Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Tales From City of Hope #12: I Am Bursting With White Blood Cells <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday's white blood count was 0.2. Today's is 1.1. That's super duper exponential. Go, little stem cells, go!</p> <p>Surely this deserves a bit of bonus catblogging. Of course it does.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_05_04.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 04 May 2015 16:12:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 274726 at America's Big Trade Deals and the Case of the 4 Fishy Phone Calls <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going.&nbsp;Today we're honored to present a post from <a href="" target="_blank">David Dayen</a>, a veteran blogger and currently a regular contributor to </em>Salon <em>and </em>The Fiscal Times<em>, among other publications.</em></p> <p>I was planning on commandeering Kevin's site to finally shape this place up and do some dogblogging, but management was, shall we say, unreceptive. So let's use this space to do what all great blogging is known for: pointless speculation!</p> <p>I did a story for <em><a href="">The New Republic</a></em> looking back at the 1993 <a href="">CNN debate</a> between Al Gore and Ross Perot, showing how Gore's messages on selling NAFTA mirror Barack Obama's messages on selling the Trans-Pacific Partnership today. Both men claim that their progressive trade agreements differ from the raw deals of the past; that opponents were isolationist Luddites who want to return to some unrealistic pre-globalized world; and that this new deal would create a benchmark for global trade, which some Asian power (Japan or China, depending on the era) would take control of were their plan defeated.</p> <p>But the debate itself is amazing for several reasons, not the least of which being that a sitting Vice President had to go on Larry King and take phone calls. Everyone remembers Perot saying "Can I finish" incessantly, so much so that it became a <a href="">Dana Carvey tag line</a>.&nbsp; And maybe you remember Gore pulling out a picture of Smoot and Hawley and giving it to Perot as a present ("You can put it on your wall"). But come with me through this Internet rabbit hole and look at something else.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Ross Perot gets asked four questions from the phone lines. I have no knowledge about how they were screened. But these don't sound like regular people to me; they sound like plants. You can listen yourself:</p> <p><strong>43:45</strong> The caller is from "Washington, DC." And he says, and I quote, "How can the US expect to compete on a long-term basis in an increasingly interdependent economic world, while Europe and the PacRim nations unite on their own respective trade alliance?" Who in the world talks like that? It reads like it came out of a Brookings Institution paper.</p> <p><strong>54:30</strong> A expat caller from Zagreb, Croatia (!) asks Perot for specific answers on what he would do as an alternative to NAFTA. This happens to be a question Gore asked repeatedly throughout the debate.</p> <p><strong>1:01:35</strong> This call comes from McLean, Virginia, the Washington suburb populated mostly by lobbyists. The caller coincidentally has statistics at the ready on electronic exports to Mexico ("nearly tripled" over the past five years, "worth about $6 billion), and demands that Perot agree that removing tariffs on these products will produce "high-tech, good-paying jobs" in America.</p> <p><strong>1:06:35</strong> This is perhaps the weirdest call. An American woman "who has been living in Mexico City for many years" calls in, following up on Gore's claim that the Japanese would "take over" a free trade agreement with Mexico if NAFTA is defeated. "There are thousands of Japanese here. They are waiting. They are lurking! What are you people doing? Why-" At this point she gets cut off, but Gore repeats the question and adds a line the caller never said: "Why don't you wake up?"</p> <p>This is weird. The questions not only sound way too hyper-informed and scripted, they dovetail with every talking point Gore used in the debate, from how passing NAFTA was critical to setting a benchmark for trade with the world, to how NAFTA would create jobs at home through rising exports to Mexico, to how Japan loomed to take advantage of any potential failure, to how Perot was just carping from the sidelines without his own plan.</p> <p>It's a strong accusation to suggest these questions were planted, and honestly I have no idea. However, I did find an article from 1994 in some left-wing rag called <a href=""><em>Mother Jones</em></a>, detailing a host of dirty tricks the Clinton Administration engaged in to blunt the influence of Ross Perot:</p> <blockquote> <p>Last September 2, the day Perot was to appear on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show," a White House adviser got on the horn to L.A. After chatting with a "Tonight Show" writer, he faxed some questions to Leno [&hellip;]</p> <p>(Perot co-author) Pat Choate claims the administration sent people to UWS rallies to "take notes" and "heckle" Perot. He also accuses the administration of manipulating the press: "Journalists are getting anti-Perot stuff in the mail," he says. "Most of it has no return address." (Several reporters who cover Perot say they have no knowledge of this, and the White House denies both charges.) [&hellip;]</p> <p>Last April 22, Perot appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to testify on NAFTA. The White House didn't like him testifying, and it liked even less the idea of C-Span televising his appearance. So, Choate claims, a White House aide called Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who called Brian Lamb, the chairman of C-Span. Some sort of deal was struck, and Perot's testimony never graced the airwaves.</p> </blockquote> <p>Because <em>Mother Jones</em> is a responsible publication, the author added that the rumor about C-SPAN could be false, but that it showed how the Clinton White House seized on Perot's natural paranoia to undermine him in the trade debate. Throwing in suspicious-sounding questions on CNN could serve the same purpose.</p> <p>We're 22 years on from this event, and investigating the provenance of these fishy phone calls would be somewhat irrelevant. Four phone calls were not the reason NAFTA passed; there's no "NAFTA-ghazi" conspiracy theory to be had. But I nevertheless find it fascinating. Has anyone ever studied this? Does it just sound odd to my modern ears, or is there more there? When Kevin Drum ends blog posts with a series of questions, is it a clever device or does he genuinely want to ask his audience for answers?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Mon, 04 May 2015 16:00:07 +0000 David Dayen 274681 at Tales From City of Hope #11: We Have Liftoff <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday's white blood count went from just under 0.1 to just over 0.1. Let's call it 0.05 growth. Today's count is 0.2. That's growth of 0.1.</p> <p>And <em>that</em>, my friends, is exponential growth. Sure, we could use another data point or three. And some more significant digits. And if we're being picky, a coefficient or two. But screw that. To this Caltech<sup>1</sup> dropout, it looks like exponential growth has kicked in. Booyah!</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shiner_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 10px 0px 15px 30px;">In more visually exciting news, I know you all want to see my shiner, don't you? I can feel the bloodlust all the way from my hospital bed. So here it is, you ghouls. As usual with these things, it looks a lot worse than it feels. In fact, I can barely feel it all. But it's clear evidence that, yes, the bathroom really is the most dangerous room in the house.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Did you know that the proper short form for California Institute of Technology is Caltech, not CalTech? They've been trying for decades to get the rest of the world to go along, but with sadly limited success.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 03 May 2015 17:53:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 274701 at Tales From City of Hope #10: Rebound Is Here! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday my white blood count was &lt;0.1. How much less? No telling, but my doctor called it an "honorary" 0.1.</p> <p>But! Today my count is 0.1. Not much difference, you say, but it doesn't matter. It's higher than yesterday, and that means my transplanted stem cells are busily engrafting themselves and morphing into various blood products. Progress will be slow at first, but Friday was officially my bottom. Within a few days, my counts should start taking off much more rapidly. Huzzah.</p> <p>In less good news, I slipped in the bathroom last night and got a pulled neck muscle and a black eye for my trouble. All I need now is a swastika tattoo and I'll have the whole skinhead look down cold.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 02 May 2015 17:19:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 274686 at How Humans Can Keep Superintelligent Robots From Murdering Us All <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today, we're honored to present a post from <a href="">Bill Gardner</a>, a health services researcher in Ottawa, Ontario, and a blogger at </em><a href="">The Incidental Economist</a><em>.</em></p> <p>This weekend, you, I, and about 100 million other people will see <em><a href="" target="_blank">Avengers: Age of Ultron</a></em>. The story is that Tony Stark builds Ultron, an artificially intelligent robot, to protect Earth. But Ultron decides that the best way to fulfill his mission is to exterminate humanity. Violence ensues.</p> <p>You will likely dismiss the premise of the story. But in a <a href="" target="_blank">book</a> I highly recommend, Oxford philosopher <a href="" target="_blank">Nick Bostrom</a> argues that sometime in the future a machine will achieve "general intelligence," that is, the ability to solve problems in virtually all domains of interest. Because one such domain is research in artificial intelligence, the machine would be able to rapidly improve itself.</p> <p>The abilities of such a machine would quickly transcend our abilities. The difference, Bostrom believes, would not be like that between Einstein and a cognitively disabled person. The difference would be like that between Einstein and a beetle. When this happens, machines can and likely would displace humans as the dominant life form. Humans may be trapped in a dystopia, if they survive at all.</p> <p>Competent people&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">Elon Musk, Bill Gates</a>&mdash;take this risk seriously. <a href="" target="_blank">Stephen Hawking and physics Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek</a> worry that we are not thinking hard enough about the future of artificial intelligence.</p> <blockquote> <p>So, facing possible futures of incalculable benefits and risks, the experts are surely doing everything possible to ensure the best outcome, right? Wrong. If a superior alien civilization sent us a text message saying, "We'll arrive in a few decades," would we just reply, "OK, call us when you get here&mdash;we'll leave the lights on"? Probably not&mdash;but this is more or less what is happening with AI&hellip;little serious research is devoted to these issues&hellip;All of us&hellip;should ask ourselves what can we do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks.</p> </blockquote> <p>There are also competent people who dismiss these concerns. University of California-Berkeley philosopher <a href="" target="_blank">John Searle</a> argues that intelligence requires qualities that computers lack, including consciousness and motivation. This doesn't mean that we are safe from artificially intelligent machines. Perhaps in the future killer drones will hunt all humans, not just Al Qaeda. But Searle claims that if this happens, it won't be because the drones reflected on their goals and decided that they needed to kill us. It will be because human beings have programmed drones to kill us.</p> <p>Searle has made this argument for years, but has never offered a reason why it will always be impossible to engineer machines with autonomy and general intelligence. If it's not impossible, we need to look for possible paths of human evolution in which we safely benefit from the enormous potential of artificial intelligence.</p> <p>What can we do? I'm a wild optimist. In my lifetime I have seen an extraordinary expansion of human capabilities for creation and community. Perhaps there is a future in which individual and collective human intelligence can grow rapidly enough that we keep our place as free beings. Perhaps humans can acquire cognitive superpowers.</p> <p>But the greatest challenge of the future will not be the engineering of this commonwealth, but rather its governance. So we have to think big, think long-term, and live in hope. We need to cooperate as a species and steer our technological development so that we do not create machines that displace us. At the same time, we need to protect ourselves from the expanding surveillance of our current governments (such as <a href="" target="_blank">China's Great Firewall</a> or the <a href="" target="_blank">NSA</a>). I doubt we can achieve this enhanced community unless we also find a way to make sure the superpowers of enhanced cognition are available to everyone. Maybe the only alternative to dystopia will be utopia.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Tech Top Stories Sat, 02 May 2015 10:30:06 +0000 Bill Gardner 274591 at If Black People Lived As Long As White People, Election Results Would Be Very Different <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With the mortality rate for black Americans about 18 percent higher than it is for white Americans, premature black deaths have affected the results of US elections, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Oxford.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The study</a>, published in <em>Social Science &amp; Medicine </em>and highlighted on Friday by the UK-based <a href=";utm_source=NSNS&amp;utm_medium=SOC&amp;utm_campaign=twitter&amp;cmpid=SOC%7CNSNS%7C2014-GLOBAL-twitter#.VUO3Q14oh91" target="_blank"><em>New Scientist</em></a>, shows how the outcomes of elections between 1970 and 2004&mdash;including the presidential race between John Kerry and George W. Bush&mdash;might have been affected if there hadn't been such a disparity in the death rate. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.5 million black people died during that 35-year period. But if the mortality rates had been comparable, an additional 2.7 million black people would have been alive, and of those, an estimated 1 million would have cast votes in the 2004 election. Bush likely still would have won that race. But some state-level races might have turned out differently: The results would have been reversed in an estimated seven US Senate elections and 11 gubernatorial elections during the 35-year period, the researchers found, assuming that the hypothetical additional voters had cast their ballots in line with actual black voters, who tend to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.</p> <p>And that's before even getting to <a href="" target="_blank">incarceration</a>. Additional elections potentially would have turned out differently if voting-age black Americans who were previously convicted of felonies had been able to cast a ballot. As <em>New Scientist</em> explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>Accounting for people disenfranchised by felony convictions would have likely reversed three other senate seats. In at least one state, Missouri, accounting for just excess deaths or felony disenfranchisement would not have been sufficient to reverse the senate election &ndash; but both sources of lost votes taken together would have.</p> </blockquote> <p>While everyone's attention right now is on racial injustice in the context of policing, one of the study's authors, <a href="" target="_blank">Arline Geronimus,</a> noted that most premature black deaths were linked to <a href="" target="_blank">chronic health conditions</a> that afflict black people more than white people. "If you're losing a voting population, you're losing the support for the policies that would help that population," she told <em>New Scientist</em>. "As long as there's this huge inequality in health and mortality, there's a diminished voice to speak out against the problem."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Race and Ethnicity Top Stories Fri, 01 May 2015 22:15:29 +0000 Samantha Michaels 274661 at Friday Cat Blogging - May 1 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With Kevin concentrating on his cancer treatment, we've rounded up some big writers to keep things rolling on the blog by contributing posts in his honor. But let's be honest: nothing's bigger on the internet than cats. So in addition to appearances from <a href="" target="_blank">Hopper and Hilbert</a>, we're taking this chance to introduce you to some other cats behind the people at <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Today, that's Olga, who lives in Oakland with Lynnea Wool, our senior staff accountant. Among many other things, Lynnea is responsible for (full disclosure) making sure I get my paycheck. So I'd better blog carefully.</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/der.jpg"></center> <p>Olga was the runt of a litter of Himalayan Persians when Lynnea adopted her one fine day seven years ago. Since then, they've had many happy moments. She just loves to have her armpits scratched:</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pitcrop.jpg"></center> <p>For a special treat, her cat-mom will put a small piece of cheese&mdash;the stinkier the better&mdash;straight on her tongue.</p> <p>This longhair needs regular trims, and I was very impressed to hear about Lynnea's method. While Olga's sleeping on her side, Lynnea will cut one half. Olga wakes up looking something like <a href="" target="_blank">Two-Face</a>, and roams around like that until Lynnea happens to catch her sleeping on her other side. Wish we had a picture of that! But you'll have to agree this one's a pretty good consolation prize:</p> <center><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/olgahat.jpg"></center></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 May 2015 19:35:05 +0000 Clint Hendler 274631 at Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 1 May 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For humans, May Day is a time to celebrate worker solidarity. For Hilbert, it's time to show how jealous he is that Hopper fits under the desk and he doesn't. As you can guess, however, he got bored quickly and headed over to the sofa for a snooze. Hopper, ever victorious, slithered out with no resistance and licked her paws in triumph.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_hilbert_2015_05_01.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 May 2015 16:00:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 274606 at The GOP Is Trying to Give the 25 Richest Americans a $334 Billion Tax Break <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In mid April, the Republican-controlled House voted to repeal the estate tax, which, despite the GOP's&nbsp;"<a href="" target="_blank">death tax</a>" messaging, affects only the superrich: Of the nearly 2.6 million Americans who died <a href="" target="_blank">in 2013</a>, just 4,687 had estates flush enough to trigger the tax. That's because the bar to qualify for the estate tax is quite generous: The first $5.43 million of an individual's wealth is exempt from the tax, and that amount goes up to $10.86 million for married couples. After that point, the tax rate is 40 percent.</p> <p>The <a href="">Center for Effective Government</a> (CEG) calculated how much the 25 richest Americans would save if this repeal on the estate tax were to become law. The final tab: $334 billion.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/CEG-Chart.jpg"><div class="caption">Center for Effective Government</div> </div> <p>That's a lot of cash! CEG calculated that $334 billion in taxes would be enough to:</p> <ol><li><strong>Cut the nation's student debt by one-third:</strong> The total could be distributed by giving $25,000 in debt relief to each of the 13 million Americans trying to pay off student loans.</li> <li><strong>Repair or replace every single deficient school AND bridge in America:</strong> Give kids more resources for a better education, and get the country's structurally deficient bridges up to snuff.</li> <li><strong>Give every new US baby a chunk of change:</strong> $1,000 at birth, and then $500 a year until their 18th birthday, making a $10,000 nest egg to put toward education, a home, or other opportunities.</li> <li><strong>Repair all leaking wastewater systems, sewage plumbing, and dams:</strong> Thus improving the health of lakes, rivers, and oceans nationwide.</li> </ol><p>Of course, it's unlikely the tax will actually get repealed. Even if the bill makes it past the Senate, President Obama has <a href="" target="_blank">promised to veto</a> it. But as the election season heats up with economic inequality at its forefront, the repercussions of the bill are likely to be more political than financial. As Robert J. Samuelson writes at the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Post</em></a>, the GOP has "handed Democrats a priceless campaign gift: a made-for-TV (and Internet) video depicting Republicans as lackeys of the rich."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Income Inequality The Right Fri, 01 May 2015 13:00:07 +0000 Hannah Levintova 274406 at Freddie Gray and the Real Lesson of Urban Policing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> features a simple headline today that encompasses decades of personal tragedy and public policy disaster:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Freddie Gray&rsquo;s life a study in the sad effects of lead paint on poor blacks</strong></a></p> </blockquote> <p>When Freddie Gray was <em>22 months old</em>, he had a tested blood lead level of 37 micrograms per deciliter. This is an absolutely astronomical amount. Freddie never even had the slightest chance of growing up normally. Lead poisoning doomed him from the start to a life of heightened aggression, poor learning abilities, and weak impulse control. His life was a tragedy set in motion the day he was born.</p> <p>But even from the midst of my chemo haze, I want to make a short, sharp point about this that goes far beyond just Gray's personal tragedy. It's this: thanks both to lead paint and leaded gasoline, there were lots of teenagers like Freddie Gray in the 90s. This created a huge and genuinely scary wave of violent crime, and in response we turned many of our urban police forces into occupying armies. This may have been wrong even then, but it was hardly <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_violent_crime_six_large_cities_small.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">inexplicable. Decades of lead poisoning really had created huge numbers of scarily violent teenagers, and a massive, militaristic response may have seemed like the only way to even begin to hold the line.</p> <p>But here's the thing: <em>that era is over</em>. Individual tragedies like Freddie Gray are still too common, but overall lead poisoning has plummeted. As a result, our cities are safer <em>because our kids are fundamentally less dangerous</em>. To a large extent, they are now normal teenagers, not lead-poisoned predators.</p> <p>This is important, because even if you're a hard-ass law-and-order type, you should understand that we no longer need urban police departments to act like occupying armies. The 90s are gone, and today's teenagers are just ordinary teenagers. They still act stupid and some of them are still violent, but they can be dealt with using ordinary urban policing tactics. We don't need to constantly harass and bully them; we don't need to haul them in for every petty infraction; we don't need to beat them senseless; and we don't need to incarcerate them by the millions.</p> <p>We just don't. We live in a different, safer era, and it's time for all of us&mdash;voters, politicians, cops, parents&mdash;to get this through our collective heads. Generation Lead is over, thank God. Let's stop pretending it's always and forever 1993. Reform is way overdue.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Apr 2015 15:58:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 274561 at Here's What Economists Cheering For The Pacific Trade Deal Are Missing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going.&nbsp;Today we're honored to present a post from <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias</a>, currently the executive editor of </em>Vox<em>.</em></p> <p>There is almost nothing in the whole wide world that economists like better than recounting David Ricardo's basic case for free trade. And this is sort of understandable. It's a really cool idea!</p> <p>If you don't believe me, check out <a href="" target="_blank">Paul Krugman's 1995 essay on the subject</a>. But for the dime store version, what Ricardo showed&mdash;and what economists have been enthusing about ever since&mdash;is that Country A benefits (in the sense of what's nowadays known as <a href="" target="_blank">Kaldor-Hicks Efficiency</a>) from opening up its domestic producers to competition from imports from Country B, even if Country B is better at producing everything.</p> <p>It's a cool result.</p> <p>But oftentimes enthusiasm for this result seems to lead Ph.D. economists into all kinds of wild irrelevancies like former Council of Economic Advisors Chair Greg Mankiw's <a href=";_r=1&amp;abt=0002&amp;abg=1" target="_blank">enthusiastic endorsement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership</a>. Mankiw focuses on Adam Smith rather than Ricardo, but in both cases the point is the same&mdash;18th-century economists showed that the efficiency of an economy can be improved by opening itself up to imports from abroad.</p> <p>This is very true, but it also tells us very little about the merits of a 21st-century trade agreement.</p> <p>One huge flaw is that while classical economics has a fair amount to tell us about the wealth of nations, it doesn't say much at all about the wealth of the individual people inside the nations. A trade deal that enriches Americans who own lots of shares of stock and Central Americans who own lots of plantation land could easily pass the (low) economic bar of efficiency while still making most people worse off.</p> <p>But an even bigger problem is that many of the biggest barriers to international trade don't come conveniently labeled as barriers to international trade.</p> <p>Take the <a href="" target="_blank">Jones Act</a> here in the United States, which says that if you want to ship goods on a boat from one American port to another American port, you need to do so on boats constructed in the United States and owned by US citizens, staffed by US citizens and legal permanent residents, and crewed by US citizens and US permanent residents. Common sense says that this is protectionism for American ship owners, shipyards, and ship crews.</p> <p>But the actual text of the Jones Act says otherwise. What the 1920 law says is that a merchant marine "sufficient to carry the waterborne domestic commerce&hellip;of the United States" is "necessary for the national defense." In other words, we dare not let foreign-owned ships outcompete domestic ones as a matter of national security.</p> <p>Conversely, if you look at <a href="" target="_blank">Japan's legendarily protected domestic automobile market</a> you will find essentially nothing in the way of formal barriers to foreign trade. Tariffs on imported automobiles, for example, are currently at zero. The way it works, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the American Auto Council</a>, is that "Japan has used automotive technical regulations as a means to protect local markets by creating excessively difficult and costly regulatory and certification requirements, with little or no safety or emissions benefits."</p> <p>That these regulations are mere protectionism is overwhelming conventional wisdom in the United States. But of course, proponents of the Japanese status quo no more see it that way than do proponents of the Jones Act here at home. These are necessary regulations! This is the dilemma of the modern trade agreement.</p> <p>Smith and Ricardo never imagined a world in which governments routinely regulated large classes of products to promote consumer safety, workers' rights, environmental goals, or national security goals. But lurking behind every regulation is potentially a barrier to trade. What the US Food and Drug Administration sees as <a href="" target="_blank">public health regulation of dangerous cheese bacteria</a> looks like protectionism to French cheesemakers, and what European Union officials see as <a href="" target="_blank">public health regulation of hormone-treated beef</a> looks like protectionism to American ranchers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Foreign Policy International Regulatory Affairs Top Stories To Kevin! Thu, 30 Apr 2015 13:00:06 +0000 Matt Yglesias 274466 at Tales From City of Hope #9: Day +6 Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="290" iframe="" src=";end=122" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;" width="350"></iframe>My white blood count has plummeted to 0.2, my immune system is all but destroyed, and I feel terrible.</p> <p>In other words, everything is going perfectly. My white blood count will probably drop a bit more tomorrow and then plateau for a day or two. Around Saturday or so new cells will start engrafting and my counts will start to rise fairly quickly. That's the road to recovery, and so far there have been no hiccups at all.</p> <p>Until then, endless fatigue is my fate. But it will improve soon enough, I hope. In the meantime, the video clip on the right pretty much captures my current mood.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Apr 2015 23:11:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 274541 at How the Aurora Mass Shooting Cost More Than $100 Million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/gun-violence-cost-mininav_0.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-272651"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america"> What Does Gun Violence Really Cost?</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273001"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/04/charts-show-cost-price-gun-violence-america"> 16 Charts That Show the Shocking Cost of Gun Violence in America</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-272956"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/04/survivors-of-gun-violence"> This Is What It's Like to Survive a Gunshot</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273341"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/04/methodology-gun-violence-data-ted-miller"> Methodology: the Data Behind Our Investigation</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-273371"> <li><a href="/politics/2015/04/video-data-cost-of-gun-violence"> Watch: The Total Cost of Gun Violence&acirc;&#128;&#148;in 90 Seconds</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>"We focus on the proceedings. We focus on the death penalty. We focus on the perpetrator. But we don't focus on the people affected."</p> <p>That was how Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi was among the 12 people murdered in a movie theater in July 2012, <a href="" target="_blank">described</a> the American public's perception as the trial of mass shooter James Holmes got underway on Monday in Aurora, Colorado. It's a fair point given the <a href="" target="_blank">inordinate attention</a> that such killers crave, and tend to get, <a href="" target="_blank">from the media</a>. Yet as Phillips also noted, "that ripple effect of how many people are affected by one act by one person, one animal, is incredibly large."</p> <p>She's right&mdash;not just in terms of the trauma and suffering borne by the victims (an additional 58 wounded and 12 others injured in the chaos), their families, and their communities, but also in terms of the literal cost. The price tag for what was one of the worst mass murders in US history is in fact stunningly high: well over $100 million, according to our groundbreaking investigation into <a href="" target="_blank">the costs of gun violence</a> published earlier this month.</p> <p>For a quick explanation of the data behind the large sums our country pays for this problem, watch the following <a href="" target="_blank">90-second video</a>, with more details on the Aurora tally continuing just below:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src=";showinfo=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The economic impact of Aurora: For starters, long before the attorneys gave opening statements this week, legal proceedings for Holmes had already topped <a href="" target="_blank">$5.5 million</a> back in February, including expenses related to the unusually large pool of 9,000 prospective jurors called for the case. Add to that the total costs for each of the 12 victims killed: At an average of about <a href="" target="_blank">$6 million each</a>, that's another $72 million. For the 58 who survived gunshots and were hospitalized, with an average total cost for each working out to about $583,000, add another $33 million. (Costs for some of the gunshot survivors may have varied widely, of course.) And these figures don't even begin to account for what the city of Aurora, the state of Colorado, and the federal government have since spent on <a href="" target="_blank">security and prevention</a> related to the attack.</p> <p>Indeed, <a href="" target="_blank">a mass shooting</a> like the one in Aurora doesn't just have an outsize psychological impact but also a financial one. And these days, fiscal conservatives may want to note, we're <a href="" target="_blank">paying that price more often</a>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Economy Guns Top Stories Wed, 29 Apr 2015 16:18:13 +0000 Mark Follman 274476 at How Many Like Baltimore's Freddie Gray Have Been Killed in Police Custody? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For many in Baltimore, Freddie Gray's death was shocking but came as little surprise. It was only a matter of time, some <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>, before Baltimore erupted the way Ferguson, Missouri, did last summer. While <a href="" target="_blank">no one knows</a> exactly how many Americans die in police custody each year, limited data gathered by the Bureau of Justice Statistics starts to give some sense of scale: At least 4,813 people died while in custody of local and state law enforcement between 2003 and 2009, according to the latest available report, published in 2011. Sixty-one percent of those deaths were classified as homicides.</p> <p>As I <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> last August in <em>Mother Jones</em>, the BJS collects data on what it calls "<a href="" target="_blank">arrest-related deaths</a>" that occur either during or shortly after police officers "engage in an arrest or restraint process." The agency <a href=";tid=82" target="_blank">reports</a> that 41.7 percent of those who were deemed to have been killed by police while in custody were white, 31.7 percent were black, and 20.3 percent were Hispanic. (Others died from intoxication, suicide, or by accidental, natural, or unknown causes.)</p> <p>But you could be forgiven for suspecting that's not the full picture: There were an estimated 98 million arrests in the United States by local, state, and federal law enforcement from 2003 to 2009, according to FBI statistics. Fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia, did not consistently report deaths in police custody during that period&mdash;and Maryland, along with Georgia and Montana, didn't submit any records at all.</p> <p>In other words, as the turmoil in Baltimore continues, what the data seems to tell us at this point is just how much we still don't know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Top Stories Wed, 29 Apr 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Jaeah Lee 274416 at Genetically Engineered Happiness Probably Doesn't Mean Fewer Geniuses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Matt Yglesias says that becoming a new father has <a href="" target="_blank">changed his mind about genetic engineering:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The main thing is that I now have an instinctive, gut-level understanding of what it is I want for my kid as a parent. And the main thing is that my parental aspirations are very asymmetrical. You want the kid to grow up to be basically happy and healthy. Anything beyond that in terms of genuinely noteworthy achievements would be nice, but honestly not that much nicer than "basically happy and healthy." By contrast, falling significantly short of "basically happy and healthy" would be really bad.</p> <p>....Long story short, while I used to think of genetic engineering as primarily about making future generations "better" on average, with my dad-glasses on I think it would be largely about making them more mediocre. You would curtail the left end of the distribution curve, but also the right end. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_van_gogh.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Fewer tortured geniuses and alienated, awkward loners who push the boundaries of society and technology.</p> </blockquote> <p>The image of the tortured genius is rife in Western literature, but in real life it's basically a myth. Are there tortured geniuses among us? Sure. Vincent van Gogh was famously tortured. Kurt Cobain. Georg Cantor.</p> <p>But the boring truth is that geniuses, on average, are about the same as everyone else aside from being geniuses. Einstein was perfectly well adjusted. Ditto for Shakespeare, Edison, Picasso, Maxwell, Newton, etc. They all had their own quirks and foibles, and were maybe a bit more driven than average, but fell well within the usual norms for healthy and happy. Historical studies of geniuses have all confirmed this. Being unhappy just doesn't have any effect on being a genius.</p> <p>So no worries on that score, though there are plenty of other things to worry about in the brave new world of human genetic engineering&mdash;including the fact that not all parents share Matt's value system in the first place.</p> <p>Besides, my guess is that trying to engineer geniuses is a dead end anyway. Artificial intelligence will get there first. By the the time we've finally figured out how to reliably produce the next baby Einstein, the machines will just be tittering at us behind our backs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Tue, 28 Apr 2015 18:39:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 274401 at One Last Fundraising Pitch for Our Spring Drive <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Editor's note: Kevin asked us to repost his message below if we thought it would help in the final days of our Spring Fundraising Drive&mdash;and we sure do, the response has been great and we want to be sure everyone sees it. Read his touching letter and pitch in a couple of bucks&mdash;or more&mdash;via <a href=";list_source=7Z54KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">credit card</a> or <a href=";SESSION=QKVS7qNE5yKeXncC4JXjcZQQjIVfb76C5_moWDZWWrBKbKbMykx0lMTrRN4&amp;dispatch=5885d80a13c0db1f8e263663d3faee8d96f000117187ac9edec8a65b311f447e" target="_blank">PayPal</a> if you can swing it.</em></p> <p>Our annual Spring Fundraising Drive is wrapping up at the end of the month, but as you all know, I'll be recuperating from my final round of chemotherapy in lovely Duarte, California, right about then. But I didn't want to be left out, so I asked if I could post my note a little earlier than I usually do.</p> <p>I figure if there's ever been a time when I'm allowed to get slightly more maudlin than usual, this is it. (But just slightly. I have a reputation, after all.) I've been writing for <em>Mother Jones</em> since 2008, and it's been such a great job that it's almost getting hard to remember ever working for anyone else. They've provided me with more freedom <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_keep_calm_donate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to write whatever I want than anyone could hope for. That's been great for me, and I hope for all of you too.</p> <p>Writing for the print magazine has been a huge gift as well, and it's something I dearly hope to return to when all the chemotherapy is over and my strength is back to normal. It's been a privilege to share pages with such an amazingly talented bunch of journalists.</p> <p>Truthfully, I've been blessed to have such a great editorial team over the past few months, as well as such a great readership. You guys are truly the best to go through something like this with.</p> <p>So here's the ask: <em>Mother Jones</em> has done a lot for me and a lot for you over the past few years, and when I get back they're going to keep right on doing it. That makes this fundraising request a little more personal than usual, but if there's ever been a time for you to show your appreciation, this is it. If you can afford five dollars, that's plenty. If you can afford a thousand, then pony up, because you're pretty lucky, aren't you? Either way, when I get back I sure hope to see that my readers have really stepped up to the plate.</p> <p>Readers like you are a big part of what makes <em>Mother Jones</em> such a unique place. Your support allows me to write about what&rsquo;s truly important, rather than obsessing over whatever generates the most clicks and advertising revenue. And it's not just me. It gives all of us the independence to write about issues that other places won't touch. It means that we ultimately answer to you, our readers, and not a corporate parent company or shareholders (and you've never been shy about letting us know what you think!).</p> <p>Thanks for helping make <em>Mother Jones</em> what it is, and for making the last seven years some of the best of my life. And thanks in advance for whatever you can give to keep both me and <em>Mother Jones</em> going strong. Here are the links for donations:</p> <p><a href=";list_source=7Z54KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Donate by credit card here.</a></p> <p><a href=";hosted_button_id=JVT34NP6NHQM2" target="_blank">Donate by PayPal here.</a></p> <p><strong>P.S.</strong> Share this post on Facebook! That will help it get more attention.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 274336 at Politics Is Theater—and Sometimes We Need to Cover it That Way <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today we're honored to present a post from </em>BloombergView<em>'s <a href="" target="_blank">Jonathan Bernstein</a></em><em>, who began his career as political scientist. Since launching <a href="" target="_blank">his blog</a> in 2009, he's gone on to write about politics and government for the</em> American Prospect<em>, the </em>Washington Post<em>, and many other outlets. </em></p> <p>I write today in defense of the theater criticism style of campaign reporting, which took solid hits from <a href="" target="_blank">Derek Thompson</a> and (in somewhat different wording) <a href="" target="_blank">Paul Waldman</a> this week. Thompson puts it this way:</p> <blockquote> <p>A great deal of political writing these days is indistinguishable from theater criticism: Its chief concerns are storyline, costumes, and the quality of public performances....</p> <p>To state the obvious: This is a really dumb way to try to cover elections. Theater-critic journalism is certainly not as substantive as policy analysis. It's also neither as meaty as terrific behind-the-scenes reporting, nor as harmless as anodyne horse-race coverage. It is, rather, personal opinion about a candidate's authenticity masquerading as nonpartisan analysis of their ability to connect with voters, often detached from any analysis of whether the candidate is really connecting with voters. It is a popular critic, in the orchestra section, writing in the first-person plural.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sure, there's some terrible theater criticism stuff out there, and if we retired debates about "authenticity" today, it would be a great victory for common sense.</p> <p>But the problem isn't reporting on candidate rhetoric as if it was theater. In many ways, it is theater! General election debates or official declarations of candidacy, for example, mostly do not affect election outcomes or reveal who candidates truly are. But that doesn't mean they should be ignored.</p> <p>Let's start over. The real problems come when reporters go beyond what they know, and sometimes beyond what they can know.</p> <p>That's the case when they use candidate performances to try to figure out who the "real" person underneath the candidate persona might be. In politics, it's the persona that counts. Politicians, when elected, try to keep their promises. But that includes more than policy promises. It also means that they try to "be" the person they promised to be on the campaign trail&mdash;and they're often punished if they try to deviate from that (so, for example, Barack Obama is punished when he acts as a partisan cheerleader in part because he promised to be a more unifying figure).</p> <p>It's also the case in "game changer" journalism, when reporters insist that whatever they are covering is important because it will have a direct effect on election outcomes. The brutal truth is that most campaign events don't have much to do with winning and losing. But they can still be important because they might affect how the winner will govern. Or they may not be "important" at all, but are still interesting in the way any human interest story can be interesting. If politics is important&mdash;and it is&mdash;then there's nothing wrong with wanting to know what it's like to be at events, or in the back rooms.</p> <p>Good (regular) theater criticism doesn't usually focus on what an actor's choices mean about who he really is; nor does it primarily concern itself with whether a particular bit of staging will turn a show into a hit or a flop. If theater-critic political journalism can avoid those traps, I'm all for it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Media Tue, 28 Apr 2015 13:25:04 +0000 Jonathan Bernstein 274296 at Good Luck Going After the Pope, Climate Deniers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If you write about climate change for a living, <a href="" target="_blank">you get used to being</a> on the receiving end of tweets, emails, and comments explaining why manmade global warming is a colossal hoax. But it turns out that if you're the pope, the trolls take things a bit further. From our <a href="" target="_blank">partners at the </a><em><a href="" target="_blank">Guardian</a>:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>A US activist group that has received funding from energy companies and the foundation controlled by conservative activist Charles Koch is trying to persuade the Vatican that "there is no global warming crisis" ahead of an environmental statement by Pope Francis this summer that is expected to call for strong action to combat climate change.</p> <p>The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative thinktank that seeks to discredit established science on climate change, said it was sending a team of climate scientists to Rome "to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science."</p> <p>"Though Pope Francis's heart is surely in the right place, he would do his flock and the world a disservice by putting his moral authority behind the United Nations' unscientific agenda on the climate," Joseph Bast, Heartland's president, said in a statement.</p> <p>Jim Lakely, a Heartland spokesman, said the thinktank was "working on" securing a meeting with the Vatican. "I think Catholics should examine the evidence for themselves, and understand that the Holy Father is an authority on spiritual matters, not scientific ones," he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>The pope and his aides have publicly <a href="" target="_blank">embraced</a> the scientific consensus that humans are warming the planet, and tomorrow the Vatican is <a href="" target="_blank">putting on a summit</a> entitled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development." Heartland beat them to the punch, setting up a <a href="" target="_blank">"prebuttal"</a> event on Monday in Rome.&nbsp;Heartland seems especially upset that the Vatican summit will feature two notable figures&mdash;UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and economist Jeffrey Sachs&mdash;who, it says, "refuse to acknowledge the abundant data showing human greenhouse gas emissions are not causing a climate crisis."</p> <p>Heartland is also encouraging its followers to <a href="" target="_blank">send letters and emails</a> to the pope and to spread the gospel of global warming denial to their local church officials. "Talk to your minister, priest, or spiritual leader," advises Heartland's website. "Tell him or her you've studied the global warming issue and believe Pope Francis is being misled about the science and economics of the issue."</p> <p>As my colleague James West <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a>, a sizeable majority of US Catholics actually share the pope's belief the climate change is a serious threat. Heartland seems to be trying to shift their views on the issue by portraying climate activists as hostile to Catholic values. In an <em>American Spectator </em>op-ed today (headline: "Francis Is Out of His Element"), Heartland research fellow H. Sterling Burnett <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Those pushing for bans on fossil fuel use think too many humans are <em>the</em> environmental problem. Many of them worship the creation, not the Creator. The same people pushing the pope to join the fight against climate change support forcible population control programs such as those operating in China. That is not a Christian position.</p> </blockquote> <p>On its website, Heartland goes even further, writing that "climate alarmists have misrepresented the facts, concocted false data, and tried to shut down a reasonable, scientific debate on the&nbsp;issue of climate change. This conduct violates the&nbsp;Eighth Commandment: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'"</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>It's energy restrictions based on climate fears that really threaten the poor <a href=""></a> <a href="">#ClimateHysteria</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Heartland Institute (@HeartlandInst) <a href="">April 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Kevin Drum Climate Change Climate Desk Religion Science Mon, 27 Apr 2015 19:18:20 +0000 Jeremy Schulman 274281 at Republicans Painting Hillary Clinton As a Tool of the Superrich Forget One Little Thing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is <a href="" target="_blank">focused on getting better</a>, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 to this day to contribute posts and keep the conversation going. Today we're honored to present a post from </em>New York <em>magazine's <a href="" target="_blank">Jonathan Chait</a>, whose writing on politics has been published by the </em>New Republic<em>, the </em>American Prospect<em>, and the </em>Los Angeles Times<em>.</em></p> <p>Barack Obama was raised by a financially struggling single mother, and Mitt Romney was the son of an auto executive turned governor who grew up to be a gazillionaire in the financial industry. This made biographical populism an unfruitful subject for the right in 2012. But circumstances have changed a bit. Hillary Clinton and her husband have grown extremely rich in their post&ndash;White House years, and the Republican Party is cultivating at least a couple of potential candidates, like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, who boast of their modest backgrounds. Republicans are licking their lips for a year and a half of Hillary-as&ndash;Leona Helmsley, flying around in private jets, luxuriating in wealth, and disingenuously pretending to care about the struggles of average Americans. There is, however, one wee problem in the Republican populist plot. That is the policy agenda.</p> <p>Conservative writer <a href="" target="_blank">Jay Cost</a> is already looking ahead to this problem, which he presents as a kind of dodge. After flaying Clinton for her wealth, he fumes, "Really, the only claim Clinton can make to understanding the travails of everyday Americans is her party's platform," writes Cost, "Endorsement of that document is a kind of sacrament that bestows the power of empathy upon every Democratic pol. This is perhaps the most absurd premise of the Clinton candidacy."</p> <p>This is a strange and revealing passage. He argues that Clinton is a tool of the rich, and the only possible fact undermining this otherwise obvious reality is her party's platform, i.e., the stuff she would do as president. This is an "absurd" premise upon which to cast her as a populist if you think of elections as a soap opera drama between two individuals. It makes a lot of sense if you think about the presidency as a vehicle to change public policy.</p> <p>And the cardinal fact of the modern political age is that the two parties are primarily fighting over redistribution. Democrats want the government to tax the rich at higher levels and spend more to support the poor, and Republicans want the opposite. The major political fights of the last three decades, from the Reagan tax cuts to the Clinton tax hikes to Clintoncare to the Bush tax cuts to Obamacare to the Ryan budget, have all been centered on the redistributionary principle.</p> <p>And yet some conservatives don't want the Republican Party to invest its political capital so heavily in this fight. Maybe they don't care that much about overtaxing the rich. Or maybe they believe, accurately, that the political price of having to defend tax cuts for the 1 percent crowds out policies that appeal to the 99 percent, who have a lot more votes.</p> <p>One of the distinctive qualities of this group of populist conservatives is that they seem unable to distinguish between the hope that the Republican Party will adopt their policy vision and the belief that it already has. They have a habit of invoking the GOP they wish existed as though it were the real thing.</p> <p>Cost falls into this category. In the same piece, he describes a different kind of political debate, one which pits the Republicans against the economic elite, rather than on its side. He describes this alternative debate is if it were the real one:</p> <blockquote> <p>The GOP ostensibly stands for smaller, more efficient government&mdash;but it allows the Democrats to define just what sort of government we are talking about. The debate always seems to be about Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment insurance, Pell grants and Head Start. In other words, by the very terms of the conversation, big government works for the benefit of the downtrodden. Even as they defend big government, the Democrats identify themselves as the champions of the downtrodden and the GOP as their hardhearted assailants.</p> <p>But what about corporate tax payouts? Or farm subsidies for the largest agribusinesses?</p> </blockquote> <p>The debate "seems" to be about Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Pell grants, and Head Start because the Republican platform is to <a href=";id=5304" target="_blank">slash those programs deeply</a>. Those are not things Democrats have defined as the "sort of government we are talking about." Those are programs Republicans have decided to make the focal point of their economic program (along with deep cuts in taxes for the highest earning Americans, a point Cost is too embarrassed to raise in this context).</p> <p>What about corporate tax payouts and subsidies for the largest agribusinesses? Well, that would be a great debate for our hypothetical populist Republicans. The actual Republicans defend corporate tax loopholes. They will sometimes invoke them in general, as an argument for a generalized reform that lowers tax rates, but when faced with proposals to eliminate even completely egregious corporate loopholes (like the faster depreciations rate for private jets), they <a href="" target="_blank">refuse</a>. When Dave Camp went off the reservation before his retirement and designed a tax reform that did not give rich people a huge tax cut, his party abandoned him en masse and never mentioned his plan again.</p> <p>Farm subsidies are an issue that somewhat divides the parties, since rural members tend to support them regardless of their affiliation. Neither party will forthrightly eliminate them altogether, which is the position I'd favor. But the actual political divide in Washington confounds Cost's idealized one. It is the Obama administration that wants to reduce agriculture subsidies, and House Republicans <a href="" target="_blank">fighting</a> to keep them at a higher level.</p> <p>So, "what about corporate tax payouts? Or farm subsidies for the largest agribusinesses"? Well, those issues underscore the same conclusion as the issues Cost doesn't want to talk about. It would be wonderful if Republicans stopped being a party whose most despised spending programs benefit the poor and whose most acceptable spending programs benefit the middle class or even the affluent. It would likewise be nice if the Republican Party wasn't most determined to reduce (or, if possible, eliminate) the taxes <a href="" target="_blank">paid most heavily by the rich</a>, while also being most willing to raise the taxes <a href="" target="_blank">heavily paid by the poor</a>. The world would be a much better place. It is not, however, the world we inhabit.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Top Stories Mon, 27 Apr 2015 13:00:06 +0000 Jonathan Chait 274201 at The Science of How Gay Marriage Will Destroy America <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case that could legalize same-sex marriage in every state by the end of the court's term in June. To stop that from happening, supporters of the state-level bans that could be in jeopardy have filed 66 friend-of-the-court briefs, offering <a href="" target="_blank">a host</a> of social, political, and scientific reasons the court should uphold existing state bans.</p> <p>These briefs fall into a few categories. The more temperate ones <a href="" target="_blank">argue</a> that marriage should be decided at the state level&mdash;an attempt to sway Justice Anthony Kennedy without disparaging same-sex unions. Others are more dramatic in tone, such as a <a href="" target="_blank">brief</a> from the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative group in Texas, that predicts legalizing same-sex marriage would be "analogous overreaching" to "this Court's misguided attempt to impose its views on the entire country in Dred Scott," the 1857 decision often cited as one of the causes of the Civil War.</p> <p>Opponents have also tried to demonstrate more specific social harms from gay marriage in their briefs. As <em>SCOTUSblog</em>'s Lyle Denniston <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a> recently, they don't want to be caught flat-footed this time around, as they were during the Proposition 8 case over California's same-sex marriage ban. Asked how same-sex marriages would harm opposite-sex marriages during 2009 pretrial hearing in that case, conservative lawyer Chuck Cooper <a href="" target="_blank">admitted</a>, "Your Honor, my answer is: I don't know."</p> <p>Referring to the California case, attorney Gene Schaerr, who helped coordinate some of the briefs in support of the gay-marriage bans, told the <em>National Law Journal</em> recently that he "looked back at the amicus briefs<em>" </em>filed in that case. "[O]ur side had not made as powerful a social science case for the traditional definition of marriage as could be made," said Schaerr, formerly of Winston &amp; Strawn, who defended Utah's gay marriage ban last year.<a href="#correction">*</a></p> <p>This time around, Schaerr and his allies want to avoid that mistake. Here are a few of the scientific reasons submitted to the Supreme Court from the opponents of same-sex marriage:</p> <p><strong>Same-sex marriage will cause an additional 900,000 abortions: </strong>As Schaerr, the chief author of this amicus brief, <a href="" target="_blank">admits</a>, "abortion and same-sex marriage may seem unrelated." But, he has found a connection. Schaerr, writing on behalf of "100 scholars of marriage," <a href="" target="_blank">argues</a> that states with same-sex marriage have seen a decline in opposite-sex marriage by "[at] least five percent." Schaerr extrapolates this 5 percent figure, concluding that over the next 30-year "fertility cycle," nearly 1.3 million women will forego marriage. Arguing that unmarried women are more likely to get abortions, Schaerr calculates an additional 900,000 abortions. But, he <a href="" target="_blank">acknowledged</a>&nbsp;to the <em>Washington Post</em> last week, "it is still too new to do a rigorous causation analysis using statistical methods."</p> <p><strong>The "homosexual experience" leads to "early death": </strong>This is the argument put forward by Mike Huckabee Policy Solutions, an advocacy group that supports the "national policy aims" of the former Arkansas governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate, and the Family Research Institute, the "anti-gay movement's main source for&hellip;completely discredited junk science" on LGBT people, <a href="" target="_blank">according to</a> the Southern Poverty Law Center.&nbsp; Their <a href="" target="_blank">brief</a> argues that "consistent evidence indicates that individuals who engage in homosexuality experience significantly higher mortality rates than those who do not."</p> <p><strong>Children of same-sex marriages are disadvantaged:</strong> The Ruth Institute, a San Diego-based group that appears to be run by one woman,&nbsp;Jennifer Roback Morse, and seeks to address "the lies of the Sexual Revolution," <a href="" target="_blank">argues</a> that the "'consensus' that 'the kids are ok' has been manufactured by systematically excluding evidence" that they are not okay. The group is particularly worried about children not having a biological connection to both parents and predicts "social chaos, by creating a world in which families are determined by policy, rather than biology."</p> <p><strong>Same-sex marriage will hurt underprivileged women and children:</strong> A group that describes itself as "scholars of the effects that marriage law has on the welfare of women, children, and underprivileged populations," and including <a href="" target="_blank">gay marriage foe</a> Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage, <a href="" target="_blank">claim</a> that marriage is particularly helpful to the stability and economic status of poor Americans. But redefining marriage, they argue, would create a new era "where men and women are viewed as interchangeable, nonessential facets of family life; and where the law has cemented marriage as a mere governmental capstone of a loving relationship." Without marriage's "historical" focus on procreation and stability, single mothers will end up raising children on their own, hurting their economic outlook.</p> <p id="correction"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article suggested that Winston &amp; Strawn defended Utah's ban. It did not.</em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Gay Rights Supreme Court Top Stories Mon, 27 Apr 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Pema Levy 274196 at Tales From City of Hope #8: The Day +3 Cake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_day3_cake.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">As promised, the Day +3 cake arrived today, produced with a mother's love along with an assist from Duncan Hines. That's the childhood formula, so that's what I got. I will spend the next few days in a chocolate coma.</p> <p>Marian visited today too, which was a good thing. My fatigue is getting ever worse, and when I got back from my daily hydration I pretty much crashed for two hours. So the visit was mostly between Marian and my mother. I woke up just in time to say goodbye. Before I crashed, however, I did get this badly-composed selfie of the three of us, all sporting our now-stylish surgical masks. Enjoy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_three_amigos.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Apr 2015 03:45:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 274261 at Quote of the Day: George Bush Still in Foreign Policy Denial <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>From Bloomberg's Josh Rogin, after reading a transcript of George W. Bush's remarks on the Middle East to a <a href="" target="_blank">closed-door meeting with Jewish donors this weekend:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For George W. Bush, the remarks in Vegas showed he has little respect for how the current president is running the world. He also revealed that he takes little responsibility for the policies that he put in place that contributed to the current state of affairs.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep, that sounds like the George Bush we all came to know and love. My favorite quote: "In order to be an effective president ... when you say something you have to mean it," he said. "You gotta kill em."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Bush Foreign Policy Mon, 27 Apr 2015 01:57:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 274256 at The Law, In Its Finnish Majesty.... <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In Finland, a speeding ticket costs you more if you're rich than if you're poor. Fair enough, perhaps. "The thinking here is that if it stings for the little guy, it should sting for the big guy, too," says the <em>New York Times</em>.</p> <p>In any case, I already knew this. <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">What I didn't know was the formula:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The fines are calculated based on half an offender&rsquo;s daily net income, with some consideration for the number of children under his or her roof and a deduction deemed to be enough to cover basic living expenses, currently 255 euros per month.</p> <p>Then, that figure is multiplied by the number of days of income the offender should lose, according to the severity of the offense.</p> <p>Mr. Kuisla, a betting man who parlayed his winnings into a real estate empire, was clocked speeding near the Seinajoki airport. Given the speed he was going, Mr. Kuisla was assessed eight days. His fine was then calculated from his 2013 income, 6,559,742 euros, or more than $7 million at current exchange rates.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sadly for Reima Kuisla, he was clocked at 103 kph, which set him back a whopping 54,024 euros. However, if he'd been traveling just 3 kph slower, his fine would have been only 100 euros. No matter what you think of the social justice of this system, that does seem like a bit of a steep spike, doesn't it?</p> <p>Here in America, though, perhaps we have different priorities. What minor but annoying infractions would you like to apply this system to here in the good 'ol USA?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Apr 2015 17:04:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 274246 at Tales From City of Hope #7: Weekend 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_day_3_cake.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;" width="290">Since my actual stem cell transplant happened on Thursday, that counts as Day Zero. Today is Day +2. It turns out that part of the prep for the transplant was an IV injection of both Benadryl and Ativan, so I was pretty conked out the entire day. Friday was about the same. Strong stuff, but today I seem to be more alert. For now, anyway.</p> <p>My white cell count continues to drop, which is paradoxically a good thing. Basically, my immune system will drop nearly to zero, probably around Monday or Tuesday, and then begin rebounding. Assuming nothing goes wrong, the main effect will be lots of fatigue and poor appetite. So let's hope nothing goes wrong, shall we?</p> <p>In the meantime, while I wait for a guest post from President Obama, my mother has promised to deliver me a traditional chocolate birthday cake of my childhood on Sunday. We shall christen it the Day +3 cake since we're not even within shouting distance of my birthday at the moment.</p> <p>Otherwise, today is busy! Marian is here, doing some laundry while I'm being hydrated for four hours. Later my sister is coming, and our friend Eileen a little after that. Should be quite the party.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Apr 2015 16:54:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 274216 at Friday Cat Blogging - April 24 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>While Kevin is undergoing treatment, we've invited <a href="" target="_blank">lots of</a> <a href="" target="_blank">exciting</a> <a href="" target="_blank">guest</a> <a href="" target="_blank">writers</a> to stop by in his honor. But there's no reason the hospitality can't extend to another species, is there?</p> <p>This week's <em>Mother Jones </em>affiliated cat is Max, who joined&nbsp;reporter <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Caldwell</a> last summer as the fifth (and only feline) resident of his Washington, DC row house. Here's a shot of Max exploring the dark corners of his realm.</p> <center> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">So amazed to discover the underground territory</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on <time datetime="2015-01-14T03:02:07+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Jan 13, 2015 at 7:02pm PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Max's background is almost as shrouded and mysterious as that crawl space. How old is he? No one knows. How many people have cared for him before Pat and his roommates? No one's quite sure about that either.</p> <p>As the story goes, Max has been bequeathed from shared home to shared home like a well-loved futon as his keepers have, one after the other, moved out of the beltway. And while that might make him sound like a very mobile cat, Pat reports he's quite sedentary in most respects. His favorite form of play&mdash;swatting at things just above his head&mdash;can and usually is performed while reclining on his back. This Thanksgiving, he gave the humans a brief scare by slipping away while they were out celebrating. But true to his nature, when they came home Max seemed to have whiled away the hours just a few yards from the window they'd mistakenly left open.</p> <p>Unlike <a href="" target="_blank">Hilbert and Hopper</a>, Max can't count on Southern California's sun to keep him warm, so over the winter his roommates cleverly rigged up a cat bed right above a radiator. Ready for a nap?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">I feel ya buddy</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on <time datetime="2015-02-21T18:34:04+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Feb 21, 2015 at 10:34am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the roommate most responsible for Max heading to Kansas City for medical school come fall, this peripatetic puss's future is a bit unsettled. Will he stay with his current community, or will he head west? If he stays, what if the new roommate is allergic, or&mdash;as hard as this may be to imagine&mdash;not a cat person? Yes, there may be yet another loving home in his future.</p> <p>Whatever happens, there's no doubt Max will land on his feet. Cats always do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:35:04 +0000 Clint Hendler 274151 at