Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Chart of the Day: Economy Picks Up Nicely in Q3 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the third quarter.</a> This is a fairly healthy number, driven largely by a big increase in purchases of durable goods (cars, refrigerators, etc.). Purchases of nondurable goods fell, and investment in residential housing also fell, for the second straight quarter. Exports were up considerably.</p> <p>Politically, this is good news for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump wants this to be a change election, but if inflation is low, unemployment is low, and economic growth is healthy, an awful lot of people are going to think that an extension of the Obama presidency sounds pretty good.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_q3_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 28 Oct 2016 14:19:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317677 at Health Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Short version: I'm fine. Longer version: I just saw my oncologist, and he's pretty satisfied with everything. My M-protein level&mdash;the primary measure of cancerous plasma cells in my bone marrow&mdash;has been sneaking upward for the past few months, but in October it plateaued at the same level as September. Here's a special expanded version of my usual M-protein chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_m_protein_2016_10_27.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>I started out at 4.38 when I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and the initial chemotherapy got that down to about 1.0. The maintenance meds got it down to 0.3, but after we halted the evil dex<sup>1</sup> it drifted up to 0.58. Higher is worse, but as you can tell from the chart, the entire past year has been fairly stable, and the minor ups and downs don't mean a lot. An M-protein level of 0.58 grams is roughly equivalent to a cancer load of about 3-4 percent, and my body can tolerate that basically forever. Eventually my M-protein level will rise above 1.0 or so, and then it will be time to switch to a second-line med.</p> <p>However, my oncologist's satisfaction was mostly based on other stuff that I don't usually write about. There are three types of plasma cells: G, A, and M.<sup>2</sup> My cancer happens to be of the G cells. However, my A-type cells have increased quite a bit over the past few months, and apparently that's an indication that my immune system is returning to normal. So that's good. Also, my Kappa light chains are pretty low, and my Kappa/Lambda ratio is nice and stable.<sup>3</sup> That's also good. Put it all together and I'm in pretty stable shape.</p> <p>However, the med I'm taking now can produce rashes in some people. It turns out I'm one of them. In my case, they're little red dots that showed up on my lower legs last week, then spread to my upper legs, and are now invading my stomach. How far will they go? Beats me. But if they go much further, they'll invade my face and I'll look like I have a permanent case of the measles. Oh well.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>That's dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that helps fight multiple myeloma. However, it has bad long-term side effects, so it can only be used for a few months at a time.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>This is not precisely the right terminology, but it's close enough.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>For the record, I have IgG Kappa light chain multiple myeloma.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 22:07:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 317647 at Meet America's Most Prolific Patent Troll <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a weird&mdash;and yet totally unsurprising&mdash;story. <a href="" target="_blank">It starts like this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Martin Kelly Jones, a co-owner of Shipping &amp; Transit, said the tracking of e-commerce packages relates to an idea he came up with in the 1980s to notify families of arriving school buses....Mr. Jones, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, said he came up with the idea for a &ldquo;vehicle notification system&rdquo; in 1985 in Atlanta, after seeing a young girl waiting for a school bus on a rainy morning. He later formed a company to develop <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_patent_troll_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">technology, involving hardware for buses, that could notify people their bus was arriving.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently this idea went nowhere. But that doesn't mean it was a waste of time. Not at all. Jones then started up a company called ArrivalStar, later renamed Shipping &amp; Transit:</p> <blockquote> <p>Claiming patents &ldquo;for providing status messages for cargo, shipments and people,&rdquo; the company or a predecessor have sued dozens of major retailers as well as delivery giants FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., according to court records. The companies have extracted millions of dollars in payments, said people familiar with the legal actions.</p> <p>....Anthony Dowell, a patent attorney who used to represent ArrivalStar, said he helped it win more than $15 million in license fees between 2009 and 2013 from over 200 parties, including municipalities and providers of shipping services. He said the patents he focused on expired in 2013.</p> </blockquote> <p>The success of this business is unclear. UPS decided to buy a license, and apparently FedEx did too. The Postal Service didn't. Local transportation agencies maybe did and maybe didn't. It's unclear. In any case, S&amp;T is currently focusing all its attention on tiny little companies that don't have the means to fight back:</p> <blockquote> <p>Spokesmen for UPS and the Postal Service said their agreements with ArrivalStar, Shipping &amp; Transit&rsquo;s predecessor, should cover their customers&rsquo; use of technology....[Jones] said using FedEx&rsquo;s or UPS&rsquo;s notification system would cover a shipper, <strong>but it might still need to buy a license if it provided any additional information, such as telling buyers an order has been filled.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;The second you are using technology beyond what a licensee has, you need a license from us,&rdquo; he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So if you send notifications telling customers that their orders have been filled, S&amp;T will sue you for $25,000. Why? Because they claim to have patented this idea <em>if it's done via some kind of computer network</em>. In all this time, however, the patent has never been tested in court. It's never been worth anyone's time.</p> <p>This. Is. Ridiculous. If you call your customer on the phone, it's fine. If you send them an email, you'll get sued. It's hard to conceive of anything stupider.</p> <p>Get rid of software patents. All of them. Right now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 17:06:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 317622 at Please, Hillary, Stay Out of Syria <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I basically have one foreign policy present that I'd like for Christmas:</p> <ul><li>Stay out of Syria. No troops. No "advisors." No weapons shipments to "friendly" rebels. No no-fly zones. Nothing. If Putin wants to waste his time there, let him.</li> </ul><p>Syria is a tragedy. If I could wave a magic wand and stop the killing and the refugees and everything else, I'd do it. But there's no magic wand, and there's nothing within reason that the United States can do to influence the outcome of the war. So just stay out. Period. That means you, Hillary.</p> <p>That said, we obviously have an interest in eliminating ISIS, and once they've been driven out of Iraq they'll have to be driven out of Syria too. I don't know what that will involve. Maybe drone attacks, maybe some super-secret special ops missions that everyone knows about. That's fine. But stay out of the civil war. Nothing but catastrophe will come to anyone who insists on getting involved.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 15:26:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 317602 at The Trump Campaign Is Not Engaged in Voter Suppression <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>My Twitter feed is alive with the news that a "senior official" in the Trump campaign has admitted that they are engaged in voter suppression. <a href="" target="_blank">Let's go to the tape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. &ldquo;We have three major voter suppression operations under way,&rdquo; says a senior official. They&rsquo;re aimed at three groups Clinton needs <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plan_b.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans. Trump&rsquo;s invocation at the debate of Clinton&rsquo;s WikiLeaks e-mails and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed to turn off Sanders supporters. The parade of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed or threatened by Hillary is meant to undermine her appeal to young women. And her 1996 suggestion that some African American males are &ldquo;super predators&rdquo; is the basis of a below-the-radar effort to discourage infrequent black voters from showing up at the polls&mdash;particularly in Florida.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ahem. For those of you new to American elections, allow me to blogsplain. This is called "negative campaigning." It is designed to make ones opponent look bad, and it has been a feature of every US election since&mdash;well, roughly forever. The fact that a "senior official" calls this voter suppression doesn't mean that it is. It just means that the Trump folks are amateurs who are laughably ignorant about what a "major" operation of any kind actually looks like in a modern presidential campaign.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 15:10:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 317597 at Most Trump Voters Say They Will Peacefully Accept Results of Election <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There are 12 days left until we go to the polls. Is violence brewing from disappointed Donald Trump supporters? Here are nine quotes from a <em>New York Times</em> story <a href="" target="_blank">that ran this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton&hellip;it could lead to "another Revolutionary War." "<strong>People are going to march on the capitols,</strong>" said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. "They're going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there."</p> <p>&hellip;"<strong>It's not what I'm going to do,</strong> but I'm scared that the country is going to go into a riot," said Roger Pillath.</p> <p>&hellip;"<strong>I'd probably go into a depression,</strong> because life is hard enough for us right now," Ms. Olson, 69, said.</p> <p>&hellip;"Unfortunately, I'm not a man of vigilante violence," said Richard Sabonjohn, 48, of Naples, Fla. "<strong>I'm more of a peaceful person.</strong> But I do think there will be a large <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_12_days.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">amount of people that are terribly upset and may take matters into their own hands."</p> <p>Mr. Swick considers himself a "Bible Christian" and "Thomas Jefferson liberal," <strong>and said he hoped to beat Mrs. Clinton "at the ballot box."</strong> But Mr. Swick, by his own estimation, also owns "north of 30 guns," and he said Mrs. Clinton would have trouble if she tried to confiscate the nation's constitutionally protected weapons.</p> <p>&hellip;"<strong>I am not going to take my weapon to go out into the streets to protest an election I did not win,</strong>" Mr. Weegens said, "but I think that if certain events came about, a person would need to protect themselves, depending on where they lived, when your neighborhood goes up in flames."</p> <p>"<strong>I'd go home and cry for four years,</strong>" said Ken Herrmann, 69, of Punta Gorda, Fla.</p> <p>Kathy Maney, 61, a hairstylist from Fletcher, N.C., used the language of love lost. "<strong>I won't feel hatred or mad or anything like that,</strong> but my heart will be broken," she said.</p> <p>Ms. Sanger added, she will dutifully accept the outcome on Election Day. "<strong>I would absolutely respect the result and support the next president,</strong>" she said. "Pray for the next president, whoever it is."</p> </blockquote> <p>This story ran under the headline "Some Trump Voters Call for Revolution if Clinton Wins." But not a single one of these folks "called" for a revolution or said they'd participate in one. Just the opposite. They said they themselves <em>wouldn't</em> do anything, but were worried that <em>other people</em> might. Even young Mr. Halbrook, who came the closest, only suggested that "people" would participate in "marches on the capitols," which is perfectly legal and not necessarily violent.</p> <p>So why is everyone worried that <em>other people</em> might riot on November 9? Is it because of headlines like "Some Trump Voters Call for Revolution if Clinton Wins"?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 14:43:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 317592 at A Bit of Late Night Miscellany <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Miscellaneous thing #1:</strong> NFL viewership is down sharply this year. Is it because of Colin Kaepernick? That's the favorite explanation from conservatives, but today the <em>New York Times</em> <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">tells us this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The two most successful sports leagues in the world, which bring in billions of dollars in revenue, the biggest corporate sponsors and mammoth audiences every game day, are now sharing an altogether different experience: The National Football League and the English Premier League are enduring startling, double-digital declines in television viewership this season.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Premier League is obviously not suffering from a Kaepernick backlash. So why are those two sports behemoths falling on hard times, but not others? It's a chin scratcher. I don't know much about English soccer, but my personal guess about the NFL is that it's just boring this year. I'm not quite sure why, but it seems like even the good teams are kind of mediocre and play like they were carved out by a cookie cutter. I'm a very casual but fairly reliable NFL viewer, but I haven't been bothering to watch very much this year. I just can't work up much interest.</p> <p><strong>Miscellaneous thing #2:</strong> Are you curious about the Mexican border? Here's a nice graphic. We've already doubled the size of the border patrol and fenced off nearly the entire land border&mdash;but although that's reduced illegal immigration, it hasn't stopped it. All that's left is the Rio Grande, which is a very tricky fencing project indeed. Maybe a bigger, tougher fence would work better, but that's hardly a slam dunk.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_border_fence.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>And speaking of borders: have you read Shane Bauer's story about <a href="" target="_blank">going undercover with a border militia?</a> You should!</p> <p><strong>Miscellaneous thing #3:</strong> Is the 2016 election just a taste of things to come? Will a more self-disciplined version of Donald Trump take over the Republican Party in 2020 and win where Trump couldn't? <a href="" target="_blank">Kevin Mahnken says no:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump is sui generis. Ted Cruz entered 2016 with a bulletproof anti-establishment resum&eacute;, and look how far he got running as a slightly &ldquo;cooler, more polished&rdquo; alternative....Anyone with the requisite political instincts to win a general election would have to temporize eventually, which would mark him as a career politician. Anyone exotic enough to fully copy the Trump playbook would be vaporized by the institutional weaponry of the Republican Party, which won&rsquo;t be caught sleeping twice in a row.</p> <p>....Very few politicians exert lasting influence on American political parties. The last ones to do so were Lyndon Johnson (who shattered the remnants of the New Deal coalition and inadvertently established the Democrats as a multiethnic alliance in favor of big government and various liberation movements) and Ronald Reagan (who solidified a pact between the Moral Majority and business elites that is only now breaking down). But these were two-term presidents who won massive legislative victories. Trump, who was never selling a governing ethos to begin with, will be a profoundly rejected figure.</p> </blockquote> <p>I agree. Trump is unique, and his victory in the primaries this year was a perfect storm sort of fluke. Like Glenn Beck before him, however, he's had his year in the sun and his brand of performance art has already gotten old. He may go on to a TV career, or he may sink into a deep depression and never be heard from again, but it doesn't matter. He's a loser and a laughingstock. At most he'll motivate future candidates to break a bit from party orthodoxy (on support for free trade, for example, or entitlement cuts) but that's it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 05:15:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 317587 at Three Unfortunate Facts About Yemen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Six years ago I read a <a href="" target="_blank">pair</a> of <a href="" target="_blank">articles</a> about Yemen which predicted that its population would double by 2035; oil revenue would decline to zero by 2017; and the capital city of Sanaa would run out of water by 2015. Today I got curious: How are those forecasts panning out?</p> <p><strong>Population: On target.</strong> Yemen's population has <a href="" target="_blank">increased from 23.6 million to 27.5 million since 2010</a>&mdash;an annual growth rate of 2.58 percent. If this continues, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_yemen_oil_2010_2016_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Yemen's population will double by 2037.</p> <p><strong>Oil revenue: On target.</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Yemen is currently producing a meager 22,000 barrels of oil daily.</a> In fairness, much of this is due not to pumping their fields literally dry, but to infrastructure destruction during the current civil war. They still have proven reserves of about 3 billion barrels, so production could rise again if the war ever ends.</p> <p><strong>Water: On target?</strong> <a href="" target="_blank">Adela Jones of USC writes:</a> "Already, Yemenis allocate up to 30% of their annual income towards water....As early as 2017, Sana&rsquo;a may officially run out of water. Given consumption trends, the rest of the nation may follow."</p> <p>I remain fairly ignorant about Yemen, aside from the fact that it's the site of a brutal proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran&mdash;in Saudi Arabia's view, anyway&mdash;and we've been assisting the Saudis since it started. But Yemen's future looks pretty bleak no matter who wins. What happens when they finally pump the last of the groundwater and there's nothing left?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Oct 2016 04:07:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 317586 at Hillary Clinton Is Slowly Picking Up Ground With Millennials <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Harvard&rsquo;s Institute of Politics has just released its <a href="" target="_blank">latest poll of 18-29 year olds,</a> and reports that Hillary Clinton has a "massive" lead over Donald Trump. Over at the <em>New York Times</em>, however, Yamiche Alcindor says the new poll shows that Clinton has "struggled" with millennials and "will have to convince many young people that they should trust her to grapple with some of the nation&rsquo;s biggest issues." <a href="" target="_blank">Nancy LeTourneau is annoyed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That is the power of narrative. Once you buy into the idea that Clinton is having trouble with millennials, it is almost impossible to break out of it. In the back of Alcindor&rsquo;s mind, she has to do better than a 28 point lead to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_18_29_vote_1996_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">be successful with young people. Who knows how high that bar is?</p> </blockquote> <p>I get the exasperation with this, but the problem is that both the IOP <em>and</em> Alcindor are right. Clinton leads Trump 49-21 percent in the IOP poll, which is indeed a massive lead. At the same time, 49 percent support is less than Democrats usually get from 20-somethings. Like it or not, Clinton is less popular with young voters than any Democrat in the past two decades except for Al Gore. Is this because of the Bernie effect? Because of Clinton herself? Because third-party candidates are getting more attention than usual? That's hard to say. But whatever the reason, Clinton is underperforming with millennials.</p> <p>Now, at this point her underperformance is fairly modest compared to anyone other than Barack Obama. And she still has a couple of weeks to make up ground. It's fair to say that she's a little behind the usual pace for Democrats, but it's not fair to regurgitate the narrative from two or three months ago when she was struggling pretty hard with millennial disaffection. It may not make for a great story, but sometimes the truth is a little bit boring.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 22:15:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 317581 at Republicans Prepare for Armageddon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_13_days.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">With 13 days left until the end of the campaign, Donald Trump seems to have all but given up. He's mostly promoting his hotels these days and has stopped all big-dollar fundraising. In fact, he seems as if he'd be pretty happy if Republicans lost in an epic wave election, which might make his own loss seem less of a personal humiliation and more a party failure. Given all this, I suppose this means that Republicans are resigned to losing and are probably putting their heads together to figure out how they can work with Hillary Clinton over the next four years in order to accomplish at least&mdash;</p> <p>Eh? <a href="" target="_blank">What's that, Ilya Shapiro?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Senate Should Refuse To Confirm All Of Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s Judicial Nominees</p> </blockquote> <p>Um, OK. That's clear enough. Gonna be tough on the federal judiciary, though. Don't big businesses need the courts to stay fully staffed so they can continue suing each other over dumb patent infractions? Maybe not. But anyway, Shapiro is just one guy. This is probably not a common opinion, right?</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">1. Dems will kill filibuster if that's stopping SCOTUS confirmation. 2. SCOTUS works fine with 8. Wd work better w 7 <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) <a href="">October 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>OK, fine: two guys. But surely wiser heads in Congress <a href="" target="_blank">will prevail?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a target-rich environment,&rdquo; the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City&rsquo;s suburbs. &ldquo;<strong>Even before we get to Day One, we&rsquo;ve got two years&rsquo; worth of material already lined up. </strong>She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain&rsquo;t good.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Welp, it's sure sounding like the Republican Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past eight years. If this is how things go, they're planning to double down on total obstruction starting on Day One&mdash;or even before that for Chaffetz. Then in 2020 they'll wonder yet again why they have such a hard time winning the presidency. I wonder if it will ever occur to them that getting nothing done just isn't a winning argument for a majority of Americans?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 17:58:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 317541 at Health Care Premiums Have Grown 6% Per Year Since 2013 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_premium_increase_2013_2017.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I've mentioned before that Obamacare premiums started out too low in their first year, which explains (a) why so many insurers have had trouble making money in the exchanges, and (b) why premiums increased so much this year. But maybe a chart will make this clearer.</p> <p>This is based on data from <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Health Affairs</em></a> last year, updated with the big increase in premiums this year. What it shows fairly clearly is that the cost of individual premiums dropped in 2014 when the Obamacare exchanges started up&mdash;even though Obamacare policies generally provided better coverage. When you factor in the big increase for next year, average premiums will have risen from $4,500 to $5,600 since 2013.</p> <p>That's an annual increase of 6.1 percent, about the same as the average annual increase in employer plans over the past decade.</p> <p>The usual caveats apply. These are averages: some people do better, some do worse. And for people who qualify for Obamacare subsidies, the actual increase in the amount they have to pay is very small. Overall, though, the point here is clear: if premiums had just risen at a steady 6 percent per year, nobody would be bent out of shape. The reason this is hitting so hard is because insurance companies screwed up their projections when Obamacare started up and now they have to make up for it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 17:33:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 317536 at The Case Against Voting Booth Selfies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timberlake_voting_selfie.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Justin Timberlake snapped a selfie in the voting booth yesterday, and lots of people were outraged that apparently there are laws against this. <em>What happened to free speech!?!</em></p> <p>Just for the record, then, there <em>is</em> a reason for selfie bans in voting booths: it prevents vote buying. After all, the only way it makes sense to pay people for their votes is if you have proof that they voted the way you told them to. Back in the day that was no problem, but ever since secret ballots became the norm vote buying has died out. Selfies change all that. If I give you ten bucks to vote for my favorite candidate for mayor, I can withhold payment until you show me a selfie proving that you voted for my guy.</p> <p>How big a deal is this? I don't know. Maybe we should go ahead and allow voting booth selfies. But the ban isn't just a dumb bureaucratic rule. It's a sensible attempt to prevent voter fraud that has very little cost.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 16:15:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 317526 at In Era of Trump, Competition for Stupidest Man Alive Heats Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the same category of cluelessness as "Keep the government out of my Medicare," one of my favorite dumb whinges comes from people who complain that the mainstream media isn't covering something&mdash;and then illustrate that "something" by linking to a piece in the <em>New York Times</em>. Stephen Moore, in a brave attempt to keep his title of Stupidest Man Alive in the era of Trump, provides us with this classic of the genre today:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@StephenMoore</a> on <a href="">@Varneyco</a> holds up today's <a href="">@washingtonpost</a>,laments that there are no stories about Obamacare premium increases<a href="">@ChuckLane1</a></p> &mdash; Matthew A. Duda (@nnw59) <a href="">October 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Every news outlet in America had a big headline about the Obamacare premium increases. It was plastered everywhere and blathered about endlessly on cable news. You could stay unaware of this only by hiding in a nearby fallout shelter like Kimmy Schmidt and not coming out for a week. As for the <em>Washington Post</em>, well:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wapo_premium_increase.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>In fairness, this is <em>yesterday's</em> edition. The Post actually covered it <em>before</em> anyone else. I guess Moore somehow missed it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 15:56:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317521 at Correction: Obamacare Premiums Are Going Up About 0% For Most People <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Data! You want data! Sure, Obamacare premiums are going up and so are the subsidies. But <em>how much</em> are the subsidies going up? The chart below&mdash;which I want everyone to look at because it was a pain in the ass to create&mdash;shows this for the 15 states with the highest premium increases:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017_premium_subsidy_increase_top_15.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>As you can see, subsidies are increasing more than premiums in every state&mdash;and by quite a bit. This comparison data is for a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000, and comes from Tables 6 and 12 <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> (Arizona is literally off the chart: premiums increased 116 percent and subsidies increased 428 percent.) Here's the same chart for the 15 states with the smallest premium increases:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017_premium_subsidy_increase_bottom_15.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>There are plenty of caveats here. Premiums and subsidies will be different for different kinds of households. Upper middle-class families don't get any subsidies at all. And this doesn't tell us what the average net increase is, once subsidies are accounted for.</p> <p>However, it gives us a pretty good idea that for a substantial majority of Obamacare users, the net amount they pay for health insurance in 2017 isn't going to be much more than it was this year. For many, in fact, it will be the same. For those who shop around, it's quite likely to be less.</p> <p>Bottom line: if your income is low enough to qualify for a subsidy, there's no need to panic over the Obamacare premium news. The higher premiums will help stabilize the market, and the cost will be covered almost entirely by Uncle Sam. Your pocketbook is safe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 03:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 317496 at Tweet of the Day: Most Obamacare Users Won't Pay Much More For Coverage Than They Did Last Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is from a guy who works for a healthcare advocacy group in New Mexico:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Just got off the phone w/ a consumer who was crying bc she couldn't afford a 25% increase. With subsidies, her premium went down 1%. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Colin Baillio (@colinb1123) <a href="">October 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Getting panicked calls all day about premium hikes. Every person I talked to was shielded by subsidies or on employer plan. <a href="">#headlinesmatter</a></p> &mdash; Colin Baillio (@colinb1123) <a href="">October 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I don't want to minimize the pain that this year's premium hikes are going to cause for a subset of insurance buyers. But the vast majority of low-to-mid-income Obamacare users are eligible for federal subsidies&mdash;and as premiums go up, so do their subsidies. They may end up paying a bit more in 2017 for their health coverage, but probably no more than a few percent.</p> <p>So yes: headlines matter. Or, at the very least, the first few paragraphs of news stories matter. Coverage of this issue should make it clear that the average price people <em>pay</em> will go up much less than 25 percent, and for low-income folks it probably won't go up at all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 23:45:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 317481 at Long Haul Truck Drivers Are Scarily Close to Being Put Out of Business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, a self-driving truck delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Loveland to Colorado Springs. This was obviously meant as a big FU to Coors, since the route "coincidentally" took all this frosty Bud right past Coors headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Most people, however, are interpreting this event as merely technological: it represents the dawn of the era of self-driving trucks. <a href="" target="_blank">Tim Lee comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to Otto&rsquo;s blog post on the trip, &ldquo;our professional driver was out of the driver&rsquo;s seat for the entire 120-mile journey down I-25, monitoring the self-driving system from the sleeper berth in the back.&rdquo;</p> <p>But this doesn&rsquo;t mean the nation&rsquo;s truck drivers need to start working on their r&eacute;sum&eacute;s. Technology like this may eventually displace human truck drivers, but the tech is <strong>several years away</strong> from causing mass unemployment. The key reason is that Otto&rsquo;s self-driving technology is initially limited to highways. When the truck reaches ordinary city streets, it hands control over to a human driver to handle tricky traffic situations. This means that even after a truck is outfitted with Otto&rsquo;s self-driving technology, it will still need a human driver in the truck.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. "Several years" sounds ominously near-term, so truck drivers might want to start worrying about their jobs right now. Beyond that, there's a way this could put truckers out of business well before that. Here's how.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cubs_indians_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Pick a route that has a lot of truck traffic. Let's say, Chicago to Cleveland. Outside of each city, you build a big truck depot and dispatch center. In Chicago, teamsters drive the trucks from the city out to the depot. Autopilots drive the trucks to the Cleveland depot, where a driver gets in and takes the truck to its destination. Rinse and repeat. The job of a truck driver is to drive back and forth from destinations in the city out to the depot, which they can do five or six times a day. Trucking firms save a ton of money even though the autopilot is designed for highway driving only.</p> <p>Building the depots would be cheap and easy, since you don't really need much there. It's basically just a dispatch center. You could pretty easily have hundreds of them dotted across the country near all of our biggest cities. The only thing that would stop this from happening is the knowledge that they'll only last a few years before they're put out of business by fully automated trucks that can go from dock to dock with no human intervention. Either way, truck drivers are in big trouble.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 23:26:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 317476 at Here's My 11-Word, 1-Chart Plan for Fixing Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's been a lot of talk about "fixing" Obamacare lately. Here's my two-step plan:</p> <ol><li>Increase the subsidy levels.</li> <li>Increase the penalty for not buying insurance.</li> </ol><p>That would pretty much do it. I could add lots of other small-bore things that need some tweaking, but why bother? These two things would do most of the job&mdash;and Republicans will never agree to them. They won't agree to any of the small-bore stuff either. So take your pick. You can support a detailed 11-point plan for Obamacare that will never get passed, or you can support my 11-word plan that will also never get passed.</p> <p>But since we're all lightweight wonks around here, we should take a guess at <em>how much</em> we need to change the subsidy and penalty levels to make everything work. Basically, Obamacare's big problem is that not enough young people are ponying up for insurance. To fix this, we need to get to a point where it's cheaper for young people to buy insurance than it is to pay the penalty. This can be done by either increasing subsidies or increasing the penalty. Here's my swag at what it would take:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_penalty_vs_subsidy.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 40px;"></p> <p>You could increase subsidies by 100 percent and leave the penalty alone, or you could increase the penalty 250 percent and leave the subsidies alone. Or you can pick any point in between.</p> <p>In reality, you could probably get by with smaller numbers, since nearly everyone will sign up if the penalty is within shouting distance of the net premium cost. You don't have to literally make the penalty as high as the premium cost. I also assumed silver coverage in this chart, and you can assume lower numbers if you're happy with kids buying bronze coverage.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Anyway, that's it. This chart is my proposed Obamacare reform. It represents something of an upper bound, and I imagine that someone who has actual working knowledge of all this stuff could do a lot better. Call your congressman today and demand that this chart be made into law.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I'm not, especially, which is why I went with silver.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 19:21:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 317431 at We Live in a Gentlemen's C- Universe <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Physicist Eugene Wigner is the author of a famous paper called "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences." <a href="" target="_blank">Brad DeLong comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We are all, potentially, the Friends of Wigner. It has always seemed to me that anyone with the empathy and imagination to think of him or herself as one of the Friends of Wigner is then driven inescapably to either "quantum <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_krona_creation_universe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">mechanics is totally wrong wrong wrong wrong and just predicts well for incomprehensible reasons" <strong>or "many-worlds".</strong> There really are no other alternatives, or at least what alternatives there are are even stranger.</p> </blockquote> <p>Au contraire. I consider quantum mechanics to be evidence that we are all constructs in somebody else's virtual reality. All of the peculiarities of quantum mechanics are easily explainable if the universe is merely a computer-generated world subject to the whims of a programmer.</p> <p>The only question left is <em>why</em> the programmer has created such a world. Whimsy? Amusement? As a test of some sociology theorem? Bad design?</p> <p>Perhaps the last one is most likely. In reality, quantum mechanics is a desperate, ugly patch glued onto a poorly working universe by a stressed freshman at 2 am. Basically, the poor kid waited until the last minute, as freshmen everywhere do, and hadn't really understood much of the text for the required "Plenum Creation and Maintenance" class. The result was a mess that kept falling apart even for small taus of only a few billion years. One thing led to another, and eventually the whole project became a Rube Goldberg monstrosity of black holes, 11 dimensions, wavicles, arbitrary speed-of-light caps on velocity, and observer-induced wave collapse as a last-ditch way of reducing the computing power needed to run it.</p> <p>In the end it received a gentlemen's C- from a sympathetic professor. That's the universe we live in.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 18:27:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 317416 at Donald Trump Knows Nothing About His Own Businesses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_14_days_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">With only 14 days left before Election Day, it hardly feels worth it to highlight Donald Trump's latest public declaration of ignorance, but I have another point to make about today's Trump Follies. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Donald on Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Well, I don't use much Obamacare, I must be honest with you, because it is so bad for the people and they can't afford it. And like, for instance, I'm at Trump National Doral in Miami, and we don't even use Obamacare. We don't want it. The people don't want it, and I spend more money on health coverage, but we don't use it.</p> </blockquote> <p>The obvious point to make is that Trump obviously has no idea what Obamacare is. He's apparently under the impression that it's some kind of option that employers can choose as group insurance for their employees. Ha ha. What an idiot.</p> <p>And that's true enough. But did you notice something else? Once again, Trump has made it clear that he has no idea <em>how his own businesses are run</em>. This is hardly the first time, either. As near as I can tell, Trump's job as CEO of the Trump Organization is to (a) watch a lot of TV, (b) appear on a lot of TV, (c) make command decisions about what kind of marble to use in the bathrooms, and (d) threaten to sue people who get in his way. Beyond that, he appears to play no real role in running things.</p> <p>This explains, for example, his promise last year to release his tax returns. He made that promise because he had no idea what was in them. It was only later, when someone on his finance team apparently pointed out what they contained, that he reneged on his promise. It also explains his frequent business failures. He was in love with the Plaza Hotel but had no idea what it was worth or how to run it. He loved the idea of owning an airline but had no clue about the shuttle market. He loved the casino business, but was entirely ignorant about casino operations. He loves to play golf, but doesn't understand the business of golf. Etc. He's spent his whole life diddling around in businesses that seemed interesting, but without knowing anything about them or understanding how to run them.</p> <p>His presidential campaign is the same thing. He thought it sounded neat to run for president but had no interest in how campaigns are actually run. If he ever became president, it would be more of the same. He'd run the country the way he runs his golf courses: making windswept exits from helicopters to deliver grand statements, and then quickly losing all interest. At best, things would toddle along without catastrophe if he picked decent people to run things. At worst, he'd pick fellow con men who would embroil him in endless scandals that made Teapot Dome look like a child's lark.</p> <p>Luckily, we'll never have to find out.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 17:34:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 317406 at Are Bonds Opaque and Confusing Because They Have to Be? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few days ago <a href="" target="_blank">Brad DeLong</a> tagged a piece by David Warsh that promises to be a preface of sorts to a 14-part series about some new research into the nature of finance and the origins of the Great Recession. It actually looks pretty interesting, but I confess I'm a little unclear about one of its central points.</p> <p>As we all know, one of the problems the Great Recession uncovered was the brave new world of rocket science derivatives, which were so complex that no <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_connery_james_bond.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">one truly knew what they represented. Warsh suggests that <a href="" target="_blank">this is no accident:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Stock markets existed to elicit information for the purpose of efficiently allocating risk. <strong>Money markets thrived on suppressing information in order to preserve the usefulness of bank money used in transactions and as a store of value.</strong> Price discovery was the universal rule in one realm; an attitude of &ldquo;no questions asked&rdquo; in the other.</p> <p>....This new view of the role of opacity in banking and debt is truly something new under the sun. One of the oldest forms of derision in finance involves dismissing as clueless those who don&rsquo;t know the difference between a stock and a bond. Stocks are equity, a share of ownership. Their value fluctuates and may drop to zero, while bonds or bank deposits are a form of debt, an IOU, a promise to repay a fixed amount.</p> <p>That economists themselves had, until now, missed the more fundamental difference&nbsp;&mdash; <strong>stocks are designed to be transparent, bonds seek to be opaque</strong> &mdash; is humbling, or at least it should be. But the awareness of that difference is also downright exciting to those who do economics for a living, especially the young. Sufficiently surprising is this reversal of the dogma of price discovery that those who have been trained by graduate schools in economics and finance sometimes experience the shift in Copernican terms: a familiar world turned upside down.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can't do justice to the whole idea in an excerpt, but this gives you a taste of Warsh's thesis. But it confuses me. Certainly he's right that mortgage-backed securities of the aughts were astonishingly opaque, but why does that lead us to believe that bonds, in general, "seek to be opaque"? For most of the 20th century and before, bonds were considerably simpler than the derivatives of the 21st century. The value of a corporate bond depended on the likelihood of bond payments being made, which in turn depended on the profitability and overall growth prospects of the firm. The value of a company's stock <em>also</em> depended on the profitability and overall growth prospects of the firm. If you knew one, you knew the other. Bonds, in general, were no more opaque than stocks. And none of this had any relation to bank money, did it?</p> <p>Maybe this will all be explained later. If Warsh is arguing that the transparency of the debt and equity markets have changed over the past decade or so, that's one thing. But if he's arguing that they've <em>always</em> been fundamentally different, then I have some questions. I hope he answers them over the next 14 weeks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:02:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 317396 at Obamacare Premiums Will Increase About 25% This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The federal government</a> announced today that Obamacare premiums are set to rise 22 percent next year. <a href="" target="_blank">Charles Gaba</a> estimates that premiums will go up 25 percent. Those numbers are close enough that there's probably no need to dive into the weeds to see if there are any gotchas. Premiums really are going up an average of about 25 percent next year. Here are five things to keep in mind:</p> <ol><li>Yikes. That's a big number.</li> <li>The biggest increase is 145 percent in Phoenix. I have no idea why. However, you can be sure that Donald Trump and others will be bleating about Obamacare premiums going up "as much as 145 percent." (For the record, the lowest increase is -12 percent in Indianapolis. See Table 13 <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> for a full list.)</li> <li>The vast majority of people on Obamacare have incomes under 400 percent of the poverty level. All of them are shielded from ever paying more than a cap set by income level. At the lowest income level, they never have to pay more than 3 percent of their income. At the highest income level (about $100,000 for a family of four) they never have to pay more than 9 percent of their income.<sup>1</sup> This means that in practice, the amount people <em>pay</em> will rise considerably less than 25 percent.<sup>2</sup></li> <li>The 25 percent number assumes that you keep the same policy that you have in 2016. You can do better if you shop around. For example, HHS estimates that if everyone switched to the lowest-price plan in their metal level (bronze, silver, etc.), premiums would go <em>down</em> an average of 20 percent. Combined with <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_obamacare_premiums_october_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">point #3, this means that nearly all individuals will be able to avoid huge increases if they're really in dire financial straits.</li> <li>As painful as this is, all that's happening is that after being underpriced for years, Obamacare premiums are finally catching up to the original estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. <a href="" target="_blank">A couple of months ago</a> I suggested that premiums still had another 25 percent increase ahead, and this would likely be spread out over a couple of years. I was right about the size of the hike, but it's happening in one year instead of two. The good news is that these prices hikes truly should help to stabilize the market and prevent more insurers from abandoning Obamacare. It might even prod a few new ones to enter the market.</li> </ol><p>So that's that. Basically, this increase is painful, but was probably inevitable as insurers got more experience with the market. Subsidies and caps should shield a lot of people from the full pain of the increases, and the higher premium levels should be good for the long-term health of Obamacare. As for Republicans who plan to yell and scream about this, I have a deal for them: anyone who's serious about reducing the suffering of folks who will be hurt by higher premiums has my full support for boosting subsidy levels.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The precise numbers for 2017 are 3.06 percent and 9.69 percent.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>There are other subsidies too that shield people from premium hikes. In particular, Andrew Sprung will be mad at me if I don't mention <a href="" target="_blank">Cost Sharing Reductions,</a> which many people can use to buy silver plans at reasonable prices.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 01:27:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317376 at In a Couple of Weeks, Merrick Garland Will Discover His Fate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has been waiting patiently for months to discover his fate. Here is Rick Hasen's prediction <a href="" target="_blank">via Twitter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here's why I think @EdWhelanEPPC is wrong and Judge Garland gets confirmed in lame duck IF Democrats take Senate. First, Obama will be loyal to Garland and not withdraw nomination and Garland won't withdraw unless Clinton asks. Clinton won't ask despite <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_merrick_garland.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">pressure from the left to withdraw Garland for younger and more liberal candidate.</p> <p>Getting Garland out of way during lame duck clears her first 100-day agenda without a nasty Supreme Court fight that eats other things. RBG has signaled she and/or Breyer will leave the court while Dems still control Senate (before 2017). This means she can get 1 or 2 more liberal Justices on Court and/or make it a big issue in the midterms, in the hopes of turning about Dem turnout problem in the midterms. With Garland done in [lame duck], Clinton has very good chance of 1, and some chance of 2, liberal appts before 2018 elections.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is kinda sorta my take too. I agree that Obama will be loyal to Garland. That's all part of the implicit bargain when he nominated him. And I agree that Hillary Clinton will go along with that, partly for the reason Hasen outlines, and partly because it demonstrates a deeper loyalty: not just from Obama, but from Team Obama, which Hillary is part of. I think <em>that</em> was part of the implicit bargain too.</p> <p>But will Republicans go along and confirm him? On the one hand, they've said they won't, and their base (i.e., talk radio) will go ballistic if they renege on that promise. On the other hand, in the real world (i.e., not talk radio) they know perfectly well that Garland is the best they're going to get. If they hold out, Clinton will nominate someone more liberal, and Harry Reid has already promised that if they go into endless obstruction mode, Democrats will <a href="" target="_blank">nuke the filibuster</a> and confirm Clinton's choice.</p> <p>So here's where this leaves them. If they break their promise, they'll be tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but crumble at the first sign of Democratic opposition. If they keep their promise, they' tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but always have some lame excuse for losing. <em>We don't control every branch of government. What could we do?</em> What a bunch of whiners.</p> <p>In other words, talk radio is going to scorch them no matter what happens. This means that if they're smart, they'll go ahead and confirm Garland. It's their least bad option.</p> <p>That doesn't mean it will happen. Fear of the base is powerful in the Republican Party. Still, the GOP leadership has some decisions to make, and how they're going to handle the tea party faction is one of their most important ones. There's not much question that they have to take them on sometime. The only question is whether November 9 will be the time.</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong> If Republicans hold onto the Senate, all bets are off. They'll still have some leverage in the next Congress, and might reasonably think they can negotiate a better candidate with Hillary Clinton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 21:40:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 317366 at Is Donald Trump a Fake Republican? Or the Ultimate Republican? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With 15 days left until a possible nationwide rout of the Republican Party, <em>National Review</em> editor Rich Lowry <a href="" target="_blank">complains about Democratic hypocrisy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As Jonah pointed out in a G-File a week or two ago, the Democrats started out by arguing that Donald Trump was such an outlandish figure that he couldn&rsquo;t even truly be considered a Republican; now, with Election Day just two weeks away and Trump performing badly, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_15_days.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">they are seeking to use him to sink as many Republicans up and down the ballot as possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe we tune into different liberals, but that's sure not how <em>I</em> remember it. My recollection is that it was <em>conservatives</em> who argued that Trump wasn't a real conservative. Lowry, for example, <a href="" target="_blank">called Trump</a> a "philosophically unmoored political opportunist" and a "menace to American conservatism." Liberals, conversely, spent a vast amount of ink arguing that Trump was, in fact, the apotheosis of everything conservatives had been doing for the past 30 or 40 years. They had supported extremist talk show hosts. They had tolerated endless appeals to racist sentiment. They had impeached a Democratic president. They had adopted a strategy of pure obstruction after losing in a landslide to Barack Obama. They had promoted a bubble of cocky ignorance by convincing their followers that the mainstream media was entirely untrustworthy. They had indulged an endless series of bizarre conspiracy theories and pseudo-scandals for purely political benefits.</p> <p>After all that, liberals argued, conservatives could hardly act shocked when Republican primary voters were attracted to a guy like Donald Trump. They had been poking this particular tiger for years, and now that it was biting back they had no idea how to stop it. That's how I remember things, anyway. Anyone disagree?</p> <p>And as long as we're on political topics, I noticed this morning that Sam Wang's Senate forecast, which has been sneaking upward for the past week, has finally reached the point where he's now predicting <a href="" target="_blank">Democrats will likely win control of the Senate 51-49.</a> The overall Democratic probability of Democratic control is 83 percent. As near as anyone can tell, Donald Trump is now actively working toward this end, hoping that an epic Republican loss across the board will make his personal loss less of an insult. Or something. Nice work, conservatives!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 18:10:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 317321 at Maybe We Can Turn Trump Lemons Into Twitter Lemonade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago Ariana Lenarsky was on a flight from Austin to Los Angeles. As she was walking down the aisle of the airplane, a guy reached out and stroked her calf. She reported this to the flight attendants, who nodded knowingly because other women had already complained about the guy. <a href="" target="_blank">After a bit of back and forth</a>, the captain radioed ahead and police met the plane when it landed. No one wanted to press charges because it would have been more trouble than it was worth, which led to this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Police said they would "give him a talking to"&amp; "it's not the crime of the century." True! I'm going to tweet his picture now since it's nbd</p> &mdash; Ariana Lenarsky (@aardvarsk) <a href="">October 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">You can't grab women on a plane, guy. You can't do it. Hope you get the help you need. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ariana Lenarsky (@aardvarsk) <a href="">October 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of calling out ordinary schmoes on big media platforms, but wouldn't it be nice if there was a silver lining to the odious and repugnant Trump campaign? Maybe this could be it: If someone gropes you, haul out your phone, take his picture, and post it on your social media platform of choice. We'd need a hashtag for this. Maybe if it catches on, men will finally start paying a big enough social penalty for this crap that they'll stop doing it.</p> <p>OK, OK, that won't happen. But maybe they'll do less of it. Baby steps.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 17:37:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 317316 at Oversampling Is the Latest Hotness in Trumpland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last night I went out to dinner and briefly checked in on things when I got back. While I was busy with some other stuff, I had this idle Twitter conversation:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I thought we fully litigated oversampling in the 90s</p> &mdash; Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@ClaraJeffery</a> Nothing is ever fully litigated. It's always fucking groundhog day.</p> &mdash; digby (@digby56) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@digby56</a> <a href="">@ClaraJeffery</a> They all know perfectly well what oversampling is. They're just trolling.</p> &mdash; Kevin Drum (@kdrum) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I had been out of touch with the news for maybe <em>six or seven hours</em>, nothing more. And yet I was completely out of the loop on the latest campaign idiocy. I had no idea what this was about, which explains my foolishly casual tweet. <a href="" target="_blank">This morning I found out:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_zero_hedge_oversample.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>This post has currently been read by 1.3 million people, and is ricocheting through the Trumposphere at light speed. Apparently oversampling is this year's deskewing.</p> <p>In case you care, oversampling is a normal and longtime practice for folks who are running presidential campaigns&mdash;which is what John Podesta was doing. If you survey, say, a thousand people, you're likely to get a sample of only 130 African-Americans. This means that if you happen to be particularly interested in African-American voters, you need to deliberately oversample them in order to get a statistically reliable pool of respondents. The same is true for any smallish group of people. If, for some reason, you want to target Hispanic environmentalists or white women under age 30, you have to oversample them too.</p> <p>Ordinary polls don't normally do this, though they do sometimes. For example, suppose everyone is obsessed with blue-collar white men and their alleged anger at the political system. A polling firm might want to oversample them in order to report how they really feel. That wouldn't affect the overall poll, though. It would be released as a separate survey on a matter of current interest.</p> <p>Anyway, this is all obvious and simple, which explains my tweet above. But hell, what do I know? Do the yahoos peddling this stuff know it's nonsense but only care about ginning up an army of easily-duped malcontents on November 9? Or are they genuinely ignorant? Who knows? But naturally Donald Trump is all over it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Major story that the Dems are making up phony polls in order to suppress the the Trump . We are going to WIN!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Jesus, this election is dispiriting. I'm beginning to think the whole thing is a spectacularly successful plot by the pharma industry to boost sales of anti-anxiety drugs and prescription blood pressure meds.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:58:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317301 at