Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Oops. Putin's Cruise Missiles Still Need a Little Work. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I guess Vladimir Putin's cruise missiles <a href="" target="_blank">aren't quite as awesome as he thought:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Cruise missiles fired by Russia from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria crashed in a rural area of Iran, senior United States officials said on Thursday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bummer, dude. Can we now have at least one day where we don't have to hear about how Russia's crappy military is going to upend everything in the Middle East and send the US scurrying for cover?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 19:02:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286536 at Put Frances Perkins on the Ten-Dollar Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Wonkblog informs me that the Treasury Department really, really wants me to vote on which woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. OK. So how do I do that?</p> <p>Apparently I can use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to submit my vote with the hashtag #TheNew10. So that takes care of all the people who are on social media. What about everyone else? Well, the Treasury still wants to hear from you! That's not immediately obvious, mind you,&nbsp; but it turns out that if you <a href="" target="_blank">click here,</a> provide your name and your email address, and then answer a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_frances_perkins_ten_dollar_bill.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">question to prove you're a human, you can tell them your thoughts.</p> <p>FWIW, my choice is Frances Perkins. I feel like it's a good idea to keep up the tradition of having people on our currency who have been in government service (mostly presidents, but also cabinet members like Hamilton or key members of the of the constitutional convention like Benjamin Franklin). It also, for obvious reasons, ought to be somebody whose fame was gained at least 50 years ago. Perkins fits all those requirements. She was the first woman to serve in the cabinet, and more than that, her fame doesn't come merely from being first. She was also an unusually effective Secretary of Labor during a period when the labor movement was a tremendous and growing power in American politics. Add to that her authorship of the Social Security Act and her key role in a wide variety of other New Deal legislation, and she's not just the most influential Secretary of Labor of all time, but arguably one of the four or five most influential cabinet members ever.</p> <p>Sadly, the whole New Deal thing will probably make her too politicized to win. She's my choice, but my <em>prediction</em> is Rosa Parks. We'll find out next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286521 at Kevin McCarthy: "I'm Not the Guy" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R) sent a letter to the No. 4 House Republican saying any candidate for leadership who has committed any "misdeeds" since joining Congress should "withdraw" from the contest.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner for speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest....Said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus: &ldquo;I was shocked just like everyone else&hellip;he said something to the effect of I&rsquo;m not the guy.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ummm....WTF? I will put off further comment until I pick up my jaw from the floor.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> From no less a conservative icon than Erick Erickson, <a href="" target="_blank">we get this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.</p> <p>A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories <strong>alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) of North Carolina.</strong> It is worth nothing that the two deny a relationship.</p> <p><strong>But the email began circulating pretty heavily. Conservatives were buzzing about it.</strong> The first line pointed to the current scandal about Denny Hastert and concluded suggesting that if the rumor about McCarthy and his personal life were true, he was a national security risk.</p> </blockquote> <p>Okey dokey.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:14:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 286506 at We Get It: Paul Krugman Has Been Right All Along <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_krugman_tired.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here is Paul Krugman just in the past month:</p> <ul><li>It&rsquo;s now seven years since I warned....</li> <li>Who could have predicted such a thing? Well, me....</li> <li>Many of us warned from the beginning that the multiplier was probably much larger....</li> <li>Those of us who took our Hicks seriously calling the big stuff &mdash; the effects of monetary and fiscal policy &mdash; right, and those who went with their gut getting it all wrong....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve been trying to point out....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve written many times....</li> <li>Attacks on Keynesians in general, and on me in particular....</li> <li>Here&rsquo;s what I wrote three years ago....</li> </ul><p>And that's not even counting his print columns, which I didn't have the patience to plow through. I'm a pretty big fan of Krugman, but even for me this stuff has long since gotten old. Maybe it's time to go cold turkey on the whole "I was right" meme and just concentrate on the economics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:46:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286491 at Quote of the Day: Japanese Mathematician Discovers Marvelous Brain-Altering Proof <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Davide Castelvecchi,</a> writing about an impenetrable 500-page mathematical proof that might change the field forever if it's verified:</p> <blockquote> <p>But so far, the few who have understood the work have struggled to explain it to anyone else. <strong>&ldquo;Everybody who I'm aware of who's come close to this stuff is quite reasonable, but afterwards they become incapable of communicating it,&rdquo;</strong> says one mathematician who did not want his name to be mentioned. The situation, he says, reminds him of the Monty Python skit about a writer who jots down the world's funniest joke. Anyone who reads it dies from laughing and can never relate it to anyone else.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently Shinichi Mochizuki essentially invented a whole new branch of arithmetic geometry in order to complete his proof of the <em>abc</em> conjecture. So you have to learn a whole new field of math and <em>then</em> work your way laboriously through the actual proof. There are, according to Castelvecchi, something like four or five people in the whole world capable of doing this. Good luck, guys!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:10:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286476 at Image vs. Reality, Vladimir Putin Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>LA Times</em> writes today about <a href="" target="_blank">Russia's intervention in Syria:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The outcome of Vladimir Putin's bold military gamble in Syria is far from clear, but in the short term, one loser seems certain: President Obama.</p> <p>....The White House has been poised for weeks to quietly shift more U.S. military support to seasoned Kurdish militias and other rebel fighters in northern Syria. But at this point, <strong>any change in policy will appear to be in response to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_chin.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Putin's muscular moves,</strong> not a new initiative to help solve the multi-sided conflict.</p> </blockquote> <p>Putin is "bold" and "muscular." Obama is a "loser." Well, this piece is labeled as analysis, so I guess that's fair enough. But I hope that future articles continue to report the reality&mdash;that Obama has been planning for a while to shift his strategy in Syria&mdash;rather than merely parroting the tired judgment that he "appears" to be responding to the muscular Putin. In any case, let's continue:</p> <blockquote> <p>Middle Eastern allies who have chafed at Washington's reluctance to plunge into the 4-year-old civil war have been <strong>impressed by how the Russian president has come to an ally's defense,</strong> even if they don't like his goals or his ally, Arab officials say.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously? Sure, many of our Arab allies have been urging us for a long time to be more militantly anti-Assad. But are they really impressed by Putin's actions? He's allowed his "ally" Assad to twist in the wind with no apparent concern at all since 2011, and then after four years he finally enters the conflict in a small way&mdash;mainly because he was about to lose Assad for good. So far, he's launched a few air sorties and some cruise missiles. Are our Arab allies really that easily impressed? Onward:</p> <blockquote> <p>From the White House's perspective, the problem is not only that Russia is propping up a leader who they insist must step down as a part of a political deal to end the bloodletting. It is also that <strong>Putin's moves seem aimed at emphasizing American hesitation and signaling a lack of respect for the former Cold War foe.</strong></p> <p>....Over the last week, Moscow has seemed indifferent to the risk of a confrontation with Washington as Russian forces repeatedly attacked Syrian rebels armed by the CIA and allied spy services.</p> </blockquote> <p>Once again, Putin is the Donald Trump of world leaders: lots of showmanship and media attention for a very small price. It's impressive in a way. But the simple fact remains: Putin hasn't really done very much, and the fact that his Syria offensive seems aimed mostly at tweaking Obama is a show of childishness not strength. On Wednesday he even boasted that Russia's cruise missiles "hit all the targets," something the US hardly needs to bother with since everyone already knows we have plenty of cruise missiles that have a long history of hitting their targets.</p> <p>Finally, we end with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Putin's gamble may accomplish several of his goals: <strong>increasing Russian influence in the Middle East and on the world stage, building his image at home, and shifting Western attention from his intervention in Ukraine.</strong></p> <p>But many analysts believe that neither Putin nor anyone else can wrest military victory from the bitter cauldron in Syria. And many expect Obama, who has made that argument since the conflict began in 2011, to continue to move cautiously. Obama "has been pretty good about resisting pressure to get in deeper," said Kupchan. "I don't think he's going to react to Putin's gambit by upping the ante."</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe we should have started with that? Putin is essentially engaged in a PR campaign. Obama isn't taking the bait because he knows perfectly well it's a fool's errand. I hope everyone in Washington keeps that firmly in mind as Putin continues his Trump-esque rampage across the media landscape.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 14:31:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 286471 at Quote of the Day: "The Republican Party Left Me" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke,</a> in his new memoir, <em>The Courage To Act</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[I] lost patience with Republicans&rsquo; susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. <strong>I didn&rsquo;t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is, of course, a deliberate echo of Ronald Reagan's famous line about the Democratic Party leaving him. And it's hard to blame Bernanke. The know-nothing wing of the Republican Party rebelled against the TARP rescue package at the height of the economic meltdown. They howled that low interest rates would lead to imminent hyperinflation. They resolutely refused to consider fiscal stimulus despite Bernanke's repeated pleas (see helpful illustration below from 2011). They wanted to audit the Fed. They wanted to end the Fed. They wanted to put us back on the gold standard. When Bernanke told them that spending cuts would lead to higher unemployment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy refused to believe him. Now he's about to become Speaker of the House.</p> <p>Bernanke was no leftist, he was just a mainstream economist&mdash;and a cautious one. It didn't matter. Republicans didn't want to hear anything that interfered with their hard-money frenzy, even from one of their own. So they abandoned him.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_bernanke_congressometer_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 04:17:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 286456 at Ben Carson Apparently Doesn't Know What the Debt Limit Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_carson_laughing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Ladies and gentlemen, <a href="" target="_blank">Dr. Ben Carson:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, "We're gonna run out of money, we're gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November." Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit?<strong> Should we default on our debt?</strong></p> <p><em>Carson:</em> Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>To be clear, it's increasing the debt limit, not the budget,</strong> but I want to make sure I understand you. You'd let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, "Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we're not raising any spending limits, period."</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm gonna try one more time, sir.</strong> This is debt that's already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> What I'm saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You're always gonna ask the same question every year. And we're just gonna keep going down that pathway. That's one of the things I think that the people are tired of.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you're not gonna raise the debt limit and you're not gonna give specifics on what you're gonna cut,</strong> then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?</p> </blockquote> <p>It sure <em>sounds</em> as if Carson doesn't know what the debt limit is, doesn't it? Kai Ryssdal tries manfully to get a straight answer out of him, and after the fourth try Carson rambles into a long disquisition on the infinite-time-horizon fiscal gap, at which point Ryssdal finally gives up. I guess I don't blame him.</p> <p>On the other hand, I'll give Carson credit for something Ryssdal doesn't: telling him what he'd cut in order to balance the budget. Carson is pretty clear about this: he would cut the government across the board by 3-4 percent via the simple expedient of keeping spending flat for everything. In real terms, this gets you to Carson's 3-4 percent decrease. He says he'd do this for three or four years, and boom! Balanced budget.</p> <p>Ryssdal badgers Carson about this, but doesn't ask the obvious follow-ups: You'd cut Social Security 3-4 percent each year? Medicare? Defense? Veterans? If the answer is no&mdash;as it probably would be&mdash;<em>then</em> you ask Carson how he's going to balance the budget with just the stuff that's left over.</p> <p>In any case, it's pretty scary that a guy this ignorant of the basics of governance is doing so well in the Republican primary. Not surprising, maybe, but still scary.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 00:35:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286451 at Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to TPP, But Her Reasons Are Pretty Weak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton, who was once a fan of the TPP trade deal, announced today that she's now opposed to it. That's fine. But her reasons seem <a href="" target="_blank">less than compelling:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In her statement, Clinton said she is "continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what&rsquo;s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we&rsquo;re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers."</p> <p>She had said months ago that the currency provision would be a key test for her.</p> </blockquote> <p>The pharmaceutical provisions are indeed a point of considerable controversy, but the final draft of the agreement <em>weakens</em> them compared to what the US was asking for back when Hillary was involved. As for currency manipulation, TPP doesn't address that at all.</p> <p>So one provision she mentions has been improved, and the other does no harm because it's not addressed. If the deal looked OK a year ago, it should still look OK today. Likewise, if it looks bad today, it should have looked bad a year ago. So what really changed? Bernie Sanders, most likely. Just as the Republican side of things has been buffeted by the Trump Effect, the Democratic race has been been influenced by the Bernie Effect&mdash;which is just what he wanted, since I don't think he entered the race because he truly believed he had a chance to become president. He just wanted to move the conversation to the left, and he's succeeded at that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:12:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 286431 at Microsoft Announced Some Stuff Yesterday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday really highlighted the difference between Apple PR and Microsoft PR. Last month, I started hearing about Apple's big product announcement at least a week before it happened. By the time Der Tag rolled around I had read at least a dozen previews, and on the day itself practically everyone was not just reporting on it, but liveblogging it, tweeting it, Instagramming it, and just generally going bananas. And that was for an announcement that turned out to be fairly unexciting.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Microsoft put on its big product announcement show. I had no idea it was on the calendar. I hadn't read a word about it beforehand. On the day itself, my Twitter feed was silent. The front pages of newspapers were busy with other <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_surface_pro_4.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">things. And that's despite the fact that Microsoft was actually introducing some fairly cool stuff.</p> <p>(Note: this is not meant as an Apple vs. Windows fight. If you think nothing related to Windows could ever be cool, that's fine.)</p> <p>But it also highlighted how far from the mainstream my tastes seem to be. One of Microsoft's announcements, for example, was a new notebook with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet. Ho hum. There are dozens of those around. Except for one thing: this notebook screen has 267 ppi resolution, which means you can actually use it as a tablet without your eyes going cockeyed. But that got hardly any attention at all. Why? Am I the only one who's been waiting for a genuinely high-res Windows tablet? And even if I am, why else would anyone even care about this new laptop? It's expensive and otherwise not especially noteworthy.</p> <p>Ditto for the new Surface Pro 4. It's slightly bigger and a bit lighter than the old Surface Pro, and it sports faster processors. That's all fine, though nothing to shout about. But! Its screen is super high-res, just like the notebook. I've been pining away for this for years. I want one. And I have a birthday coming up.</p> <p>So that's question #1: Does the rest of the world think that 200 ppi is basically fine? I mean, it <em>is</em> fine, in a way. I use a 200 ppi tablet all the time, and it's OK. But it's not great. Surely this deserves more attention, especially since Retina displays have been a selling point on iPads for a long time.</p> <p>Question #2: Still no GPS? Come on. What would it take, a ten-dollar chip plus an antenna? On a tablet that costs a thousand bucks, you'd think Microsoft could spring for this. But maybe no one cares. Am I the only person who thinks it's sometimes useful to use a big tablet rather than a tiny phone to display maps? Unfortunately, I can rarely do that because you need GPS for it to work. (Or, alternatively, some way to tap into my phone's GPS, the same way I tap into its internet connection via WiFi.)</p> <p>And now for Question #3. Let's let <em>Slate's</em> Will Oremus <a href="" target="_blank">set the stage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Surface Pro 4 nominally starts at $899, but that&rsquo;s without a keyboard, or the fast processor, or any of the other goodies that make the Surface a viable PC. Realistically, it&rsquo;s going to run you well over $1,000 and will top $1,500 fully loaded. So, yes, it had <em>better</em> replace your PC.</p> </blockquote> <p>What's the deal with the continuing obsession over fast processors? I've been using Windows tablets with crappy Atom processors for a couple of years, and never had any complaints. I could easily use any of them as my primary desktop machine. The lowest-end processor on the Surface 4 is quite a bit faster than an Atom SOC, so why all the angst over needing something even better?</p> <p>Obviously there are exceptions. If you're doing software builds or heavy-duty video editing or high-end gaming, you'll want lots of memory and the fastest processor you can get. But you're probably not going to do any of those things on a tablet anyway, no matter how good it is. For all the ordinary stuff we white-collar worker types do&mdash;spreadsheets, word processing, email, web browsing, etc.&mdash;just about any modern processor will work fine. Why sweat it?</p> <p>(More generally,&nbsp;Oremus is right about the price, though. You'll need a keyboard and a docking station if you plan to use a tablet as your primary machine. That will push the Surface Pro 4 up to $1,200 or so even at the low end.)</p> <p>And what the hell, as long as I'm on the subject, here's Question #4: why are Macs so popular among journalists? Back in the day, Macs had real advantages in display graphics, which led to the development of lots of image editing and page makeup software for Macs. That made them very popular with graphic artists. But writers? Word processing is word processing. A cheap notebook does it as well as an expensive one. So why did journalists migrate to Macs in such numbers? Anyone have any idea?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 19:53:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 286376 at Quote of the Day: You'd Have to Be Nuts to Want a Leadership Role in the Republican Party <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We all know that John Boehner quit the speakership because he was finally fed up trying to deal with the lunatics in his own party. But how about some of the tea party darlings, like Trey Gowdy or Paul Ryan? <a href="" target="_blank">Apparently they feel about the same:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Gowdy] insists he&rsquo;s not interested in joining leadership, not in any capacity. He is funny, and biting, about the chaos of the present House.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have a background in mental health, so I wouldn&rsquo;t have the right qualifications to lead right now,&rdquo;</strong> he says. Who wants you to be in leadership? &ldquo;No friend does,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>....&ldquo;To me, just speaking as one member, the smartest kid in the class is Paul Ryan,&rdquo; Gowdy said. &ldquo;If I had one draft choice and I was starting a new country, I would draft Paul to run it. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2015_10_07.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">he&rsquo;s super, super smart. <strong>And when someone is super, super smart and is not interested, that tells you something. It tells me a lot.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>By coincidence, this is sort of related to the conservative fantasy I talked about in the <a href="" target="_blank">previous post.</a> Folks like Gowdy and Ryan are smart enough to see it too, even though they're both stone conservatives themselves. A leadership role wouldn't give them the power to actually implement the conservative agenda, but too many conservatives these days don't care. They're living the fantasy that if only their leaders fought hard enough, they could win. So when they don't win, it must mean that they didn't fight very hard. Right now, there's just no way to puncture that fantasy.</p> <p>And why the squirrel illustration? Nothing to do with Gowdy or Ryan or the tea party or conservatives being squirrely or nuts. Honest! This is just our household squirrel, who was outside feeding his face a few minutes ago. So I went out and took his picture. And speaking of squirrels, here's an interesting squirrel factlet: if you Google "squirrel saying," 7 of the top 20 hits are about the difficulties that German speakers have saying "squirrel."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:36:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286366 at How Our Constitution Indulges the Great Conservative Fantasy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> Matt Yglesisas wrote a #Slatepitch piece arguing that Hillary Clinton "is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas"&mdash;and that's a <em>good</em> thing. In a nutshell, Democrats can't get anything done through Congress, so they need someone willing to do whatever it takes to get things done some other way. And that's Hillary. "More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_tough.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 24px 0px 15px 30px;">lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned."</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, conservatives were shocked. Shocked! Liberals are fine with tyranny! Today Matt responded <a href="" target="_blank">in one of his periodic newsletters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A system of government based on the idea of compromises between two independently elected bodies will only work if the leaders of both bodies want to compromise. Congressional Republicans have rejected any form of compromise, so an effective Democratic president is going to try to govern through executive unilateralism. I don't think this is a positive development, but it's the <em>only possible</em> development.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't think I'm as pessimistic as Yglesias, but put that aside for a moment. Look at this from a conservative point of view. They want things to move in a conservative direction. But compromise doesn't do that. In practice, it always seems to move things in a more liberal direction, with a few conservative sops thrown in that eventually wither away and die. This leaves them with little choice except increasingly hard-nosed obstructionism: government shutdowns, debt ceiling fights, filibusters for everything, voter ID laws, etc. etc.</p> <p>And there's a lot of truth to this to this view. The entire Western world has been moving inexorably in a liberal direction for a couple of centuries. It's a tide that can't be turned back with half measures. Conservative parties in the rest of the world have mostly made their peace with this, and settle for simply slowing things down. American conservatives actually want to <em>reverse</em> the tide.</p> <p>That's all but impossible in the long term. It's just not the way the arc of history is moving right now. But American conservatives are bound and determined to do it anyway.</p> <p>This is the fundamental problem. British conservatives, in theory, could turn back the clock if they wanted to, but they don't. Their parliamentary system allows them to do it, but public opinion doesn't&mdash;which means that if they want to retain power, there's a limit to how far they can fight the tide. If American conservatives were in the same situation, they'd probably end up in the same place. Once they actually got the power to change things, they'd very quickly moderate their agenda.</p> <p>It's in this sense that our system of governance really is at fault for our current gridlock. Not <em>directly</em> because of veto points or our presidential system or any of that, but because these features of our political system allow conservatives to live in a fantasy world. They dream of what they could do if only they had the political power to do it, and they really believe they'd do it all if they got the chance. Thanks to all those veto points, however, they never get the chance. Full control of the government would disabuse everyone very quickly of just how far they're really willing to go, but it never happens.</p> <p>We are living through an era in which conservatives are living a fantasy that can never be. But our system of governance denies them the chance to test that fantasy. So it continues forever. It will stop eventually, either because conservatives somehow <em>do</em> gain total political power and are forced to face up to its limits, or because it burns itself out through continual head banging that gets them nowhere combined with demographic changes that decimate their base. Probably the latter. It's only a question of how long it takes.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 17:52:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 286361 at Let's Experiment With the Minimum Wage and EITC <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_state_eitc.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">When you add up the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit, Brad DeLong thinks <a href="" target="_blank">it should add up to a living wage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Of course, minimum-wage advocates are fearful of the following: We say raise the minimum wage, they say increase the earned income tax credit instead. We say increase the earned income tax credit, they say it is more important to reduce the deficit. We say fund the earned income tax credit by raising taxes, they say lower taxes promote entrepreneurship. We say cut defense spending, they say ISIS and Iran. The shift of attention to the earned income tax credit is then seen as&mdash;which it often is&mdash;part of the game of political Three Card Monte to avoid doing anything while not admitting you are opposed to doing anything.</p> <p>That is all very true.</p> <p>So raise the minimum wage, and then bargain back to a lower minimum wage and a higher income tax credit if it turns out that there are significant disemployment affects.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, that would be fine except that the same people who refuse to increase the EITC are the same ones who refuse to raise the minimum wage. We're no more likely to get a $15 (or $12 or $13 or $14) minimum wage than we are to get a more generous EITC. Ditto for wage subsidies, which are popular in some conservative circles. The excuses may vary depending on the circumstances, but they will always add up to No.</p> <p>Perhaps a better bet is to focus on the state level. <a href="" target="_blank">Plenty of states</a> have an EITC that piggybacks on the federal EITC, and that means there are plenty of laboratories of democracy where we could try different combinations of EITC and minimum wage to see what works best. Who knows? Maybe a few states could even be talked into trying out wage subsidies.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:16:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286336 at Folks in West Virginia Aren't Getting Enough Sleep <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Wonkblog,</a> Christopher Ingraham passes along the results of a new study about where people sleep the best and the worst. It turns out I'm in pretty good shape: Orange County reports generally excellent sleep. But if you live in the Insomnia Belt, stretching down the Appalachians from West Virginia into eastern Texas, you may be in trouble. Why? Apparently no one knows. But it might explain why they're so cranky these days.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sleep_map.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 15:32:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 286326 at Perhaps We Should Retire the Idea That Joe Biden Is "Authentic" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in August, Maureen Dowd wrote several hundred words about what a horrible person Hillary Clinton is. No surprise there. She could pretty easily write a million if the <em>Times</em> gave her the space. But then, having obsessed over Hillary's sinister <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_joe_biden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">psyche for the thousandth time, she turned to the possibility of white knights jumping into the presidential race to save us all. In particular, there was Joe Biden, who was now reconsidering a run <a href="" target="_blank">after the death of his son Beau:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk....&ldquo;Dad, I know you don&rsquo;t give a damn about money,&rdquo; Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.</p> <p>Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, <strong>arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's a touching scene, but also an odd one: Dowd didn't attribute it to anyone. Not even "a friend" or "someone with knowledge of the situation." In <em>Politico</em> today, Edward-Isaac Dovere says <a href="" target="_blank">there's a reason for that:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her</strong>....It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening. <strong>But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in <em>The New York Times</em>, asking them to call.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that&rsquo;s what it is,&rdquo; said one person who&rsquo;s recently spoken to Biden about the prospect of running.</p> <p>....At the end of August, while friends were still worrying aloud that he was in the worst mental state possible to be making this decision, <strong>he invited Elizabeth Warren for an unannounced Saturday lunch</strong> at the Naval Observatory. According to sources connected with Warren, he raised Clinton&rsquo;s scheduled appearance at the House Benghazi Committee hearing at the end of October, <strong>even hinting that there might be a running-mate opening for the Massachusetts senator.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, I don't have any independent knowledge of whether Dovere is right about this. But it sure sounds plausible, and it's a good illustration of why you should take claims of "authenticity" with a big shaker of salt. Biden is an outgoing guy and gets along well with the press. But that just means he's an outgoing guy who gets along well with the press. Authenticity has nothing to do with it.</p> <p>It's one thing for people close to a candidate to leak information that makes their man look good&mdash;that's so common I'm not sure it even has a name&mdash;but for the candidate himself to use <em>his son's death</em> as a way of worming his way into a weekly column written by a woman who detests Hillary Clinton more fanatically than anyone this side of Ken Starr? I'm not quite sure what to call that, but authentic isn't it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:20:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 286296 at Paul Krugman Explains the Latest Draft of the TPP <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Suppose there's a complex public policy proposal being debated and you want to know where you should stand. However, you really don't want to devote a huge amount of time to diving into all the details. There are just so many hours in the day, after all.</p> <p>One possibility is to simply see what people on your side of the tribal divide think about it. But that's surprisingly unreliable. A better approach is to take a look at who's <em>opposed</em> to the proposal. That's what Paul Krugman <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tpp_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">does today regarding the <a href="" target="_blank">final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What I know so far: <strong>pharma is mad</strong> because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, <strong>tobacco is mad</strong> because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, <strong>and Rs in general are mad</strong> because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected....I find myself thinking of Grossman and Helpman&rsquo;s work on the political economy of free trade agreements, in which they conclude, based on a highly stylized but nonetheless interesting model of special interest politics, that</p> <blockquote> <p>An FTA is most likely to be politically viable exactly when it would be socially harmful.</p> </blockquote> <p>The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Krugman describes himself as a "lukewarm opponent" of TPP who now needs to do some more homework. I'd probably call myself a lukewarm supporter. One reason is that the dispute resolution provisions, which provoked a lot of anger on the left, never struck me as either unusual or all that objectionable in practice. The IP stuff bothered me more, and that's been improved a bit in the final draft. It's still not great, but it's not quite as horrible as before. So you can probably now count me as a slightly stronger supporter.</p> <p>But I wonder what Republicans will do? They're the ones who are ideologically on the side of trade agreements, and they've spent a lot of time berating President Obama for not putting more effort into trade deals. But with campaign season heating up, it's become more toxic than ever to support any initiative of Obama's. Plus Donald Trump is busily working his supporters into a lather about TPP. I wouldn't be surprised to see quite a few defections from the Republican ranks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:35:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 286261 at Here's One Simple Rule For Deciding Who the Media Covers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marco_rubio.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Waldman notes today that Marco Rubio is the latest beneficiary of the media spotlight. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If history is any guide, the &ldquo;outsider&rdquo; candidates will eventually fall, and Rubio is the only &ldquo;insider&rdquo; candidate whose support is going up, not down. Scott Walker is gone, Jeb Bush is struggling, and none of the other officeholders seem to be generating any interest among voters. Rubio has long had strong approval ratings among Republicans, so even those who are now supporting someone else don&rsquo;t dislike him. He&rsquo;s an excellent speaker both with prepared texts and extemporaneously. When you hear him talk he sounds informed and thoughtful, and much less reactionary than his actual ideas would suggest. He presents a young, Hispanic face for a party that desperately needs not to be seen as the party of old white guys.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is all true, but it gives the media way too much credit. Here's the rule they use for deciding who to cover:</p> <ul><li>If you're leading or rising in the polls, you get coverage.</li> </ul><p>That's it. All the other stuff about Rubio has been true all along, and nobody cared about him. Now he's rising in the polls and is currently in about fourth place. So he's getting coverage.</p> <p>This happened first to Donald Trump, then to Ben Carson, then to Carly Fiorina, and now to Rubio. Bernie Sanders, oddly enough, remains fairly immune. Maybe this rule only applies to Republicans this year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:38:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 286236 at Let's Not Rewrite History on Gun Violence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>"This is something we <em>should</em> politicize," President Obama said last week after the gun massacre in Oregon. "It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic." Jonah Goldberg is annoyed that Obama said this even though he's routinely spoken out against politicizing issues in the past. "He's not about to try building consensus on gun violence among people of good faith," Goldberg says. <a href="" target="_blank">Then this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama's comments on Thursday highlighted the problem with his approach to politics. He would rather go for everything he wants and get nothing, but keep the political issue, than make progress on common ground.</p> <p>Virtually none of the proposals on his gun-control wish list &mdash; more comprehensive federal background checks, closing the gun show "loophole," etc. &mdash; would help bring down the homicide rate....Typically, mass killers don't buy guns at gun shows. And a CNN analysis found that a comprehensive background check system wouldn't have prevented any of the "routine" killing sprees Obama referred to, save one.</p> <p>....<strong>After the Sandy Hook slaughter, there was a bipartisan consensus that more needed to be done on the mental health side. But Obama, fresh off reelection, rejected a piecemeal approach, largely <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gun_background_check.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">preferring to go for a "comprehensive" solution. He ended up with nothing at all.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Um, what? Shortly after Sandy Hook, Joe Biden released the final report of his task force on gun violence. It contained recommendations in four areas, one of which was increased access to mental health services. Several bipartisan bills that targeted mental health did indeed get introduced, and I believe Obama supported all of them. So why didn't they pass? That's always hard to say, but the best guess is that it's because they all cost money, and Republicans were unwilling to vote for increased spending. So they died. Obama's preference for a "comprehensive" approach had nothing to do with it.</p> <p>Beyond that, sure, Obama wanted&nbsp;comprehensive legislation. But in the end, this got whittled down to one thing: a bipartisan bill mandating universal background checks. It was watered down repeatedly, and was about as weak as possible by the time it finally got a vote. Despite massive public support, even from gun owners, it failed after an enormous effort to reach out to all those people of good faith Goldberg talks about. I think you can guess who voted against it.<sup>1</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>It was 41 Republicans and 5 Democrats, in case you've forgotten.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:38:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 286221 at Why Did Lindsey Graham Vote Against Hurricane Sandy Relief in 2013? Here Are Half a Dozen Guesses. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham voted against a $51 billion aid bill for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, but feels differently about federal aid for the devastating floods that have racked his state. "Let's just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs," Graham told Wolf Blitzer yesterday. Blitzer then asked him <a href="" target="_blank">why he had opposed Sandy relief:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. Pressed further, he said: "Anyway, I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, he did indeed vote against Sandy aid. I don't know why he did it either, but I can take a few guesses:</p> <ul><li>He was pissed off over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the recently concluded fiscal cliff negotiations, which Republicans lost.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the national debt and wanted to make a point about out-of-control spending before the upcoming debt ceiling showdown.</li> <li>He was pissed off over sequester caps that prevented big increases in military spending.</li> <li>He was pissed off over flood insurance provisions in the bill, which had been loudly denounced by the Club for Growth.</li> <li>He was pissed off over alleged pork in the aid bill.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively, Graham didn't really think about it at all, which is why it's slipped his mind by now. Maybe he just vaguely figured the bill would pass, so this was a chance to demonstrate fiscal toughness without running the risk of being held personally responsible for enormous human suffering in New Jersey. After all, 35 other Republican senators voted against it too. So why not join them?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:41:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286206 at Thanks to the NSA, Data Sharing With Europe Just Got a Little Harder <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_edward_snowden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The long arm of Edward Snowden <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">just got a little longer today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Europe&rsquo;s highest court on Tuesday <strong>struck down an international agreement</strong> that had made it easy for companies to move people&rsquo;s digital data between the European Union and the United States. The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, could make it more difficult for global technology giants &mdash; including the likes of Amazon and Apple, Google and Facebook &mdash; to collect and mine online information from their millions of users in the 28-member European Union.</p> </blockquote> <p>So what does this have to do with Snowden? Since 2000, a "Safe Harbor" agreement has allowed US companies to store personal data on European nationals as long as the companies comply with a specific set of rules to minimize abuse. At the time, it was commercial abuse that everyone had in mind. <a href="" target="_blank">Today it's government abuse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s decision stems from a complaint lodged in 2013 by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over Facebook&rsquo;s compliance with EU data-privacy rules. In his charge filed to the Irish data-protection authority, the U.S. social-media company&rsquo;s lead regulator in Europe, <strong>Mr. Schrems claimed that allegations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed Facebook wasn&rsquo;t sufficiently protecting users&rsquo; data because it is subject to mass surveillance in the U.S.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>There are workarounds for this, but they're complicated and burdensome. What's more, efforts to reach an updated agreement will be difficult since the court ruling allows privacy regulators in every country to set up their own rules. This means that negotiations with the EU almost certainly have to include every national regulator who wants a voice, since each one can essentially veto an agreement in their own country.</p> <p>Alternatively, the US could announce major reforms to its NSA spying programs. Just kidding, of course. We all know that's unpossible.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:11:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 286201 at Coming Soon: Quantum Computing on Your Desktop PC? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_qubit_silicon.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today has been pretty dull in the world of political news, so let's continue trawling other parts of the global knowledge ecosystem for interesting tidbits. <a href="" target="_blank">This one looks potentially important:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For decades, researchers have been trying to build a computer that harnesses the enormous potential of quantum mechanics. Now engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have overcome the final hurdle, <strong>by creating a quantum logic gate in silicon&nbsp;&mdash; the same material that today's computer chips are made from.</strong></p> <p><strong>The newly developed device allows two quantum bits&nbsp;&mdash; or qubits&nbsp;&mdash; to communicate and perform calculations together,</strong> which is a crucial requirement for quantum computers. Even better, the researchers have also worked out how to scale the technology up to millions of qubits, which means they now have the ability to build the world's first quantum processor chip and, eventually, the first silicon-based quantum computer.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quantum computing is sort of like fusion power: constantly right around the corner, but never quite there. The fundamental problem is that qubits suffer from decoherence unless they're kept completely isolated from their surrounding environment, which is pretty tough since they also need to communicate with other qubits in order to be useful. Researchers have gotten a lot better at controlling qubits in recent years, but as the UNSW paper points out, <a href="" target="_blank">this has required the use of fairly exotic materials:</a> "single photons, trapped ions, superconducting circuits, single defects or atoms in diamond or silicon, and semiconductor quantum dots."</p> <p>By contrast, a two-qubit logic gate that can be implemented in silicon using standard lithographic techniques is a whole different matter. If this turns out to be for real, chips containing thousands or millions of qubits are finally within practical reach.</p> <p>This would be very cool, though only for a certain subset of problems amenable to massive parallel processing. This is inherent in the difference between standard computers and quantum computers. A standard computer with, say, 50 bits, can be in any one of 2<sup>50</sup> states <em>at a single time</em>. That's about a quadrillion states. This state changes with every beat of the computer's internal clock, and eventually you get an answer to whatever problem you've programmed the computer to solve. By contrast, a quantum computer with 2<sup>50</sup> qubits can be in a quadrillion states <em>simultaneously</em> thanks to an aspect of quantum weirdness called superposition. Once you set up the program, you just collapse the quantum state and the answer is spit out instantly.</p> <p>This is not the kind of thing you'd use to write an iPhone app. But it could be used to break some public-key encryption systems. It might also be useful for things like modeling protein folding, which is fundamentally a quantum problem that requires a tremendous amount of computing time using traditional computers. There's also potential for exponentially faster database queries.</p> <p>And one other thing: it's possible that large-scale quantum computing could lead to breakthroughs in emulating human thought processes and speeding up the creation of artificial intelligence. Maybe.</p> <p>Anyway, it's fascinating stuff, and it seems as if useful quantum computing may be finally getting within reach. If it does, it would blow away Moore's law for certain kinds of problems&mdash;possibly many more than we think once we get the hang of writing a whole different kind of code. In a few years, maybe we'll even get customer support voice recognition systems to work properly.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 04:44:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286191 at Do You Spend an Hour Waiting For Your Doctor? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_doctor_waiting_time.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">A new study has been making the rounds today.</a> Over at JAMA, a team of researchers used one survey to calculate average time spent in face-to-face time with a doctor and another survey to calculate total average "clinic time" (wait time plus doctor time). If you subtract doctor time from clinic time, you get average wait time. That's shown in the chart on the right.</p> <p>But something isn't right here. The takeaway is that minorities tend to have longer wait times than whites, which wouldn't surprise me at all. (They also have longer travel times.) But even whites have an average wait time of one hour. That's nowhere near this white boy's experience for any of the doctors/medical systems I've ever been part of. What's more, other studies suggest that average wait time is around 20 minutes or so, which seems more likely.</p> <p>So....I'm not sure what's going on here. Something about this study doesn't seem right, and I don't know if it's in the methodology or in the interpretation everyone is putting on it. In any case, if you read about this study, I'd take it with a grain of salt for the moment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 02:51:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 286186 at The World Has Gone Crazy Over Ad Blocking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ad_blocking_headlines.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's pretty amazing. Ad blockers have been around forever. I've been using AdBlock Plus for nearly a decade and nobody ever cared. It was just a quiet little thing that a few power users knew about.</p> <p>But as soon as Apple decided to allow ad blocking on the iPhone, suddenly the world went nuts. News headlines exploded. Half the sites I visit now check for ad blockers and hit me with guilt-inducing messages about how I'm bankrupting them if I decline to read their latest Flash creations and bouncing gif animations. Hell, I just got one of these messages on For a while, the <em>Washington Post</em> randomly declined to let me read their articles <em>at all</em> unless I removed my ad blocker.</p> <p>I've got one question and one comment about this. The comment is this: Screw you, Apple. Everything was fine until you decided to barge in. The question is this: Is publisher panic over loss of ad revenue rational? Genuine question. I understand that mobile is where all the ad dollars are, and I understand that Apple accounts for a sizeable chunk of the mobile market. But is ad blocking ever likely to become a mass phenomenon, or will it continue to be used only by power users? I suppose there's no way to know. In any case, the recent hysteria over ad blocking sure does show the incredible PR power of Apple. If you take something that's been around forever&mdash;4G LTE, large screens, ad blocking&mdash;and slap it on an iPhone, everyone goes nuts. It's Apple's world and the rest of us are just pawns in the games they play.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 01:37:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 286176 at California Legalizes Assisted Suicide For Terminal Patients <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After months of maintaining a stony silence about California's right-to-die bill, <a href="" target="_blank">Gov. Jerry Brown signed it today:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brown_assisted_suicide.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>The Golden Rule isn't always the best guide to public policy, but in this case I think it is. California has an obligation to make sure assisted suicide isn't abused, either by doctors rubber stamping requests or by friends or relatives pressuring sick patients to end their lives. Beyond that, though, deciding when and how to die is about as personal a decision as someone can make. It's not that assisted suicide doesn't affect other people&mdash;it does&mdash;but as a matter of <em>public</em> policy it's best for the state to remain resolutely neutral. This is something that should be left up to the patient, her doctor, and whichever of her friends, family, and clergy she decides to involve.</p> <p>The text of the bill is <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Brown did the right thing today by signing it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 20:20:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 286161 at House Dems Fight Back on Benghazi <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills testified before the Benghazi committee. Apparently several Republican members of the committee talked to reporters about this. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is <em>Politico</em> on September 3:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Raising alarms on the right,</strong> Mills, Clinton&rsquo;s former chief of staff at the State Department, also told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she reviewed and made suggestions for changes to the government's official, final report on what happened in Benghazi, according to a separate, GOP source familiar with what she said.</p> <p><strong>The source said it &ldquo;call[s] into question the &lsquo;independence&rsquo;&rdquo; of the report's conclusions</strong>....The report was supposed to be independent from state officials that may be involved, and the GOP argues top officials should not have had input, long questioning how independent the findings were.</p> </blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_elijah_cummings.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today, in the wake of Rep. Kevin McCarthy's boasting about how the Benghazi committee had been a great tool to bring down Hillary, Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, <a href="" target="_blank">lobbed a shot across the bow of the Republican chairman:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republicans began leaking inaccurate information about Ms. Mills&rsquo; interview within minutes after your public declaration that it should be treated as classified....During her interview, Ms. Mills corroborated both Ambassador Pickering&rsquo;s testimony and the Inspector General&rsquo;s findings:</p> <blockquote> <p>Q: Did you ever, in that process, attempt to exert influence over the direction of the ARB&rsquo;s investigation?</p> <p>A: No.</p> <p>Q: Did you ever try to&mdash;did Secretary Clinton ever try to exert influence over the direction of their investigation?</p> <p>A: No.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ms. Mills also explained that the Secretary&rsquo;s objective in selecting members of the ARB was, &ldquo;could they be people who could give hard medicine if that was what was needed. And I felt like, in the end, that team was a team that would speak whatever were their truths or observations to the Department so that we could learn whatever lessons we needed to learn.&rdquo;</p> <p>....We believe it is time to begin releasing the transcripts of interviews conducted by the Select Committee in order to correct the public record after numerous inaccurate Republican leaks....Please notify us within five days if you believe any information in the full transcript should be withheld from the American people.</p> </blockquote> <p>No response yet from committee chairman Trey Gowdy, who has insisted all along that the Benghazi investigation is purely an enlightened search for the truth with no trace of partisan overtones. But I'm all in favor of holding all of the committee's hearings in public with occasional exceptions for genuinely classified testimony. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:14:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286126 at