Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Menstrual Syncing Is Baloney <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Simon Oxenham <a href="" target="_blank">busts a myth today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Another popular theory is that when women live together, their menstrual cycles align. The idea has become a popular example of how pheromones can control us, but over time many studies have failed to replicate and confirm the finding. <strong>But for some reason, this idea is particularly resilient to debunking,</strong> living on in an abundance of newspaper articles and anecdotal conversations between friends.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can propose one possible reason this idea resists debunking: Nobody is debunking it. I learned about this in college in the late 70s, when it was believed to be true. In the intervening 45 years, this is the first time I've heard that it's wrong. That might be understandable if I didn't read a lot, but I do. And I've never heard <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_journal_popular_myths_delusions_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">until now that the menstrual syncing theory hasn't held up.</p> <p>Eventually, I suppose, my generation will die off and younger generations will never have been exposed to this idea, but that process sure takes a while. In the meantime, we are all prisoners of the fact that fascinating scientific results always get a lot of media attention, while the slow work of falsifying them&mdash;which is rarely done in a single blockbuster study&mdash;ends up buried in academic journals.</p> <p>Because of this, I think we need a new academic journal: <em>The Journal of Popular Myths and Delusions</em>, or some such. They would tackle things in two ways. First, when a popular theory gets to the point where it's widely discredited in the scientific community, they'd write an article about it that would give news organizations a hook to report it. Second, they would annually commission a survey of known scientific falsehoods and then spend the following year debunking the most popular ones. I recommend they start with the whole <a href="" target="_blank">eight glasses of water</a> thing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 19:10:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 312731 at Donald Trump Is a Consistent, Brazen, Serial Liar <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today Ron Fournier bids farewell to Washington with a column declaring Donald Trump <a href="" target="_blank">unfit for the Oval Office:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>There's Simply No Equivalence<br> Hillary Clinton has her problems, but Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency.</strong></p> <p>....On one hand, Clinton. On the other hand, Trump. That&rsquo;s the unfortunate choice facing voters in a system rigged heavily in favor of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_trump_lies_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the two major parties. But there&rsquo;s no equivalence.</p> <p>On one hand, Benghazi and email and lies.</p> <p>On the other hand, mendacity, bigotry, bullyism, narcissism, sexism, selfishness, sociopathology, and a lack of understanding or interest in public policy&mdash;all to extremes unseen in modern presidential politics.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't mean to criticize Fournier for anything here, but he uses a formulation that I've seen all too often and it puzzles me. Critics of Hillary Clinton always mention that she "lies." But Trump? It's all bigotry, ignorance, and narcissism. Why? Trump lies practically every time he opens his mouth. Without getting into the question of how often or how seriously Hillary lies, there's really no question that Trump outclasses her about a thousand to one on this score.</p> <p>Fournier actually does better than some, since he at least mentions "mendacity" in his list. But why not just say Trump is a liar? And not just any liar. By a wide margin Trump is the most consistent, brazen, serial liar in presidential campaign history. He's so far off the charts it's hard to even describe what he does. This really deserves to be called out more often.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 18:27:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 312706 at Is Donald Trump Softening Even More on Immigration? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After Donald Trump spent a week waffling and "softening" over his immigration policy, I said, "The only thing left is for him to casually tell us that 'build the wall' was meant kind of metaphorically all along, and most of it will end up being a 'virtual wall' of drones and security cameras." Ha ha. Just a little joke. Trump would never back down on&mdash;what's that, NBC News?</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump may be shifting towards building more of a "virtual wall" on the border, reports <a href="">@halliejackson</a></p> &mdash; Ari Melber MSNBC (@AriMelber) <a href="">August 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Sigh. I wonder if someone finally told Trump that it's not possible to build an actual concrete wall across every mile of the border? But if so, why would he have listened this time? It's not like he's ever shown any deference to reality in the past.</p> <p>Anyway, maybe there's nothing to this. I guess we'll have to wait for Trump's big immigration speech on Wednesday. (Yes, another one.) At the moment, he's too busy tweeting about Hillary Clinton's <a href="" target="_blank">low</a> <a href="" target="_blank">IQ</a> to have time for anything else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 16:18:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 312696 at Huma Abedin Has Finally Had Enough <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After the latest humiliating public news of her husband Anthony Weiner's <a href="" target="_blank">sexting obsession</a>, Huma Abedin is calling it quits:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner are separating <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) <a href="">August 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Jesus. She has a laughingstock for a husband, and spent four years trying to fend off the odious Doug Band while she was working for Hillary Clinton at the State Department. What a life. She deserves better, and I hope she gets it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:44:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 312691 at Our Automotive Overlords Are Coming Soon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_driverless_cars_age_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Vox has polled America about driverless cars, and the truth has emerged: if you are skeptical of self-driving technology, you are probably the same kind of oldster who scoffs at Snapchat and Instagram., is probably pretty reasonable. But older folks also tend to watch Fox News and vote Republican. You don't want to be part of that demographic do, you? Besides, <a href="" target="_blank">you might not have any choice:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If self-driving technology saves as many lives as its supporters hope, we could eventually have a different debate: whether to allow people to drive their own cars at all....A slight plurality of those under 30 said they would favor a ban, 43 percent to 42 percent. In contrast, those over 65 were opposed by a wide margin, 58 percent to 22 percent.</p> </blockquote> <p>Millennials will be taking over the world soon, and they're wide open to banning human drivers. This makes sense. Our grandchildren will probably be appalled when we tell them that once upon a time humans were actually allowed to pilot these 2-ton death machines. Your future automotive overlords are knocking on the door and I, for one, welcome them.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The original version of the chart in this story showed that only 2 percent of the elderly were ready to give up their cars. The actual number is 9 percent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 15:14:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 312686 at Yet Another Blockbuster Story About Hillary and the Clinton Foundation Turns Out To Be Nothing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_chagoury.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">When I picked up my copy of the <em>LA Times</em> this morning, I was greeted by the headline on the right. It's about someone you may have heard of: <a href="" target="_blank">Gilbert Chagoury, a billionaire from Nigeria.</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Chagoury is a prominent example of the nexus between Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s State Department and the family&rsquo;s Clinton Foundation,</strong> which has come under renewed scrutiny during her presidential run. The organization, founded as a way for the Clintons to tap their vast network for charitable works, has tackled some of the steepest challenges in the developing world, including rebuilding Haiti and fighting AIDS in Africa. It has also come under fire for its willingness to accept money from foreign governments with interest in swaying U.S. policy during Clinton&rsquo;s time as secretary of State, <strong>and the controversial histories of some donors.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>A nexus! So what's up with Chagoury? Here's a snapshot:</p> <blockquote> <p>Chagoury was born in 1946 in Lagos to Lebanese parents....During the rule of Gen. Sani Abacha, who seized power in Nigeria in 1993, <strong>Chagoury prospered</strong>....tried to influence American policy to be more friendly to the regime....Abacha turned out to be &ldquo;one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory,&rdquo; stealing billions in public funds....After Abacha&rsquo;s death in 1998, the Nigerian government hired lawyers to track down the money. The trail led to bank accounts all over the world &mdash; some under Gilbert Chagoury's control. <strong>Chagoury, who denied knowing the funds were stolen, paid a fine of 1 million Swiss francs,</strong> then about $600,000, and gave back $65 million to Nigeria; a Swiss conviction was expunged, a spokesman for Chagoury said.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK. Chagoury is rich, powerful, connected, and maybe a little shady. Next:</p> <blockquote> <p>In 1996, he gave $460,000 to a voter registration group steered by Bill Clinton&rsquo;s allies....attended Clinton's 60th birthday fundraiser....contributed $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation....<strong>the Chagoury Group&rsquo;s Eko Atlantic development &mdash; nine square kilometers of Lagos coastal land reclaimed by a seawall &mdash; was singled out for praise.</strong></p> <p>....By last summer, <strong>U.S. diplomats had selected a 9.9-acre property at Eko Atlantic as the preferred site for a new Lagos consulate,</strong> State Department documents obtained by the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> show. Two months ago, James Entwistle, then the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, wrote to Washington, asking permission to sign a 99-year lease.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Eko Atlantic stuff is small beer, and happened after Hillary Clinton left the State Department anyway. So what's her connection to all this? That's a little hazy:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Doug] Band, Bill Clinton&rsquo;s aide, pushed for new access for Chagoury after Hillary Clinton took over at the State Department. In 2009, Band wrote his friends in the department. &ldquo;<strong>We need Gilbert Chagoury to speak to the substance guy re Lebanon.</strong> As you know he's key guy there and to us and is loved in Lebanon. Very imp.&rdquo; Huma Abedin, a longtime aide and confidante to Clinton and now vice chairwoman of her presidential campaign, suggested [former Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey] Feltman....<strong>But no meeting ever happened,</strong> according to both Feltman and Chagoury&rsquo;s spokesman. Chagoury wanted only to pass along insights on Lebanese politics, Corallo said, adding that &ldquo;nothing ever came of it&rdquo; and that Chagoury never talked to anyone at the State Department.</p> </blockquote> <p>And...what? This is followed by a description of Chagoury's run-ins with US security officials, all of which happened <em>after</em> 2009. However, the story is written in such a way that this is unclear unless you read carefully.</p> <p>So as near as I can tell, Chagoury (a) is tied up in some of the less savory aspects of Lebanese politics, (b) has contributed to the Clinton Foundation, and (c) wanted to discuss Lebanon once with someone at State, but never did. Later on, he had trouble getting a US visa thanks to suspicions of past connections with Hezbollah, which Chagoury denies.</p> <p>Am I missing something? How did this end up as the lead story in today's <em>LA Times</em>?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Aug 2016 02:55:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 312671 at Health Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_m_protein_2016_08_28.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I've had some lab work and a couple of doctor visits this week. Everything is fine aside from my M-protein level, which you will recall is a marker that's a good measure of the level of cancerous cells in my bone marrow. The evil dex<sup></sup>got it down to 0.3, and it hovered around there for a couple of months after we stopped the dex.<sup>1</sup> This month, however, it's up to 0.48. My oncologist thinks that I may have been dehydrated when I did the lab work, because several other results were also higher than before. Because of this, he thinks the M-protein level will probably drop the next time I get labs done.</p> <p>Is this plausible? Beats me. As near as I can tell, oncologists are so devoted to happy talk that it's hard to know whether to believe anything they say. So this might be an aberration or it might not. We'll find out in a couple of months.</p> <p>If my M-protein level <em>does</em> go back down, then we keep doing what we're doing. If it continues to go up, we'll switch to a different maintenance regimen. We should find out sometime around my 58th birthday.</p> <p>Life is weird. In the past two years, four members of my immediate family have been diagnosed with cancer. The total size of my immediate family is seven. Seems a little excessive, doesn't it?</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I get occasional emails from readers who haven't seen a health update in a while and want to know how I am. For the record, if there's no health update, it means nothing has changed. I'll always post about anything significant.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>That's dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that helps fight multiple myeloma. However, it has bad long-term side effects, so it can only be used for a few months at a time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 28 Aug 2016 18:53:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 312661 at Your Day in Trump: Friday, 26 August 2016, 74 Days Until the Election <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Well, OK, I guess I'd better do a quick Trump update. No, he still hasn't made up his mind about his immigration policy, but he did respond to the shooting of Dwyane Wade's cousin:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Dwyane Wade's cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Keep it classy, Donald. Next up, remember that letter from Donald Trump's doctor claiming that Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency"? Yesterday NBC News finally got an interview with Dr. Harold Bornstein, who justified this opinion by explaining that "all the rest of them are either sick or dead." Roger that. This picture of Bornstein nearly brought down Twitter's servers yesterday:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bornstein.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>Yep, that's billionaire Donald Trump's doctor. You can&mdash;and should!&mdash;watch the entire interview with Dr. Bornstein <a href="" target="_blank">over at NBC News.</a> Fun fact: he wrote the letter in five minutes while Trump's limo was waiting downstairs.</p> <p>What else? Well, it turns out to no one's surprise that <em>Breitbart</em> chief and now Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon may be even more bigoted than we thought. The <em>Daily News</em> picked up <a href="" target="_blank">this little nugget from his divorce proceedings:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mary Louise Piccard said in a 2007 court declaration that Bannon didn't want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled at the elite institution.</p> <p><strong>"The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend,"</strong> Piccard said in her statement signed on June 27, 2007. "He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," Piccard wrote.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bannon's spox told the <em>Daily News</em> that "at the time" he never said anything like that. They did not specify at which time he <em>did</em> say it.</p> <p>Am I done yet? Oh my no. Next up is Trump supporter Paul LePage, the unhinged governor of Maine. LePage apparently thought that a Democratic legislator had called him a racist (he hadn't) and <a href="" target="_blank">left him a noxious phone message.</a> Then he met with reporters to explain himself:</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="337" src="" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 90px;" width="450"></iframe></p> <p>There were a few other items. There always are. But that's enough. For those of you who didn't pay any attention to the news yesterday, this has been your day in Trump.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 27 Aug 2016 17:04:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 312656 at Friday Cat Blogging - 26 August 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>What kind of cat is Hilbert? Here is this week's peek into his personality.</p> <p>On Tuesday Marian made a tuna sandwich for lunch. That means tuna juice too, so she squeezed out the tuna juice into two saucers and put them out. Hopper came bounding over immediately and started lapping up the juice. Hilbert was slower off the mark, but eventually he figured out what was going on and shambled over.</p> <p>But when he got to the saucers, he didn't head to the unoccupied one. He went around the long way and stuck his snout into Hopper's saucer and pushed her away. She shrugged, and headed over to the other saucer, which she lapped up. She had been almost done with the first one anyway.</p> <p>So there you have it. Hilbert is more interested in taking away Hopper's tuna juice than in actually having any tuna juice of his own. However, he also has a brain the size of a peanut and is unable to effectively carry out his nefarious intentions. In the end, Hopper got all the tuna juice.</p> <p>In other words, he is not a cat we'd want to elect as president. But as a king? Sure. So here is his majesty up on the balcony, surveying his vast domains. I'm not sure what he's looking at. Probably a crow walking across the skylight.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2016_08_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 19:00:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 312641 at A Question for the AP <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just curious: are you ever planning to release the names of Hillary Clinton's non-governmental visitors? You're a news organization, after all, and this is news. I'd sure like to see them. I bet lots of other people would too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 18:45:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 312636 at Is the Clinton Foundation Corrupt? There's a Way to Find Out For Anyone Who's Seriously Interested. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Did corporations and foreign governments make donations to the Clinton Foundation as a way of cozying up to Hillary Clinton? Cherry picking the few occasions when they did so within a few months of some action by Hillary won't tell us anything. There's too little signal and too much noise. But there's a way to attack this question. Since 2000, Hillary Clinton has had five phases in her career:</p> <blockquote> <p>2001-06: Senator from New York<br> 2007-08: Candidate for president with good chance of winning.<br> 2009-12: Secretary of State in the Obama administration.<br> 2013-14: Retired, giving speeches, no one knew what she would do next.<br><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_foundation_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">2015-16: Candidate for president with excellent chance of winning.</p> </blockquote> <p>So here's what someone needs to do: Take a look at donations to the Clinton Foundation and see if they seem to align with these career phases. For example, you'd expect foreign governments to be uninterested in gaining favors from Hillary while she was a New York senator, but very interested while she was Secretary of State. Conversely, you might expect, say, the financial industry to be generous while she was a New York senator but not so much while she was Secretary of State. During the periods when she was running for president, you'd expect activity to pick up from everybody, and during 2013-14 you'd expect interest to decline across the board.</p> <p>You can probably think of other trends you'd expect to see if donations to the Clinton Foundation were widely viewed as a way of getting better access to Hillary. So what you need to do is write down these expectations <em>first</em>, and then crunch the data to see if the evidence supports your hypothesis.</p> <p>This would be a lot of work. But if you really, truly think the Foundation was basically just a way of buying access to Hillary Clinton, this is a way of getting past anecdotes and looking for real trends. Is anyone willing to do this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 18:23:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 312631 at It's the End of August and Hillary Clinton's Lead Remains Clear and Steady <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Is the presidential race tightening up? Let's take a look. Here's Pollster:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_race_tightening_2016_08_26_pollster.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>No tightening evident here. Here's Sam Wang:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_race_tightening_2016_08_26_pec.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>No tightening here either. If anything, Clinton has improved her position. Here's Real Clear Politics:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_race_tightening_2016_08_26_rcp_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Some slight tightening here since early August, when the convention bumps settled down. Maybe a point or so. Here's Nate Cohn:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_race_tightening_2016_08_26_nyt.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>No tightening here. Here's 538:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_race_tightening_2016_08_26_538.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>This is a percentage chance of victory, not a projection of vote share. Clinton has dropped a few points since early August.</p> <p>Bottom line: Since early August, there's either been no tightening in the polls, or, at most, maybe a point or so. Hillary Clinton is ahead by 6-8 points in the national polls, and so far that's staying pretty steady.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 16:45:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 312611 at Republicans Agree: Trump Is a Racist Boor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump relies on racism and bigotry in his presidential campaign. Republicans must be filling the airwaves with denunciations of Clinton by now, <a href="" target="_blank">so Philip Bump rounds up the outrage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The day after Hillary Clinton delivered a vicious indictment of Donald Trump, the Republican party's ostensible leader, on the same subject, <strong>Republican leaders haven't risen to his defense.</strong></p> <p>The Republican Party has tweeted repeatedly since Clinton's speech, praising the National Park Service, hitting Clinton on her Foundation and pledging to return to the Constitution. <strong>It offered no press release in defense of its nominee,</strong> issuing one only about Clinton having not held a press conference since last year.</p> <p>Speaker Paul Ryan....Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference....Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell....MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin (who noticed the GOP's silence early) asked party spokesman Sean Spicer about the lack of a coordinated rebuttal to Clinton. <strong>"I don't know," Spicer said. "I think Congress is in recess."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I'm sure Sean Hannity has offered a stirring defense, and that's what really matters.</p> <p>One other quick note about Trump: he's been waffling back and forth on immigration all week. It's his signature issue, and he's been running on it for over a year now, but he still can't quite seem to make up his mind about some of the most fundamental issues related to immigration policy. This has produced many thumbsuckers about whether Trump is pivoting, or staying the course, or some combination thereof. My advice: don't bother. Trump doesn't have a policy. He couldn't care less about immigration. To him, it's just a handy applause line in his speeches. Trying to follow his peregrinations is like trying to figure out what a five year old <em>really</em> wants to be when she grows up.</p> <p>I have no idea why immigration foes took Trump seriously in the first place. If he ever became president, his first instinct would be to cut a deal, exactly what the hardliners don't want. And since he doesn't really care about it, he'd accept whatever Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan could hammer out, and then count on being able to sell it as "the toughest immigration plan ever," or somesuch. In the end, he's probably the <em>worst</em> candidate for immigration hardliners, not the best.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:20:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 312596 at Here's Why Hillary Clinton Talked About Racism and the Alt-Right Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton gave a speech today. <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Caldwell summarizes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Democrats haven't been shy about pointing out the racial undertones in Donald Trump's campaign, but Hillary Clinton took that message to a new level Thursday, calling out the GOP nominee for purposefully whipping up racist bigotry and resentment...."From the start," Clinton said, "Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_speech_racism.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous."</p> </blockquote> <p>Why did she do this? The most popular explanation is that she was giving "permission" for moderate Republicans to stay home in November. Donald Trump, she said, isn't a traditional Republican. He's a hate-monger who's hijacked the party as a vehicle for his loathsome brand of racism and xenophobia. Even if you're a loyal Republican, you don't have to support that.</p> <p>But I'll propose a different explanation: she was giving the <em>press</em> permission to talk about Donald Trump's racism. So far, they've tiptoed around it. But once the candidate herself calls it out, it invites a thousand think pieces about Breitbart, the alt-right, the GOP's history of tolerating bigotry, Trump's troubling background, and dozens of other related topics. Surrogates can blather all they want about this, but it doesn't truly become a mainstream subject until the actual candidate for president makes it one.</p> <p>This is part of the agenda-setting power that presidential candidates have. Donald Trump has used it endlessly, and now Hillary Clinton is using it too. Trump has made his bed, and Hillary is making sure he has to lie in it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 22:33:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 312566 at Mad at the Fed? Get Mad at Congress Instead. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jon Hilsenrath writes today that the Fed's reputation is <a href="" target="_blank">in the gutter these days:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For anyone seeking to explain one of the most unpredictable political seasons in modern history, with the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, <strong>a prime suspect is public dismay in institutions guiding the economy and government.</strong> The Fed in particular is a case study in how the conventional wisdom of the late 1990s on a wide range of economic issues, including trade, technology and central banking, has since slowly unraveled.</p> <p>Once admired globally for their command of the economic system, <strong>central bankers now are blamed by the left and right for bailouts during the financial crisis and for failing to foresee and manage forces suffocating the global economy in its aftermath.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>To the extent that this is about the ways the global economy has changed, and the challenges of figuring out how to respond to these changes, this is all fair. But to the extent that it's a criticism of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_fed.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the way the Fed has managed policy since 2008, I sure wish there had been more than one sentence about other policymakers who fell down on the job:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;I certainly myself couldn&rsquo;t have imagined six, seven years ago that we would be employing the policies we are now,&rdquo; Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said to a packed ballroom in New York earlier this year. She lamented the government has leaned so heavily on the Fed to stimulate the economy <strong>while tax and spending policies were stymied by disagreements between Congress and the White House.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Ben Bernanke felt the same way as Yellen, so this isn't a partisan lament. But "disagreements" sells this short. President Obama may deserve some grief over some of his policies, as well as his premature pivot to austerity politics, but the biggest problem has been clear all along: congressional Republicans who were hellbent on opposing any and all fiscal responses to the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. I don't think the Fed did too badly, all things considered, but a jet flying on only one engine can only do so much.</p> <p>As for public disapproval of the Fed, sure, some of that is from lefties who opposed the bailouts. But the vast bulk of it is from tea party conservatives who are endlessly in a panic about hyperinflation and "easy money"&mdash;precisely the hysterical fears the Fed had to fight to do even as well as it did. If the Ron Paul contingent had had their way, we'd probably be staring at 20 percent unemployment right now. But they're still convinced otherwise, and they remain mad at the Fed for not bringing on the golden age they're so sure was just around the corner.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe Hilsenrath has an entire article teed up about the role of Congress in all this. Done well, it would be a very good read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 21:22:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 312551 at How Opposed to Safe Spaces Is the University of Chicago? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The University of Chicago sent the following statement to incoming students <a href="" target="_blank">this week:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called "trigger warnings," we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_u_chicago_safe_spaces_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">creation of intellectual "safe spaces" where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.</p> </blockquote> <p>Conservative cheered and liberals frowned. Over at Vox, Emily Crockett writes about <a href="" target="_blank">safe spaces and what they mean:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"For me as a black woman, it's really nice to just go out with other black women sometimes," said Sabrina Stevens, an activist and progressive strategist. "I have to do so much less translation. When you're black around white people, you have to explain every little thing, even with people who are perfectly nice and well-meaning."</p> <p>....Stevens describes many different safe spaces that are important to her own life: breastfeeding support groups that are explicitly women-only to help new moms feel more comfortable talking openly about their bodies, or hair salons that function as an informally black-women-only social space as well as a service.</p> <p>....Other safe spaces emerge organically, like hair salons, gay clubs, or black churches. The shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charlestown was also a violation of a safe space, which added another layer of devastation to an already terrible crime.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's a nice piece about the origin and modern usage of safe spaces, and it's worth reading. In the end, it boils down to the fact that all of us sometimes need to hang out in places where we can relax completely and not worry that our words will taken the wrong way or that we have to endlessly explain ourselves. "Safe spaces" is just modern jargon for this ancient concept.</p> <p>But there's one thing worth getting straight. My assumption is that the University of Chicago is only saying that students shouldn't assume that any <em>formal part of the campus</em> is a safe space. Not classrooms, not offices, not dorms, not rec centers, not the quad. I think that's wise. But I also assume they have no problem with students creating private groups that are meant to be safe spaces. They don't support them but neither do they forbid them or discourage them. They're indifferent to them.</p> <p>Is that right? Or does the university go further and try to hinder even the private and voluntary creation of safe spaces?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:43:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 312526 at Here's Some Tentative Good News on the Pre-K Front <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm a big proponent of high-quality, universal pre-K. At the same time, I understand that the evidence in favor of it isn't rock solid. Overall, I think the case for pre-K is fairly strong, but it's a victim of the fact that it's really hard to conduct solid research on long-term outcomes. In particular, there's always the problem of scale: even if you get great results from a pilot program, there's no guarantee that you can scale it nationwide and still maintain the same quality. This is a particular problem with Head Start, the longest-running and best known pre-K program in the country. It <em>has</em> been scaled, but multiple studies have suggested that it's had disappointing results.</p> <p>But time marches on, and this allows us to conduct new research as Head Start kids grow up. The longer the baseline, the better chance we have to truly measure differences in children who attended Head Start. On that score, <a href="" target="_blank">we have some good news and bad news from the Hamilton Project.</a></p> <p>First the good news. The study compared children from the same families where one attended Head Start and the other didn't. Their birth cohort started in 1974, and they used the 2010 edition of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, so their oldest subjects were in their thirties. What they found was more positive than previous surveys. For example, here's the result on higher education (which includes licenses and certificates):</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hamilton_head_start_higher_education.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Head Start kids started and completed higher education at substantially higher rates than kids who didn't attend. The study shows similar results for high school graduation.</p> <p>So that's great. But one of the things we've learned about pre-K is that its biggest impact is often on non-cognitive traits. And sure enough, the Hamilton study showed strong effects on self-control and self-esteem:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hamilton_head_start_self_control_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>So what's the bad news? I should more accurately call this <em>cautionary</em> news, but take a look at those green bars. They show Head Start having a bigger effect compared to other preschools than it does compared to no preschool at all. That can only happen if the other preschools were collectively worse than doing nothing. In some cases the effect is pretty large, which in turn means these other preschools were a <em>lot</em> worse than doing nothing at all.</p> <p>This is possible, of course. But it doesn't seem all that likely, which raises questions about whether the data analysis here has some flaws. For the time being, then, I consider this tentatively positive news about Head Start. But I'll wait for other experts to review the study before I celebrate too much.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:11:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 312501 at AP Demonstrates the Perils of Being "Balanced" in the Era of Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this week the AP wrote a story delivering the astonishing news that Hillary Clinton once met with a Nobel-Prize-winning microcredit guru that she had been friends with for 30 years. This was part of a piece claiming that 85 of 154 people she met with as Secretary of State had also contributed to the Clinton Foundation. That's more than half of her meetings&mdash;except that this number doesn't count anyone in a government position, which accounts for the vast, vast majority of her meetings. They left that part out in the promotion of the piece, leading people to believe that literally half of all her meetings over four years as Secretary of State had been with Foundation donors. Then, just to add insult to injury, they refused to release the list of people she had met <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_hearing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">with, which almost certainly would have driven a stake through the entire article.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Today they followed up with this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's a conspiracy: The 2016 campaign features one candidate who warned against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and another who was a leader of the so-called "birther" movement.</p> <p>Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious "illness" afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin...[and] she is preparing a Reno, Nevada, address on Thursday that will accuse Trump of supporting an "alt-right" campaign that presents "a divisive and dystopian view of America."</p> <p>....She described Trump Wednesday night on CNN as a candidate who is campaigning on anger and hatred. "Donald Trump has shown us who he is and we ought to believe him," she said. "He is taking a hate movement mainstream. He has brought it into his campaign. He's bringing it to our communities and our country."</p> </blockquote> <p>So let's get this straight. Trump's conspiracy theories are (a) Obama was born in Kenya and (b) Hillary Clinton has serious health problems. Both are demonstrably untrue.</p> <p>Clinton's conspiracy theories are (a) Trump has a surprising number of Russia-friendly policies and (b) Trump appeals to angry white nationalists and uses extreme language. Both are demonstrably true.</p> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, your objective and balanced press corps at work.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:03:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 312491 at Immigration Hardliner Finds Hope in Donald Trump's Treachery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Immigration hardliner Mark Krikorian finds a silver lining in Donald Trump's <a href="" target="_blank">ham-handed softening on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump probably just threw away his only remaining chance to win in November with Wednesday&rsquo;s Jeb Bush impersonation. He won the primaries with immigration control as his marquee issue; <strong>had he stuck to his guns, and still lost, the GOP Brain Trust, not to mention the Democrats, would more plausibly have been able to argue that opposition to their agenda was the reason.</strong></p> <p>....But now that he&rsquo;s channeling Little Marco and Low-Energy Jeb on immigration, that story line has evaporated....It&rsquo;s liberating, in a sense. While Trump was still clearly seen as the voice of immigration skepticism, I was worried that his oafish shenanigans would taint the immigration issue, especially if he was defeated by Hillary. But now that he&rsquo;s no longer that voice in any meaningful sense, I can watch the circus undisturbed. His defeat will be on his head alone.</p> </blockquote> <p>When a party loses an election, the arguments afterward inevitably coalesce into two sides:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>We were too extreme. We need to move to the center.</li> <li>We were too moderate. America wants a genuine liberal/conservative.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>Republicans have been arguing the latter for years. They've retroactively decided that George Bush wasn't a real conservative. John McCain wasn't a real conservative. Mitt Romney wasn't a real conservative.</p> <p>But Trump provides them with a problem because he's hard to pigeonhole. He's a hardline conservative on some things, but totally off the reservation on others. So if he loses, the party is going to have a bloody civil war over what to do next.</p> <p>Krikorian was worried that if an immigration hardliner lost in a landslide, Republicans would conclude that they really did need to compromise on some kind of moderate comprehensive immigration plan and put the issue behind them. He was right to be worried about this. But now he's a happy man. He can plausibly argue that Trump lost <em>because he softened on immigration</em>. This ignores the fact that Trump has been way behind in the polls ever since the conventions and was headed for defeat even before the Great Softening, but at least it's a reed he can cling to. Hope lives on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:20:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 312486 at Donald Trump Discovers That Appealing to Whites Is Trickier Than He Thought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The wise new heads surrounding Donald Trump have obviously given up on attracting more than a handful of non-white votes&mdash;which is probably a smart move, all things considered&mdash;and this means they have to reach out to ever more white voters if they hope to win. This is why, for example, Trump has been saying recently that Hillary Clinton is a terrible bigot who doesn't care about black people. This is certainly not going to attract any black votes, but "Democrats are the <em>real</em> bigots" has been a trope on the white right for years. It might well attract a few more white votes.</p> <p>But this dynamic can play out in odd ways. Trump's signature issue is immigration, and you'd think that the way to appeal to more whites is to stay tough. But no. It turns out that white voters in the exurbs are <a href="" target="_blank">a little put off by the whole rapists/thugs/wall schtick,</a> and aren't that keen on an army of jackbooted immigration police rounding up Mexicans and hauling them back south. To appeal to these folks, the wise heads are apparently advising Trump to soften his<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> immigration stance. So now he says "I have never liked the media term <em>mass deportation</em>," and then delivers <a href="" target="_blank">this little tactical nuke on Sean Hannity's town hall:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>No citizenship. Let me go a step further&mdash;<strong>they'll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes</strong>, there's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, <strong>but we work with them</strong>. Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out. But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, <strong>"Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump,"</strong> I have it all the time. It's a very, very hard thing.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Later on</a> he <em>polled Hannity's audience</em> on what his immigration stance should be. (Seriously.) So Trump has now basically pivoted to the same position as every other Republican: no immigration police; work with the "good" illegal immigrants on a path to legal status; get tough on border security; and this absolutely positively isn't "amnesty" no matter how much it sounds like it. This is pretty much the position that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all had, and it's basically the position of the Gang of 8 a few years ago. Until today, Trump attacked this position as craven and weak. Now he's all for it. Gotta win all those exurban soccer moms, after all. The only thing left is for him to casually tell us that "build the wall" was meant kind of metaphorically all along, and most of it will end up being a "virtual wall" of drones and security cameras.</p> <p>I've been wondering for months why the immigration hardliners were so sure Trump would stick to his guns on this stuff. After all, he's lied about practically everything and shown an eager willingness to change his positions any time he thinks it will benefit him. So what made them think he'd act any differently on immigration?</p> <p>Beats me. But they're stuck now. They have to defend Trump because he's all they've got. Perhaps the saddest fate is reserved for Ann Coulter, who's launching her new book this week:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Saw this quote going around from new <a href="">@anncoulter</a> book In Trump We Trust, assumed it was fake. Nope. Via <a href="">@TheStalwart</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) <a href="">August 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Yes, that hit bookstores the very week Trump bailed on immigration. But Coulter is <a href="" target="_blank">forced to defend Trump anyway,</a> no matter how stupid it makes her look. It couldn't happen to a nicer person.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Apparently Coulter has had <a href="" target="_blank">second thoughts</a> about defending Trump: "Could be the shortest book tour ever if he's really softening...on immigration," she said this evening. Then she followed up with a <a href="" target="_blank">bitter and sarcastic rant on Twitter.</a> Sad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 03:55:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 312466 at The Real Value of Sean Hannity's Shilling for Trump: Probably Around Zero <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sean_hannity.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">From Media Matters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump&rsquo;s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, <strong>Hannity&rsquo;s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising</strong> in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.</p> <p><strong>Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump&rsquo;s campaign</strong>....These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump&nbsp;&mdash; they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.</p> </blockquote> <p>This correctly gets across the point that Hannity has been so obsequious in his support for Trump that he practically counts as an arm of the Trump campaign. It's embarrassing to watch. At the same time, I suspect the real value of Hannity's shilling is reasonably close to zero, since I doubt that his show reaches more than a handful of truly undecided voters. Basically, he's just preaching to the choir.</p> <p>Now, I suppose this could help goose turnout among the true believers, but the Hannity audience probably already votes in large numbers. Realistically, then, Hannity is prostituting himself for hardly any gain. I doubt his $31 million in free advertising is keeping the Clinton campaign up at nights.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:02:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 312446 at From the Time Capsule: Ebola and Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Lenny Bernstein of the <em>Washington Post</em> reminds us today of Donald Trump's calm and reassuring response to the Ebola crisis <a href="" target="_blank">two years ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 1, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 2, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This, of course, fits with Trump's apparent panic toward bodily functions of any sort, as well as his basic callousness. Definitely the kind of guy you want in the White House.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:19:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 312421 at Poverty Has Declined a Lot Over the Past 30 Years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have my issues with Scott Winship and the way he calculates income and inflation, and in particular I continue to wrestle with his contention that PCE is generally a better way of measuring the cost of living than CPI. That said, he also has some good points to make. This week, on the 20th anniversary of the Welfare Reform Act, he's released a paper suggesting that since it was passed in 1996 child poverty has decreased dramatically&mdash;but only if you measure it right. If you measure only cash income, poverty has increased. But if you also account for welfare benefits, as you should, it's gone down. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's his key chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_winship_child_poverty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>I have a couple of issues with this. I remain skeptical of PCE for this particular kind of measurement, and I doubt that health benefits should be counted as part of a poverty measure. (Winship defends the inclusion of health benefits in an appendix.) Still, the overall picture suggests that actual poverty has been decreasing for a long time, and continued decreasing after 1996. Winship makes the same argument for deep poverty (income less than half the poverty level) and extreme poverty (living on $2 per day).</p> <p>Is this due to welfare reform? I doubt it. In this and other charts, Winship shows the poverty rate declining since about 1980. I'd guess that this is the reason why:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_welfare_spending.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Roughly speaking, we spend nearly a trillion dollars more on social welfare programs than we did three decades ago. That's about $8,000 per low-income person. This spending increased steadily during the 80s, steadily during the 90s, and steadily during the aughts. The amount of money we've spent dwarfs anything that welfare reform did or didn't do.</p> <p>More to the point, there's simply no way that this amount of money hasn't reduced poverty. There are really only two alternatives here:</p> <ul><li>Social welfare spending has reduced poverty considerably.</li> <li>Throwing even vast amounts of money at poverty doesn't work, so we might as well give up.</li> </ul><p>I wouldn't support welfare spending at all if it truly had the minuscule effect that partisan studies sometimes seem to show. I support it because I think it's done some real good. I think it's increased living standards for the poor, increased health care for the poor, and increased food security for the poor. I'd like to see us do more, but not because we haven't made a dent in poverty. I support it because I think it <em>has</em> made a dent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 18:01:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 312411 at Yes, Politics Is Sort of a Grubby Business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I've been genuinely confused about the whole Foundationgate thing. Did big donors to the Clinton Foundation get extra special access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State? By all the evidence, no. They may have <em>tried</em> to get access, but for the most part they didn't. So far I haven't seen any emails that even remotely suggest otherwise. If anything, Hillary seems to have been unusually careful to avoid entanglements with the Foundation.</p> <p>So what's the problem? I chatted about this on Twitter last night with Rick Hasen, a guy I trust on these kinds of things. But I still came away confused. So here is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_foundation.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Hasen at greater length this morning in <em>USA Today</em>. After talking a bit about Donald Trump, <a href="" target="_blank">he turns to Hillary:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>And now revelations from the latest batch of State Department emails released through actions of the group Judicial Watch show that the largest donors to the Clinton Foundation had easy access to Clinton&rsquo;s inner circle. S. Daniel Abraham, for example, the billionaire behind the Slim Fast diet <strong>and a Clinton fundraising bundler,</strong> got eight meetings with Clinton while she was secretary of State to discuss Middle East issues he cared about. An AP analysis found that at least 85 people who met with Clinton at the State Department were donors or connected to donors.</p> <p>None of these things &mdash; Trump courting super PAC donors, Clinton getting paid by the wealthiest companies as a private citizen, or Clinton as secretary of State giving access to big donors to her foundation &mdash; amounts to criminal activity or even what we might term corruption. In the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court, declared that &ldquo;ingratiation and access are not corruption.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>But there&rsquo;s still something wrong with a political system in which access goes to the highest bidder.</strong> The Clinton team is quick to argue that there&rsquo;s no evidence the meetings Clinton gave to big donors led to any official actions. But those donors get more than just a picture with a candidate; <strong>they get a chance to make their pitch for the policies they want pursued or blocked, a pitch the rest of us don&rsquo;t get to make because we don&rsquo;t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to contribute to campaigns.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is fine. If the beef with Hillary is that she's an ordinary politician who's more likely to see you if you're (a) important, (b) a party wheelhorse, and (c) an important donor, then I have no argument. I also have no argument that this is unseemly.</p> <p>But it's also something I can't get too upset about. It's not just that everyone does this. It's not just that everyone in American politics does this. It's the fact that everyone, everywhere, throughout all of human history has done this. It's just the way human societies work. I'm all in favor of trying to reduce the influence of money on politics, but I doubt there's any way to truly make much of a dent in it. <a href="" target="_blank">And as I've mentioned before,</a> I don't consider it one of our nation's biggest problems anyway.</p> <p>So here are several possible takes on Hillary:</p> <ol><li>Powerful people all run in the same circles. They all know each other. They all ask favors from one another. Hillary is part of this circle.</li> <li>People who are big party donors and big policy influencers have more access to politicians than, say, you or me. On this score, Hillary is a garden variety politician.</li> <li>Donating to the Clinton Foundation was a well-known requirement for getting a meeting with Hillary.</li> </ol><p>I've simply seen no evidence of #3, and that includes <a href="" target="_blank">the AP's strained effort yesterday.</a> Besides, if this were truly well known, by now <em>someone</em> would have come forward to spill the beans.</p> <p>As for #1 and #2, I don't doubt that they're as true of Hillary as they are of every other politician in the country. This might be an unfortunate state of affairs, but it's certainly no scandal. So I remain confused. If you want to criticize the role of money in politics, that's fine. If you want to criticize the outsize influence of the connected and powerful, that's fine. If you want to criticize Hillary Clinton for being an ordinary part of this system&mdash;as Bernie Sanders did&mdash;that's fine. (As long as you're not also part of that same system, of course.) But is there some kind of special scandal associated with Hillary in the State Department? I sure don't see it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:36:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 312386 at Here's Why We Keep Making Up New Names for Marginalized Groups <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Good Morning America&rsquo;s</em> Amy Robach apparently had a brain fart the other day and referred to blacks as &ldquo;colored people,&rdquo; rather than the acceptable&mdash;even au courant&mdash;"people of color." But why does this stuff keep changing? Why have we gone from colored to negro to black to African-American to POC? I was <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_colored_waiting_room.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">going to write a bit about this, but John McWhorter says precisely what I was going to say, <a href="" target="_blank">so I'll just let him say it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;So what do they want to be called now???&rdquo; one might ask about black people, differently abled people, cognitively challenged people, and others. However, the rolling terminology is not based on willful petulance or a deliberate way of keeping other people off guard. It stems from the way euphemism works&mdash;or better, always starts to work but doesn&rsquo;t.</p> <p><strong>Namely, a euphemism is designed to step around an unpleasant association.</strong> When it comes to societal terms, the idea is to rise above pejorative connotations that society has linked to the thing in question. Hence while cripple was once a perfectly civil term, negative associations accreted upon it like rust or gnats, such that handicapped was felt as a neutral-sounding innovation. However, after a time, that word was accreted in the same way, such that disabled felt more humane. Yet, as we have seen, even that didn&rsquo;t last.</p> <p>The lesson is that when there are negative associations with something or someone, periodic renewal of terminology is not a feint, but something to be expected. <strong>Until the thoughts or opinions in question change, we can expect the rust to settle in, the gnats to swarm back on&mdash;and the only solution, albeit eternally temporary, is to fashion a new term....</strong>The rolling terminology, then, is an attempt to refashion thought, not to be annoying.</p> </blockquote> <p>And that's why these things seem to change so often. We're trying to break the bad associations of the past, so we create a new word. A few decades later, if those bad associations still exist, we try again with another new word. This keeps happening until the associations are finally and completely severed. Needless to say, that can take a while.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:53:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 312376 at