Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2009/11 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en White Ballot Access, Black Ballot Access http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/white-ballot-access-black-ballot-access <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/07/07/morning-plum-voting-access-sucks-throughout-the-south-new-report-finds/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> draws our attention today to a <a href="https://cdn.americanprogressaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/HSD-report-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">new report</a> from the left-leaning Center for American Progress on, among other things, ballot access in all 50 states plus DC. They grade each state based on things like availability of preregistration, availability of in-person early voting, voter ID laws, voting wait times, and so forth.</p> <p>You will be unsurprised by the results. The top map shows ballot access, with the darker colors indicating poor access. The bottom map shows the percentage of the African-American population in each state. Dark colors indicate a higher black population. Kinda funny how similar they look, isn't it?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_map_ballot_access.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 80px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_map_black_population.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 80px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 07 Jul 2015 18:26:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 279161 at http://www.motherjones.com The July Surprise http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/july-surprise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ed Kilgore surveys the Republican primary landscape and throws out a few thoughts about the upcoming first debate on Fox:</p> <ul><li>Fox will allow only ten participants, chosen by the results of five national polls taken in the week or so before August 4.</li> <li>Right now, Donald Trump is sucking up all the media oxygen, making it hard for marginal candidates to move up in the polls and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fox_debate_rules.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 15px 15px 30px;">avoid being forced into the kiddie debate.</li> <li>This makes the end of July a critical period for all the C-list candidates.</li> </ul><p><a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_07/get_ready_for_some_late_july_g056442.php" target="_blank">Here's Kilgore:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's increasingly clear the polling spike marginal candidates need to make the cut needs to happen in late July&mdash;not earlier, not later....John Kasich's scheduled July 21st campaign launch probably couldn't be timed much better; if he gets a post-announcement bounce, it could bounce him right up into the top ten. For those in the danger zone who have already announced&mdash;Perry, Jindal, Santorum, Graham, Fiorina, Pataki and maybe even Christie&mdash;the only way to get this sort of bounce is to force one's way into the news.</p> <p><strong>So for these candidates, the big strategic question is whether throwing a bomb or three in late July to make the Fox debate cut is worth the long-term risk of self-marginalization.</strong> The alternative is to accept a place at the kiddie table "forum" earlier on August 6 and hope media, activists, donors and party elites don't mentally strike one's name from the insanely long list of contenders. I'm guessing most of these birds will not want to take that chance. Get ready for some serious gyring and gimbling in late July.</p> </blockquote> <p>Sounds like fun! I hope they all take Kilgore's advice. But what kind of bombshell could they drop that would make social media go wild? Discuss in comments, please.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 07 Jul 2015 16:04:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 279136 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece Looks Screwed; China Looks In Trouble Too http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greece-looks-screwed-china-looks-trouble-too <!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.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/16ab8386-2456-11e5-9c4e-a775d2b173ca.html?siteedition=intl#axzz3fDTxdEzY" target="_blank">From the <em>Financial Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Hundreds of Chinese companies have halted trading in their shares as Beijing races to insulate the economy from the country&rsquo;s steepest equity decline in over two decades. <strong>The list of suspended companies has reached 760 over the past week, representing more than a quarter of all companies listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges,</strong> according to the Securities Times, a paper published by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.</p> <p>....Beijing has taken steps to keep stocks on China&rsquo;s two main indices afloat, including direct purchases of large-cap companies, a halt to initial public offerings, and a cut to trading fees. But so far its efforts have failed to staunch concerns. &ldquo;There is a panic but no matter how they [the authorities] jump in, this thing just doesn&rsquo;t stop falling,&rdquo; said Dong Tao, an economist at Credit Suisse.</p> </blockquote> <p>So it looks like panicky moves from the authorities aren't very effective at quelling panic in investors. I may have screwed up my Greece prediction, but at least I managed to get it right on this basic trait of human nature.</p> <p>And speaking of Greece, what's happening there? <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/07/eurozone-calls-on-athens-to-get-serious-over-greece-debt-crisis" target="_blank">The <em>Guardian</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The Greek government has been told by its eurozone partners not to expect debt relief any time soon,</strong> amid fading hopes of decisive action to stop <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greece_bank_lines.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the country tumbling out of the currency union.</p> <p>....<strong>Greek banks are on the brink of running out of cash, </strong>but senior European figures are already dampening hopes of any breakthrough. &ldquo;What we are going to do today is to talk to each other and restore order,&rdquo; said the president of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, adding that there would be no overnight solution.</p> <p>In a coordinated press statement, the leaders of France and Germany called on Greece to come up with &ldquo;serious and credible proposals&rdquo; at Tuesday&rsquo;s summit which are consistent with its wish to stay in the eurozone....&ldquo;We are not in the business of renegotiating debt,&rdquo; said Finland&rsquo;s finance minister, Alexander Stubb. &ldquo;That was already done in 2011 and 2012,&rdquo; referring to re-structuring of Greek debts that imposed heavy losses on private creditors.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, the rest of the eurozone is telling Greece to pound sand. No debt relief, no bank rescue, nothing. They will listen to a new Greek proposal, but that's it. And apparently Greece doesn't have one. Today's meeting has been postponed to Wednesday to give the Greeks more time to throw something together.</p> <p>And anyway, it looks like everyone is starting to give up on Greece. <a href="http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f14150ee-23a6-11e5-9c4e-a775d2b173ca.html#slide0" target="_blank">The FT suggests</a> that EU lawyers are quietly looking for ways to allow Greece to exit the euro, an effort supported in private by nearly everyone. Publicly, however, no one wants to take the blame for precipitating Grexit. &ldquo;Everybody knows what the others should do, and do not want to do what the others expect them to do,&rdquo; said one senior eurozone official.</p> <p>That could be the eurozone's official motto for the next few weeks. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:01:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 279121 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Proposal In Legislative Transparency: You Amend It, You Own It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/todays-proposal-legislative-transparency-you-amend-it-you-own-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week Wisconsin Republicans tried to sneak language into a budget bill that would have gutted the state's open records law. Sadly for them, they got caught and had to withdraw the proposal&mdash;which, Gov. Scott Walker hastily assured us, "was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way." Uh huh.</p> <p>This kind of sleazy behavior is hardly uncommon, but there's one bit of it that's <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/walker-public-record-law" target="_blank">equally common and even sleazier:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>State Republicans have refused to disclose who inserted the language into the budget legislation, which was approved late Thursday evening. Before dropping the provisions entirely, the governor's office said Friday it was considering changes to the proposals concerning public records law, but would not comment as to whether Walker was involved in the proposals in the first place.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's <em>my</em> proposal for transparency in legislating: every change in every law has to be attributed to someone. There's no virgin birth here. <em>Someone</em> wrote this language. <em>Someone</em> asked that it be inserted. <em>Someone</em> agreed to insert it. You have to be pretty contemptuous of your constituents to clam up and pretend that no one knows where it came from.</p> <p>This kind of puerile buck-passing is way too common, and it needs to stop. Maybe if they knew their name was going to be attached, legislators would think twice before inserting egregiously self-serving crap like this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 06 Jul 2015 21:37:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 279091 at http://www.motherjones.com There Are Things That Erode Public Trust in Science. Primordial Gravity Waves Aren't One of Them. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/there-are-things-erode-public-trust-science-primordial-gravity-waves-arent-one-th <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I had to laugh just a little when <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/science/life-and-physics/2015/jul/05/has-physics-cried-wolf-too-often-or-do-false-alarms-help-build-understanding" target="_blank">I read this last night:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jan Conrad, an astroparticle physicist, claims that "The field has cried wolf too many times and lost credibility," and he worries that false discoveries are undermining public trust in science. He lists some dubious results which have caused a stir amongst physicists and the general public over the past couple of years, including the faster-than-light-neutrinos that weren&rsquo;t, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_jetsons_flying_car.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the primordial gravitational waves that are probably just dust, and several Dark Matter candidates which remain shrouded in uncertainty and contradiction.</p> </blockquote> <p>When nutritionists constantly change their minds about what's good or bad for us, <em>that</em> undermines public trust in science. This is because everyone eats, and stories about diet and nutrition are plastered all over TV, social media, blogs, magazines, newspapers, and every other form of human communication.</p> <p>But those primordial gravitational waves that are probably just dust? I'm here to assure you that 99.9 percent of the world doesn't give a shit. Most people have never heard of it. Most of the ones who have heard of it don't understand it. And almost by definition, most of the ones who <em>do</em> understand it have a pretty sophisticated understanding of the conditional nature of delicately measured new results in fields like astrophysics.</p> <p>So put me in the camp with Jon Butterworth, who wrote the linked article, and Chad Orzel, who argue that the very fact of releasing preliminary results and then correcting them if they turn out to be wrong is what distinguishes science from pseudoscience. Nor, as Butterworth points out, would it help to keep results under wraps until everything is neat and tidy. "As I said at the time regarding the false faster-than-light neutrinos, imagine the conspiracy claims if the data had been suppressed because it didn&rsquo;t fit Einstein&rsquo;s theory."</p> <p>All true. But really, the most important thing is simply that controversies on the bleeding edge of physics are of interest to only a tiny fraction of humanity, and most of them already know when and how to be skeptical. As for the rest of us, we just turn on our cell phones every day and marvel at how cool science is. Nothing about neutrinos or gravitational waves is going to change that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 06 Jul 2015 18:05:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 279061 at http://www.motherjones.com A Reporter Reveals How the Press Treats Hillary Clinton http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/reporter-reveals-how-press-treats-hillary-clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In what is obviously a carefully calculated bit of Bob Somerby bait, Jonathan Allen today reveals "the media's 5 unspoken rules for covering Hillary." <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/7/6/8900143/hillary-clinton-reporting-rules" target="_blank">Here's the nickel summary:</a></p> <ol><li>Everything, no matter how ludicrous-sounding, is worthy of a full investigation by federal agencies, Congress, the "vast right-wing conspiracy," and mainstream media outlets.</li> <li>Every allegation, no matter how ludicrous, is believable until it can be proven completely and utterly false. And even then, it keeps a life of its own in the conservative media world.</li> <li>The media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there's hard evidence otherwise.</li> <li>Everything is newsworthy because the Clintons are the equivalent of America's royal family.</li> <li>Everything she does is fake and calculated for maximum political benefit.</li> </ol><p>Read the whole thing for all the details. Bottom line: "This is a problem for Clinton, and it seems unlikely to go away." Yes indeedy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 06 Jul 2015 17:10:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 279056 at http://www.motherjones.com Food Irradiation: Great Technology, Lousy Name. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/food-irradiation-great-technology-lousy-name <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Roberto Ferdman interviews Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University, about why the public's aversion to GMO foods has stayed strong even as the scientific consensus has become nearly unanimous that GMO foods are safe. Toward the end, though, he finally get to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/07/06/why-people-are-so-scared-of-gmos-according-to-someone-who-has-studied-the-fear-since-the-start/" target="_blank">my hot button food issue:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Can you think of other forms of technology that have overcome consumer fears?</em></p> <p>A perfect example is pasteurization in milk. At [first] it was very strange to people, and no one knew what to think about it. But today it&rsquo;s widely accepted and viewed as improving the safety of milk.</p> <p>Another one is microwaves. Everyone has them in their home today, but back in the 1970s it was close to zero. It took a bit for them to catch on, for people to warm up to them.</p> <p><strong>But then there are things like food irradiation that are <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_food_irradiation.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">perfectly safe but people seem to be permanently skeptical of.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Food irradiation! Dammit, Lusk is right: despite the fact that it includes the word "radiation," food irradiation is completely harmless. It's also really effective at killing the pathogens that cause all those periodic outbreaks of food poisoning you hear so much about. Irradiate your hamburger and you can safely cook it medium rare if you want. Irradiate your lettuce and worries about <em>e. coli</em> are a thing of the past. I wish someone made a cheap, personal food irradiation machine. I'd irradiate everything I ate. Unfortunately, irradiation machines tend to be the size of a dump truck and cost several million dollars, so that's not in the cards.</p> <p>Maybe the Japanese should get in on this. They're pretty good at miniaturizing things; they're pretty good at selling consumer tech; and they've got a huge domestic market of people who are gadget and technology crazy and probably aren't afraid of irradiated food. Although I could be wrong about that, what with Hiroshima in their past and Fukushima in their present.</p> <p>Anyway, food irradiation. It's cheap on an industrial scale, totally harmless, and makes your food safer. What's not to like?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 06 Jul 2015 16:00:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 279046 at http://www.motherjones.com California Should Allow Physician-Aided Suicide http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/california-should-allow-physician-aided-suicide <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Greece has pressed the self-destruct button, and no one knows what will happen next. Here in California, we are debating whether to <em>create</em> a self-destruct button, and no one knows what will happen next.</p> <p>(Did you like that segue? Huh? Did you?)</p> <p>In California's case, the self-destruct button comes in the form of SB 128, and it is both <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-cap-assisted-suicide-20150706-column.html" target="_blank">more personal and more literal than Greece's:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The measure, which would allow terminally ill people to end their lives with a doctor's help,</strong> passed the Senate last month on essentially a party-line vote, 23-15 &mdash; Democrats for, Republicans against.</p> <p>Because the bill whips up emotion about morality based on religious beliefs and raises questions concerning medical ethics, it makes many legislators uncomfortable politically and personally.</p> <p>The proposal is slated for its first Assembly hearing Tuesday in the Health Committee. But sponsors say it's short two to five votes. Ten are needed to clear the 19-member panel.</p> <p><strong>A handful of Southern California Democrats, mostly Latinos under pressure from the Catholic Church, are withholding support.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Great. Yet another reason for me to be revolted by the Catholic Church. If they believe that suicide is a sin, that's fine. They should forbid suicide among Catholics. But I'm not Catholic, and it's no sin for me. So go mind your own business, folks, and represent the will of all Californians, who overwhelmingly support bringing our state into the 21st century. There is no excuse for forcing terminal patients to endure excruciating pain for months if they don't want to. It's time to put the Dark Ages behind us.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 06 Jul 2015 15:06:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 279041 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece's Big Fat No http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greeces-big-fat-no <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It appears that the Greek referendum is headed toward a landslide No vote. With about half of the votes counted as I write this, the No vote is very strongly in the lead and Greece's interior ministry has released an official projection <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greece_oxi.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">showing the No side winning 61 percent of the vote.</p> <p>There are a couple of takeaways from this. First, I obviously don't know squat about the Greek temperament. Let's see now. What exactly is it that I said a few days ago? Oh yes, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greece-just-few-days-away-unconditional-surrender-germany" target="_blank">here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In the end, the Greek public will be unwilling to back Tsipras in Sunday's referendum and will vote to accept the European deal as is. The potential catastrophe of default and leaving the euro is just too scary for most of them to contemplate....So that's my prediction. Unless Tsipras caves completely beforehand, the referendum will be held on Sunday and Greeks will vote to stay in the euro and accept Germany's terms. It will basically be an unconditional surrender.</p> </blockquote> <p>In technical terms, that was totally fucking wrong. Instead of caving in, the Greeks told Europe to take a hike. They refused to accept the austerity plan put in front of them and instead voted to support prime minister Alexis Tsipras's effort to demand better terms. In general, that means they want Europe to (a) offer debt relief, (b) permit the Greek government to pass a higher budget supported by higher taxes; and (c) go a little easier on pension cuts.</p> <p>The second takeaway is....oh forget it. Why listen to me anymore after this predictive debacle? Anyway, I don't think anyone even knows what's next now. Tsipras obviously has a vote of confidence and will stay in power. Angela Merkel and the rest of the Troika will have to decide whether to make a few concessions or simply refuse and let Greece twist in the wind. I honestly have no idea what they'll choose. And the ECB will have to decide whether to keep Greece's banks on life support for a while longer.</p> <p>Stay tuned. It's going to be a fascinating few weeks for those of us who don't actually live in Greece and have to personally face the possibility of economic catastrophe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 05 Jul 2015 18:56:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 279036 at http://www.motherjones.com Happy Independence Day! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/happy-independence-day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jeez, what am I doing, blogging about serious stuff today? Well, that's it. I'm going to go clean the grill or watch a parade or do something else that's date appropriate. Have a happy 4th, everyone!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flags.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:15:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 279031 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Rates May Be Going Up Significantly in 2016 -- Or Maybe Not http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/obamacare-rates-may-be-going-significantly-2016-or-maybe-not <!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 insurers are asking for <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/04/us/health-insurance-companies-seek-big-rate-increases-for-2016.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">significant rate increases for 2016:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans &mdash; market leaders in many states &mdash; are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota....The rate requests, from some of the more popular health plans, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_laptop.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">suggest that insurance markets are still adjusting to shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act.</p> <p><strong>It is far from certain how many of the rate increases will hold up on review, or how much they might change.</strong> But already the proposals, buttressed with reams of actuarial data, are fueling fierce debate about the effectiveness of the health law.</p> <p>....Insurers with decades of experience and brand-new plans underestimated claims costs. <strong>&ldquo;Our enrollees generated 24 percent more claims than we thought they would when we set our 2014 rates,&rdquo;</strong> said Nathan T. Johns, the chief financial officer of Arches Health Plan, which covers about one-fourth of the people who bought insurance through the federal exchange in Utah. As a result, the company said, it collected premiums of $39.7 million and had claims of $56.3 million in 2014. It has requested rate increases averaging 45 percent for 2016.</p> <p><strong>The rate requests are the first to reflect a full year of experience with the new insurance exchanges and federal standards that require insurers to accept all applicants.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I'd continue to counsel caution until we get further into the process. Big rate increase requests have been the opening bids from insurance companies for years, and they usually get knocked down to something much more reasonable by the time the regulatory process is finished. It's also the case that if lots of young people have been paying the tax penalty instead of getting insured, that might change as the penalty goes up. It was $95 in 2014, went up to $325 this year, and goes up to $695 in 2016. At some point, more and more of these folks are going to decide that they really ought to get something for their money instead of just paying a penalty to the IRS, and that will help broaden the insurance pool.</p> <p>Still, the bottom line here is that credible evidence is growing that we might see biggish rate increases in 2016. They won't be the monster increases that Fox News will be hyping endlessly, but they might be bigger than us liberal types expected. We'll know in a few months.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:10:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 279026 at http://www.motherjones.com On Independence Day, Pentagon Shows Off Some Real Fireworks http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/independence-day-pentagon-shows-some-real-fireworks <!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_bunker_buster_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">From W.J. Hennigan on the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-pentagon-iran-20150704-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">front page of this morning's <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As diplomats rush to reach an agreement to curb Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. military is stockpiling conventional bombs so powerful that strategists say they could cripple Tehran's most heavily fortified nuclear complexes, including one deep underground....U.S. officials say the huge bombs, which have never been used in combat, are a crucial element in the White House deterrent strategy and contingency planning should diplomacy go awry and Iran seek to develop a nuclear bomb.</p> <p>....U.S. officials have publicized the new bomb partly to rattle the Iranians. Some Pentagon officials warned not to underestimate U.S. military capabilities even if the bunker-busters can't eliminate Iran's nuclear program. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested at the same Pentagon news conference Thursday that airstrikes might be ordered multiple times if Iran tries to build a bomb.</p> </blockquote> <p>The usual questions present themselves. (1) This is obviously a piece that was spoon-fed to the press. Why now? (2) Who is it targeted at? Iran, or our allies? Or Israel? (3) Is it credible? Does anyone truly believe that Obama will bomb Iran if talks fail? (4) Credible or not, does this kind of saber rattling do more harm than good? Discuss.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:20:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 279021 at http://www.motherjones.com China Halts IPOs in Peculiar Attempt to Prop Up Stock Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/china-halts-ipos-peculiar-attempt-prop-stock-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The latest from China, where the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/china-setting-up-fund-to-stabilize-stock-market-1435991611" target="_blank">stock market continues to plummet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China has decided to suspend new stock sales and establish a market-stabilization fund aimed at fighting off the worst equities selloff in years, as concerns grow among China&rsquo;s leadership that the stock-market malaise could be spreading to the other parts of the world&rsquo;s second-largest economy.</p> <p>...Previous steps including an interest-rate cut by the central bank have failed to impress investors, many of whom have been forced to unwind their leveraged bets as stocks continue to drop.</p> <p><strong>Chief among the decisions made is to halt new initial public offerings</strong> in a bid to preserve liquidity in an increasingly volatile market, the people said. Officials also discussed the setup of a market-stabilization fund.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another odd move that I don't entirely understand. Do IPOs reduce market liquidity in any significant way? Put another way: Am I missing something here, or is this just another panicky move by the Chinese authorities that's unlikely to make things better?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:05:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 279016 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 3 July 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/friday-cat-blogging-3-july-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today you get a very special episode of Friday Catblogging. It's a movie! I made it with my shiny new Surface 3, and although it's not the <em>greatest</em> catblogging movie ever made, it does prove the old adage: any camera you have is better than any camera you don't. So sit back and enjoy Hopper using her passive-aggressive defensive skills to keep Hilbert at bay. Our show takes place atop the fireplace mantel, everyone's favorite new place these days.</p> <p>Have a great 4th, everyone. See you next week.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ClQbE87PyAo" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 40px;" width="550"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:36:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 279011 at http://www.motherjones.com Greek Media Really, Really Wants Yes Vote On Euro-Bailout http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greek-media-really-really-wants-yes-vote-euro-bailout <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Henry Chu of the <em>LA Times</em> reports on how the Greek media is presenting <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-greece-media-20150703-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">Sunday's upcoming vote on the bailout:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Strong emotions are in abundant supply. But impartial reporting is not.</p> <p>Along with Skai TV, nearly all the mainstream press and television stations in Greece have skewed their coverage or are openly in favor of the "yes" campaign, throwing in doubt just how fair Sunday's election will <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tsipras_oxi.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">be. The snap referendum has already come under criticism for being called with too little notice by the left-wing Greek government &mdash; which is urging a "no" vote &mdash; to allow for proper campaigning and educating of voters.</p> <p>....In a widely circulated examination of how the six biggest TV networks treated the rival referendum rallies Monday and Tuesday, freelance journalist Markos Petropoulos found that <strong>the pro-government "no" demonstration got about 81/2 minutes of coverage, whereas the "yes" protest received more than five times that much.</strong></p> <p>In another newscast, one network devoted 18 minutes to warnings and statements from European leaders about the breakdown of bailout negotiations with Athens and the surprise referendum announcement that had precipitated it. The Greek government's position got two minutes.</p> <p><strong>The bias toward the "yes" side reflects the fact that many of Greece's biggest news outlets are owned by corporate titans and other "oligarchs" whose business interests would be directly threatened by a "no" victory and the potential abandonment of the euro in favor of the drachma,</strong> [Nikolas] Leontopoulos said.</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose it's no surprise that Greece's corporate class is deeply unthrilled by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist government, and would be happy to see him humiliated and tossed out of office. I assume that they also prefer the devil they know&mdash;grinding European-imposed austerity for years&mdash;to the devil they don't&mdash;exiting the euro amid chaos and eventually rebuilding their economy with a devalued drachma. After all, they'll stay rich either way, and sticking with their fellow European moguls probably seems the better bet by far.</p> <p>Less than 48 hours to go now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:58:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 279006 at http://www.motherjones.com Bobby Jindal Really, Really, Really Hates Gay Marriage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/bobby-jindal-really-really-really-hates-gay-marriage <!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_jindal_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2015/07/02/bobby-jindal-trying-delay-marriage-louisiana-yet-again" target="_blank">From <em>The Advocate</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After three courts told him he had to, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will finally allow his administration to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples today.</p> <p>....Jindal's administration argued it's possible the Supreme Court's ruling didn't apply to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where Louisiana had been defending its statewide ban....On Wednesday, the circuit court actually went through the motion of confirming the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over it.</p> <p>....But Jindal's administration jumped on that as reason to delay even further. The Fifth Circuit technically sent the case back to the lower, district court where its earlier ruling in favor of the state had to be corrected. The <em>New Orleans Times-Picayune</em> reported that Jindal's spokesman said no same-sex couple would be recognized until the district court formally reversed itself. And so it did that today."</p> </blockquote> <p>I've seen several people wondering why Jindal wasted time with this, since he knew perfectly well what the outcome would be. The answer is obvious: He's trying to position himself as the most tea-partyish, most anti-Obama, most combative conservative in the Republican field. So this is basically brand marketing. Republican voters now know that <em>no one</em> will stand up for traditional values as strongly as Bobby Jindal. Message sent and received.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:05:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 279001 at http://www.motherjones.com China Adopts an Unusual Approach to Fighting a Stock Market Crash http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/china-adopts-unusual-approach-fighting-stock-market-crash <!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_shanghai_stock_market.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Hum de hum hum. Greece is in trouble. Puerto Rico too. <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/asian-shares-rise-on-hopes-for-greece-1435800229" target="_blank">And don't forget China:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Chinese shares plunged Thursday, even as Beijing grasps for solutions to stem the selling, including relaxing rules on the use of borrowed funds to invest in stocks....The Shanghai Composite closed down 3.5% while the smaller Shenzhen market was down 5.6%. The ChiNext board, composed of small-cap stocks, sank 4%. <strong>Even after losing nearly a quarter of its value from a mid-June high, China&rsquo;s main stock market has almost doubled in value over the past year.</strong></p> <p>....In a rare move late Wednesday, <strong>Chinese regulators set in motion draft proposals to ease restrictions on margin lending earlier than scheduled</strong>....Regulators&rsquo; sudden shift in attitude about margin trading comes after vocal warnings about its risks in recent months. In April, regulators took various steps to rein in the practice, which had allowed investors to borrow several times their investment money.</p> </blockquote> <p>Inscrutable, those Chinese. Their stock market is crashing so they're promoting an <em>increase</em> in margin trading. That's sort of like lighting a tree on fire when it gets dark outside and all your flashlights are dead. It'll work. For a while. But it's really not considered best practice.</p> <p>Then again, maybe there's something I don't understand here. All I know is that panicky measures to halt a panic don't usually work. And the Chinese stock market still has a long way to fall. I sure hope they figure something out.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:38:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 278966 at http://www.motherjones.com My $500 Pill Revealed http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/my-500-pill-revealed <!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_revlimid.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Have you ever wondered what a $500 pill looks like? Well, here's your answer: it looks like pretty much any other pill.</p> <p>Anyway, I'm supposed to take this for 21 days, then a week off, then another 21 days, etc. This will last a few months before we know if it's working. If it does work, then I'll be taking it forever (I think). So that's $126,000 per year to keep Kevin alive. Of course, I pay only a fraction of that thanks to having excellent health insurance, and I'm sure that even Kaiser pays nowhere near that list price. Maybe half that, or a third. Still, pretty expensive!</p> <p>Luckily I'm not on Obamacare. From what I hear, my case would have gone straight to a death panel, which almost certainly would have decided that my societal worth didn't measure up to the cost of the treatment. And who could argue? I mean, blogging? Seriously?</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I forgot to mention something in my previous health update: I feel great. Not 100 percent, mind you, but pretty good. My stomach is in fine fettle (in fact, I'm overeating these days), I'm sleeping well, and my energy level has recovered almost to normal. The long-term prognosis for the multiple myeloma is obviously still uncertain, and that's an unhappy thing, but in the meantime at least I feel good for the first time in eight months!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:03:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 278951 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece vs. Germany: Behind a Veil of Morality vs. Technocracy, the Germans are Winning the War of the Narrative http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greece-vs-germany-behind-veil-technocracy-germans-are-winning-war-narrative <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just a quick note on Greece. Although I've periodically written at considerable length on the Greek crisis, in shorter posts I often sound as if I blame the whole thing on Germany. That's shorthand, though, and fairly sloppy shorthand.</p> <p>Here's the thing: Greece bears plenty of blame in this whole debacle. They borrowed way too much when their economy was booming; they refused to modernize their infamously porous tax collection, especially toward the rich; they lied through their teeth about their finances for years; and governments of both right and left <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_greece_germany.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">have doggedly supported an insanely bloated public sector that would make even a Russian blush.</p> <p>On the German (i.e., Northern European) side of things, the story of blame is a little more....technocratic. Banks made bets on interest rate convergences between north and south when the euro was introduced. This paid off, and for years they happily shoveled money into Greece at great profit. Greece's economy overheated, but the ECB kept monetary policy loose because that benefited Germany twice over: first by providing Germans with a good place to invest their money and second by providing Greeks with enough money to import German goods. Eventually, this hot money flow produced inflation, but monetary policy stayed loose anyway because the German economy was kind of sluggish at the time and needed the boost. Inevitably, this produced a capital account surplus in Greece and therefore a current account deficit. When the Great Recession hit, everything went to hell. Due to the hot money flows, Greek banks had become dependent on wholesale funding, and when that suddenly dried up a banking crisis got added to the rest of the mix. It's been downhill ever since.</p> <p>Now: read those two paragraphs carefully. It's plain there's fault on both sides. But the fault of the Greek side is easy to understand and easy to put in moralistic terms. They lived high, they lied about their finances, and they coddled their government workers. It's easy to paint the Greeks as irresponsible wastrels who are just getting what they deserve.</p> <p>The German side is quite different. Be honest: did you even understand it? It's all very technocratic, almost hydraulic in nature. Investors made bets on some derivatives; centralized monetary policy was not ideal for Greece; hot money flows inevitably produced current account deficits; and when the Great Recession cratered the economy it all turned into a full-blown banking and debt crisis. This is all very recondite. Sure, maybe it was Germany's fault, but in an abstract, bureaucratic way. It's a lot harder to see bad personal behavior here.</p> <p>I'm not alone in thinking that once you dig into things, German behavior has been quite a bit worse than Greek behavior. But it's hard to make this case in a way that makes much sense emotionally. What most people see is a highly intricate and technocratic system on one side and a bunch of reckless, happy-go-lucky Greeks on the other side. So who are you going to blame?</p> <p>We humans are attracted to human stories, so the answer is the Greeks, of course. They hired the money, didn't they? The fact that they were stuck in a monetary web designed by Germans that was almost guaranteed to produce disaster&mdash;well, maybe that's true and maybe it's not, but it all sounds like a bunch of blah blah blah. What did you say an ECB refi rate was again?</p> <p>So: reckless people vs. a complex financial system that a few eggheads say was rigged. Which story do you think is going to win?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:31:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 278946 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in June (Sucks, Sucks, Sucks) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/chart-day-net-new-jobs-june-sucks-sucks-sucks <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm" target="_blank">added 223,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at 133,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this isn't the mediocre news it looks like. It was all bad news. Essentially the entire decrease in the unemployment rate was due to 432,000 people leaving the labor force, reversing an increase of 397,000 last month. Because of this, the labor force participation ratio declined by 0.3 percentage points to 62.6 percent, the lowest number in recent history.</p> <p>Oh, and we had downward revisions of 60,000 jobs in April and May. And hourly wage growth of production and nonsupervisory workers was up by a measly 2 cents, a nominal increase of 0.1 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that's a decrease of about 0.3 percent.</p> <p>I don't know how to dress this up. The net number of new jobs was OK, if not spectacular, but the rest of the report is just dismal. The number of people actually employed dropped by 56,000, labor force participation has tanked, and real wage growth was negative. If anyone else can put lipstick on this pig, they're welcome to try. It looks pretty gruesome to me. The only good news I can take out of it is that this is only a single month's data, which jumps around quite a bit. Maybe next month will be better.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_new_jobs_june_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:12:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 278931 at http://www.motherjones.com There's More to Kumbaya Than Just Getting Liberals and Conservatives to Agree http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/theres-more-kumbaya-just-getting-liberals-and-conservatives-agree <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Tim Lee lists four pro-growth policy reforms that he thinks <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/7/1/8858745/boost-economic-growth-cato" target="_blank">liberals and conservatives can agree on:</a></p> <ol><li>Let developers in coastal cities build more</li> <li>Boost high-skilled immigration</li> <li>Reform copyright and patent laws</li> <li>Liberalize occupational licensing rules</li> </ol><p>In theory, I suppose these could be areas of bipartisan agreement. But without throwing too much sand in the gears just to make a nuisance of myself, we should take a look at why all four of these things are so firmly going nowhere even though liberals and conservatives allegedly hold common cause on them. Here we go:</p> <ol><li><strong>Coastal cities.</strong> The problem here is that this is a pretty low priority for both liberals and conservatives. They just don't care that much, and they certainly don't care enough to fight the nonpartisan power bloc that unfailingly&mdash;and rabidly&mdash;opposes this: current residents of coastal cities. This is mainly a local issue, not a state or federal issue, and the fastest way for any local pol in LA or San Francisco to get tossed out of office is to propose lots of new high-rise residential buildings that will (allegedly) bring tons of traffic and crime into the community, and probably drive down current property values. So the game just isn't worth the candle. Plus, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_agenda_21_conspiracy.png" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">conservatives have to watch out for the tea-party crazies who think high-rises are part of an Agenda 21 plot from the UN to make us all live like rabbits in government-controlled urban warrens. Or something.</li> <li><strong>High-skill immigration.</strong> There <em>are</em> people who oppose this&mdash;primarily high-skill citizens who don't really want lots of new competition&mdash;but that's not the big problem. Mainly this is a political football. Sure, liberals and conservatives agree on this particular part of immigration reform. But liberals don't want to <em>unilaterally</em> agree to it. They want it to be one of the bargaining chips for broader immigration reform. After all, if they preemptively agree to all the stuff conservatives already support, they have no leverage for eventually negotiating a comprehensive bill that includes some stuff conservatives don't support. So for the time being, it's being held hostage and that shows no signs of changing soon.</li> <li><strong>Copyright and patent.</strong> I dunno. For a policy that liberals and conservatives allegedly agree about, we sure haven't seen much action on it. Quite the contrary, in fact. Most Republicans and about a third of Democrats just approved fast-track status for the TPP treaty, which, among other things, enshrines American-style copyright and patent law on everyone who's part of the treaty. Once that's in place, we couldn't change our laws in any meaningful way even if we wanted to. And frankly, I've seen very little evidence that either Republicans or business-oriented Democrats really want to. They're too interested in currying favor with IP owners to bother with an issue that will win them virtually no votes from anyone on Election Day.</li> <li><strong>Occupational licensing rules.</strong> This one, finally, is a bit of a mystery to me. I agree that it's not an inherently partisan issue, but in a way, that's the problem. It's also not a hot-button issue, which means neither party is really willing to fight back against it. On the other hand, taxidermists, animal trainers, bartenders, funeral attendants, and so forth <em>are</em> willing to fight for it since it restricts entry and raises wages in their profession.</li> </ol><p>There's a common theme to all four of these issues: there are special interests who care a lot about them, but no real benefit for working politicians to reach across the aisle and fight back. In theory, they might have similar attitudes on these four items, but why bother doing anything about it? No one is jamming their phone lines about this stuff and no one is voting for or against them based on their positions. If activists want action on this kind of googoo stuff, they have to figure out a way to make the public care. Once they do that, they'll have at least a fighting chance of getting politicians to care too. Until then, don't get your hopes up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:44:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 278881 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece Is Just a Few Days Away From Unconditional Surrender to Germany http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greece-just-few-days-away-unconditional-surrender-germany <!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/images/Blog_Greece_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Apparently the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/business/international/greece-bailout-tsipras.html" target="_blank">Greek prime minister is blinking:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a letter sent on Tuesday to the creditors &mdash; the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone countries &mdash; Mr. Tsipras said Greece was &ldquo;prepared to accept&rdquo; a deal set out publicly over the weekend by the creditors, with small modifications to some of the central points of contention: pension cuts and tax increases. In the letter, released publicly on Wednesday, Mr. Tsipras linked Greece&rsquo;s acceptance of the terms to a new package of bailout aid that would need to be negotiated.</p> <p>The development initially raised the prospect of progress in resolving a financial crisis that has sent shudders through global markets and deeply strained European unity. President Fran&ccedil;ois Hollande of France called for talks in the hopes of getting a deal by the weekend, saying, according to Agence-France Presse: &ldquo;We need to be clear. The time for a deal is now.&rdquo;</p> <p>But other European leaders, fed up with Mr. Tsipras and in no mood for quick compromise, dashed any hopes of an immediate breakthrough.</p> <p><strong>Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany responded by repeating her position that there should be no further negotiations until Greece holds the referendum on Sunday.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, Merkel is not even willing to grant Tsipras a few meaningless face-saving concessions. Why? I think Merkel believes she now holds all the cards and has no reason to make any concessions at all, no matter how small. And I suspect she's right. In the end, the Greek public will be unwilling to back Tsipras in Sunday's referendum and will vote to accept the European deal as is. The potential catastrophe of default and leaving the euro is just too scary for most of them to contemplate.</p> <p>So Tsipras will be out and Europe will effectively have total control of Greek finances. After six months of cage rattling, the Greek revolt will be over and future governments will simply have to accept whatever pain Merkel wants to deal out. At that point, with Tsipras gone, it's actually possible she'll agree to a few concessions here and there. Policy issues aside, there's little doubt that Merkel's personal contempt for Tsipras has done a lot to cement her hard line toward Greece.</p> <p>So that's my prediction. Unless Tsipras caves completely beforehand, the referendum will be held on Sunday and Greeks will vote to stay in the euro and accept Germany's terms. It will basically be an unconditional surrender.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:24:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 278866 at http://www.motherjones.com Santorum Holding Onto Debate Stage By His Fingernails in Latest CNN Poll http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/santorum-holding-debate-stage-his-fingernails-latest-cnn-poll <!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_poll_republican_candidates_june_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Fox News will be sponsoring the first Republican debate on August 6, and they have decided to limit the stage to the top ten candidates. The lucky winners will be the ones who "place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent, recognized national polls leading up to Aug. 4."</p> <p>So how is everyone doing so far? CNN is certainly a recognized national poll, so they'll be part of the eventual winnowing. And their <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/06/30/trumpbushclinton.pdf" target="_blank">most recent poll </a>shows Jeb! at the top followed by Trump, Huckabee, Carson, and Rand Paul. The bottom three candidates&mdash;Christie, Cruz, and Santorum&mdash;could easily lose a point or two just due to statistical churn, to be replaced by Jindal, Kasich, and Fiorina.</p> <p>I'm looking forward to the Trump-Christie showdown for the Annoying Loudmouth Award, and to the Carson-Cruz showdown for the Looneybin Award&mdash;though both men have been disappointingly circumspect lately, hedging their beliefs as if they really wanted to win this thing.</p> <p>But there's still a chance of Rick Perry melting down in amusing fashion. That should make the whole thing worth watching.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:03:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 278861 at http://www.motherjones.com Atlanta Fed Says Workers Finally Benefiting From Recovery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/atlanta-fed-says-workers-finally-benefiting-recovery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's some potentially good news. There are various way of tracking wage growth (with or without benefits, employer survey vs. worker survey, nonsupervisory vs. everyone, etc.), and the Atlanta Fed has introduced a new wage index constructed from the Current Population Survey. In theory, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_atlanta_fed_wages.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">this should provide reliable data with a large sample size and will be available monthly. The good news is that their index shows nominal wage growth increasing at a <a href="http://macroblog.typepad.com/macroblog/2015/06/new-atlanta-fed-series-shows-wage-growth-held-steady-in-may.html" target="_blank">fairly healthy 3.3 percent per year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Wage growth by this measure was essentially unchanged from April and 1 percentage point higher than the year-ago reading. <strong>The current pace of nominal hourly wage growth is similar to that seen during the labor market recovery of 2003&ndash;04</strong> and about a percentage point below the pace experienced during 2006&ndash;07, which was the peak of the last business cycle.</p> </blockquote> <p>Other wage measures will be released later this week. With inflation still well under control, this is good news for workers, and potentially bad news for Fed watchers, who hope they won't use it as an excuse to raise rates. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:17:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 278856 at http://www.motherjones.com Jeb Bush's Finances Could Spell Trouble For Him in the GOP Primaries http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/jeb-bushs-finances-could-spell-trouble-him-gop-primaries <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/jeb-bushs-33-years-of-tax-returns-expected-to-show-increased-wealth/2015/06/30/af8ad598-1f3d-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">Jeb Bush is in big trouble:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Since leaving the Florida governor&rsquo;s office in 2007, Jeb Bush has made about $29 million, a considerable increase in his personal wealth since reentering the private sector....The documents show he paid an effective tax rate of more than 36 percent each year since leaving the governor&rsquo;s office, according to his campaign.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's it? $5 million per year? And he was lame enough with his finances to hand over 36 percent to Uncle Sugar? What the hell kind of business-oriented Republican does he think he is? You could make that much working for a bunch of do-gooder charity operations like some starry-eyed Democrat.</p> <p>Jeb better have a good explanation for this. Otherwise he might not make it out of the primaries.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 21:55:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 278801 at http://www.motherjones.com