Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2009/07/politics-healthcare%3Bwww.aollatinoblog.com/rss.xml%3Bwww.aollatinoblog.com/tag/futbolargentino/%3Bwww.aollatinoblog.com/2008/03/12/daddy-yankee-hace-una-pelicula http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en I Have No Headline Worthy of Donald Trump's Latest http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/i-have-no-headline-worthy-donald-trumps-latest <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I hesitate to drop the P-bomb, but <a href="https://twitter.com/paul_w_hoffman/status/638888254469574656" target="_blank">this bit of word salad from Donald Trump</a> is eerily Palinesque. How is it possible that <em>Spy</em> magazine is no longer around to explain this to the world?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_argle_bargle.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 01:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 283191 at http://www.motherjones.com In the Contest for Worst Automobile-Driving Species, the Winner is Homo Sapiens http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/contest-worst-automobile-driving-species-winner-homo-sapiens <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A reader tells me this story seems <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/technology/personaltech/google-says-its-not-the-driverless-cars-fault-its-other-drivers.html" target="_blank">right up my alley:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Google, a leader in efforts to create driverless cars, has run into an odd safety conundrum: humans.</p> <p>Last month, as one of Google&rsquo;s self-driving cars approached a crosswalk, it did what it was supposed to do when it slowed to allow a pedestrian to cross, prompting its &ldquo;safety driver&rdquo; to apply the brakes. The pedestrian <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_car_in_pool.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 28px 0px 15px 30px;">was fine, but not so much Google&rsquo;s car, which was hit from behind by a human-driven sedan.</p> <p>....<strong>Dmitri Dolgov, head of software for Google&rsquo;s Self-Driving Car Project, said that one thing he had learned from the project was that human drivers needed to be &ldquo;less idiotic.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's the spirit! And when Skynet takes over, humans will finally cease to be such a nuisance. Driverless car nirvana will be at hand.</p> <p>Ahem. In reality, of course, this whole story is sort of silly. <em>Of course</em> the biggest problem with driverless cars is humans. What else would it be? Plop a few thousand driverless cars into an empty city and they'd get along swimmingly. No one is unaware of this, least of all Google.</p> <p>But I suppose from Google's perspective, stories like this are useful as ways to calm fears about driverless cars. And there <em>is</em> a good point to be made about that: driverless cars don't have to be perfect to be useful. They just have to be at least as good as humans. So while the fact that humans are generally idiotic drivers might be a short-term annoyance, in the long run it's a huge bonus for Google. They don't have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, just the local high school JV team.</p> <p>This, by the way, is why I'm so generally bullish on artificial intelligence. It's not because I have such a high opinion of computers, but because I have such a low opinion of humans. We really are just overclocked chimpanzees who have convinced ourselves that our weird jumble of largely Pavlovian behaviors&mdash;punctuated by regrettably rare dollops of intelligence&mdash;is deeply ineffable and therefore resistant to true understanding. Why do we believe this? Primarily for the amusingly oxymoronic reason that we aren't smart enough to understand our own brains. The silicon crowd should be able to do better before long.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> By the way, I'm a lovely driver. It's all you other folks who are causing so many problems.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:32:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 283171 at http://www.motherjones.com Sorry, I Don't Know Why Murder Rates Are Up In a Bunch of Big Cities http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/sorry-i-dont-know-why-murder-rates-are-bunch-big-cities <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've gotten enough requests to comment on this piece from the <em>New York Times</em> that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/us/murder-rates-rising-sharply-in-many-us-cities.html" target="_blank">I guess I'd better do so:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines,</strong> and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this year &mdash; after 86 homicides in all of 2014.</p> <p>More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.</p> <p>Law enforcement experts say disparate factors are at play in different cities, though no one is claiming to know for sure why murder rates are climbing. Some officials say intense national scrutiny of the use of force by the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals, though many experts dispute that theory.</p> </blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_baseline_lead.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The reason I haven't said anything about this until now is that I had nothing to say. I have no more idea what's driving this increase than anyone else.</p> <p>But what about lead? Here's the problem: gasoline lead explains one thing and one thing only. And that thing is the huge violent crime wave of 1960-1990 followed by the equally huge drop of 1990-2010. But that's over. What we're left with now is the baseline level of violent crime, which obviously wouldn't be zero even if there were no lead in the environment at all. And the causes of this baseline level of violent crime are all the usual suspects: poverty, race, drugs, policing, guns, demographics, and so forth. A more detailed explanation is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves" target="_blank">here.</a> At this point, lead is a very small contributor to the crime level.</p> <p>It's also worth pointing out that crime figures, and murder figures in particular, are extremely noisy. Lead explains long-term shifts. It doesn't explain short-term spikes or (in most cases) differences from one city to another. The current increase in murder rates could be due to lots of things, or it could just be the usual noise in the numbers. Maybe they'll go right back down next year.</p> <p>But I don't know. The only thing I do know is that lead is playing no particular role in this, either good or bad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 19:09:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 283166 at http://www.motherjones.com Let Us Now Praise Passionate Politics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/let-us-now-praise-passionate-politics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>German Lopez notes the reaction in some quarters to the <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/9/1/9239643/black-lives-matter-fox-news" target="_blank">recent shooting of a Texas deputy sheriff:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Despite any solid leads and facts about the motives in the shooting of 10-year deputy veteran Darren Goforth, some conservative media outlets and local law enforcement officials have already settled on the <em>real</em> culprit: Black Lives Matter.</p> <p>....Fox News's Elisabeth Hasselbeck later wondered aloud on air why Black Lives Matter isn't considered a "hate group." Bill O'Reilly was more blunt, concluding the movement was indeed a "hate group."</p> <p>....It's not just Fox News &mdash; other reports painted narratives that put Black Lives Matter and police as inherently in conflict. A CNN report, for instance, described Black Lives Matter's advocacy as "anti-police rhetoric." What does it say about American society that advocating for black lives and ending racial disparities in the criminal justice system <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_speakers_corner_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">would qualify not as pro-equality but as anti-police?</p> </blockquote> <p>It's hardly a surprise to hear stuff like this. Nor is it limited to conservatives. Liberals frequently fault anti-abortion rhetoric when someone kills an abortion clinic worker or anti-government rhetoric when someone shoots up an IRS office.</p> <p>That won't stop, but it should. People and groups have to be free to condemn abortion or police misconduct or anything else&mdash;sometimes soberly, sometimes not. And it's inevitable that this will occasionally inspire a maniac somewhere to resort to violence. There's really no way around this. It's obviously something for any decent person to keep in mind, but it doesn't make passionate politics culpable for the ills of the world. We can't allow the limits of our political spirit to be routinely dictated by the worst imaginable consequences.</p> <p>This is no apology for obviously incendiary speech. If you get on your soapbox and tell your followers to kill the pigs or murder the child murderers, then you bear a share of blame for what happens next. That's both common sense and legal reality.</p> <p>But we also need common sense toward speech that's less immediately incendiary but still fiery or angry&mdash;or both. After all, this is where change, liberal and conservative alike, comes from. It's sadly inevitable that in a country of 300 million, even the minuscule fraction that turns that fear into a killing rampage amounts to a lot of people. But it's neither a good reason to rein in our political vigor nor a good reason to blame passionate engagement in politics for every related tragedy. That way lies atrophy and rot.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:22:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 283156 at http://www.motherjones.com Science Marches On: We Now Have a Yard Sale That Runs Backward In Time http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/science-marches-we-now-have-yard-sale-runs-backward-time <!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.racked.com/2015/8/31/9201599/127-sale-worlds-longest-yard-sale" target="_blank">A sentence to ponder:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The world's longest yard sale runs for nearly 700 miles along a mostly vertical line connecting Alabama and Michigan, from the first Thursday in August through the first Sunday.</p> </blockquote> <p>But what if the first Sunday comes before the first Thursday? Do they cancel the sale that year? Does it run backward through time? I demand answers.</p> <p>(Via Tyler Cowen.)</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:50:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 283141 at http://www.motherjones.com September Is Here! Time for Republicans to Get ... Um ... Something About Donald Trump. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/september-here-time-republicans-getumsomething-about-donald-trump <!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_gop_field_rcp_2015_09_01.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's September! Hooray! The kids are back in school and Donald Trump's reign over the silly season will soon be coming to an end. Finally, we can start to get serious about choosing our next presi&mdash;</p> <p>Wait. WTF? Trumpmentum's sagging fortunes have turned around? He's now even further in the lead? Well crap.</p> <p>The Republican field really needs to get its act together. They can't go on being afraid of him because he's "tapping into something real," or whatever the latest excuse is. It's time for some nuclear-level attack ads. The problem, I assume, is that everybody in the race wants someone <em>else</em> to waste their money attacking Trump, so they're all left in a weird kind of prisoner's dilemma where no one is willing to go first. They better figure out soon that this is a losing strategy.</p> <p>Oh well. The higher they go, the farther they fall. Amirite?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:23:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 283136 at http://www.motherjones.com The Average Family Pays a Federal Income Tax Rate of 5% http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/average-family-pays-federal-income-tax-rate-5 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ross Douthat writes today about the split on taxes between the Republican donor class and <a href="http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/trump-taxes-and-the-g-o-p/" target="_blank">the average Republican voter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The donorist vision, in my experience, has its own distinctives: It&rsquo;s less interested in the specifics of the Laffer curve or any other economic theory, and more inclined to take a vaguely Randian view of high taxes as an unjust punishment for success....</p> <p>Then the average Republican voter has a different perspective still....This prototypical Republican voter, who might be pulling in $45,000 working a trade or $95,000 running a small business (or vice versa), isn&rsquo;t necessarily being <em>soaked</em> by the federal income tax, but he or she remains an anti-tax voter because even small tax fluctuations year to year feel like an immediate threats to the ability to save, to plan, to expand or preserve a business, to buy a home and put money away for college and think about retirement and generally preserve their peace of mind.</p> </blockquote> <p>Douthat's post was inspired by Donald Trump's heresies on taxes, but I wouldn't read too much into that. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/conservative-tax-borg-has-finally-absorbed-donald-trump" target="_blank">As I noted yesterday,</a> it looks to me as if Trump is slowly but steadily moving in the direction of Republican orthodoxy with only a few minor populist concessions.</p> <p>But I was happy to see Douthat acknowledge that the average Republican voter is not exactly being soaked by taxes. As it happens, that's putting it mildly. The median family in America earns about $65,000. That family, on average, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_average_fed_income_tax_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">pays a federal income tax rate of <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=226" target="_blank">about 5 percent.</a></p> <p>In other words, for the average voter this isn't about money. Even the hardest core tea partiers can't possibly be outraged at the prospect of paying 5 percent of their income to Uncle Sam. The plain truth is that middle-class tax cuts are becoming all but impossible these days: the average family no longer pays enough in taxes to even notice a small change up or down. And the trend over the past few decades has been nothing but down anyway.</p> <p>And yet, taxes continue to be a potent message. Why? It's not because of payroll taxes. Numerous polls have shown that most voters consider these fair because they pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits down the road. Nor do state income taxes change the overall picture much.</p> <p>Republicans have been in this quandary for a while. Cutting taxes is pretty much all they've got on the economic front, but there's not a whole lot left to cut for the average Joe. And yet, the anti-tax message really does continue to resonate. Why? I'd suggest two things.</p> <p>First, most people are bad at math. They may be paying about 5 percent of their income in federal taxes, but if you ask them, they'd probably guess it's more like 20 or 30 percent. Republicans have long complained that weekly withholding makes taxes invisible, and they have a point. But right now, that works in their favor.</p> <p>Second, a lot of people are afraid that Democrats will <em>raise</em> their taxes. This prospect carries more punch than the prospect of a cut from Republicans.</p> <p>In any case, even though Donald Trump is coming around to Republican orthodoxy on taxes, I do think he's highlighting a real dilemma for Republicans. Raising taxes on hedge fund managers is no big deal. They can be thrown under the bus if necessary. But the other half of Trump's message is about reducing taxes on average middle-class families. That may still be a potent message, but even now it's not as potent as it was 30 years ago. And going forward, Democrats are eventually going to figure out a way to make it clear that federal income taxes really aren't very onerous anymore.<sup>1</sup> When that happens, it's bye bye tax cuts for the rich&mdash;because the only way you can sell tax cuts for the rich is to hide them behind tax cuts for the middle class. For simple mathematical reasons, that particular con is coming to an end.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, they haven't figured this out yet, so maybe I'm being too optimistic.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:47:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 283126 at http://www.motherjones.com Lone Gay Marriage Holdout Acting "Under the Authority of God" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/lone-gay-marriage-holdout-acting-under-authority-god <!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/2015/09/02/us/same-sex-marriage-kentucky-kim-davis.html" target="_blank">Sigh.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds denied licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, just hours after the Supreme Court refused to support her position.</p> <p>In a raucous scene in the little town of Morehead, two-same-sex couples walked into the Rowan County Courthouse, trailed by television <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kim_davis.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">cameras and chanting protesters on both sides of the issue, only to be told by the county clerk, Kim Davis, that she was denying them marriage licenses &ldquo;under the authority of God.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The optimist in me says that if the biggest backlash to the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision is one clerk in a tiny town in Kentucky, then we've gotten off pretty easy. And really, the more I think about it, that really does seem like the main takeaway from this.</p> <p>But it's obvious that the endgame here is for Kim Davis to be fired, or tossed in jail for contempt. The Supreme Court itself has ordered her to issue licenses, so she has no further legal recourse. Only recourse to God.</p> <p>I'm now curious to see what the Republican field will make of this. On the one hand, most of them are treating the primary contest as a zero-sum race to see who can move furthest to the right. On the other hand, do they really want to get on the wrong side of gay marriage <em>and</em> immigration? On the third hand, there's the whole rule of law thing. And on the fourth hand, Donald Trump is not an anti-gay warrior. He's the guy everyone is responding to, so maybe that means this will stay low key.</p> <p>The Huckabees and Carsons of the world will surely support Davis. The rest of the field....probably not. That's my guess. Then again, if video of Davis being hauled off to the county pen ends up on a 24/7 loop on Fox News, who knows? Defying the will of a small groups of pissed off base voters is not something the Republican field is exactly famous for.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/01/a-kentucky-clerk-is-turning-away-gay-couples-but-shes-a-real-rarity/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent confirms my sense</a> that holdouts like Davis are very rare. "In the seven southern states where the backlash might have been expected to be fiercest, only one &mdash; Alabama &mdash; still has multiple counties that are holding out. One other &mdash; Kentucky &mdash; has only two remaining counties holding out." The national campaign director for Freedom to Marry says that, all things considered, "things are going exceedingly smoothly."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:38:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 283121 at http://www.motherjones.com 54% of Republicans Think Obama Is a Muslim http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/54-republicans-think-obama-muslim <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You know, I thought this nonsense had stopped. I don't know <em>why</em> I thought it had stopped&mdash;out of sight, out of mind?&mdash;but apparently it hasn't. Crikey.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ppp_obama_muslim_2015_08_31.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 110px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 01:34:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 283106 at http://www.motherjones.com Sovereign Citizens Leapfrog Islamic Extremists as America's Top Terrorist Threat http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/sovereign-citizens-leapfrog-islamic-extremists-americas-top-terrorist-threat <!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_greatest_terrorist_threats.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Who do actual law enforcement officers see as the biggest terrorist threats in America? Surprise! <a href="https://www.start.umd.edu/pubs/START_UnderstandingLawEnforcementIntelligenceProcesses_July2014.pdf" target="_blank">It's not Islamic radicals:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Approximately 39 percent of respondents agreed and 28 percent strongly agreed that Islamic extremists were a serious terrorist threat. In comparison, <strong>52 percent of respondents agreed and 34 percent strongly agreed that sovereign citizens were a serious terrorist threat.</strong></p> <p>....There was significant concern about the resurgence of the radical far right [following the election of President Obama], but it appears as though law enforcement is, at present, less concerned about these groups.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's odd. The authors of this report apparently don't consider the sovereign citizens part of the radical right. But their roots are in the Posse Comitatus movement, and they identify strongly with both the white supremacist Christian Identity movement and the anti-tax movement. That's always sounded like the right-wing on steroids to me.</p> <p>I'm not trying to foist responsibility for these crazies on the Republican Party, any more than I'd say Democrats are responsible for animal rights extremists. Still, their complaints seem like preposterous caricatures of right-wing thought, in the same way that animal rights extremism bears a distant but recognizable ancestry to lefty principles.</p> <p>In any case, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/8/31/9208015/terrorism-chart-ranked" target="_blank">this comes via Zack Beauchamp,</a> who explains the sovereign citizens movement in more detail for the uninitiated.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 22:39:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 283096 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Not the Economy, Stupid. The Spanish Language Is the Ur-Motive of Anti-Immigration Sentiment. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/spanish-language-ur-motive-anti-immigration-sentiment <!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_english_language.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Ed Kilgore on the conservative hostility <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_08/libsplaining057370.php" target="_blank">toward illegal immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This very weekend I was reading an advance copy of an upcoming book that includes the results of some intensive focus group work with what might be called the "angry wing" of the GOP base. <strong>The author notes that one thing that simply <em>enrages</em> grass-roots conservatives is the use of non-English languages by immigrants.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. You can read all about it <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2006_05/008735.php" target="_blank">from one of Kilgore's predecessors,</a> who wrote about it during our last big try at immigration reform in 2006. It's based on an <a href="http://inthesetimes.com/article/2608" target="_blank">excellent piece by Chris Hayes,</a> written before he sold out to the bright lights and big paychecks of cable television.</p> <p>I agree that language is probably the key original driver of anti-immigrant sentiment, though it's long since inspired further animus based around crime, gangs, social services, and other culture-related issues. The odd thing is that this is one of the few areas where I think the anti-immigrationists have a bit of a point. It's not a very <em>big</em> point, since (a) Spanish occupies no <em>official</em> role in the United States, and (b) Latin American immigrants all end up speaking English by the second and third generations anyway. Hell, the third-generation Latino who speaks lousy Spanish is practically a cliche.</p> <p>That said, I've long believed that having multiple official languages makes it very hard to sustain a united polity. The Swiss manage, but the whole reason they're famous for it is because it's so unusual. Even the Belgians and Canadians have trouble with it, and they're pretty tolerant people.</p> <p>Would a congressional declaration that English is the official language of the United States do anything to calm anti-immigrant fervor? At this point, probably not. But if it were written narrowly and carefully, I'd probably support it. I figure that if God considered a single common language such a boon that it threatened his dominion, it must be pretty powerful stuff.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 19:17:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 283076 at http://www.motherjones.com The Conservative Tax Borg Has Finally Absorbed Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/conservative-tax-borg-has-finally-absorbed-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> reports that Republican leaders are alarmed at <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/us/politics/republicans-wary-of-donald-trumps-populist-tone-on-taxes.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">one particular aspect of Donald Trump's popularity:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on American companies that put their factories in other countries. He has threatened to increase taxes on the compensation of hedge fund managers. And he has vowed to change laws that allow American companies to benefit from cheaper tax rates by using mergers to base their operations outside the United States.</p> <p>Alarmed that those ideas might catch on with some of Mr. Trump&rsquo;s Republican rivals &mdash; as his immigration policies have &mdash; the Club for Growth, an anti-tax think tank, is pulling together a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tired.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">team of economists to scrutinize his proposals and calculate the economic impact if he is elected.</p> </blockquote> <p>First things first: Trump and the Club for Growth have been feuding ever since Trump entered the race. The Club says it's because Trump had previously supported universal health care and a one-time tax on individuals worth more than $10 million. Trump says it's because the Club tried to shake him down for a $1 million donation and he refused to give it to them. The truth is&mdash;oh, who cares what the truth is? It's just another Trump feud.</p> <p>Anyway, Trump repudiated his wealth tax idea a long time ago, but he <em>has</em> supported (a) a progressive income tax, (b) closing loopholes for hedge fund managers, (c) tariffs on companies that move factories to Mexico, and (d) corporate inversions. But wait! In his interview with Sarah Palin, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oeju2SG7UMA" target="_blank">Trump inched closer to Republican orthodoxy on taxes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We have to simplify our tax code. You have hedge fund guys that are paying virtually no tax and they're making a fortune....Now you can go to a fair tax or a flat tax, but the easiest way and the quickest way, at least on a temporary basis, is simplification of the code: get rid of deductions, reduce taxes.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK. So Trump definitely wants to eliminate the carried-interest loophole that allows hedge fund managers to pay very little in federal income tax. But he's no longer opposed to a flat tax. It's just that on a "temporary" basis he wants to broaden the base and reduce rates. This is as orthodox as it gets.</p> <p>As for the tariffs on companies that move to Mexico, that's just bluster not to be taken seriously. And reining in corporate inversions is a pretty bipartisan goal. It would presumably be part of a corporate tax overhaul that would end up being revenue neutral.</p> <p>On taxes, then, Trump has all but caved in. The only serious part of his schtick that's no longer garden-variety Republican dogma is his desire to close the carried-interest loophole. And even this is small potatoes: it would raise one or two billion dollars per year, which could easily be offset by a tiny tax cut somewhere else. There's really nothing left for even Grover Norquist to dislike.</p> <p>So no worries! Trump is becoming fully absorbed by the Republican borg on taxes. Aside from the Mexico stuff, which is just campaign trail bombast, there's nothing left that would raise net taxes or offend conservative sensibilities in any way. Whew.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 18:12:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 283056 at http://www.motherjones.com This Week's Great Showdown: Denali vs. McKinley http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/weeks-great-showdown-denali-vs-mkinley <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So the big news this weekend was President Obama's decision to change the name of Mt. McKinley back to Denali. As near as I can tell, the only people who truly care about this are:</p> <ul><li>Alaskans</li> <li>Ohioans</li> <li>Mountain climbers</li> <li>Trivia buffs</li> </ul><p>Of these, Alaskans are pro-Denali; Ohioans are proudly pro-McKinley; mountain climbers have been calling it Denali for years already; and trivia buffs are almost certainly pro-Denali since they love it whenever something changes that allows them to pedantically correct other people.</p> <p>So far&mdash;to my pleasant surprise, I admit&mdash;there's been very little complaining about how Obama is&mdash;again!&mdash;bending to the forces of political correctness and identity politics by kowtowing to the icy cold branch of the native American community. But the week is young and the easily outraged are probably still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Give them time.</p> <p>For the time being, though, the pro-McKinley side has only the Ohioans, who have been battling Alaskans over this for decades. Ohioans are mighty defenders of William McKinley, proud son of Niles, Ohio. So proud, in fact, that one of their own renamed Denali to Mt. McKinley in 1896 merely because McKinley had just been <em>nominated</em> for president. Alaskans probably had no idea this was even happening, and in any case they weren't yet a state and could do little about it. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_denali_campbell.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">They finally tried to officially reverse this power grab in the 70s, <a href="http://www.adn.com/article/20141221/denali-dilemma-can-dan-sullivan-get-mount-mckinley-renamed" target="_blank">but sneaky Ohioans took advantage of a loophole</a> to prevent the US Board on Geographic Names from acting. That ended yesterday when Obama decided to rename America's highest peak himself.</p> <p>The obvious solution to all this is to rename Ohio's tallest mountain. Unfortunately, Ohio is flat and has no mountains at all. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_Hill_%28Ohio%29" target="_blank">Its highest point is Campbell Hill,</a> topping out at a pedestrian 1,550 feet. They could rename it McKinley Hill&mdash;unless, of course, that would outrage the descendants of Charles D. Campbell&mdash;but that's quite a comedown from the majesty of Denali, as the pictures on the right show.</p> <p>What to do? Nothing much, I suppose, except for Ohio's congressional delegation to rant and rave about Obama's unilateral power grab etc. That's fine. Hometown pride demands no less. Even at that, though, I have to give props to Rep. Bob Gibbs for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/denali-mount-mckinley-alaska-portman" target="_blank">this masterpiece of outrage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I hope my colleagues will join with me in stopping this constitutional overreach. President Obama has decided to ignore an act of Congress in unilaterally renaming Mt. McKinley in order to promote his job-killing war on energy.</p> </blockquote> <p>Constitutional overreach? Sure, whatever. That's garden variety stuff by now. But how does removing the name of America's 25th president advance Obama's job-killing war on energy? Inquiring minds want to know.</p> <p>As for the political implications, all you need to know is this: Alaska has three electoral votes. Ohio has 18 and is routinely a critical swing state. You may draw your own conclusions from this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 16:51:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 283046 at http://www.motherjones.com Waiting For Number 34 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/waiting-number-34 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Obama has the support of 31 Democratic senators for his Iran nuclear deal. So naturally we're now beginning to ponder the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2015/08/26/who-wants-to-clinch-the-iran-deal/" target="_blank">truly important stuff:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It looks increasingly likely that the nuclear agreement will survive its congressional trial&nbsp;&mdash; even opponents are starting to accept that seeming inevitability.</p> <p>Which leaves just one question: Who will be the deal-clinching senator No. 34?</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite so. Who will be the history maker? Or, if you prefer, the final nail in the coffin of treachery? <em>This</em> is what truly matters.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:34:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 283041 at http://www.motherjones.com Robert Kagan Thinks America's Problem Is Too Little War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/robert-kagan-thinks-americas-problem-too-little-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over the weekend<sup>1</sup> Robert Kagan wrote an essay in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> titled <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/robert-kagan-why-the-u-s-wants-to-avoid-conflict-1409942201" target="_blank">"America's Dangerous Aversion to Conflict."</a> That seemed....wrong, somehow, so I read it. Mostly it turned out to be a tedious history lesson about the run-up to World War II, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_war_kuwait.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">basically a long version of the "Munich!" argument that conservatives make every time we fail to go to war with somebody. But there was also this:</p> <blockquote> <p>President George H.W. Bush and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, sent half a million American troops to fight thousands of miles away for no other reason than to thwart aggression and restore a desert kingdom that had been invaded by its tyrant neighbor.</p> <p>....A little more than a decade later, however, the U.S. is a changed country. Because of the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, <strong>to suggest sending even a few thousand troops to fight anywhere for any reason is almost unthinkable.</strong> The most hawkish members of Congress don't think it safe to argue for a ground attack on the Islamic State or for a NATO troop presence in Ukraine. There is no serious discussion of reversing the cuts in the defense budget, even though the strategic requirements of defending U.S. allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East have rarely been more manifest while America's ability to do so has rarely been more in doubt.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is one of the tropes that conservative hawks haul out with tiresome predictability, but it's flat wrong. Even now, when Americans have every reason to be skeptical of military action in the Mideast, poll after poll shows a surprising acceptance of it. Whether the subject is Iran, Syria, or ISIS, it's plain that many Americans are already primed for military action, and many more can be talked into it pretty easily. The United States has fought half a dozen major wars in the past quarter century, and the surprising thing isn't that we've gotten war weary. Quite the contrary: the surprising thing is that we're plainly ready to keep it up given the right incentive.</p> <p>Kagan's argument is also dishonest in a couple of common ways. First, he argues that sending "even a few thousand troops" anywhere is now unthinkable. This is nonsense. Over the past few months we've already sent a few thousand troops to fight ISIS, and this has barely raised a peep even from liberals. There <em>is</em> an aversion to sending a hundred thousand ground troops to fight ISIS and starting up another full-scale war and occupation of Iraq. If Kagan objects to that, fine. But that's what we're talking about, and Kagan should own up to it.</p> <p>Second, after spending several paragraphs singing the praises of our military response during the Cold War, Kagan bemoans our unwillingness to send troops to Ukraine. But again, that's nonsense. During the Cold War, we fought plenty of proxy wars but never, never, never sent troops to fight the Soviets directly. Not in Hungary. Not in Czechoslovakia. Not in Afghanistan. If Kagan wants us to be <em>more</em> belligerent toward Russia than we ever were toward the old Soviet Union, that's fine too. But he needs to say so, rather than subtly rewriting history.</p> <p>Kagan, like so many other hawks, is intent on pretending that the threats we face today are as dangerous as any in the past century. But that's simply not true. World War I, World War II, and the Cold War were almost unimaginably greater threats to the world than a few minor territorial grabs by Vladimir Putin, a civil war in Syria, and the takeover of a chunk of Iraq by a ragtag group of delusional jihadists. Pretending otherwise does Kagan's reputation no favors.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Actually, Kagan wrote this over a weekend <em>in 2014</em>. I'm not really sure why it popped up during my perusal of the <em>Journal</em> last night. But I suppose it doesn't matter: Kagan would likely say the same thing today that he did a year ago.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:00:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 283036 at http://www.motherjones.com Apple Hates Me. I Hate Them Right Back. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/apple-hates-me-i-hate-them-back <!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_apple_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Apple has never allowed ad-blocking software on the iPhone or iPad. This is one among many reasons that I ditched both. Not because I hate ads all that passionately, but because it's an example of the obsessive corporate control Apple maintains over its environment. But it's <em>my</em> iPad, dammit. If I want a different virtual keyboard, why can't I get one? If I want access to a file, why does Apple forbid it? If I want ad-blocking software, why should Apple be allowed to stop me?</p> <p>Apple is still a serial offender on this front, but apparently they've decided to relent on ad-blocking software. As usual, though, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/apples-ad-blockers-raise-tensions-1440974849" target="_blank">there appears to be a deeper story here:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The next version of Apple&rsquo;s mobile-operating system, due out as early as next month, will let users install apps that prevent ads from appearing in its Safari browser.</p> <p>....<strong>Apple says it won&rsquo;t allow ad blocking within apps,</strong> because ads inside apps don&rsquo;t compromise performance as they do on the browser. That distinction serves Apple&rsquo;s interests. <strong>It takes a 30% cut on money generated from apps,</strong> and has a business serving ads inside apps. What&rsquo;s more, <strong>iOS 9 will include an Apple News app, which will host articles from major news publishers.</strong> Apple may receive a share of the revenue from ads that accompany those articles.</p> </blockquote> <p>The basic lay of the land here&mdash;assuming the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has this right&mdash;is that Apple's move is aimed at Google, which makes most of its revenue from browser ads. Conversely, it doesn't hurt companies like Facebook much, since they have dedicated apps. In the big picture, this motivates more and more companies to build Apple-specific apps, since those will become more lucrative over time. And it helps Apple's bottom line since it gets a cut of the revenue. Plus it annoys Google.</p> <p>So here's the lesson: Apple is happy to allow users more control over their devices as long as it also happens to benefit Apple. If it doesn't, then tough.</p> <p>This is why I generally loathe Apple. Obviously all companies are run in their own self-interest, but Apple carries this to absurd lengths. Say what you will about Microsoft, but they've never pulled this kind of crap on their customers. If I buy a Windows machine, I can do pretty much anything I want to it.</p> <p>Needless to say, lots and lots of people couldn't care less about this, and Apple has made a ton of money catering to them. But I care. Whether it's because Steve Jobs insisted on the one perfect way of using a computer, or because Apple's accountants want to limit customers' choices in order to maximize corporate revenue, Apple has never cared much about allowing me to choose how <em>I</em> prefer to use a computer. That's not thinking different. It's how IBM operated half a century ago. And it sucks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 31 Aug 2015 02:08:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 283016 at http://www.motherjones.com Hair Update: Short Wins By a Landslide http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/hair-update-short-wins-landslide <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So what does the commentariat think on the hair front? Here's a smattering of comments from folks who like my new, shorter hair:</p> <blockquote> <p>DM: Makes you look quietly studly and stoic.</p> <p>JS: The short look, with the T-shirt, is hot. You'll just have to get used to the idea that you're going to turn female heads when you walk into a restaurant.</p> <p>EVC: Even without the tattoos, you look so much more hip and bad-ass. It's a good look.</p> <p>CLD: It's like Johnny Depp in Black Mass, it's the new look.</p> <p>SG: Clean, cool, contemporary. And it makes you look ten years younger.</p> <p>RS: As a personal finance professor, I like that you can have your wife cut it with at home electric hair clipper package; it's easy at that length!</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_head_mohawk.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">LD: It's more interesting, less like an insurance salesman from the '50's.</p> </blockquote> <p>And here's a smattering of comment from the one person who likes my old, longer hair:</p> <blockquote> <p>JD: Your old hair is so cute. And you might as well enjoy it while you can, because, face it, the day will come when it will all go away anyway. Dad did not have much hair at your age.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well....but Dad didn't have much hair by the time he was 30, either. I plan to take after my maternal grandfather, who kept his hair into his 90s. In any case, the new hair wins by about 487 to 1. But let's face it: the vote was rigged from the start. Nobody was going to vote for that old hair. Besides, if I were sporting a polka-dot mohawk you guys would all vote for it. Don't lie. You know you would.</p> <p>So that's that. Short hair wins. However, it turns out that none of your votes counted anyway. Marian voted for the new hair, and she outvoted all of you. Funny how that works.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 30 Aug 2015 15:25:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 283006 at http://www.motherjones.com The Internet Is Making Us Sicker http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/internet-making-us-sicker <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The placebo effect, as we all know, is the mechanism by which we sometimes feel better even when we're given meds that later turn out to be sugar pills. The mere expectation that we will get better somehow helps us actually get better. The most eye-popping example of the placebo effect is probably <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/doctors-are-human/2011/06/01/AGTU4LGH_blog.html?wprss=ezra-klein" target="_blank">this one here.</a></p> <p>But there's also a dark side to this. I don't know if it has an official name, so let's call it the anti-placebo effect.<sup>1</sup> Basically, it means that your mind can invent miserable side effects from taking medication merely because you know that certain side effects are possible. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/health/new-alternatives-to-statins-add-to-a-quandary-on-cholesterol.html" target="_blank">Take cholesterol-lowering statins, for example:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At the Mayo Clinic here, Dr. Stephen L. Kopecky, who directs a program for statin-intolerant patients, says he is well aware that middle-age and older adults who typically need statins may blame the drugs for aches, pains and memory losses that have other causes. <strong>He also knows his patients peruse the Internet, which is replete with horror stories about the dangers of statins.</strong></p> <p>Yet he, like other doctors, also thinks some statin intolerance is real despite what clinical trials have shown. The problem: In the vast majority of cases, there is no objective test to tell real from imagined statin intolerance.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: the internet is making us sicker. Does it make up for this by also making us healthier? I have my doubts. It is a spawn of evil.</p> <p>And no, you still can't take mine away. However, this is one of the reasons why I've avoided reading about multiple myeloma on the internet. I figure it's unlikely to help, and might very well hurt.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Turns out it's called the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocebo" target="_blank"><em>nocebo effect</em>.</a> How about that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:37:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 283011 at http://www.motherjones.com Soon We Will All Be Little More Than Organic FedEx Packages http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/soon-we-will-all-be-little-more-organic-fedex-packages <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Saturday the <em>New York Times</em> ran this headline: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/us/politics/christie-proposes-immigrant-tracker-similar-to-fedex.html" target="_blank">"Christie Proposes Tracking Immigrants Like FedEx Packages."</a> We are, of course, supposed to be scandalized by this. After all, if "anchor babies" is dehumanizing to immigrants, surely treating them <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fedex_packages.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">like FedEx packages is nothing short of brutalizing. The article goes on to explain:</p> <blockquote> <p>Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Saturday that if he were elected president he would combat illegal immigration by creating a system to track foreign visitors the way FedEx tracks packages. Mr. Christie, who is far back in the pack of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, said at a campaign event in New Hampshire that he would ask the chief executive of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, to devise the tracking system.</p> </blockquote> <p>Uh huh. This is, of course, part of the Trump-inspired "can you top this" game of being tough on illegal immigration. That's a bit of a yawn, though, since we went through the same thing during the 2012 primaries. What's more interesting is that Christie's schtick is Trump-inspired in an entirely different way: pretending that business people can be slotted effortlessly into government positions where they'll kick some free-market ass and get our government moving again. Trump started this by claiming that he'd send Carl Icahn over to China because he's a "killer" and would quickly put the Chinese in their place. Now Christie is following suit.</p> <p>So what's next?</p> <ul><li>Hillary Clinton says she'll hire Bill Gates to run Obamacare.</li> <li>Ted Cruz says he'll get the Koch Brothers to whip the EPA into shape.</li> <li>Ben Carson says he'll ask Warren Buffett to run the IRS.</li> <li>Scott Walker says that Jeff Bezos is the man to fix the GSA.</li> <li>Bernie Sanders says he'll pick Oprah Winfrey as his education czar.</li> <li>Jeb Bush says he'll bring in Sergei Brin to run the CIA.</li> <li>John Kasich says he'll nominate Mitt Romney to get the VA on track.</li> </ul><p>Who else would be able to fix up an inept government agency in a few months? Or maybe it should be the other way around: Are there any government agencies that <em>couldn't</em> be reformed in short order by the right kind of steely-eyed business leader?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 30 Aug 2015 13:00:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 283001 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/health-update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ha ha. Just kidding. It will be several months before we know how effective the new chemo meds are. However, I can tell you that (a) so far I'm suffering no side effects, (b) my routine lab tests are all fine, and (c) I feel pretty good. I'm sleeping OK, my energy level is nearly back to normal, my stomach has finally recovered, and my hair is growing back.</p> <p>And speaking of hair, that's the real purpose of this post. My hair has now grown back to the point that I have a decision to make: keep it as is, or let it grow to its old length? It's not like my old hair was any great shakes, but still, after 55 years you get accustomed to things. On the other hand, the new do does have advantages. Easy upkeep. No worries about wind or hat hair. Cheaper haircuts.</p> <p>Comparison photos are below. Anyway, feel free to vote in comments. Old hair or new?</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_head_2004.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 4px 5px 60px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_head_2015_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 30 Aug 2015 00:52:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 282981 at http://www.motherjones.com Inflation Is Low? Let's Tighten Monetary Policy Anyway. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/inflation-low-lets-tighten-monetary-policy-anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer comments on <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/feds-fischer-good-reason-to-think-u-s-inflation-will-move-higher-1440865560" target="_blank">inflation and monetary policy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Federal Reserve&rsquo;s No. 2 official said <strong>there is &ldquo;good reason&rdquo; to think sluggish U.S. inflation will firm and move back toward the U.S. central bank&rsquo;s 2% annual target,</strong> touching on a significant assessment facing the Fed ahead of its September policy meeting.</p> <p>....When the time comes to raise rates, Mr. Fischer said, &ldquo;we will most likely need to proceed cautiously&rdquo; and with inflation low, &ldquo;we can probably remove accommodation at a gradual pace. <strong>Yet, because monetary policy influences real activity with a substantial lag, we should not wait until inflation is back to 2% to begin tightening.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>A lot of people think the big problem with Fischer's statement is the first bolded sentence. There's been "good reason" to think inflation will increase for a long time. And yet it hasn't. Why are we supposed to believe that this year's good reason is any better than previous ones?</p> <p>That's fair enough. But I think the real problem is in the second bolded sentence: Fischer is intent on tightening monetary policy well <em>before</em> inflation shows any sign of hitting 2 percent. This illustrates a serious asymmetry in the Fed's decisionmaking. If inflation goes below the 2 percent target, they're willing to wait things out. But if it shows even the slightest sign of maybe, someday going a few basis points above the 2 percent target, then it's time to tighten. The net result of this is that inflation won't average 2 percent. It will swing between 1 and 2 percent, maybe averaging 1.5 percent or so.</p> <p>That's a bad thing, and it's especially bad if, like me, you think our inflation target should be more like 3-4 percent anyway. But that's the way it is.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pce_2006_1H2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 29 Aug 2015 23:42:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 282996 at http://www.motherjones.com Question of the Day: With Friends Like This.... http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/question-day-friends <!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_trump_iowa_state_fair.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Last month, Donald Trump said he didn't consider John McCain a war hero because "I like people who weren't captured." <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2015/08/26/leaked-emails-show-iowan-sharply-criticized-trump-before-joining-his-campaign/32432755/" target="_blank">Who said this afterward?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump's remarks were insulting to me as a veteran and as a person whose family sacrificed for 25 years as I missed anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, Christmases and Easters....I was offended by a man who sought and gained four student deferments to avoid the draft and who has never served this nation a day &mdash; not a day &mdash; in any fashion or way.</p> <p>....Why should I not be suspicious of an individual who was pro-choice until he decided to run for president? Why should I not be suspicious of a person who advocates for universal healthcare? Why should I not be suspicious of someone who says he hates lobbyists and yet has spread millions of dollars around to Republicans and Democrats to enrich himself? Why should I not be suspicious of someone who cannot come to say that he believes in God, that he has never asked for forgiveness and that communion is simply wine and a cracker.</p> <p>....[Trump] left me with questions about his moral center and his foundational beliefs....His comments reveal no foundation in Christ, which is a big deal.</p> </blockquote> <p>If you answered Sam Clovis, the conservative Iowan who is now Trump's national campaign co-chair, give yourself a gold star! The <em>Des Moines Register</em> says dryly that this raises questions about whether Clovis was motivated to join Trump's campaign "less by ideology and more by the promise of a big paycheck from a business mogul who has said he is willing to spend as much as a billion dollars to get elected."</p> <p>I guess it does. You really think that might have been in the back of Clovis's mind?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 29 Aug 2015 20:12:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 282991 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP Hauling Out Tired Old Weapons to Sink Iran Deal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/gop-hauling-out-tired-old-weapons-sink-iran-deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports that as the Iran deal looks increasingly impossible for Republicans to defeat, they're thinking of <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/foes-try-new-ways-to-attack-obamas-iran-nuclear-deal-1440802995" target="_blank">new ways to undermine it <em>after</em> it goes into effect:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As their chances dim, they are preparing to push a rash of new legislation for the fall to increase sanctions on Tehran for its role in supporting terrorist organizations and militant groups active across the Mideast, which could cause Iran to back out of the deal. These politicians also are devising new ways to target the finances of Tehran&rsquo;s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.</p> <p>....The fresh sanctions push has the potential to put the White House and leading Democrats, such as the party&rsquo;s presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, in a quandary. Those supporters of the deal could later face a tough decision over whether to back increased sanctions against Iran.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's possible that Republicans can scrounge up enough Democratic support to overcome a filibuster and force an Obama veto on some of these measures. But I assume they don't really care about that. Obama's coming up on his last year in office and probably doesn't care much if he has to veto a few bills. Rather, as the <em>Journal</em> suggests, this is just normal election-year game-playing. Republicans want to introduce bills that will force Hillary Clinton to take a stand that will hurt her no matter how she responds. Oppose the sanctions and she's a Hezbollah lover. Support the sanctions and she's an AIPAC stooge.</p> <p>There's nothing very original about this. Both parties do it whenever they can, and if Hillary Clinton is even a half-decent politician she'll be able to maneuver her way through without any big problems. As long as Republicans don't threaten to shut down the government over this, it probably won't be a very big deal.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 29 Aug 2015 19:00:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 282986 at http://www.motherjones.com Palin Ponders the Infinite: Does the Lamestream Media Ever Ask Hillary About Her Favorite Bible Verse? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/palin-ponders-infinite-does-lamestream-media-ever-ask-hillary-about-her-favorite- <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Oeju2SG7UMA" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>Huh. I almost forgot about the Palin-Trump lollapalooza. But it's all on YouTube, and it was pretty boring. Palin's word salad was subpar and it was just the same-old-same-old from Trump. My favorite part was this bit from Palin:</p> <blockquote> <p>So you get hit with these gotchas, like most conservatives do. For instance, asking what's your favorite Bible verse. And I listen to that going, what? Do they ask Hillary that?</p> </blockquote> <p>Indeed they do! On August 27, 2007, in a nationally televised debate, Tim Russert asked every Democrat on the stage to <a href="http://www.cfr.org/elections/democratic-debate-transcript-new-hampshire/p14313" target="_blank">share their favorite Bible verse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>RUSSERT: Before we go, there's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question.</p> <p>Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?</p> <p>OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we've lost over the last six years.</p> <p>John talked about what we've lost. Part of what we've lost is a sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we don't talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in somebody else's shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the federal level. That's the reason I'm running for president, because I want to restore that.</p> <p>RUSSERT: I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds.</p> <p><strong>Senator Clinton, favorite Bible verse?</strong></p> <p><strong>CLINTON: The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think it's a good rule for politics, too.</strong></p> <p>RUSSERT: Senator Gravel?</p> <p>GRAVEL: The most important thing in life is love. That's what empowers courage, and courage implements the rest of our virtues.</p> <p>RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich?</p> <p>KUCINICH: I carry that with me at every debate, this prayer from St. Francis, which says, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, and I believe very strongly that all of us can be instruments of peace. And that's what I try to bring to public life.</p> <p>RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?</p> <p>EDWARDS: It appears many times in the Bible, What you do onto the least of those, you do onto me.</p> <p>RUSSERT: Governor Richardson?</p> <p>RICHARDSON: The Sermon on the Mount, because I believe it's an issue of social justice, equality, brotherly issues reflecting a nation that is deeply torn and needs to be heal and come together.</p> <p>DODD: The Good Samaritan would be a worthwhile sort of description of who we all ought to be in life.</p> <p>RUSSERT: Senator Biden?</p> <p>BIDEN: Christ's warning of the Pharisees. There are many Pharisees, and it's part of what has bankrupted some people's view about religion. And I worry about the Pharisees.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton's choice wasn't very original, I admit, but neither was Obama's. Biden, as usual, provided the most entertaining answer: "I worry about the Pharisees." I guess we all do, Joe. In any case, the lamestream media had no problem asking, and the Democrats all had no problem answering. See? It's not so hard.</p> <p>What's <em>your</em> favorite Bible verse? I'd recommend Mark 12:38 "Beware of the scribes." I think Palin would agree that it's good advice for any era.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 29 Aug 2015 16:37:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 282976 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: "Love, Fidelity, Devotion, Sacrifice and Family" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/quote-day-love-fidelity-devotion-sacrifice-and-family <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is becoming a favorite prologue to wedding vows <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-couples-justice-kennedy-20150828-story.html" target="_blank">across the nation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_same_sex_marriage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">two people become something greater than once they were.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's from Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion in <em>Obergefell vs. Hodges</em>, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. At the time, Antonin Scalia mocked Kennedy's writing for its "straining-to-be-memorable passages," and it turns out he was more right than he knew. Both gay and straight couples around the country have begun incorporating it into their wedding ceremonies:</p> <blockquote> <p>The night the high court's ruling was announced, Sandy Queen of Weddings by Sandy called Craig Lamberton and David Ermisch, whose wedding she was performing in Rockville, Md., the next morning. She suggested including Kennedy's opinion in their ceremony.</p> <p>The couple immediately agreed. "We thought it was perfect," said Lamberton, an administrative officer at USAID. He and Ermisch, a cartographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have been together 15 years.</p> <p>....She isn't the only one. "Honestly, in the 14 years I've been ordained, there has not been a passage that struck a chord as quickly as Justice Kennedy&rsquo;s statement," said the Rev. Pamela Brehm of Berks County, Pa. "Perhaps there may never be another quite so touching."</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? This may just be a passing thing. But if it's not, Anthony Kennedy could end up as the most famous Supreme Court justice of the early 21st century, quoted in hundreds of marriage ceremonies every day. Kinda nice.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Interactives Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:35:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 282971 at http://www.motherjones.com