Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en How Should We Talk About Racism? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steve Randy Waldman picks up today on a brief Twitter disagreement from a few days ago. Here's (part of) his response to my contention that racism was at the heart of <a href="" target="_blank">Britain's vote to leave the EU:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>It may or may not be accurate to attribute the political behavior of large groups of people to racism, but it is not very useful.</strong> Those people got to be that way somehow. Presumably they, or eventually their progeny, can be un-got from being that way somehow. It is, I think, <strong>a political and moral error to content oneself with explanations that suggest no remedy at all,</strong> or that suggest prima facie problematic responses like ridiculing, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_farage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ignoring, disenfranchising, or going to war with large groups of fellow citizens, unless no other explanations are colorable.</p> <p>....It seems to me that the alleged &ldquo;good guys&rdquo; &mdash; the liberal, cosmopolitan class of which I myself am a part &mdash; have fallen into habits of ridiculing, demonizing, writing off, or, in our best moments, merely patronizing huge swathes of the polities to which we belong. They may do the same to us, but we are not toddlers, that is no excuse. In the United States, in Europe, we are allowing ourselves to disintegrate and arguing about who is to blame. Let&rsquo;s all be better than that.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have a good answer to this, and I've struggled with it for some time. On the one hand, the truth is important. If I believe that racism is an important driver of a political movement (Brexit, Donald Trump), then I should say so. It's dishonest to tap dance around it just because it's uncomfortable or politically unhelpful.</p> <p>At the same time, it usually <em>is</em> politically unhelpful. Accusations of racism tend to end conversations, not start them&mdash;and, as Waldman says, implicitly suggest that our problems are intractable. What's more, there's a good case to be made that liberals toss around charges of racism too cavalierly and should dial it back. In fact, you can go even further than that. <em>Politically</em>, liberals might very well be off never using the R-word again.</p> <p>So: should we tell the truth as we see it even if it rarely leads to any useful outcome? Or adopt softer language that skirts the issue but has a better chance of prompting engagement from non-liberals? I don't know. But speaking just for myself, I generally try not to ridicule or demonize "huge swathes" of the country. Instead, I prefer to put the blame where I mostly think it belongs. In the post Waldman is referring to, for example, <a href="" target="_blank">I said this about Brexit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At its core, it&rsquo;s the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by <strong>cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them</strong>&mdash;all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we&rsquo;ve seen in decades. It&rsquo;s loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I&rsquo;d ever see in my lifetime. But that&rsquo;s where we are.</p> </blockquote> <p>People are people. To some extent, we're all prisoners of the environments we were raised in and the trials we've been through over the course of our lives. That might call for empathy and understanding as much as it calls for censure. But one thing it <em>doesn't</em> excuse is politicians and media personalities who very much know better but cynically appeal to racial sentiment anyway, either for ratings or for votes. Calling out these folks for appealing to racism&mdash;or even just tolerating it&mdash;is almost certainly useful. It might not happen fast, but eventually they can be embarrassed into cutting it out. It sure is taking a long time, though.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jun 2016 19:36:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 307716 at Hillary Clinton Is No Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the <em>LA Times</em> today, Barton Swaim argues that in this year's presidential election "we are faced with a choice between two pathologically dishonest candidates." He runs through a few of Donald Trump's seemingly bottomless supply of obvious lies, and then turns his attention to Hillary Clinton:</p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton&rsquo;s career offers a similarly dizzying array of bogus claims&mdash;(1) that she had known nothing about the firing of White House travel office employees in 1993, though she had orchestrated it; (2) that she deplaned in Bosnia under sniper fire; (3) that she was named for Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Everest when she was 5; (4) that she was a fierce critic of NAFTA &ldquo;from the very beginning&rdquo; when in fact she worked to get it passed; (5) that she &ldquo;did not email any classified material to anyone,&rdquo; though of course she did, many times.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the sign of a pathologically dishonest candidate? Swaim rather easily found five clear and consequential lies from Trump's campaign this year, but not a single one from Hillary's. He had to go back more than 20 years to put together this list, and even so he couldn't manage to find five clear examples. #3 was a trivial recounting of a family story that apparently wasn't true. #4 is modestly misleading, but not much more. (Hillary was <a href="" target="_blank">privately skeptical of NAFTA</a> from the beginning, and became more public about it after she was no longer part of her husband's administration.) #5 is not a lie at all. It's true&mdash;unless you count a bunch of emails that were retroactively classified only years after she sent them.</p> <p>So that leaves #1 and #2. I'll give Swaim both of them. That's two lies between 1993 and 2008&mdash;about as many as Trump tells each day before lunch. If Hillary is really pathologically dishonest, surely Swaim could have pretty easily found more examples more recently? Frankly, if Hillary really does average one lie per decade, it might very well place her among the most honest politicians on the planet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jun 2016 17:40:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 307711 at Chart of the Day: Brexit Would Have Turned Out Very Differently if Kids Turned Out to Vote <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This will come as no surprise, but here's the fundamental reason that Brexit won:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_referendum_age_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 55px;"></p> <p>The younger the voter, the more strongly they voted to remain in the EU. The older the voter, the more likely they were to actually get out and vote. Eventually the kids are going to figure out how badly their elders are screwing them, and maybe then they'll finally muster the energy to cast a ballot. I wonder what it's going to take to make that happen?</p> <p>(Preference via <a href="" target="_blank">YouGov</a>. Turnout via <a href="" target="_blank">SkyData</a>.)</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:30:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 307701 at The Paradox of Immigration: Opposition Is Strongest Precisely Where There Are the Fewest Immigrants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>James Fallows is in western Kansas around Dodge City, where many of the cities are majority Latino and full of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and more recently Somalia and Sudan. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what he says:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I can&rsquo;t let this day end without noting the black-versus-white, night-versus-day contrast between the way immigration, especially from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is discussed in this part of the country <em>where it is actually happening,</em> versus its role in this moment&rsquo;s national political discussion.</p> <p>....<em>Every single</em> person we have spoken with &mdash; Anglo and Latino and other, old and young, native-born and immigrant, and so on down the list &mdash; <strong><em>every</em></strong> one of them has said: We <em>need</em> each other! There is work in this community that we all need to do. We can choose to embrace the world, or we can fade and die. And we choose to embrace it.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have actual data on this, but my sense from both the US and Britain is that the most fervent opposition to immigration&mdash;legal or otherwise&mdash;comes precisely from the regions where it's had the least impact. Here in the US, for example, immigration from Latin America has been heaviest in the southern sun belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, and a few others. And yet Donald Trump's "build a wall" narrative played well in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, all of which have relatively small Latino populations. Similarly, Brexit did best in the small towns and rural areas of England, the places that have the fewest immigrants and that depend the most on EU trade.</p> <p>That's not to say that opposition to immigration is absent in places like London or San Diego. It's not. But these places mostly seem to have adapted to it and figured out that it's not really all that bad. It's everywhere else, where immigration is mostly a <em>fear</em>, that anti-immigrant sentiment has the strongest purchase. And that's why peddling fear is so effective.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 22:58:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307696 at Let Us Now Figure Out Who to Blame for Brexit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Brexit has passed, and now it's time to find someone to blame. Sure, you can go with the pack and blame David Cameron or Nigel Farage, but that's not much fun. Here are four plausible but not entirely obvious choices:</p> <h3><strong>Ed Milliband</strong></h3> <p>In order to keep peace within his own party, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a vote on Brexit in 2013. It seemed fairly harmless at the time: Cameron's Conservative Party was about 20 seats short of an outright majority in Parliament, so he was governing in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems opposed the referendum, and as long as they remained in the coalition, there would most likely have been <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ed_milliband.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">no vote. To maintain this status quo, neither the Lib Dems nor the opposition Labor Party even had to gain any seats in the 2015 election. They just had to hold their own.</p> <p>But Ed Milliband proved to be such a hapless leader of the Labor Party that he lost 26 seats in the election. This was just enough to give the Tories a bare majority, and that paved the way for Brexit.</p> <p>Alternatively, you could blame Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who managed his party's coalition with Cameron poorly and lost an astounding 49 of its 57 seats in the 2015 election. But Labor was the primary opposition party and should have been able to pick up most of those seats, so let's stick with Milliband on this one.</p> <h3><strong>Angela Merkel</strong></h3> <p>For all the praise she gets, Angela Merkel has been one of the most disastrous European leaders in my lifetime. She's as responsible for Brexit as anyone I can think of, thanks to two catastrophic decisions she made.</p> <p>The first was her insistence on punishing Greece following its collapse after the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the Greece debacle, but as the continent's economic leader Germany held most of the high cards during negotiations over Greece's fate. Merkel had a choice: (a) punish Greece for running up <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_merkel_refugee.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">unsustainable debts and lying about them, or (b) accept that <a href="" target="_blank">Germany bore much of the blame itself</a> for the crisis and that Greece had no way of rescuing itself thanks to the straitjacket of the common currency. The former was a crowd pleaser. The latter was unpopular and would have required sustained, iron-spined leadership. In the event, Merkel chose to play to the crowds, and Greece has been a basket case ever since&mdash;with no end in sight. It hardly went unnoticed in Britain how Europe treated a country that was too entangled with the EU to either fight back or exit, and it made Britain's decision to forego the common currency look prescient. And if that had been a good choice, maybe all the rest of "ever closer union" wasn't such a great idea either.</p> <p>Merkel's second bad decision was more recent. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is David Frum:</a> "If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany&mdash;and then all Europe&mdash;to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come." It's hard to fault Merkel for this on a humanitarian basis, but on a political basis it was a disaster. The barely-controlled wave of refugees Merkel encouraged has caused resentment and more all over Europe, and it unquestionably played a big <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_mail_immigration.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">role in the immigrant backlash in Britain that powered the Leave vote.</p> <h3><strong>Paul Dacre</strong></h3> <p>Paul Dacre is the longtime editor of the <em>Daily Mail</em>, and he's standing in here for the entire conservative tabloid press, which has spent decades lying about the EU and scaring the hell out of its readership about every grisly murder ever committed by an immigrant. In a journalistic style pioneered by Boris Johnson&mdash;who we'll get to next&mdash;the <em>Mail</em> and other tabloids have run hundreds of sensational stories about allegedly idiotic EU regulations and how they're destroying not just Britain's way of life, but its very sovereignty as well. These stories range from deliberately exaggerated to outright false, and they're so relentless that the EU has an <a href="" target="_blank">entire website dedicated to debunking British tabloid myths</a> from A (abattoirs) to Z (zoos). The chart below, <a href="" target="_blank">from the <em>Economist</em>,</a> tots up all the lies, and the <em>Mail</em> is the clear leader.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_economist_eu_lies_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>The EU is hardly a finely-tuned watch when it comes to regulations, but the vast majority of the outrage over its rulings is based almost literally on nothing. Nonetheless, the outrage is real, and it was fueled largely by Dacre's <em>Daily Mail</em> and its fellow tabloids.</p> <h3><strong>Boris Johnson</strong></h3> <p>Why Boris? After all, it was Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the openly xenophobic UKIP party, who led the charge to leave the EU. This is, perhaps, a judgment call, but I've long had a stronger disgust for those who tolerate racism than for the open racists themselves. The latter are always going to be around, and sometimes I even have a little sympathy for them. They've often spent their entire lives marinating in racist communities and are as much a victim of their upbringing as any of us.</p> <p>But then there are those who should know better, and Boris Johnson is very much one of them. The usual caveat is in order here: I can't look into Johnson's heart and know what he really thinks. But he's had a long journalistic career, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson_leave.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and an equally long history of tolerating racist sentiments. As a longtime Euroskeptic&mdash;though probably more an opportunistic one rather than a true believer&mdash;it's no surprise that he campaigned for Brexit, but in doing so he knowingly joined hands with Farage and his UKIP zealots, providing them with a respectability they wouldn't have had without him. He knew perfectly well that the Leave campaign would be based primarily on exploiting fear of immigrants, but he joined up anyway.</p> <p>Johnson is hardly the only British politician to act this way, of course. But he's the most prominent one, so he gets to stand in for all of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:48:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 307691 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 June 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here are the cultural references in this morning's four blog posts:</p> <ul><li>Bette Davis, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>All About Eve</em>.</a></li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><em>New York Daily News</em>,</a> October 30, 1975.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Sun</em>,</a> April 11, 1992.</li> <li>Sinclair Lewis, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>It Can't Happen Here</em>.</a></li> </ul><p>And here is Hilbert, one of the primary cultural references for Friday catblogging. How could you possibly walk by this and not give him a tummy rub?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2016_06_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 18:53:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 307606 at Sure, Donald Trump Could Win. Here's How. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Paul Waldman asks:</a> "In Britain, cultural resentments won out over stability. Can Donald Trump create the same result here?"</p> <p>Sure. The odds may be against it, but of course Trump can win in November. Let's set the stage with the observation that both candidates start with about 45 percent support. Like it or not, that's where we are right now. Republicans could nominate Donald Duck and he'd start off with 45 percent support. Ditto for Democrats. That said, here's the most likely path to a Trump victory:</p> <ol><li>Trump gets smart and dials back the cretinism a bit. It wouldn't take long for the #NeverTrumpers to fall in line. The key tells would be statements like "He seems to be finally growing into his role," or "He's right that we can't afford three or four Hillary nominees to the Supreme Court." A few weeks after you hear stuff like this, #NeverTrump will be relegated to the ash heap of history.</li> <li>Bernie Sanders remains bitter and fails to rally his troops, who remain convinced that Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, corporate shill. So they stay home in a funk instead of working to defeat Trump.</li> <li>The media continues its practice of giving Trump air time to spread wild lies whenever he wants. This is fairly likely since they still haven't internalized the corollary to the <a href="" target="_blank">Lesley Stahl lesson:</a> fact checks don't matter. Only the loud, confident assertion matters.</li> <li>Hillary's email troubles don't get resolved and continue to dog her throughout the campaign.</li> </ol><p>None of this relies on any kind of big external event, like a terrorist attack or an economic plunge. It just relies on Trump getting a little smarter and then a few things going his way. It could happen here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:41:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307591 at It Was Immigration Wot Won It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The UK always had one foot in and one foot out of the EU. <strong>(This is the main reason departure seemed such folly; the UK had already opted out of the worst parts of EU membership.)</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've seen a lot of people making similar comments. Britain wasn't part of the euro. They aren't part of Schengen. They're not fully part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. They've retained a case-by-case opt-out in Justice and Home Affairs issues. They get a special rebate <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_breaking_point_farage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">on contributions to the EU budget. And earlier this year, David Cameron negotiated a further package of British opt-outs.</p> <p>So what's the deal? What more did the British want?</p> <p>The answer is simple: an end to immigration. That's it. Elderly Brits didn't vote to leave because of EU laws over the shape of bananas. They voted to leave because they had reached their "breaking point" over the flow of immigrants. They didn't want any more Poles or any more Muslims or any more Pakistanis.</p> <p>It's pretty simple: 52 percent of the electorate voted to keep Britain white. Let's not overthink this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:11:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 307571 at EU to Britain: Drop Dead <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The folks who were opposed to Brexit want Britain to <a href="" target="_blank">get the hell out as soon as possible:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The EU&rsquo;s top leaders have said they expect the UK to act on its momentous vote to leave the union <strong>&ldquo;as soon as possible, however painful that process may be&rdquo;</strong> and that there will be &ldquo;no renegotiation&rdquo;....The German MEP Elmar Brok, who chairs the European parliament&rsquo;s committee on foreign affairs, told the <em>Guardian</em>...&ldquo;They will have to negotiate from the position of a third country, not as a member state. <strong>If Britain wants to have a similar status to Switzerland and Norway, then it will also have to pay into EU <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">structural funds like those countries do. The British public will find out what that means.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>But Brexit's biggest supporter <a href="" target="_blank">suddenly wants to go slow:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Boris Johnson has said Britain should not immediately trigger article 50 to start exit negotiations with the EU after the momentous referendum verdict. In sombre tones and accompanied by fellow Brexit campaigners Gisela Stuart and Michael Gove, the former mayor of London said there was <strong>&ldquo;no need for haste&rdquo;</strong> and &ldquo;nothing will change in the short term&rdquo; in his first press conference since the vote.</p> <p>....<strong>The downbeat press conference reflected a decision by the victorious Vote Leave campaign to try to calm the collapse of the financial markets as the magnitude of the political and economic repercussions unfold.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, Donald Trump says the plummeting pound is <a href="" target="_blank">great news for his golf course in Turnberry,</a> so it's all good.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:04:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 307556 at Blue Cross Pulling Out of Minnesota <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>See update below.</strong></p> <p>This is some <a href="" target="_blank">genuine bad news for Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. "Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," BCBSM said in a statement.</p> <p>....The decision will have far-reaching implications. Blue Cross and Blue Shield says the change will affect about, "103,000 Minnesotans [who] have purchased Blue Cross coverage on their own, through an agent or broker, or on MNsure."</p> </blockquote> <p>When United Healthcare closed up shop, it wasn't that big a deal. UH is a huge insurer, but not a major&nbsp;Obamacare player. Blue Cross is different. It's a huge insurer <em>and</em> a major player in the individual health care market.</p> <p>If this is just a problem with Minnesota, it's not too big a deal. If it's a sign of broader Blue Cross problems nationwide&mdash;and Blue Cross has previously announced losses in Illinois, Michigan, and other states&mdash;then it's a big deal indeed. Fasten your seat belts.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Apparently Blue Cross <a href="" target="_blank">isn't actually pulling out of Minnesota completely:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a sign of continuing tumult in the health insurance industry, the state&rsquo;s largest insurer said Thursday it will no longer offer its traditional suite of flexible and broad-reaching policies for those consumers who don&rsquo;t get coverage through the workplace. Instead, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will sell only health plans with a <strong>narrow network,</strong> which limits patient coverage to specific doctors, hospitals and prescription drug benefits.</p> <p>....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very difficult decision for us,&rdquo; said Michael Guyette, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, who <strong>described the move as a &ldquo;refocusing of our portfolio&rdquo; rather than an all-out exit from the individual market.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So Blue Cross is staying in the individual market, but offering only narrow network plans. That's still bad news for Obamacare, but not nearly as bad as Blue Cross leaving the market entirely.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:40:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 307541 at Brexit Wins <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_bbc_call_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 0px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>British voters have voted to leave the EU. What a waste. I'm skeptical that this will cause economic Armageddon, but I doubt that it will do Britain any good either. Now they'll spend the next three or four years up to their gills in rancorous negotiations on the terms for exit, and all to accomplish next to nothing.</p> <p>In the short term, however, everyone is going to freak out. Financial markets are already throwing a fit, with the pound absolutely cratering. It had strengthened earlier in the week as it looked like Brexit would lose, but earlier tonight, as the first results started trickling in, it dropped like a stone. It <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_pound_cratering_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">lost more than 10 percent of its value in just a few hours, and is now trading at it lowest level against the dollar in 30 years.</p> <p>I don't have any personal axe to grind on Brexit. Except for one: I am sick and tired of watching folks like Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and others appeal to the worst racial instincts of our species, only to be shushed by folks telling me that it's not <em>really</em> racism driving their popularity. It's economic angst. It's regular folks tired of being spurned by out-of-touch elites. It's a natural anxiety over rapid cultural change.</p> <p>Maybe it's all those things. But at its core, it's the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them&mdash;all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we've seen in decades. It's loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I'd ever see in my lifetime. But that's where we are.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 04:12:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307521 at Donald Trump Makes a Dupe of Yet Another TV Professional <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jamelle Bouie makes a seemingly indisputable point about Donald Trump:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is what I mean. Sure Trump can give a speech and then someone asks him a basic question and he falls apart. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) <a href="">June 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Let's dispute this anyway. Bouie is referring to an interview by Lester Holt that's airing tonight on the NBC Nightly News. Here's a slightly cleaned up version of the <a href="" target="_blank">portion he's talking about:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>LESTER HOLT: You also made the claim that [Hillary Clinton's] e-mail, personal e-mail server, had been hacked, probably by foreign governments, suggesting that...she would be compromised as president. What evidence do you have?</p> <p>DONALD TRUMP: Well first of all, she shouldn't have had a personal server, okay? She shouldn't have had it. It's illegal. What she did is illegal. Now she might not be judging that way because, you know, we&nbsp;&mdash; we have a rigged system. But what she did is illegal. She shouldn't have had a personal server &mdash;</p> <p>HOLT: But is there any evidence that it was hacked other than routine fishing attacks?</p> <p>TRUMP: I think I read that and I heard it and somebody &mdash;</p> <p>HOLT: Where?</p> <p>TRUMP:&nbsp;&mdash; that also gave me that information. I will report back to you. I'll give it to you.</p> <p>HOLT: But you just said it with such certainty yesterday.</p> <p>TRUMP: I don't know if certainty. Probably she was hacked. You know, you can be hacked and not know it, but she probably was hacked. The fact is she should not have it, she should not have had a personal server.</p> </blockquote> <p>"I will report back to you." How lame! But before you scoff too much, think about what happened during this brief exchange:</p> <ol><li>Holt repeated the claim that Hillary Clinton's email server had been hacked, "probably by foreign governments."</li> <li>Trump made a little speech about her personal server being illegal</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_holt_interview.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Holt repeated the claim, using the words "hacked" and "fishing attacks."</li> <li>Trump says he read that somewhere and he'll get back to Holt with the evidence.</li> </ol><p>To folks like us, who follow this stuff obsessively, this seems obviously ridiculous. But to the average viewer it's exactly the opposite. Trump has managed to maneuver Holt into spending 40 seconds of his evening newscast repeating damaging charges against Hillary Clinton. Between the two of them, in the space of that 40 seconds, you hear the words <em>personal server</em> four times, <em>hacked</em> five times, <em>illegal</em> three times, and&nbsp;<em>compromised</em>, <em>rigged</em>, and <em>fishing attacks</em> once each. When it's over, Trump promises to produce evidence backing this up. "I will get it to you," he says, in a tone that very much suggests he will indeed get it to us. (Click the link and listen to Trump if you don't believe me about this.)</p> <p>This is the farthest thing from lame. <em>It is an awesome display of media manipulation.</em> The average person will come away from this with one and only one impression: Hillary Clinton probably used an illegal email server that was hacked by foreign governments. Period. Holt's skepticism doesn't even come through because he's too worried about trying to sound professional&mdash;and Trump took advantage of that to make Holt into yet another of his unwitting media dupes. This entire interview was nothing but a huge win for Trump. Holt served up every single thing he wanted on a silver peacock feather.</p> <p>If you don't want to give Trump air time to make baseless charges, then you should refuse to air his baseless charges. This whole section of the interview should have been left on the cutting room floor. If everyone did that, eventually Trump would learn that making wild accusations won't get him precious exposure. But TV news loves wild accusations and pretends that airing them is OK as long as they follow up with a knowing, eyes-raised pronouncement that "no evidence was forthcoming from the Trump campaign." Haha. All of us who are in the know understand what <em>that</em> means.</p> <p>This should stop. Period. Everyone is playing Trump's game, and it's way past time to knock it off.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 23:09:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307506 at Yes, Automation Is Going To Take Away Our Jobs—Eventually <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Will increasingly intelligent automation eventually put humans out of work? There are some plausible reasons to think this might never happen. But there are also some really dumb reasons to think it won't happen. The dumbest, by a mile, is basically, "That's what everyone said about the Industrial Revolution and it just made us richer." This is such a phenomenally stupid argument that I can't even bring myself to waste time explaining why it's so dumb.</p> <p>But there's another surprisingly common bad argument: "Look around, automation is opening up more jobs for people than ever!" I'm not especially trying to pick on Tim Lee here, but I'm pretty surprised to see him <a href="" target="_blank">pushing a version of this claim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our collective obsession with job-stealing robots can cause us to overestimate the impact of automation &mdash; and obscure an important point about the economy. In many service industries, human labor is a mark of luxury. So at the same time robots destroy manufacturing jobs, the demand for labor-intensive services is soaring. We can see the signs of this all around <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_robocop_real_cops.jpg" style="margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">us. There's the rise of Etsy, an online marketplace whose main selling point is that the products are not mass-produced. [etc.]</p> <p>....One way to see this is by looking at the US Labor Department's projections of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States between 2014 and 2024. A bunch of slots are taken up by therapists and caretakers: physical therapists and their aides and assistants, occupational therapy aides and assistants, home health aides.</p> <p>....In a sense, it's possible to automate many aspects of these jobs. Instead of having a therapist come to your home, someone could send you a video demonstrating therapy techniques....For someone who needed therapy care, this kind of semiautomated therapy service would probably be better than nothing. But it's a lot worse than having a face-to-face meeting with a human being...."Therapy" delivered by an app or even a robot is a different kind of service, just as coffee delivered by a vending machine is a different kind of service than a cup of coffee prepared by a human barista.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is crazy. All he's saying is that automation isn't yet good enough to replace human caretakers or human baristas. But no one says otherwise. As for "handmade," that's been a mark of luxury for centuries, ever since "handmade" became a retronym in the first place.</p> <p>It's pointless to argue that automation isn't currently taking away jobs. The evidence is just too ambiguous to allow a firm conclusion on that score, and at most it's had only a small effect anyway. The only interesting question is whether artificial intelligence will <em>eventually</em> get to the point where robots can drive cars and dig trenches and do your taxes and help old people get around. I happen to think the answer is yes, <a href="" target="_blank">probably by around 2030 or 2040 or so</a>&mdash;but I acknowledge that I might be wrong about that. Maybe it will be more like 2070. Or maybe there's some not-yet-understood reason that it will never happen at all. Arguments on that score are welcome.</p> <p>But pointing to the present as evidence that automation is over-hyped is a non-sequitur. Nobody's arguing that robots <em>today</em> can make your coffee or keep the elderly company, so why even bring it up? In another few decades, though, I'll bet the elderly will <em>prefer</em> robot caretakers who are endlessly patient, willing to talk on any subject, and never screw up. There won't be a person in the country who'd prefer the crappy, ill-trained, and unreliable level of care and attention that most nursing home residents receive today.</p> <p>Just to wrap up, then, here are the two worst arguments against the eventual job-killing rise of intelligent robots:</p> <ul><li>The Industrial Revolution didn't put us all out of work.</li> <li>Automation today isn't putting us all out of work.</li> </ul><p>Neither one of these arguments offers the slightest insight into what will happen if and when AI becomes human level or close to it. If you come across either one, just back away slowly and move on to the latest cute cat video on YouTube.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:38:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 307486 at I Would Vote For Bernie Sanders If He'd Promise to Ban Popups on the Web <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>&lt;rant&gt;I had a slight meltdown about an hour ago when a little ScreenTip&reg; showed up in Excel. It was covering something I needed to see and I couldn't get rid of it and I'd finally had enough. I started pounding the keyboard and yelling and just generally scaring the hell out of the cats. This is probably a sign that I need to restart my meds,<sup>1</sup> but it's also a sign that I'm so sick and tired of the endless crap that pops up on my computer that I feel like screaming sometimes. Seriously, does every goddam page on the internet have to feature some kind of popup either when I land or when I leave or when I mouse over the wrong thing or whatever? Can't I just read in peace? For a few minutes at least? Please?&lt;/rant&gt;</p> <p>The answer is no, of course. And surely one of the most hated popups on the internet is the omnipresent ForeSee survey popup. And just to piss <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_foresee_survey.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">me off even more, check out the gloriously buzzword-laden gobbledegook they <a href="" target="_blank">serve up on their "About Us" page:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As a pioneer in <strong>customer experience analytic</strong>s, ForeSee continuously measures satisfaction with the customer experience and delivers <strong>powerful insights</strong> on where organizations should prioritize improvements for <strong>maximum impact</strong>. ForeSee applies its trusted technology across channels and <strong>customer touch points</strong>, including websites, contact centers, retail stores, mobile and tablet sites and apps and <strong>social media initiatives</strong>. Executives and managers confidently <strong>prioritize efforts</strong> that achieve business goals because ForeSee&rsquo;s proven methodology is <strong>predictive of customer loyalty</strong>, purchase behavior, future financial success and even stock prices.</p> </blockquote> <p>Jesus Christ. Is there anyone left in the tech industry who can write in ordinary English? And more to the point, is there some cookie or something I can install that will prevent all ForeSee popups from ever sullying my screen ever again?&lt;/rant for real this time&gt;</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Unfortunately, this is not a joke. My med-free experiment doesn't seem to be working well. It's probably time to start up the Effexor again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:52:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307466 at USDA: Avocado Consumption Has Skyrocketed In the 21st Century <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Vox today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A new analysis published in <em>JAMA</em> this week looked at US eating habits from 1999 to 2012 and found that...there was no change in total fruits and vegetables consumed. (When Americans do eat vegetables, <strong>fully half of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_usda_potato_vegetable.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">them are tomatoes and potatoes</strong> &mdash; often in the form of sugar-laden ketchup and greasy fries.)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wait. Potatoes are a vegetable? <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a> skirts the question entirely by calling them a "starchy, tuberous crop"&mdash;and pretty much everything that grows is a crop. <a href="" target="_blank">Britain's Department of Health</a> dithers: "Potatoes are botanically classified as a vegetable, but they are classified nutritionally as a starchy food." The USDA just flatly calls them vegetables. <a href=";ref=collection&amp;embed=True&amp;widgetId=37373" target="_blank">As the chart on the right shows,</a> potatoes account for 30 percent of America's consumption of "vegetables and legumes." And they aren't legumes, are they?</p> <p>Fine. Technically they're a vegetable. You learn something new every day. And I'm not just saying that. You really <em>can</em> learn something new every day from the USDA. Following the link to this little pie chart led me to <a href="" target="_blank">ERS Charts of Note,</a> a daily chart from the USDA's Economic Research Service. And it's great! Here are some recent charts:</p> <ul><li>Supermarket shrink varies by type of fresh fruit and vegetable</li> <li>Most U.S. farm estates exempt from Federal estate tax in 2015</li> <li>U.S. milk production continues to grow</li> <li>India is the world&rsquo;s leading importer of soybean oil</li> <li>U.S. honey consumption per person has risen in recent years</li> <li>U.S. stocks of natural cheese are at the highest levels since 1984</li> <li>A growing number of school meals are served at no charge to students</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_usda_avocado_imports.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Avocado imports grow to meet increasing U.S. demand</li> </ul><p>They're not kidding about the avocado imports, either. In the past 15 years, per-capita avocado consumption has increased from two pounds per person to seven pounds per person. Virtually all of that increase has been supplied by imports from Mexico, which are probably super cheap thanks to NAFTA. If Donald Trump had his way, your typical guac-drenched fast-food burrito wouldn't exist. What kind of a world would that be?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:22:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 307461 at Weekly Flint Water Report: June 10-16 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 137 samples. The average for the past week was 7.05.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_06_16.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:03:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 307451 at Should the Press Call Donald Trump a Liar? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_clinton_liar.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The <em>LA Times</em> headline for Donald Trump's big attack speech yesterday is on the right. Trump called Hillary Clinton a "liar," but his own speech included "falsehoods." Here's a small sample of other headlines:</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank">New York Times:</a> Donald Trump Returns Fire, Calling Hillary Clinton a &lsquo;World-Class Liar&rsquo;</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">USA Today:</a> Amid campaign troubles, Trump blasts Clinton as 'world-class liar'</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal:</a> Donald Trump Attacks Hillary Clinton as &lsquo;Corrupt&rsquo;....Presumptive Republican presidential nominee accuses Democratic rival of using State Department for &lsquo;personal profit&rsquo;</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">CBS:</a> Donald Trump's speech on Hillary Clinton filled with distortions</li> </ul><p>The traditional media has something of a taboo against using the word <em>lie</em>. Generally speaking, this is for the best. But now we're faced with a new situation: a presidential candidate who uses the word constantly while spouting obvious lies himself. This is not a partisan complaint: Virtually everyone who covers Trump agrees that he lies constantly and with gusto.</p> <p>So should the old custom still hold? I'm not so sure. If Trump is going to loudly call Hillary Clinton a liar at every opportunity, perhaps his own lies should be called what they are. Not falsehoods. Not distortions. Lies.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:05:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307441 at Affirmative Action Upheld, Executive Action on Immigration Struck Down <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Supreme Court upheld affirmative action at the University of Texas today, <a href=";tid=a_breakingnews&amp;utm_term=.f937f347fc30" target="_blank">but deadlocked on DAPA, President Obama's executive action on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Supreme Court handed President Obama a significant legal defeat on Thursday, refusing to revive his stalled plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them the right to work legally in this country. The court&rsquo;s liberals and conservatives deadlocked, which leaves in place a lower court&rsquo;s decision that the president exceeded his powers in issuing the directive.</p> </blockquote> <p>What does this mean? A district court in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against DAPA, which was upheld by the appeals court and now by the Supreme Court. Or, to be more accurate, it <em>wasn't overturned</em> by the Supreme Court. So it stays in place. But can an appeals court rule for the whole country? What happens if a similar case goes forward in, say, California, and the 9th Circuit rules differently?</p> <p>We shall have to wait and see. Ruling against a president on immigration is unusual to say the least, so this case suggests either (a) Obama really was out on a limb with DAPA or (b) nobody cares very much about precedent or the law anymore. Liberals rule for Obama and conservatives rule against him, and that's that. I'm not entirely sure which I believe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:00:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 307416 at Donald Trump Is Frying My Brain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is Donald Trump talking to an evangelical audience on Tuesday about <a href="" target="_blank">how he raised his children:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I always tell people, &ldquo;No drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes.&rdquo; And I add to some &mdash; if it&rsquo;s appropriate: I say, <strong>if they go to church and if they start at a young age, that&rsquo;s a tremendous asset</strong>.... I went to Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica....<strong> It was like, you go to Sunday school, you have to do that</strong>.... Today, I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s so automatic. And maybe we can get back into a position where it&rsquo;s automatic.</p> </blockquote> <p>I know I'll never get an answer, but I have to ask: Did any of Trump's kids go to Sunday school back in the day? Does Barron go to Sunday school now? Does Trump ever attend church? How about his grown kids? Just asking.</p> <p>You might have noticed that this item is from yesterday. So was the picture of Trump with Jerry Falwell Jr. My post this morning about <em>Utah v. Strieff</em> is two days late. What's going on with that? Well, you know how your inbox can get filled up and you just get behind on <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brain_trump_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">everything? That's how I feel. My brain is hopelessly backed up and I'm behind on everything. Sometime tomorrow I'll finally figure out what happened today.</p> <p>I blame Trump for this. He's brought a level of gobsmacking idiocy to the news that worms its way into my brain and won't let go. I get obsessed with what he's blathering about. Did he <em>really</em> say that? And people believed it? There has to be something more to it. But what? Has our national bullshit detector suddenly gone pear shaped? Why? How is it that 45 percent of the country apparently doesn't realize that he's basically just a talented used car salesman? It makes no sense. There's no way that anyone with even the slightest experience of real life could fail to see that he lies practically every time he opens his mouth. That he can't be trusted to do even the smallest thing he promises. What's going on? WTF. IS. GOING. ON?</p> <p>This is my brain on Trump. It wants answers. But there are no answers. Just endless, endless spinning. It is trapped in a world gone haywire.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 04:28:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307396 at Chart of the Day: Comparing School Districts in Different Cities <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>How are our big cities doing when it comes to educating their students? It's easy to look at overall test scores, but that doesn't tell you much. In general, whites score better than Hispanics and Hispanics score better than blacks on the "gold standard" NAEP test. This means that some cities will do better or worse than others depending on how many kids of different racial groups they have, and nearly all cities will do worse than the national average, which is whiter than most large urban areas.</p> <p>What to do? <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias</a> points us to <a href="" target="_blank">a study from Kristin Blagg of the Urban Institute,</a> who controlled for a whole bunch of factors<sup>1</sup> and then produced "adjusted" scores for 23 different cities. (Spoiler alert: Boston is best, Detroit is worst.) That's useful, but there's an easier way to look at this&mdash;cruder, admittedly, but still useful: just look at the scores for a single ethnic group and see how they do in different cities. Here, for example, are the scores in 8th grade reading for black kids in our four biggest cities plus Washington DC:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_naep_cities_black_8th_grade_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>By 2015, all four of the biggest cities were doing about equally well, and they were all right around the national average. This suggests that the underlying quality of schooling is roughly average in all four. Washington DC, however, is an outlier. Black kids perform a full ten points worse than black kids in other cities. By the usual rule of thumb, that's a full grade level.</p> <p>But how about improvement? Here's how scores have increased since 2003:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_naep_cities_black_8th_grade_scale_100_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This time, the big outlier is Los Angeles, which has improved by about 6 percentage points. The others have all improved by about 1 percentage point&mdash;except for Washington DC again. Basically, the DC school district looks like a disaster. Its absolute quality is low <em>and</em> its rate of improvement is abysmal.</p> <p>I picked this example more or less at random. You could look at math scores instead, or a combination of both math and reading. You could look at 4th grade scores. You could look at Hispanics or whites. I chose reading because I think it's a better indicator of learning; 8th grade because later grades are more important than earlier grades; and blacks because there are big issues with well-off white kids self-selecting into private schools at different rates in different cities. If you want to look at things differently, the raw data is easily accessible, and it only takes a few minutes to turn it into a colorful chart.</p> <p>Bottom line: If you live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston, your school district is probably OK. Not great, necessarily, and obviously there can be big differences from school to school. But contrary to conventional wisdom, it's probably OK. Go ahead and send your kids to public school.</p> <p>As for Washington DC, I don't know what the deal is. But if you have the wherewithal, avoiding the public school system might be a good idea.</p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>Blagg controls for gender, race and ethnicity, eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch, limited English proficiency, special education status, age, whether the student was given a testing accommodation, the amount of English spoken at the student&rsquo;s home, and the student&rsquo;s family structure (e.g., two-parent, single-parent, and foster). This is obviously far more sophisticated than merely looking at a single ethnic group, as I'm doing. On the other hand, I confess to a vague unease with studies that try to control for so many variables, especially when a lot of them are collinear. But that's just me.</p> <p>On the other hand, income&mdash;and, in particular, concentrated poverty&mdash;are pretty important. Just looking at a single ethnic group doesn't control for that. On the other hand, eligibility for the school lunch program is the only income proxy available, and as a measure of poverty it's <a href="" target="_blank">pretty lousy</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">getting lousier</a> over time. We just don't have a very good way of comparing levels of poverty between school districts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 00:53:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 307391 at Researchers Discover Amazing Trick for Raising Your IQ <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_einstein.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Can brain-training games increase your IQ? Some studies suggest they can, but a group of George Mason psychologists were suspicious. Maybe IQs increased only because participants knew they were engaging in a study of intelligence, with the placebo effect doing all the heavy lifting. To test this, the GMU researchers recruited two different groups of students: one was told they were participating in a brain-training study, while the other was told it was just "a study." <a href="" target="_blank">Brian Resnick tells us what happened:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The researchers had 25 participants in each group. They then tested their fluid intelligence, had them play a memory training game for one hour, and then tested their intelligence again.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s important to note that there&rsquo;s absolutely no reason one hour of training should make any reasonable difference when it comes to enhancing IQ. But amazingly, the placebo group&rsquo;s IQ jumped, while the other group&rsquo;s IQ remained flat....<strong>The placebo group grew "smarter" because they expected to grow smarter.</strong> (Perhaps they were more focused and concentrated on the tests, which increased their scores. It&rsquo;s also evidence for how important motivation can be for cognitive performance.)</p> </blockquote> <p>The conclusion is that brain-training games don't really do anything to increase intelligence and that brain-training research should be rigorous. But that sure seems like it's burying the lead. If this research is reliable, it tells us that a mere <em>expectation</em> of brain training will increase your IQ by a whopping five points. And I don't mean "whopping" in a sarcastic sense, either. An IQ of 100 means you're smarter than half the population. Raising that to 105 makes you smarter than 63 percent of the population. All that from mere expectations.</p> <p>Sadly, the research probably <em>isn't</em> reliable. It's based on two groups of 25 students. I'll bet ten dollars that it doesn't replicate if someone else tries it.</p> <p>But I'd sure like to see someone <em>try</em> to replicate it. If it pans out, we've just discovered the easiest way ever to increase IQs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Jun 2016 22:48:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 307386 at Jerry Falwell Jr. Poses With Miss October 1987, And Evangelicals Are Not Amused <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In case you're curious, here's what's currently making the rounds in evangelical circles. I've helpfully annotated it for you. You're welcome.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_falwell_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:57:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 307376 at Supreme Court Says Illegal Police Stops Are OK as Long as They Find an Outstanding Warrant Afterward <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago the Supreme Court released its opinion in <em>Utah v. Strieff</em>. The facts of the case are pretty simple. Working from an anonymous tip about drug dealing, a police detective staked out a house and then randomly detained a man named Edward Strieff as he was leaving. He had no probable cause to do this, but he did it anyway. Then he demanded Strieff's ID, ran a background check, and discovered that Strieff <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_strieff.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">had an outstanding warrant for a traffic violation. Bingo. That was enough to arrest him and conduct a search, which turned up some meth.</p> <p>There's no argument about whether the stop was valid. It wasn't. It was plainly unlawful, and the officer who made the stop certainly knew that. However, the court ruled that the illegality of the stop was "attenuated" by the outstanding warrant. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Clarence Thomas's astonishingly cavalier decision:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Officer Fackrell was at most negligent.... <strong>two good-faith mistakes</strong>.... lacked a sufficient basis to conclude that Strieff was a short-term visitor.... should have asked Strieff whether he would speak with him, instead of demanding that Strieff do so.... his conduct thereafter was lawful.... the warrant check was a &ldquo;negligibly burdensome precautio[n]&rdquo;.... search of Strieff was a lawful search incident to arrest....<strong> no indication that this unlawful stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct.</strong></p> <p>....Strieff argues that, because of the prevalence of outstanding arrest warrants in many jurisdictions, police will engage in dragnet searches if the exclusionary rule is not applied. We think that this outcome is unlikely. <strong>Such wanton conduct would expose police to civil liability.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Nickel version: There's no reason to think that Officer Fackrell knew he was acting unlawfully. And no reason to think that this kind of "innocent mistake" happens frequently. After all, this would expose police departmentd to civil liability, and history suggests that's plenty to deter police from illegal conduct. And anyway, everything following the illegal conduct was just standard procedure. No need to be concerned about it.</p> <p>This willful exercise in ivory tower fantasy is breathtaking. Does anyone seriously believe that Officer Fackrell just made an innocent mistake? That goes far beyond garden variety naivete. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who apparently knows a little more about the real world than Thomas, wrote a blistering dissent:</p> <blockquote> <p>To the Court, the fact that a warrant gives an officer cause to arrest a person severs the connection between illegal policing and the resulting discovery of evidence. <strong>This is a remarkable proposition: The mere existence of a warrant not only gives an officer legal cause to arrest and search a person, it also forgives an officer who, with no knowledge of the warrant at all, unlawfully stops that person on a whim or hunch....</strong> Remember, the officer stopped Strieff without suspecting him of committing any crime. By his own account, the officer did not fear Strieff.</p> <p>....The majority also posits that the officer could not have exploited his illegal conduct because he did not violate the Fourth Amendment on purpose.... Never mind that the officer&rsquo;s sole purpose was to fish for evidence..... [But] even officers <strong>prone to negligence</strong> <em>[note the obvious sarcasm here. &ndash;ed.]</em> can learn from courts that exclude illegally obtained evidence. Indeed, they are perhaps the most in need of the education.</p> <p>....Most striking about the Court&rsquo;s opinion is its insistence that the event here was &ldquo;isolated&rdquo;... .nothing about this case is isolated. Outstanding warrants are surprisingly common.... The States and Federal Government maintain databases with over 7.8 million outstanding warrants, the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses.... The Department of Justice recently reported that in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people had outstanding warrants against them.</p> <p>....By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. <strong>It says that your body is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_police_stop_search.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights.</strong> It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's more, and it's worth reading. Sotomayor marshals a considerable amount of real-world evidence in her dissent. Thomas marshals none whatsoever. One justice just blandly assumes that this whole affair was a minor mistake that shouldn't affect the end result. The other knows perfectly well that this kind of thing happens all the time; that it happens to some kinds of people more than others; and that by legitimizing it, the court is sending a message that fishing expeditions against suspicionless pedestrians are perfectly OK. Elena Kagan, if anything, is even more dumbfounded than Sotomayor by the court's casual indifference to how the real world works:</p> <blockquote> <p>The majority chalks up Fackrell&rsquo;s Fourth Amendment violation to a couple of innocent &ldquo;mistakes.&rdquo; <strong>But far from a Barney Fife-type mishap, Fackrell&rsquo;s seizure of Strieff was a calculated decision, taken with so little justification that the State has never tried to defend its legality.</strong> At the suppression hearing, Fackrell acknowledged that the stop was designed for investigatory purposes&mdash;i.e., to &ldquo;find out what was going on [in] the house&rdquo; he had been watching, and to figure out &ldquo;what [Strieff] was doing there.&rdquo; And Fackrell frankly admitted that he had no basis for his action except that Strieff &ldquo;was coming out of the house.&rdquo;</p> <p>And Fackrell&rsquo;s discovery of an arrest warrant&mdash;the only event the majority thinks intervened&mdash;was an eminently foreseeable consequence of stopping Strieff. As Fackrell testified, checking for outstanding warrants during a stop is the &ldquo;normal&rdquo; practice of South Salt Lake City police. <strong>In other words, the department&rsquo;s standard detention procedures&mdash;stop, ask for identification, run a check&mdash;are partly designed to find outstanding warrants. And find them they will, given the staggering number of such warrants on the books.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Both the opinion and the dissents are remarkable pieces of writing. But the end result is clear. Police can now stop you in hopes of finding an outstanding warrant, and if they get lucky the Supreme Court says everything they do afterward is fine. This is exactly the kind of behavior the Supreme Court is supposed to stop, not the kind of behavior they're supposed to excuse.</p> <p>This will never affect me. It will never affect anyone on the court. But will it affect the poor and the nonwhite in far greater numbers than anyone else? Oh yes. But you'd have to care even slightly about how the real world works to be worried about that. Thomas and four others don't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Jun 2016 19:36:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 307351 at Paul Ryan Wants to Increase the Medicare Eligibility Age to 67 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Republicans announce a lot of health care plans. All of them are <a href="" target="_blank">essentially the same,</a> "a familiar hodgepodge of tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pools, block granting of Medicaid, tort reform, and interstate purchase of health plans." Today, after months of cogitating, House Republicans have <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_paul_ryan_gop.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">finally agreed on yet another health care plan. It's not a hodgepodge, however, it's a "backpack." Beyond that, however, <a href="" target="_blank">it should sound pretty familiar:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In place of President Barack Obama&rsquo;s health law, House Republicans propose providing Americans with refundable tax credits.... catastrophic insurance.... health-savings accounts.... plans offered in other states.... fee-for-service insurance through a newly created Medicare insurance exchange <em>[not a voucher! not a voucher! absolutely positively not a voucher! &ndash;ed.]</em>.... pay taxes on the value of whatever health insurance employers provide.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. There's no mention of high-risk pools or tort reform or Medicaid block grants. What the hell is going on here? Who was responsible for&mdash;oh, wait. Maybe the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> just did a lousy job of describing the GOP plan. I can hardly blame them for not taking it too seriously. Let's check in with the <em>Washington Post:</em></p> <blockquote> <p>The GOP plan floats a variety of proposals.... refundable tax credit.... health savings accounts.... &ldquo;high-risk pools&rdquo;.... Medicaid funds would be handed to the states either as block grants or as per-capita allotments.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now we're talking. Every single buzzword is there except for tort reform. <a href="" target="_blank">But maybe I should check in with Reuters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Republican proposal would gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age, which currently is 65, to match that of the Social Security pension plan, which is 67 for people born in 1960 or later....The Republican plan includes medical liability reform that would put a cap on non-economic damages awarded in lawsuits, a measure aimed at cutting overall healthcare costs.</p> </blockquote> <p>Tort reform is there after all! And as an extra added bonus, the Medicare eligibility age goes up to 67. Hallelujah!</p> <p>How could this possibly have taken more than five minutes to write? It's identical to every health care plan ever proposed by Republicans. There is, of course, no funding mechanism, possibly because Republicans know perfectly well that it will do nothing and therefore require no funding. But here's my favorite bit of well-hidden snark from the <em>Washington Post</em> account:</p> <blockquote> <p>The most significant omission from the Republican health-care plan, though, is to what degree it will maintain &mdash; or, more likely, reduce &mdash; insurance coverage for Americans....Asked about the plan&rsquo;s effect on coverage, a Republican leadership aide said Monday, <strong>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re getting to the dynamic effect of the plan and we can&rsquo;t answer that until the committees start to legislate.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>But there is a significant clue in the GOP plan that it <strong>anticipates a surge in the ranks of the uninsured.</strong> Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government&rsquo;s primary mechanism for compensating health providers for delivering care to the uninsured was through &ldquo;disproportionate share hospital&rdquo; payments, or DSH, which are allocated to facilities that treated large numbers of the uninsured. Under Obamacare, DSH payments were set to be phased out because coverage rates <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_uninsured_4q2015.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">were expected to increase dramatically.... <strong>The Republican plan would repeal those cuts entirely.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Bottom line: this is just the usual conservative mush. It would accomplish nothing. It would insure no one. It would wipe out all the gains of Obamacare. Millions of people would have their current health care ripped away from them, all so that Republicans can repeal the 3.8 percent tax on high-earner investment income that funds Obamacare.</p> <p>And just for good measure, it will also raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. Because apparently, the old hodgepodge just wasn't quite Scrooge-like enough.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Jun 2016 16:55:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 307331 at Brexit Is a Battle of the Generations <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Tomorrow is Brexit Day, and by far the biggest demographic split is between young and old. Young voters overwhelmingly want to remain in the EU. Older voters <a href="" target="_blank">overwhelmingly want to leave:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_young_old.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>If young voters don't bother to turn out, Britain will end up with the worst imaginable world&mdash;and that's regardless of whether you support or oppose Brexit. This isn't an ordinary election, after all. It's one thing for older voters to to get their way about, say, a presidential candidate. In a few years you get another crack at things, and maybe your generation wins that one.</p> <p>But Brexit is a permanent thing. If a bunch of nostalgic/resentful/racist oldsters vote Britain out of the EU, they'll be forcing their bitterness on a generation that doesn't want it. The truth is that Brexit will barely affect older voters either way: they mostly don't work and they mostly have only local friendships. But it will certainly affect all of the younger generations, who have decades left to live in whatever Britain is bequeathed to them. They want to grow up in a continent where they can work wherever they want and associate with whomever they please. It would be a travesty for a sour group of elderly misanthropes to deny them that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Jun 2016 15:52:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 307316 at