Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Friday Cat Blogging - 9 October 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hmmm. What happened here? There is no documentary record, so perhaps if Hopper hides no one will connect her with it. Worth a try! Meanwhile, Hilbert hangs around absentmindedly, not realizing that his sister is doing her best to pin the rap entirely on him. That's family values, folks.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_10_09.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:55:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 286631 at The "Gig Economy" Is Mostly Just Silicon Valley Hype <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>How big is the "gig economy"? An Uber driver is the archetypal gig worker, but more generally it refers to anyone who works independently on a contingent basis. This means, for example, that an old school freelance writer qualifies.</p> <p>Still, it's tech that's driving the gig hype, and if the hype is true then the number of gig workers should be going up. Lydia DePillis takes a look at this today and <a href="" target="_blank">recommends two sources:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Freelancers Union, which advocates for self-employed people of all kinds, recently came up with the 53 million number Warner mentioned. MBO Partners, which provides tools for businesses that use contractors, put it at 30.2 million. But for lawmaking purposes, <strong>it's probably a good idea to get your information from a source that doesn't have a commercial interest in the numbers it's putting out.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>True enough, but let's start with these folks. <a href="" target="_blank">The Freelancers Union</a> reports that in 2015 the gig economy "held steady" at 34 percent of the workforce. <a href="" target="_blank">MBO Partners</a> reports that it "held firm" at 30 million. They additionally report that it's increased 12 percent in the past five years, which is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gig_economy.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not especially impressive considering that total employment has increased 9 percent over the same period.</p> <p>The government does not track this directly, and I assume that these two sources are generally motivated to be cheerleaders for the gig economy, which means their numbers are about as optimistic as possible. If that's true, it looks as though the gig economy is almost entirely smoke and mirrors. After all, if it were a big phenomenon it would be getting bigger every year as technology became an ever more important part our lives. And yet, both sources agree that 2015, when the economy was doing fairly well, showed no growth at all in the gig economy. What's more, as <a href="" target="_blank">Jordan Weissman</a> and others have pointed out, what little government data we have isn't really consistent with the idea that the gig economy is growing.</p> <p>So be wary of the hype. Maybe the gig economy will be a big thing in the future. Maybe the tech portion is growing, but the growth is hidden by a decline in traditional freelancing. Maybe. For now, though, it appears to be mostly just another example of the reality distortion hype that Silicon Valley is so good at.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:22:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 286626 at Here's Why Sea World in San Diego Can't Breed Killer Whales Any Longer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sea_world_map.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">You may have seen the news that Sea World in San Diego will <a href="" target="_blank">no longer be allowed to breed killer whales:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After an all-day meeting that drew hundreds of supporters and critics of the park, the California Coastal Commission moved to ban captive whale breeding and drastically restrict the movement of whales in and out of the park.</p> </blockquote> <p>The California Coastal Commission? Why do they have any say over Sea World's orca breeding? One of the charmingly idiosyncratic aspects of governance in California is that the Coastal Commission regulates all construction done within about 1000 yards of the coastline. As you can see, Sea World is well within that boundary, and it so happens that they wanted to build a bigger tank for their killer whales. But they could only do this if the Coastal Commission approved it.</p> <p>Still confused? Well, the initiative that created the Coastal Commission didn't really put any boundaries on the commission's power. They can pretty much cut any deal they want, which is why they're so furiously hated by every gazillionaire who lives near the coast. In this case, their deal was this: you can build the bigger tank, but only if you stop breeding whales and don't bring any new ones in. And that was that.</p> <p>This has been today's California Explainer for all you poor folks who are forced to live in less desirable parts of the country and don't understand our tribal customs. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:37:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 286611 at Ben Carson Is Wrong About Hitler and Guns <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">More guns, fewer holocausts?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler&rsquo;s mass murder of Jews "would have been greatly diminished&rdquo; if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime&hellip;"But just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would 6 million Jews have been slaughtered?" Blitzer asked.</p> <p>"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," Carson said&hellip;"I&rsquo;m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first."</p> </blockquote> <p>This got me curious: <em>Did</em> Hitler take away everyone's guns? As you can imagine, I know zilch about the history of gun control in Germany, so I surfed <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hitler_nuremburg.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">over to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, for a quick refresher course. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what they say:</a></p> <ul><li>In 1919, the Treaty of Versaille disarmed Germany. "Fearing inability to hold the state together during the depression, the German government adopted a sweeping series of gun confiscation legislation." This was long before Hitler came to power.</li> <li>In 1928 this legislation was relaxed. "Germans could possess firearms, but they were required to have [] permits&hellip;Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to '&hellip;persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a permit.'" Again, this was before Hitler came to power.</li> <li>In 1938, Hitler relaxed the law further. Rifles and shotguns were completely deregulated, permits were extended to three years, and the age at which guns could be purchased was lowered to 18.</li> </ul><p>Now, Hitler <em>did</em> effectively ban Jews from owning guns in 1938. However, this is highly unlikely to have affected the fate of the Jews even slightly. The Nazis were considerably better armed and organized, and if Jews had taken to shooting them it would have accomplished nothing except giving Joseph Goebbels some terrific propaganda opportunities. The 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a good example of this: Jews fought back, and the result was a few dead Germans and 13,000 dead Jews.</p> <p>The bottom line is familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of history: Hitler was popular. He didn't need to take away anyone's guns. Whatever you think about gun control, using Hitler to defend your position is a bad idea.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:16:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 286601 at Hillary Clinton Wants to Cut Mega-Banks Down to Size <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bring back Glass-Steagall! This is a popular cry among lefty populists, but it's probably not a very good idea on the merits. Glass-Steagall is a New Deal law that split up commercial banks and investment banks, and it was repealed in 1999. Ten years later Wall Street went up in smoke. But commercial banks and investment banks both had problems, and so did combined banks. The repeal of Glass-Steagall really had nothing to do with it.</p> <p>On the other hand, the repeal of Glass-Steagall did allow banks to get bigger, and that increased size <em>was</em> a problem. When small banks go bust, we just clean up the mess and get on with things. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_big_banks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">When gigantic banks go bust, Wall Street goes up in smoke.</p> <p>So rather than turning back the clock and reinstating Glass-Steagall, a better idea is to address bank size directly. The Fed approved one approach to this a couple of months ago by requiring the very biggest banks to hold <a href="" target="_blank">larger capital reserves than smaller banks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As well as making the big banks safer, <strong>the rules may also persuade them to get smaller.</strong> Capital is an economically expensive funding source for a bank. As regulators demand that large banks have more capital, their overall expenses rise. In turn, the banks may decide to pare down their less profitable businesses and shrink over time. Previous regulatory initiatives that increased capital already seem to have had that effect, and the Fed may want to see that continue.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton wants to go even further by directly taxing big banks, and taxing them even more if their capital structure is relatively risky. <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias runs down her plan for us:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton doesn't spell out precise numbers for her fee, perhaps recognizing that in the real world this would all be subject to negotiation in Congress anyway. But the key pillars are:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>The fee would be assessed on banks with more than $50 billion in assets (34 banks fit the bill as of today, though two of them are very close to the line) as well as on a handful of other institutions that the government has already flagged for extra regulatory scrutiny.</li> <li>The fee rate would be higher on short-term debt than on long-term debt.</li> <li>The fee rate would be higher on banks with more debt in their financing structure.</li> <li>FDIC-insured bank deposits would be exempt from the fee.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>The upshot of all this would be to <strong>nudge the banking system toward institutions becoming either smaller or else more boring,</strong> because risky activity would be more profitable in a smaller institution than in a larger one. The result would be to push risk out of the kinds of institutions whose failure would be catastrophic, without impeding banks' ability to become big per se.</p> </blockquote> <p>So wonky. So boring. But, as Yglesias says, also a pretty good idea. That's often the case with well-thought-out plans.</p> <p>In any case, the Fed plan affects the eight biggest banks in the country. Hillary's plan would affect 34 banks. And of course, the eight mega-banks would have to abide by the Fed's higher capital requirements <em>and</em> Hillary's tax.</p> <p>All of these plans, by the way, are roundabout methods of reducing the amount of leverage that big banks can engage in. As a purist, I'd prefer to just pass rules that directly regulate leverage levels. But that's easier said than done, and higher capital requirements are a close substitute. Hillary's plan is even more indirect, but it also reduces risk by nudging banks to get smaller. Lots of leverage is still bad, but a smaller bank that goes bust is less catastrophic than a bigger one that goes bust.</p> <p>More details are <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> part of the Clinton campaign's <a href="" target="_blank">rather startling array of detailed policy statements.</a> It's enough to make you think she might be a wee bit more serious than anyone on the Republican side.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:24:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 286596 at All Those Annoying Drug Ads on TV Might Be Paying Off <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Good news! According to a new study, the placebo response is getting stronger, and if this continues perhaps all our pain woes will soon be treatable with sugar pills. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_placebo_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But this is happening only in the United States for some reason. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One possible explanation is that <strong>direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs</strong> &mdash; allowed only in the United States and New Zealand &mdash; has increased people&rsquo;s expectations of the benefits of drugs, creating stronger placebo effects. But Mogil&rsquo;s results hint at another factor. "Our data suggest that the longer a trial is and the bigger a trial is, the bigger the placebo is going to be," he says.</p> <p><strong>Longer, bigger US trials probably cost more, and the glamour and gloss of their presentation might indirectly enhance patients&rsquo; expectations,</strong> Mogil speculates. Some larger US trials also use contract research organizations that can employ nurses who are dedicated to the trial patients, he adds &mdash; giving patients a very different experience compared to those who take part in a small trial run by an academic lab, for instance, where research nurses may have many other responsibilities.</p> </blockquote> <p>So good old glamor and gloss&mdash;American specialties, for sure&mdash;could be making anything in the shape of a pill more effective. On the other hand, the paper itself <a href=";issue=00000&amp;article=99737&amp;type=abstract" target="_blank">suggests a more prosaic possibility:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our study results are of course potentially influenced by trends in study quality and/or publication bias....In the past, small studies were conducted. If they had a large placebo response, they did not show a positive treatment advantage and therefore they were not published. In contemporary U.S. studies, trials are typically large enough to detect positive treatment advantage despite large placebo responses, and therefore reported placebo responses appear to have increased.</p> </blockquote> <p>So it's possible this is all an artifact of publication bias. In the past, studies with null results for the target drug (i.e., large placebo responses) never saw the light of day. Then pharma companies got smart, and started running larger trials that would show statistically significant results no matter what. So all the studies got published, even those with large placebo responses.</p> <p>You may decide which to believe. I recommend believing the glitz and glamor explanation, since glitz and glamor are bound to get ever glitzier and more glamorous over time, and are thus likely to improve your pain more. And really, who cares <em>why</em> your pain gets better? If it's better drugs, fine. If it's because pharma companies are spending lots of money on marketing, fine. Just make it go away, please.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 14:48:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 286586 at Donald Trump's Base Is Pretty Old, But Not All That Conservative <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Someone asked me the other day where Donald Trump's support comes from. I realized I didn't really know, so I figured I should check it out. According to David Brady and Douglas Rivers, a pair of political scientists at Stanford, recent YouGov polls <a href="" target="_blank">break it down like this:</a></p> <ul><li>Not particularly ideological....20 percent of Trump's supporters describe themselves as &ldquo;liberal&rdquo; or &ldquo;moderate,&rdquo; with 65 percent saying they are &ldquo;conservative&rdquo; and only 13 percent labeling themselves as &ldquo;very conservative.&rdquo;</li> <li>A bit older, less educated, and less affluent than the average Republican.</li> <li>Slightly over half are women.</li> <li>About half are between 45-64 years of age, 34 percent over 65, and less than 2 percent younger than 30.</li> <li>One half of his voters have a high school education or less, compared to 19 percent with a college or post-graduate degree.</li> <li>Slightly over a third of his supporters earn less than $50,000 per year, while 11 percent earn over $100,000 per year.</li> </ul><p>The only two of these that are noteworthy are the first one, which shows that Trump's appeal spans ideological boundaries, and the fourth one, which shows that his support comes almost exclusively from the middle-aged and the elderly. Aside from that, he appears to be a fairly standard issue Republican.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 286581 at Don't Do It, Paul! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">REPORT:</a> John Boehner is personally asking Paul Ryan to step up and be Speaker. They have spoken twice today by phone....Boehner told Ryan he is the only person who can unite GOP at this crisis moment. Ryan undecided but listening, per source.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_young_guns_gone.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 140px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 23:29:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 286566 at Oops. Putin's Cruise Missiles Still Need a Little Work. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I guess Vladimir Putin's cruise missiles <a href="" target="_blank">aren't quite as awesome as he thought:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Cruise missiles fired by Russia from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria crashed in a rural area of Iran, senior United States officials said on Thursday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bummer, dude. Can we now have at least one day where we don't have to hear about how Russia's crappy military is going to upend everything in the Middle East and send the US scurrying for cover?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 19:02:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286536 at Put Frances Perkins on the Ten-Dollar Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Wonkblog informs me that the Treasury Department really, really wants me to vote on which woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. OK. So how do I do that?</p> <p>Apparently I can use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to submit my vote with the hashtag #TheNew10. So that takes care of all the people who are on social media. What about everyone else? Well, the Treasury still wants to hear from you! That's not immediately obvious, mind you,&nbsp; but it turns out that if you <a href="" target="_blank">click here,</a> provide your name and your email address, and then answer a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_frances_perkins_ten_dollar_bill.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">question to prove you're a human, you can tell them your thoughts.</p> <p>FWIW, my choice is Frances Perkins. I feel like it's a good idea to keep up the tradition of having people on our currency who have been in government service (mostly presidents, but also cabinet members like Hamilton or key members of the constitutional convention like Benjamin Franklin). It also, for obvious reasons, ought to be somebody whose fame was gained at least 50 years ago. Perkins fits all those requirements. She was the first woman to serve in the cabinet, and more than that, her fame doesn't come merely from being first. She was also an unusually effective Secretary of Labor during a period when the labor movement was a tremendous and growing power in American politics. Add to that her authorship of the Social Security Act and her key role in a wide variety of other New Deal legislation, and she's not just the most influential Secretary of Labor of all time, but arguably one of the four or five most influential cabinet members ever.</p> <p>Sadly, the whole New Deal thing will probably make her too politicized to win. She's my choice, but my <em>prediction</em> is Rosa Parks. We'll find out next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286521 at Kevin McCarthy: "I'm Not the Guy" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R) sent a letter to the No. 4 House Republican saying any candidate for leadership who has committed any "misdeeds" since joining Congress should "withdraw" from the contest.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner for speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest....Said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus: &ldquo;I was shocked just like everyone else&hellip;he said something to the effect of I&rsquo;m not the guy.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ummm....WTF? I will put off further comment until I pick up my jaw from the floor.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> From no less a conservative icon than Erick Erickson, <a href="" target="_blank">we get this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.</p> <p>A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories <strong>alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) of North Carolina.</strong> It is worth nothing that the two deny a relationship.</p> <p><strong>But the email began circulating pretty heavily. Conservatives were buzzing about it.</strong> The first line pointed to the current scandal about Denny Hastert and concluded suggesting that if the rumor about McCarthy and his personal life were true, he was a national security risk.</p> </blockquote> <p>Okey dokey.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:14:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 286506 at We Get It: Paul Krugman Has Been Right All Along <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_krugman_tired.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here is Paul Krugman just in the past month:</p> <ul><li>It&rsquo;s now seven years since I warned....</li> <li>Who could have predicted such a thing? Well, me....</li> <li>Many of us warned from the beginning that the multiplier was probably much larger....</li> <li>Those of us who took our Hicks seriously calling the big stuff &mdash; the effects of monetary and fiscal policy &mdash; right, and those who went with their gut getting it all wrong....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve been trying to point out....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve written many times....</li> <li>Attacks on Keynesians in general, and on me in particular....</li> <li>Here&rsquo;s what I wrote three years ago....</li> </ul><p>And that's not even counting his print columns, which I didn't have the patience to plow through. I'm a pretty big fan of Krugman, but even for me this stuff has long since gotten old. Maybe it's time to go cold turkey on the whole "I was right" meme and just concentrate on the economics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:46:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286491 at Quote of the Day: Japanese Mathematician Discovers Marvelous Brain-Altering Proof <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Davide Castelvecchi,</a> writing about an impenetrable 500-page mathematical proof that might change the field forever if it's verified:</p> <blockquote> <p>But so far, the few who have understood the work have struggled to explain it to anyone else. <strong>&ldquo;Everybody who I'm aware of who's come close to this stuff is quite reasonable, but afterwards they become incapable of communicating it,&rdquo;</strong> says one mathematician who did not want his name to be mentioned. The situation, he says, reminds him of the Monty Python skit about a writer who jots down the world's funniest joke. Anyone who reads it dies from laughing and can never relate it to anyone else.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently Shinichi Mochizuki essentially invented a whole new branch of arithmetic geometry in order to complete his proof of the <em>abc</em> conjecture. So you have to learn a whole new field of math and <em>then</em> work your way laboriously through the actual proof. There are, according to Castelvecchi, something like four or five people in the whole world capable of doing this. Good luck, guys!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:10:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286476 at Image vs. Reality, Vladimir Putin Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>LA Times</em> writes today about <a href="" target="_blank">Russia's intervention in Syria:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The outcome of Vladimir Putin's bold military gamble in Syria is far from clear, but in the short term, one loser seems certain: President Obama.</p> <p>....The White House has been poised for weeks to quietly shift more U.S. military support to seasoned Kurdish militias and other rebel fighters in northern Syria. But at this point, <strong>any change in policy will appear to be in response to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_chin.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Putin's muscular moves,</strong> not a new initiative to help solve the multi-sided conflict.</p> </blockquote> <p>Putin is "bold" and "muscular." Obama is a "loser." Well, this piece is labeled as analysis, so I guess that's fair enough. But I hope that future articles continue to report the reality&mdash;that Obama has been planning for a while to shift his strategy in Syria&mdash;rather than merely parroting the tired judgment that he "appears" to be responding to the muscular Putin. In any case, let's continue:</p> <blockquote> <p>Middle Eastern allies who have chafed at Washington's reluctance to plunge into the 4-year-old civil war have been <strong>impressed by how the Russian president has come to an ally's defense,</strong> even if they don't like his goals or his ally, Arab officials say.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously? Sure, many of our Arab allies have been urging us for a long time to be more militantly anti-Assad. But are they really impressed by Putin's actions? He's allowed his "ally" Assad to twist in the wind with no apparent concern at all since 2011, and then after four years he finally enters the conflict in a small way&mdash;mainly because he was about to lose Assad for good. So far, he's launched a few air sorties and some cruise missiles. Are our Arab allies really that easily impressed? Onward:</p> <blockquote> <p>From the White House's perspective, the problem is not only that Russia is propping up a leader who they insist must step down as a part of a political deal to end the bloodletting. It is also that <strong>Putin's moves seem aimed at emphasizing American hesitation and signaling a lack of respect for the former Cold War foe.</strong></p> <p>....Over the last week, Moscow has seemed indifferent to the risk of a confrontation with Washington as Russian forces repeatedly attacked Syrian rebels armed by the CIA and allied spy services.</p> </blockquote> <p>Once again, Putin is the Donald Trump of world leaders: lots of showmanship and media attention for a very small price. It's impressive in a way. But the simple fact remains: Putin hasn't really done very much, and the fact that his Syria offensive seems aimed mostly at tweaking Obama is a show of childishness not strength. On Wednesday he even boasted that Russia's cruise missiles "hit all the targets," something the US hardly needs to bother with since everyone already knows we have plenty of cruise missiles that have a long history of hitting their targets.</p> <p>Finally, we end with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Putin's gamble may accomplish several of his goals: <strong>increasing Russian influence in the Middle East and on the world stage, building his image at home, and shifting Western attention from his intervention in Ukraine.</strong></p> <p>But many analysts believe that neither Putin nor anyone else can wrest military victory from the bitter cauldron in Syria. And many expect Obama, who has made that argument since the conflict began in 2011, to continue to move cautiously. Obama "has been pretty good about resisting pressure to get in deeper," said Kupchan. "I don't think he's going to react to Putin's gambit by upping the ante."</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe we should have started with that? Putin is essentially engaged in a PR campaign. Obama isn't taking the bait because he knows perfectly well it's a fool's errand. I hope everyone in Washington keeps that firmly in mind as Putin continues his Trump-esque rampage across the media landscape.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 14:31:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 286471 at Quote of the Day: "The Republican Party Left Me" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke,</a> in his new memoir, <em>The Courage To Act</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[I] lost patience with Republicans&rsquo; susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. <strong>I didn&rsquo;t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is, of course, a deliberate echo of Ronald Reagan's famous line about the Democratic Party leaving him. And it's hard to blame Bernanke. The know-nothing wing of the Republican Party rebelled against the TARP rescue package at the height of the economic meltdown. They howled that low interest rates would lead to imminent hyperinflation. They resolutely refused to consider fiscal stimulus despite Bernanke's repeated pleas (see helpful illustration below from 2011). They wanted to audit the Fed. They wanted to end the Fed. They wanted to put us back on the gold standard. When Bernanke told them that spending cuts would lead to higher unemployment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy refused to believe him. Now he's about to become Speaker of the House.</p> <p>Bernanke was no leftist, he was just a mainstream economist&mdash;and a cautious one. It didn't matter. Republicans didn't want to hear anything that interfered with their hard-money frenzy, even from one of their own. So they abandoned him.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_bernanke_congressometer_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 04:17:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 286456 at Ben Carson Apparently Doesn't Know What the Debt Limit Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_carson_laughing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Ladies and gentlemen, <a href="" target="_blank">Dr. Ben Carson:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, "We're gonna run out of money, we're gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November." Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit?<strong> Should we default on our debt?</strong></p> <p><em>Carson:</em> Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>To be clear, it's increasing the debt limit, not the budget,</strong> but I want to make sure I understand you. You'd let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, "Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we're not raising any spending limits, period."</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm gonna try one more time, sir.</strong> This is debt that's already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> What I'm saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You're always gonna ask the same question every year. And we're just gonna keep going down that pathway. That's one of the things I think that the people are tired of.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you're not gonna raise the debt limit and you're not gonna give specifics on what you're gonna cut,</strong> then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?</p> </blockquote> <p>It sure <em>sounds</em> as if Carson doesn't know what the debt limit is, doesn't it? Kai Ryssdal tries manfully to get a straight answer out of him, and after the fourth try Carson rambles into a long disquisition on the infinite-time-horizon fiscal gap, at which point Ryssdal finally gives up. I guess I don't blame him.</p> <p>On the other hand, I'll give Carson credit for something Ryssdal doesn't: telling him what he'd cut in order to balance the budget. Carson is pretty clear about this: he would cut the government across the board by 3-4 percent via the simple expedient of keeping spending flat for everything. In real terms, this gets you to Carson's 3-4 percent decrease. He says he'd do this for three or four years, and boom! Balanced budget.</p> <p>Ryssdal badgers Carson about this, but doesn't ask the obvious follow-ups: You'd cut Social Security 3-4 percent each year? Medicare? Defense? Veterans? If the answer is no&mdash;as it probably would be&mdash;<em>then</em> you ask Carson how he's going to balance the budget with just the stuff that's left over.</p> <p>In any case, it's pretty scary that a guy this ignorant of the basics of governance is doing so well in the Republican primary. Not surprising, maybe, but still scary.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 00:35:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286451 at Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to TPP, But Her Reasons Are Pretty Weak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton, who was once a fan of the TPP trade deal, announced today that she's now opposed to it. That's fine. But her reasons seem <a href="" target="_blank">less than compelling:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In her statement, Clinton said she is "continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what&rsquo;s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we&rsquo;re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers."</p> <p>She had said months ago that the currency provision would be a key test for her.</p> </blockquote> <p>The pharmaceutical provisions are indeed a point of considerable controversy, but the final draft of the agreement <em>weakens</em> them compared to what the US was asking for back when Hillary was involved. As for currency manipulation, TPP doesn't address that at all.</p> <p>So one provision she mentions has been improved, and the other does no harm because it's not addressed. If the deal looked OK a year ago, it should still look OK today. Likewise, if it looks bad today, it should have looked bad a year ago. So what really changed? Bernie Sanders, most likely. Just as the Republican side of things has been buffeted by the Trump Effect, the Democratic race has been been influenced by the Bernie Effect&mdash;which is just what he wanted, since I don't think he entered the race because he truly believed he had a chance to become president. He just wanted to move the conversation to the left, and he's succeeded at that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:12:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 286431 at Microsoft Announced Some Stuff Yesterday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday really highlighted the difference between Apple PR and Microsoft PR. Last month, I started hearing about Apple's big product announcement at least a week before it happened. By the time Der Tag rolled around I had read at least a dozen previews, and on the day itself practically everyone was not just reporting on it, but liveblogging it, tweeting it, Instagramming it, and just generally going bananas. And that was for an announcement that turned out to be fairly unexciting.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Microsoft put on its big product announcement show. I had no idea it was on the calendar. I hadn't read a word about it beforehand. On the day itself, my Twitter feed was silent. The front pages of newspapers were busy with other <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_surface_pro_4.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">things. And that's despite the fact that Microsoft was actually introducing some fairly cool stuff.</p> <p>(Note: this is not meant as an Apple vs. Windows fight. If you think nothing related to Windows could ever be cool, that's fine.)</p> <p>But it also highlighted how far from the mainstream my tastes seem to be. One of Microsoft's announcements, for example, was a new notebook with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet. Ho hum. There are dozens of those around. Except for one thing: this notebook screen has 267 ppi resolution, which means you can actually use it as a tablet without your eyes going cockeyed. But that got hardly any attention at all. Why? Am I the only one who's been waiting for a genuinely high-res Windows tablet? And even if I am, why else would anyone even care about this new laptop? It's expensive and otherwise not especially noteworthy.</p> <p>Ditto for the new Surface Pro 4. It's slightly bigger and a bit lighter than the old Surface Pro, and it sports faster processors. That's all fine, though nothing to shout about. But! Its screen is super high-res, just like the notebook. I've been pining away for this for years. I want one. And I have a birthday coming up.</p> <p>So that's question #1: Does the rest of the world think that 200 ppi is basically fine? I mean, it <em>is</em> fine, in a way. I use a 200 ppi tablet all the time, and it's OK. But it's not great. Surely this deserves more attention, especially since Retina displays have been a selling point on iPads for a long time.</p> <p>Question #2: Still no GPS? Come on. What would it take, a ten-dollar chip plus an antenna? On a tablet that costs a thousand bucks, you'd think Microsoft could spring for this. But maybe no one cares. Am I the only person who thinks it's sometimes useful to use a big tablet rather than a tiny phone to display maps? Unfortunately, I can rarely do that because you need GPS for it to work. (Or, alternatively, some way to tap into my phone's GPS, the same way I tap into its internet connection via WiFi.)</p> <p>And now for Question #3. Let's let <em>Slate's</em> Will Oremus <a href="" target="_blank">set the stage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Surface Pro 4 nominally starts at $899, but that&rsquo;s without a keyboard, or the fast processor, or any of the other goodies that make the Surface a viable PC. Realistically, it&rsquo;s going to run you well over $1,000 and will top $1,500 fully loaded. So, yes, it had <em>better</em> replace your PC.</p> </blockquote> <p>What's the deal with the continuing obsession over fast processors? I've been using Windows tablets with crappy Atom processors for a couple of years, and never had any complaints. I could easily use any of them as my primary desktop machine. The lowest-end processor on the Surface 4 is quite a bit faster than an Atom SOC, so why all the angst over needing something even better?</p> <p>Obviously there are exceptions. If you're doing software builds or heavy-duty video editing or high-end gaming, you'll want lots of memory and the fastest processor you can get. But you're probably not going to do any of those things on a tablet anyway, no matter how good it is. For all the ordinary stuff we white-collar worker types do&mdash;spreadsheets, word processing, email, web browsing, etc.&mdash;just about any modern processor will work fine. Why sweat it?</p> <p>(More generally,&nbsp;Oremus is right about the price, though. You'll need a keyboard and a docking station if you plan to use a tablet as your primary machine. That will push the Surface Pro 4 up to $1,200 or so even at the low end.)</p> <p>And what the hell, as long as I'm on the subject, here's Question #4: why are Macs so popular among journalists? Back in the day, Macs had real advantages in display graphics, which led to the development of lots of image editing and page makeup software for Macs. That made them very popular with graphic artists. But writers? Word processing is word processing. A cheap notebook does it as well as an expensive one. So why did journalists migrate to Macs in such numbers? Anyone have any idea?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 19:53:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 286376 at Quote of the Day: You'd Have to Be Nuts to Want a Leadership Role in the Republican Party <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We all know that John Boehner quit the speakership because he was finally fed up trying to deal with the lunatics in his own party. But how about some of the tea party darlings, like Trey Gowdy or Paul Ryan? <a href="" target="_blank">Apparently they feel about the same:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Gowdy] insists he&rsquo;s not interested in joining leadership, not in any capacity. He is funny, and biting, about the chaos of the present House.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have a background in mental health, so I wouldn&rsquo;t have the right qualifications to lead right now,&rdquo;</strong> he says. Who wants you to be in leadership? &ldquo;No friend does,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>....&ldquo;To me, just speaking as one member, the smartest kid in the class is Paul Ryan,&rdquo; Gowdy said. &ldquo;If I had one draft choice and I was starting a new country, I would draft Paul to run it. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2015_10_07.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">he&rsquo;s super, super smart. <strong>And when someone is super, super smart and is not interested, that tells you something. It tells me a lot.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>By coincidence, this is sort of related to the conservative fantasy I talked about in the <a href="" target="_blank">previous post.</a> Folks like Gowdy and Ryan are smart enough to see it too, even though they're both stone conservatives themselves. A leadership role wouldn't give them the power to actually implement the conservative agenda, but too many conservatives these days don't care. They're living the fantasy that if only their leaders fought hard enough, they could win. So when they don't win, it must mean that they didn't fight very hard. Right now, there's just no way to puncture that fantasy.</p> <p>And why the squirrel illustration? Nothing to do with Gowdy or Ryan or the tea party or conservatives being squirrely or nuts. Honest! This is just our household squirrel, who was outside feeding his face a few minutes ago. So I went out and took his picture. And speaking of squirrels, here's an interesting squirrel factlet: if you Google "squirrel saying," 7 of the top 20 hits are about the difficulties that German speakers have saying "squirrel."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:36:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286366 at How Our Constitution Indulges the Great Conservative Fantasy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> Matt Yglesisas wrote a #Slatepitch piece arguing that Hillary Clinton "is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas"&mdash;and that's a <em>good</em> thing. In a nutshell, Democrats can't get anything done through Congress, so they need someone willing to do whatever it takes to get things done some other way. And that's Hillary. "More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_tough.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 24px 0px 15px 30px;">lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned."</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, conservatives were shocked. Shocked! Liberals are fine with tyranny! Today Matt responded <a href="" target="_blank">in one of his periodic newsletters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A system of government based on the idea of compromises between two independently elected bodies will only work if the leaders of both bodies want to compromise. Congressional Republicans have rejected any form of compromise, so an effective Democratic president is going to try to govern through executive unilateralism. I don't think this is a positive development, but it's the <em>only possible</em> development.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't think I'm as pessimistic as Yglesias, but put that aside for a moment. Look at this from a conservative point of view. They want things to move in a conservative direction. But compromise doesn't do that. In practice, it always seems to move things in a more liberal direction, with a few conservative sops thrown in that eventually wither away and die. This leaves them with little choice except increasingly hard-nosed obstructionism: government shutdowns, debt ceiling fights, filibusters for everything, voter ID laws, etc. etc.</p> <p>And there's a lot of truth to this to this view. The entire Western world has been moving inexorably in a liberal direction for a couple of centuries. It's a tide that can't be turned back with half measures. Conservative parties in the rest of the world have mostly made their peace with this, and settle for simply slowing things down. American conservatives actually want to <em>reverse</em> the tide.</p> <p>That's all but impossible in the long term. It's just not the way the arc of history is moving right now. But American conservatives are bound and determined to do it anyway.</p> <p>This is the fundamental problem. British conservatives, in theory, could turn back the clock if they wanted to, but they don't. Their parliamentary system allows them to do it, but public opinion doesn't&mdash;which means that if they want to retain power, there's a limit to how far they can fight the tide. If American conservatives were in the same situation, they'd probably end up in the same place. Once they actually got the power to change things, they'd very quickly moderate their agenda.</p> <p>It's in this sense that our system of governance really is at fault for our current gridlock. Not <em>directly</em> because of veto points or our presidential system or any of that, but because these features of our political system allow conservatives to live in a fantasy world. They dream of what they could do if only they had the political power to do it, and they really believe they'd do it all if they got the chance. Thanks to all those veto points, however, they never get the chance. Full control of the government would disabuse everyone very quickly of just how far they're really willing to go, but it never happens.</p> <p>We are living through an era in which conservatives are living a fantasy that can never be. But our system of governance denies them the chance to test that fantasy. So it continues forever. It will stop eventually, either because conservatives somehow <em>do</em> gain total political power and are forced to face up to its limits, or because it burns itself out through continual head banging that gets them nowhere combined with demographic changes that decimate their base. Probably the latter. It's only a question of how long it takes.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 17:52:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 286361 at Let's Experiment With the Minimum Wage and EITC <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_state_eitc.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">When you add up the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit, Brad DeLong thinks <a href="" target="_blank">it should add up to a living wage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Of course, minimum-wage advocates are fearful of the following: We say raise the minimum wage, they say increase the earned income tax credit instead. We say increase the earned income tax credit, they say it is more important to reduce the deficit. We say fund the earned income tax credit by raising taxes, they say lower taxes promote entrepreneurship. We say cut defense spending, they say ISIS and Iran. The shift of attention to the earned income tax credit is then seen as&mdash;which it often is&mdash;part of the game of political Three Card Monte to avoid doing anything while not admitting you are opposed to doing anything.</p> <p>That is all very true.</p> <p>So raise the minimum wage, and then bargain back to a lower minimum wage and a higher income tax credit if it turns out that there are significant disemployment affects.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, that would be fine except that the same people who refuse to increase the EITC are the same ones who refuse to raise the minimum wage. We're no more likely to get a $15 (or $12 or $13 or $14) minimum wage than we are to get a more generous EITC. Ditto for wage subsidies, which are popular in some conservative circles. The excuses may vary depending on the circumstances, but they will always add up to No.</p> <p>Perhaps a better bet is to focus on the state level. <a href="" target="_blank">Plenty of states</a> have an EITC that piggybacks on the federal EITC, and that means there are plenty of laboratories of democracy where we could try different combinations of EITC and minimum wage to see what works best. Who knows? Maybe a few states could even be talked into trying out wage subsidies.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:16:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286336 at Folks in West Virginia Aren't Getting Enough Sleep <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Wonkblog,</a> Christopher Ingraham passes along the results of a new study about where people sleep the best and the worst. It turns out I'm in pretty good shape: Orange County reports generally excellent sleep. But if you live in the Insomnia Belt, stretching down the Appalachians from West Virginia into eastern Texas, you may be in trouble. Why? Apparently no one knows. But it might explain why they're so cranky these days.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sleep_map.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 15:32:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 286326 at Perhaps We Should Retire the Idea That Joe Biden Is "Authentic" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in August, Maureen Dowd wrote several hundred words about what a horrible person Hillary Clinton is. No surprise there. She could pretty easily write a million if the <em>Times</em> gave her the space. But then, having obsessed over Hillary's sinister <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_joe_biden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">psyche for the thousandth time, she turned to the possibility of white knights jumping into the presidential race to save us all. In particular, there was Joe Biden, who was now reconsidering a run <a href="" target="_blank">after the death of his son Beau:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk....&ldquo;Dad, I know you don&rsquo;t give a damn about money,&rdquo; Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.</p> <p>Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, <strong>arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's a touching scene, but also an odd one: Dowd didn't attribute it to anyone. Not even "a friend" or "someone with knowledge of the situation." In <em>Politico</em> today, Edward-Isaac Dovere says <a href="" target="_blank">there's a reason for that:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her</strong>....It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening. <strong>But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in <em>The New York Times</em>, asking them to call.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that&rsquo;s what it is,&rdquo; said one person who&rsquo;s recently spoken to Biden about the prospect of running.</p> <p>....At the end of August, while friends were still worrying aloud that he was in the worst mental state possible to be making this decision, <strong>he invited Elizabeth Warren for an unannounced Saturday lunch</strong> at the Naval Observatory. According to sources connected with Warren, he raised Clinton&rsquo;s scheduled appearance at the House Benghazi Committee hearing at the end of October, <strong>even hinting that there might be a running-mate opening for the Massachusetts senator.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, I don't have any independent knowledge of whether Dovere is right about this. But it sure sounds plausible, and it's a good illustration of why you should take claims of "authenticity" with a big shaker of salt. Biden is an outgoing guy and gets along well with the press. But that just means he's an outgoing guy who gets along well with the press. Authenticity has nothing to do with it.</p> <p>It's one thing for people close to a candidate to leak information that makes their man look good&mdash;that's so common I'm not sure it even has a name&mdash;but for the candidate himself to use <em>his son's death</em> as a way of worming his way into a weekly column written by a woman who detests Hillary Clinton more fanatically than anyone this side of Ken Starr? I'm not quite sure what to call that, but authentic isn't it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:20:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 286296 at Paul Krugman Explains the Latest Draft of the TPP <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Suppose there's a complex public policy proposal being debated and you want to know where you should stand. However, you really don't want to devote a huge amount of time to diving into all the details. There are just so many hours in the day, after all.</p> <p>One possibility is to simply see what people on your side of the tribal divide think about it. But that's surprisingly unreliable. A better approach is to take a look at who's <em>opposed</em> to the proposal. That's what Paul Krugman <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tpp_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">does today regarding the <a href="" target="_blank">final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What I know so far: <strong>pharma is mad</strong> because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, <strong>tobacco is mad</strong> because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, <strong>and Rs in general are mad</strong> because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected....I find myself thinking of Grossman and Helpman&rsquo;s work on the political economy of free trade agreements, in which they conclude, based on a highly stylized but nonetheless interesting model of special interest politics, that</p> <blockquote> <p>An FTA is most likely to be politically viable exactly when it would be socially harmful.</p> </blockquote> <p>The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Krugman describes himself as a "lukewarm opponent" of TPP who now needs to do some more homework. I'd probably call myself a lukewarm supporter. One reason is that the dispute resolution provisions, which provoked a lot of anger on the left, never struck me as either unusual or all that objectionable in practice. The IP stuff bothered me more, and that's been improved a bit in the final draft. It's still not great, but it's not quite as horrible as before. So you can probably now count me as a slightly stronger supporter.</p> <p>But I wonder what Republicans will do? They're the ones who are ideologically on the side of trade agreements, and they've spent a lot of time berating President Obama for not putting more effort into trade deals. But with campaign season heating up, it's become more toxic than ever to support any initiative of Obama's. Plus Donald Trump is busily working his supporters into a lather about TPP. I wouldn't be surprised to see quite a few defections from the Republican ranks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:35:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 286261 at Here's One Simple Rule For Deciding Who the Media Covers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marco_rubio.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Waldman notes today that Marco Rubio is the latest beneficiary of the media spotlight. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If history is any guide, the &ldquo;outsider&rdquo; candidates will eventually fall, and Rubio is the only &ldquo;insider&rdquo; candidate whose support is going up, not down. Scott Walker is gone, Jeb Bush is struggling, and none of the other officeholders seem to be generating any interest among voters. Rubio has long had strong approval ratings among Republicans, so even those who are now supporting someone else don&rsquo;t dislike him. He&rsquo;s an excellent speaker both with prepared texts and extemporaneously. When you hear him talk he sounds informed and thoughtful, and much less reactionary than his actual ideas would suggest. He presents a young, Hispanic face for a party that desperately needs not to be seen as the party of old white guys.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is all true, but it gives the media way too much credit. Here's the rule they use for deciding who to cover:</p> <ul><li>If you're leading or rising in the polls, you get coverage.</li> </ul><p>That's it. All the other stuff about Rubio has been true all along, and nobody cared about him. Now he's rising in the polls and is currently in about fourth place. So he's getting coverage.</p> <p>This happened first to Donald Trump, then to Ben Carson, then to Carly Fiorina, and now to Rubio. Bernie Sanders, oddly enough, remains fairly immune. Maybe this rule only applies to Republicans this year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:38:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 286236 at