Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/01/rss/authors/142 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Quote of the Day: Marco Rubio Thinks US Troops Would Have Intimidated Nouri al-Maliki http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-marco-rubio-thinks-us-troops-would-have-intimidated-nouri-al-maliki <!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.mediaite.com/tv/rubio-promises-permanent-u-s-military-presence-in-mideast-if-hes-elected-president/" target="_blank">From Sen. Marco Rubio (R&ndash;Fla.),</a> explaining why he'd keep a big slug of troops somewhere in the Middle East if he were president:</p> <blockquote> <p>If the U.S. had had a presence [in Iraq], we would have had more leverage over how Maliki conducted his affairs, you would have had a more stable region, but also a place where you could conduct operations against other threats in the region.</p> </blockquote> <p>This kind of stuff is crazy. We had troops in Iraq for a decade. During that time, which spanned two different US presidents, we had virtually no success at getting Nouri al-Maliki to form an inclusive government that didn't gratuitously piss off Sunnis as a routine element of policy. Hell, Maliki didn't even take advantage of the Sunni Awakening, which was the best opportunity ever likely to come along to forge a Sunni-Shia alliance, to change his stripes. If that didn't do the trick, along with a hundred thousand American troops and near-daily calls with President Bush, what possible hope is there that a small residual force would have had any leverage at all?</p> <p>This is the kind of thing that drives me batty. I get that Republicans want to criticize Obama. That's pretty much the job description of the opposition party. I also get that the default Republican response to any national security initiative from President Obama is a reflexive "Do more." That's how they keep their hawkish reputation intact. But this kind of thing just flatly makes no sense. Does Rubio really believe this nonsense, or does he just spout it on Fox News because he figures it sounds plausible?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 23 Sep 2014 22:54:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 260891 at http://www.motherjones.com The Heartwarming Story of Arab Support for Our Bombing Campaign http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/heartwarming-story-arab-support-our-bombing-campaign <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_middle_east_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Speaking of things to remain skeptical of, the very top of the list certainly has to include the news that our staunch allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan participated in <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-white-house-allies-syria-isis-20140923-story.html" target="_blank">yesterday's airstrikes in Syria:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A U.S. official said that all five Arab countries were believed to have joined U.S. warplanes, <strong>although it is still unclear how many countries dropped bombs during the operation.</strong> The official asked not to be identified to discuss sensitive operational details.</p> <p>Dempsey said that the first Arab government told U.S. officials that it would participate in attacks on Syria &ldquo;within the last 72 hours&rdquo; and that once that occurred, the other four soon promised to participate. <strong>He would not identify which country was the first to back the U.S. airstrikes.</strong></p> <p>....<strong>There are still major questions about how committed governments in the region are to helping the U.S. and Iraq,</strong> whose government is dominated by Shia Arabs, against the well-armed militants, who have claimed large areas of eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq over the last year.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the nickel version: After months of bellyaching about America's commitment to fighting ISIS, one single Arab country finally<em> </em>agreed to help out. Only then did anyone else also agree to pitch in. But the extent of their involvement can't be revealed because it's a "sensitive operational detail."</p> <p>Can you guess just how extensive that involvement is? Or do you need a hint?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 23 Sep 2014 16:29:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 260841 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Bombing Syria, Just Like Obama Said He Would http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/were-bombing-syria-just-obama-said-he-would <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The front page is dominated almost entirely this morning by the news that we're bombing ISIS militants in Syria. I confess that this doesn't strike me as worthy of quite such breathless coverage. Two weeks ago President Obama said he was going to bomb Syria, and now he's doing it. Did anyone expect him not to follow through on this?</p> <p>But of course I get it. Bombs are headline generators whether they're expected or not. After reading all the reports, though, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/09/23/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-the-u-s-led-bombing-campaign-in-syria/" target="_blank">Dan Drezner is pessimistic:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I said last week that I&rsquo;d start making point predictions here. So, here goes: I&rsquo;m 70 percent certain that there will be no fundamental change in the Islamic State&rsquo;s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq for the rest of this calendar year.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's probably a good bet. This isn't because aerial campaigns have no value. Of course they do. It's because in most cases they have <em>limited</em> value unless they're used in support of ground troops with a well-defined mission. And so far, there's no well-defined mission and no one is committing ground troops to the fight. Presumably the new Iraqi government will send in troops eventually, and then we'll see whether our commitment of air resources was worthwhile. Until then we just won't know.</p> <p>As an aside, for the next few months I'd treat virtually every announcement from either ISIS or the Pentagon with extreme skepticism. Some of what they say may be true and some may not, but there's really no way to know which is which. We can parse all this stuff til the cows come home, but that won't change our fundamental ignorance. Don't take anything at face value no matter where it comes from.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 23 Sep 2014 14:23:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 260831 at http://www.motherjones.com Who's Going to Pay For the Latest Iraq War? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/whos-going-pay-latest-iraq-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bomb.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Andrew Sullivan wonders why fiscal conservatives aren't asking some searching questions about the <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/09/22/does-the-gop-really-give-a-shit-about-the-debt/" target="_blank">cost of the ISIS campaign:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The ISIS campaign is utterly amorphous and open-ended at this point&nbsp;&mdash; exactly the kind of potentially crippling government program Republicans usually want to slash. It could last more than three years (and that&rsquo;s what they&rsquo;re saying at the outset); the cost is estimated by some to be around $15 billion a year, but no one really knows. The last phase of the same war cost, when all was said and done, something close to $1.5 trillion &ndash; and our current travails prove that this was one government program that clearly failed to achieve its core original objectives, and vastly exceeded its original projected costs.</p> <p>If this were a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure project for the homeland, we&rsquo;d be having hearing after hearing on how ineffective and crony-ridden it is; there would be government reports on its cost-benefit balance; there would be calls to end it tout court. But a massive government program that can be seen as a form of welfare dependency for the actual countries&nbsp;&mdash; Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Kurdistan&nbsp;&mdash; facing the crisis gets almost no scrutiny at all.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. The only problem with Sullivan's post is the headline: "Does The GOP Really Give A Shit About The Debt?" Surely that's not a serious question? Of course they don't. They care about cutting taxes on the rich and cutting spending on the poor. The deficit is a convenient cudgel for advancing that agenda, but as Sullivan says, "it is hard to resist the conclusion, after the last few weeks, that it&rsquo;s all a self-serving charade."</p> <p>Indeed it is. And not just after the last few weeks. After all, if they did care, they'd be demanding that we raise taxes to fund the cost of our latest military adventure. Right?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Iraq Military Mon, 22 Sep 2014 18:00:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 260751 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Time For Kansas to Rejoin the Real World http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/its-time-kansas-rejoin-real-world <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Republican governor of Kansas has pauperized his state in order to fund tax cuts for the rich, while the Republican Secretary of State is <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/kobachs-ballot-disclaimer-worsens-kansas-circus" target="_blank">busily trying to game the midterm ballot</a> to ensure the reelection of the current Republican senior senator. I'd think this was a parody from the <em>Onion</em> if I didn't know it was for real. I sure hope the good folks of Kansas finally manage to come to their senses this November.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:27:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 260746 at http://www.motherjones.com Everyone Please Calm Down About the White House Jumper http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/everyone-please-calm-down-about-white-house-jumper <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In response to the fence-jumper who got inside the White House before being apprehended, the Secret Service is considering the possibility of creating a larger "buffer zone" <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-service-considers-screening-tourists-outside-white-house-adding-barriers/2014/09/21/f4edb4a4-41f1-11e4-b437-1a7368204804_story.html?wpmk=MK0000200" target="_blank">around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One proposal is to keep people off the sidewalks around the White House fence and create several yards of additional barrier around the compound&rsquo;s perimeter. Another is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_white_house_tourist.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to screen visitors as far as a block away from the entrance gates.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/secret-service-messes-up-and-we-pay-the-price-no-way/2014/09/22/3c81ded0-4256-11e4-9a15-137aa0153527_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">Petula Dvorak is outraged:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now the Secret Service &mdash; which hasn&rsquo;t exactly covered itself in glory the past few years &mdash; wants us to pay for its mistake, to once again intrude on more public space and make suspects out of millions of visitors, residents and office workers who come near the White House every day. To further encroach on the country&rsquo;s most important values: our openness and our freedom.</p> <p>The security gurus think they might want to keep people off the sidewalks around the nation&rsquo;s most famous residence. Or maybe screen tourists a block away from the White House. They want to Anschluss even more public space to expand The Perimeter around 1600 Pennsylvania, amping up the feeling of hostility, fear and paranoia that already pervades the heart of our nation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Dvorak speaks for me, and I hope she speaks for plenty of others too. This crap has just got to stop. We simply can't continue this endless series of insane overreactions every time something bad happens. Sometimes an incident is just an incident. In this case, the Secret Service needs to examine its procedures and probably tighten up a thing or two. That's it.</p> <p>This is a case where no-drama Obama really needs to step in. For God's sake, let's dial down the drama on this whole affair. It's nowhere near as big a deal as it's being played up to be.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Mon, 22 Sep 2014 16:19:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 260731 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Isn't Perfect, But That's No Reason to Give Up On It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obamacare-isnt-perfect-thats-no-reason-give-it <!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.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/how-discriminate-against-pre-existing-conditions-two-easy-tiers" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> I noted that health insurance companies were starting to price certain drugs at higher rates. Not just certain brands of drugs, but entire classes of drugs. This is being done in an apparent attempt to discourage patients with certain conditions from applying for insurance. Better to have some other insurance company pick up the cost of their expensive illness.</p> <p>The reason this is happening is that Obamacare prohibits insurance companies from turning away customers with pre-existing conditions. So instead they need to find cleverer ways of making sure they're someone else's problem. <a href="http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2014/09/unintended_cons_5.html" target="_blank">David Henderson comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I predict that none of this will cause Kevin Drum to reconsider his pre-existing view that pricing for pre-existing conditions should be illegal.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite right. When it comes to Obamacare, there are two kinds of people. Henderson is the first kind. Whenever they hear about a problem, their invariable response is that this proves Obamacare is a hopeless mess and needs to be abandoned.</p> <p>I'm the second kind. When I hear about a problem, my response is that we need to try to fix it. This is because I believe everyone should have access to decent health care at a reasonable price, and one way or another, we need to figure out how to provide it. We don't give up just because it's hard.</p> <p>For what it's worth, this particular problem is not something that's taken any of us by surprise. Capitalism has a well-known capacity for motivating people to find clever ways to make money, and Obamacare supporters were all keenly aware that insurance companies would try to game the rules to maximize their profits. It was one of those things that required constant vigilance. Unfortunately, that never happened because it turned out that Republicans in Congress are so uncompromisingly opposed to Obamacare that they've prevented problems of any kind from being addressed, apparently in the hope that someday these problems will grow serious enough that the public will turn against the whole thing.</p> <p>I guess you can decide for yourself if you consider that a praiseworthy response to a law you don't like. I consider it loathsome myself. As for my pre-existing view about pre-existing conditions, that's easily explained. I supported Obamacare as a good first step, but if I had my way the whole edifice would get torn down and replaced with a sensible national health care plan of the kind used by virtually every other civilized country on the planet. This is because health care of the kind that civilized people desire simply isn't a good that can be efficiently provided by the free market, for reasons that are fairly obvious to anyone familiar with the literature. Nor is this just an academic point. Half a century of experience shows us that national health care works better on nearly every measure than our Rube Goldberg system. It's not perfect, because nothing ever is. But it would be a big step forward.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 22 Sep 2014 15:57:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 260726 at http://www.motherjones.com The Great "Out-0f-Network" Scam Is Eating Patients Alive. And It's Supposed To. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/great-out-0f-network-scam-eating-patients-alive-and-its-supposed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over the weekend, Elizabeth Rosenthal gave us the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/us/drive-by-doctoring-surprise-medical-bills.html" target="_blank">latest installment in her series of rage-inducing stories about the American health care system.</a> Like all the others in the series, it was all but ignored by the rest of the world. I guess everyone was too busy panicking over the White House fence jumper or figuring out ways to one-up each other in their withering scorn for Roger Goodell.</p> <p>Or, like me, they've just given up even hoping that anyone will ever do anything about it. Saturday's installment was about a medical practice that infuriates me more than almost any other: the routine practice of creating artificial and insanely high "list prices" for procedures that bear no relation to reality and exist for only one reason: to occasionally take advantage of the people who are most vulnerable to abusive pricing. That includes the uninsured, who can least afford it, and those who are already on the gurney going into surgery, who are barely in any condition to fight back.</p> <p>Rosenthal's latest piece is about the increasingly common practice of calling in "assistants" during surgical procedures who aren't covered by the patient's insurance and are therefore not subject to rates negotiated with the insurance company. This allows them to charge as much as they feel like, and then to harass patients with bill collectors forever unless they pay up. Here's a graphic that accompanied the article:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_out_of_network_charges.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p> <p>The stomach-turning part of this is that it's so obvious what's going on. Clearly, the muscle and skin graft in the first example can be done for about $2,000, which produces a decent income for the doctor. So what's the reason for list price topping $150,000? There isn't one. It's solely so doctors can scam the occasional patient and make a fast buck. As long as it's not a Medicare or Medicaid procedure, and it's out-of-network, there are no rules. So why not?</p> <p>Are these assistants pals of the primary surgeon who get called in occasionally as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge buck-raking favor for a friend? Does it happen more randomly than that? Who knows. But there's a limit to what patients can do. They're in prep for surgery, there are tubes in their arms, and they get handed a bunch of papers to sign. Who knows what they say? Are they going to check? Are they going to read all the fine print? No and no, even if they're aware that this kind of stuff can happen. Which most patients aren't. A few weeks later they get the bill and their jaw drops to the floor. It's the same thing that happens to uninsured patients who don't have the benefit of insurer-negotiated rates when they land in the ER.</p> <p>And there's virtually no way to negotiate anyway. Have you ever tried to mark up a consent form? Have you ever tried to get a hospital to agree to an out-of-pocket max before an operation? Are you laughing hard enough yet? Insurance companies can do this, but ordinary schlubs like you and me can't.</p> <p>This is a scam, plain and simple. So why does it continue? Let's allow James J. Donelon, the Republican insurance commissioner of Louisiana, to explain:</p> <blockquote> <p>This has gotten really bad, and it&rsquo;s wrong. But when you try to address it as a policy maker, you run into a hornet&rsquo;s nest of financial interests.</p> </blockquote> <p>And there you have it. It's a great racket that allows doctors to extort loads of money from those in the most pain and with the least ability to fight back. None of them want the gravy train to end, and that's your "financial interests" right there. It's shameless and venal and there's no excuse for it. And that's America's health care system.</p> <p>In good conscience, I'm not even sure I can recommend that you read the whole piece. It will probably send your blood pressure skyrocketing and possibly send you to the ER, where you'll be pauperized by the very practice the article is about. You have been warned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:36:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 260721 at http://www.motherjones.com Roger Goodell's Life Just Got a Whole Lot Worse This Weekend http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/roger-goodells-life-just-got-whole-lot-worse-today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's been a mountain of talk about the Ray Rice domestic violence case, but the evidence about exactly what happened and when it happened has remained stubbornly fuzzy. That changed this weekend. <a href="http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/11551518/how-ray-rice-scandal-unfolded-baltimore-ravens-roger-goodell-nfl" target="_blank">ESPN's blockbuster piece,</a> like all stories of this nature, relies a lot on unnamed sources and therefore still isn't quite rock solid. Unnamed sources can have their own agendas, after all. But on the surface, anyway, it seems pretty damn close to rock solid. And it looks very, very bad for Roger Goodell, the Baltimore Ravens, and the NFL. Read it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sports Sun, 21 Sep 2014 19:40:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 260706 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 19 September 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/friday-cat-blogging-19-september-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2014_09_19.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;">We have a very busy squirrel in our backyard. He is tireless in his quest to find pine cones and bury them in our garden. In fact, every time Marian goes out to do some gardening, she routinely digs up half a dozen pine cones. They're everywhere. But squirrels are squirrely little critters, and it's hard to catch them in the act. Yesterday, however, our local squirrel was zipping across our fence with a pine cone in its mouth, and stopped just long enough for me to acquire hard photographic evidence of his hardworking ways. If I were a squirrel, I'd spend my autumns just keeping an eye on this guy so that I could pilfer his treasure during winter.</p> <p>In other news, certain of my family members were annoyed with my choice of catblogging photo last week. They wanted the picture of Mozart snoozing on my mother's car with his face reflected in the paint job. Well, patience is a virtue, and this week that's the picture you get. As for next week, who knows? Perhaps by then we'll no longer have a need for guest cats.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mozart_2014_09_19.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 65px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 Sep 2014 18:47:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 260641 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Nathan Deal Is Tired of Barack Obama's Treachery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-nathan-deal-tired-barack-obamas-treachery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>From Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, apparently upset that his tax-fighting economic policies aren't yet producing a <a href="http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=428D4B88-7DBB-46D4-98DE-B9C7F69A0F4F" target="_blank">paradise on earth:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s ironic that in a year in which Republican governors are leading some of the states that are making the most progress, that they almost, without exception, are classified as having a bump in their unemployment rates. Whereas states that are under Democrat governors&rsquo; control, they are all showing that their unemployment rate has dropped. And I don&rsquo;t know how you account for that. <strong>Maybe there is some influence here that we don&rsquo;t know about.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe! It might be that the Obama administration is cooking the books to make Republicans looks bad. Or maybe Democrats in Georgia are deliberately refusing work in order to spike the unemployment numbers. Or&mdash;and this is my suspicion&mdash;maybe computers have finally acquired human-level intelligence and they don't like Nathan Deal! If I were a computer, I sure wouldn't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:26:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 260631 at http://www.motherjones.com When I Was 5, I, Um -- What Were We Just Talking About? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/when-i-was-5-i-um-what-were-we-just-talking-about <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shrug.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I remember approximately diddly-squat<sup>1</sup> about my childhood. But why? Melissa Dahl <a href="http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/09/dudes-have-horrible-memories.html" target="_blank">explains the latest research to me today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The way parents tend to talk to their sons is different from the way they talk to their daughters. Mothers tend to introduce more snippets of new information in conversations with their young daughters than they do with their young sons, research has shown. And moms tend to ask more questions about girls&rsquo; emotions; <strong>with boys, on the other hand, they spend more time talking about what they should do with those feelings.</strong></p> <p>This is at least partially a product of parents acting on gender expectations they may not even realize they have, and the results are potentially long-lasting, explained Azriel Grysman, a psychologist at Hamilton College who studies gender differences and memory. &ldquo;The message that girls are getting is that talking about your feelings is part of describing an event,&rdquo; Grysman said....&ldquo;And it&rsquo;s quite possible, over time, that those tendencies will help women establish more connections in their brains of different pieces of an event, which will lead to better memory long-term.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So I can blame my crappy memory on my mother? Cool.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>This is a technical term used by neurologists and memory researchers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Science Fri, 19 Sep 2014 17:06:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 260626 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Really, Really Want to Send Ground Troops Into Iraq http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-really-really-want-send-ground-troops-iraq <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I missed this <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/us/politics/for-first-time-most-americans-disapprove-of-obamas-handling-of-terrorism.html?_r=0" target="_blank">NYT/CBS poll</a> when it came out a couple of days ago, but a friend pointed it out to me this morning. I don't think much comment is necessary. It's pretty easy to see how the fight against ISIS is going to turn into a massive game of Munich-mongering and appeasement-baiting in short order. Yikes.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_ground_troops_isis.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Obama The Right Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 260616 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Signs Order to Take Away Your Antibiotics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obama-signs-order-take-away-your-antibiotics <!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.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/health/us-lays-out-strategy-to-combat-crisis-of-antibiotic-resistance.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Here's the latest from the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Obama administration on Thursday announced measures to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, outlining a national strategy that includes incentives for the development of new drugs, tighter stewardship of existing ones, and improvements in tracking the use of antibiotics and the microbes that are resistant to them.</p> <p>....John P. Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told reporters that the new strategy &mdash; <strong>established by an executive order that President Obama signed on Thursday</strong> &mdash; was intended to jolt the federal government into action to combat a health crisis that many experts say it has been slow to recognize.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess we can all see where this is going, right? It'll start with Alex Jones, maybe, and then Glenn Beck will catch the infection. Drudge will get it next, then Limbaugh, and finally the entire crew of Fox News will come down with it. The tyrant Obama is taking our amoxicillin away from us! Think of the children and their earaches!</p> <p>Sadly, there's no treatment for this airborne virus. We just have to let it burn itself out. Maybe someday scientists will find a cure for <em>vox bardus</em>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Obama Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:30:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 260611 at http://www.motherjones.com Don't Worry, the Crazy Is Coming Soon in the House Benghazi Hearing http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/dont-worry-crazy-coming-soon-house-benghazi-hearing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday's Benghazi hearing, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R&ndash;SC), was shockingly calm. Aside from a bit of gotcha over a 15-year-old report, there were no conspiracy theories, no hot buttons pressed, no shrieking clown shows. The extremely sober topic was whether the State Department has been <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gowdy_hearing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">successfully implementing the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board shortly after the attacks. Everyone was on their best behavior, <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_09/a_benghazi_unicorn052151.php" target="_blank">and even Ed Kilgore was impressed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now it's possible Gowdy will be taken to the woodshed by other Republicans (not to mention the conservative media that has made <em>Benghazi!</em> a sort of national security counterpart to Agenda 21), and come back snarling and ranting. But for the first time since September 11, 2012, the subject is being discussed by Republicans in an atmosphere that isn't reminiscent of a Tea Party street rally.</p> </blockquote> <p>Go ahead and call me a stone partisan blinded by my own ill will toward Republicans, but come on. Gowdy doesn't need to be taken to the woodshed by anyone. This is just well-played theater from a guy who's a mite smarter than the usual tea party crackpot. He's gulling everyone into treating this like a serious investigation so that he'll have some credibility stored up when it comes time for the hundredth repetition of the stand-down myth or the latest insane parsing of the White House talking points. That's what this is all about.</p> <p>I'll apologize if Gowdy manages to keep the tone of this hearing civil and judicious all the way to the end. But I'm not too worried about having to eat any crow here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military The Right Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:01:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 260571 at http://www.motherjones.com How to Discriminate Against Pre-Existing Conditions in Two Easy Tiers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/how-discriminate-against-pre-existing-conditions-two-easy-tiers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Via ProPublica, here's an editorial published yesterday <a href="http://www.ajmc.com/publications/issue/2014/2014-vol20-n9/is-all-skin-in-the-game-fair-game-the-problem-with-non-preferred-generics/1" target="_blank">in the <em>American Journal of Managed Care</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For many years, most insurers had formularies that consisted of only 3 tiers: Tier 1 was for generic drugs (lowest co-pay), Tier 2 was for branded drugs that were designated &ldquo;preferred&rdquo; (higher co- pay), and Tier 3 was for &ldquo;nonpreferred&rdquo; branded drugs (highest co-pay)....Now, however, a number of insurers have split their all-generics tier into a bottom tier consisting of &ldquo;preferred&rdquo; generics, and a second tier consisting of &ldquo;non-preferred&rdquo; generics.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. What's going on here? In some cases, this new non-preferred tier is reserved for higher-priced medicines. That's pretty easy to understand: insurers are trying to motivate their patients to choose cheaper drugs when they're available. That's the same reason copays are lower for generics compared to brand name drugs.</p> <p>But it turns out that sometimes <em>all</em> the generic drugs for a particular disease are non-preferred and therefore have high copays. What are insurance companies trying to motivate in these cases? <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/a-new-way-insurers-are-shifting-costs-to-the-sick" target="_blank">Charles Ornstein takes a guess:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The editorial comes several months after two advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services claiming that several Florida health plans sold in the Affordable Care Act marketplace discriminated against H.I.V. patients by charging them more for drugs.</p> <p>Specifically, the complaint contended that the plans placed all of their H.I.V. medications, including generics, in their highest of five cost tiers, meaning that patients had to pay 40 percent of the cost after paying a deductible. The complaint is pending.</p> <p><strong>"It seems that the plans are trying to find this wiggle room to design their benefits to prevent people who have high health needs from enrolling,"</strong> said Wayne Turner, a staff lawyer at the National Health Law Program, which filed the complaint alongside the AIDS Institute of Tampa, Fla.</p> </blockquote> <p>If <em>all</em> your HIV drugs are expensive, then people with HIV will look for another plan. Technically, you're not discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition, but you're sure giving them a reason to shop around someplace else, aren't you?</p> <p>At the moment, this practice appears to be confined to just a few insurers and a few classes of drugs. But if it catches on, it will prompt everyone to follow suit. After all, you can hardly afford to be the insurance company of choice for chronically sick people, can you? This is worth keeping an eye on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:37:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 260556 at http://www.motherjones.com IHOP Has Cut Back Its Menu By 30 Items http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/ihop-has-cut-back-its-menu-30-items <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's an interesting factoid: in 2008 we apparently reached Peak Menu. That year, the average menu contained 99.7 items. Then the housing bubble burst, we entered the Great Recession, and menus <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_menu_length.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">began to shrink. Today's menus feature a paltry 92.6 items.</p> <p>Why is this? Cost is one reason: it's cheaper to support a smaller menu. But Roberto Ferdman writes that <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/18/americans-are-tired-of-long-restaurant-menus/" target="_blank">there's more to it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The biggest impetus for all the menu shrinking going on is likely tied to a change in the country's food culture: Americans are becoming a bit more refined in their tastes.</p> <p>"Historically, the size of menus grew significantly because there wasn't the food culture there is today,"&nbsp;said [Maeve Webster, a senior director at Datassential]. "People weren't nearly as focused on the food, or willing to go out of their way to eat specific foods."</p> <p>For that reason, as well as the fact that there were&nbsp;fewer restaurants then, there used to be&nbsp;a greater&nbsp;incentive for restaurants to serve as many food options as possible. That way, a customer could would choose a particular restaurant because it was near or convenient, rather than for a specific food craving (which probably wasn't all that outlandish anyway). But now, given the increasing demand for quality over quantity, a growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines, Americans are&nbsp;more&nbsp;likely to judge a restaurant if its offerings aren't specific enough.</p> <p>"The rise of food culture, where consumers are both interested and willing to go to a restaurant that has the best Banh Mi sandwich, or the best burger, or the best trendy item of the moment, means that operators can now create much more focused menus," said Webster. "It also means that&nbsp;the larger the menu, the more consumers might worry all those things aren't going to be all that good."</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Let me say, based on precisely no evidence, that I find this unlikely. Have American tastes really gotten more refined since 2008? Color me skeptical. And even if American palates <em>are</em> more discriminating, are we seriously suggesting that this has affected the menu length at IHOP, Tony Roma's, and Olive Garden&mdash;the three examples cited in the article? I hope this isn't just my inner elitist showing, but I don't normally associate those fine establishments with a "growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines."</p> <p>So, anyway, put me down firmly in the cost-cutting camp. Long menus got too expensive to support, and when the Great Recession hit, casual dining chains needed to cut costs. They did this by lopping off dishes that were either expensive to prep or not very popular or both. Occam's Razor, my friends, Occam's Razor.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Food and Ag Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:11:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 260536 at http://www.motherjones.com Apple Gives Its Middle Finger to the NSA http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/apple-gives-its-middle-finger-nsa <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm a little late getting started this morning, even though I actually woke up much earlier than usual. What happened is that I wrote a post; then lost it by hitting the wrong key and blowing away my browser window; then recreated it; and then decided not to publish it after all. I'm still not sure if this is because the post was genuinely ill-conceived, or because I'm just <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_apple_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">too cowardly to put it up. Questions, questions....</p> <p>In any case, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/apple-will-no-longer-unlock-most-iphones-ipads-for-police-even-with-search-warrants/2014/09/17/2612af58-3ed2-11e4-b03f-de718edeb92f_story.html?hpid=z2" target="_blank">I'm fascinated to see this tidbit</a> among all the boring recent Apple iPhone news (bigger screen, thinner profile, yawn):</p> <blockquote> <p>Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police &mdash; even when they have a search warrant &mdash; taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.</p> <p>....The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said in the new privacy policy.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure how universally this kind of technical fix can be applied elsewhere. I have a feeling that in practice, it's probably a limited solution. But it would certainly be a bit of poetic justice if the NSA's overreach and the government's unwillingness to rein them in led to a sea change in private security that simply makes it impossible to respond to mass requests for customer data.</p> <p>Of course, this might not be the end of things. For the time being, actual traditional governments with police forces and courts are still more powerful than even the highest of high-tech corporations. If Congress passes a law requiring Apple to maintain unlock codes, then they'll have to do it whether they like it or not. I wonder how this is all going to play out?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Tech Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:54:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 260521 at http://www.motherjones.com The MoJo Investigative Fund Needs Your Help http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/mojo-investigative-fund-needs-your-help <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Mother Jones Investigative Fund is the secret behind some of the best work <em>Mother Jones</em> does. Right now we're trying to raise an infusion of $65,000 over the next two weeks, and I'm worried that we won't reach our goal.</p> <p>The urgency is real. Just look at the headlines: The pivotal midterm elections are approaching, with nearly unlimited &ldquo;dark money&rdquo; flowing to candidates. Politicians are itching to send our military back into the Middle East quagmire. Our police forces are being militarized at a scary pace. Women, immigrants, and the poor are under attack.</p> <p>But <em>Mother Jones</em> is fighting back. We expose the powerful, reveal the truth, and shape the national debate with solid, unassailable reporting. If you support this kind of reporting, please donate $5 or more to our investigative fund. Your gift of any amount is fully tax-deductible, and we'll immediately use it to support <em>Mother Jones'</em> reporting.</p> <p>It only takes a minute to make your tax-deductible contribution, and you can give using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.</p> <ul><li>To donate via credit card, <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z94DRU&amp;extra_don=1" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> <li>To donate via PayPal, <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=LDTEDETCLTJSY" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> </ul><p>Thanks!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 260501 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day #2: Pick an Issue, Any Issue http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-2-pick-issue-any-issue <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/388251/gingrich-warns-gop-population-turmoil-fall-joel-gehrke" target="_blank">From self-declared visionary Newt Gingrich,</a> asked what the Republican agenda should be for this year's campaign:</p> <blockquote> <p>I don&rsquo;t actually care what it is, for the next seven weeks, as long as it exists.</p> </blockquote> <p>Come on, folks! Just pick anything that sounds good and rally around it. Does Newt have to do <em>all</em> your thinking for you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections The Right Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:21:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 260506 at http://www.motherjones.com Scotland Should Plan On Having Its Own Currency http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/scotland-should-plan-having-its-own-currency <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When provinces propose a split with the mother country, they usually insist that they'll continue to use the old currency. This is odd on its face since having your own money is usually considered one of the key attributes of a sovereign state. So what's the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pound_sterling.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">appeal of keeping the old country's currency? <a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/09/how-long-would-scotland-keep-sterling?fsrc=rss" target="_blank">Greg Ip ponders the question:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Facilitating trade and capital movements is only one part of the story. Another, I think, is political and emotional. Forming a new country is fraught with risk. For savers, in particular the elderly, one risk looms especially large: that one&rsquo;s retirement savings are suddenly redenominated in a new currency whose value is then inflated away. In both Quebec and Scotland, independence is mostly a movement of the left, and a separate currency would create the ever-present temptation to use the printing press to accommodate fiscal expansion and industrial policy. By promising to keep the old currency, separatists are reassuring savers that they will not succumb to the temptation of inflation.</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder if this is true? I hope it's not. I don't have a strong opinion about Scottish independence, but I do have a strong opinion about this. Here it is: if you favor independence, but only if Scotland holds onto the British pound, you're an idiot. If you don't trust a Scottish government to run its own monetary policy, then you don't trust a Scottish government. Period.</p> <p>There are other arguments for currency union, of course, but I don't think they add up to much. Nor do I truly believe them. They mostly seem like post hoc rationalizations to provide people with a more palatable reason for keeping the British pound than fear of a reckless Scottish monetary authority. Generally speaking, the history of currency unions is simply too fraught for anyone who's paying attention to really think it's a good idea. And as Ip points out, they rarely last very long anyway.</p> <p>An independent Scotland should have its own currency and its own monetary policy. If this makes you nervous, then the whole idea of independence should make you nervous.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:38:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 260496 at http://www.motherjones.com Prison Rates are Down. Thanks to Lead, They're Going to Stay Down. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/prison-rates-are-down-thanks-lead-theyre-going-stay-down <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday the Bureau of Justice Statistics released the latest numbers on incarceration rates, and the headline news is that we're sending fewer people to prison. But there's an interesting wrinkle in the numbers that few news outlets have picked up on, even though it's a trend that's been obvious in the numbers for a long time. <a href="http://www.ricknevin.com/uploads/Prisoners_in_2013_-_The_News_Media_Buries_the_Lead.pdf" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_incarceration_rate_age.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 70px;"></p> <p>That's from Rick Nevin, and you know what's coming next, don't you? Lead. It explains a lot of what's going on here.</p> <p>The US started phasing out gasoline lead in 1975, which means that children born after 1975 were exposed to steadily less lead. And the effect was cumulative: the later they were born, the less lead they were exposed to and the less crime they committed when they grew up. However, children born <em>before</em> 1975 were unaffected by all this. They were born in a high-lead era, and since all that matters is exposure during early childhood, the damage had already been done.</p> <p>In 2013, this means that the statistics show a reduction in crime rates in adults under the age of 40, and the younger the cohort the lower the crime rate. Unsurprisingly, this also means they're incarcerated at lower rates. The chart above shows this fairly dramatically.</p> <p>But it also shows that incarceration rates have stayed steady or increased for older men. Those <em>over</em> the age of 40 had their lives ruined by lead when they were children, and the effect was permanent. They're still committing crimes and being sent to prison at the same rate as ever. It's hard to explain both these trends&mdash;lower prison rates for kids, higher prison rates for the middle-aged&mdash;without taking lead into account.</p> <p>This is one of the reasons that the lead-crime hypothesis is important. In one sense, it's little more than a historical curio. It explains the rise and fall of crime between 1960 and 2010, but by now most environmental lead has been cleaned up and there's only a limited amount left to worry about. So it's interesting, but nothing more.</p> <p>But here's why it matters: if the hypothesis is true, it means that violent crime rates aren't down because of transient factors like drug use or poverty or harsh penal codes. The reduction is permanent. Our children are just flatly less violent than the lead-addled kids who grew up in the years after World War II. And that in turn means that the decline in incarceration rates is permanent. We don't need as much prison space as we used to, and we don't need punitive penal codes designed to toss kids behind bars for 20 years at the first sign of danger.</p> <p>In other words, we can ease up. Our kids are less violent and our streets are less dangerous. Nor is that likely to change. The lead is mostly gone, and it's going to stay gone. We're safer today not because of broken windows or three-strikes laws or 20-year sentences for dealing cocaine. We're safer because we're no longer poisoning our children in ways that turn them into hair-trigger thugs. And guess what? If we cleaned up the ambient lead that still remains, we'd be even safer 20 years from now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Science Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:18:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 260461 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Go Away, I'm Performing Brain Surgery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-go-away-im-performing-brain-surgery <!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.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_09/plagiarizing_pet_rocks052134.php" target="_blank">From the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby,</a> declining to respond to allegations of plagiarism:</p> <blockquote> <p>Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry.</p> </blockquote> <p>This might be the most brilliant refusal to comment ever in the history of politics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:03:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 260456 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Are No Longer Favored To Take Control of the Senate http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-are-no-longer-favored-take-control-senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Speaking of poll aggregators and the Senate race, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6153603/senate-election-forecasting-2014-guide-republicans-chances" target="_blank">here's an interesting infographic from Vox:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_senate_average.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>I actually haven't been following the polling super closely, so I didn't realize that basically no one is still projecting a Republican takeover except for Nate Silver&mdash;though things are still close enough that none of this probably means much yet. We're still six weeks away from Election Day, and a lot can happen in six weeks.</p> <p>Still, there's a bottom line here for reporters: <em>Republicans are no longer favored to take control of the Senate.</em> At least, not by the folks who have had the best records for projecting election results over the past decade or so. This should no longer be the default assumption of campaign roundup stories.</p> <p>There's much more at the link, including forecasts for individual races.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:43:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 260446 at http://www.motherjones.com Polling Cage Fight Heats Up Today http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/polling-cage-fight-heats-today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Nate Silver today:</p> <blockquote> <p>I don&rsquo;t like to call out other forecasters by name unless I have something positive to say about them....</p> </blockquote> <p>But he wants to make an exception for one guy: Sam Wang. The guy is so preposterously deluded that <a href="http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-the-fivethirtyeight-senate-forecast-model-works/" target="_blank">something just has to be said:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That model is wrong &mdash; not necessarily because it shows Democrats ahead (ours barely shows any Republican advantage), but because it substantially underestimates the uncertainty associated with polling averages....In 2010, for example, Wang&rsquo;s model made Sharron Angle the favorite in Nevada against Harry Reid; it estimated she was 2 points ahead in the polls, but with a standard error of just 0.5 points. If we drew a graphic based on Wang&rsquo;s forecast like the ones we drew above,<sup></sup>it would have Angle winning the race 99.997 percent of the time, meaning that Reid&rsquo;s victory was about a 30,000-to-1 long shot. To be clear, the FiveThirtyEight model had Angle favored also, but it provided for much more uncertainty. Reid&rsquo;s win came as a 5-to-1 underdog in our model instead of a 30,000-to-1 underdog in Wang&rsquo;s; those are very different forecasts....If you want a &ldquo;polls only&rdquo; model that estimates the uncertainty more rigorously, I&rsquo;d recommend The Huffington Post&rsquo;s or Drew Linzer&rsquo;s.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not quite sure how it happened, but Silver has managed to become truly torqued off about Wang. If Wang's prediction of this year's Senate race turns out to be more accurate than Silver's, I almost hate to think what might happen. Silver's head is going to explode or something. In any case, this is far <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wang_senate_2014_09_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 10px 15px 30px;">more fun than you normally get from a couple of geeky poll aggregators.</p> <p>By the way, Wang is now <a href="http://election.princeton.edu/todays-senate-seat-count-histogram/" target="_blank">projecting</a> that Democrats have an 81 percent chance of controlling the Senate after the election. Not by much, mind you: he figures they're likely to hold exactly 50 seats, which would make Joe Biden the tiebreaker and give Democrats a bare majority. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:47:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 260441 at http://www.motherjones.com