Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2010/02 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Friday Cat Blogging - 22 August 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/friday-cat-blogging-22-august-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's Domino helping Marian with a bit of gardening in the front yard. The days may not be sunny and warm forever, so she's taking advantage of whatever ones are left to her.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_08_22.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:55:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 258971 at http://www.motherjones.com Did Obamacare Wreck a Baseball Game? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/did-obamacare-wreck-baseball-game <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few days ago, a Chicago Cubs game was called in the fifth inning after the grounds crew had so much trouble spreading a tarp that the field got soaked during a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wrigley_field.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">rain delay and play couldn't be continued. The Corner reveals <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/386050/report-obamacare-led-chicago-cubs-tarp-gate-ian-tuttle" target="_blank">what <em>really</em> happened:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Insiders at the ball club report that the real culprit is Obamacare. Because the Affordable Care Act requires offering health benefits to employees who work more than 130 hours per month or 30 hours a week (&ldquo;full time&rdquo;), the Cubs organization reorganized much of its staff during the off-season. Sources that spoke to the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> claimed that, on Tuesday night, the crew was drastically &ldquo;undermanned.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. What do you think of that, <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/its-hard-to-find-good-help-chicago-cubs-edition" target="_blank">Dean Baker?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem with this story is that employer sanctions are not in effect for 2014. In other words, the Cubs will not be penalized for not providing their ground crew with insurance this year even if they work more than 30 hours per week. Apparently the Cubs management has not been paying attention to the ACA rules. This is yet another example of the skills gap that is preventing managers from operating their businesses effectively.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite so. My guess is that this is just another installment in the long-running effort of American corporations to use Obamacare as a scapegoat for everything under the sun. Usually this has to do with raising copays for their employees or something like that, but the ingenuity of American capitalism knows no bounds. Why not blame a rain delay on Obamacare too?</p> <p>For a more likely cause of penny pinching on the grounds crew, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-wrigley-field-is-suddenly-so-empty-1408578101" target="_blank">the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has you covered.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Sports Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:20:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 258961 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Welfare Reform and the Great Recession http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-welfare-reform-and-great-recession <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=3566" target="_blank">CBPP has posted a series of charts</a> showing the effects of welfare reform on the poor over the past couple of decades. In its first few years it seemed like a great success: welfare rolls went down substantially in the late 90s while the number of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tanf_great_recession_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">poor people with jobs went up. But the late 90s were a boom time, and this probably would have happened anyway. Welfare reform may have provided an extra push, but it was a bubbly economy that made the biggest difference.</p> <p>So how would welfare reform fare when it got hit with a real test? Answer: not so well. In late 2007 the Great Recession started, creating an extra 1.5 million families with children in poverty. TANF, however, barely responded at all. There was no room in strapped state budgets for <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=3566" target="_blank">more TANF funds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The TANF block grant fundamentally altered both the structure and the allowable uses of federal and state dollars previously spent on AFDC and related programs. Under TANF, the federal government gives states a fixed block grant totaling $16.5 billion each year....<strong>Because the block grant has never been increased or adjusted for inflation, states received 32 percent less in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars in 2014 than they did in 1997.</strong>&nbsp; State minimum-required contributions to TANF have declined even more. To receive their full TANF block grant, states only have to spend on TANF purposes 80 percent of the amount they spent on AFDC and related programs in 1995. That &ldquo;maintenance of effort&rdquo; requirement isn&rsquo;t adjusted for inflation, either.</p> </blockquote> <p>Welfare reform isn't a subject I know a lot about. I didn't follow it during the 90s, and I haven't seriously studied it since then. With that caveat understood, I'd say that some of the changes it made strike me as reasonable. However, its single biggest change was to transform welfare from an entitlement to a block grant. What happened next was entirely predictable: the size of the block grant was never changed, which means we basically allowed inflation to erode it over time. It also made it impossible for TANF to respond to cyclical economic booms and busts.</p> <p>Make no mistake: this is why conservatives are so enamored of block grants. It's not because they truly believe that states are better able to manage programs for the poor than the federal government. That's frankly laughable. The reason they like block grants is because they know perfectly well that they'll erode over time. That's how you eventually drown the federal government in a bathtub.</p> <p>If Paul Ryan ever seriously proposes&mdash;and wins Republican support for&mdash;a welfare reform plan that includes block grants which (a) grow with inflation and (b) adjust automatically when recessions hit, I'll pay attention. Until then, they're just a Trojan Horse for slowly but steadily eliminating federal programs that help the poor. After all, those tax cuts for the rich won't fund themselves, will they?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:04:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258926 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare May Not Be Popular, But Its Provisions Sure Are http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/obamacare-may-not-be-popular-its-provisions-sure-are <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Brian Beutler on the way health care reform is playing out in the <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119171/pryor-obamacare-ad-mcconnell-shutdown-threat-tell-midterm-story" target="_blank">Arkansas Senate race:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><span class="dropcap">T</span>he most interesting thing about Senator Mark Pryor&rsquo;s decision to tout his support for the Affordable Care Act in a well-financed, statewide television ad isn&rsquo;t that he stands apart from other embattled Democrats this election cycle. It&rsquo;s that Republicans scrambled to spin the story, insisting to reporters that Pryor couldn&rsquo;t possibly be running on Obamacare if he won&rsquo;t refer to the law by name.</p> <p>....Instead, Pryor says, "I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick or deny [sic] coverage based on pre-existing conditions.&rdquo; Maybe he shouldn&rsquo;t have said anything about &ldquo;a law&rdquo; at all, but that&rsquo;s a niggling, semantic critique. That Republicans working to defeat Pryor are asking reporters to squeeze the word &ldquo;Obamacare&rdquo; into this sentence is an admission that they&rsquo;ve lost the policy fight. They criticize Pryor for eschewing the label, because the label&rsquo;s just about the only thing they&rsquo;re comfortable assailing.</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose this isn't the biggest thing in the world, and as Beutler says, Republicans <em>did</em> manage to talk several reporters into mentioning this. So from their point of view, it's just savvy media strategy. Besides, the truth is that Republicans have always focused on only a few things in their critique of Obamacare. That's because polls have shown for years that most of the <em>provisions</em> of the law are popular even though support for the law itself is pretty shaky. This causes Republicans endless grief, since Democrats get to harass them relentlessly about whether they <em>oppose</em> closing the donut hole; whether they <em>oppose</em> subsidy assistance; whether they <em>oppose</em> guaranteed issue; and so on. Republicans can hem and haw about how they'd keep all this stuff and only get rid of the nasty taxes and mandates, but even the dimmer bulbs in the GOP caucus know perfectly well that this is untrue.</p> <p>In any case, other Democratic politicians have touted their support for specific provisions of Obamacare, so Pryor isn't really doing anything new. He's just being smart. He knows that denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions is extremely unpopular, even among conservative voters, and he'd love to draw his opponent into a debate about exactly that. Tom Cotton has so far refused to take the bait, pretending that he'd somehow keep that provision while repealing everything else. This is a bald-faced lie, of course, but if he sticks to that story like glue he can probably avoid any serious damage from Pryor's attacks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Health Care Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:56:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 258921 at http://www.motherjones.com The Intersection of Social Liberalism and Social Media is Brutal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/intersection-social-liberalism-and-social-media-brutal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I think it's safe to say that Freddie deBoer is considerably to my left. But even he finds much of contemporary social liberalism <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/08/21/where-online-social-liberalism-lost-the-script/" target="_blank">dispiriting and self-righteous:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can&rsquo;t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing.</p> <p>....<strong>I&rsquo;m far from alone in feeling that it&rsquo;s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks</strong>....If you are a young person who is still malleable and subject to having your mind changed, and you decide to engage with socially liberal politics online, what are you going to learn immediately? Everything that you like is problematic. Every musician you like is misogynist. Every movie you like is secretly racist. Every cherished public figure has some deeply disqualifying characteristics. All of your victories are the product of privilege. Everyone you know and love who does not yet speak with the specialized vocabulary of today&rsquo;s social justice movement is a bad, bad person. <strong>That is no way to build a broader coalition, which we desperately need if we&rsquo;re going to win.</strong></p> <p>....People have to be free to make mistakes, even ones that we find offensive. If we turn away from everyone that says or believes something dumb, we will find ourselves lecturing to an empty room. Surely there are ways to preserve righteous anger while being more circumspect about who is targeted by that anger. And I strongly believe that we can, and must, remind the world that social justice is about being happy, being equal, and being free.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, I suspect that this is a more acute problem on university campuses than in the rest of the world, so it hits deBoer and his students harder than it does many of the rest of us. But I think deBoer is right when he says that social media has largely sanded away the differences. If you make a mistake these days, you won't just get a disapproving stare or maybe an email or two about it. You'll get an endless stream of hate from Twitter and Facebook. And while it's easy to point out that a few hundred angry tweets aren't really all that many compared to the millions of people on Twitter, it can feel devastating if you're on the business end of this kind of avalanche. You're not thinking in terms of percentages or small fringes, you're just reading what seems like a relentless flood of scorn and malice. And it can be overwhelming, especially if you're not accustomed to it.</p> <p>Some of this is simply the price of speaking in public. The problem is that in the past there were lots of different publics. Some were small, maybe no more than family or friends. Some were a bit larger: people you worked with, or went to school with. There were local publics, statewide publics, and national publics. The bigger the public you addressed, the more vitriol you could expect to get in return. The vitriol still wasn't fun, but it was, in some sense, a trade made with your eyes open.</p> <p>No longer. If you write a blog post or a tweet, and the wrong person just happens to highlight it, your public is suddenly gigantic whether you meant it to be or not. Then the avalanche comes. And, as deBoer says, the avalanche is dominated by the loudest, angriest, least tolerant fringes of the language and conduct police.</p> <p>I suspect this wouldn't be so bad if there were an equal and opposite reaction to the avalanche. If the hundreds of angry tweets were balanced by hundreds of more thoughtful tweets, it wouldn't be so overwhelming. But what thoughtful person wants to get involved in this kind of thing? No one. That's almost the definition of being thoughtful, after all. So the vitriol pours in, and it's soul-crushing.</p> <p>And with that, I'm sort of petering out. I feel like should have a sharper point to make about all this, but I don't really. I don't know what the answer is, or even whether there is an answer. Maybe if I get a few hundred hate-tweets in response, I'll think of something.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Tech Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:14:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 258876 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Horrible Toll of the Recession on the Poor http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-horrible-toll-recession-poor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When we talk about rising income inequality, we usually talk about the skyrocketing pay of the top 1 percent. And that's quite proper, since that's the main driver of increasing inequality.</p> <p>But <a href="http://www.census.gov/people/wealth/files/Wealth%20distribution%202000%20to%202011.pdf" target="_blank">new census data</a> shows that when it comes to net worth&mdash;which is basically total wealth&mdash;the biggest change has been at the bottom. Even after taking some lumps immediately after the recession, the well-off had recovered and even made some gains by 2011. But the poor have been devastated. Their median net worth has always been pretty close to zero, but by 2011 it had plummeted to $-6,029. <em>On average</em>, poor families were in the hole to the tune of $6,000, an astronomical and completely debilitating number to someone with barely poverty-level earnings.</p> <p>In other words, when it comes to wealth, the rich really are getting richer, and the poor really are getting poorer. A lot poorer.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_census_net_worth_2011.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:24:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258846 at http://www.motherjones.com Russian Sanctions Mostly Hitting Russian Consumers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/russian-sanctions-mostly-hitting-russian-consumers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_microphones.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The BBC reports on how those Russian sanctions against Western food have <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28855966" target="_blank">put the squeeze on European and American suppliers:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Moscow officials say frozen fish prices in the capital's major supermarkets have risen by 6%, milk by 5.3% and an average cheese costs 4.4% more than it did before the 7 August ban took effect. Russia has banned imports of those basic foods, as well as meat and many other products, from Western countries, Australia and Japan. It is retaliation for the West's sanctions on Russia over the revolt by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.</p> <p>And it is not just Moscow. On the island of Sakhalin, in Russia's far east, officials say the price of chicken thighs has soared 60%. Before the sanctions these were among the cheapest and most popular meat products in Russia.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oops. Sorry about that. It's actually Russian consumers who are paying the price. And for now, that seems to be OK:</p> <blockquote> <p>Polls show that the vast majority of Russians approve of the sanctions against Western food. They have been told by government officials and state-controlled TV that the embargo will not affect prices, and that it will actually allow Russia's own agriculture to flourish. And that message is being believed.</p> </blockquote> <p>At a guess, Russian consumers aren't very different from American consumers. Nationalistic pride will work for a while, as people accept higher prices as the cost of victory against whoever they're fighting at the moment. But that won't last any longer in Russia than it does in America. Give it a few months and public opinion is likely to turn decidedly surly. Who really cares about those damn Ukrainians anyway? They're just a bunch of malcontents and always have been, amirite?</p> <p>This is why Vladimir Putin needs a quick victory. The fact that he's not getting it will eventually prompt him to either (a) quietly give up, or (b) go all in. Unfortunately, there's really no telling which it will be.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:52:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 258841 at http://www.motherjones.com In Ferguson, Cops Hand Out 3 Warrants Per Household Every Year http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/ferguson-cops-hand-out-three-warrants-household-every-year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Alex Tabarrok comments on the <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/ferguson-and-the-debtors-prison.html" target="_blank">rather remarkable caseload of Ferguson's municipal court:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You don&rsquo;t get <strong>$321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants <em>per household</em></strong> from an about-average crime rate. You get&nbsp;numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant &ldquo;low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.&rdquo;</p> <p>If you have money, for example, you can easily get a speeding ticket converted to a non-moving violation. But if you don&rsquo;t have money it&rsquo;s often the start of a downward spiral that is hard to pull out of....If you are arrested and jailed you will probably lose your job and perhaps also your apartment&mdash;all because of a speeding ticket.</p> </blockquote> <p>We've all seen a number of stories like this recently, and it prompts a question: why are police departments allowed to fund themselves with ticket revenue in the first place? Or red light camera revenue. Or civil asset forfeiture revenue. Or any other kind of revenue that provides them with an incentive to be as hardass as possible. Am I missing something when I think that this makes no sense at all?</p> <p>This is sort of a genuine question. I know these policies are common, but where did they come from? Are they deliberate, created by politicians who like the idea of giving their local cops an incentive to get tough? Were they mostly the idea of police departments themselves, who figured the revenue from fines would provide a net boost in their annual funding? Or did they just accrete over time, popping up whenever there was a budget crisis and then never going away?</p> <p>Does anyone know?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:13:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 258836 at http://www.motherjones.com Housekeeping Note http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/housekeeping-note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>That's it for the day. I'm off to the hospital for yet another test that will undoubtedly show nothing wrong with me. But you don't know until you look, do you? See you tomorrow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:28:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 258781 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Liberals Rely Too Much on Guilt? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/do-liberals-rely-too-heavily-guilt <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.balloon-juice.com/2014/08/20/i-hate-you-for-making-me-feel-like-an-jerkhole/" target="_blank">Tim F. makes an observation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Spend some time following internet conversations about your liberal cause of the day (global warming, racial injustice, etc) and eventually someone will get to the nut of why the issue pisses many people off: they think activists want them to feel guilty and they don&rsquo;t want to feel guilty. That&rsquo;s pretty much it. A huge part of our failure to do anything about the climate disaster or racist asshole cops comes from people protecting their delicate ego.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. But I'd take this a little more seriously, because it's probably something that genuinely hurts lefty causes. It's human nature to get defensive when you feel guilty, and it's hard to recruit defensive folks to your cause. If this were only an occasional problem, that would be one thing. But let's be honest: We really do rely on guilt a lot. You should feel guilty about using plastic bags. About liking college football. About driving an SUV. About eating factory-farmed beef. About using the wrong word to refer to a transgender person. About sending your kids to a private school. And on and on and on.</p> <p>We all contribute to this, even when we don't mean to. And maybe guilt is inevitable when you're trying to change people's behavior. But it adds up, and over time lefties can get to seem a little unbearable. You have to be so damn careful around us!</p> <p>I don't really have any useful advice about this. Maybe there's nothing much to be done about it. But egos, delicate or otherwise, are just a part of the human condition. We ignore them at our peril.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:05:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 258771 at http://www.motherjones.com Let Us Now Psychoanalyze Famous Men (And Their Photographs) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/let-us-now-psychoanalyze-famous-men-and-their-photographs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_holder_ferguson.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Bob Somerby calls my attention to the following bit of psychobabble from Peter Baker and Matt Apuzzo of the <em>New York Times</em>. The subject is a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/us/holder-and-obama-differ-in-approach-to-underlying-issues-of-missouri-unrest.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">photo released by the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Mr. Holder, 63, is the one leaning forward,</strong> both in the photograph released by the White House and on the issues underlying the crisis in Ferguson, Mo. A child of the civil rights era, he grew up shaped by the images of violence in Selma, Ala., and joined sit-ins at Columbia University where protesters renamed an office after Malcolm X. Now in high office, he pushes for policy changes and is to fly on Wednesday to Ferguson to personally promise justice in the case of a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer.</p> <p><strong>Mr. Obama, 53, is the one seemingly holding back in the White House photograph,</strong> contemplative, even brooding, as if seeking to understand how events could get so out of hand. He was too young and removed to experience the turmoil of the 1960s, growing up in a multiracial household in Hawaii and Indonesia. As he now seeks balance in an unbalanced time, he wrestles with the ghosts of history that his landmark election, however heady, failed to exorcise.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously? Take a look at other photographs of Obama when he's conferring with someone. Take a look at other photographs of <em>any</em> powerful person when they're conferring with an underling. The boss is the one who's free to lounge back and relax. The underling is the one who has to lean forward and make his case. This is standard body language. Obama uses it so often that in just the August "Photo of the Day" gallery alone, I count it in three out of four photos where Obama is conferring with other people.</p> <p>Look, I've been there. You want to say something interesting. You need a hook. But come on. If you want to make the case that racial issues are more immediate for Holder than for Obama, go ahead. But don't pretend that a bog ordinary White House photograph tells you anything. That's just embarrassing. Before long you'll be hiring body language "experts" and handwriting "analysts" to help you with your leads. Here be dragons.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Obama Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:12:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 258751 at http://www.motherjones.com Barack Obama Loathes Congress as Much as You Do http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/barack-obama-loathes-congress-much-you-do <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ezra Klein responds to a <em>New York Times</em> article about President Obama's <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/8/20/6045891/why-congressional-democrats-don-t-like-obama" target="_blank">chilly relationship with his fellow Democrats:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama <em>does</em> see socializing with Hill Democrats as a chore. But there's a lot that Obama sees as a chore and commits to anyway. The presidency, for all its power, is full of drudgery; there are ambassadors to swear in and fundraisers to attend and endless briefings on issues that the briefers don't even really care about. <strong>The reason Obama doesn't put more effort into stroking congressional Democrats is he sees it as a <em>useless</em> chore.</strong></p> <p>The <em>Times</em> article...never names a bill that didn't pass or a nominee who wasn't confirmed because Obama's doesn't spend more time on the golf course with members of Congress. The closest it comes is...not very close. "In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama's approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office."</p> <p>This is ridiculous. There are no issues erupting at home or abroad where the problem is that House or Senate Democrats won't vote with the president. There's no legislation of importance to President Obama's legacy that would pass if only House Democrats had spent more time at the White House. I've listened to a lot of Democratic members of Congress complain about Obama's poor relationships on the Hill. Each time, my follow-up question is the same: "what would have passed if Obama had better relationships on the Hill?" Each time, the answer is the same: a shake of the head, and then, "nothing."</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd probably give a little more credit to schmoozing than this. But only a very little. At the margins, there are probably times when having a good relationship with a committee chair will speed up action or provide a valuable extra vote or two on a bill or a nominee. And Obama has the perfect vehicle for doing this regularly since he loves to play golf. But for the most part Klein is right. There's very little evidence that congressional schmoozing has more than a tiny effect on things. Members of Congress vote the way they want or need to vote, and if they respond to anyone, it's to party leaders, interest groups, and fellow ideologues. In days gone by, presidents could coerce votes by working to withhold money from a district, or by agreeing to name a crony as the local postmaster, but those days are long gone. There's really very little leverage that presidents have over members of Congress these days, regardless of party.</p> <p>Obama is an odd duck. It's not just that he doesn't schmooze. As near as I can tell, he has a barely concealed contempt for Congress. He doesn't really enjoy playing the political game, and not just because it's gotten so rancid in recent years. Even if Republicans were acting like a normal political party these days, I still don't think he'd enjoy it much. And yet, he spent years campaigning for the top political job in the United States. It's a little bit of a mystery, frankly.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:56:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 258746 at http://www.motherjones.com What's in a Word: Trophy vs. Ribbon Edition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/whats-word-trophy-vs-ribbon-edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://reason.com/poll/2014/08/19/57-percent-of-americans-say-only-kids-wh" target="_blank">A recent poll from <em>Reason</em> magazine</a> investigates the burning question of whether kids on sports teams should all get participation trophies, or whether it should only be the winners. Overall, 57 percent think only the winners should get trophies, but <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trophies_for_all.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the detailed breakdown is kind of interesting. It turns out that society's winners generally think that only winners should get trophies. Society's also-rans tend to think everyone should be recognized.</p> <p>I wonder how much of this has to do with the word <em>trophy</em>? For many decades, after all, the US military has awarded ribbons to anyone who participates in surface combat. This is a very egalitarian award. You don't need to have done anything special. You don't need to have won. You just need to have participated. Nobody complains about this, but then again, it's just a ribbon that shows you've been part of an actual combat action. It's not a trophy or even a medal.</p> <p>So would people react the same way to giving every kid a participation ribbon? I'll bet not. No one would object. But many of them <em>do</em> object to trophies. It's funny how a cheap bit of gold-colored plastic stirs the passions so much, isn't it?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I have no personal experience with either surface combat or kids' sports. Those who do should feel free to school me in comments if I'm wrong about any of this.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE 2:</strong> Several commenters have pointed out that, in fact, participation trophies are mostly limited to very young age groups, like five-year-olds. This makes a kind of sense, since at that age winning and losing is mostly just a matter of chance anyway. Among older kids, though, the whole "participation trophy" thing is just a myth.</p> <p>Is that true?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Military Sports Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:20:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 258736 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Like the War in Iraq? Blame Congress. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/dont-war-iraq-blame-congress <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_isis_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">President Obama has no plans to ask Congress for authority under the War Powers Act to take military action in Iraq. But he's hardly the only one to blame here. An even bigger problem is that Congress <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/us/politics/in-washington-little-appetite-for-a-vote-on-iraq.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=lede-package&amp;WT.nav=lede-package&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">doesn't really want him to ask in the first place:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;This is not about an imperial presidency, it&rsquo;s about a Congress that&rsquo;s reluctant to cast tough votes on U.S. military action,&rdquo; said [Senator Tim] Kaine....&ldquo;We should not be putting American men and women&rsquo;s lives at risk if we are not willing to do the political work to reach a consensus that it&rsquo;s necessary,&rdquo; Mr. Kaine said in an interview.</p> <p>....Senior administration officials note that congressional leaders, who met with Mr. Obama about Iraq in June, have explicitly told them Mr. Obama need not come to Congress to authorize military action.</p> <p>Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader whose weekly conference calls with Democrats during the congressional break have been dominated by discussions of Iraq, said that Mr. Obama had wide latitude to act without Congress and suggested that Republicans eager to criticize the president would not be as eager to vote.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ll see where the Republicans will be who have been calling for this, that and the other thing, if they had to vote on Iraq,&rdquo; Ms. Pelosi said in San Francisco last week....Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, who helped draft the resolution to authorize strikes against Syria, has not called for a similar measure for the current operation in Iraq. He said he wanted administration officials to testify at a hearing when Congress returned about their strategy for the airstrikes and what authorities they intended to use in executing them.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's an election year, after all, and this would be politically difficult for everyone. Democrats probably aren't excited about re-engaging in Iraq, but they'd be reluctant to oppose a president of their own party. Republicans would love to oppose Obama, but if they did they wouldn't be able to complain any more about what a wuss he is. Better for everyone to let sleeping dogs lie. That way they can kibitz from the sidelines and then, when it's all over, pretend that they supported a better policy all along.</p> <p>It's cowardly, but that's politics. In any case, it's certainly hard to blame Obama for overreach when the branch of Congress that passed the War Powers Act in the first place has all but begged him to ignore it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Obama Wed, 20 Aug 2014 01:21:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 258726 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Believe the Crocodile Tears Over High Corporate Tax Rates http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/dont-believe-crocodile-tears-over-high-corporate-tax-rates <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The US corporate tax code is inefficient, distortive, and staggeringly complex. Almost no one defends it on those grounds. But US multinational corporations, who have recently been engaged in a wave of tax inversions, have a different complaint: our tax rates are just flatly too high. They make American corporations uncompetitive compared to their foreign peers, and that's why they're being forced to relocate their headquarters to other countries with lower tax rates.</p> <p>Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the Gould School of Law at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, says this is nonsense. Firms that are entirely (or almost entirely) domestic do indeed pay high corporate taxes. But multinationals don't. Thanks to the "feast of tax planning opportunities laid out before them on the groaning board of corporate tax expenditures," they mostly pay effective tax rates that aren't much different from French or German companies. They are, in fact, perfectly competitive.</p> <p>So why the <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=2476453" target="_blank">recent binge of tax inversions?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The short answer is that the current mania for inversions is driven by <strong>U.S. firms&rsquo; increasingly desperate need to do something with their $1 trillion in offshore cash,</strong> and by a desire to reduce U.S. domestic tax burdens on U.S. domestic operating earnings.</p> <p>The year 2004 is a good place to start, because that year&rsquo;s corporate offshore cash tax amnesty (section 965) had a perfectly predictable knock-on effect, which was to convince corporate America that the one-time never to be repeated tax amnesty would inevitably be followed by additional tax amnesties, if only multinationals would opportune their legislators enough. <strong>The 2004 law thus created a massive incentive to accumulate as much permanently reinvested earnings in the form of cash as possible.</strong></p> <p>....The convergence of these two phenomena led to an explosion in stateless income strategies and in the total stockpile of U.S. multinationals&rsquo; permanently reinvested earnings. <strong>But U.S. multinationals are now hoist by their own petard. The best of the stateless income planners are now drowning in low-taxed overseas cash</strong>....It is less than a secret that firms in this position really have no intention at all of &ldquo;permanently&rdquo; reinvesting the cash overseas, but instead are counting the days until the money can be used to goose share prices through stock buy backs and dividends.</p> <p>....The obvious solution from the perspective of the multinationals would have been a second, and then a third and fourth, one-time only repatriation holiday, but there are still hard feelings in Congress surrounding the differences between the representations made to legislators relating to how the cash from the first holiday would be used, and what in fact happened.</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed. Back in 2004, multinational corporations swore that if Congress granted them a tax amnesty to repatriate their foreign income into the United States, it would unleash a tsunami of new investment. Needless to say, that never happened. Corporate investment had never been credit-constrained in the first place. Instead, all that lovely cash was used mostly to goose stock prices via buy-backs and increased dividends. It's no wonder that Congress is unwilling to repeat that fiasco.</p> <p>Kleinbard's paper is an interesting one, with a couple of fascinating case studies demolishing the self-serving ways that corporate CEOs try to blame the tax code for things that have nothing to do with it. <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/tax-burden-in-u-s-not-as-heavy-as-it-looks-study-finds/" target="_blank">Andrew Ross Sorkin has more here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Corporations Economy Regulatory Affairs Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:46:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258651 at http://www.motherjones.com Rick Perry Indictment Highlights the Hack Gap Once Again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/rick-perry-indictment-highlights-hack-gap-once-again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Simon Maloy finds five pundits arguing that last week's indictment of Rick Perry was <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/the_rights_bombshell_deceit_why_the_lefts_defense_of_perry_reveals_so_much/" target="_blank">flimsy and obviously politically motivated:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Who are these five pundits downplaying the case against Texas&rsquo; Republican governor? In order: <em>New York</em> magazine&rsquo;s Jonathan Chait, MSNBC host Ari Melber, political scientist and <em>American Prospect</em> contributor Scott Lemieux, the Center for American Progress&rsquo; Ian Millhiser, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mind_gap.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and the <em>New Republic&rsquo;s</em> Alec MacGillis. Five guys who work/write for big-name liberal publications or organizations. <strong>This, friends, is the Hack Gap in action.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Ah yes, the hack gap. Where would we be without it? For the most part, it doesn't show up on the policy side, where liberals and conservatives both feature a range of thinkers who bicker internally over lots of things. It mostly shows up on the process side. Is the legal reasoning on subject X sound? Is it appropriate to attack candidate Y in a particular way? Is program Z working well or poorly? How unanimously should we pretend that a mediocre speech/poll/debate performance is really a world-historical victory for our guy?</p> <p>Both sides have hacks who are willing to take their party's side on these things no matter how ridiculous their arguments are. But Republicans sure have a lot more of them. We've seen this most recently with Obamacare. Obviously liberals have been more positive in their assessments of how it's doing, but they've also been perfectly willing to acknowledge its problems, ranging from the website rollout debacle to the problems of narrow networks to the reality of rate shock for at least some buyers. Conservatives, conversely, have been all but unanimous in their insistence that every single aspect of the program is a flat-out failure. Even as Obamacare's initial problems were fixed and it became clear that, in fact, the program was working reasonably well, conservatives never changed their tune. They barely even acknowledged the good news, and when they did it was only to set up lengthy explanations of why it could be safely ignored. To this day, virtually no conservative pundits have made any concessions to reality. Obamacare is a failure on every possible front, and that's that.</p> <p>Liberals just don't have quite this level of hackish discipline. Even on a subject as near and dear to the Democratic heart as Social Security, you could find some liberals who supported a version of privatization back when George Bush was hawking the idea in 2005. It's pretty hard to imagine any conservatives doing the opposite.</p> <p>Is this changing? Are liberals starting to close the gap? Possibly. The liberal narrative on events in Ferguson has stayed pretty firm even as bits and pieces of contradictory evidence have surfaced along the way. The fact that Michael Brown had robbed a convenience store; that he wasn't running away when he was shot; and that a lighter policing touch didn't stop the looting and violence&mdash;none of those things have changed the liberal storyline much. And maybe they shouldn't, since they don't really affect the deeper issues. A cop still pumped six rounds into an unarmed teenager; the militarized response to the subsequent protests remains disgraceful; and the obvious fear of Ferguson's black community toward its white police force is palpable. Maybe it's best to keep the focus there, where it belongs.</p> <p>Still, a bit of honest acknowledgment that the story has taken a few confusing turns wouldn't hurt. Just as having a few liberal voices defending Rick Perry doesn't hurt. Keep it honest, folks.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> And what do <em>I</em> think of the Perry indictment? I'm not sure. When I first saw the headlines on Friday I was shocked, but then I read the stories and realized this was all about something Perry had done very publicly. That seemed like a bit of a yawner, and it was getting late, so I just skipped commenting on it. By Monday, it hardly seemed worth rehashing, especially since I didn't have a very good sense of the law involved.</p> <p>So....I still don't know. The special prosecutor who brought the indictment seems like a fairly straight shooter, so there might be something there. Overall, though, I guess it mostly seems like a pretty political use of prosecutorial power.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice The Right Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:02:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 258646 at http://www.motherjones.com It Looks Like Obamacare Is Here to Stay http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/it-looks-obamacare-here-stay <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Republicans may say that Obamacare is still the white-hot issue it's always been, and among their tea party base that might still be true. But if money talks, it turns out that Republicans no longer really believe Obamacare is a winning issue anywhere else. Bloomberg ran the numbers in a few battleground Senate races and discovered that <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-19/obamacare-losing-punch-as-campaign-weapon-in-ad-battles.html" target="_blank">GOP candidates are starting to turn to other issues:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party&rsquo;s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch.</p> <p>The shift&nbsp;&mdash; also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana&nbsp;&mdash; shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.</p> <p>....In April, anti-Obamacare advertising dwarfed all other spots in North Carolina. It accounted for 3,061, or 54 percent, of the 5,704 top five issue ads in North Carolina, according to Kantar Media&rsquo;s Campaign Media Analysis Group. By July, the numbers had reversed, with anti-Obamacare ads accounting for 971, or 27 percent, of the top issue ads, and the budget, government spending, jobs and unemployment accounting for 2,608, or 72 percent, of such ads, CMAG data show.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/08/19/morning-plum-obamacare-disappearing-as-major-issue/" target="_blank">As Greg Sargent points out,</a> this doesn't mean Democrats are any more likely to hold the Senate this year. But it does suggest that as time goes by and Obamacare appears to be working fairly well without causing the collapse of the Republic, even the GOP faithful are starting to accept it. More and more, it looks like Obamacare is here to stay.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:46:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 258641 at http://www.motherjones.com Medicare Advantage Might Not Be a Boondoggle Anymore http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/medicare-advantage-might-not-be-boondoggle-anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've written periodically in this space about the problems with Medicare Advantage. In a nutshell, it costs a lot more but provides very little in the way of additional services. It's really not much of a poster child for the benefits of program choice.</p> <p>But wait! Apparently a big part of the problem with MA was the fact that people were allowed to switch in and out of their plans on a monthly basis. If they got sick, they could quickly switch into MA if that was a better deal for them. This obviously raised the cost of MA as sick people switched in to avoid the copays and other limitations of traditional Medicare.</p> <p>However, that changed in the mid-2000s, when beneficiaries were required to choose a plan and stick with it for a full year. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/19/upshot/medicare-advantage-is-more-expensive-but-it-may-be-worth-it.html?abt=0002&amp;abg=0" target="_blank">Austin Frakt provides the details of a new study:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>By 2006-2007, health differences between beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage and those in traditional Medicare had narrowed....Also, in contrast to studies in the 1990s, more recent work finds that Medicare Advantage is superior to traditional Medicare on a variety of quality measures. For example, according to a paper in <em>Health Affairs</em> by John Ayanian and colleagues, women enrolled in a Medicare Advantage H.M.O. are more likely to receive mammography screenings; those with diabetes are more likely to receive blood sugar testing and retinal exams; and those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease are more likely to receive cholesterol testing.</p> <p>That <em>Health Affairs</em> paper also found that H.M.O. enrollees are more likely to receive flu and pneumonia vaccinations and about as likely to rate their personal doctor and specialists highly.</p> </blockquote> <p>So now things are a little murkier. MA still costs more than traditional Medicare, but only by 5-6 percent. And recent evidence suggests that MA beneficiaries might be getting enough additional benefit to justify that much extra money. It's still not clear that MA is worthwhile, but it appears now to be at least worth further study.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:20:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 258591 at http://www.motherjones.com Most Songs are Three Minutes Long Because That's How Most of Us Like Them http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/most-songs-are-three-minutes-long-because-thats-how-most-us-them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rock_around_clock.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Kelsey McKinney asks today why popular songs are almost all 3-5 minutes long. The historical basis for this is obvious: 45 rpm singles hold about three minutes of music, so modern pop music was born in an era when technology limited songs to about three minutes or so. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/8/18/6003271/why-are-songs-3-minutes-long" target="_blank">But what about more recently?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It makes sense to assume that since the basis of the three-minute song was the 78 and then 45 rpm single, then songs would become longer as technology evolved....But the length of songs had its biggest jump, according to this data, between the '60s and '80s, and very little has changed from the '90s to 2008, a time period when the technology of music changed drastically.</p> <p>"What drives what is heard on the radio is an artist's desire to have their music hit the mainstream, and a record label's desire to profit from that," Steve Jones, vice president at the Canadian radio firm Newcap, told NPR....Jones is right. <strong>The length of a song on an album doesn't matter for anyone except for the artist and fans,</strong> but a song that hopes to make money and be played on the radio simply has to be a certain length. Either that, or radio stations will edit the song down to the standard, making it three to four minutes, just like the 45.</p> </blockquote> <p>But this begs the question. <em>Why</em> do radio stations insist on three minutes? They don't run ads after literally every song, so it's not because advertisers demand it. The obvious answer is that this is, in fact, what most fans want.</p> <p>The core explanation, I think, is that most popular music simply doesn't have the complexity to sustain itself beyond a few minutes. Both the lyrics and the melodies tend to be fairly simple, and after a few minutes they've exhausted their potential. Compare this to classical music and you see it more clearly. Most classical music is considerably more complex than your average pop song, but even so a single movement of a sonata or a symphony usually clocks in at no more than ten minutes or so. Opera arias&mdash;which developed in a pre-technological age and with much more patient audiences&mdash;are closer in length to modern pop songs, typically lasting 3-7 minutes.</p> <p>Obviously there are exceptions to this. There are plenty of examples of longish pop songs, just as there are examples of classical pieces longer than ten minutes. But generally speaking, you need a fair amount of complexity to sustain these lengths, and that's not what most people want. They want simple and hummable, and that means not too long.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Music Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:10:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 258566 at http://www.motherjones.com White Juries Are Not Kind to Black Defendants http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/white-juries-are-not-kind-black-defendants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Alex Tabarrok passes along the results of a new study about the racial composition of <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/the-impact-of-jury-race-in-criminal-trials.html" target="_blank">jury pools and the resulting juries:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What the authors discover is that all white juries are 16% more likely to convict black defendants than white defendants <strong>but the presence of just a single black person in the <em>jury pool</em> equalizes conviction rates by race.</strong> The effect is large and remarkably it occurs even when the black person is not picked for the jury. The latter may not seem possible but the authors develop an elegant model of voir dire that shows how using up a veto on a black member of the pool shifts the characteristics of remaining pool members from which the lawyers must pick; that is, a diverse&nbsp;jury&nbsp;pool can make for a more &ldquo;ideologically&rdquo; balanced jury even when the jury is not racially balanced.</p> </blockquote> <p>There is, of course, no de jure discrimination at work here. The law treats every defendant and every jury member the same. But that still doesn't mean everyone is treated the same. Far from it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:57:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 258546 at http://www.motherjones.com We Created a Policing Monster By Mistake http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/we-created-policing-monster-mistake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Although I've avoided writing about Ferguson for private reasons, I almost wrote a short post yesterday in order to make one specific point. But it turns out to be OK that I didn't, because <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/militarized-police-a-less-violent-public.html" target="_blank">Annie Lowrey wrote it for me</a> and did a better job than I would have.</p> <p>The point of her post is simple: Two decades ago violent crime really was out of control, and it seemed reasonable to a lot of people that police needed to respond in a much more forceful way. We can argue forever about whether militarizing our police forces was an appropriate response to higher crime rates, but at least it was an understandable motivation. Later, police militarization got a further boost from 9/11, and again, that was at least an understandable response.</p> <p>But at the same time the trend toward militarization started in the early 90s, the crime wave of the 70s and 80s finally crested and then began to ebb. Likewise, Al Qaeda terrorism never evolved into a serious local problem. We've spent the past two decades militarizing our police forces to respond to problems that never materialized, and now we're stuck with them. We don't need commando teams and SWAT units in every town in America to deal with either terrorism or an epidemic of crime, so they get used for other things instead. And that's how we end up with debacles like Ferguson.</p> <p>Police militarization was a mistake. You can argue that perhaps we didn't know that at the time. No one knew in 1990 that crime was about to begin a dramatic long-term decline, and no one knew in 2001 that domestic terrorism would never become a serious threat. But we know now. There's no longer even a thin excuse for arming our police forces this way.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Sat, 16 Aug 2014 16:28:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 258526 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 15 August 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/friday-cat-blogging-15-august-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday, in a surprising act of cooperation, Domino just sat in the sun while I took her picture from a distance. Usually I can get off maybe one or two shots before she realizes what's going on and heads directly over to the camera. Is it because she loves the camera? Distrusts the camera? Just wants to say hi to me? I don't know, but this time she just let me click away. This one reminds me of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/07/friday-campaign-blogging-would-you-buy-used-car-cat" target="_blank">Inkblot's presidential campaign portrait.</a></p> <p>In other news, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2722766/Is-worlds-fattest-cat-Two-half-stone-Meatball-strict-diet.html" target="_blank">click here</a> to meet Meatball, possibly the world's biggest cat.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_08_15.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:55:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 258486 at http://www.motherjones.com Open War in Ukraine Is a Little Bit Closer Every Day http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/open-war-ukraine-little-bit-closer-every-day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>"Maybe it&rsquo;s just me," <a href="https://twitter.com/blakehounshell/status/500304635752906752" target="_blank">tweets Blake Hounshell,</a> "but open warfare between Ukraine and Russia seems like a BFD."</p> <p>Yes indeed. As it happens, we're not quite at the stage of <em>open</em> warfare yet, but we sure seem to be getting mighty close. Remember that Russian "aid convoy" that everyone was so suspicious of? Well, it turns out to be....pretty suspicious. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28799627" target="_blank">BBC reporter Steve Rosenberg</a> says that upon inspection, many of the 280 trucks turned out to be "almost empty." Yesterday we received reports of a column of Russian military vehicles crossing the border into Ukraine as the aid convoy idled nearby, and that was confirmed by NATO earlier today. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/ukraine-border-guards-begin-inspecting-russian-aid-convoy/2014/08/15/27bb612a-2469-11e4-86ca-6f03cbd15c1a_story.html?hpid=z4" target="_blank">A little later,</a> Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine had destroyed "the majority" of the column.</p> <p>In one sense, this is nothing new. Ukraine has been saying for months that Moscow is backing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and more recently Ukraine began an aggressive fighting to expel them. Still, this does appear to be an escalation. Between the mysterious aid convoy and the military column that may or may not have been largely destroyed by Ukrainian forces, warfare is indeed becoming a little more open every day.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:34:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 258496 at http://www.motherjones.com Who Should Run Against Hillary? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/who-should-run-against-hillary <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sherrod_brown.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Andy Sabl surveys the Democratic field today and concludes that, sure enough, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive frontrunner. <a href="http://www.samefacts.com/2014/08/elections/2016/the-one-candidate-who-could-still-challenge-clinton-but-probably-wont/" target="_blank">Who could challenge her?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Any Democratic candidate jumping in at this point will have to have <em>already</em> demonstrated party loyalty, actual or likely executive skills, and the ability to win a majority of votes in both a party primary and a general election. Moreover, it would help if that candidate had a record of early and loud opposition to doing &ldquo;stupid [stuff]&rdquo; in the Middle East...It would help if the candidate had vast personal wealth....as well as strong and deep connections to Silicon Valley, the only serious rival to Wall Street (Clinton&rsquo;s base) as a source of campaign cash.</p> </blockquote> <p>So who could this be? Sabl is obviously describing Al Gore, and admits there's zero evidence that Gore has any intention of running. "But if he did, and if he ran as the anti-war and populist&mdash;yet impeccably mainstream&mdash;candidate that Hillary clearly is not and has no desire to be, things would suddenly get interesting."</p> <p>I guess so. But that raises a question: Who would you <em>like</em> to see challenge Hillary? I'm not asking who you think is <em>likely</em> to run, just which plausible candidate you'd most like to see in the race.</p> <p>I suppose my choice would be Sherrod Brown. He's a serious guy who's been in Washington for a long time. He opposed the Iraq War; he's got good populist anti-Wall Street credentials; and he's a solid labor supporter. He's a pretty good talker, and never comes across as threateningly radical. As far as I know, he doesn't have any skeletons in his closet serious enough to disqualify him. (Aside from the fact that he says he has no interest in running, of course.)</p> <p>Who's your choice? Plausible candidates only. Not Noam Chomsky or Dennis Kucinich. It's surprisingly hard, isn't it? The Democratic bench is actually pretty thin these days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:14:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 258481 at http://www.motherjones.com Europe Agrees to Arm the Kurds http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/europe-agrees-arm-kurds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What are the odds that Iraqi Kurdistan will ever be able to secede and form its own sovereign state? That depends in large part on whether the United States and other countries support Kurdish independence, which so far they haven't. Today, however, the EU officially encouraged its members to "respond positively to the call by the Kurdish regional authorities to provide urgently military material."</p> <p>Is that a step toward accepting Kurdish independence? Maybe, but only a smidge. The EU statement also said that arms shipments should be done only "with the consent of the Iraqi national authorities." <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/middle-east-live/live/2014/aug/15/iraq-crisis-britain-ready-to-arm-kurds-as-eu-meets-live-updates" target="_blank">And the <em>Guardian</em> reports that,</a> "At the same time the EU reiterated its firm commitment to Iraq&rsquo;s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity."</p> <p>If the new Iraqi government works out, this probably leads nowhere. But if the new government is no more competent or inclusive than Maliki's, this could end up being a tacit first step toward Kurdish secession. Wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Fri, 15 Aug 2014 16:00:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258461 at http://www.motherjones.com