Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/12/modern-racism-12-yea http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Friday Cat Blogging - 31 October 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/friday-cat-blogging-31-october-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I thought cats were supposed to get gradually calmer and more mature as they aged. Not these two. They're now 11 months old, and apparently they went nuts during my stay in the hospital. Now that I'm back, they're still going nuts. Every scrap of paper in the house has to be kept at least six feet off the ground or else it gets shredded. When does the calming down part start?</p> <p>At the moment, I'd settle for training Hilbert not to leap on my stomach unexpectedly. This is not good for people with bad backs. It. Needs. To. Stop.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_10_31.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 4px 5px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2014_10_31.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:02:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 263736 at http://www.motherjones.com Left and Right Agree: Cat-Calling Is Menacing and Disgusting http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/left-and-right-agree-cat-calling-menacing-and-disgusting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few days ago, anti-street-harassment organization Hollaback posted a YouTube video of a woman walking through Manhattan for ten hours and being subjected to repeated and demeaning cat-calls. So what did conservatives <iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/b1XGPvbWn0A" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>think of this? <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/391430/why-cat-calling-really-problem-christine-sisto" target="_blank">Here's Christine Sisto at <em>National Review</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Most of the criticisms of this video are basically, &ldquo;Since when is saying &lsquo;good morning&rsquo; harassment?&rdquo;.... The &ldquo;harassment&rdquo; comes from the intent. A woman doesn&rsquo;t believe that a man genuinely wants to know how how her day is going when he shouts it at her as she walks by him on the street....Anyone with a modicum of common sense who watches the video can see that these men weren&rsquo;t interested in wishing a random person a pleasant day.</p> <p>....Whatever the cause of cat-calling may be, it should stop....A societal change is needed, one that can start with a guy not clapping his buddy on the back for telling some girl how much he enjoys her assets. Maybe, someday, we ladies can walk to work in peace.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/391575/reading-around-jay-nordlinger" target="_blank">Here's Jay Nordlinger:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Christine Sisto has written about &ldquo;cat-calling.&rdquo; I&rsquo;m so glad she has tackled this subject &mdash; it&rsquo;s important. I have witnessed cat-calling my entire life, as we all do. In the main, I have not found it innocent, sweet, and breezy, as in a Warner Bros. cartoon. (&ldquo;Hey, toots! Nice gams!&rdquo;) I have found it menacing, disgusting, and semi-assaultive.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/391590/cat-calling-jonah-goldberg" target="_blank">And here's Jonah Goldberg:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I&rsquo;d note that this practice pre-dates the rise of rap music by decades if not centuries or millennia. The issue isn&rsquo;t race, it&rsquo;s manners. Good manners are taught for the most part by good parents, good schools and good peers. I agree with Christine that Hollaback is spitting into the wind here. I also agree that catcalling should stop and that the only thing that can stop it is a societal change. But such a change would require a lot more than a few videos, no matter how viral. And it would also require the progressive Left to take on challenges much stiffer than bullying already well-mannered people to police their micro-aggressive grammar on elite college campuses or in obscure chatrooms. And that&rsquo;s why I don&rsquo;t think it will stop anytime soon.</p> </blockquote> <p>Goldberg, unfortunately, simply can't pass up the opportunity to somehow shift the blame for continued cat-calling onto the PC left. That's shopworn and witless. But at least he's against it. On the whole, then, good for <em>National Review</em> for not pretending that cat-calling is yet another innocent bit of fun that humorless liberals are trying to deny the rest of us. It's disgusting and it should stop. At least we all agree about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sex and Gender The Right Fri, 31 Oct 2014 18:56:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 263731 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Attack Democrats For Supporting Republican Demands http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/republicans-attack-democrats-supporting-republican-demands <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Getting deep into the weeds of local congressional races isn't my thing, but it's certainly been intriguing this year watching Republicans attack Democrats for being willing to accept Republican positions on various issues. Until now, the most egregious example of this came from Karl Rove's Super PAC, which has <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/gop-changes-tune-on-cutting-social-security-with-elections-on-the-line/2014/10/23/d8e57db2-5ad0-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html" target="_blank">attacked several Democratic senators</a> for supporting a plan to raise the retirement age of Social Security&mdash;an idea that Republicans have been promoting for years. Chutzpah!</p> <p>But now we have a new contender in the sweepstakes for sheer partisan hypocrisy. <a href="http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/10/31/7137339/arizona-republican-ron-barber-paul-ryan" target="_blank">Dylan Matthews tells us today </a>that in Arizona a Republican contender is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ron_barber_ryan.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">attacking Democrat Ron Barber for.... supporting a budget compromise engineered by tea party darling Paul Ryan.</p> <p>The flyer, which apparently comes from the Arizona Republican Party, is on the right. Note the Arizona GOP's thundering denunciation of Ryan's "bone-chilling" budget, which "cut vital assistance programs." That's all true, of course, and many Democrats held their noses and voted for the deal. But there's no question that all the bone-chilling stuff came straight from the fever swamps of the Republican Party. They're the ones who refused to extend unemployment benefits and demanded cuts in food assistance.</p> <p>We've heard a lot this election cycle about Democrats running away from President Obama. Are we now going to see stories about Republicans running away from Paul Ryan and his fellow budget ideologues? Probably not. But we should.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:38:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 263716 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Like It When Forecasts Show Democrats Winning http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/democrats-it-when-forecasts-show-democrats-winning <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Justin Wolfers shows us an intriguing example of confirmation bias today. It turns out that Leo, the <em>New York Times</em> election forecasting model, bases its forecasts on running hundreds of simulations and then taking an average. But readers who want to play around can go ahead and toss the dice themselves, generating their own random simulations. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/01/upshot/how-confirmation-bias-can-lead-to-a-spinning-of-wheels.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss" target="_blank">So what do readers do?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is where confirmation bias comes in. If you&rsquo;re convinced that the Republicans are going to win but your first two spins suggest a Democratic victory, you may feel deflated; perhaps you&rsquo;ll spin again, in the hopes that you&rsquo;ll finally get to see what a Republican victory looks like....85 percent of the time that your first two spins show a Democratic victory, you&rsquo;ll keep spinning, perhaps hoping to see a Republican victory.</p> <p>The same logic says that those who see the Democrats as likely to win are more likely to spin again after seeing the Republicans win in their first two spins, and once again, 85 percent of you do so.</p> </blockquote> <p>Presumably readers are smart enough to know that these really are just random rolls of the dice that don't mean anything. Only an average of hundreds of simulations is meaningful. And yet, many of us play the dice-rolling game anyway. Why?</p> <p>Properly speaking, I'm not sure this is actually confirmation bias. I suspect that partisans just want to avoid a feeling of hopelessness. Sure, the official results will tell them that, say, Democrats have a 34 percent chance of holding the Senate, and that should be enough. But it's not. Democratic partisans want to see the concrete possibility of a Democratic win. Rather than confirmation bias, this shows a human preference for examples vs. statistical forecasts.</p> <p>Now, I'd expect that Democrats would do this more than Republicans. After all, if Leo says Republicans have a 66 percent chance of winning, that should make Republicans pretty happy. Why bother running even a single simulation that might spoil the good news? Unfortunately, Leo's data doesn't tell us if this happens, because it doesn't know who's a Democrat and who's a Republican. But I'll bet I'm right.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Fri, 31 Oct 2014 14:59:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 263686 at http://www.motherjones.com PATRIOT Act Warrants Used More For Drugs Than For Terrorism http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/patriot-act-warrants-used-more-drugs-terrorism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The PATRIOT Act gave federal agents expanded powers to issue search warrants without informing the targets of the warrant beforehand. Why? Because terrorism investigations were special: they'd fall apart if terrorists received warning that they were being investigated. So with terrorism suddenly a far bigger priority after 9/11, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sneak_peek_warrants.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">national security required that authority for these "sneak-and-peek" warrants be broadened.</p> <p>A few days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/10/peekaboo-i-see-you-government-uses-authority-meant-terrorism-other-uses" target="_blank">tallied up the known figures for sneak-and-peek warrants:</a></p> <ul><li>2001-03: 47</li> <li>2010: 3,970</li> <li>2011: 6,775</li> <li>2012: 10,183</li> <li>2013: 11,129</li> </ul><p>That's quite an increase. So did terrorism investigations skyrocket over the past decade? Not so much. It turns out that hardly any of these warrants were used in terrorism cases. Instead, they were virtually all used in narcotics cases&mdash;as the chart on the right shows. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/10/29/surprise-controversial-patriot-act-power-now-overwhelmingly-used-in-drug-investigations/?hpid=z4" target="_blank">Radley Balko draws the right lessons from this:</a></p> <ul><li>Assume that any power you grant to the federal government to fight terrorism will inevitably be used in other contexts.</li> <li>Assume that the primary &ldquo;other context&rdquo; will be to fight the war on drugs.</li> <li>When critics point out the ways a new law might be abused, supporters of the law often accuse those critics of being cynical &mdash; they say we should have more faith in the judgment and propriety of public officials. Always assume that when a law grants new powers to the government, that law will be interpreted in the vaguest, most expansive, most pro-government manner imaginable. If that doesn&rsquo;t happen, good. But why take the risk? Why leave open the possibility? Better to write laws narrowly, restrictively and with explicit safeguards against abuse.</li> </ul><p>There's no reason laws like this can't be drawn properly in the first place. Sure, some terrorism cases involve narcotics, but that's a poor excuse. If terrorism is genuinely involved, law enforcement officers have plenty of opportunity to convince a judge of that. A properly-constructed statute won't get in their way.</p> <p>This goes for the NSA as well as the FBI, by the way. If they need broadened surveillance powers to fight terrorism&mdash;and perhaps they do&mdash;a narrowly-drawn statute won't hurt them. If they object to this, every one of us should wonder why.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Fri, 31 Oct 2014 05:13:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 263676 at http://www.motherjones.com CNN Is Now Just Like the National Enquirer http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/cnn-now-just-national-inquirer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Earlier today I was idly flipping channels on the TV and came upon a CNN chyron informing me breathlessly that Chuck Hagel had just "blasted" President Obama's Syria policy. Unfortunately, I came in at the end of the segment, so I didn't get to find out just what kind of blasting Hagel had done. But it certainly sounded ominous.</p> <p>I just now remembered this, and figured I should take a look at the news to see what had happened. But that wasn't so easy. Every front page I checked had bupkis about Hagel. Finally I went to the source: CNN. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/30/politics/hagel-starr-syria-memo-white-house/index.html" target="_blank">Here's what they say:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Earlier this month, while on an trip to Latin America to discuss climate change, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sat down and wrote a highly private, and very blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice about U.S. policy toward Syria.</p> <p>It was a detailed analysis, crafted directly by Hagel "expressing concern about overall Syria strategy," a senior U.S. official tells CNN. The official directly familiar with the contents declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.</p> <p>....The focus of the memo was <strong>"we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime,"</strong> the official said. The official refused to provide additional details, but did not disagree with the notion that Hagel feels the U.S. is risking its gains in the war against ISIS if adjustments are not made.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's it? Hagel wrote an internal memo suggesting that we should have a "sharper view" of what to do about Assad? And some sympathetic White House official kinda sorta agreed that Hagel felt we might be in trouble if "adjustments" aren't made?</p> <p>I swear, watching cable news is like reading the <em>National Enquirer</em> these days: big, blasting headlines that turn out, when you read the story, to mean absolutely nothing. That's ten minutes of my life that I'll never get back. Thanks, CNN.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Media Fri, 31 Oct 2014 01:52:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 263671 at http://www.motherjones.com GDP Increases at Not-Bad 3.5 Percent Rate in 3rd Quarter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/gdp-increases-not-bad-35-rate-third-quarter <!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_gdp_2014_q3.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today's economic news is fairly good. GDP in the third quarter <a href="http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm" target="_blank">grew at a 3.5 percent annual rate,</a> which means that the slowdown at the beginning of the year really does look like it was just a blip. Aside from that one quarter, economic growth has been pretty robust for over a year now.</p> <p>At the same time, inflation continues to be very low, which you can take as either good news (if you're an inflation hawk) or bad news (if you think the economy could use a couple of years of higher inflation).</p> <p>We could still use some higher growth after five years of weakness, but at least we're providing a bit of a counterbalance to Europe, which appears to be going off a cliff at the moment. Count your blessings.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 30 Oct 2014 18:29:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 263641 at http://www.motherjones.com Chris Christie Needs to Rehearse His Lines Better http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/chris-christie-needs-rehearse-his-lines-better <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman comments on Chris Christie's <a href="http://prospect.org/article/christie-2016-vote-me-or-ill-punch-you-right-your-stupid-face" target="_blank">latest outburst against a heckler:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>My favorite part is how Christie keeps calling him "buddy" (reminded me of this). Now try to imagine what would happen if Barack Obama shouted "Sit down and shut up!" at a citizen. Or almost any other prominent politician, for that matter; commentators would immediately start questioning his mental health. But even though it's been a while, shouting at people was how Chris Christie became a national figure talked about as a potential presidential candidate in the first place....If you stand<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/CaqK7w9SzT0" style="margin: 26px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>up at a town meeting and ask him an impertinent question about something like the state budget, he'll shout you down (to the cheers of his supporters).</p> <p>Here are a few ways to explain this pattern of behavior:</p> <blockquote> <ol><li>This is a calculated way of showing that he's a Tough Guy, which Christie knows Republicans love</li> <li>This is just who Christie is, and if nobody was around he'd still be picking fights with people</li> <li>Both 1 and 2</li> </ol></blockquote> <p>I lean toward number 3. It isn't just play-acting, because Christie obviously gets sincerely pissed off when he's challenged by people he thinks are beneath him. At the same time, he's a smart enough politician to know that the cameras are on, and there's some benefit to reinforcing the persona he has created.</p> </blockquote> <p>I admit that this is mostly just curiosity on my part, since Christie's act long ago got nearly as stale as Sarah Palin's. But take a look at the video. Unlike Waldman, I vote for No. 1. To me, Christie appears entirely under control. I don't doubt that there's some real annoyance there (even a Vulcan would get annoyed at your average heckler), but overall Christie's response gives the impression of being practically scripted. There are even a couple of instances where Christie seems like he forgot his lines and hurriedly tosses them in before heckler guy goes away and ruins his chance to get off his best zingers.</p> <p>So vote in comments. Is it real anger, or has it just become a well-rehearsed schtick by now? In this case, at least, I vote for schtick.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:44:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 263616 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's What Democrats and Republicans Are Afraid Of http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/heres-what-democrats-and-republicans-are-afraid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/30/clowns-are-twice-as-scary-to-democrats-as-they-are-to-republicans/" target="_blank">Wonkblog regales us this morning</a> with the chart on the right, which summarizes a recent <a href="http://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2014/10/21/fear-factors-why-are-people-afraid/" target="_blank">Chapman University survey</a> about what we're afraid of. Basically, it suggests that Democrats are more afraid of things than Republicans. This goes against the conventional wisdom a bit, and it especially goes against the conventional wisdom in the "strangers" category. Supposedly, liberals are <em>more open</em> to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_chapman_survey_democrat_fear.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 28px 0px 15px 30px;">strangers and outsiders than conservatives, but this survey suggests the opposite.</p> <p>So that's interesting. But what's probably more interesting is the cause of all this fear. Here's what the researchers say are the prime causes of fear:</p> <ul><li>Low education</li> <li>Talk TV</li> <li>True Crime TV</li> </ul><p>These all make sense. People with low levels of education tend to be poor and to live in poor areas. I don't know why they're so afraid of clowns, but it makes perfect sense that they'd have relatively high levels of economic anxiety as well as fears for their personal safety. As for talk TV, that makes sense too. "It is a simple, straight-line effect," the researchers says. "The more one watches talk TV, the more fearful one tends to be."</p> <p>So turn off the doofus TV, OK? And tell your friends and family to turn it off too. It's making our lives worse.</p> <p>And for the record, the rest of the survey suggests that Democrats tend to be afraid of crime, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans tend to be afraid of today&rsquo;s youth, the government, and immigrants.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Thu, 30 Oct 2014 15:33:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 263606 at http://www.motherjones.com Most Latinos Don't Hold Obama's Immigration Delay Against Him http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/most-latinos-dont-hold-obamas-immigration-delay-against-him <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is just raw data, and I suppose you can take it two ways, but here's what <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2014/10/29/latino-support-for-democrats-falls-but-democratic-advantage-remains/" target="_blank">a new Pew poll</a> says about supposed Latino outrage over President Obama's decision to delay executive action on immigration until after the election. Basically, the whole thing was overblown. It turns out that only about 9 percent of Latinos are angry about the delay. David Lauter summarizes <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-latino-poll-20141029-story.html" target="_blank">the rest of the survey:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Pew survey showed that Latino support for Democrats has receded on a couple of key measures, including party identification and a question about which party better represents their interests. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_latino_executive_action.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But the decline was modest, <strong>noticeable mostly by contrast with very high levels of support achieved in 2012,</strong> when Obama won reelection.</p> <p>....Asked which party &ldquo;has more concern for Latinos,&rdquo; half named the Democrats and 10% said Republicans, with just over one-third saying they saw no difference. On that question, too, the Democrats&rsquo; standing has dropped from a high point reached during Obama&rsquo;s reelection, <strong>but only to the level that prevailed during most of his first term.</strong> The Republican standing has not changed significantly.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roughly speaking, Latino support for Democrats has dropped a bit from the sky-high levels of the 2012 campaign, when Republicans featured a presidential candidate who pandered to his tea-party base by refusing to support immigration reform and chattering instead about "self-deportation." But Latino support has only dropped to about the same levels it had before then. In other words, not much has changed.</p> <p>Obama made a mistake when he hinted that he might take immigration action before the election. That was politically inept, and sure enough, it sparked a revolt among Democratic Senate candidates running in red states. When Obama was forced to backtrack, it was a temporary embarrassment&mdash;but that's all it was. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that most Latinos understand politics just as well as everyone else, and don't really hold Obama's actions against him. They know perfectly well why Obama did what he did, and they know perfectly well that Obama will probably keep his promise after the election.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Obama Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:28:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 263586 at http://www.motherjones.com After Supreme Court Decision, Patent Trolls Getting Cold Feet? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/after-supreme-court-decision-patent-trolls-getting-cold-feet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few months ago, in <em>Alice v. CLS Bank</em>, the Supreme Court struck a modest blow against patent trolls. The court ruled that merely programming a computer to carry out a well-known process isn't enough to qualify for a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_patent_troll.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">patent. There has to be more to it.</p> <p>So how has that affected the patent troll business? Joff Wild reports on a new analysis of <a href="http://www.iam-magazine.com/blog/Detail.aspx?g=2ed9b209-0487-45a9-950f-c73db181dab3" target="_blank">third-quarter patent litigation activity:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the research, which covers the third quarter of this year (June to September), <strong>there was a 23% drop in the number of suits filed compared to the second quarter,</strong> and a 27% year-on-year reduction.</p> <p>The findings come just weeks after data released by Lex Machina showed that there had been a 40% fall in patent suits in September 2014 as compared to the same month in the previous year....The data shows that [the decline] can be almost completely explained by a drop-off in NPE suits in the high-tech sector. Litigation initiated by operating companies fell by just 19 quarter on quarter, <strong>but actions launched by NPEs dropped by 301, from 885 in Q2 to 554&nbsp;&mdash; a fall of 35%.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>An NPE is a "non-practicing entity"&mdash;that is, a company that doesn't actually make use of a patent in a product of its own, but has merely purchased it for the purpose of strong-arming payments out of other users. In other words, a patent troll. So what these numbers show is that generic patent litigation fell a bit in Q3, but that patent troll litigation fell by a lot.</p> <p>It's too early to jump to conclusions about this, but it seems reasonable that this decline is at least partly related to <em>Alice</em>. This is good news, though <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/10/some-goods-news-on-patents.html" target="_blank">Alex Tabarrok sensibly warns</a> that before long there will probably be an uptick in patent suits as people learn the new system. So hold off on the cheering.</p> <p>Still, we'll take good news where we can get it, and this is a step in the right direction. It will be even better if <em>Alice</em> is a sign that the Supreme Court plans to rein in the federal circuit court that handles patents, which in recent years seems to have been <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/5/27/5753866/the-real-problem-with-the-federal-circuit" target="_blank">far more friendly</a> toward software patents than the Supreme Court ever intended. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Regulatory Affairs Supreme Court Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:13:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 263536 at http://www.motherjones.com In NSA Bills, the Devil Is in the Details http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/nsa-bills-devil-details <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sen. Patrick Leahy says that his USA FREEDOM bill will stop the NSA's bulk collection of phone data. H.L. Pohlman says <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/10/29/ending-bulk-data-collection-nice-idea-wrong-bill/" target="_blank">it's not quite that easy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-28) issued in January 2014, the Obama administration defined &ldquo;bulk collection&rdquo; as the acquisition &ldquo;of large quantities of signals intelligence data which . . . is acquired without the use of discriminants (e.g., specific identifiers, selection terms, etc.).&rdquo; <strong>Thus, as long as the government uses a &ldquo;discriminant,&rdquo; a selection term, no matter how broad that term might be, the government is not engaged in a &ldquo;bulk collection&rdquo; program.</strong></p> <p>....The USA FREEDOM Act does not guarantee, then, that the government&rsquo;s database of telephone metadata will be smaller than it is now. It all depends on the generality of the selection terms that the government will use to obtain metadata from the telephone companies. And we don&rsquo;t know what those terms will be.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a longstanding issue that's been brought up by lots of people lots of times. It's not some minor subtlety. If the government decides to look for "all calls from the 213 area code," that's not necessarily bulk collection even though it would amass millions of records. It would be up to a judge to decide.</p> <p>If and when we get close to Congress actually considering bills to rein in the NSA&mdash;about which I'm only modestly optimistic in the first place&mdash;this is going to be a key thing to keep an eye on. As the ACLU and the EFF and others keep reminding us, reining in the NSA isn't a simple matter of "ending" their bulk collection program. The devil is truly in the details, and tiny changes in wording can literally mean the difference between something that works and something that's useless. Or maybe even worse than useless. As Pohlman points out, if you choose the right words, the NSA could end up having a freer hand than they do today. This is something to pay close attention to.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Wed, 29 Oct 2014 15:35:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 263526 at http://www.motherjones.com Benjamin Netanyahu, "Chickenshit" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/benjamin-netanyahu-chickenshit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jeffrey Goldberg has an, um, unique new perspective on the steadily deteriorating relationship between President Obama and <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/the-crisis-in-us-israel-relations-is-officially-here/382031/?single_page=true" target="_blank">Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Over the years, Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and &ldquo;Aspergery.&rdquo;....<strong>But I had not previously heard Netanyahu described as a &ldquo;chickenshit.&rdquo;</strong> I thought I appreciated the implication of this description, but it turns out I didn&rsquo;t have a full understanding.</p> <p>....&ldquo;The good thing about Netanyahu is that he&rsquo;s scared to launch wars,&rdquo; the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. &ldquo;The bad thing about him is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Netanyahu.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that he won&rsquo;t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states.&rdquo;</p> <p>....I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly. <strong>This official agreed that Netanyahu is a &ldquo;chickenshit&rdquo; on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he&rsquo;s also a &ldquo;coward&rdquo; on the issue of Iran&rsquo;s nuclear threat.</strong> The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran&rsquo;s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal.</p> <p>....Another manifestation of his chicken-shittedness, in the view of Obama administration officials, is his near-pathological desire for career-preservation. Netanyahu&rsquo;s government has in recent days gone out of its way to a) let the world know that it will quicken the pace of apartment-building in disputed areas of East Jerusalem; and b) let everyone know of its contempt for the Obama administration and its understanding of the Middle East.</p> </blockquote> <p>Netanyahu has always been a petty, small-minded pol, endlessly maneuvering to hold together his fragile and equally small-minded band of parochial coalition partners. As one of Goldberg's sources puts it, "The only thing he's interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He's not Rabin, he's not Sharon, he's certainly no Begin. He's got no guts."</p> <p>Goldberg believes that the American-Israeli relationship is finally at a crossroads, largely driven by the personal loathing Obama and Netanyahu have for each other. We've heard this before, of course, so take it with a grain of salt. Still, Netanyahu's open contempt for Obama, along with his obvious unwillingness to show even a pretense of interest in a peace process, might really be taking things to a breaking point. The whole thing is worth a read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:10:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 263501 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do Republicans Hate the Beatles? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/why-do-republicans-hate-beatles <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-science/politics-and-culture-on-facebook-in-the-2014-midterm-elections/10152598396348859" target="_blank">Over at the Facebook Data Science blog,</a> Winter Mason shows us how personal likes and dislikes line up with political ideology. Democrats like Maya Angelou, <em>The Color Purple</em>, and <em>The Colbert Report</em>. Republicans like Ben Carson, <em>Atlas Shrugged</em>, and <em>Duck Dynasty</em>. It's all good fun, though I'm a little mystified about why the Empire State Building is such a Democratic-leaning tourist destination. Maybe Republicans just dislike anything related to New York City.</p> <p>But it's music that I want some help on. I get that country tends to be right-leaning and Springsteen is left-leaning. But what's up with the Beatles being so distinctively associated with liberals? It's no secret that I know squat about music, so help me out here. No snark. I thought the Beatles had long since ascended into a sort of free-floating state of pop elder statehood where they were beloved of all baby boomers equally&mdash;and pretty much everyone else too. What do I not know that accounts for continuing Republican antipathy toward the moptops?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_music_ideology.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Music Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:17:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 263476 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Bush Would Have Punched Putin in the Nose http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/quote-day-bush-would-have-punched-putin-nose <!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.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/boehner-bush-would-have-punched-putin-the-nose" target="_blank">Here is John Boehner,</a> the leader of the House of Representatives and third in line for the presidency:</p> <blockquote> <p>When you look at this chaos that&rsquo;s going on, does anybody think that Vladimir Putin would have gone into Crimea had George W. Bush been president of the United States? No! Even Putin is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boehner_eyes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">smart enough to know that Bush would have punched him in the nose in about 10 seconds.</p> </blockquote> <p>Look, I get it: I'm a partisan, and right now I'm blogging through a slight bit of a morphine haze. But WTF? Have our political leaders always talked like this? This is just ridiculously juvenile.</p> <p>And while we're on the subject, I note that Boehner also said this: "I talk to world leaders every week. They want America to lead. They&rsquo;re begging America to lead. Because when America leads and America&rsquo;s strong, the world is a safer place." Ten bucks says Boehner is basically lying, unless by "world leaders" he means Paul Ryan and the odd backbencher in London he happens to have played golf with a couple of years ago. As anyone with a pulse knows, world leaders simply have different priorities than we do. It's the Europeans who are resisting stronger action against Putin. It's the Turks who aren't too interested in saving Kobani. It's the Saudis who want us to devote all our attention to their longtime Shiite enemies. It's Angela Merkel who's single-mindedly intent on destroying the European economy. If John Boehner thinks all these folks are eagerly waiting for America to whip them into line, he's even more delusional than I thought.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Tue, 28 Oct 2014 18:22:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 263421 at http://www.motherjones.com Question of the Day: Does Obama Plan to Flood America With Ebola Patients? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/question-day-does-obama-plan-flood-america-ebola-patients <!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.foxnews.com/politics/2014/10/28/lawmaker-claims-plans-may-be-in-pipeline-to-bring-non-citizens-to-us-for-ebola/" target="_blank">From Fox anchor Megyn Kelly</a> to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee:</p> <blockquote> <p>So do you believe that the administration is planning on bringing Ebola patients from overseas here to America?</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, that's an actual question, and I probably don't have to tell you what Goodlatte's answer is. The only thing missing is whether Goodlatte also believes Obama is planning to naturalize these folks by executive order so they can vote in Tuesday's election.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media The Right Tue, 28 Oct 2014 17:20:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 263401 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Coming on Strong in Election Homestretch http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/republicans-coming-strong-last-week-election <!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_abc_poll_generic_congressional_2014.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's now seven days until Election Day, and unfortunately things are trending pretty badly for us liberal types. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/10/economic-political-discontent-make-for-a-midterm-double-punch/" target="_blank">The ABC/Washington Post poll</a> on the right shows that Democrats and Republicans are pretty much all planning to vote for their own party next week, which leaves the election in the hands of independents. That turns out to be grim news. We can argue all day long about whether independents are "really" independent, but at this point it doesn't matter. They represent about a third of the electorate, and at the moment they favor Republican candidates by nearly 20 percentage points.</p> <p>There doesn't seem to be any specific issue driving this. People are just generally unhappy. A huge majority think America is on the wrong track; Obama's approval rating remains mired only slightly above 40 percent; and far more people blame Democrats than Republicans for the rising dysfunction of the federal government.</p> <p>That last point is especially galling for Democrats, but it's a win for Republicans and yet another sign of change in the way Washington is likely to work in the future. Republicans have discovered that a sufficiently united party can obstruct everything and anything but largely escape blame for the resulting gridlock. This lesson has not been lost on Democrats, and it bodes ill for the future regardless of who wins our next few elections. There's just no reward for getting things done these days, and this probably means that less and less will get done. That's Political Economy 101 for you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Top Stories Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:52:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 263386 at http://www.motherjones.com Paying for Stuff Will Soon Be Almost as Easy and Reliable as Using Cash http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/paying-stuff-will-soon-be-almost-easy-and-reliable-using-cash <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sarah Halzack describes the difference between between ApplePay and a competing system, CurrentC, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/10/27/as-cvs-and-rite-aid-disable-apple-pay-does-the-digital-wallet-have-a-rocky-road-ahead/" target="_blank">due to roll out next year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Apple Pay's system relies on near-field communication chips, allowing users to wave their smartphones in front of a reader and confirm the purchase with a fingerprint scan. CurrentC, on the other hand, <strong>will require shoppers to use their smartphone's camera to take a picture of a code generated by the retailer,</strong> a series of steps that may feel slower and more complex to consumers than Apple Pay.</p> </blockquote> <p>Say what? You have to pull out your phone, open the CurrentC app, and take a picture of a QR code that's displayed on the merchant's screen. If that doesn't work, you have to manually enter a numeric code.</p> <p>And this is faster and more convenient than swiping a debit card because....what? Am I missing something here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Tue, 28 Oct 2014 05:39:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 263371 at http://www.motherjones.com Refusing Medicaid Expansion Is Costing Red States a Bundle http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/refusing-medicaid-expansion-costing-red-states-bundle <!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_medicaid_2015_spending_growth_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's a remarkable chart cobbled together from a <a href="http://kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/implementing-the-aca-medicaid-spending-enrollment-growth-for-fy-2014-and-fy-2015/" target="_blank">survey of state Medicaid directors by the Kaiser Family Foundation.</a> It's a little ugly, but bear with me.</p> <p>This is a projection of Medicaid enrollment and spending for 2015 that compares states that accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion with those that didn't. As you can see, in states that accepted the expansion, enrollment is forecast to cover 18 percent more people compared to only 5.2 percent more in non-expansion states. And as you'd expect, this will cost money: total Medicaid spending will rise faster in expansion states than non-expansion states.</p> <p>But most of that spending growth is covered by the federal government. It turns out that states which accepted the Medicaid expansion expect <em>state</em> spending to grow more slowly than in non-expansion states.</p> <p>In other words, the non-expansion states really are shooting themselves in the foot. They're enrolling fewer people, but paying more to do it. They actually prefer spending more money if the alternative is spending less but helping their own poor with medical coverage. Hard to believe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 28 Oct 2014 01:22:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 263361 at http://www.motherjones.com John Boehner Still Hasn't Sued Obama Over Obamacare. Why Not? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/john-boehner-still-hasnt-sued-obama-over-obamacare-why-not <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Three months ago, John Boehner threw a bone to the tea-party faction that was nipping at his heels and demanding action against the lawless tyrant Obama and his executive orders that routinely defied both the Constitution and the duly enacted laws of the land. The bone took the form of a planned lawsuit against the administration because it had delayed certain aspects of the employer and employee mandates under Obamacare.</p> <p>At the time, I was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/john-boehners-lawsuit-against-obama-perfectly-reasonable" target="_blank">perfectly OK</a> with Boehner doing this. Why not let courts decide this kind of dispute, after all? That's what they're for. What's more, unlike most of the tea party complaints about lawless behavior, this one seemed <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/03/obama-announces-yet-another-delay-part-obamacare" target="_blank">at least defensible.</a> And yet, three months later, we still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crs_boehner_lawsuit.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">have no lawsuit. Why? Simon Lazarus and Elisabeth Stein suspect that it has to do with Boehner asking for some legal advice from the Congressional Research Service and then quietly getting a report <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2014/10/the_congressional_research_ser052647.php" target="_blank">that he wasn't expecting:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>CRS reports such as this one are generated in response to requests by members or committees of Congress, though the CRS does not make public the identity of the requester or requesters. This particular report&nbsp;&mdash; of which House Democrats were unaware until it appeared&nbsp;&mdash; bears the earmarks of an inquiry, requested by the Speaker or his allies, to give some color of legitimacy to their charges of rampant presidential illegality. Instead, the result validates the lawyers&rsquo; maxim not to ask a question when unsure of the likely answer.</p> <p>The Report offers two conclusions: First, under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), <strong>no rulemaking procedure was necessitated by the Administration&rsquo;s initial one-year delay in enforcing the employer mandate,</strong> past the ACA&rsquo;s prescribed January 1, 2014 effective date....Second, the Report states that, when, in February 2014, the Administration announced an additional year&rsquo;s postponement of full enforcement of the mandate, until January 1, 2016, &ldquo;informal rulemaking procedures&rdquo; appeared to be required. <strong>In fact, as the report&rsquo;s authors reference, the Administration had engaged in precisely the type of informal rulemaking process that, the report concluded, was called for.</strong> The Administration&rsquo;s action finalized a September 2013 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, making adjustments in response to comments from interested parties, precisely as prescribed by the APA.</p> <p>In other words, having been asked whether the Obama administration had crossed all its t&rsquo;s and dotted its i&rsquo;s, the CRS&rsquo; answer was unequivocal: yes it had. In bland CRS-speak, this seems like a veritable finger in the eye&nbsp;&mdash; or perhaps, a blunt warning to the Speaker to drop the lawsuit project.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oops. This doesn't mean Boehner can't still file his lawsuit, of course. It was all pretty much symbolism and bone-tossing in the first place, so it hardly matters if he ends up losing the case a year or two from now. But it could have proven embarrassing, especially if the CRS report became public, which, inevitably, it did. This stuff never stays under wraps forever.</p> <p>So perhaps Boehner has decided to hold his fire. He has bigger fish to fry right now, and I doubt he was ever all that excited about the lawsuit anyway. For now, it's become just another shard on the ever-mounting bone pile of tea party outrage about a president doing stuff they don't happen to approve of.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Regulatory Affairs Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:27:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 263326 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Two and a Half Cheers for No-Drama Obama http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/heres-two-and-half-cheers-no-drama-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Saturday I promised to both agree and disagree with Matt Yglesias, but I never quite got around to the agreeing part. So let's do that today. Yglesias was writing in response to a fairly typical complaint from Josh Green that President Obama is too aloof, too cerebral, and too technocratic to satisfy the public's "emotional needs" in a national leader. But Yglesias points out that Obama's firm, low-key disposition served him well when the rest of the world went into panic mode over the passage of Obamacare <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/10/24/7053903/josh-green-obama-crisis" target="_blank">after Democrats lost control of the Senate in 2010:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There's no single optimal temperament for all times and all places. <strong>Obama, by temperament, is a cool cucumber. I am not.</strong> At times, Obama might have been better served by a more emotional approach and an itchier trigger finger. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_no_drama_obama.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But Obama was right during the political crisis of January 2010.</p> <p>He was also right back in October of 2008 when the American banking sector seemed to be collapsing....Obama's opponent, John McCain, was never one to underreact. Most observers greatly appreciated the younger senator's ability to keep things in perspective and his evident dedication to trying to learn the relevant facts....Similarly, two months earlier, McCain was proclaiming "we are all Georgians now" in response to Putin's incursion into South Ossetia. A systematic overreactor would have had his finger much more on the public pulse when Ebola first arrived in Dallas. But he also might have embroiled the country in a nuclear war with Russia.</p> <p>....Journalists have systematic professional incentives to overreact....The hot temperament consequently tends to dominate in the ranks of the media....But more than a political pose, an aversion to purely symbolic action has genuinely served Obama well at critical moments....Obama's approach to the economy has been far from flawless, but it's not a coincidence that the USA has performed better since 2008 than Europe or the United Kingdom and weathered its financial crisis far better than Japan did in the 1990s.</p> <p><strong>The Deepwater Horizon crisis passed. The American Ebola crisis will also pass. HealthCare.gov got fixed. The Russian economy is reeling in the face of sanctions. Osama bin Laden is dead. The economy is growing.</strong> Obama hasn't always been a very effective pundit-in-chief (acute crisis moments aside, his inability to articulate public anger at Wall Street has been remarkable) but that's not actually his job. On the big stuff, he's been effective. And that's not a coincidence.</p> </blockquote> <p>I always find it difficult to strike just the right tone on this. Unlike Yglesias, I <em>am</em> a fairly cool cucumber, and I'm frankly relieved to have a president whose temperament is roughly in sync with my own. At the same time, I'm well aware that I'm not typical, and that like it or not, the presidency is a bully pulpit that often demands a certain demonstrativeness in order to resonate with the public. Overtly emotional appeals worked well for Bill Clinton and overtly nationalistic ones worked well for George Bush. In Obama's case, however, it really is sometimes hard to tell if he's truly engaged with problems the way he should be. Occasional leaks from White House insiders that Obama is "furious" about something or other doesn't get the job done.</p> <p>That said, Obama has good reason to be contemptuous of the 24/7 news cycle and the way it's affected politics. Obviously reporters aren't much interested in writing "Problem X continues to be steadily addressed" day after day. They want action! They want news! And these days, they don't even want it daily. They pretty much want it hourly.</p> <p>But that's a crappy attitude toward problem solving. There have been times and places when Obama probably has been a little too disengaged, either in the planning process or in responding to crises. Healthcare.gov is an example of the former, and the sequester/debt limit/fiscal cliff battles may be examples of the latter. For the most part, though, his approach has been pretty sound. There was little the government could do about Deepwater Horizon, and high-profile interference probably would have been as counterproductive as the recent panic-stricken Ebola quarantine orders from the governors of New Jersey, New York, and Florida. Obama has instead been radiating calm and working behind the scenes to prevent Ebola from becoming just another partisan football. He's urging us to adopt evidence-based responses that don't undermine the longer-term fight against Ebola, and that's the right call.</p> <p>America is a big place. The world is even bigger. We have big problems that don't get solved in a day. I don't want to pretend that Obama has an ideal management style, when he plainly doesn't. But given what he's dealing with, Obama's management style is pretty damn good. And you know what? The dirty little secret of management is that half the battle&mdash;maybe more!&mdash;is avoiding lots of stupid stuff that you have to clean up afterward.</p> <p>Obama may not always give us the emotional sustenance we want, or mount a pretense of whirlwind action to satisfy the cable nets, but he gets things done. Anyone who can count on their fingers can pretty easily figure out, for example, that he's had a more successful presidency than either Clinton or Bush. Slow and steady doesn't win every race, but it wins a lot of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:01:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 263311 at http://www.motherjones.com Kobani Still Holding Out -- But Is That Good News? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/kobani-still-holding-out-good-news <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Like Mark Thompson, I've been a bit out of circulation for the past couple of weeks&mdash;enough to pay only minimal attention to Iraq, anyway&mdash;and also like Thompson, I'm a little surprised to come back and discover that Kobani is still holding out against ISIS. This is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kobani_map.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400">largely thanks to the US bombing campaign, and Thompson <a href="http://time.com/3540401/kobani-isis-islamic-state-pentagon/" target="_blank">isn't sure what to think of this success:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>While that&rsquo;s obviously good news in the short term for the city&rsquo;s 200,000 largely-Kurdish residents, it&rsquo;s tougher to handicap what it means for the long-term U.S.-led effort to &ldquo;degrade and destroy&rdquo; ISIS.</p> <p>Earlier this month, U.S. military officers were speaking of ISIS&rsquo;s &ldquo;momentum,&rdquo; and how its string of military successes over the past year meant that quickly halting its advance would likely prove difficult if not impossible. Yet, as far as Kobani is concerned, that seems to be what is taking place.</p> <p>But that raises the stakes for the U.S. and its allies. Having smothered ISIS&rsquo;s momentum, an eventual ISIS victory in the battle for Kobani would be a more devastating defeat for the U.S. military than an earlier collapse of the town.</p> <p><strong>There are concerns that the focus on saving Kobani is giving ISIS free reign elsewhere in its self-declared caliphate&mdash;that the U.S., in essence, could end up winning the battle while losing the war.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;The U.S. air campaign has turned into an unfocused mess,&rdquo; Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote Friday. &ldquo;The U.S. has shifted limited air strike resources to focus on Syria and a militarily meaningless and isolated small Syrian Kurdish enclave at Kobani at the expense of supporting Iraqi forces in Anbar and intensifying the air campaign against other Islamic State targets in Syria.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The flip side of this is the obvious one: have patience. &ldquo;Here we are not three months into it and there are critics saying it&rsquo;s falling apart; it&rsquo;s failing; the strategy is not sound,&rdquo; Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. &ldquo;The strategy is sound and it&rsquo;s working and there&rsquo;s no plans to deviate it from right now.&rdquo;</p> <p>If we're really engaged in a years-long battle against ISIS, then a few months here or there doesn't matter much. And saving Kobani isn't just a moral good, but can also demonstrate to others that ISIS is not some magical, unstoppable force destined to overrun Iraq. It's just an ordinary group of guerrilla soldiers who can be defeated with determination and patience. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:20:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 263296 at http://www.motherjones.com Housekeeping Finale http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/housekeeping-finale <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I am home and the cats are becoming re-acquainted with their long-lost daddy. Monday should bring a return to normalcy. That is all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Oct 2014 02:09:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 263271 at http://www.motherjones.com Profiles in Mainstream Media Courage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/profiles-mainstream-media-courage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Laura Poitras, the journalist who first worked with NSA leaker Edward Snowden and later wrote groundbreaking stories with Glenn Greenwald about the stunning growth and reach of the US surveillance state, describes her <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/184689/qa-laura-poitras#" target="_blank">initial interaction with the mainstream media in an interview with Astra Taylor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Q: Other journalists were afraid to work with Snowden.</strong></p> <p>A: There&rsquo;s a strong culture of fear among journalists right now, because the government is cracking down on both journalists and sources....We involved [<em>Washington Post</em> journalist] Bart Gellman when Snowden wanted to release one document early, and Gellman used the Snowden archive to break the PRISM story about mass electronic surveillance. He was going to come with me to Hong Kong to meet Snowden, and the <em>Post</em> became very nervous and pulled out. They told me not to go. I felt like I couldn&rsquo;t live with myself if I didn&rsquo;t go, so I went.</p> </blockquote> <p>As they say, read the whole thing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Media Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 263261 at http://www.motherjones.com Social Networking Employs More People Than We Think http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/10/social-networking-employs-more-people-we-think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is a pretty amazing story from <em>Wired</em> reporter Adrian Chen about the army of workers who spend their days <a href="http://www.wired.com/2014/10/content-moderation/" target="_blank">monitoring the raw feeds of social networking sites</a> to get rid of "dick pics, thong shots, exotic objects inserted into <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_delete.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">bodies, hateful taunts, and requests for oral sex" before they show up on America's morning skim of Facebook and Twitter:</p> <blockquote> <p>Past the guard, in a large room packed with workers manning PCs on long tables, I meet Michael Baybayan, an enthusiastic 21-year-old with a jaunty pouf of reddish-brown hair....Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles &ldquo;content moderation&rdquo;&mdash;the removal of offensive material&mdash;for US social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been confronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet&rsquo;s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won&rsquo;t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video.</p> <p>....So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them&mdash;a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, <strong>estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world&rsquo;s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to &ldquo;well over 100,000&rdquo;&mdash;that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.</strong></p> <p>Given that content moderators <strong>might very well comprise as much as half the total workforce for social media sites,</strong> it&rsquo;s worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be.</p> </blockquote> <p>We often hear about how the new app economy is largely a jobless economy, but thanks to the general scumminess of human beings maybe that's less true than we think. Cleaning up the internet for grandma is a grueling, never-ending job that, for now anyway, can only be done by other, less scummy, human beings. Lots of them.</p> <p>It's true that the "basic moderation" jobs are largely overseas and don't pay much, but second-tier moderators are mostly US-based and are paid fairly well. As you'd expect, though, most don't last long. Burnout comes pretty quickly when you spend all day exposed to a nonstop stream of torture videos, hate speech, YouTube beheadings, and the entire remaining panoply of general human degradation. That's what the rest of Chen's story is about. It's a pretty interesting read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Tech Sun, 26 Oct 2014 16:39:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 263256 at http://www.motherjones.com