Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Health Update Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">As you may recall,</a> the key thing my doctor&mdash;and I&mdash;would like to see on the multiple myeloma front is a big drop in my M protein level, a marker for cancerous plasma cells. Today we got the latest results, and it's up to 0.9. Since the first round of chemotherapy had already gotten it down to 1.0, what this means is that the entire second round of chemotherapy at City of Hope was basically useless. I didn't respond to it at all.</p> <p>We went ahead with the biopsy today anyway, for reasons that are a little vague to me. Apparently it will give us some indication of <em>where</em> the cancerous cells are, but the results won't have any impact on my treatment plan. In a couple of days I'll start on a low daily dose of Revlimid, in hopes that it will get my M protein level down to zero. If it doesn't, then we'll try a higher dose.</p> <p>Revlimid is a highly controlled substance because it's in the same family as thalidomide and can cause serious birth defects. You cannot just pick it up at your local pharmacy. First, you have to fill out a lengthy form, and the medication is then mailed from a central location, presumably in a plain brown wrapper or something. As near as I could tell, pretty much every question on the form was some variation of me promising not to even think about getting anyone pregnant while I'm taking it. As you can imagine, this is not really an issue, so the form turned out not to be too much of a chore after all. It was just OK, OK, OK, OK, etc. I promise.</p> <p>So that's it for now. Not exactly cheery news, but the buildup of cancerous cells in my bone marrow is not actually that heavy (about 5 percent or so), which means there's a decent chance the Revlimid will be enough to keep it under control. We'll know in a couple of months or so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 03:49:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 278726 at Health Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is probably it for blogging today. It's biopsy day for me, and unfortunately this is up in LA, so it's going to wipe out most of the day. The good news is that this is the last of the tests for now, and in a week or two we'll know for sure how well I responded to the second-round chemo up at City of Hope. Whether <em>that</em> turns out to be good news or bad is the million-dollar question.</p> <p>In the meantime, I'm feeling pretty good. I bought myself a Surface 3 yesterday as part of my tablet collection hobby. It's my fourth in four years. I now have an iPad, an Android tab, and two Windows tabs. Since I don't spend a lot of money on anything else, I figure it's actually a fairly harmless and cheap hobby.</p> <p>Seems to be OK so far with a few odd quirks. But I've not yet been able to answer my key question: how well does Firefox work? Their servers appear to have been down for maintenance since last night, so I'm unable to sync the new tablet. Until then, it's basically a brick since Firefox is about half of what I do with it. Maybe the Mozilla folks will have their servers back up and running by the time I get home.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:30:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 278641 at Court Rules EPA Must Consider Cost in Regulation of Power Plants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In today's EPA case, the question at hand was whether EPA has to consider both costs and benefits when it makes the decision to regulate power plants. EPA says it has to consider only benefits during the initial decision, and can consider costs later when it writes the actual regulations themselves.</p> <p>The conservative majority on the Supreme Court disagreed. Although the Clean Air Act generally requires EPA to regulate sources that&nbsp; &ldquo;presen[t] a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_power_plant_smokestack.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">threat of adverse effects to human health or the environment," the requirements for regulating power plants are different. EPA can only regulate power plants if it finds regulation "appropriate and necessary."</p> <p>So what does that mean? "There are undoubtedly settings in which the phrase 'appropriate and necessary' does not encompass cost," the majority opinion says, "But this is not one of them." <a href="" target="_blank">Then this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>EPA points out that other parts of the Clean Air Act expressly mention cost, while [the power plant clause] does not. But this observation shows only that&nbsp;[the power plant clause's] broad reference to appropriateness encompasses <em>multiple </em>relevant factors (which include but are not limited to cost); other provisions&rsquo; specific references to cost encompass just cost. <strong>It is unreasonable to infer that, by expressly making cost relevant to other decisions, the Act implicitly makes cost irrelevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants</strong>....Other parts of the Clean Air Act also expressly mention environmental effects, while [the power plant clause] does not. Yet that did not stop EPA from deeming environmental effects relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.</p> </blockquote> <p>As it happens, this is not entirely clear. The origin of the phrase "the exception proves the rule" applies to this. If I say that parking is not allowed on 4th Avenue on weekdays, this implicitly means that parking <em>is</em> allowed on weekends. The fact that I made a specific rule and deliberately failed to include certain cases in that rule, means that the rule doesn't apply to the excepted cases.</p> <p>In this case, cost is specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Clean Air Act, but not here. So power plants appear to be an exception to the general rule that cost has to be considered from the very start. This means that the question is whether "appropriate and necessary" encompasses cost, or whether Congress would have specifically mentioned cost if it wanted it considered.</p> <p>The conservative majority decided cost was inherently part of that phrase. The liberal dissenters disagreed. The conservatives won.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 15:51:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 278676 at This Will Probably Not Be a Very Fun Week <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This week's news to watch for:</p> <ul><li>Greek talks have broken down and they might be about to leave the euro, causing chaos.</li> <li>Negotiations with the Iranians have hit a pretty rough patch. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_stock_market_plunge_june_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">There may be no nuclear deal after all.</li> <li>Puerto Rico has effectively declared bankruptcy.</li> <li>China's stock markets, which have been falling already, are off a cliff today. "China&rsquo;s main stock index entered bear-market territory Monday," says the <em>Wall Street Journal,</em> "as a surprise interest-rate cut over the weekend failed to lift the market amid concerns over investors&rsquo; debt levels, while uncertainty about Greece shook sentiment elsewhere in the region."</li> <li>And in non-financial bad news, the Supreme Court has a couple of important cases coming up this week. The smart money suggests that the liberal run of good luck in the high court may be over. Fasten your seat belts.</li> </ul><p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> It's already happening. The Court has just upheld lethal injection procedures for executing death-row inmates and has struck down EPA rules on toxic emissions. On the brighter side, they ruled that independent commissions can draw district lines. So liberals are 1-2 so far this week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:41:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 278661 at Greece Now Has to Decide Whether to Leave the Euro. It's Not a No-Brainer. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today's news is all about Greece. To make a long story short, the Greeks last week presented the Europeans with an austerity proposal that was pretty much what they had been asking for. But It turned out that "pretty much" wasn't good enough. The Europeans wanted <em>exactly</em> what they had been asking for and sent the Greeks packing. Talks broke down completely, and the Greek prime minister has called for a referendum later this <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Greece_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">week. The question: Accept the humiliating European terms and stay in the euro, or reject the terms and exit the euro. <a href="" target="_blank">Paul Krugman offers his opinion:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I would vote no, for two reasons. First, much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone &mdash; me included &mdash; the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not. <strong>But even so, devaluation couldn&rsquo;t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. </strong>Greece is not that different.</p> <p>Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone &mdash; they made Tsipras an offer he can&rsquo;t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don&rsquo;t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's worth unpacking this a bit, and doing it in the simplest possible way. If Greeks vote no on the European proposal, it's basically a vote to abandon the euro and recreate a new version of their old currency. Call it the New Drachma. They would then devalue the ND, making Greek exports more competitive in the international market. That would mean more tourists, more olive exports, and more fish exports. At least, that's what it would mean in the long term.</p> <p>In the short term it would mean chaos. Banks would close, and capital controls would be put in place until the new currency could be put in circulation. Imports would skyrocket in price, and this would effectively mean pay cuts for everyone. Savings would be lost, and pensions would be effectively slashed.</p> <p>In other words, Greece would almost certainly suffer <em>more</em> short-term austerity by leaving the euro than by staying within in it. The payoff, hopefully, would be control of their own currency, which would allow them to rebalance their economy in the long run and begin a true economic recovery. In the meantime, however, I'd be skeptical of Krugman's belief that leaving the euro would cause a bit of chaos, but not much more than Greece is already suffering. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's Barry Eichengreen:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Nearly a decade ago, I analyzed scenarios for a country leaving the eurozone....The costs, I concluded, would be severe and heavily front-loaded....a bank run....shutter[ing] the financial system....losing access to not just their savings but also imported petrol, medicines and foodstuffs....Not only would any subsequent benefits, by comparison, be delayed, but they would be disappointingly small....Any improvement in export competitiveness due to depreciation of the newly reintroduced national currency would prove ephemeral....Greece&rsquo;s....leading export, refined petroleum, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_greece_germany.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">is priced in dollars and relies on imported oil....Agricultural exports....will take several harvests to ramp up. And attracting more tourists won&rsquo;t be easy against a drumbeat of political unrest.</p> </blockquote> <p>A lot of people think it's a no-brainer for Greece to leave the euro at this point. This is why it's not. Make no mistake: it will cause a <em>lot</em> of pain. Greek incomes will effectively be slashed, and it will take years to recover on the backs of improved exports. It's quite possible that this is the only good long-term solution for Greece, which has been treated badly by its European creditors&mdash;for which you should mostly read "German creditors"&mdash; but it is no easy decision. There will be a lot of suffering for a lot of years if Greece goes down this road.</p> <p>This is why the Greek prime minister has called for a referendum on the European proposal. If Greeks vote no, then they're accepting his proposal to exit the euro and accepting the inevitable austerity that will follow. That allows him to keep governing. If they vote yes, then he will accept the European proposal and presumably step down from government. The people will have spoken, and effectively they will be saying that they were bluffing all along, and now that their bluff has been called they're willing to fold.</p> <p>For Europe, the problem is different. If Greece leaves the euro, it probably won't affect them very much. The Greek economy is simply too small to matter, and most Greek debt is now held in public hands. However, the political implication are potentially huge: it means the currency union is not forever and ever, as promised. If the pain of using a currency whose value is basically dictated by the needs of Germany becomes too severe, countries will leave. Perhaps later they will be let back in. Instead of a currency union, it will become more of a currency board, with countries coming in and out as they need to. This will be especially true if observers like Krugman are right, and the short-term pain of Greece leaving is mild and long-term recovery is strong. That would send a strong lesson to any future country stuck in the web of German monetary policy and finding itself in a deep and long economic depression.</p> <p>Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:01:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 278636 at And Now For Something Completely Different <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A new<sup>1</sup> study from Swift, Stone, and Parker has identified the top four components of a successful online fundraising appeal. Here they are:</p> <ul><li>The end of a quarterly fundraising cycle.</li> <li>Clear comparisons to the opposition's fundraising results.</li> <li>Over the top doomsaying.</li> <li>Cats.</li> </ul><p>Lucky for me, I've got all those things, so I figured I'd take a crack at it.</p> <p class="rteindent1">Check out <em>National Review's</em> current fundraising drive. <a href="" target="_blank">One reader</a>&nbsp;just gave $250! <a href="" target="_blank">This guy</a> coughed up $100! They've even got a <a href="" target="_blank">wine club</a> to suck in new contributors. And a cruise!</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>These guys are killing us.</em> Without your help, the heirs of William F. Buckley will dominate the political magazine market for years to come. And you know what that means: More articles about how the only real racism is anti-white <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_fundraiser.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">racism. More pseudo-science about how the globe is probably cooling, not warming. More hagiographies of Marco Rubio. More whining about how white people can't use the N-word. More blog posts about Jonah Goldberg's dog.</p> <p class="rteindent1">Maybe you think this doesn't matter to you? Think again. This week features <a href="" target="_blank">"Reagan's Supply-Side Genius,"</a> and it doesn't matter if you try to ignore it. Your crazy uncle is going to be regaling you about it <em>for hours</em> this Thanksgiving unless you figure out how to fight back.</p> <p class="rteindent1">This blog is your ticket. We need contributions to help us fight back against the avalanche of right wing babble. Right. Now.</p> <p class="rteindent1">This is our final push. My cats are down to their last bowl of kibble. The fell hordes of <em>NR</em> are already cackling at their imminent victory. Soon we won't be able to afford the very pixels that make up this blog. I know you don't want that. So please, make a generous contribution today. The first $10 will go to cat food.<sup>2</sup> The rest will go to fighting the dark hordes. And Jonah's dog.</p> <p>OK, I'm joking around here. But we really are closing out our fiscal year next week and <em>Mother Jones</em> can use all the help we can get. If you can afford to <a href=";list_source=7Z56KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">pitch in</a>, please do&mdash;so I never have to write a fundraising appeal like this and actually mean it.</p> <p><a href=";list_source=7Z56KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Make a tax-deductible gift by credit card here</a>.</p> <p><a href=";hosted_button_id=9JQ8KKMWQUQT4" target="_blank">Or via PayPal here.</a></p> <p><em>1: See the Annals of Improbably Convenient Results, v. 83, p. 101.<br> 2: Just kidding. The cats already have a bottomless supply. Your full donation will go towards MoJo&rsquo;s hard-hitting journalism that gets people talking.</em><em> Like our groundbreaking package, <a href="" target="_blank">"The True Costs of Gun Violence in America,"</a> that <a href="" target="_blank">President Obama alluded to</a> in the wake of Charleston.&nbsp;</em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:00:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 278306 at Friday Cat Blogging - 26 June 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is a bird's eye view of cat TV. Sort of like breaking the fourth wall, feline style. But how did Kevin get on TV? He was in here just a minute ago. Very fishy, no?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_06_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 18:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 278486 at In a Few Years, Gay Marriage Will Be About as Threatening as Cell Phones <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Gay_Wedding.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Jonathan Bernstein gets it right on <a href="" target="_blank">same-sex marriage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision today in <em>Obergefell</em>, which recognizes marriage as a basic right, is that it&rsquo;s not going to be very controversial.</p> <p>....How do I know? Because we&rsquo;ve seen it in state after state in which marriage equality was enacted. There&rsquo;s no controversy remaining in Massachusetts; for that matter, there&rsquo;s little or no controversy remaining in Iowa, which had court-imposed marriage equality in 2009. On a related issue, conflict over gays and lesbians serving in the military ended immediately after &ldquo;don&rsquo;t ask don&rsquo;t tell&rdquo; was replaced four years ago. In practice, extending full citizenship and human rights to all regardless of sexual orientation and identity is actually not all that controversial&nbsp;&mdash; at least not after the fact.</p> </blockquote> <p>I get the fact that gay marriage seems creepy and unnatural to some people. I don't like this attitude, and I don't feel it myself, but I get it.</p> <p>But you know what? Bernstein is right. For a while it will continue to be a political football, but not for long. Even the opponents will quickly realize that same-sex marriage changes....nothing. Life goes on normally. The gay couples in town still live and hang out together just like they always have, and a few marriage ceremonies didn't change that. In their own houses, everything stays the same. The actual impact is zero. No one is trying to recruit their kids to the cause. Their churches continue to marry whoever they want to marry. After a few months or a few years, they just forget about it. After all, the lawn needs mowing and the kids have to get ferried to soccer practice and Chinese sounds good for dinner&mdash;and that gay couple who run the Jade Palace over on 4th sure make a mean Kung Pao Chicken. And that's it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 17:30:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 278551 at Are We Still Yammering About Whether the Civil War Was About Slavery? Really? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Are we still arguing about whether the Civil War was <em>really</em> fought over slavery? Seriously? What's next? The Holocaust was really about Jews overstaying their tourist visas? The Inquisition was a scientific exploration of the limits of the human body? The Romans were genuinely curious about whether a man could kill a hungry lion? The Bataan death march was a controlled trial of different brands of army boots?</p> <p>WTF?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:56:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278541 at Canada Warns: "Goldfish the Size of Dinner Plates Are Multiplying Like Bunnies" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>A Fish Out of Water</em> was one of my favorite childhood books. A boy buys a goldfish and is warned not to feed him too much. But he does, and the goldfish outgrows his tank. Then he outgrows a flower vase. Then he outgrows the bathtub. Then he outgrows the swimming pool. Finally, the owner of the shop comes to the rescue and gets the fish back to its normal size. The boy promises <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fish_out_of_water.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">never to overfeed his fish again. Lesson learned: listen to your elders. The End.</p> <p>Except....what if this was more than just a charming kids' book? Could it actually have been a premonition of 21st century ecological disaster? What if there really were gigantic goldfish out there <a href="" target="_blank">rampaging through our lakes and ponds?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If you have a goldfish, and you are kind of over that goldfish, to the point where you are now wondering whether it might be best to set that goldfish free, please rethink that decision. That's the request from the Alberta government, which is trying to get Canadians to refrain from dumping out their fish tanks into ponds. Because those ponds are filling up with those discarded goldfish, which are getting really, really big in the wild.</p> <p>Or, as the CBC notes: <strong>"Goldfish the size of dinner plates are multiplying like bunnies."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>If it can happen in Canada, it can happen in America. You have been warned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:29:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 278531 at Obamacare Still Isn't Safe, and Liberals Better Not Forget It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent warns Democrats <a href="" target="_blank">not to get complacent about Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Republicans are still forging ahead with a separate lawsuit against Obama over the law (though it may not be resolved for years). Conservatives like Ted Cruz are still calling for holding spending bills hostage to roll back the ACA. GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Cruz are all pledging to keep up the fight to repeal Obamacare &mdash; &ldquo;every single word,&rdquo; as Cruz puts it.</p> <p>....<em>Democrats should take continued GOP opposition to Obamacare very seriously.</em> It has serious real-world consequences. As long as states hold out against the Medicaid expansion, it could slow the law&rsquo;s efforts to realize its goal of expanding coverage. One thing this means is that Democrats should redouble their efforts to regain electoral ground on the level of the states, where future decisions about the Medicaid expansion will be made.</p> </blockquote> <p>When Obama won the 2012 election, I figured Obamacare was finally safe. Except....there was still the Supreme Court. But they mostly upheld Obamacare, and once again I thought it was finally safe. Whew. Still, Republicans kept fighting. And things remained dicey as long as Obamacare was still vaporware. Then it finally went into effect in 2014, and disastrous rollout or not, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_nightmare.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I figured that was it. Once it's actually helping millions of people, it's safe. But wait! Then there was another Supreme Court case. But that dropped this week, and Obamacare was once again upheld.</p> <p>So <em>now</em> Obamacare is finally safe, right? You'd think so, wouldn't you? But Republicans are obsessed with Obamacare like no other law that's been passed in decades. It's kind of scary, the same way it was scary watching the unhinged Captain Ahab stumping around the Pequod. So no, Obamacare is still not safe. Not unless Democrats win at least the White House, and maybe both the White House and the Senate, in 2016. At that point, Republicans will finally have to give up. They'd have no plausible path to repeal, and by 2020 the law would have been in place for seven years; it would be covering upwards of 25 million people; and the health care industry would&nbsp; be so plugged into Obamacare's rules that it would literally take years to extricate them if the law was repealed.</p> <p>It sounds bizarre&mdash;not least of all to me, who badly underestimated how long Republicans could stay maniacally fixated on Obamacare&mdash;but it won't truly be safe until and unless Democrats win in 2016. I sure hope Democrats figure this out. If you want to know what we're up against, use Kevin's Quick Zeitgeist Test. Type "Obamacare" into Google and then go to image view. Here's the URL:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href=";cr=&amp;safe=images&amp;gws_rd=ssl&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;q=obamacare&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=-HSNVfnbNMLFggSu7YbIAw" target="_blank">;cr=&amp;safe=images&amp;gws_rd=ssl&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;q=obamacare&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=-HSNVfnbNMLFggSu7YbIAw</a></p> </blockquote> <p>Now do a quick count of pro vs. anti Obamacare images in, say, the top 50 results. Not counting neutral photos, I put it at about 10:1 for the haters. These guys aren't giving up. Those of us who support Obamacare had better show a similar level of passion for keeping it around.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:07:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 278526 at Supreme Court: Gay Marriage Now Legal in all 50 States <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gay_marriage_poll_2015_06_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Jeez, sleep in a few minutes and you miss out. This has turned out to be <a href="" target="_blank">lefty week at the Supreme Court:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.</p> <p>Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court&rsquo;s four more liberal justices.</p> </blockquote> <p>No surprises here: it was the four liberal justices in the majority plus Anthony Kennedy, who has long been sympathetic to gay causes. And the timing was about right. It's one thing to say that marriage is quintessentially a state issue, but common sense dictates that states should (a) have roughly the same rules, and (b) should respect each other's marriages. Gay marriage has now been approved in enough states that it was time to set a nationwide standard. It's one thing for different states to have different waiting times or different medical requirements, but not fundamentally different rules on who can get married in the first place.</p> <p>And for those who think the Supreme Court is locked away in a bubble, take a look at the chart on the right. 57 percent of all Americans now approve of same-sex marriage and 70 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34. This was a freight train, and obviously Kennedy thought it was time to get off the tracks and get on board.</p> <p>So hooray for the Supreme Court this week. They saved Obamacare; they saved non-discrimination requirements in low-income housing; they saved same-sex marriage; and they ruled that the government has to pay for any raisins it seizes. All in all, not a bad way to end their term.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:14:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 278511 at Chart of the Day: Healthcare Industry Approves of Obamacare Decision <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>They might not have said so very loudly, but the health care industry really didn't want to see Obamacare gutted by the Supreme Court. They've invested a lot of money into adapting to it, and to them it's not socialism run amok or looming tyranny. It's a positive development that's bringing American health care into the 21st century. As you can see in the chart below, Wall Street reflected this. When the Supreme Court's decision was announced, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and health care stocks soared.</p> <p>Obamacare: Good for America, good for business.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_stocks_6_25_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 01:14:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278481 at President Obama Has Had a Pretty Good Week <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So....pretty good week for Obama, eh? He got fast-track passed; he won the Obamacare case in the Supreme Court; and Confederate flags are coming down all over America.</p> <p>Not bad for a <a href="" target="_blank">"very lame, lame duck."</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 19:05:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 278436 at John Roberts Now Officially the Fourth Conservative Sellout on the Supreme Court <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Quin Hillyer at <em>National Review</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>With today&rsquo;s Obamacare decision, John Roberts confirms that he has completely jettisoned all pretense of textualism. He is a results-oriented judge, period, ruling on big cases based on what he thinks the policy result should be or what the political stakes are for the court itself. He is a disgrace. That is all.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it. Roberts has now joined a long line of conservative sellouts, from Harry Blackmun to John Paul Stevens to David Souter. After Souter, Republicans swore this would never happen again and insisted on nominating only hardline conservatives with a long paper trail: Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Sam Alito. But now Roberts has let them down. It turns out that the ability to hold onto conservative principles while serving under Ronald Reagan is insignificant next to the power of the Washington DC cocktail party circuit.</p> <p>Still, at least Republicans can now end their embarrassing charade of pretending to have a plan to fix things up if the court had ended Obamacare subsidies in states without their own exchanges. I think it's pretty safe to say that even the pretense of "working on" a plan to replace Obamacare will now be dumped quietly on the ash heap of history&mdash;until Republicans have a presidential nominee in hand, at which point the charade will have to start all over. But I think <a href="" target="_blank">we already know what their bold new plan will contain.</a> There are few surprises in the land of conservative ideas.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:42:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278421 at The Wit and Wisdom of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court's Lovable Curmudgeon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is Antonin Scalia's dissent in the Obamacare case. Although Scalia would not approve, I have arranged the excerpts out of order so they make more sense and are more amusing. I have also eliminated all the legal arguments and other boring parts. You can always read the full opinion <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> if you want. For now, though, tell us what you really think, Mr Scalia:</p> <blockquote> <p>Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is <em>not</em> established by a State is &ldquo;established by the State.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet the opinion continues, with no semblance of shame, that &ldquo;it is also possible that the phrase refers to <em>all</em> Exchanges&mdash;both State and Federal.&rdquo;</p> <p>But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved. <em>[Scalia makes it clear throughout that he's still really pissed about losing the original Obamacare case in 2012. &ndash;ed.]</em></p> <p>Contrivance, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!</p> <p>Faced with overwhelming confirmation that &ldquo;Exchange established by the State&rdquo; means what it looks like it means, the Court comes up with argument after feeble argument to support its contrary interpretation.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_scalia_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The Court&rsquo;s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges....Pure applesauce.</p> <p>The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed...will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.</p> <p>We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 17:34:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 278401 at Greece Gives Europe What It Wants, Europe Says No Anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>European leaders were in final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks with their Greek counterparts today, which by my count is at least the third time we've held final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks in the past two weeks. This leaves me a little unsure of when the <em>real</em> "world will explode" deadline is anymore. But soon, I'm sure.</p> <p>In any case, as Paul Krugman notes, the Europeans are no longer merely demanding concessions of a certain size from the Greeks, they now want final say over <a href="" target="_blank">the exact makeup of the concessions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The creditors keep rejecting Greek proposals on the grounds that they rely too much on taxes and not enough on spending cuts. So we&rsquo;re still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greece_gdp_projection_vs_reality.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in the business of dictating domestic policy.</p> <p>The supposed reason for the rejection of a tax-based response is that it will hurt growth. The obvious response is, are you kidding us? The people who utterly failed to see the damage austerity would do &mdash; see the chart, which compares the projections in the 2010 standby agreement with reality &mdash; are now lecturing others on growth? Furthermore, the growth concerns are all supply-side, in an economy surely operating at least 20 percent below capacity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, the Europeans just can't seem to say yes even when they get what they want. Besides, although tax increases probably will hurt Greek growth, so will spending cuts. There's just no way around it. The Greek economy is completely moribund, and any kind of austerity is going to make it worse. But the Europeans want austerity anyway, and they have the whip hand, so now they've decided they also want to dictate the exact nature of the concrete life preservers they're throwing to Greece.</p> <p>The Greeks have little choice left, unless they're willing to leave the euro, which would cause massive short-term pain at home. Maybe they will, but it would take a backbone of steel to do it. Voters would probably cheer raucously the first night, but be in a mood to vote the entire team out of office after about the second day, when their savings and pensions were converted into New Drachmas and suddenly slashed in half. There is no happy ending to this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:11:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 278386 at Obamacare Survives Supreme Court to Fight Another Day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hey, I finally got one right! The Supreme Court decided to keep Obamacare subsidies intact, with both Roberts and Kennedy voting with the liberal judges in a 6-3 decision. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_victorious.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">And apparently they upheld the subsidies on the <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">plainest possible grounds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the words must be understood as part of a larger statutory plan. &ldquo;In this instance,&rdquo; he wrote, &ldquo;the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;<strong>Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,</strong>&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So this had nothing to do with the possibility that if Congress required states to build their own exchanges in order to get subsidies, that would be unconstitutional coercion on the states. That had been something a few of us speculated on in recent days. Instead it was a white bread ruling: laws have to be interpreted in their entirety, and the entirety of Obamacare very clearly demonstrated that Congress intended subsidies to go to all states, not just those who had set up their own exchanges.</p> <p>So that's that. As far as I know, there are no further serious legal challenges to Obamacare. The only challenge left is legislative, if Republicans capture both the House and the Senate and manage to get a Republican elected president. So let's all hope that doesn't happen, m'kay?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 278381 at Health Insurance for All Is About a Lot More Than Just Health <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Megan McArdle writes today that there's little consistent evidence showing that giving people health insurance actually does much to save lives. This is based largely on a couple of recent papers (plus a few other older ones), and she's basically right. She's also right when she says that health insurance <em>does</em> save people lots of money. I don't want to address this literature in detail right now, but if you want to know more about it you should read <a href="" target="_blank">Ezra Klein's post about this</a> and then <a href="" target="_blank">McArdle's response.</a></p> <p>However, I do have some quick comments I want to add to this conversation. Some of it echoes what the other posts say, while some of it is new. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>The single biggest piece of evidence about the effect of health insurance is a study of Medicaid in Oregon a few years ago. It showed that people who randomly got Medicaid coverage didn't show much improvement <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wwjd_healthcare.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in their health, nor did they live any longer than those without Medicaid.</li> <li>However, as important as it was, the Oregon study was small; the time frame was short; the population was drawn entirely from the poor; and the results were ambiguous. Nobody should ignore this study, which was unique in being a true controlled trial, but no one should think it's the final word either.</li> <li>The results of the Oregon study would probably not scale up. One way or another, Oregon's health care system can absorb a few thousand uninsured people. Some of the cost gets absorbed by hospitals that don't get paid. Some gets absorbed by local programs. Some gets absorbed by free clinics. It's a strain, but the system can handle it without breaking completely.</li> <li>But this isn't an argument against health insurance generally. If half the state were uninsured, the system would almost certainly break down. There would simply be too many people who either couldn't or wouldn't pay for their care, and not enough people left over to absorb that cost.</li> <li>Also, as I like to point out ad nauseam, there's more to health care than mortality. A dental filling won't extend your life, but it will sure make you feel better. Ditto for a hip replacement or an antidepressant.</li> <li>Health insurance <em>is</em> a financial lifeline, and in many cases prevents bankruptcy. But there's more. It's also a huge reliever of stress. Trying to cobble together care from a complicated, ad hoc network of clinics, ERs, doctors who don't want to see you, and friends who can loan you a few bucks is soul destroying&mdash;especially for people whose lives probably kind of suck to begin with.</li> </ul><p>In the end, I think this is what health insurance is mostly about: financial security and common decency. Yes, the uninsured can usually patch together health care in an emergency, and sometimes even when it's not. This is why access to health insurance probably has only a modest effect on health. (Though I don't believe it's zero. If we could do a bigger, better, longer-term study we'd almost certainly see a difference.) Still, is a constant, desperate search for health care really a decent thing to tolerate in the richest country in the world? Is relentless, gnawing worry about whether to buy food this week or take your child in for a checkup a decent thing for us to tolerate? Is an endless, threatening barrage of harassment from hospital bill collectors a decent thing for us to tolerate?</p> <p>It kills me that some people think it's just fine to tolerate this&mdash;among the poor, anyway. It's true that there are lots of things that are inevitably going to afflict the lives of the poor. Compared to the better off, they'll have worse food, worse housing, worse cars, and worse clothes. But should they have worse health care? That's a moral question, not a scientific one. And my moral compass says that health care is one of the things all of us should have decent, regular access to. In fact, it makes me a little sick to my stomach every time I have to face up to the fact that a lot of moral compasses here in America apparently don't agree.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Jun 2015 22:28:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 278336 at It's Time for Another Obama Apology Tour <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Here's our latest "crisis":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>French President Francois Hollande held a crisis meeting of the country's Defense Council on Wednesday after newspapers published WikiLeaks documents showing that the United States eavesdropped on him and two predecessors.</p> <p>After the meeting, the council issued a statement lambasting U.S. spying as "unacceptable" and declaring that France had demanded two years ago that the National Security Agency stop snooping on its leaders. The latest WikiLeaks revelations, published by the daily newspaper <em>Liberation</em> and the investigative news website Mediapart, claim the NSA <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nsa_french_spying.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">eavesdropped on telephone conversations of former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy as well as Hollande.</p> </blockquote> <p>Look, can't we just assume the NSA has been spying on every world leader around the globe? Clearly, the answer is for President Obama to put this finally to rest by embarking on an apology tour of the entire planet&mdash;except for leaders we don't like and plan to keep spying on. This will accomplish two things: (a) it will take care of the whole spying thing all at once, instead of having it dribble out every month or two, and (b) Obama <em>really would</em> go on an apology tour, which would make Republicans deliriously happy. Finally they'd be able to accuse him of going on an apology tour and they wouldn't even have to lie about it. How cool is that?</p> <p>Then, when it's all over, we can go back to spying on everyone, except more carefully. I mean, you didn't <em>really</em> think we were going to stop spying on these guys, did you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:49:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 278291 at The Rest of the World Is Pretty Happy With President Obama's Handling of World Affairs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_view_of_obama_world_affairs.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">President Obama has had his ups and downs on the world stage. Libya didn't turn out so well. There's been no progress between Israel and the Palestinians. Vladimir Putin continues to be annoying. Still, all things considered, he hasn't done badly. He's started some new wars, but none as horrifically bad for US interests as George Bush's. He appears to have managed passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He negotiated the NEW START treaty with Russia. He's mostly stayed out of Syria, despite endless braying from Republicans. The pivot to Asia has been moderately successful. And he might yet sign a treaty that will halt Iran's nuclear bomb program, though it still looks like no more than a 50-50 proposition to me.</p> <p>But enough about me. What does the rest of the world think of Obama? <a href="" target="_blank">According to a new Pew poll,</a> they think surprisingly well of him. Obama's foreign policy is astonishingly well regarded in France, Italy, and Germany&mdash;and surprisingly, although his numbers are down from last year, he still does reasonably well in Israel too. And here I thought Obama was universally hated in Israel because he had betrayed them to their enemies thanks to his preoccupation with sucking up to Muslims. I guess that'll teach me to listen to Republicans.</p> <p>Obama bombs in a few countries too, notably Russia, Jordan, and Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan are easy to understand, but what's the deal with Jordan? I don't quite remember what we've done to piss them off.</p> <p>China is surprisingly positive: 44-41 percent approval. The rest of Asia is strongly positive, probably because they trust Obama to stand up to China.</p> <p>Anyway, Obama's median approval throughout the world is a surprisingly healthy 65-27 percent. He could only wish for such strong approval at home.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:36:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 278266 at Home Weatherization Not As Good a Deal As We Thought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_residential_weatherization.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Brad Plumer passes along some bad news on the effectiveness of residential energy efficiency upgrades. A massive controlled test in Michigan showed that <a href="" target="_blank">it doesn't pay for itself:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The researchers found that the upfront cost of efficiency upgrades came to about $5,000 per house, on average. But their central estimate of the benefits only amounted to about $2,400 per household, on average, over the lifetime of the upgrades. Yes, the households were using 10 to 20 percent less energy for electricity and heating than before &mdash; but that was only half the savings that had been expected ahead of time. And households weren't saving nearly enough on their utility bills to justify the upfront investment.</p> </blockquote> <p>The culprit appears to be the real world. Engineering studies suggest that residential upgrades should pay for themselves in lower energy costs within a few years, but in real life the quality of the upgrades is never as good as the engineering studies assume:</p> <blockquote> <p>These engineering studies may not always capture the messiness of the real world. It's easy to generate ideal conditions in a lab. But outside the lab, homes are irregularly shaped, insulation isn't always installed by highly skilled workers, and there are all sorts of human behaviors that might reduce the efficacy of efficiency investments.</p> <p>....In this particular study, the economists found that the federal home weatherization program was not a particularly cheap way to reduce CO2 emissions. Although energy use (and hence carbon pollution) from the homes studied did go down, it came at a cost of about $329 per ton of carbon. That's much higher than the $38-per-ton value of the social cost of carbon that the US federal government uses to evaluate cost-effective climate policies.</p> </blockquote> <p>Back to the drawing board.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:48:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 278256 at Even Wisconsin's Republicans Are Getting Tired of Scott Walker <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Our story so far in America's laboratories of democracy: Over the past few years, Republican governors have been eagerly implementing big tax cuts, insisting that they will supercharge their states' economies and increase revenue instead of reducing it. Kansas was the poster child for this experiment, and it failed miserably. Louisiana has been a disaster too. Now comes Wisconsin, where fellow Republicans are getting a little tired of <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">Governor Scott Walker's denial of reality:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Leaders of Mr. Walker&rsquo;s party, which controls the Legislature, are balking at his demands for the state&rsquo;s budget. Critics say the governor&rsquo;s spending blueprint is aimed more at appealing to conservatives in early-voting states like Iowa than doing what is best for Wisconsin.</p> <p>Lawmakers are stymied over how to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes or fees, which Mr. Walker has ruled out. The governor&rsquo;s fellow Republicans rejected his proposal to borrow $1.3 billion for the roadwork, arguing that adding to the state&rsquo;s debt is irresponsible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh man. Been there, done that. This was also Arnold Schwarzenegger's solution to a budget hole created by his own tax cuts, and it didn't work out so well. It turns out that spending is spending, whether you pay for it now or later.</p> <p>As in so many other states, even Republican legislators are starting to glom onto the fact that if you cut taxes, you're pretty likely to create a big budget hole. Unfortunately for them, they're learning that there's only so far you can go in crapping on the poor to close the hole.<sup>1</sup> At some point, you have to start cutting back on stuff you approve of too, like roads and bridges. But Walker doesn't care. He's got a presidential run coming up, and he wants to be able to say he didn't raise taxes. If that means playing "let's pretend" and borrowing the money instead, he's OK with that.</p> <p>On the bright side, at least it's better than <a href="" target="_blank">the childishness that Bobby Jindal came up with.</a> And borrowing costs are low right now. So I guess things could be worse.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Though in Wisconsin's case, Walker's signature move for crapping on the poor has been to refuse Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. This will <em>cost</em> Wisconsin $345 million over the next two years, making their budget hole even worse. <em>That's</em> how much Walker wants to crap on the poor.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Jun 2015 21:04:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278201 at Waiters Now Have Yet Another Gripe to Contend With <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_waiter_plates.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Roberto Ferdman writes today about the "most annoying restaurant trend happening today." But when I got around to reading it, <a href="" target="_blank">I was a little surprised by how it ended:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Without my permission, restaurants have abandoned, or simply overlooked, a classic tenet of service etiquette....Rather than clear plates once everyone at the table has finished the meal, which has long been the custom, servers instead hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork. Like vultures, they then promptly snatch up the silverware&nbsp;&mdash; along with everything else in front of the customer. If you're lucky, they might ask permission before stealing your plate.</p> <p>....It's possible that there's an economic impetus behind it. "The price of land is going up, which pushes up the value of each table," said [Tyler] Cowen. "That makes moving people along more important."</p> <p>....<strong>But maybe waiters are clearing individual plates because they believe that's what customers want. I have heard as much from servers and restaurateurs.</strong></p> <p><strong>No excuse, however, should suffice.</strong> Publicly, restaurants might argue that they are trying to avoid clutter; privately, they might encourage waiters to speed tables along; but what it amounts to is an uncomfortable dining experience.</p> </blockquote> <p>Wait. What? "No excuse should suffice"? If Ferdman dislikes this trend, that's fine. But if, in fact, most diners prefer having their places cleared when they've finished eating, that sure seems like a more than sufficient reason for this classic tenet of service etiquette to hit the bricks. It's not as if it came down on a tablet from Mount Sinai, after all. Surely the <em>most basic</em> tenet of service etiquette is to make customers as comfortable and satisfied as possible. If, in the 21st century, it turns out that this requires waiters to remove place settings quickly, then that's what they should do, even if a small minority dislikes it.</p> <p>Now personally, I think the most annoying restaurant trend happening today is that all the restaurants I like have gone out of business. It's eerie as hell. Almost literally, every restaurant that Marian and I used to eat at regularly has closed, to be replaced by some horrible trendy chain outlet. Our favorite Chinese place is gone. And our favorite Mexican place. Our favorite pizza place. Our favorite Italian place. Our second-favorite pizza place. And probably a few others I've forgotten about. There are basically only two of our favorites left, and they don't <em>seem</em> like they're about to go out of business, but who knows?</p> <p>It's my own fault, of course, for living in Irvine, where the Irvine Company owns all the land and basically prices out of business anything except profitable chain stores. It's surely no coincidence that of the two restaurants still standing, one is outside Irvine and the other is about a hundred yards from the city limit. I made my bed, now I have to lie in it.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> Back on the original topic, Ferdman's piece has gotten me&nbsp;curious about something. I don't go to a lot of high-end restaurants, but I do go to a few now and again. And unless my memory is playing tricks on me (always a possibility), it's <em>always</em> been the custom to remove plates when diners are finished, not all at once when everyone is finished. Is this a Southern California thing? Is it a matter of <em>how</em> high-end the restaurant is? I eat at expensive places on occasion, but virtually never at the kind of truly pricey places where you have to wait a month for a reservation. Help me out here. Why is it that removing place settings individually strikes me as normal, not a crime against proper etiquette?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Jun 2015 18:03:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 278171 at Fast Track Passes. TPP Now Nearly Certain to Pass Too. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Well, it looks like the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is in business. The standalone fast-track bill <a href="" target="_blank">just passed the Senate by a hair, 60-37.</a> Several Republicans defected and voted no even though they had voted yes the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tpp_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">first time around, but only one Democrat defected. So now it goes to President Obama's desk, where he'll sign it.</p> <p>Next up is a standalone Trade Adjustment bill, which Democrats killed the first time around because it was linked to fast track, which meant that voting no killed fast track. This time around, however, Democrats will presumably go ahead and vote for it since voting no will no longer stop fast track. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have both promised to bring it up for a vote and to do their best to whip enough Republican votes for it to pass. If it doesn't, Democrats will be furious at having been conned, and might take this out by voting no on TPP itself when it comes to the floor. This gives Boehner and McConnell plenty of motivation to get it passed, and I think they will.</p> <p>This still doesn't guarantee that TPP itself will have smooth sailing. However, it takes only a simple majority to pass, so there would have to be quite a few defections to kill it. Still, there's time. Once the full text finally becomes public, I expect a full-court press from anti-TPP forces in both parties. I'd give it a 90 percent chance of passage at this point, but there's still a glimmer of hope for opponents.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Jun 2015 16:27:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 278126 at