Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/12/rss/blogs_and_articles/feed http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en How Should the NFL Handle Domestic Violence Cases in the Future? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/how-should-nfl-handle-domestic-violence-cases-future <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was browsing the paper this morning and came across an op-ed by sports writer Jeff Benedict about Ray Rice and the NFL's problem with domestic violence. After the usual review of the league's egregious mishandling of the Rice incident over the past few months, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-benedict-nfl-ray-rice-20140914-story.html" target="_blank">we get this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>So this nagging truth remains: It should not take a graphic video to get the NFL to do the right thing. For too long the NFL has had an antiquated playbook when it comes to players who commit domestic violence.</p> <p>....NFL players aren't like men in the general population, especially in the eyes of children. Rather, NFL players are seen as action heroes who epitomize strength, athleticism and toughness. That's why so many kids emulate them. And that's why one instance <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ray_rice.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of a celebrated player using his muscle to harm a woman is too many.</p> <p>Etc.</p> </blockquote> <p>I read to the end, but that was about it. And it occurred to me that this piece was representative of nearly everything I've read about the Rice affair. There was lots of moral outrage, of course. That's a pretty cheap commodity when you have stomach-turning video of a pro football player battering a woman unconscious in an elevator. But somehow, at the end, there was nothing. No recommendation about what the NFL's rule on domestic violence <em>should</em> be.</p> <p>So I'm curious: what should it be? Forget Rice for a moment, since we need a rule that applies to everyone. What should be the league's response to a player who commits an act of domestic violence? Should it be a one-strike rule, or should it matter if you have no prior history of violence? Should it depend on a criminal conviction, or merely on credible evidence against the player? Should it matter how severe the violence is? (Plenty of domestic violence cases are much more brutal than Rice's.) Or should there be zero tolerance no matter what the circumstances? How about acts of violence that aren't domestic? Should they be held to the same standard, or treated differently? And finally, is Benedict right that NFL players should be sanctioned more heavily than ordinary folks because they act as role models for millions of kids? Or should we stick to a standard that says we punish everyone equally, regardless of their occupation?</p> <p>Last month the NFL rushed out new punishment guidelines regarding domestic violence after enduring a tsunami of criticism for the way it handled Rice's suspension. <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/sporting-scene/n-f-l-s-new-domestic-violence-rules" target="_blank">Details here.</a> Are these guidelines reasonable? Laughable? Too punitive? I think we've discussed the bill of particulars of the Ray Rice case to exhaustion at this point, so how about if we talk about something more concrete?</p> <p>Given the circumstances and the evidence it had in hand, how should the NFL have handled the Ray Rice case? And more importantly, how should they handle domestic violence cases in general? I'd be interested in hearing some specific proposals.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Sex and Gender Sports Sun, 14 Sep 2014 16:07:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 260216 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 12 September 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/friday-cat-blogging-12-september-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few of you have written to ask if we plan to get another cat. The answer is probably yes, but not immediately.&nbsp; And what does "not immediately" mean? There's no telling. A new cat could walk into our lives tomorrow, or it might take a little while longer. We'll see.</p> <p>In the meantime, my mother's cats continue to be perky and photogenic, and ever since she learned how easy it is to take pictures with her iPad and email them directly to me, I've been getting more photos of her brood. Below you can see the latest. Mozart has pretty plainly settled in to alpha cat status, and Ditto just as plainly isn't quite sure he's happy about that. But it's too late. Ditto has the bulk, but I think Mozart has whatever indefinable feline quality it is that makes him boss. It's his house now.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mozart_ditto_2014_09_12.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Sep 2014 18:55:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 260171 at http://www.motherjones.com If You Want Good Workers, You Need to Pay Market Wages http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/if-you-want-good-workers-you-need-pay-market-wages <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> is running <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/skills-gap-bumps-up-against-vocational-taboo-1410473392?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories" target="_blank">yet another article</a> about the inability of manufacturing companies to attract good employees. <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/skills-gap-in-manufacturing-seems-to-be-primarily-at-the-top" target="_blank">And Dean Baker is annoyed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If employers can't get enough workers then we would expect to see wages rising in manufacturing.</p> <p>They aren't. Over the last year the average hourly wage rose by just 2.1 percent, only a little higher than the inflation rate and slightly less than the average for all workers. This follows several years where wages in manufacturing rose less than the economy-wide average....If an employer wants to hire people she can get them away from competitors by offering a higher wage. It seems that employers in <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wages_manufacturing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the manufacturing sector may need this simple lesson in market economic to solve their skills shortage problem.</p> </blockquote> <p>The chart on the right shows what Baker is talking about. It's a slightly different series than the one he uses in his post, but it makes the same point. Manufacturing wages are rising <em>more slowly</em> than in the rest of the economy. If manufacturing companies are really desperate for qualified workers, they have a funny way of showing it.</p> <p>Now, it's possible that what they really mean is that they don't think they can be competitive if they have to pay higher wages. So they want lots of well-qualified employees to work for below-market wages. And who knows? That's possible. But if that's really the problem, then apprentice programs and skills training aren't likely to solve it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 12 Sep 2014 17:28:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 260151 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Salt Your Pasta Water, Capiche? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-salt-your-pasta-water-capiche <!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://online.wsj.com/articles/salt-the-pasta-water-activist-fund-starboards-suggestions-for-the-olive-garden-1410486306?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection" target="_blank">From Starboard Value LP,</a> a private investment firm critical of Olive Garden's current management:</p> <blockquote> <p>If you Google "How to cook pasta", the first step of Pasta 101 is to salt the water. How does the largest Italian dining concept in the world not salt the water for pasta?</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite so. On the other hand, Starboard refers to Olive Garden as an "Italian dining concept," which is a strike against them. So I guess I don't know who to root for in this monumental battle for control of low-quality quasi-Italian food.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:53:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 260136 at http://www.motherjones.com Surprise! Our Arab Allies Aren't Really Going to Do Anything to Help Us Fight ISIS http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/surprise-our-arab-allies-arent-really-going-do-anything-help-us-fight-isis <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/world/middleeast/arabs-give-tepid-support-to-us-fight-against-isis.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=LedeSum&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">least surprising story of the day:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many Arab governments grumbled quietly in 2011 as the United States left Iraq, fearful it might fall deeper into chaos or Iranian influence. Now, the United States is back and getting a less than enthusiastic welcome, with leading allies like Egypt, Jordan and Turkey all finding ways on Thursday to avoid specific commitments to President Obama&rsquo;s expanded military campaign against Sunni extremists.</p> <p>....The tepid support could further complicate the already complex task Mr. Obama has laid out for himself in fighting the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria: He must try to confront the group without aiding Syria&rsquo;s president, Bashar al-Assad, or appearing to side with Mr. Assad&rsquo;s Shiite allies, Iran and the militant group Hezbollah, against discontented Sunnis across the Arab world.</p> </blockquote> <p>If Arab countries just flatly didn't want to support our anti-ISIS effort, that wouldn't be surprising. American intervention in the Middle East hardly has an enviable history of success. It would be entirely understandable if they just wanted us to keep our noses out of things.</p> <p>But that's not what's going on. It's not that they don't want American intervention. Many of these countries have been practically begging for it. The problem is that they want our help solely in support of their own sectarian and nationalist pursuits. They want America to commit an endless well of troops and arms in service of ancient enmities and murderous agendas that they themselves are unwilling to commit their own troops and money to. And for some reason, we keep playing along with the charade.</p> <p>Fighting ISIS isn't really part of this agenda. It's Sunni; it's anti-Assad; and it's far away. Most of our putative allies in the Middle East either don't care very much about it or have actively supported it in the past. They'll pay lip service to destroying it now because they don't want to break with the United States entirely, but that's about it. It's just lip service.</p> <p>By tomorrow they'll be back to privately griping that we haven't turned Iran into a glassy plain or something. And then, like a couple who knows their marriage is broken but can't quite bear the thought of divorce, we'll be back to stroking their egos and promising that we really do share their interests. We don't, thank God: we're not quite that depraved. We just want their oil and a sort of unstated tolerance of Israel.</p> <p>It never changes. Next year the details will be slightly different, but we'll go through the same dance all over again. Hooray.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Iraq Military Fri, 12 Sep 2014 14:43:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 260131 at http://www.motherjones.com A Wee Question About That Residual Force Everyone Keeps Blathering About http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/wee-question-about-residual-force-everyone-keeps-blathering-about <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's something I don't get. Republicans seem to universally hold the following two opinions about Iraq and ISIS:</p> <ol><li>President Obama is to blame for the military success of ISIS because he declined to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011.</li> <li>In the fight against ISIS, we certainly don't want to send in combat troops. No no no.</li> </ol><p>"Residual force" has become something of a talisman for conservative critics of Obama's Iraq policy. It's sort of like "providing arms," the all-purpose suggestion for every conflict from hawks who know the public won't stand for sending in ground troops but who want to support something more muscular than sanctions. It's a wonderful sound bite because it sounds sensible and informed as long as you don't think too hard about it (what arms? for whom? is anyone trained to use them? etc.). Luckily, most people don't think too hard about it.</p> <p>"Residual force" sounds good too. But if we don't want boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS, what exactly would it have done? Hang around Baghdad to buck up the morale of the Iraqi forces that came fleeing back after encountering ISIS forces? Conduct ever more "training"? Or what? Can someone tell me just what everyone thinks this magical residual force would have accomplished?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:28:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 260081 at http://www.motherjones.com Not-Quite-Supermoon Blogging - 7 September 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/not-quite-supermoon-blogging-7-september-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I didn't actually get around to hauling out my camera for Monday's supermoon (how many of these things do we get every year, anyway?), but I did snap a few pictures on Sunday. So in the spirit of better late than never, here's one of them. The clouds and the colors were kind of interesting, even if the picture itself is so-so.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_moon_2014_09_07.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 11 Sep 2014 16:04:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 260076 at http://www.motherjones.com Workplace Wellness Programs Are Just an Excuse to Lower Your Pay http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/workplace-wellness-programs-are-just-excuse-lower-your-pay <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I don't like workplace wellness programs. This isn't because I think they do no good. It's because I don't like the idea of employers deciding that they can dictate my personal health choices. Or any of my other personal choices, for that matter. Maybe it's for my own good, but so what? Lots of things are for my own good. Nonetheless, I'm an adult, and I get to choose these kinds of things for myself, even if I sometimes make bad choices.</p> <p>Today, however, Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll delight me by surveying the literature on wellness programs and bolstering my personal pique with actual facts. It turns out that wellness programs, in fact, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/upshot/do-workplace-wellness-programs-work-usually-not.html?abt=0002&amp;abg=0" target="_blank">generally<em> don't</em> do any good:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Rigorous studies tend to find that wellness programs don&rsquo;t save money and, with few exceptions, do not appreciably improve health. This is often because additional health screenings built into the programs encourage overuse of unnecessary care, pushing spending higher without improving health.</p> <p>However, this doesn&rsquo;t mean that employers aren&rsquo;t right, in a way. Wellness programs can achieve cost savings &mdash; for employers &mdash; by shifting higher costs of care onto workers. <strong>In particular, workers who don&rsquo;t meet the demands and goals of wellness programs (whether by not participating at all, or by failing to meet benchmarks like a reduction in body mass index) end up paying more. </strong>Financial incentives to get healthier sometimes simply become financial penalties on workers who resist participation or who aren&rsquo;t as fit. Some believe this can be a form of discrimination.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is basically what I've long suspected. For the most part, wellness programs are a means to reduce pay for employees who don't participate, and there are always going to be a fair number of curmudgeons who refuse to participate. Voila! Lower payroll expenses! And the best part is that employers can engage in this cynical behavior while retaining a smug public conviction that they're just acting for the common good. Bah.</p> <p>Did I mention that I don't like workplace wellness programs?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:41:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 260061 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why Congressional Approval for War Is So Important http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/heres-why-congressional-approval-war-so-important <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In my previous post, I complained that I wasn't sure what would prevent further escalation in Iraq "aside from Obama's personal convictions." A friend emails to ask just what I'd like to see. In the end, aren't the president's personal convictions all that prevent <em>any</em> military operation from escalating?</p> <p>It's a fair point, and I'm glad he brought it up. The answer, I think, lies in congressional approval for military action, and this is one of the reasons I think it's so important. If Obama is truly serious about not sending combat troops into ISIS-held areas in Iraq, then let's get a congressional resolution that puts that in writing. Let's get an authorization for war that spells out a geographical area; puts a limit on US troop deployments; and specifically defines what those troops can do.</p> <p>Would this be airtight? Of course not. Presidents can always find a way to stretch things, and Congress can always decide to authorize more troops. But nothing is airtight&mdash;nor should it be. It's always possible that events on the ground really will justify stronger action someday. However, what it <em>does</em> do is simple: It forces the president to explicitly request an escalation and it forces Congress to explicitly authorize his request. At the very least, that prevents a slow, stealthy escalation that flies under the radar of public opinion.</p> <p>Presidents don't like having their actions constrained. No one does. But in most walks of life that deal with power and the use of force, we understand that constraint is important. Surely, then, there's nowhere it's more important than in matters of war and peace. And that's one of the reasons that congressional authorization for war is so essential.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Iraq Military Obama Thu, 11 Sep 2014 02:52:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 260041 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Iraq Speech: Light on Substance, and Maybe That's a Good Thing http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obamas-iraq-speech-light-substance-and-maybe-thats-good-thing <!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_obama_isis_speech.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Well, that was pretty anticlimactic. Here is President Obama's shiny new plan for defeating ISIS:</p> <ol><li>More airstrikes, including strikes in Syria.</li> <li>A few hundred advisors to work with Iraqi troops. They will provide training, equipment, and intelligence.</li> <li>Counterterrorism to prevent ISIS attacks.</li> <li>Humanitarian aid.</li> </ol><p>We are, presumably, already engaged in #3 and #4. We're partially engaged in #1. Basically, then Obama is proposing to (a) expand the air war and (b) provide more aid to the Iraqi army. That's really not an awful lot&mdash;which is fine with me.</p> <p>Will this work? Airstrikes by themselves are obviously limited in what they can accomplish. They can frustrate ISIS plans in specific areas, but they can't do a lot more than that. As we've known all along, real success depends on the Iraqi military. Unfortunately, given the fact that we spent years training Iraqi forces and ended up with an army that cut and run at the first sight of ISIS forces, I have my doubts that further training will really do that much good. But if it doesn't, there's little we can do anyway. So it's probably our only option.</p> <p>The big question, of course, is whether our assistance will stay limited. If the Iraqi military fails, as it may, will we start pouring in more troops? Obama was clear on this: "We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq." Still, sometimes events run away with things, and I'm not sure what's going to prevent a slow accretion of more and more US forces aside from Obama's personal convictions. This is a thinner reed than I'd like even if I believe that he's entirely sincere in his desire to avoid escalation. We'll just have to wait and see.</p> <p>In any case, that's really all we got tonight. I'd like to write something longer and more insightful, but there just weren't enough specifics in the speech to justify that. The last third of the speech was mostly platitudes about partners, chairing a UN meeting, America is great, God bless the troops, etc. There wasn't an awful lot there.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Obama Thu, 11 Sep 2014 01:54:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 260036 at http://www.motherjones.com Let's Not Give ISIS Exactly What They Want http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/not-give-isis-exactly-what-they-want <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="commentContent"><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/it-time-yet-another-war" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I wrote a post noting that a supposedly war-weary public had suddenly become awfully war happy. "All it took," I said, "was a carefully stagecrafted beheading video and the usual gang of conservative jingoists to exploit it." Here's a Twitter conversation that followed (lightly edited for clarity):</p> <blockquote> <p class="commentContent"><strong>DS:</strong> Think of what you wrote: "All it took was...beheading"? I opposed W's but this is what wars are made from &amp; I think rightly so.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_foley_beheading.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><strong>Me</strong>: Really? So any group anywhere in the world merely needs to commit an atrocity to draw us into war?</p> <p><strong>DS:</strong> On what other basis should wars be fought if not to stop groups from committing atrocities against Americans?</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not trying to pick on anyone in particular here, but it's pretty discouraging that this kind of attitude is so common. There's no question that the beheading of American citizens by a gang of vicious thugs is the kind of thing that makes your blood boil. Unless you hail from Vulcan, your gut reaction is that you want to find the barbarians who did this and crush them.</p> <p>But that shouldn't be your final reaction. This is not an era of conventional military forces with overwhelming power and no real fear of blowback. It's an era of stateless terrorists whose ability to commit extremely public atrocities is pretty much unlimited. And while atrocities can have multiple motivations, one of the key reasons for otherwise pointless actions like one-off kidnappings and beheadings is their ability to either provoke overreactions or successfully extort ransoms. Unfortunately, Americans are stupidly addicted to the former and Europeans seem to be stupidly addicted to the latter, and that's part of what keeps this stuff going.</p> <p>In any case, a moment's thought should convince you that we're being manipulated. We've read account after account about ISIS and its remarkably sophisticated command and publicity apparatus. The beheading video is part of that. It's a very calculated, very deliberate attempt to get us to respond stupidly. It's not even a very subtle manipulation. It's just an especially brutal one.</p> <p>So if we're smart, we won't give them what they want. Instead we'll respond coldly and meticulously. We'll fight on our terms, not theirs. We'll intervene if and only if the Iraqi government demonstrates that it can take the lead and hold the ground they take. We'll forego magical thinking about counterinsurgencies. We won't commit Western troops in force because we know from experience that this doesn't work. We'll avoid pitched battles and instead take advantage of our chances when they arise. Time is on our side.</p> <p>Above all, we won't allow a small band of medieval theocrats to manipulate us. We need to stop giving them exactly what they want. We need to stop doing stupid stuff.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Wed, 10 Sep 2014 20:57:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 260021 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have Gone Over to the Dark Side http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/i-have-gone-over-dark-side <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I have gone over to the dark side. I've been on the edge for a while, playing passive-aggressive games with my copy editor, but I guess I might as well just fess up. I now routinely use <em>they</em> and <em>them</em> as gender-neutral singular pronouns.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>I'm not proud of this. But <em>he or she</em> has always grated on the ear. Likewise, using <em>he</em> some of the time and <em>she</em> some of the time is just too damn much work. And it's kind of confusing too. How careful are you going to be to use them equally? How much attention are you <iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/6sKAiY8xl88" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>going to pay to make sure you aren't using them in gendered ways (<em>he</em> when you're writing about doctors, <em>she</em> when you're writing about nurses)? Etc.</p> <p>What other options are there? None. You can write around the problem, but that usually produces a mess. There have been a few feeble attempts to invent new pronouns, but they've gone nowhere and never will. So we're stuck. The easiest thing is just to use <em>they</em> and <em>them</em>. Everyone knows what you mean, and except for us grammar pedants, nobody cares. I don't think I have the will to resist anymore. I have been assimilated.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>See the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/mobile-payments-solution-still-searching-problem" target="_blank">previous post</a> for an example&mdash;and for the proximate cause of this post.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:12:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 259991 at http://www.motherjones.com Mobile Payments: A Solution Still Searching For a Problem http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/mobile-payments-solution-still-searching-problem <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Lots of people are skeptical of Apple's new mobile payment system. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/upshot/apple-pay-tries-to-solve-a-problem-that-really-isnt-a-problem.html?rref=upshot&amp;abt=0002&amp;abg=0" target="_blank">Neil Irwin is one of them:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The core challenge Apple faces is that buying things with a credit card isn&rsquo;t nearly as onerous a process as they make it out to be.</p> <p>Mr. Cook showed a video at the product rollout of a woman burrowing in her purse for a credit card, navigating past a box of Tic Tacs &mdash; Tic Tacs! &mdash; and struggling to open her wallet in order to find her card, then being asked to show her driver&rsquo;s license before completing the transaction. It had a lot in common, actually, with those infomercials in which actors manage to horribly bungle the most basic tasks until some new product solves a nonproblem.</p> </blockquote> <p>This strikes me about the same way as those old Visa ads about the horrors of paying for your bottle of spring water with cash. You monster! How dare you impede the march of civilization! But just as cash is, in fact, pretty easy to use, Irwin's core observation is <iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/9hXmyD9a4zg" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>that paying with a credit card is pretty easy too, especially for low-dollar purchases that require only a quick swipe. Using your mobile phone doesn't really provide much of an advantage.</p> <p>But wait! Maybe credit cards really do pose problems. Because I'm a grumpy old man, I often find myself muttering under my breath at the supermarket checkout line. Why? Because there's someone ahead of me who apparently has never used a credit card before to pay for anything. They wait until the entire purchase is rung up. Then it suddenly occurs to them that they'll be required to offer payment for all this stuff. Then they retrieve their card. Then they stare at the card reader as if it had been designed by Martians. Then they stare at it some more. Then the checker tells them to push the button that says "Approve." Etc.</p> <p>This is annoying to people like me who are easily annoyed. But here's the problem: will mobile payments make things better? I guess it's possible, but my 30 years of experience with computing devices doesn't make me hopeful. How likely is it that people who still have trouble with card swipers, which have been around for decades, will be seamlessly waving their iPhones around with no problems and no breakdowns? I dunno. Maybe Apple is the company that can finally make it happen. But until I see the real-life evidence, my guess is that it will be about as seamless as trying to teach people how to change the privacy settings on their Facebook account.</p> <p>There really are issues with credit cards as payment devices. They're fairly easily stolen and they're pretty insecure. Still, these things are relative. As long as you use a credit card instead of a debit card, you're not responsible for most losses, and various forms of modern technology have made credit cards much more secure than in the past. And as Irwin points out, they're pretty easy to use. It's just possible that the Steve Jobs reality distortion field could have convinced everyone otherwise, but I'm not sure Tim Cook is up to the task.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 10 Sep 2014 16:30:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 259971 at http://www.motherjones.com Yet More Data Suggests That Health Care Costs Really Are Slowing Down http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/yet-more-data-suggests-health-care-costs-really-are-slowing-down <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Cohn points us to the latest <a href="http://kff.org/health-costs/report/2014-employer-health-benefits-survey/" target="_blank">Kaiser/HRET survey</a> of employer health plans and <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119386/employer-insurance-premiums-kaiser-hret-survey-shows-no-big-increase" target="_blank">passes along some good news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Its main finding: This year, the average annual price of a single person&rsquo;s coverage is $6,025 and the average annual price for a family policy is $16,834. (Those are the full prices for coverage, including the portion that employers pay directly.)</p> <p>That&rsquo;s a lot of money, obviously. But the cost of the family policy is only 3 percent higher than it was last year, and the cost of the single policy rose by even less....What to think about this? Generally speaking, it&rsquo;s a positive development when premiums aren&rsquo;t rising too quickly, since it means that workers have more money in their paychecks.</p> <p>....Critics of the Affordable Care Act insisted it would cause employers to jack up premiums. There&rsquo;s no evidence of that happening. And of course this data is consistent with all the other recent data we&rsquo;ve gotten on health care spending under Obamacare. <strong>National health care <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_premium_growth_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">spending, the amount of money we spend as a country, is rising at historically low rates.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I'd place a fair amount of emphasis on that last point. The chart on the right shows the annual increase in premiums for family coverage since 2000. As you can see, premium increases have been falling pretty steadily during the entire period. In the early aughts, employers were routinely seeing double-digit increases. But in the past few years, that's dropped to around 3-4 percent, which is only slightly higher than the general rate of inflation.</p> <p>This is all consistent with <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/05/our-amazing-slowdown-healthcare-spending-growth" target="_blank">other</a> data on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/08/medicare-costs-down-down-down" target="_blank">health care</a> inflation <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/09/health-care-spending-peak-2025" target="_blank">rates,</a> which shows a fluctuating but steady decrease since the early 80s and an even more concrete decrease over the past decade. Obviously this trend has nothing to do with Obamacare, which is benefiting from a bit of a tailwind here.</p> <p>At the same time, Cohn is right to point out that Obamacare critics all insisted that it would cause premiums to skyrocket. It didn't. Some premiums went up thanks to new minimum requirements for coverage and the start of community rating, which requires insurance companies to cover everyone, even those with preexisting conditions. But that mostly affected the individual market, and even there premium increases have been pretty manageable for the vast majority of people.</p> <p>How long will this slowdown in health care inflation last? My guess is that it's more or less permanent. It will vary a bit from year to year, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it hit 3-4 points above the general inflation rate in some years. But the downward trend has been in place for three decades now, and that's long enough to suggest that it was the double-digit increases of the 80s and early 90s that were the outliers. Aside from those spikes, the current smaller increases are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/06/longer-look-medical-inflation" target="_blank">roughly similar to health care spending increases over the past half century.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:55:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 259956 at http://www.motherjones.com Video or It Didn’t Happen: What Jihadi John Knows and Ray Rice Found Out http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/images-rule-our-world <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>One of the most famous anecdotes from the Reagan years comes from Lesley Stahl, then a reporter for the <em>CBS Evening News</em>. After airing a long, critical piece during the 1984 campaign, she got a cheerful call from Dick Darman at the White House. "We really loved it," he said. "Five minutes of free media." <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=C99IQ2iJu_EC&amp;printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false" target="_blank">Dan Schill tells the rest of the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Stahl asked, "Why are you so happy? Didn't you hear what I said?" Giving the punch line of the parable, Darman said to Stahl, "You guys in Televisionland haven't figured it out, have you? When the pictures are powerful and emotional, they override if not completely drown out the sound. I mean it, Lesley. Nobody heard you."</p> <p>Stahl said she examined her piece again, this time with the sound off, and found that the Reagan official was right&mdash;her story had accepted the Reagan frame and was practically an unpaid political commercial&mdash;a brilliant montage of Reagan surrounded with flags, children, balloons, and cheering supporters.</p> <p><strong>Asked if this experience changed the way she produces her stories, Stahl said, "Not really. I'm still trapped, because my pieces <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ray_rice_tmz.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">are written to the pictures we have."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I was reminded of this story once again yesterday when TMZ released elevator video of Ray Rice slugging his then fianc&eacute;e and knocking her unconscious. It was a brutal attack and reaction was swift and uncompromising. Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens, the NFL suspended him indefinitely, and his sponsors began abandoning him almost immediately.</p> <p>And yet, that video told us nothing. We already knew what had happened. Based on previous video, we knew that Rice had punched Janay Palmer hard enough to knock her out. We just didn't have it on tape.</p> <p>And it's not only the NFL that reacted differently after the new video was released. Even the folks who criticized the league's anemic response back in February are now far more outraged. The video affected <em>everyone's</em> reaction.</p> <p>Why? Is it the visceral effect of images? Does it have something to do with an instinct to avoid drawing the most damning conclusions until an image makes it impossible to evade the truth any longer? Or is it all a charade, and lots of people are just pretending to be more outraged because they know it's now expected of them?</p> <p>I don't know. But the internet is now the domain of LOLcats, BuzzFeed listicles, and charts of the day&mdash;the latter for those of us who like images but also like to believe we're too smart to be manipulated by them. The fastest growing social media sites are Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and others like it. Blogs are often so stuffed with YouTube videos that you can refill your coffee cup while you wait for them to load. Millions of formerly peaceable people&mdash;people who already knew perfectly well that ISIS was a barbarous bunch of thugs&mdash;suddenly want to go to war because we now have pictures of that barbarism. Images rule everywhere. It's not just Lesley Stahl who's trapped in Lesley Stahl's world anymore. We all are.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Sports Top Stories Wed, 10 Sep 2014 01:44:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 259941 at http://www.motherjones.com Climate Change News Just Keeps Getting Worse and Worse http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/climate-change-news-just-keeps-getting-worse-and-worse <!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_co2_growth.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The World Meteorological Organization announced today that global levels of carbon dioxide <a href="https://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/documents/1002_GHG_Bulletin.pdf" target="_blank">reached their highest point ever in 2013.</a> No surprise there. They also announced that the growth rate of CO<sub>2</sub> reached its highest point ever. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/9/9/6126245/carbon-dioxide-levels-in-the-atmosphere-rose-at-a-record-pace-in-2013" target="_blank">Brad Plumer provides the details:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There are two possible reasons why the amount of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is growing so rapidly. One is obvious: Humans&nbsp; continue to emit more and more carbon-dioxide from power plants, cars, and factories each year.</p> <p>But the other reason is a bit more surprising: According to the WMO, early data suggests that the world's oceans and forests are now absorbing less of our extra carbon-dioxide than they used to &mdash; which means that more of it ends up in the atmosphere, where it traps heat and warms up the planet.</p> </blockquote> <p>The amount of CO<sub>2</sub> absorbed by the oceans is cyclical in the medium term, which probably helps explain why global temperatures periodically stabilize for a decade or so before resuming their usual upward march. But there's also a long-term trend. Oceans can't absorb CO<sub>2</sub> indefinitely, and eventually they'll reach their limit. As that happens, more and more CO<sub>2</sub> will be trapped in the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming. And unless we do something to rein in CO<sub>2</sub> emissions, this will happen at the same time that humans are pumping ever more CO<sub>2</sub> into the sky. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/9/9/6126245/carbon-dioxide-levels-in-the-atmosphere-rose-at-a-record-pace-in-2013" target="_blank">More here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Climate Change Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:08:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 259911 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Why Republicans Don't Want to Vote on Airstrikes in Iraq http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/quote-day-why-republicans-dont-want-vote-airstrikes-iraq <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/us/as-obama-makes-case-congress-is-divided-on-campaign-against-militants.html?_r=0" target="_blank">From Republican congressman Jack Kingston,</a> explaining why no one wants to hold a vote to approve military action in Iraq:</p> <blockquote> <p>A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, &lsquo;Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.&rsquo; It&rsquo;s an election year. A lot of Democrats don&rsquo;t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don&rsquo;t want to change anything. <strong>We like the path we&rsquo;re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I guess that's refreshingly honest. Or something.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military The Right Tue, 09 Sep 2014 16:48:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 259896 at http://www.motherjones.com Should Liberals Support OTC Access to Oral Contraceptives? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/should-liberals-support-otc-access-oral-contraceptives <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's been a mini-boomlet lately in Republican candidates supporting over-the-counter access to birth control pills. This is great! <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/03/lots-countries-dont-require-prescriptions-oral-contraceptives" target="_blank">There's very little medical reason</a> to require a prescription for oral contraceptives, and OTC pills are far more likely to be used regularly than prescription pills. It's nice to see Republicans on the side of good science. But Rebecca Leber warns that <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119369/republican-senate-candidates-endorse-over-counter-birth-control" target="_blank">not all is as it seems:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s a catch. Doctors aren&rsquo;t the only hurdle between women and contraceptive access. For low-income women, cost can be what&rsquo;s most prohibitive. Under the Affordable Care Act, the pill and other forms of contraception count as preventative care, which means insurance covers them completely&mdash;without any out-of-pocket expenses. This is not a position the Republicans have endorsed. On the contrary, none of the candidates have changed their position on the law more broadly, including their opposition to the mandate covering preventative care like birth control, writes Paul Waldman at the <em>Washington Post</em>. They still want to transfer the costs for other forms of contraceptives, like IUDs and the morning-after-pill, to women directly.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is all true. But Republican opposition to Obamacare isn't going to change no matter what, so that hardly matters. What matters is whether Obamacare covers the cost of contraceptives, and that's what's causing liberal angst over a cause that we've all supported in the past. We're afraid that if oral contraceptives become available OTC, Obamacare will no longer pay for them.</p> <p>But is it necessarily true that Obamacare wouldn't cover the cost of OTC contraceptives? After all, this isn't an issue that will be resolved by Congress, so there's no chance of some terrible bill passing that trades OTC contraceptive availability for an end to the Obamacare mandate. The FDA makes the call about whether contraceptives can be sold OTC, and HHS regulations specify which contraceptives are covered by Obamacare. <a href="http://www.hrsa.gov/womensguidelines/" target="_blank">Those regs</a> currently cover "FDA-approved" contraceptive methods, and if the FDA approves OTC contraceptives then HHS will have to modify its regs to make it clear whether those are covered too. There's no reason they couldn't choose to mandate coverage of OTC pills that are FDA-approved. Alternatively, they could simply require insurers to continue paying for prescriptions for OTC oral contraceptives, as they do currently for OTC products like spermicides and sponges that are prescribed by a doctor. This would be a good deal for insurance companies since OTC contraceptives would almost certainly be cheaper than prescription versions of the same pills.</p> <p>So let's join the Republican cause on OTC oral contraceptives. It's good science and good policy. And let's continue to oppose any efforts in Congress to weaken the contraceptive mandate. That's also good policy.</p> <p>Or am I missing something here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 09 Sep 2014 16:35:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 259886 at http://www.motherjones.com Is It Time For Yet Another War? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/it-time-yet-another-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Dave Weigel sums up the <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/09/09/isis_wins.html" target="_blank">recent American reaction to ISIS:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On August 18, the airstrikes helped Iraqi forces take back the Mosul dam from ISIS. The next day, ISIS released a video of captured journalist James Foley being beheaded by one of their men.</p> <p>The video, surely meant to sow fear and breed over-reaction, succeeded magnificently. The panic showing up in polls, in which the number of Americans favoring airstrikes in Iraq and Syria has surged, has been matched by a return of panic-first <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_foley_beheading.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">politics....The long Democratic dream, from Kerry to Obama, of reducing terrorism from an existential threat to a managable nuisance, is just not an election-winner.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is, sadly, not surprising at all. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that Americans are weary of war, and the conventional wisdom is largely correct. At the same time, it's always been obvious that Americans remain easily susceptible to the same kind of bloody-shirt waving that got us into the Iraq war in the first place. The only thing that's saved us is the fact that President Obama isn't a bloody-shirt waver. Even when he's initiated military action, his public persona has been quiet and reluctant.</p> <p>But now we're seeing just how easy it is to whip Americans into a war frenzy yet again. Even with Obama striking his usual no-drama pose, the public is becoming increasingly belligerent. All it took was a carefully stagecrafted beheading video and the usual gang of conservative jingoists to exploit it. For now, the lack of presidential blood lust is holding back the tide&mdash;barely&mdash;but that's a thin reed. If Obama wanted to go to war, it would be the work of a moment to whip up a war frenzy in a solid majority of the country.</p> <p>And just think about how tempting it must be. A full-blown military assault on a loathsome enemy like ISIS would almost certainly be a big campaign winner for Democrats this fall.</p> <p>War weary? Sure, as long as the president keeps a low profile. But if he decides to change his mind, the American public will back him up. After all, Americans have historically gotten a little restless if they don't have a new war every four or five years, and it's been about that long since we pulled out of Iraq. Maybe we're due.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:33:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 259876 at http://www.motherjones.com Every Single Thing You Need to Know About Gerrymandering and Republicans http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/every-single-thing-you-need-know-about-gerrymandering-and-republicans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For some reason&mdash;boredom? coincidence? hot weather peevishness?&mdash;a bunch of bloggers today have been arguing about whether Republican control of the House is due to gerrymandering. I don't get this. Gerrymandering is what it is. The best studies I've seen suggest that it accounts for 6-8 additional Republican seats. The rest of the Republican advantage is due to the incumbency effect; self-sorting; natural Democratic clumping in urban areas; and a few other minor things.</p> <p>So: Is gerrymandering responsible for Republican control of the House? No. Is it partially responsible? Yes. What's so hard about this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 08 Sep 2014 20:01:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 259856 at http://www.motherjones.com A Brief Note on Texas Hospitality http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/brief-note-texas-hospitality <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jay Nordlinger had an unusual experience with a taxi wrangler <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/387368/quick-valentine-jay-nordlinger" target="_blank">at the Dallas airport yesterday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The man put my suitcase in a taxi&rsquo;s trunk. I handed him a tip. He said, &ldquo;No, no, we&rsquo;re not allowed to take that.&rdquo;</p> <p>I have been a fair number of places over the years &mdash; and I bet I could count refusals of a tip on one hand....There is something I tell people who think they don&rsquo;t like Texas: Just go there. That&rsquo;ll cure you. Texas is distinctively hospitable, and the food, girls, etc., cannot be surpassed (though they can be matched).</p> </blockquote> <p>For what it's worth, "hospitable" is not the same thing as "airport authorities don't allow employees to accept tips." The former is a trait of people who are just being nice. The latter is something that CEOs force on their low-paid employees. There's a difference.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 08 Sep 2014 17:44:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 259831 at http://www.motherjones.com If Scotland Secedes, They Better Secede From the Pound Too http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/if-scotland-secedes-they-better-secede-pound-too <!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_scotland_independence.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Scotland will be voting next week on whether to secede from Great Britain, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/opinion/paul-krugman-scots-what-the-heck.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=c-column-top-span-region&amp;region=c-column-top-span-region&amp;WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">and Paul Krugman is aghast:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous. In economics jargon, fiscal and banking integration are essential elements of an optimum currency area. And an independent Scotland using Britain&rsquo;s pound would be in even worse shape than euro countries, which at least have some say in how the European Central Bank is run.</p> <p>I find it mind-boggling that Scotland would consider going down this path after all that has happened in the last few years. If Scottish voters really believe that it&rsquo;s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't get this either. I understand why the pro-independence forces favor continued use of the pound: it's one less scary thing for the pro-union forces to use in their campaign. People are used to the pound, and it's obviously a stable, well-accepted currency. Conversely, a new Scottish currency would be a big unknown, and give people one more reason to vote against independence.</p> <p>It's quite likely, of course, that the whole thing is a charade. The pro-independence forces probably feel like they need to support continued use of the pound for now, just to take it off the table as a campaign issue. But if independence succeeds, there's a good chance that Scotland will adopt its own currency within a few years for all the reasons Krugman brings up. Being stuck in a currency union is so obviously dangerous that it will probably be abandoned once things shake down in an independent Scotland and the new government has time to focus on it.</p> <p>As for Scottish independence itself, I don't have much of an opinion. I do have a <em>generic</em> opinion that secession usually sounds better than it actually is in practice. Every province or state or city or neighborhood always thinks they have deep and justified grievances against whatever polity they belong to, and often they're right. That's the nature of large agglomerations of human beings. But often those grievances are, in truth, fairly skin deep&mdash;usually some version of "cultural identity," the last refuge of the person with no actual arguments to make&mdash;and secession merely resolves some of them while creating whole new ones. I think it rarely accomplishes much.</p> <p>My super-rough rule of thumb is this: I support secession of (a) territories that speak a different language, (b) territories that are physically distant, and (c) territories that have genuinely suffered at the hands of a brutal regime. Jokes aside on items (a) and (c), none of these really apply to Scotland, so I'd put myself down as moderately opposed to independence. But if it does happen, I sure hope currency union really does turn out to be a charade. If you're going to have your own country, then you should have your own money and your own monetary policy. If we've learned nothing else over the past half decade, surely we've at least learned that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:41:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 259816 at http://www.motherjones.com Multivitamins: Almost Worthless, But Maybe Not Quite http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/multivitamins-almost-worthless-maybe-not-quite <!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://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dont-take-your-vitamins/" target="_blank">From Emily Oster:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many medical studies show positive health effects from higher vitamin levels. The only problem? These studies often can&rsquo;t tease out the effect of the vitamins from the effect of other factors, such as generally healthy living. Studies that attempt to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_multivitamins.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">do this typically show no impact from vitamin use &mdash; or only a very tiny one on a small subset of people. <strong>The truth is that for most people, vitamin supplementation is simply a waste of time.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Every once in a while I vaguely decide that maybe I'd feel better if I took vitamins. So I buy a bottle of multivitamins and take them for a while. What usually happens next is that I come across yet another in the long parade of news pieces and blog posts reminding me that vitamin supplements are useless. And then I stop again.</p> <p>I am, needless to say, not talking about specific vitamin supplements recommended by my doctor for a specific condition. I'm talking about the routine use of vitamin supplements. And Oster is right: study after study shows that they're all but worthless.</p> <p>And yet! There's also this from a study released <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/multivitamins-really/" target="_blank">a couple of years ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Men who took a daily multivitamin had a statistically significant lower rate of cancer than those who took the placebo (17.0 versus 18.3 events per 1000 person-years). Although mortality was lower as well, it wasn&rsquo;t statistically significant (4.9 versus 5.6 events per 1000 person-year).</p> <p>This was an extremely large study, well done, with amazing follow-up. You can&rsquo;t dismiss it easily.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's Aaron Carroll, not generally someone who succumbs to faddish nonsense. The study in question isn't perfect, but as he says, it's pretty good. And it suggests that, in fact, multivitamins help reduce the incidence of cancer in men, especially those with a baseline history of cancer. And they're cheap. So if you happen to be male, maybe multivitamins are worth it after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:53:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 259811 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Announces Policy Change, Hill Dems Complain. Film At 11. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/obama-announces-policy-change-hill-dems-complain-film-11 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a Twitter conversation between me and Ezra Klein <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum/status/508392119728611329" target="_blank">on Saturday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Klein:</strong> What I&rsquo;m hearing from Hill Dems is that they&rsquo;re happy the immigration order is delayed, but angry at how poorly the issue has been handled</p> <p><strong>Drum:</strong> Of course they are. That's the eternal complaint when they can't think of anything substantive to gripe about.</p> <div class="_comment comment"> <p><strong>Klein:</strong> I think that's too pat a response: sometimes issues are poorly handled.</p> </div> <p><strong>Drum:</strong> Sure. But lately, Ds complain about *every* issue being badly handled. (Or having "bad optics.")</p> </blockquote> <p>Klein provides more detail <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6114927/obama-s-immigration-delay-gives-ammunition-to-his-critics" target="_blank">here,</a> and Andrew Sullivan rounds up the liberal reaction <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/09/08/the-immigration-can-gets-kicked-down-the-road/" target="_blank">here.</a> But is there really any serious political malpractice going on? There is to this extent: the White House apparently didn't read the tea leaves properly earlier this summer when it announced that Obama would take executive action on immigration after it became clear that Republicans in the House were unwilling to act. Following that, though, Obama's only choice was either to stick to his guns or announce a delay. The former would have irked congressional Democrats, so he chose to announce a delay.</p> <p>It's hard for me to see anything poorly handled here. The truth is that anytime a president changes course, a bit of awkwardness is baked into the cake. It's inevitable, and if you can't accept that you shouldn't urge a change of course. What's more, I don't see anything in Obama's actions that made this any better or worse than usual. It was pretty routine, and will be forgotten by all but political junkies within days. Democrats are probably doing themselves more damage with another round of their all-too-routine whinging than Obama did by announcing the delay in the first place.</p> <p>That does leave one question, though: Did Obama consult sufficiently with congressional Dems before he initially announced that he planned to take executive action on immigration? Frankly, the political implications of that announcement were so obvious that it beggars the imagination to suppose that he didn't. Everyone in the world immediately knew that (a) it would help drive Latino turnout and (b) it might pose problems for Democrats running close races in red states. Obama's political team might not be Olympic caliber, but there's no way they failed to talk to "Hill Dems" about immigration back in June, is there? I'd be very interested in reading a neutrally-reported deep dive about this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Immigration Obama Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:03:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 259801 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 5 September 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/friday-cat-blogging-5-september-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_09_05_3.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I have sad news today. Domino's thyroid finally got the better of her, and she's been a pretty sick kitty for the past month or two. About six weeks ago she gave up on dry food, so we switched to wet food. That helped, but she gradually ate less and less of it. A couple of weeks ago she stopped eating entirely no matter what we tried. She'd lap up microscopic amounts of gravy or tuna juice a couple of times a day, but that was it. She just wouldn't eat anymore.</p> <p>By last week she was very thin, and her energy level was pretty low. She slept most of the time in her favorite hidey-hole, and came out only a few times a day for five or ten minutes at a time. By the start of this week she'd gotten a bit unsteady on her feet, and it was obvious the end was near. I talked to our vet earlier this week, and yesterday we took Domino in and had her put to sleep. I hated doing it, but I'm certain it was the right thing to do. She didn't show it, but she must have been in a fair amount of pain, which was only going to get worse over time.</p> <p>To the very end, she was sweet and sociable, which made it even harder. She lost her meow several weeks ago, but she never lost her purr or her love of tummy rubs. She was a good cat. She'll be missed.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_09_05_1.jpg" style="border: 3px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 13px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Sep 2014 18:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 259746 at http://www.motherjones.com