Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2010/05 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Now That They're In Charge, Republicans Suddenly Not in Favor of Chaos in the Insurance Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/now-theyre-charge-republicans-suddenly-not-favor-chaos-insurance-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Charges of hypocrisy in politics are kind of tedious. However, last night TPM reported a bit of hypocrisy that's considerably worse than the usual kind. It's all about a suit brought by House Republicans against Obamacare that would have killed any payouts to insurance companies for something called Cost Sharing Reduction. These are additional subsidies that reduce your out-of-pocket max, and they apply only to silver plans for families who make less than about $40-50,000. In other words, the working class and the working poor.</p> <p>CSR subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies, but Republicans argued that although Obamacare authorized the subsidies, the House hadn't voted to appropriate the funds&mdash;and had no plans to do so. If Republicans won the case, it would have caused considerable chaos in the market as insurers scrambled to make up for payments they had been promised but weren't going to get.</p> <p>Last year a judge ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed. In December Republicans asked for a temporary stay to give them time to sort things out legislatively now that they controlled all branches of government. The stay was granted, and now Republicans are back in court. <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/joint-motion-to-delay-ruling-in-house-v-price" target="_blank">Here is Alice Ollstein:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a joint motion (see below) filed Tuesday, the two branches of government asked the court not to rule yet on the legality of these subsidies "to allow time for a resolution that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action.&rdquo;...<strong>The new motion seeks to extend the current stay indefinitely</strong> to give lawmakers on Capitol Hill time to figure out the future for the entirety of the health care reform law, including the cost-sharing subsidies.</p> </blockquote> <p>Translation: back when Democrats would have been responsible for the chaos this ruling unleashed, Republicans were all in favor of unloading both barrels on Obamacare. But now that Republicans would have to deal with the chaos, they've suddenly gotten gun shy.</p> <p>Republicans understood perfectly that winning their suit would hurt not just the insurance industry, but probably millions of workers as well. They didn't care, as long as Democrats got the blame. Now that Republicans would get the blame, they want the temporary stay to be made permanent.</p> <p>This, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrates just how much Republicans really care about the working class voters who are the ones who mostly benefit from CSR payments: they don't. They're just pawns in the GOP's endless partisan wars.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:49:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326216 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Travel Ban Seems To Have Saved the Tourism Business http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trumps-travel-ban-seems-have-saved-tourism-business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> says that President Trump's immigration order last month <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/travel/after-travel-ban-declining-interest-trips-to-united-states.html?_r=0" target="_blank">cratered the tourism business:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The airfare prediction app Hopper, for example, analyzed 303 million flight searches between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 and found that <strong>flight search demand from 122 international countries to the United States dropped 17 percent after the implementation of the travel ban,</strong> compared with the first three weeks in January.</p> <p><strong>Demand bounced back slightly after the ban was temporarily lifted on Feb. 3 but was still down by more than 10 percent as of Feb. 10,</strong> compared with the first three weeks in January, said Hopper&rsquo;s chief data scientist, Patrick Surry.</p> </blockquote> <p>I clicked the link. <a href="http://www.hopper.com/research/initial-effects-of-the-travel-ban-on-international-travel-to-the-us" target="_blank">Here's the chart from Hopper:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_air_travel.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Flight demand is generally down in 2017, but that all happened <em>before</em> the travel ban. In fact, right after the travel ban was announced, flight demand <em>increased</em> about 17 percent. This is exactly the opposite of what the <em>Times</em> reported.</p> <p>This is why I almost never pass along any news story with numbers attached to it unless I check the numbers myself.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I should add that Hopper's analysis isn't much better. Patrick Surry says: "Flight search demand from international origins to the US has dropped 17% overall since Trump's inauguration, and the implementation of the travel ban, compared to the final weeks of the Obama presidency."</p> <p>Huh? The only way you can get close to that is to compare the peak day of January (+8 percent) to the day of the Robart TRO (-11 percent). Or perhaps by comparing the pre-inauguration average (-1 percent?) to the worst post-inauguration day (-18 percent). Either way, it says nothing at all about the effect of the travel ban.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:10:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 326211 at http://www.motherjones.com Fact Check: President Trump Has Nothing To Do With the Decline of the Peso http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/fact-check-president-trump-has-nothing-do-decline-peso <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Rex Tillerson and John Kelly are visiting Mexico this week to discuss NAFTA, tariffs, trade deficits, border walls, and deportations. In other words, pretty much everything Mexicans hate about Donald Trump. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-us-mexico-20170221-story.html" target="_blank">The <em>LA Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Trump] has threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and has proposed a tax on imports from Mexico and other countries with which the U.S. has a trade deficit. Both plans pose a serious threat to Mexico, which sends roughly 80% of its exports to the U.S., <strong>and whose peso has plummeted amid fears of what the Trump administration may do.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I keep reading this over and over and over. So let's take a look at the value of the peso:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_peso_dollar_2014_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The peso has indeed fallen, losing nearly half its value recently. However, this decline started in the middle of 2014 and it's been rolling steadily along ever since. If there's any evidence that Donald Trump has anything to do with this, I sure can't see it. Can we please retire this fable?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 05:56:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 326201 at http://www.motherjones.com Democracy Dies In Darkness http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/democracy-dies-darkness-wapo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The editors of the <em>Washington Post</em> have a message for Donald Trump:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wapo_democracy_dies_darkness.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 05:20:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 326196 at http://www.motherjones.com Coal Is Just Too Damn Expensive http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/coal-just-too-damn-expensive <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Trump is ready to start signing executive orders that roll back Obama-era regulations on <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/20/trump-to-roll-back-obamas-climate-water-rules-through-executive-action/?utm_term=.628facb92410" target="_blank">climate and water pollution:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>While both directives will take time to implement, they will <strong>send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production</strong>....One executive order &mdash; which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy &mdash; will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities. <strong>It also instructs the Interior Department&rsquo;s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing.</strong></p> <p>....Trump, who signed legislation last week that nullified a recent regulation prohibiting surface-mining operations from dumping waste in nearby waterways, said he was eager to support coal miners who had backed his presidential bid. <strong>&ldquo;The miners are a big deal,&rdquo; he said Thursday. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning, and I won&rsquo;t forget it.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Will this put miners back to work? Not really, for a simple reason: bituminous coal is only barely competitive anymore with natural gas:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_coal_natural_gas_price_1976_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Bituminous coal is the stuff that's mined in Appalachia and the Eastern US. It's what you think of when you think of coal miners. However, it's faced price pressure for decades from surface-mined subbituminous coal produced with minimal labor in Wyoming and the rest of the West,<sup>2</sup> and now it's facing price pressure from natural gas too. Natural gas prices spiked in the aughts, partly due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and just as those spikes began to subside naturally, hydraulic fracturing opened up vast new quantities of natural gas, forcing the price to plummet. Right now, natural gas is only a hair's width away from being cheaper than coal.</p> <p>Can Trump do anything about this? No. He can repeal all the rules he wants, but returning to, say, the 2014 price of coal just won't make much difference. The price of natural gas is still going be competitive with, or lower than, bituminous coal&mdash;and a lot cleaner too. Besides, Trump also plans to ease rules on fracking, which will push the price of natural gas down too. Coal miners are unlikely to benefit from all this by any appreciable amount.</p> <p>So who will? As usual, the answer is coal mine operators. The repeal of environmental rules won't affect prices enough to make much difference in coal employment, but it will provide a nice chunk of pocket change for the folks who own the mines.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The EIA conversion factor I used for the amount of natural gas to produce 1 kWh is based on the average efficiency of steam and combustion turbine plants. However, combined cycle plants account for about half the gas fleet, so the average efficiency of natural gas plants <a href="https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_02.html" target="_blank">is a bit higher than the EIA numbers suggest.</a> I've modified the chart to account for this.</p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>Historical price of bituminous coal <a href="http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec7_21.pdf" target="_blank">here.</a> Recent price history <a href="https://www.eia.gov/beta/coal/data/browser/#/topic/29?agg=1,0&amp;geo=vvvvvvvvvvvvo&amp;freq=A&amp;start=2001&amp;ctype=map&amp;ltype=pin&amp;rtype=s&amp;pin=&amp;rse=0&amp;maptype=0" target="_blank">here.</a> Natural gas prices <a href="http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_a_EPG0_FWA_DMcf_a.htm" target="_blank">here.</a> Conversion factors to kilowatt-hours <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=667&amp;t=2" target="_blank">here,</a> reduced by about 12 percent to account for the fact that efficient combined-cycle plants make up about half the gas fleet. I've done a bit of massaging here and there in the recent data to make the entire series comparable. Nonetheless, these figures are still slightly approximate, especially for coal, which varies in price fairly widely depending on region and type.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Wyoming produces 40 percent of all US coal but <a href="http://www.wyomingmining.org/minerals/coal/" target="_blank">employs only about 7,000 workers.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 03:17:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 326191 at http://www.motherjones.com Raw Data: Retiree Spending Across the Country http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/raw-data-retiree-spending-across-country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In case you're wondering what finally got me to try GeoFRED,<sup>1</sup> it was a report I got this morning from the retirement boffins at EBRI, <a href="https://www.ebri.org/publications/notes/index.cfm?fa=notesDisp&amp;content_id=3417" target="_blank">"Geographic Variation in Spending Among Older American Households."</a> This put me in mind of maps, and reminded me to check out FRED's mapmaking prowess.</p> <p>Anyway, the EBRI report turned out not to be all that interesting, but here's a bit of raw data anyway about retiree spending:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_retiree_median_expenses_region_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The folks down in Texas and Arkansas sure have low expenses, though I'm not sure how much this tells us. Do they really have low expenses, or do they just have low incomes and can't spend very much? Probably some of both. In any case, this gives you an idea of how much retirees spend in whatever part of the country you live in.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I realize no one was wondering that. Work with me here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:42:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 326176 at http://www.motherjones.com Defending California Once Again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/defending-california-once-again <!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.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-males-california-crime-immigration-20170221-story.html" target="_blank">Here is Mike Males in the <em>LA Times</em> this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump has cast California as &ldquo;out of control&rdquo; because of proposed legislation that would make the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who, he says, &ldquo;breed crime.&rdquo; <strong>But in reality, as California&rsquo;s immigrant population has grown, its crime and violence rates have plummeted.</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s start with the demographics....Over the last two decades, California has seen an influx of 3.5 million immigrants, mostly Latino, and an outmigration of some 2 million residents, most of them white. An estimated 2.4 million undocumented immigrants also currently live in the state.</p> <p>....And yet, according to data from the FBI, the California Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control, the state has seen precipitous drops in every major category of crime and violence that can be reliably measured. In Trump terms, you might say that modern California is the opposite of &ldquo;American carnage.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a picture:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_california_usa.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Apologies for the ugliness of the chart. Edward Tufte would be appalled. But here's what it shows. The <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=258" target="_blank">foreign-born share of the population</a> has increased from 9 percent to 27 percent since 1970. However, from 1995 to 2015, <a href="http://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s" target="_blank">violent crime in California</a> has declined <em>at a faster rate than in the US as a whole.</em><sup>1</sup></p> <p>So do immigrants cause an increase in violent crime? It doesn't really look like it, does it? And yet, Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, continues to warn his fellow Californians that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/us/a-trump-ally-in-congress-warns-his-state-california-to-make-nice.html" target="_blank">they should be nicer to President Trump.</a> At the same time, Trump continues to justify <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/politics/dhs-immigration-trump.html?_r=0" target="_blank">hiring 10,000 new immigration agents and changing the deportation rules</a> based on the idea that it's important to get rid of anyone who's committed even a minor infraction. That might make the base happy, but it's not going to make anybody safer.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I was lazy and only looked up the crime rates for every five years. I imagine I could also dig up crime rates by state earlier than 1995 if I really tried, but I didn't try very hard. If anybody has them, I'll be happy to pop them into the chart.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:13:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 326171 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have Discovered GeoFRED. You Are All Doomed. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/discovered-geofred <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I have discovered <a href="https://geofred.stlouisfed.org/" target="_blank">GeoFRED.</a> Am I the last person to do so? I'm not sure, but it promises to be a lot of fun. Here's a sample:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//geofred.stlouisfed.org/embed/?m=4UZ&amp;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>I think you can safely expect more maps from me in the future. You may decide for yourself if this is a positive development.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:05:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 326151 at http://www.motherjones.com Meet the Latest Trump Aide Who's Even Worse Than All the Other Trump Aides http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/meet-latest-trump-aide-whos-even-worse-all-other-trump-aides <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The White House is like a rotten onion these days: every time we peel back a layer, it smells worse and worse. First we all heard about Steve Bannon, the <em>Breitbart News</em> CEO who plays the Rasputin role in the West Wing, whispering in Donald Trump's ear about Muslim terrorists and Mexican rapists. Then we all learned about Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old wunderkind who is, if anything, even more glib and hardcore than Bannon. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/for-a-trump-adviser-an-odyssey-from-the-fringes-of-washington-to-the-center-of-power/2017/02/20/0a326260-f2cb-11e6-b9c9-e83fce42fb61_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.0d8818792d27" target="_blank">Now we're all learning about Sebastian Gorka:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For years, Gorka had labored on the fringes of Washington and the far edge of acceptable debate</strong> as defined by the city&rsquo;s Republican and Democratic foreign policy elite. Today, the former national security editor for the conservative <em>Breitbart News</em> outlet occupies a senior job in the White House and his controversial ideas &mdash; especially about Islam &mdash; drive Trump&rsquo;s populist approach to counterterrorism and national security.</p> <p>....For him, the terrorism problem has nothing to do with repression, alienation, torture, tribalism, poverty, or America&rsquo;s foreign policy blunders and a messy and complex Middle East. <strong>&ldquo;This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,&rdquo; Gorka said in an interview. &ldquo;This is what I completely jettison.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>For him, the terror threat is rooted in Islam and &ldquo;martial&rdquo; parts of the Koran that he says predispose some Muslims to acts of terror. &ldquo;Anybody who downplays the role of religious ideology . . . they are deleting reality to fit their own world,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Last month, as he celebrated at the inaugural ball...Gorka said he had one last message for America&rsquo;s troops &mdash; &ldquo;the guys inside the machine&rdquo; &mdash; and its enemies. He turned toward the host, his medal glinting in the TV lights. <strong>&ldquo;The alpha males are back,&rdquo; he said.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's a sewer in there. But here's the funny thing: Gorka might well be right but for entirely the wrong reasons. Young men who live in a wide swath of the world stretching from North Africa to Central Asia probably <em>are</em> more prone to violence than they are in the developed North. But it has nothing to do with Islam. That's just the handiest thing to latch onto. It's all about lead:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_middle_east_leaded_gasoline_phaseout_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Trumpies got struck down for temporarily banning immigration from a set of seven seemingly arbitrary countries, so instead they should create a rule that temporarily bans immigration from any country that phased out leaded gasoline later than, say, 2001. They might have to fiddle a bit with the numbers, which they have plenty of experience doing, and maybe add some weird second condition in order to get only the countries they want, but with a little creativity they could make it work. And it's not based on ethnicity, religion, or even nationality. You're welcome!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:37:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 326146 at http://www.motherjones.com Can We Believe Anything That Comes Out of the White House Press Office? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/can-we-believe-anything-comes-out-white-house-press-office <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Behold our White House press office at work:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Sunday:</strong> White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters that President Trump <a href="http://theweek.com/speedreads/681313/rick-santorum-defends-president-trumps-frequent-presidential-golfing" target="_blank">&ldquo;played a couple of holes&rdquo;</a> today.</p> <p><strong>Monday:</strong> Pro golfer Rory McIlroy <a href="http://nolayingup.com/2017/02/20/rory-trump/" target="_blank">says he played 18 holes with Trump.</a> &ldquo;He probably shot around 80. He&rsquo;s a decent player for a guy in his 70&rsquo;s!&rdquo;</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Big battle today at Trump International with Clear CEO Garry Singer <a href="https://twitter.com/McIlroyRory">@McIlroyRory</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/PaulONeillYES">@PaulONeillYES</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump">@realDonaldTrump</a> Drain the putt... <a href="https://t.co/AZJqEVtlBT">pic.twitter.com/AZJqEVtlBT</a></p> &mdash; ClearSports (@ClearSportsLLC) <a href="https://twitter.com/ClearSportsLLC/status/833451332384198656">February 19, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p><strong>Monday evening:</strong> The White House releases <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/trump-seeks-national-security-adviser-health-care-strategy-45605667" target="_blank">a new statement:</a> "He intended to play a few holes and decided to play longer."</p> </blockquote> <p>Obviously this doesn't matter in any cosmic sense. Who cares how much golf Trump plays? But it's yet another indication that the White House press operation will blithely lie about anything. Is there really any point to having a press office these days?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:51:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 326131 at http://www.motherjones.com The Hero of Tal Afar Gets the Last Laugh http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/hero-tal-afar-gets-last-laugh <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I can still remember a decade ago, when Col. H.R. McMaster, the hero of Tal Afar and genius of counterinsurgency, had been <a href="http://washingtonmonthly.com/2007/07/25/col-mcmaster/" target="_blank">passed over for the second time</a> for promotion to brigadier general. Did we ever find out who had it in for him? Probably not. In any case, he eventually got his star, and then another, and then another, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/us/politics/mcmaster-national-security-adviser-trump.html" target="_blank">and now he's got an office in the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday, picking a widely respected military strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the Iraq war in its darkest days.</p> <p>....General McMaster had the aura of disruption that Mr. Trump has valued in several cabinet secretaries, said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to describe internal deliberations. <strong>Another candidate, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the superintendent of West Point, impressed Mr. Trump as being &ldquo;from central casting,&rdquo;</strong> the official said. But the president wanted him to stay at West Point, which he reveres.</p> </blockquote> <p>I see that Trump is using his usual keen management insights to choose the folks responsible for running our country. Luckily, he somehow decided that the guy from central casting ought to stay at West Point, and accidentally chose McMaster instead. This is probably a pretty good selection, so I guess we should all be grateful regardless of how we got there.</p> <p>I wonder what McMaster thinks of K.T. McFarland? That seems to be a key prerequisite for NSA these days. I sure hope they get along, since I assume McFarland will have no problem using her personal connection with Trump to complain about McMaster behind his back if she doesn't like what he's doing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:29:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 326126 at http://www.motherjones.com A Closer Look at the Killing Fields of Sweden http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/closer-look-killing-fields-sweden <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Trump just can't give up on Sweden:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/833681539997253636">February 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>I suppose that "beautifully" is subjective, so I won't comment on that. But Trump is specifically talking about crime here, and a bit of googling tells me that the <em>real</em> target of the fear-o-sphere isn't so much Sweden in general, but the city of Malm&ouml;, just across the sound from Copenhagen. About a third of Malm&ouml;'s population was born abroad, the highest rate in Sweden, and to listen to the right-wing media it's basically become the Beirut of the North ever since immigrants started pouring in. "How Muslim Migration Made Malmo, Sweden A Crime Capital," blares the <em>Daily Wire</em>. "Malmo, Sweden is the Most Dangerous City in Western Europe," says Infowars, adding that it's suffering from "soaring crime, murder." Over in Britain, the <em>Express</em> puts things plainly: "SWEDEN CRUMBLING: Demands for military intervention as thugs turn Malmo into 'no-go zone.'"</p> <p>(Sorry, no links. Google 'em yourself if you really want to read this stuff.)</p> <p>Luckily for the rest of us, Sweden has quite an excellent crime reporting website, helpfully offered in both Swedish and English. Here are the crime rates in recent years for <a href="http://www.bra.se/bra/brott-och-statistik/statistik/utsatta-omraden/malmo.html" target="_blank">Sweden's three biggest cities:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_crime_against_persons_2008_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Sadly, the laggard Swedes don't have 2016 numbers for Malm&ouml; even though we're a full 50 days into 2017, so this will have to do. As you can see, Malm&ouml;'s crime rate is higher than Sweden's, which is the usual case for big cities, but generally lower than Stockholm's. It's been trending slightly <em>downward</em> over the past decade. Here's property crime:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_property_crime_2008_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Malm&ouml; doesn't look much like a hellhole, does it? Violent crime looks fairly normal for a city of its size, and it's trending down. Property crime looks <em>better</em> than you might expect, and it's trending distinctly down. For a longer-term look at things, here are the <a href="http://www.bra.se/download/18.31d7fffa1504bbffea086b7a/1449670735846/2015_24_Det+d%C3%B6dliga+v%C3%A5ldet.pdf" target="_blank">total number of murders in Sweden over the past 50 years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_murder_1964_2014.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I suppose you all recognize this shape from my hundreds of posts about lead and crime, right? In any case, it's been trending steadily downward since 1990 while the number of immigrants has been steadily rising. Drilling down, the murder rate between 1991-2014 in Sk&aring;ne county, which includes Malm&ouml;, has stayed flat. However, the murder rate in Malm&ouml; itself has nearly doubled in the past two years, increasing from about seven murders in 2014 to twelve in 2016.</p> <p>Why? Gang wars. This is also the reason Malm&ouml; has been the victim of a surprising number of <a href="http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-sweden-grenades-idUKKCN0QE09F20150809" target="_blank">hand grenade attacks</a> lately. Apparently they're leftovers from the Balkan wars that are smuggled into Sweden and used by rival drug gangs in their turf wars. There's no question that gang wars fought with hand grenades and handguns are the kind of thing that could put people on edge, but these gangs have been around for a long time and it's unclear what's caused the recent surge in turf wars. It might be related to the influx of immigrants, but since immigrants have been moving to Malm&ouml; for years, while the gang wars have increased in just the last two, that seems a bit of a stretch.</p> <p>All this said, Malm&ouml;'s overall crime rate, both violent and property, has been pretty flat for the past decade, and the murder rate has been flat for the past three decades. All this has happened while the immigrant population in Malm&ouml; has increased more than tenfold.</p> <p>So that leaves us with the recent gang wars, which have caused an uptick in murders over just the past couple of years. That's it. If you cherry pick a single city with a sudden upsurge in gang warfare, and then assume it's all the fault of immigrants, then Sweden becomes the poster child for immigrants and crime. But that's a pretty thin case.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 02:26:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 326121 at http://www.motherjones.com NBC News: Putin Still Trying to Figure Out Trump's Brain http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/nbc-news-putin-still-trying-figure-out-trumps-brain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Bill Neely of NBC News reports on Vladimir Putin's efforts to understand the psyche of <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russia-compiles-psychological-dossier-trump-putin-n723196" target="_blank">America's reality-show president:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A dossier on Donald Trump's psychological makeup is being prepared for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among its preliminary conclusions is that <strong>the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be na&iuml;ve,</strong> according to a senior Kremlin adviser.</p> <p>....Former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov told NBC News..."Very serious preparatory work is going on in the Kremlin, including a paper &mdash; seven pages &mdash; describing a psychological portrait of Trump, especially based on this last two to three months, and the last weeks."</p> <p>....Putin's government is growing increasingly concerned about Trump's battles in Washington, according to Fedorov and former lawmaker Sergei Markov, who remains well-connected at the Kremlin. <strong>Fedorov added that Trump's "constant battle with the mass media" was "worrying us."</strong> The U.S. president "is dancing on thin ice," he said. "It's a risky game."</p> <p>A former prime minister under Putin said the Kremlin is taking no pleasure at Trump's struggles. "Absolutely not &mdash; not laughing," Mikhail Kasyanov said. <strong>"The situation is very serious and the whole of [Putin's] team, they are nervous."</strong> Many in the Kremlin believe hardliners in America &mdash; in Congress and the military &mdash; want to sabotage the president and his plans for better ties with Russia.</p> </blockquote> <p>From Putin's point of view, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that Trump can't control himself. Putin could literally publish his dossier on his Facebook page and it wouldn't matter. Just as he did in the debates, when Hillary Clinton baited him in the most obvious ways, Trump will respond to provocations the way he always responds.</p> <p>That's also the bad news, of course: Trump can't control himself. He lives in a delusionary world where everything is going great and the White House is a finely tuned machine. This divorce from reality is likely to become ever more cavernous as time goes on, and there's no telling how long it will be until this produces a disaster of some kind. Eventually it's going to become clear that trying to run the US government the same way he ran his business&mdash;Trump acting as the showman/marketing genius, while professional managers keep the gears turning&mdash;isn't producing any results here in consensus reality. And then the whole delusionary edifice will come tumbling down.</p> <p>But when? Next week? Next year? Whenever the economy turns down? There's no telling. Putin better keep that dossier constantly updated.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:55:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 326111 at http://www.motherjones.com Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/reality-begins-set-obamacare%E2%80%94-both-sides <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/affordable-care-act-critics.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Reality is setting in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, <strong>the debate over &ldquo;Obamacare&rdquo; is becoming less about &ldquo;Obama&rdquo; and more about &ldquo;care&rdquo;</strong> &mdash; greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.</p> <p>....As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama&rsquo;s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say <strong>there is significantly less intensity</strong> among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.</p> </blockquote> <p>Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don't seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_favorable.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But the intensity of opinion <em>has</em> changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn't care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares <em>more</em>. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was&mdash;no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah&mdash;under the apparent assumption that it didn't matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.</p> <p>So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it's worth fighting for.</p> <p>But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 18:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326086 at http://www.motherjones.com Cleaning Up After Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/cleaning-after-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/mattis-says-u-s-isnt-in-iraq-to-take-its-oil-1487577697" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jim Mattis, on his first trip to Iraq as defense secretary, said he plans to assess the fight against Islamic State in the country and that the U.S. isn&rsquo;t there to take its oil. &ldquo;I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have paid for our gas and oil all along and I&rsquo;m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,&rdquo; he told reporters in Abu Dhabi the day before leaving for Iraq. &ldquo;We are not in Iraq to seize anybody&rsquo;s oil.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So far, Mattis and VP Mike Pence have been fanning out across the world to assure our allies that President Trump thinks NATO is great; that America's support for Europe is "unwavering"; that Trump will be tough on Russia; and that we're not going to take Iraq's oil. In other words, basically the opposite of everything Trump himself has said over the past year.</p> <p>This is becoming the signature of the Trump administration. At home, Trump says something stupid, and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway gamely go out to clean up the mess and claim that Trump didn't really mean what he said. Abroad, Mattis and Pence and Rex Tillerson play the same role. They're like the guys who follow the elephants at a parade.</p> <p>I'll bet they didn't think this was how they'd be spending their time as some of the most powerful people in the world.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:15:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 326101 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Donald Trump Saves the Coal Mines http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/quote-day-donald-trump-saves-coal-mines <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-supporters-see-a-successful-president--and-are-frustrated-with-critics-who-dont/2017/02/19/496cb4b4-f6ca-11e6-9845-576c69081518_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_trumpsupporters-0711pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.17a4e818e5a4" target="_blank">Via the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;If he hadn&rsquo;t gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work,&rdquo; Patricia Nana, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen from Cameroon. &ldquo;I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything &mdash; you could see how happy they were.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>And those immigration raids last weeks ended up deporting 1.3 million undocumented workers. And Intel's new factory will give good, high-paying jobs to 250,000 hardworking Americans. And Trump's Muslim ban prevented 400 acts of terror on American soil.</p> <p>Sigh. Among his supporters, Trump's style of governance by TV spectacle is working out well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:02:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326096 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Pals Have a Plan For Lifting Sanctions on Russia http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-pals-have-plan-lifting-sanctions-russia <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The president's friends <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-russia.html" target="_blank">have a proposal for him:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, <strong>a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.</strong></p> <p>Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: <strong>Michael D. Cohen,</strong> the president&rsquo;s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; <strong>Felix H. Sater,</strong> a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a <strong>Ukrainian lawmaker</strong> trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump&rsquo;s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.</p> <p>....[Mr. Cohen] said Mr. Sater had given him the written proposal in a sealed envelope. <strong>When Mr. Cohen met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in early February, he said, he left the proposal in Mr. Flynn&rsquo;s office.</strong> Mr. Cohen said he was waiting for a response when Mr. Flynn was forced from his post. Now Mr. Cohen, Mr. Sater and Mr. Artemenko are hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause. On Friday the president wrote on Twitter that he had four new candidates for the job.</p> </blockquote> <p>The "Ukranian lawmaker" is a pro-Putin opponent of the current regime in Ukraine. Sater is, um, a guy with an interesting background: <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/former-mafia-linked-figure-describes-association-with-trump/2016/05/17/cec6c2c6-16d3-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html" target="_blank">"mafia linked,"</a> spent some time in prison, <a href="https://twitter.com/thegarance/status/833493119417081856" target="_blank">worked as an FBI informant,</a> and spent several years as a <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/learning-eye-popping-details-about-mr-sater" target="_blank">close business associate of Donald J. Trump.</a> Oh, and Sater was born in Russia and continues to have lots of contacts there.</p> <p>And Cohen? Well, he's the guy who could actually get inside the White House and deliver the letter. You remember Michael Cohen, don't you?</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/src30HcFvdw?start=0" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Every time we turn around, there's something new linking Trump to Russia. Just a few days ago, FBI Director James Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence committee about the ongoing investigation of Team Trump and its ties to Russia, and all the chatter afterward was about how the senators seemed kind of shaken by what they heard.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe it all turns out to be nothing. But there sure is a lot of smoke out there. It's hard to believe there isn't a fire too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 14:30:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326091 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump "Considering" Intriguing New Way to Lie With Statistics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-considering-intriguing-new-way-lie-statistics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-considers-change-in-calculating-u-s-trade-deficit-1487523299" target="_blank">Oh FFS:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, <strong>a shift that would make the country&rsquo;s trade gap appear larger than it had in past years,</strong> according to people involved in the discussions.</p> <p>The leading idea under consideration would <strong>exclude from U.S. exports</strong> any goods first imported into the country, such as cars, and then transferred to a third country like Canada or Mexico unchanged, these people told <em>The Wall Street Journal.</em></p> <p>Economists say that approach would inflate trade deficit numbers because <strong>it would typically count goods as imports when they come into the country but not count the same goods when they go back out,</strong> known as re-exports.</p> </blockquote> <p>While we're at it, let's change our new jobs report to show all the people who have gained a job but not the ones who have lost a job. That should make the economy look great, just like Trump wants it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 01:46:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 326081 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Thin Skin Is Keeping Him From Staffing the Federal Government http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trumps-thin-skin-keeping-him-staffing-federal-government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Rex Tillerson's choice of Elliott Abrams to be his deputy at the State Department was vetoed by the White House. Abrams had once said some bad things about Donald Trump, so he was out. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/us/politics/trump-candidates-top-posts.html" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports on what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump remains fixated on the campaign as he applies a loyalty test to some prospective officials....Six of the 15 statutory cabinet secretaries are still awaiting Senate confirmation as Democrats nearly uniformly oppose almost all of the president&rsquo;s choices.</p> <p>....<strong>It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary,</strong> much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. <strong>Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions.</strong> Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, Democrats are slow-walking Trump's cabinet choices. You can decide for yourself if this is justified. But it's the deputies who often really run things, and Trump has only managed to name three out of 15 candidates. After he interviewed all those cabinet nominees, I guess he got bored.</p> <p>In other words, it's not Democrats who are holding up the rest of government. The problem is that Trump has no idea what he's doing, and his staff is too busy with Trump's thin skin and chaotic management style to find qualified deputies that are acceptable to him. After the debacle with his National Security Advisor, I imagine this has gotten even harder. You could almost feel qualified conservatives backing away from Trumpland as that shitshow played out.</p> <p>Trump has always had a pretty small set of people acceptable to him, and now a shrinking number of experienced players are finding Trump acceptable to them. This doesn't bode well for basic management of government business, let alone the "change for the ages" that he promised last night.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 22:07:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 326076 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Strict Voter ID Laws Suppress Minority Voting? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/do-strict-voter-id-laws-suppress-minority-voting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Do photo ID laws reduce minority turnout? Previous studies have suggested that the answer is yes, but the effect is fairly small. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/02/15/do-voter-identification-laws-suppress-minority-voting-yes-we-did-the-research/" target="_blank">However, in the <em>Washington Post</em> last week,</a> three scholars wrote about a new study they conducted, which offers "a more definitive assessment" than previous studies. Their conclusion: states with strict photo ID laws produce a far lower turnout among minorities than other states.</p> <p>It's taken me a while to comment on this because I had to read the report a few times to make sure I understood everything. In the end, I found several reasons to be skeptical of their conclusion.</p> <p>First off, they found much stronger effects in primaries than in general elections. Now, maybe this really is the case, and I can certainly invent plausible stories about why it might be so. But it still seems odd.</p> <p>Second, in a draft version of their study, <a href="http://pages.ucsd.edu/~zhajnal/page5/documents/voterIDhajnaletal.pdf" target="_blank">they say this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Importantly, we see no effects for Asian Americans, the one minority group that is, by at least some standards, not socioeconomically disadvantaged. The effects of these laws seem to be concentrated toward the bottom end of the racial hierarchy.</p> </blockquote> <p>In later drafts, their numbers have been updated and it turns out that Asian Americans <em>are</em> affected by voter ID laws&mdash;which makes their important finding disappear. But if this was an important <em>verification</em> in one draft, it ought to be an important <em>discrepancy</em> in the final draft. However, it's not mentioned.</p> <p>Third, hardly any of their findings are statistically significant. I'm not a big stickler for 95 percent significance always and everywhere, especially for something like this, where there's one messy set of real-life data and you have to draw conclusions from it one way or another. If the results are significant at 85 or 90 percent, that's still strongly suggestive. Nonetheless, that's all it is.</p> <p>Fourth, the effect size on African Americans is considerably less than it is for Hispanics and Asian Americans. Maybe this is just because blacks are more politically organized, and therefore more likely to overcome the deterrent effects of photo ID laws. Maybe.</p> <p>So far, none of these are deal breakers. They made me a little tentative about accepting the authors' results, but that's all. But then we get this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_voter_id_black_hispanic_asian.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Here's what's going on. On the left, you see their main results, based on a model they constructed. It shows very large effects: in states with strict photo ID laws, turnout decreases 8 percentage points among Hispanics, 2 percent among African Americans, and 5 percent among Asians.</p> <p>On the right, you see the results from a second test. It compares turnout in states before and after they enacted strict photo ID laws, and it shows much smaller effects: about 2 percentage points for all minorities. This strikes me as a <em>better</em> test, since it eliminates lots of confounding variables that crop up when you compare one set of states to a different set. But the authors go to considerable lengths to downplay these results, for reasons that I don't find very persuasive. Yes, their sample size is smaller, and yes, things can change from year to year. But their sample sizes aren't that small, and the differences in a single state over the course of two years is probably smaller than the differences between states in the same year.</p> <p>Maybe I'm totally off base here. I don't have the raw data or the chops to analyze it. Still, if I had to bet money, I'd bet that the second test is more reliable, and the real effect of photo ID laws is a decreased turnout of about 2 percentage points among minorities. That's plenty to affect a close election, and the motivation for these laws is plainly partisan and racial. They should be done away with everywhere.</p> <p>That said, I continue to suspect that the effect is fairly modest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:46:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 326071 at http://www.motherjones.com We Should Practice Truth in Statistics, Even When It Hurts http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/we-should-practice-truth-statistics-even-when-it-hurts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday <a href="http://www.vox.com/2017/2/18/14659952/trump-transcript-rally-melbourne-florida" target="_blank">on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You look at what's happening in Germany, <strong>you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden.</strong> They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, <a href="http://www.vox.com/world/2017/2/19/14662244/trump-sweden-terrorist-attack-fake" target="_blank">Beauchamp then says this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem, though, is that this &ldquo;rape epidemic&rdquo; is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.</p> <p><a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/swedens-rape-crisis-isnt-what-it-seems/article30019623/" target="_blank">Canadian reporter Doug Saunders</a> rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it &ldquo;falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.&rdquo; Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that&rsquo;s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.</p> <p>....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.</p> </blockquote> <p>Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001&mdash;which is all but useless in 2017<sup>1</sup>&mdash;and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report <a href="https://www.bra.se/bra/publikationer/arkiv/publikationer/2005-12-14-brottslighet-bland-personer-fodda-i-sverige-och-i-utlandet.html" target="_blank">(tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_immigrants_sweden_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.</p> <p>There's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.</p> <p>Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I don't know just how interested everyone is in the minutiae of Swedish crime, but here's the crime rate <a href="https://www.bra.se/bra/bra-in-english/home/crime-and-statistics/swedish-crime-survey.html" target="_blank">over the past decade:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_swedish_crime_survey.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 55px;"></p> <p>Some are up, some are down, but the overall trend appears fairly flat despite the large rise in immigrants over this period. On the other hand, <a href="http://www.bra.se/bra/nytt-fran-bra/arkiv/nyheter/2017-01-12-anmalda-brott-2016---preliminar-statistik.html" target="_blank">preliminary figures</a> show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:54:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 326066 at http://www.motherjones.com A Travel Query for the Hive Mind http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/travel-query-hive-mind <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_zuma_big_ben_fireworks.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 0px 0px;"></p> <div class="caption">Ben Cawthra/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA</div> <p>OK, hive mind, I have a question for you. My sister is heading to London later this year, and this time she has a shiny new iPhone to take with her. She's on T-Mobile, so allegedly she'll have access to calling, texting, and low-speed data without doing anything. So here's one plan:</p> <ul><li>Download the maps she needs before she leaves.</li> <li>Rely on T-Mobile for calling and texting.</li> <li>Use WiFi whenever she's at the hotel, in a coffee shop, etc.</li> <li>Register for The Cloud, and use that when she's out and about.</li> <li>When all else fails, use T-Mobile's low-speed data.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively:</p> <ul><li>Buy a SIM when she gets there and use local calling, texting, and high-speed internet.</li> </ul><p>Do I have any T-Mobile readers who have been to London lately? What's the dope? What do you think her best alternative is?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Thanks everyone! It sounds like T-Mobile's native service works pretty well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 16:29:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326061 at http://www.motherjones.com Premiere Episode of Trump Show Disappoints With Sluggish Pacing and Dated Material http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/premiere-episode-trump-show-disappoints-sluggish-pacing-and-dated-material <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today's episode of the Trump Show was disappointing. It started late, it was only 30 minutes long, and much of it was read off a teleprompter. A few miscellaneous comments:</p> <ul><li>No tie! Truly, Trump is a man of the people.</li> <li>The first five minutes is dedicated solely to trashing the media. He says he wants to speak directly to The People without the filter of fake news. "When the media lies, I won't let them get away with it."</li> <li>This is all done in service of a speech carried live and commercial-free by all three cable news channels.</li> <li>The White House is running "smoothly, <em>very</em> smoothly."</li> <li>He wants to bring back mining jobs for "clean, <em>very</em> clean coal." I'm sensing a rhetorical trend here.</li> <li>He reprises several of his greatest hits: His Obamacare replacement will provide much better health care at a much lower cost. No more jobs are going to be sent overseas. He's going to slap a 35 percent tax on goods sent back here. And he still wants a "trillion dollar" infrastructure plan.</li> <li>Jobs are already "pouring back in" to the country.</li> <li>"Not one network will show the crowd," he says at the exact moment the pool camera pulls back to show the crowd.</li> <li>He says he got the price of Air Force One down by a billion dollars. When did that happen? Let's google a bit...ah. It's just your basic Trump bullshit. The CEO of Boeing has agreed to keep the price tag below $4 billion for a project that's currently estimated to cost between <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/defense/314613-boeing-ceo-says-progress-made-on-reducing-air-force-one-costs" target="_blank">$3.2 billion</a> and <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/dec/06/donald-trump/fact-checking-donald-trumps-tweet-air-force-one-bo/" target="_blank">$3.7 billion.</a> Nice work, Donald.</li> <li>He also got the price of the F-35 down by "hundreds of billions" dollars. It's actually hundreds of <em>m</em>illions, but who's counting? And it was a price reduction that was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-has-fixed-f-35-program-ten-days" target="_blank">already in the works</a> before Trump ever got involved.</li> <li>He says Obama was letting immigrants into the country with "no vetting, no nothing." This is just a ridiculous lie.</li> </ul><p>Meh. I doubt this rally did much for him. Even his most fervent supporters are starting to figure out that Trump isn't accomplishing a whole lot. Besides, how often can he go back to this well? Is he going to hold a pep rally every month? If he does, he better start coming up with some new material.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 01:04:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 326056 at http://www.motherjones.com Waiting For Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/waiting-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>OMG OMG OMG!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plane_waiting_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 10px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:45:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 326046 at http://www.motherjones.com Who Really Benefits From Repealing the Stream Protection Rule? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/who-really-benefits-repealing-stream-protection-rule <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Behold the politics of Donald Trump in a nutshell:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Talking to Trump voters here, several have said that Trump "put the miners back to work." (They are referring to the stream rule rollback)</p> &mdash; Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) <a href="https://twitter.com/daveweigel/status/833024830442180608">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Weigel is in Florida, so the workers in question are mostly Appalachian miners. Here's a quick look at Appalachian coal mining employment:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_appalachia_coal_mining_jobs_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This chart shows two things. First, coal mining in Appalachia has been plummeting for a long time. Decades, actually. So it's pretty easy to see why Appalachian coal miners are in dire straits and eager to listen to someone, <em>anyone</em>, who sounds sympathetic to their plight.</p> <p>Second, Trump is getting a lot of of attention for rolling back the Stream Protection Rule, but it's not going to put anyone back to work. I had to cheat to even get it to show up on the chart. It's responsible for maybe a hundred mining jobs out of a total decline of 30,000 between 2009 and 2020.</p> <p>So who <em>does</em> benefit from rolling back this rule? Well, OSM figures that Appalachian mine owners will save about $24 million per year in compliance costs.<sup>3</sup> So they're pretty happy. This is a dynamic that we're going to see over and over from Trump:</p> <ul><li>He puts on a big show about something or other. Workers cheer.</li> <li>Offstage, it turns out the benefit to workers is minuscule.</li> <li>Instead, the bulk of the benefits end up going to corporations and the rich.</li> <li>Liberals will find out about this because the <em>New York Times</em> will probably write about it. Working-class Trump fans won't, because none of it will be reported by Fox News or Drudge or Limbaugh or <em>Breitbart</em>.</li> </ul><p>Executive summary: workers get a pittance, the rich get rewarded, and streams and rivers will continue to be fouled by mine tailings. But Trump's supporters will be happy because they'll be kept in the dark by all the people supposedly looking out for them.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I've gotten several requests for a longer look at coal mining employment. Here it is.<sup>4</sup> Please note two things: (1) this is for the entire US, not just Appalachia, and (2) it's for <em>coal miners</em>, not total coal mine employment. You can't compare it to the chart above.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_coal_miners_us_1950_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>This is approximate. I counted <a href="https://www.msha.gov/sites/default/files/Data_Reports/Charts/Coal_Employment_by_State_and_County_CY09to15.pdf" target="_blank">coal mine employment</a> from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama. The projection is based on a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf" target="_blank">50 percent loss</a> of coal production and coal jobs between 2012 and 2020. The Office of Surface Mining figures that the Stream Protection Rule will cost about 260 mining jobs, and that Appalachia will bear 46 percent of compliance cost. (See <a href="https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20170111_R44150_aeb8ad15c32441ec3bdb6788400bda94f4aa8d86.pdf" target="_blank">this CRS report,</a> p. 17.) So we can roughly figure that it will cost Appalachia a little over a hundred mining jobs.<sup>2</sup></p> <p><sup>2</sup>The <em>net</em> job loss will be about zero, thanks to additional hires of engineers and biologists. However, that does nothing for miners.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>See <a href="https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20170111_R44150_aeb8ad15c32441ec3bdb6788400bda94f4aa8d86.pdf" target="_blank">here,</a> p. 15. Total estimated compliance costs are $52 million per year, with Appalachia bearing 46 percent of the total.</p> <p><sup>4</sup> Data for 1950-1985 from <a href="http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/virtual_disk_library/index.cgi/4265704/FID3754/pdf/Coal_nuc/006493.pdf" target="_blank">here.</a> Data from 1985-2016 from <a href="https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CES1021210001#0" target="_blank">FRED.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 326036 at http://www.motherjones.com