Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/12/node/211941 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Once Again, We Are Unlearning the Lesson of the Great Debt Bubble http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/once-again-we-are-unlearning-lesson-great-debt-bubble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-metric-aids-weak-credit-risks-1427861478?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories" target="_blank">Is this good news?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Millions of Americans unable to obtain credit cards, mortgages and auto loans from banks will receive a boost with the launch of a new credit score <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Credit_Score.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">aimed at consumers regarded as too risky by lenders.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's more:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The new score is largely a response to banks&rsquo; desire to boost lending volumes by increasing loan originations to borrowers who otherwise wouldn&rsquo;t qualify,</strong> many of whom tend to be charged more for loans....The new score, which isn&rsquo;t yet named, will be calculated based on consumers&rsquo; payment history with their cable, cellphone, electric and gas bills, as well as how often they change addresses and other factors.</p> <p>....The new score could help applicants who don&rsquo;t use credit often but are responsible with their monthly payments to get approved for financing....But many borrowers who don&rsquo;t have a traditional FICO score are very risky.</p> <p>....Besides increasing their pool of borrowers and loan originations, banks stand to earn more in interest revenue from riskier borrowers. Lenders charge higher interest rates and in some cases extra fees to borrowers who present a higher risk of falling behind on debt payments.</p> </blockquote> <p>Color me deeply skeptical. Helping people who are denied credit simply because they don't currently use any credit sounds great. And assessing them by their reliability in paying normal monthly bills sounds perfectly reasonable.</p> <p>But I very much doubt this is really the target of this initiative. After all, people with no previous credit history already have access to credit. They just have to start slowly, with low credit limits and so forth. This new scoring system probably won't change that.</p> <p>What it will do is give banks an excuse to extend high-cost credit to risky borrowers&mdash;exactly the same thing they did during the housing bubble. As you may recall, that didn't turn out well, and there was a simple reason: risky borrowers are risky for a reason. When banks start to get too loose with their lending standards they end up dealing with default rates much higher than they expected.</p> <p>This won't happen right away, of course. Banks will be relatively cautious at first. They always are. But just wait a few years and it will be a different story. Then the standards will be lowered just a little too far, the rocket scientists will do their thing, and we'll be headed toward yet another debt crisis.</p> <p>This is almost certainly a bad idea. We'd all like to see everyone get a chance, but there are good reasons to restrict credit to borrowers who are likely to repay. We should remember that.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Megan McArdle has a different take <a href="http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-04-01/living-debt-free-just-got-easier" target="_blank">here.</a> I'm skeptical, but it's worth reading.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 01 Apr 2015 17:41:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 272801 at http://www.motherjones.com More Good News: Obamacare Has Not Overwhelmed the Health Care System http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/more-good-news-obamacare-has-not-overwhelmed-health-care-system <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Obamacare has provided health insurance to millions of people who previously lacked it. And yet, doctors' offices aren't jammed, as some people feared. Sarah Kliff takes a look at why this is, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/4/1/8320051/obamacare-has-helped-14-million-people-get-coverage-so-why-aren-t" target="_blank">and I think this is the key point:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Federal data released earlier this month shows that the uninsured rate has fallen 35 percent since the coverage expansion began in 2014....In that way, the health law's insurance expansion was big. But put another way, it's also small: 14 million people gaining coverage in a country of more than 300 million residents is kind of a drop in the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_uninsured_2014_q4.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">bucket. <strong>We're talking about 4 percent of the country going from uninsured to covered.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>And it's not just that. Of that 4 percent, a lot of them were healthy people who simply didn't have much need for medical attention but were forced by the Obamacare mandate to purchase insurance anyway. So they got insurance, but since they were healthy, they still didn't go in to see their new doctors much. In reality, I suspect that the number of new patients with real medical needs probably amounted to 2-3 percent of the population. That's an extra burden on the health system, but not a huge one.</p> <p>Medicare turned out to be similar when it began in 1965. As Kliff says, "In practice, these programs are relatively small: each only insured a small chunk of the population. Even though they're remaking American health care, they're doing so in a small, slow progression. That helps explain why none of these coverage expansions have overwhelmed doctors, despite our expectations."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 01 Apr 2015 15:20:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 272781 at http://www.motherjones.com IS Expansion Is More Illusion Than Reality http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/expansion-more-illusion-reality <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Islamic State has been getting a lot of attention lately, and not just for its grisly beheading videos coming out of Iraq and Syria. It also seems to be expanding rapidly, with offshoots taking credit for atrocities across northern Africa and the Middle East. But the <em>LA Times</em> wisely suggests today that this <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-islamic-state-affiliates-20150331-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">should all be taken with more than a pinch of salt:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Like an accelerating drumbeat, the deeds of groups purporting to be linked to Islamic State have mounted, each seemingly designed to exact a toll more cruel than the last....But many intelligence officials and academic experts are skeptical that the parade of gore <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_is_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">represents a leap in the degree of command and control being exerted across the region by the group's leadership in Syria and Iraq.</p> <p>....Some evidence points instead to looser arrangements that nonetheless carry significant benefits for Islamic State and its professed offshoots....<strong>Under such informal pacts, opportunistic but relatively obscure militant groups can make themselves appear to be far more powerful players in their chosen arena of conflict, while the media-savvy Islamic State can depict itself as having dramatically widened its geographic spread,</strong> an assertion that fits neatly with the group's grandiose claim that its "caliphate" is destined to hold sway across the Muslim world, while also diverting attention from its struggle to hang on to territory seized in Iraq and Syria.</p> </blockquote> <p>There are homegrown terrorist groups all over the Middle East. Most of them have local grievances, but nonetheless find it useful to be viewed as an ally of a group like IS, which has a useful reputation for extreme brutality. Likewise, IS benefits from a public image of massive, unstoppable growth.</p> <p>But both are more illusion than reality. Neither the amount nor the target of terrorist activity has changed much over the past year. We're just seeing the publicity results of a very loose "franchise" model combined with a lot of bluster, much as we did with Al Qaeda in the past decade. There's much less here than meets the eye.</p> <p>That's not to say there aren't some dangers inherent in this model, and the <em>Times</em> does a good job of spelling them out. Generally speaking, though, IS remains in serious trouble in its home territory, and no amount of PR alliances elsewhere really changes that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:58:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 272771 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Republicans Hate Obamacare Except for the Parts They Don't http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/quote-day-republicans-hate-obamacare-except-parts-they-dont <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/spincontrol/2015/mar/30/mcmorris-rodgers-says-facebook-kudos-obamacare-mostly-about-parts-bipartisan-support/" target="_blank">From Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers,</a> who asked for horror stories about Obamacare and was instead deluged with stories from people who have been helped by it:</p> <blockquote> <p>The stories are largely around pre-existing conditions and those that are getting health insurance up to age 26.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, sure. <em>Everyone</em> likes the idea of making sure that people with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. Unfortunately, as Greg Sargent points out, Republicans can't just say they support Obamacare's pre-existing conditions provision <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/03/31/leading-gop-critic-of-obamacare-accidentally-shows-why-anti-aca-lawsuit-could-be-disaster-for-gop/" target="_blank">but oppose the rest of it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s true that Republicans tend to support provisions like the protections for preexisting conditions; after all, they are very popular. But they can&rsquo;t be tidily untangled from the law. The ACA&rsquo;s protections for preexisting conditions rely on the individual mandate, because without it, people would simply wait until they got sick to sign up for insurance, driving up premiums; instead, the mandate broadens the risk pool. And the mandate requires the subsidies, so that lower-income people who&rsquo;d face a penalty for remaining uninsured can afford to buy coverage.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is something that Republicans steadfastly refuse to admit, even though it's obvious to everyone with even a passing knowledge of how this stuff works. Sargent has more at the link about how this ties into the <em>King v. Burwell</em> lawsuit and Republican claims that they want to replace Obamacare with something better.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 01 Apr 2015 03:19:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 272751 at http://www.motherjones.com If Hillary Clinton Testifies About Her Emails, She Should Do It In Public http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/if-hillary-clinton-testifies-about-her-emails-she-should-do-it-public <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the latest on <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/us/politics/hillary-clinton-email-benghazi-inquiry.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">Hillary Clinton's emails:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The chairman of the House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks asked Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday to appear for a private interview about her exclusive use of a personal email account when she was secretary of state.</p> <p>....Mr. Gowdy said the committee believed that &ldquo;a transcribed interview would best protect Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s privacy, the security of the information queried, and the public&rsquo;s interest in ensuring this committee has all information needed to accomplish the task set before it.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Go ahead and call me paranoid, but this sure seems like the perfect setup to allow Gowdy&mdash;or someone on his staff&mdash;to leak just a few bits and pieces of Clinton's testimony that put her in the worst possible light. Darrell Issa did this so commonly that it was practically part of the rules of the game when he was investigating Benghazi and other Republican obsessions.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe Gowdy is a more honest guy. But since Clinton herself has offered to testify publicly, why would anyone not take her up on it? It's not as if any of this risks exposing classified information or anything.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Hillary Clinton Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:12:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 272711 at http://www.motherjones.com Ditch the Keyboard, Take Notes By Hand http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/ditch-keyboard-take-notes-hand <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cornell_notes.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Joseph Stromberg reports on recent research suggesting that taking notes by hand is <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/6/4/5776804/note-taking-by-hand-versus-laptop" target="_blank">way better for students than taking notes on a laptop:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The two groups of students &mdash; laptop users and hand-writers &mdash; did pretty similarly on the factual questions. But the laptop users did significantly worse on the conceptual ones.</p> <p>The researchers also noticed that the laptop users took down many more words, and were more likely to take down speech from the video verbatim....As a final test, the researchers had students watch a seven-minute lecture (taking notes either on a laptop or by hand), let a week pass, then gave some of the students ten minutes to study their notes before taking a test.</p> <p>Having time to study mattered &mdash; but only for students who'd taken notes by hand. These students did significantly better on both conceptual and factual questions. But studying didn't help laptop users at all, and even made them perform slightly worse on the test.</p> <p><strong>The researchers explain this by noting previous research showing the act of note-taking can be just as important as a later study of notes in helping students learn. When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down.</strong> When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text.</p> </blockquote> <p>Makes sense to me. No matter how good a typist you are, writing by hand is a more natural process that doesn't engage your entire brain&mdash;but it's also slower. You have to figure out what's being said and how to paraphrase it, and that act is part of learning. Rote note taking isn't.</p> <p>Plus of course laptops are distracting. So put 'em away. Use the Cornell system if you want a system. But either way, use pen and pad, not keyboard and mouse.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:45:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 272676 at http://www.motherjones.com Yemen "On the Verge of Total Collapse" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/yemen-verge-total-collapse <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As expected, things are <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/01/world/middleeast/un-warns-of-total-collapse-in-yemen-as-houthis-continue-offensive.html" target="_blank">going from bad to worse in Yemen:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United Nations&rsquo; human rights chief, Zeid Ra&rsquo;ad al-Hussein, <strong>warned on Tuesday that Yemen was on the brink of collapse,</strong> as his office said that heavy fighting in the southern port city of Aden had left its streets lined with bodies and its hospitals full of corpses.</p> <p>....Houthi forces were reported to have forced their way into Aden&rsquo;s northeastern suburbs despite airstrikes by the Saudi Air Force and a naval blockade intended to sever the flow of weapons and other supplies to Houthi forces.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/03/26/world/middleeast/geography-of-chaos-in-yemen-maps.html" target="_blank"><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_yemen_houthi.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 0px 0px 20px 5px;"></a></p> <p>Well, perhaps the pan-Arab military force announced a few days ago will restore order? Unfortunately, Laura King of the <em>LA Times</em> reminds us that the last time Arabs fought together was <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-analysis-arab-military-force-20150330-story.html" target="_blank">during the 1973 war&mdash;which ended in disaster:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now, nearly 50 years later, Arab states are joining forces again&nbsp;&mdash; this time, with the immediate aim of restoring order in chaotic Yemen, and moving as well to quell other regional conflicts.</p> <p>But analysts say the nascent military alliance, whose planned formation was announced over the weekend by Arab leaders meeting in Egypt, <strong>could usher in new regional crises and intensify existing ones, sharpening sectarian differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims and complicating already tangled national conflicts.</strong></p> <p>Yemen, whose tribes have for centuries been hostile to outsiders, could prove a deadly quagmire if conventional infantries from elsewhere in the Arab world attempt to wage a ground war against a homegrown, battle-hardened guerrilla force, the Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels. And a momentary sense of unity among Arab comrades-in-arms may fade as their sometimes-conflicting agendas come to the fore.</p> </blockquote> <p>Read the whole thing. If it wasn't obvious already, King's piece makes it clear that the various Arab actors all have different goals and different agendas in Yemen. This is not likely to end well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:54:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 272671 at http://www.motherjones.com Yes, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker Are Different Kinds of Conservatives http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/yes-jeb-bush-and-scott-walker-are-different-kinds-conservatives <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bush_walker.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Jeb Bush may project a warmer, fuzzier, less hardnosed conservatism than Scott Walker, but is there really much difference between them? <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/03/30/morning-plum-scott-walker-versus-jeb-bush-for-soul-of-the-gop/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent isn't so sure:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here&rsquo;s what I&rsquo;ll be watching: How will this basic underlying difference, if it is real, manifest itself in actual policy terms? On immigration...both support eventual legalization only after the border is secured. Will their very real tonal difference show up in real policy differences?</p> <p>On inequality, Walker may employ harsher rhetoric about the safety net than Bush does, but the evidence suggests that both are animated by the underlying worldview that one of the primary problems in American life is that we have too much government-engineered downward redistribution of wealth....Will Walker and Bush differentiate themselves from one another in economic policy terms in the least?</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_03/bush_versus_walker_mainly_a_ch054855.php" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore agrees:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The important thing is not assuming Bush and Walker represent anything new or different from each other just because they offer <em>different theories of electability and different ways of talking to swing and base voters.</em> Much of what has characterized all the recent intra-party "fights" within the GOP has reflected arguments over strategy and tactics rather than ideology and goals. I'd say there is a rebuttable presumption that will continue into the 2016 presidential contest.</p> </blockquote> <p>You'd think that the way to get a grip on this question would be to look at the 2000 election. Jeb's brother, George W. Bush, ran as a "compassionate conservative," and during the campaign he even made good on that. Remember his criticism of a Republican proposal regarding the EITC: "I don't think they ought to be balancing their budget on the backs of the poor"? Compassionate!</p> <p>So how did that work out? Well, that's the funny thing: it's hard to say. Liberals tend to see Bush as a hardline conservative, but that's mainly because of the Iraq War and Karl Rove's hardball electoral tactics, which drove us crazy. Conservatives, by contrast, don't believe he was really all that conservative at all. And I think they have a point. In fact, I made that case myself way back in 2006 <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0603.drum.html" target="_blank">in a review of Bruce Bartlett's <em>Imposter</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Bush may be a Republican&mdash;boy howdy, is he a Republican&mdash;but he's not the fire-breathing ideologue of liberal legend.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>Don't believe it? Consider Bartlett's review of Bush's major domestic legislative accomplishments. He teamed up with Ted Kennedy to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased education spending by over $20 billion and legislated a massive new federal intrusion into local schools. He co-opted Joe Lieberman's proposal to create a gigantic new federal bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security. He has mostly abandoned free trade in favor of a hodgepodge of interest-group-pleasing tariffs. And after initially opposing it, Bush signed the Sarbanes-Oxley bill with almost pathetic eagerness in the wake of the Enron debacle, putting in place a phonebook-sized stack of new business regulations.</p> <p>Want more? He signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, a b&ecirc;te noir of conservatives for years. His Medicare prescription-drug bill was the biggest new entitlement program since the Great Society. He initially put a hold on a wide range of last-minute executive orders from the Clinton administration, but after a few months of "study" allowed nearly all of them to stand. And he has increased domestic discretionary spending at a higher rate than any president since LBJ.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obviously there's more to Bush's record than this&mdash;tax cuts, judicial appointments, the Iraq War, etc.&mdash;and he certainly counts as a conservative when you look at his entire tenure in office. The question is whether there's a difference between his brand of conservatism and, say, Scott Walker's or Ted Cruz's. I'd say there is, and that there's probably also a difference between Jeb Bush's brand of conservatism and the harder-line folks represented by Walker, Cruz, Santorum, and others. Tonal shifts and tactical choices often turn into real differences in who gets appointed to various cabinet positions and which priorities a new president will set. Jeb Bush is obviously no liberal. But would he govern differently than Scott Walker? My guess is that he would.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Jeb Bush Scott Walker The Right Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:13:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 272601 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have a Pseudo-Flu http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/i-have-pseudo-flu <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When I was told that my daily injections of Neupogen would give me "flu-like symptoms," I wondered what that meant. Well, last night it meant that I felt a lot like I had the flu. I felt crappy indeed.</p> <p>But there's some good news! "We <em>want</em> you to feel bad," my doctor told me last week a little apologetically. That means the drug is working. (That is, it's producing white blood cells and my body is reacting as if there were some kind of virus that had triggered this production.) So I guess it's working. Hooray!</p> <p>I feel a little better this morning, but then, I usually feel a little better in the mornings. So we'll see how things go. It's just one thrill ride after another these days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:44:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 272591 at http://www.motherjones.com Sorry Mike, Indiana Is Neither Kind Nor Welcoming to Gays Anymore http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/sorry-mike-indiana-neither-kind-nor-welcoming-gays-anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>George Stephanopoulos tried really hard on Sunday to get Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to clarify the intent of his state's shiny new religious freedom bill. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/gov-mike-pence-religious-freedom-law-29987447" target="_blank">It didn't go well:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Stephanopoulos:</em> I'm just bringing up a question from one of your supporters talking about the bill right there. It said it would protect a Christian florist. Against <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pence_this_week.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">any kind of punishment. Is that true or not?</p> <p><em>Pence:</em> George, look....You've been to Indiana a bunch of times. You know it. <strong>There are no kinder, more generous, more welcoming, more hospitable people in America than in the 92 counties of Indiana.</strong> Yet, because we stepped forward for the purpose of recognizing the religious liberty rights of all the people of Indiana, of every faith, we suffer under this avalanche for the last several days of condemnation and it's completely baseless.</p> <p>....<em>Stephanopoulos:</em> So when you say tolerance is a two-way street, does that mean that Christians who want to refuse service, or people of any other faith who want to refuse service to gays and lesbians, that's legal in the state of Indiana? That's a simple yes or no question.</p> <p><em>Pence:</em> George, the question here is, is if there is a government action or law that a individual believes impinges on their freedom of religion, they have the opportunity to go to court....<strong>This is not about disputes between individuals. It's about government overreach.</strong> And I'm proud that Indiana stepped forward. And I'm working hard to clarify this.</p> </blockquote> <p>But it turns out this isn't quite true. Indiana's RFRA really is different from most others. <a href="http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/what-makes-indianas-religious-freedom-law-different/388997/?utm_source=SFTwitter" target="_blank">Garrett Epps explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA&mdash;and most state RFRAs&mdash;do not. <strong>First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to &ldquo;the free exercise of religion.&rdquo;</strong>....What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has &ldquo;free exercise&rdquo; rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year&rsquo;s decision in <em>Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores</em>, in which the Court&rsquo;s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees&rsquo; statutory right to contraceptive coverage.</p> <p><strong>Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business&rsquo;s &ldquo;free exercise&rdquo; right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government.</strong> Why does this matter? Well, there&rsquo;s a lot of evidence that the new wave of &ldquo;religious freedom&rdquo; legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple&rsquo;s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in &ldquo;public accommodations&rdquo; on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico&rsquo;s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state&rsquo;s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply &ldquo;because the government is not a party.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision.</strong> Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hoosiers may indeed be the kindest and most welcoming folks in the country, but that cuts no ice in court. In court, any business can claim that it's being discriminated against if it's forced to sell its services to a gay couple, and thanks to specific language in the Indiana statute, no court can throw out the claim on the grounds that a business is a public accommodation.</p> <p>That's different from other RFRAs, and it's neither especially kind nor welcoming. Indiana has taken anti-gay hostility to a new and higher level, and Pence and his legislature deserve all the flack they're getting for it. They should be ashamed of themselves.</p> <p>On the other hand, if you're thinking of running for president, I guess it's a great entry in the base-pandering, more-conservative-than-thou sweepstakes. So at least Pence now has that going for him.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Civil Liberties Gay Rights Mon, 30 Mar 2015 16:05:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 272586 at http://www.motherjones.com The US Has No Clean Battle Lines in the Middle East http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/us-has-no-clean-battle-lines-middle-east <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/416115/top-nbc-foreign-correspondent-us-strategy-middle-east-leaving-region-confused-andrew" target="_blank">From The Corner:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United States is sending mixed signals to its allies in the Middle East by simultaneously giving support to the Saudi-led Sunni coalition fighting in Yemen and negotiating with Shiite Iran on its nuclear program, according to NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel.</p> <p>Engel pinpoints an apparent contradiction: <strong>Even as the U.S. is assisting Saudi Arabia and other nations in &ldquo;confronting the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen&rdquo; by providing intelligence and other support, it continues to negotiate with Tehran on its nuclear program, and to collaborate with Iranian forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq.</strong></p> <p>As a result, Engel says, &ldquo;the Saudis, and the larger Sunni Muslim world, doesn&rsquo;t [sic] feel the U.S. can really be trusted.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Gee, no kidding. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni ally of the US that hates Iran. Iraq is a Shiite ally who's cozy with Iran. The US itself is hostile toward Iran, but shares a common enemy in ISIS. Syria is a total mess with no clear good guys. And, yes, a good nuclear deal with Iran would be a bonus for the safety of the entire region.</p> <p>That's it. That's the way the world is. The United States is not allied solely with Shiite or Sunni regimes and hasn't been since at least 9/11. It's confusing. It's messy. And maybe President Obama hasn't handled it as skillfully as he could have. But who could have done any better? There just aren't any clean battle lines here, and the sooner everyone faces up to that, the better off we'll be.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Sun, 29 Mar 2015 15:11:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 272556 at http://www.motherjones.com Peculiar Eyesight Question http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/peculiar-eyesight-question <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'll be asking my optometrist about this shortly, but just for fun I thought I'd throw it out to the hive mind to see if anyone knows what's going on.</p> <p>Over the past couple of weeks, I've noticed that my distance vision is a little fuzzy. Time for new glasses, you say, and you're probably right. But here's the odd thing. I keep all my old glasses, and last night I tried them all on just to see if an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_red_blue_led_clocks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">older prescription worked better than my current glasses. What I discovered was a little strange.</p> <p>Right under my TV I happen to have two LED clocks. One uses red LEDs and the other uses blue LEDs. With my current glasses, the blue LEDs are sharp and the red LEDs are fuzzy. But when I put on glasses that are a few years old, it changes. The red LEDs are sharp and the blue LEDs are fuzzy. The difference is quite noticeable, not a subtle thing at all.</p> <p>Anyone know what this is all about?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:14:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 272551 at http://www.motherjones.com Should We Welcome Saudi Arabia to the Fight in the Middle East? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/should-we-welcome-saudi-arabia-fight-middle-east <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I have occasionally griped in this space about the fact that putative Middle East allies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan basically view the American military as a sort of mercenary force to fight their own tribal battles. Sure, they provide us with basing rights, and sometimes money, but they want us to do all the fighting, and they complain bitterly about American naivet&eacute; when we don't fight every war they think we should fight.</p> <p>Recently this has changed a bit, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan launching independent air attacks against various neighbors, and Saudi Arabia even making noises about launching ground attacks in Yemen. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/be-happy-they-are-acting" target="_blank">Josh Marshall makes some useful points:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It is always dangerous when power and accountability are unchained from each other. In recent decades, we've had a system in which our clients look to us for protection, ask for military action of various sorts&nbsp;&mdash; but <em>privately</em>. <strong>And then we act, but always in the process whipping up anti-American sentiment, mixed with extremist religious enthusiasms, which our allies often, paradoxically, stoke or accommodate to secure their own holds on power.</strong> This is, to put it mildly, an unstable and politically toxic state of affairs. This does not even get into the costs to the US in blood and treasure.</p> <p>There are pluses to the old or existing system. We control everything. Wars don't start until we start them. But the downsides are obvious, as well. <strong>And nowhere has this been more clear than with the Saudis. The Saudis sell us oil; and they buy our weapons. We start wars to protect them, the reaction to which curdles in the confines of their domestic repression and breaks out in terrorist attacks against us.</strong> I don't mean to suggest that we are purely victims here. We're not. But it's a pernicious arrangement.</p> <p>This is why I think we should be heartened to see the Saudis acting on their own account, taking action on their own account for which they must create domestic support and stand behind internationally.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's more, and Marshall is hardly unaware of the risks in widespread military action among countries that barely even count as coherent states. "Still, the old system bred irresponsibility on many levels, including a lack of responsibility and accountability from the existing governments in the region. For all the dangers and unpredictabilities involved with having the Saudis or in other cases the Egyptians stand up and take actions which they believe are critical to their security on their own account is better for everyone involved."</p> <p>Some food for thought this weekend.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Sat, 28 Mar 2015 16:01:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 272546 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 27 March 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/friday-cat-blogging-27-march-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today I get to spend six hours in a chair getting Cytoxan pumped into my body. So this is it. No more tests or consults. This is the first actual step in the second stage of my chemotherapy. Following this infusion, I will spend a week injecting myself with a drug that (a) stimulates white blood cell production and (b) will apparently make me feel like I have the flu. Next, I spend a week in LA sitting in a chair several hours a day while they extract stem cells from my body. Then a week of rest and then the stem cell transplant itself, which will put me out of commission for a minimum of three weeks.</p> <p>So no blogging today. Next week is iffy. Probably nothing much the week after that either. Then maybe some blogging during my rest week. And then I'll go offline probably completely for a month or so. It all depends on just how quickly I recover from the transplant. We'll see.</p> <p>In the meantime, here are Hopper and Hilbert, hale and hearty as ever. Have a nice weekend, everyone.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_03_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 272456 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Should Pass the Doc Fix Bill http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/democrats-should-pass-doc-fix-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A bill to permanently reform the ridiculous annual charade over the Medicare "doc fix" <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/27/us/house-passes-bill-changing-medicare-fee-formula-and-extending-childrens-insurance.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">passed the House today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The House overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the Medicare system on Thursday, in the most significant bipartisan policy legislation to pass through that chamber since the Republicans regained a majority in 2011.</p> <p>The measure, which would establish a new formula for paying doctors and end a problem that has bedeviled the nation&rsquo;s health care system for more than a decade, has already been blessed by President Obama, and awaits a vote in the Senate. The bill would also increase premiums for some higher income beneficiaries and extend a popular health insurance program for children.</p> </blockquote> <p>But of course there's a problem:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Senate Democrats have been resistant to provisions in the bill that preserve restrictions on the use of federal money for abortion services</strong> and extend a children&rsquo;s health program for only two years, but they are expected to eventually work with Senate Republicans to pass the measure.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is similar to the problem with the bipartisan human trafficking bill, which Senate Democrats filibustered last week because of a provision that none of its funds could be used to pay for abortions.</p> <p>I suppose this will get me a lot of flack for being a sellout, but I think Dems should approve both bills. Yes, the abortion provisions are annoying, and go slightly beyond similar language that's been in appropriations bills for decades. But <em>slightly</em> is the operative word here. Like it or not, Republicans long ago won the battle over using federal funds for abortions. Minor affirmations of this policy simply don't amount to much aside from giving Republicans some red meat for their base.</p> <p>This is mostly symbolic, not substantive. Let's pass the bills.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Reproductive Rights Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:07:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 272461 at http://www.motherjones.com More Welfare = More Entrepreneurs? Maybe! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/more-welfare-more-entrepreneurs-maybe <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Walter Frick writes in the <em>Atlantic</em> about recent research which suggests that a strong social safety net increases entrepreneurship. For example, one researcher found that expansion of the food stamp <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_safety_net.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">program led to a <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/welfare-makes-america-more-entrepreneurial/388598/" target="_blank">higher chance that eligible households would start new businesses:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Interestingly, most of these new entrepreneurs didn&rsquo;t actually enroll in the food stamp program. It seems that expanding the availability of food stamps increased business formation by making it less risky for entrepreneurs to strike out on their own. Simply knowing that they could fall back on food stamps if their venture failed was enough to make them more likely to take risks.</p> </blockquote> <p>The same is true of other programs. For example, the Children&rsquo;s Health Insurance Program:</p> <blockquote> <p>By comparing the rate of entrepreneurship of those who just barely qualified for CHIP to those whose incomes just barely exceeded the cutoff, he was able to estimate the program&rsquo;s impact on new business creation. <strong>The rate of incorporated business ownership for those eligible households just below the cutoff was 31 percent greater than for similarly situated families that could not rely on CHIP to care for their children if they needed it.</strong></p> <p>The same is true of recent immigrants to the United States. Contrary to claims by the right that welfare keeps immigrants from living up to their historic role as entrepreneurs, CHIP eligibility increased those households&rsquo; chances of owning an incorporated business by 28 percent.</p> <p><strong>The mechanism in each case is the same: publicly funded insurance lowers the risk of starting a business, since entrepreneurs needn&rsquo;t fear financial ruin.</strong> (This same logic explains why more forgiving bankruptcy laws are associated with more entrepreneurship.)</p> </blockquote> <p>Personally, I'd tentatively file this under the category of news that's a little too good to be true. After all, I'm a liberal. I <em>want</em> to believe this! And I haven't noticed that European rates of entrepreneurship are especially great, despite the fact that their safety net is much stronger than ours.</p> <p>Still, what's true in America might be different from what's true in Europe. Different cultures etc. So it's worth reading the whole piece, which is generally pretty nuanced in its claims. At the very least, though, it certainly suggests that a strong safety net doesn't <em>hurt</em> entrepreneurship.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:09:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 272446 at http://www.motherjones.com Eventually, Two Billionaires Will Duke It Out For President Every Four Years http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/eventually-two-billionaires-will-duke-it-out-president-every-four-years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_money_elections.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">This is from yesterday, but I really can't pass it up. Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger write in the <em>Washington Post</em> that presidential candidates are no longer much interested in "bundlers" who can raise a paltry million dollars or so for their campaigns. Terry Neese, a successful bundler for George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-2016-campaign-the-lament-of-the-not-quite-rich-enough/2015/03/24/f0a38b18-cdb4-11e4-8a46-b1dc9be5a8ff_story.html" target="_blank">is their poster child:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This year, no potential White House contender has called &mdash; not even Bush&rsquo;s brother, Jeb. As of early Wednesday, the only contacts she had received were e-mails from staffers for two other likely candidates; both went to her spam folder.</p> <p>&ldquo;They are only going to people who are multi-multimillionaires and billionaires and raising big money first,&rdquo; said Neese, who founded a successful employment agency. &ldquo;Most of the people I talk to are kind of rolling their eyes and saying, &lsquo;You know, we just don&rsquo;t count anymore.&rsquo; &rdquo;</p> <p>....In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the &ldquo;minor leagues,&rdquo; while mega-donors are &ldquo;the major league players.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>The old-school fundraisers have been temporarily displaced in the early money chase because of the rise of super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations.</strong> This year, White House hopefuls are rushing to raise money for the groups before they declare their candidacies and have to keep their distance.</p> </blockquote> <p>So does this matter? Does it matter whether candidates get contributions from a thousand millionaires vs. a hundred billionaires? Are their political views really very different?</p> <p>In a way, I suppose not. Rich is rich. One difference, though, might be in the way specific industries get treated. If you take a ton of money from Sheldon Adelson or the Koch Brothers, you're more likely to oppose internet gambling and specific energy-related regulations than you might be if you were simply taking money from a whole bunch of different gambling and energy millionaires.</p> <p>On a broader note, though, it has the potential to alienate the electorate even more. Things are bad enough already, but when it becomes clear that presidential candidates are practically being bought and sold by a literal handful of the ultra-rich, how hard is to remain uncynical about politics? Pretty hard.</p> <p>In the end, maybe this doesn't matter so much. Big money is big money, and most people are already convinced that big money controls things in Washington DC. Still, as bad as things are, they can always get worse. Eventually, perhaps each successful candidate will be fully funded by a single billionaire willing to take a flyer with pocket money to see if they can get their guy elected. This is not a healthy world we're building.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Money in Politics Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:20:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 272426 at http://www.motherjones.com Middle East War Suddenly Getting a Lot More Warlike http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/middle-east-war-suddenly-getting-lot-more-warlike <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm a little behind on the news right now, but it sure looks like things are getting a whole lot hotter in the Middle East. Here are a few headlines:</p> <blockquote> <p>Saudi Jets Strike Yemen in Bid to Halt Houthis</p> <p>Tikrit airstrikes draw U.S. into battle between militants and Iraqi forces</p> <p>Obama Says He Will Delay Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan</p> <p>Iran-backed rebels loot Yemen files about U.S. spy operations</p> <p>U.S. Role in Middle East Revamped Amid Chaos</p> </blockquote> <p>That last headline comes from the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, and seems to sum things up pretty well. <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/03/26/u-s-role-in-middle-east-revamped-as-chaos-engulfs-yemen/" target="_blank">The story includes this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Kenneth] Pollack, the former CIA analyst, said the military campaign in Yemen is unlikely to have a positive effect on the country&rsquo;s fractured dynamics.</p> <p>&ldquo;The idea that this is going to produce some kind of a peaceful settlement is ridiculous,&rdquo; Mr. Pollack said. &ldquo;The more likely outcome is it just prolongs the stalemate.&rdquo; <strong>The Persian Gulf countries could consider the use of ground troops to make progress,</strong> which should be a concern for the U.S., he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>What could go wrong?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:17:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 272416 at http://www.motherjones.com Housekeeping Note http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/housekeeping-note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'll be busy with various tests and doctor appointments all day Wednesday, so no blogging. I should be back on Thursday, health permitting.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 Mar 2015 22:27:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 272331 at http://www.motherjones.com Has Israel Given Up On Democrats? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/has-israel-given-democrats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Israel is doing its best to spy on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the West. No surprise there. But the Obama administration believes they've <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/israel-spied-on-iran-talks-1427164201" target="_blank">taken things too far:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu&rsquo;s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said....The espionage didn&rsquo;t upset the White House as much as <strong>Israel&rsquo;s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran&rsquo;s nuclear program,</strong> current and former officials said.</p> <p>....&ldquo;People feel personally sold out,&rdquo; a senior administration official said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The upshot of all this is that support for Israel is rapidly becoming a partisan issue. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re wondering whether something serious has shifted here, the answer is yes,&rdquo; a senior U.S. official said. &ldquo;These things leave scars.&rdquo; This is not likely to be good for Israel in the long term.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 24 Mar 2015 15:46:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 272266 at http://www.motherjones.com Television Is a Vast Disease-Laden Wasteland http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/television-vast-disease-laden-wasteland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/23/yes-drug-companies-are-bombarding-your-tv-with-more-ads-than-ever/" target="_blank">Jason Millman writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Maybe you've noticed that prescription drug ads are everywhere these days &mdash; more so than usual. You wouldn't be wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh yes, I've noticed. It's one reason I watch less TV than I might otherwise&mdash;especially shows that are pitched to, um, mature demographics. I feel like I'm simply bombarded with ads about terrible diseases <em>and</em> all the terrible side effects that the advertised drugs might cause. Maybe I'm just having a harder time tuning out this stuff than usual, but I find it immensely depressing to be surrounded by reminders of disease every time I turn on the TV. Anyone else feel the same way?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Health Care Mon, 23 Mar 2015 18:57:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 272226 at http://www.motherjones.com Beware the Hype of New Medical Studies http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/beware-hype-new-medical-studies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_TV_Commercial.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Julia Belluz thinks the democratization of medical research <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/23/8264355/research-study-hype" target="_blank">may have gone too far:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I often wonder whether there is any value in reporting very early research. Journals now publish their findings, and the public seizes on them, but this wasn't always the case: journals were meant for peer-to-peer discussion, not mass consumption.</p> <p>Working in the current system, we reporters feed on press releases from journals and it's difficult to resist the siren call of flashy findings. We are incentivized to find novel things to write about, just as scientists and research institutions need to attract attention to their work. Patients, of course, want better medicines, better procedures &mdash; and hope.</p> <p><strong>But this cycle is hurting us, and it's obscuring the truths research has to offer.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The truth, Belluz says, is that virtually all initial studies of promising new therapies fail to pan out. Only 6 percent of new journal articles each year are well-designed and relevant enough to inform patient care. Of these, only a fraction end up in a product that successfully makes it to market.</p> <p>Dr. Oz may be the face of bad medical advice, but the fact is that it's all around us. We're all desperate for cures&mdash;I'd certainly like to see one for multiple myeloma&mdash;but most of them just don't go anywhere. Belluz has more about the siren call of new miracle cures <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/23/8264355/research-study-hype" target="_blank">at the link.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:58:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 272206 at http://www.motherjones.com Three Cheers For the California Miracle! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/three-cheers-california-miracle <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oh dear. Here's some bad news for Ted Cruz on his very first day as an <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-capitol-business-beat-20150323-story.html" target="_blank">official presidential candidate:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For years, business lobbyists complained about what they derided as "job killer" laws that drive employers out of California. Rival state governors, notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made highly publicized visits to the Golden State in hopes of poaching jobs.</p> <p>But new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a different story. Total jobs created in the 12 months ending Jan. 31 show California leading other states. <strong>California gained 498,000 new jobs, almost 30% more than the Lone Star State's total of 392,900 for the same period.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Them's the breaks. There's no more "Texas Miracle" for either Cruz or Rick Perry. We're in the middle of a California Miracle right now.</p> <p>So how is Sodom on the Pacific pulling this off? Actually, that's pretty easy to answer. California was hit hard by the housing bubble, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/08/yet-another-look-texas" target="_blank">while Texas wasn't.</a> So California's economy took a big hit during the recession and the slow recovery, while Texas did pretty well&mdash;aided and abetted by a rise in oil prices.</p> <p>Now everything has turned around. California is rebounding strongly from the housing crisis while Texas is suffering from the global collapse in oil prices. There is, frankly, nothing very miraculous about either story. It's just the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_texas_unemployment_march_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">business cycle at work in a fairly normal and predictable way.</p> <p>In fact, you may recall that there was never much of a Texas Miracle in the first place. <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/march_april_may_2014/features/oops_the_texas_miracle_that_is049289.php?page=all" target="_blank">It was mostly just PR bluster,</a> as the chart on the right shows. The thick green line shows the unemployment rate in Texas compared to its neighboring states, and Texas is right smack in the middle&mdash;and it always has been. It's better than half a dozen nearby states and worse than another half dozen. It is, sad to say, entirely average. That's not something Texans are likely to take kindly to, but numbers don't lie.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Economy Ted Cruz Mon, 23 Mar 2015 15:21:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 272196 at http://www.motherjones.com Ted Cruz Throws His Hat In General Direction of Presidential Ring http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/ted-cruz-throws-his-hat-general-direction-presidential-ring <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The big news sweeping my Twitter feed last night was Ted Cruz's rather sudden decision to announce that he's running for president. Usually there's a warmup period of some kind (an "exploratory committee," etc.) but apparently Cruz decided to dispense with all that and simply throw his hat in the ring posthaste. The motivation for his sudden haste is a little mysterious at this point.</p> <p>The other thing sweeping my Twitter feed was the fact that the URL <a href="http://www.tedcruz.com/" target="_blank">tedcruz.com</a> leads to the site on the right. Patrick Caldwell explains this and much more in his brisk overview of potential candidates and their <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ted_cruz_com.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">unfortunate lack of attention to the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/2016-presidential-campaign-website-domain-names" target="_blank">basics of internet campaigning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Unfortunately for the Texas Republican, long before he ran for Senate in 2012, TedCruz.com had been nabbed by an Arizona attorney who shares his name. Based on a search of the Wayback Machine, an internet archive, the Arizona Cruz's website dates back to at least early 2008, when it was a normal, if slightly Geocities-tinged, business website. "Putting All Your Real Estate Needs In 'CRUZ CONTROL,'" the attorney's tagline said at the time. But sometime within the past year he ditched his law site to instead mock the would-be-president. On a simple black background, in large font, the website screamed: "COMING SOON, Presidential Candidate, I Luv CHRISTIE!!!!!" Attorney Cruz wouldn't say anything to Mother Jones over email except to acknowledge that he has owned the domain for several years. But he deleted the section about loving Christie shortly thereafter. Given the initial message, though, it seems unlikely that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ted_cruz_org.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the Arizona attorney will be easily persuaded to relinquish control of the domain to the senator.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's bad luck, no? Still, at least Cruz has control of <a href="http://www.tedcruz.org/" target="_blank">tedcruz.org.</a> It was obviously thrown together pretty quickly, though at least it's got the basics. But why the slapdash approach? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/24/us/politics/ted-cruz-2016-presidential-race.html" target="_blank">According to the <em>New York Times</em> this morning,</a> Cruz was afraid of being upstaged: "By becoming the first candidate to declare himself officially in the race, Republicans briefed on his strategy said, Mr. Cruz hopes to reclaim the affection and attention of those on the party&rsquo;s right wing who have begun eyeing other contenders, particularly Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin."</p> <p>Cruz's official announcement, inevitably, will be done at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's shrine to the Christian Right. I think we can expect many, many more speeches and announcements from Republican wannabes there. But Cruz will be the first! Take that, Bobby Jindal!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Ted Cruz Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:37:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 272191 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Is Closed Captioning So Bad? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/03/why-closed-captioning-so-bad <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/03/why-is-subtitling-and-closed-captioning-so-bad.html" target="_blank">Over at Marginal Revolution,</a> commenter Jan A. asks:</p> <blockquote> <p>Why is the (global) state of subtitling and closed captioning so bad?</p> <p>a/ Subtitling and closed captioning are extremely efficient ways of learning new languages, for example for immigrants wanting to learn the language of their new country.</p> <p>b/ Furthermore video is now offered on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, televisions... but very frequently these videos cannot be played with sound on (a phone on public transport, a laptop in public places, televisions in busy places like bars or shops,...).</p> <p>c/ And most importantly of all, it is crucial for the deaf and hard of hearing.</p> <p>So why is it so disappointingly bad? Is it just the price (lots of manual work still, despite assistive speech-to-text technologies)? Or don&rsquo;t producers care?</p> </blockquote> <p>I use closed captioning all the time even though I'm not really hard of hearing. I just have a hard time picking out dialog when there's a lot of ambient noise in the soundtrack&mdash;which is pretty routine these days. So I have a vested interest in higher quality closed captioning. My beef, however, isn't so much with the text itself, which is usually pretty close to the dialog, but with the fact that there are multiple closed captioning standards and sometimes none of them work properly, with the captions either being way out of sync with the dialog or else only partially available. (That is, about one sentence out of three actually gets captioned.)</p> <p>Given the (a) technical simplicity and low bandwidth required for proper closed captions, and (b) the rather large audience of viewers with hearing difficulties, it surprises me that these problems are so common. I don't suppose that captioning problems cost TV stations a ton of viewers, but they surely cost them a few here and there. Why is it so hard to get right?</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> Note that I'm not talking here about real-time captioning, as in live news and sports programming. I understand why it's difficult to do that well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Tech Sun, 22 Mar 2015 16:24:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 272171 at http://www.motherjones.com