-books via Barnes &amp; Noble. But the Nook app has its own problems, and you may prefer Kindle. That's great! Competition! But I'm keenly aware that B&amp;N is likely on its last legs, and then what? Amazon will have even less incentive to improve its reader, especially on less popular platforms.</p> <p>I like competition. And it can't be emphasized too much that the DRM issue is driven heavily by publishers, not just by Amazon. Nor is there a simple solution. Arguments of the techno-utopian "information wants to be free" crowd aside, there are pretty self-evident reasons why authors and publishers don't want their books to be instantly available for free within a week of being published.</p> <p>Nonetheless, this is a problem that begs for a solution. Partly it's driven by DMCA restrictions. Partly it's driven by those antediluvian publishers. And partly it's driven by Amazon's genuine monopoly position in the e-book market, which stifles innovation and promises to get even worse in the future.</p> <p>So sure, leave Amazon alone in most of its business lines. But in e-books? Nope. They're a monopoly in every sense of the word, and they use predatory practices to stay that way. They may offer cheap books, but in the long run it's vibrant competition that truly benefits consumers. Regulating Amazon would hardly solve all our e-book problems&mdash;far from it&mdash;but it would be a start.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Books Regulatory Affairs Sat, 25 Oct 2014 16:44:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 263246 at Friday Cancer Blogging - 24 October 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few of you have probably cottoned onto the fact that people don't usually spend a week in the hospital for a broken bone, even a backbone. So in the long tradition of releasing bad news on Friday afternoon, here's my first-ever Friday news dump.</p> <p>When I checked in to the hospital Saturday morning, the first thing they did was take a bunch of X-rays followed by a CT scan. These revealed not just a fractured L3, but a spine and pelvis dotted with lytic lesions that had badly degraded my bones. That's why a mere cough was enough to send me to the ER. It was just the straw that broke an already-weakened camel's back. Later tests showed that I also had lesions in my upper arm, my rib cage, and my skull&mdash;which means that my conservative friends are now correct when they call me soft-headed.</p> <p>The obvious cause of widespread lytic lesions is multiple myeloma, a cancer of blood plasma cells, and further tests have confirmed this. (The painful bedside procedure on Tuesday was a bone marrow biopsy. Bone marrow is where the cancerous plasma cells accumulate.)</p> <p>I know from experience that a lot of people, especially those who have been through this or know a family member who's been through this, will want to know all the details about the treatment I'm getting. I'll put that below the fold for those who are interested. For the rest of you, here's the short version: I'm young, I'm not displaying either anemia or kidney problems, and treatments have improved a lot over the past decade. So my short-term prognosis is pretty positive. Treatment involves two to three months of fairly mild chemotherapy, which has already started, followed by a bone marrow transplant. My oncologist thinks I have a very good chance of complete remission.</p> <p>The longer-term prognosis is less positive, and depends a lot on how treatments improve over the next few years. But I figure there's not too much point in worrying about that right now. Better to stay focused on the current regimen and see how I respond to that. Wish me well.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/kevin-drum/2014/10/friday-cancer-blogging-24-october-2014"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:27:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 263231 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 October 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We're a little late with catblogging today, but that's not bad under the circumstances&mdash;which partly include all those meddling doctors with their tests and pills and questions, but are actually mostly technological. For the most part, the Windows tablet and the new phone have been godsends in the hospital. The Windows tablet, running standard&mdash;and fully synced&mdash;Firefox, allows me to blog with no trouble, unlike either my iPad or Android tabs. Windows OneDrive gives me access to every picture I've ever taken of the cats. And the hotspot on the phone is fast and reliable, unlike the hospital WiFi system.</p> <p>Unfortunately, I don't have Photoshop installed, and probably never will since it's now astronomically expensive and available only by subscription. Even the simplest image editing is a trial with only MS Paint to work with, so any post with a picture is sort of torturous to publish.</p> <p>But I'm a professional, and nothing is too much work for my loyal readers. So here you go. Hopper is the blurry one on the right, grooming a slightly bemused Hilbert, who joined in a few seconds later and turned both cats into blurs.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_hilbert_2014_10_24_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Oct 2014 16:55:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 263201 at Final Housekeeping Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_hospital_2014_10_24_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"> According to my surgeon, yesterday's kyphoplasty went swimmingly well. I needed to be prepared for normal post-op recovery pain, but once I was through that my back would be in good shape.</p> <p>Unfortunately, "normal post-op recovery pain" turned out to be hours of excruciating, mind-numbing agony. At one point I was on four separate pain killers and they still weren't doing the job. I finally got a second dose of the most powerful one, and that made things barely tolerable&mdash;though at the medium-term expense of my stomach, I suspect.</p> <p>But that was yesterday. Today I feel OK, and this morning I got out of bed and hobbled around the room without any significant pain So, success!</p> <p>This is the last post that can fairly be called "housekeeping," but not the end of the story. I'll have more news later.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:09:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 263171 at Yet More Housekeeping <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>How much detail do you want about my medical woes? Well, I'm bored, so you're going to get more.</p> <p>By the time you read this, I should be sedated and ready for a something-plasty, a procedure that injects bone cement into my fractured L3 lumbar vertebra. In other words, I will become a low-grade Wolverine in one teeny-tiny part of my body. According to the doctors, the cement dries instantly and should relieve my back pain almost completely. It sounds too good to be true, and of course it's always possible that I have some other source of back pain in addition to the compression fracture. But this should help a lot.</p> <p>There is more to this story, and hopefully tomorrow will wrap everything up as all the rest of the test results come back. I'll keep you posted.</p> <p>On a related subject, I have to say that the Irvine Kaiser hospital is excellent. I have a very nice little single room with good visiting accommodations. It features all the usual annoyances of a hospital, some of which have made me grumpy, but everyone has been very nice and professional. They've made my stay about as nice as it could be under the circumstances.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Oct 2014 16:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 263091 at Housekeeping Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just a quick update. Yesterday my doctor decided to do a "little bedside test" to get a better reading on the state of my bones. It was indeed bedside, and it was indeed done with just a local anesthetic, but I guess it wasn't a very powerful one. Hoo boy, did that hurt, and naturally I was a total baby about it. In any case, they want to keep me here for at least another day to make sure I didn't get infected etc. Also, today I get my first monthly dose of some bone-strengthening med whose name escapes me. So it looks like it'll be tomorrow at the earliest before I go home. It depends on how I'm doing and what the doctor gods decree. But I walked 300 feet this morning without too much trouble, so that has to be a positive sign, doesn't it?</p> <p>When will blogging recommence? I'm not sure. In the meantime, though, enjoy a bonus cat.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_10_22.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:58:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 263031 at Housekeeping Note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>No blogging today, I'm afraid. I've been having lower back problems for several months, and on Friday night it got a lot worse. Saturday morning I couldn't get out of bed, and had to be transported to the ER. It turns out that I had a compression fracture of one of my lumbar bones. I've been in the hospital ever since.</p> <p>I can walk again, but I'm pretty much bedbound for a while. Beyond that, further tests will tell us what's going on here. Without either oversharing or being coy, there's a chance this could turn out to be pretty serious. We'll know more by the end of the week. In the meantime, blogging will obviously be pretty limited.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Oct 2014 12:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 262851 at Friday Cat Blogging - 17 October 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't know about you, but I could stand to have catblogging a little earlier than usual this week. What you see here is one of the many cat TVs now installed in our home. This is the dining room TV. There are also cat TVs in the kitchen and the study. The kitchen TV apparently has most of its good shows at night, and it's not clear what those shows are about. But they are extremely entrancing.</p> <p>The dining room TV, by contrast, is sort of our workhorse cat TV. They both love it all day long. Needless to say, this is something new for both Hopper and Hilbert, since they spent the first ten months of their lives in a shelter, where cat TV mostly just starred other cats. Who knew there were so many other channels to choose from?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_10_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:15:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 262796 at