Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/01 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Hooray! This Young Billionaire Actually Invented Something Useful http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/hooray-young-billionaire-actually-invented-something-useful <!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_theranos.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Elizabeth Holmes is the third-youngest billionaire on the Forbes 400 list (behind Facebook tycoons Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz). And hooray for her! Her business model doesn't depend on getting drunk teenagers to eventually regret that they ever heard of the internet. It depends instead on a genuinely useful invention: a new type of blood test that requires <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2014/10/01/theranos_elizabeth_holmes_painless_blood_testing_invention_makes_her_third.html" target="_blank">only a tiny pinprick and a single drop of blood.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Traditional blood testing is shockingly difficult and expensive for a tool that's used so frequently. It also hasn't changed since the 1960s. It's done in hospitals and doctors' offices. Vials of blood have to be sent out and tested, which can take weeks using traditional methods and is prone to human error. And, of course, sticking a needle in someone's arm scares some people enough that they avoid getting blood drawn, even when it could reveal lifesaving information.</p> <p>Holmes recognized that process was ripe for disruption....The new tests can be done without going to the doctor, which saves both money and time. Most results are available in about four hours....Blood samples have traditionally been used for one test, but if a follow-up was needed, another sample had to be drawn and sent out&mdash;making it less likely that someone would get care. The Theranos approach means the same drop can be used for dozens of different tests.</p> <p>It's cheap, too. One common criticism of the healthcare system is that the pricing structure is a confusing labyrinth that makes it impossible to know how much anything costs. Theranos lists its prices online, and they're impressive.</p> </blockquote> <p>It so happens that I've been getting more than the usual amount of blood drawn lately, and it also so happens that I'm one of those people who really hates this. My angst is for completely irrational reasons. I know it doesn't hurt; it doesn't take long; and it poses no danger. As it happens, my own particular phobia is so bizarre and unaccountable that I'm reluctant to even fess up to it. But it's this: The scarless incision wigs me out. For the rest of the day after a blood test, I'm convinced that any second it's going to pop open like an oil gusher. I used to keep that little cotton ball taped on for a full 24 hours, until the next day's shower finally forced me to take it off. I have recently, through sheer force of will, started taking it off after only a few hours.</p> <p>This makes no sense. But then, phobias rarely do. And mine isn't even that bad. When I need to get blood drawn, I do it. Still, I often put it off, and I refuse to get it done more than once every two weeks or so. I also refuse to ever have it done in my right arm.</p> <p>By now, you're either laughing at me or else wondering if I've lost my marbles. But I agree with Holmes: traditional blood testing is barbaric and medieval and it's long past time to bring it into the 21st century. So hooray for Elizabeth Holmes. My only question now is this: When is she going to sign a contract with Kaiser so that I'll be able to benefit from her marvelous invention?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Thu, 02 Oct 2014 16:43:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 261586 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's a Great New Cause For the Tea Party http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/heres-great-new-cause-tea-party <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Harold Meyerson writes today about something called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision, a feature of most trade agreements since the Reagan administration. Basically, it means that if, say, a Mexican company objects to a regulation in Texas, it can sue Texas. But not in a US court. Instead the case is heard <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/harold-meyerson-allowing-foreign-firms-to-sue-nations-hurts-trade-deals/2014/10/01/4b3725b0-4964-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html" target="_blank">in a special extra-governmental tribunal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mockery that the ISDS procedure can make of a nation&rsquo;s laws can be illustrated by a series of cases. In Germany in 2009, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall, seeking to build a coal-fired power plant near Hamburg, used ISDS to sue the government for conditioning its approval of the plant on Vattenfall taking measures to protect the Elbe River from its waste products. To avoid paying penalties to the company under ISDS (the company had asked for $1.9 billion in damages), the state eventually lifted its conditions.</p> <p>Three years later, Vattenfall sued Germany for its post-Fukushima decision to phase out nuclear power plants; the case is advancing through the ISDS process. German companies that owned nuclear power plants had no such recourse.</p> <p>After Australia passed a law requiring tobacco products to be sold in packaging featuring prominent health warnings, a Philip Morris subsidiary sued the government in Australian court and lost. It also sued the government through the ISDS, where the case is still pending. The health ministry in next-door New Zealand cited the prospect of a Philip Morris victory in ISDS as the reason it was holding up such warnings on cigarette packages in its own country.</p> </blockquote> <p>Meyerson wants to know why Democratic presidents continue to support ISDS, but I'm more interested in why the tea party crowd hasn't yelled itself hoarse over this. After all, this is a tailor-made example of giving up US sovereignty to an unaccountable international organization, something that normally prompts them to start waving around pocket copies of the Constitution and going on Hannity to complain that President Obama is trying to sabotage America. Agenda 21, anyone?</p> <p>So why not this time? I guess it's because ISDS is normally used by big corporations to challenge environmental laws. So which do you hate more? The EPA or an unaccountable international organization? Decisions, decisions....</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Thu, 02 Oct 2014 15:03:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 261581 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Is There No Code Name for the ISIS Bombing Campaign? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/what-why-there-no-code-name-isis-bombing-campaign <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I learned something new today: code names for military operations only became a public thing after World War II, and it was only around 1980 that the names of major operations got turned into serious PR exercises. <a href="http://prospect.org/article/war-no-name" target="_blank">Paul Waldman runs down all the recent hits:</a></p> <ul><li>Operation <strong>Urgent Fury</strong> (invasion of Grenada, 1983)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Just Cause</strong> (invasion of Panama, 1989)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Desert Shield/Desert Storm</strong> (Kuwait/Iraq, 1989)</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/Blog_Iraqi_Freedom.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 5px 30px;">Operation Restore Hope (Somalia, 1993)</li> <li>Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti, 1994)</li> <li>Operation Deliberate Force (NATO bombing of Bosnia, 1995)</li> <li>Operation Desert Fox (bombing of Iraq, 1998)</li> <li>Operation Noble Anvil (the American component of NATO bombing in Kosovo, which was itself called Operation Allied Force, 1999)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Infinite Justice</strong> (first name for Afghanistan war, 2001)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Enduring Freedom</strong> (second name for Afghanistan war, 2001)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Iraqi Freedom</strong> (Iraq, 2003)</li> <li>Operation Odyssey Dawn (bombing of Libya, 2011)</li> </ul><p>Aside from the fact that we have twelve of these things in just the past 30 years, Waldman points out that Republican names (in bold) are considerably more martial than Democratic names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Even though it's the military that chooses these names, you might notice that the ones during Republican administrations have a particularly testosterone-fueled feel to them, while most of the Democratic ones are a little more tentative. Something like Operation Uphold Democracy just doesn't have the same oomph as, say, Operation Urgent Fury. If the Obama administration had really wanted to get people excited about fighting ISIS, they should have called it Operation Turgid Thrusting or Operation Boundless Glory.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oddly, though, it turns out that the ISIS campaign doesn't even have <em>any name at all</em>. I guess that's a good sign.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:25:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 261506 at http://www.motherjones.com Take Two: Are Americans Really in Love With War? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/take-two-are-americans-really-love-war <!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.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/we-are-love-war" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I wrote that the American public is "in love with war." This was obviously a bit of a rant, born of frustration with our seemingly bottomless tolerance for addressing foreign policy problems in suitably small countries with military force. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/09/30/is-the-public-really-clamoring-for-war/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> pushed back with some polling evidence, and Daniel Larison <a href="http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/public-opinion-and-the-war-against-isis/" target="_blank">takes things a step further:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Far from being "in love" with war, a better way to think of the public's reaction is that they have been whipped into a panic about a vastly exaggerated threat by irresponsible fear-mongers. Most Americans support the current intervention because they wrongly think it is necessary for U.S. security, and they have been encouraged in that wrong view by their sorry excuse for political leaders.</p> </blockquote> <p>I got this same kind of pushback from several people, but I really think this is a distinction without a difference. As it happens, my primary point was actually the same as Larison's: that the American public is very easily whipped into a war frenzy. In the case of ISIS, all it took was a couple of atrocities on YouTube; a bit of foaming at the mouth from the usual TV permahawks; and a presidential decision to take action. Obama didn't even need to wave the bloody shirt. In fact, he's been relatively restrained about the whole thing. Still, he did commit us to military action, and that was enough. <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/177263/slightly-fewer-back-isis-military-action-past-actions.aspx" target="_blank">Public support for bombing ISIS went from 39 percent to 60 percent in a mere twelve weeks.</a></p> <p>Does this mean the American public is in love with war? Or merely that when a war is proposed, they can be persuaded to support it pretty easily? I submit that there's not really a very big difference between the two.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Military Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:55:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 261481 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's How Fact Checking Exits the Real World and Enters Wonderland http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/heres-how-fact-checking-exits-real-world-and-enters-wonderland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So here's the big controversy of the day out in our nation's heartland. Joni Ernst, running for a Senate seat in Iowa, is one of 21 Republicans who voted in favor of a "personhood" amendment to the state constitution. It says that "the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development shall be recognized and protected."</p> <p>That seems clear enough. It means life begins at conception, and that embryos will have the same legal protections as you and me. Ernst's opponent, Bruce Braley, concludes, logically enough, that this would ban certain forms of contraception, prevent people from getting in vitro fertilization, and lead to the prosecution of doctors who perform those procedures.</p> <p>Ernst says this is nonsense. "That amendment is simply a statement that I support life," she says. Why, it's just a nothingburger! Sort of like a resolution endorsing apple pie or Mother's Day.</p> <p>Today, Glenn Kessler wades into this dispute. He dings Ernst for "straining credulity" about the intent of the amendment, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/10/01/the-braley-ernst-clash-over-personhood-in-iowa/" target="_blank">but he also has harsh words for Braley:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Braley goes too far with his scary scenarios, especially because he repeatedly said the amendment &ldquo;would&rdquo; have the impact he described. Ernst is on record of not opposing contraception&mdash;though she also favors punishing doctors who perform abortions. We concede <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_braley_ernst_debate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that the legal terrain in murky, and the impact uncertain. But that&rsquo;s all the more reason not to speak with such certainty. <strong>Braley thus earns Two Pinocchios.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_10/extremism_as_a_character_flaw052286.php" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore is dumbfounded by this kind of treatment,</a> and so am I. I just don't get it. Kessler is not some babe in the woulds. He knows perfectly well exactly what the goal of this amendment is. It's possible, of course, that Democrats in Iowa will prevent Republicans from enacting enabling legislation. Or that the US Supreme Court will stand in the way. But why does that matter when the intent is so clear? Likewise, Ernst may say that "I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception," but that's plain and simple weaseling. And it doesn't even matter. Republicans in the legislature can keep their hands completely clean and simply let activists take things to court. With an amendment like that in place, no judge could turn away a suit that asked for a ban on abortions or in-vitro fertilization or certain forms of contraception.</p> <p>As Kilgore says, "Encouraging this lack of accountability, and engaging in the worst form of false equivalency, is just a sin." All Braley is doing is calling out Ernst for the obvious implications of an amendment she supports. It's not merely a "statement" and she knows it. But in our topsy-turvy world of fact checking, Braley's plain description of the obvious real-world impact of Ernst's amendment is somehow deemed more of a lie than Ernst's slippery prevarications in the first place.</p> <p>I don't understand this. This isn't a debating society. It's not la-la land. It's the real world, and it's not partisan sniping to say that we all know what this stuff means in the real world. Shouldn't that be the domain of a fact checker?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Reproductive Rights Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:36:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 261476 at http://www.motherjones.com You Insult Henry Kissinger At Your Peril http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/you-insult-henry-kissinger-your-peril <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Newly declassified documents show that Fidel Castro pissed off Henry Kissinger so badly that he drew up plans to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/01/world/americas/kissinger-drew-up-plans-to-attack-cuba-records-show.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">"clobber the pipsqueak":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, had previously planned an underground effort to improve relations with Havana. But in late 1975, Mr. Castro sent troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.</p> <p>That move infuriated Mr. Kissinger, who was incensed that Mr. Castro had passed up a chance to normalize relations with the United States in favor of pursuing his own foreign policy agenda, Mr. Kornbluh said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Mr. Kornbluh said.</p> <p>&ldquo;You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,&rdquo; Mr. Kornbluh said, adding that Mr. Kissinger used &ldquo;language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep, that's everyone's favorite geopolitical strategic master at work. Kissinger considered Castro's actions to be a personal insult, so he began drawing up plans for the US military to blockade Cuba, mine its harbors, and potentially touch off a war with the Soviet Union. Because that's what you do when a small country irritates Henry Kissinger. Amirite?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy International Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:41:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 261471 at http://www.motherjones.com Mitt Romney Takes Another Crack at Explaining the 47 Percent http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/mitt-romney-takes-another-crack-explaining-47-percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In a recent interview with Mark Leibovich, Mitt Romney offered up a new excuse for foolishly venting to a supporter during the 2012 campaign about the perfidy of the "47 percent" (i.e., the folks who take no personal responsibility for <iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="247" src="http://www.youtube.com/v/XnB0NZzl5HA#!" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>their lives and just want lots of free bennies from the government). <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/magazine/mitt-isnt-ready-to-call-it-quits-just-yet.html" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats. &ldquo;My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,&rdquo; Romney said. &ldquo;If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.&rdquo; I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the &ldquo;47 percent&rdquo; line by a ranting supporter. It was also impossible to ignore the phrase &ldquo;If I had to do this again.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/mitt-romney-latest-excuse-47-percent-remarks" target="_blank">David Corn calls bullshit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That supporter was not rambling. Here's what he asked: "For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of you.' How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?" That was a straightforward query, succinctly put, not rambling at all. It was Romney who took the point to the next level and proclaimed that a specific number of Americans were lazy freeloaders who could not and would not fend for themselves.</p> </blockquote> <p>But I don't think this is fair. "Rambling" and "ranting" are Leibovich's words, not Romney's. All Romney says is that he was "speaking in a way that reflected back to the man." And that's true. In fact, this was pretty much my guess about what really happened that night, and I suggested at the time that it revealed a lot about Romney's execrable people skills. After all, every candidate has to interact with true believers, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/09/what-secret-romney-video-tells-us-about-his-people-skills" target="_blank">many of whom are also rich donors.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A politician with even a tenuous grasp on how to handle this kind of pressure knows what to do: you redirect. You can't tell these folks they're crazy, of course....But you can't really agree with them either....So you soothe. <em>I get where you're coming from.</em> And then you back away. Maybe you blame it on polling data....Maybe you change the subject....Maybe you appeal to authority.</p> <p>....But you <em>handle</em> them. Except that apparently Romney can't. And that's pretty weird, isn't it? He has more experience handling the titanic egos of rich people than anyone in politics. If anyone should be able to stroke big-dollar donors without saying anything stupid, it ought to be Mitt Romney.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is basically what Romney is fessing up to. He wanted to pander to this questioner, but he didn't have the skills to do that off-the-cuff in a safe way. So, since he thought he was speaking privately, he just went ahead and gave him the full pander instead.</p> <p>Whether Romney really believed what he was saying is sort of irrelevant. I figure he probably did&mdash;sort of&mdash;though I suspect that if he'd been in a different mood he would have said something a little different. But what we really learned from this episode is that Romney had neither the guts to stand up to a rich donor nor the people skills to soothe and redirect in a safe way. In other words, he's not really the kind of guy you want to be president of the United States.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:48:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 261366 at http://www.motherjones.com Peak Oil Is All About Cheap Oil http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/peak-oil-all-about-cheap-oil <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Russell Gold writes in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> that perhaps the idea of peak oil is a myth. After all, technology keeps getting better and better, allowing us to extract more oil from old fields. Of course, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-peak-oil-predictions-haven-t-come-true-1411937788?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories" target="_blank">it's expensive to do business this way:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When the oil industry overcomes an obstacle and boosts oil production, costs typically increase. That opens the door for a better and cheaper energy source that will eventually displace crude oil.</p> <p>So at some point, the cost of getting more and more oil likely will get so high that buyers can't&mdash;or won't&mdash;pay....Already, economics is bringing about some changes. Despite the abundance of oil that fracking has delivered, global oil prices remain high. This has kept the door wide open for alternative sources of energy and spending on energy efficiency.</p> <p>...."There will be peak oil, but it will be [because of] peak consumption," says Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank in Oakland, Calif. "What we all want is to move to better, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a good example of a common misconception about peak oil. The theory has never really been about the absolute limit of oil in the ground&mdash;though, of course, there <em>is</em> an eventual limit&mdash;it's been about the amount of oil that can be profitably extracted. Older fields, where you literally just have to drill a hole in the ground and wait for a gusher, are cheap fields. As the older fields play out, we have to use new technology to extend their lives. And we also have to look for oil in other, more expensive places: polar oil, deep-sea oil, tar sands, and so forth. As we do this, oil gets more and more expensive.</p> <p>There's nothing new about this. The peak oil debate has never really been about how much oil is in the ground. It's <em>always</em> been about (a) how much oil we can pump on a daily basis and (b) how much it costs to get it above ground. And as Gold points out, even with all the hoopla about fracking, the price of oil is still very high. That's because new technologies are barely keeping up with the exhaustion of older fields.</p> <p>But there's more to this. It's true, of course, that as oil gets more expensive it naturally motivates a switch to other energy sources. In that sense, peak oil takes care of itself. We'll switch to gas, and then to solar, and maybe <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_oil_capacity_goldman_sachs.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">someday to fusion. And we'll do it naturally as those sources of energy become cheaper than oil.</p> <p>In the meantime, however, there's a big problem: declining spare capacity. The real medium-term danger of peak oil lies in the fact that the world is currently pumping oil at close to full capacity. Nor is this likely to change soon, since the developing world has a huge appetite for oil even at current prices. So what happens when there's a supply disruption somewhere? The answer, unfortunately, is that any blip in supply, whether from political unrest, terrorism, or merely unforeseen natural events, can cause prices to carom wildly. A world with $100 per barrel oil is bad enough, but a world in which a single pipeline meltdown could cause prices to skyrocket to $300 per barrel for a few months and then back down is far worse.</p> <p>Will this happen? No one knows. Iraq has more pumping capacity if they can solve their political problems. Iran has more pumping capacity if they can make a nuclear deal with the West and re-enter the global market. Fracking is still on the rise, and probably will be for the rest of the decade. But oil prices spiked even during the Libya war, and that was a pretty modest supply disruption.</p> <p>In other words, no one knows for sure. I certainly don't. But the fact that demand is bumping up against supply&mdash;and will continue doing so even if supply increases&mdash;represents the real danger, economically speaking. With no spare capacity, a modest disruption in supply can cause oil prices to spike, and there's a lot of evidence to suggest that oil price spikes are at least partially responsible for every global recession of the past 40 years. That's peak oil for you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Energy Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:37:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 261301 at http://www.motherjones.com We Are In Love With War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/we-are-love-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm going to make this short because I simply don't have a thousand-word essay in me about war fever. But the more I think about our campaign against ISIS, the more dismayed I become. I always figured that if the time ever came when <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Uncle_Sam_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">a president wanted to bomb Iran, it would be pretty easy to whip up the usual war frenzy over it. That's been baked into the cake for a long time. But Iraq? And without even a very big push from President Obama? I mean, for all that I'm not happy over his decision to go back to war in Iraq, he's been relatively sober about the whole thing.</p> <p>But it barely matters. The mere concrete prospect of a new war was all it took. According to polls, nearly two-thirds of Americans are on board with the fight against ISIS and nearly half think we ought to be sending in ground troops. That's <em>despite</em> the fact that practically every opinion leader in the country says in public that they oppose ground troops. At this point it would take only a tiny shove&mdash;a bomb scare, an atrocity of some kind, pretty much anything&mdash;and 70 percent of the country would be in full-bore war frenzy mode.</p> <p>It's like we've learned nothing from the past decade. Our politicians are in love with war. The public is in love with war. And the press is <em>really</em> in love with war. It just never ends.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:29:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 261291 at http://www.motherjones.com Intel Community Dusts Itself Off and Casually Shows Obama Who's Boss http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/intel-community-dusts-itself-and-casually-shows-obama-whos-boss <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A friend brings to my attention <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/world/middleeast/obama-fault-is-shared-in-misjudging-of-isis-threat.html?referrer=&amp;_r=2" target="_blank">this <em>New York Times</em> piece:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.</p> <p>But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. <strong>&ldquo;Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn&rsquo;t pay attention to it,&rdquo;</strong> said a senior American intelligence official. &ldquo;They were preoccupied with other crises,&rdquo; the official added. <strong>&ldquo;This just wasn&rsquo;t a big priority.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>He comments:</p> <blockquote> <p>Look, if you publicly throw the intel community under the bus, they're going to come back at you. They have better access to the press. They have careerists with longstanding media relationships that they know how to work and how to shape their stories....Plus, you're giving Republicans wonderful fuel for their absolute strongest subject&nbsp;&mdash; bar none&nbsp;&mdash; national security: Obama is fighting (insert intelligence community / generals / Secret Service / other military service), more than ISIS.</p> <p>The idiocy of picking this fight in public is pretty unnerving frankly.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's not much point in dwelling on this forever, but Obama's comment blaming the intel community for misjudging ISIS absolutely blanketed every news outlet in the country last night. It really does make you wonder what's going on over in the West Wing. Was Obama's comment on Sunday just a dumb mistake? Does he really have contempt for the intelligence community? Did he somehow think he could get away with blaming them and not getting any blowback? Or what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Obama Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:49:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 261266 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why Obama Fumbled on the Economy Last Night http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/heres-why-obama-fumbled-economy-last-night <!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_democrat_republican.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Waldman asks us to imagine what's going to happen the next time there's some kind of <a href="http://prospect.org/article/when-next-terrorist-attack-comes-will-we-be-capable-keeping-our-heads" target="_blank">Islam-inspired terror attack on American soil:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The news media would amp up the fear to levels we haven't seen in the last decade, encouraging everyone to look for sleeper cells lurking down at the Piggly Wiggly. Republicans would of course unite behind President Obama in our time of mourning&mdash;kidding! <strong>They'd go on TV to denounce him for being so weak that the evildoers struck us in our very heart, and proclaim not only that the blood of the victims is on the hands of every Democrat,</strong> but that more attacks are coming and we're more vulnerable than we've ever been. Dick Cheney would emerge snarling from his subterranean lair to warn us that this is only the beginning and we really need to start bombing at least five or six more countries. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has already said about ISIL that "this president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home," might just tear off his shirt and scream, "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!" right on Fox News Sunday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now bear with me a for a moment. Here's a seemingly unrelated story about Sam Brownback's effort to spur economic growth in Kansas by <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-kansas-gov-brownbacks-reelection-race-is-case-study-in-republican-party-shift/2014/07/30/3192d86c-1420-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html" target="_blank">lowering taxes on the rich and cutting back on welfare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As he runs for reelection, Brownback is finding that what he once called a &ldquo;real live experiment&rdquo; in red-state governance is struggling to produce the benefits he had promised....In an interview on his way to Dodge City &mdash; where he would sign legislation creating a &ldquo;National Day of the Cowboy&rdquo; &mdash; Brownback said he regretted referring to his plans as an experiment. But he defended his tenure, <strong>saying it represented a Ronald Reagan-style approach to governance that eventually would rebuild Kansas&rsquo;s economy after a long slide.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;I wish I could take that back, because I don&rsquo;t consider this an experiment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So many people on the left really want this to fail. . . . <strong>This is a long-term strategy to make us more competitive.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Democrats and Republicans are both good at some things and bad at others. One of the things that Republicans are good at is making&mdash;and repeating over and over and over&mdash;firm predictions about the outcomes of their policy preferences. If you fail to wage eternal war in the Middle East, there will be a terrorist attack in the United States. If you lower taxes, the economy will improve. Etc.</p> <p>These are easy things to understand for voters. And guess what? Eventually there <em>will</em> be a terrorist attack. Eventually the economy <em>will</em> improve. So when those things happen, Republicans have a nice, simple story already planted in the public mind that allows them to take credit or place blame for it.</p> <p>Democrats are not so good at this. President Obama fumbled last night on <em>60 Minutes</em> when he tried to take credit for the improved state of the economy compared to when he took office. Partly, of course, this is because the economy is only in so-so shape. But it's also because Democrats have no simple, pre-digested narrative. They never said&mdash;over and over and over&mdash;that if we passed a stimulus bill, the economy would improve. Or that if we rescued GM, the economy would improve. Or that if we raised taxes on the wealthy, the economy would improve. Instead, Democrats had sort of a dog's breakfast of policy choices that they endorsed, but never made into a centerpiece of a claim about economic recovery. So now, when the economy is recovering, nobody really gives them any credit.</p> <p>Now, this may be a more honest way of conducting our affairs. Most government policies really do have only a modest effect on economic growth. Likewise, most government policies have only a modest effect on the chances of someone eventually pulling off a terrorist attack. But honest or not, it means voters don't associate Democrats with much of anything. They don't give them credit for improving the economy, for example, or for preventing terrorist attacks. And honest or not, it's political malpractice.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 29 Sep 2014 23:17:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 261256 at http://www.motherjones.com Report: Secret Service Lied About White House Fence Jumper http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/report-secret-service-lied-about-white-house-fence-jumper <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Omar Gonzalez, the White House fence-jumper from earlier this month, apparently surprised the guard at the front door because <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-fence-jumper-made-it-far-deeper-into-building-than-previously-known/2014/09/29/02efd53e-47ea-11e4-a046-120a8a855cca_story.html" target="_blank">a nearby alarm box had been muted:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family&rsquo;s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.</p> <p>Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.</p> <p><strong>Secret Service officials had earlier said he was quickly detained at the main entry.</strong> Agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said the office is not commenting due to an ongoing investigation of the incident.</p> </blockquote> <p>So....they just lied?</p> <p>On a related note, I wonder who the whistleblowers are that have been feeding all this stuff to WaPo's Carol Leonnig? Not that it matters, I suppose, but I'm curious about whether it's folks who are appalled by the security lapses or folks who have some other kind of axe to grind.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Obama Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:41:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 261221 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Yet Another Rage-Inducing Scam in the American Health Care System http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/heres-yet-another-rage-inducing-scam-american-health-care-system <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is your <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/29/us/costs-can-go-up-fast-when-er-is-in-network-but-the-doctors-are-not.html?_r=1" target="_blank">statistic of the day:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The average salary of an emergency room physician was $311,000 in 2014, rising from $247,000 since 2010 &mdash; a period when many other types of doctors experienced declines in salaries, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Emergency.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">according to Merritt Hawkins, a physician staffing firm.</p> </blockquote> <p>Why is this? A shortage of ER physicians? More emergencies? Higher standards for ER work?</p> <p>Nope. Elisabeth Rosenthal's latest rage-inducing piece about America's health care system<sup>1</sup> suggests the reason is far more corrupt. Apparently one of the great trends in American health care<sup>2</sup> is to outsource ER staffing. This means that even if you're careful&mdash;possibly while in great pain or barely even coherent&mdash;to show up at an in-network ER covered by your insurance plan, there's a pretty good chance that the actual doctors who attend you <em>aren't</em> in your network. Naturally, this being American health care,<sup>3</sup> you have no choice in this matter even if you're savvy enough to know about the whole in-network and out-of-network distinction. And as we all know, out-of-network docs in the American health care system<sup>4</sup> are basically allowed to charge any prices they want. And they do.</p> <p>This is a great scam for everyone. Presumably hospitals save money because freelance ER docs cost them less. And the ER docs cost less because they know they'll be able to run the ol' out-of-network scam on lots of patients, thus raking in the bucks. It's a win-win.</p> <p>As a result, during a period of economic stagnation that produced zero wage growth for everyone else, ER docs are now making $64,000 more than they did four years ago. And they're doing this by preying on the most vulnerable, most easily scammable members of society: folks who are flat on their backs and almost by definition unable to understand what's going on around them. Not that it would matter if they did, of course. The law provides no recourse even if you don't like this system. That's the way things roll in the American health care system.<sup>5</sup></p> <p>If this kind of stuff doesn't make you pop a vein, I'm not sure what would. It's right on a par with the telemarketing ghouls who prey on senior citizens with dementia. Except that these guys wear white coats and are welcomed into all the best country clubs.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>3</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>4</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>5</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:03:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 261186 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Once Again Favored to Take Control of the Senate http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-once-again-favored-take-control-senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Remember my post a couple of weeks ago saying that Republicans were no longer favored to take control of the Senate? Well, recent polls have not been kind to the Ds, and now everyone&mdash;<a href="http://election.princeton.edu/todays-senate-seat-count-histogram/" target="_blank">including Sam Wang</a>&mdash;agrees that Republicans are once again favored. Here's the <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/9/29/6862781/republicans-senate-takeover-odds" target="_blank">Vox aggregation of aggregators:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_senate_average_2014_09_29.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 24px;"></p> <p>You may now either celebrate or else sharpen up your seppuku knives, depending on your partisan leanings. But keep one thing in mind: two weeks ago, only one pollster out of six thought Republicans were favored. Today six out of six think Republicans are favored. Things can change mighty fast, and there's still more than a month to go before Election Day. Your guess is as good as mine whether Joni Ernst can go five consecutive weeks without letting the crazy show.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:00:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 261181 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Needs to Learn How to Admit Error on National TV http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obama-needs-learn-how-admit-error-national-tv <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So President Obama was on <em>60 Minutes</em> last night. Steve Kroft asked about the <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/president-obama-60-minutes/" target="_blank">meteoric rise of ISIS in northern Iraq:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Steve Kroft: How did they end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?</p> <p>President Obama: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can't find a full transcript to verify that this was the complete context surrounding Obama's remark, but I wonder what possesses him to do stuff like this? It's Management 101 that you don't throw folks under the bus (on national TV!) unless you have pretty convincing reasons for doing so. I mean, all he had to do was say that "<em>we</em> underestimated" what was happening in Syria.</p> <p>This is really tone deaf. Even if the whole debacle really was Clapper's fault, it would still sound terrible to say so. Was this just a real-time flub? Or, after six years, does Obama still not understand how petty it sounds to try to deflect blame this way?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Obama Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:10:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 261176 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Threatened Far More Often Than Any Previous President http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obama-threatened-far-more-often-any-previous-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Carol Leonnig has a piece in the <em>Washington Post</em> today about a botched Secret Service response to a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-stumbled-after-gunman-hit-white-house-residence-in-2011/2014/09/27/d176b6ac-442a-11e4-b437-1a7368204804_story.html" target="_blank">2011 shooting at the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The suspect was able to park his car on a public street, take several shots and then speed off without being detected. It was sheer luck that the shooter was identified, the result of Ortega, a troubled and jobless 21-year-old, wrecking his car seven blocks away and leaving his gun inside.</p> <p>The response infuriated the president and the first lady, according to people with direct knowledge of their reaction. Michelle Obama has spoken publicly about fearing for her family&rsquo;s safety since her husband became the nation&rsquo;s first black president.</p> <p>Her concerns are well founded &mdash; <strong>President Obama has faced three times as many threats as his predecessors,</strong> according to people briefed on the Secret Service&rsquo;s threat assessment.</p> </blockquote> <p>Gee, I wonder why?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Sun, 28 Sep 2014 00:35:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 261156 at http://www.motherjones.com A Very Special Friday Cat Blogging - 26 September 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/very-special-friday-cat-blogging-26-september-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So. Marian and I paid a visit to our local shelter on Monday. We figured on adopting an adult cat. Maybe a calico, if one was available. So naturally we walked out with two kittens, one gray and white and the other black and white. They're brother and sister, 10 months old. For the moment, their code names are Miss Flopsy (on the left) and Mr. Mopsy (on the right). Soon they'll get permanent names, but we haven't decided yet what they'll be. Vickie and Bertie? Luke and Leia? Frankie and Ellie?</p> <p>In any case, life is more exciting around here these days. There is much chasing and pouncing. So far they've both fallen off just about everything that's possible to fall off. My bookcases are a shambles. And eight hours of sleep at night is not really on the agenda.</p> <p>But I know you all want to reward me for this act of catblogging heroism, don't you? And you can! If you haven't done it already, how about contributing a few bucks to the MoJo investigative fund? Please think of the kittens, won't you?</p> <p>It only takes a minute to make your tax-deductible contribution, and you can give using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.</p> <ul><li>To donate via credit card, <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z94DRU&amp;extra_don=1" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> <li>To donate via PayPal, <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=LDTEDETCLTJSY" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> </ul><p>Flopsy and Mopsy thank you!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flopsy_mopsy_2014_09_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flopsy_2014_09_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 4px 5px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mopsy_2014_09_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Sep 2014 18:35:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 261106 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Death of Print http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/chart-fo-day-death-print <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a <a href="http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2014/ted_20140926.htm" target="_blank">BLS chart</a> that shows how much we spend on reading-related materials. But what does it mean? It's true that young folks spend less on reading material than anyone else, but that's mostly because of their complete non-interest in dead-tree magazines and newspapers. Also, presumably, because young folks spend less on <em>everything</em> than prosperous older folks.</p> <p>But if you add up the books + e-readers category, young folks are spending nearly as much as anyone else. It's just not clear <em>what</em> they're reading. E-books? Longform articles? Blogs? TMZ? Hard to say. Then again, it's not clear what the older folks are reading either. It may be on paper, but it's probably not Shakespeare for the most part.</p> <p>In any case, this shows fairly dramatically that print is dying. As we all know by now, young folks mostly prefer digital. And so do plenty of non-young folks like me. I occasionally have to read a print book, but I'm annoyed whenever it happens.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_expenditures_books.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 50px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Tech Fri, 26 Sep 2014 17:29:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 261126 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Already Planning Big Fight Over Nominee They Don't Even Know Yet http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-already-planning-big-fight-over-nominee-they-dont-even-know-yet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation yesterday. The tea party show horses are <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/attorney-general-confirmation-process-is-fractious-even-before-its-begun/2014/09/25/48a630c0-44dc-11e4-b47c-f5889e061e5f_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">already in full war cry mode:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) issued a political call to arms for conservatives, saying that outgoing senators should not vote on the nominee during the post-election lame-duck session. &ldquo;Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder&rsquo;s successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced,&rdquo; Cruz said in a statement.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is pretty plainly part of Cruz's ongoing effort to be king of the tea party wing of the GOP, since it obviously makes no sense otherwise. Unless Cruz is suggesting that they should be banned completely, then <em>of course</em> business should be conducted during lame duck sessions. What else is Congress supposed to do during those few weeks?</p> <p>In any case, since Congress has no intention of doing anything worthwhile for the next two years, this means they'll have plenty of free time for dumb fights that allow them to one-up each other for the tea party vote. The rules of the contest are simple: the dumber and more outrageous your rhetorical firebombs aimed at President Obama, the better you do. It's sort of like a video game for cretins. I'm sure it's going to be a barrel of fun.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Fri, 26 Sep 2014 14:32:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 261116 at http://www.motherjones.com South Carolina Cop Unloads on Unarmed Driver Reaching for His License http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/south-carolina-cop-unloads-unarmed-driver-reaching-his-license <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/RBUUO_VFYMs" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>This video of a traffic stop in South Carolina earlier this month <a href="http://www.thestate.com/2014/09/24/3702695_sc-trooper-charged-with-felony.html?sp=/99/205/&amp;rh=1" target="_blank">was published yesterday,</a> and it's been making the rounds today. You really need to watch it to get a sense for just how appalling it is, but in a nutshell, here's what happened. At about the 00:35 mark, a police officer stops a black guy at a gas station for a seat belt violation. Guy gets out of his car. Cop asks for his license. Guy reaches into his car to get it, and the cop instantly starts screaming at him and unloads several shots at point blank range.</p> <p>Luckily, this cop was apparently a lousy shot, and the motorist is recuperating. But the most heartrending part of the whole thing is how apologetic the motorist was <em>after getting shot for no reason</em>. "I just got my license," he pleads. "I've got my license right here." Then: "What did I do, sir? Why did you shoot me?"</p> <p>"You dove headfirst back into your car," the cop says. "I'm sorry," he apologizes abjectly. "I'm sorry."</p> <p>Thank God this police car had a dash camera. If not for that, probably no one would have believed the motorist's story. As it is, Julian Sanchez says this video might finally be having <a href="https://twitter.com/normative/status/515279921888116736" target="_blank">a real effect on people:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Seeing an unexpected number of comments on conservative boards to the effect of: "Holy shit, I'm white and this would never happen to me."....My anecdotal gestalt impression is this SC shooting is actually a Road to Damascus moment for a nontrivial number of conservatives.</p> </blockquote> <p>We can hope so. If neither Ferguson nor the Ohio Walmart shooting did it, maybe this finally will.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Fri, 26 Sep 2014 01:01:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 261096 at http://www.motherjones.com The Wild West Days of Pharmaceutical Sales Are Coming To an End http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/wild-west-days-pharmaceutical-sales-are-coming-end <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Pharmaceutical sales reps used to spend all their time inviting doctors to Hawaii for "conferences" and giving out lots of free samples. But the times, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/as-doctors-lose-clout-drug-firms-redirect-the-sales-call-1411612207?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection" target="_blank">they are a changing:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Kendall French used to pitch drugs to doctors who could prescribe them.</p> <p>But many of those doctors now work for hospitals that don't give them final say over what is on the menu of medicines they can pick. So when the GlaxoSmithKline PLC saleswoman began plugging two new lung-disease drugs to a big San Diego hospital system this spring, it was to an administrator who doesn't see patients but helps write the menu, also called a "formulary," of approved medications.</p> <p>....Ms. French's sales calls are part of a shift that is rewriting the drug-marketing playbook. As hospital systems get bigger, they are putting distance between their doctors and drug sellers, making it harder for pharmaceutical companies to get quick acceptance of newly approved medicines and putting pressure on profits.</p> <p><strong>Today, 42% of doctors practice as salaried employees of hospital systems, up from 24% in 2004,</strong> according to Cegedim Relationship Management, a marketing consultant.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is yet another example of how the health care market should be viewed as a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/12/gigantic-health-insurance-companies-might-not-be-so-bad-after-all" target="_blank">competition between buyers and sellers.</a> In some cases, this means that a region with a small number of powerful insurers might have lower overall costs because the insurers (buyers) have a lot of bargaining power with doctors and hospitals (sellers). In the case above, it means that hospital consolidation can reduce costs because it gives hospitals (buyers) a lot of leverage with pharmaceutical companies (sellers).</p> <p>In other words, it's complicated. Hospitals are responsible for some of the most egregious billing practices in the entire health care industry, but at the same time, they can also be responsible for helping to contain costs. This is because powerful hospitals are both sellers (when they're dealing with insurance companies) and buyers (when they're dealing with pharmaceutical companies). Sometimes they're the good guys and sometimes they're the bad guys. It might not be the greatest way of running a health care system, but it's what we've got.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:55:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 261061 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Still Having a Hard Time Believing In Racism http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-still-having-hard-time-believing-racism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The chart below, <a href="http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/09/survey-economic-insecurity-rising-inequality-and-doubts-about-the-future-findings-from-the-2014-american-values-survey/" target="_blank">from a recent PRRI survey,</a> has gotten a fair amount of attention on the intertubes over the past couple of days:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_prri_blacks_criminal_justice.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 35px;"></p> <p><a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/adamserwer/blacks-whites-criminal-justice-survey" target="_blank">Adam Serwer</a> thinks the change between 2013 and 2014 is due to backlash from the Ferguson shooting, but I suspect that's only part of the story. The poll was done over the course of four weeks, and only the final week overlapped with the shooting of Michael Brown and its aftermath. Those folks in the final week would have had to change their opinions massively to produce the 5-10 point difference we see in the survey population as a whole.</p> <p>So there's probably more to it, and that's a good thing. It suggests the shift in opinion might be more durable than one motivated by a single incident.</p> <p>But I want to play partisan hack today and just focus on the far left bar, which shows that Republicans are far less likely than Democrats to think that blacks don't get a fair shake from the criminal justice system. At first glance, you might figure that's just demographics at work. Republicans are heavily white and old, and those two groups are the ones least likely to think blacks are treated unfairly.</p> <p>But take another look. The mere fact of being Republican makes you <em>less</em> likely than even whites and seniors to believe blacks don't get fair treatment. Why? Call it the Fox News effect. If you're exposed day after day to Fox and Drudge and Limbaugh, it means you're being overwhelmed with the message that blacks are dangerous, blacks are thuggish, and blacks are forever whining about wanting special treatment. This message is so overwhelming that even after Ferguson, Republicans are far less likely than any other group to acknowledge the simple fact that blacks might occasionally get treated a little roughly by cops and DAs.</p> <p>That's changed by ten points in the past year, so maybe there's hope. Perhaps Fox and the others have toned down their obsession with racial hot buttons over the past year. Perhaps.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Thu, 25 Sep 2014 16:15:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 261031 at http://www.motherjones.com RED 3: Mitt Romney May Be Retired, But Still Extremely Dangerous http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/red-3-mitt-romney-may-be-retired-still-extremely-dangerous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Byron York says that Mitt Romney aspires to be the <a href="http://washingtonexaminer.com/romney-2016-is-for-real/article/2553932" target="_blank">Harold Stassen of the 21st century:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Romney is talking with advisers, consulting with his family, keeping a close eye on the emerging '16 Republican field, and carefully weighing the pluses and minuses of another run. That doesn't mean he will decide to do it, but it does mean that Mitt 2016 is a real possibility.</p> <p>....A significant number of Romney's top financial supporters from 2012 have decided not to commit to any other 2016 candidate until they hear <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_romney_deal.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">a definitive word from Romney. They believe they are doing it with the tacit approval of Romney himself.</p> <p>....If Romney did run, one thing the loyalists expect is a change in his top strategists. Recently one veteran Republican operative who was not involved in the Romney campaign said, <strong>"All his people want him to run again because they made so much money off it the last time."</strong> Now, Romney supporters say that if he mounts another campaign, they would demand that Romney not employ Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, the Republican strategists who played key roles in the 2012 campaign. Who would take their place is an open question.</p> </blockquote> <p>I know that Romney doesn't want my advice, but here it is anyway: Just pay all these guys a bunch of money to go away and stop dreaming about a chance to light more of your money on fire. It will be cheaper in the long run, and your eventual job description will be the same too.</p> <p>But as long as we're supposedly taking this seriously, let's put on our analytical hats and ask: <em>could</em> Romney beat Hillary Clinton if they both ran? On the plus side, Hillary's not as good a campaigner as Barack Obama and 2016 is likely to be a Republican-friendly year after eight years of Democratic rule. On the minus side, Romney has already run twice, and the American public isn't usually very kind to second chances in political life, let alone third chances. Plus&mdash;and this is the real killer&mdash;Romney still has all the problems he had in 2012. In the public eye, he remains the 47 percent guy who seems more like the Romneytron 3000 than a real human being.</p> <p>Still, snark aside, if you put all this together I guess it means Romney really would have a shot at winning if he ran. We still live in a 50-50 nation, after all, and for the foreseeable future I suspect that pretty much every presidential election is going to be fairly close. And Romney certainly has a decent chance of winning the Republican nomination, since he'd be competing against pretty much the same clown show as last time.</p> <p>So sure: Run, Mitt! I hear that Eric Cantor is available to be your vice president.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Thu, 25 Sep 2014 15:00:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 261026 at http://www.motherjones.com Bill Clinton Is Right: Storyline Reporting Has Poisoned the Political Press http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/bill-clinton-right-storyline-reporting-has-poisoned-political-press <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today brings a remarkable column from the <em>Washington Post's</em> Chris Cillizza. It's about the Clinton family's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/09/24/the-clinton-team-is-following-reporters-to-the-bathroom-heres-why-that-matters/?hpid=z4" target="_blank">adversarial relationship with the press:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Put simply: Neither Hillary nor Bill Clinton likes the media or, increasingly, sees any positive use for them.</p> <p>&ldquo;If a policymaker is a political leader and is covered primarily by the political press, there is a craving that borders on addictive to have a storyline," Bill Clinton said in a speech at Georgetown University back in April. <strong>"And then once people settle on the storyline, there is a craving that borders on blindness to shoehorn every fact, every development, every thing that happens into the story line, even if it&rsquo;s not the story.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's an interesting comment from Bill Clinton. Is it true? Well, check this out from the start of Cillizza's column:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Amy Chozick is the reporter tasked with covering the Clintons</strong>&nbsp;&mdash; and the runup to the now-almost-inevitable Hillary Clinton presidential bid&nbsp;&mdash; for the <em>New York Times</em>. Sounds like a plum gig, right? Until, that is, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2014/09/24/?entry=577" target="_blank">a press aide for the Clinton Global Initiative follows you into the bathroom.</a></p> <p>Chozick describes a "friendly 20-something press aide who the Clinton Global Initiative tasked with escorting me to the restroom," adding: "She waited outside the stall in the ladies&rsquo; room at the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference is held each year."</p> <p>Yes, this may be an extreme example. And, yes, the press strictures at the Clinton Global Initiative are the stuff of legend. <strong>But, the episode also reflects the dark and, frankly, paranoid view the Clintons have toward the national media. Put simply: Neither Hillary nor <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bill_hillary_clinton.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Bill Clinton likes the media or, increasingly, sees any positive use for them.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Here's what makes this fascinating. If you click the link and read Chozick's piece, you'll learn that <em>every</em> reporter at the CGI is "cloistered in a basement at the Sheraton" and that an escort is required wherever they go, "lest one of us with our yellow press badges wind up somewhere where attendants with an esteemed blue badge are milling around." It's entirely fair to argue that this is absurdly restrictive. It's <em>not</em> fair to imply that this is special treatment that Chozick got because she's the beat reporter covering the Clintons. Every other reporter at the event got the same treatment.</p> <p>But that's what Cillizza did. In other words, he had already settled on a storyline, so he shoehorned the Chozick anecdote into his column to support that storyline. Which was exactly Clinton's complaint in the first place.</p> <p>Don't get me wrong. I don't actually have any doubt that the Clintons do, in fact, have a pretty tortured relationship with the press. After the way the press treated them in the 90s, it would be remarkable if they didn't. It might even be "dark and paranoid." That wouldn't surprise me too much either.</p> <p>Nonetheless, I wish Cillizza would at least <em>try</em> to analyze his own tribe's behavior with the same care that he analyzes the Clintons'. In any fair reading, the press has legitimate grievances about its treatment by the Clintons, but the Clintons have some legitimate grievances about the obsessive shiny-toy-feeding-frenzy nature of modern political press coverage too. Unfortunately, all Cillizza manages to say about the hostile atmosphere of Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign is that reporters weren't "entirely innocent in the whole thing."</p> <p>Nobody should take this as a defense of the Clintons. High-profile politicians have always gotten klieg-light treatment, and they have to be able to handle it. At the same time, there ought to be at least a few mainstream reporters who also recognize some of the pathologies on their own side&mdash;those specific to the Clintons as well as those that affect presidential candidates of all stripes. How about an honest appraisal&mdash;complete with biting anecdotes&mdash;of how the political press has evolved over the past few decades and how storyline reporting has poisoned practically everything they do?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Media Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:45:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 261011 at http://www.motherjones.com The Rich Are Getting Richer, Part the Millionth http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/rich-are-getting-richer-part-millionth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's not easy finding new and interesting ways to illustrate the growth of income inequality over the past few decades. But here are a couple of related ones. The first is from <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/09/income-inequality-recession-recovery" target="_blank">"Survival of the Richest"</a> in the current issue of <em>Mother Jones</em>, and it shows how much of our total national income growth gets hoovered up by the top 1 percent during economic recoveries. The super-rich got 45 percent of total income growth during the dotcom years; 65 percent during the housing bubble years; and a stunning 95 percent during the current recovery. It's good to be rich.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/whose-recovery630.gif" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But there's more! The next chart, via Ryan Cooper, shows this trend even more explicitly.&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ptcherneva/status/497074358754750465/photo/1" target="_blank">It comes from Pavlina Tcherneva,</a> an economics professor at Bard College, and it also shows the distribution of national income growth during economic expansions. The difference is that it shows the share of the top 10 percent, and it shows it for every single expansion since World War II.</p> <p>It's a pretty stunning chart. The precise numbers (from Piketty and Saez) can always be argued with, but the basic trend is hard to deny. After the end of each recession, the well-off have pocketed an ever greater share of the income growth from the subsequent expansion. Unsurprisingly, there's an especially big bump after 1975, but this is basically a secular trend that's been showing a steady rise toward nosebleed territory for more than half a century. Welcome to the 21st century.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tcherneva_income_growth_expansions.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Income Inequality Thu, 25 Sep 2014 01:59:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 261001 at http://www.motherjones.com