Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2014/05/surprise-marco-rubios-social- http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Republicans Mysteriously Decide to Become Hawkish Again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/republicans-mysteriously-decide-become-hawkish-again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Apparently the kinder, gentler version of the Republican Party <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/09/02/after-flirting-with-doves-the-gop-returns-to-the-hawks/" target="_blank">is quickly disappearing:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Remember when the Republican Party was quickly shifting toward a new brand of Rand Paul-esque foreign policy non-interventionism?</p> <p>No more.</p> <p>Less than a year ago, just 18 percent of GOPers said that the United States does &ldquo;too little&rdquo; when it comes to helping solve the world&rsquo;s problems, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Today, that number has more than doubled, to 46 percent.</p> <p>....The results echo a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll which showed higher GOP support for airstrikes in Iraq.</p> <p>So what to account for the shift?</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. That's a poser, isn't it? What, oh what, could account for the shift?</p> <p>Well, let's cast our minds back a year or two. We were fighting in Libya, a war that President Obama got us involved in. We were fighting in Afghanistan, a war that Obama ramped up as soon as he took office. We were fighting drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, all thanks to Obama.</p> <p>Then what happened? The civil war in Syria heated up, but after a brief bout of indecision Obama decided not to get deeply involved. Russia ramped up military action in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and Obama decided not to get deeply involved. ISIS took over a huge chunk of Iraq, and Obama decided not to get deeply involved.</p> <p>So let's review. A year or two ago, we were involved in three overseas wars, all of them supported by Obama. At the time, Republicans were unaccountably dovish about military interventions. Today, Obama is <em>refraining</em> from getting deeply involved in three overseas wars. And guess what? Republicans have suddenly become hawkish again.</p> <p>Yep, this is a poser. What could possibly account for this change in Republican attitudes?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Military Obama The Right Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:08:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 259521 at http://www.motherjones.com ISIS is a Problem That Only Iraqis Can Solve http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/isis-problem-only-iraqis-can-solve <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Christopher Paul and Colin Clarke have studied 71 insurgencies during the post-WWII period and have concluded that every successful counterinsurgency shared several characteristics. They apply the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iraq_counterinsurgency.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">results of their research to the problem of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/09/02/a-broad-approach-to-countering-the-islamic-state/" target="_blank">the ISIS insurgency in Iraq:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>First, we found that in every case where they succeeded, <strong>counterinsurgent forces managed to substantially overmatch the insurgents</strong> and force them to fight as guerrillas before getting down to the activities traditionally associated with counterinsurgency....U.S. air power could make a significant contribution toward that end. Airstrikes will help curb Islamic State advances in strategically important parts of Iraq and thus, help bolster the Iraqi government and security forces, at least in the short term.</p> <p>Second, we concluded from the research that &ldquo;effective COIN practices tend to run in packs&rdquo;....Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) techniques identified three COIN concepts critical to success. These three concepts were implemented in each and every COIN win, and no COIN loss implemented all three: Tangible support reduction; commitment and motivation; and flexibility and adaptability.</p> <p>....U.S. support to an Iraqi counterinsurgency strategy to defeat the Islamic State must focus on <strong>reducing tangible support to the insurgents, increasing the commitment and motivation of the Iraqi military and security forces and increasing the government&rsquo;s legitimacy among Iraqi Sunnis.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's been a long time since I spent much time reading about COIN and COIN strategies, but this basically sounds right to me. And it should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who thinks the US should get deeply involved in fighting ISIS.</p> <p>Here's why. One of the key factors that I remember identifying during the height of the Iraq insurgency was <em>local commitment</em>. In a nutshell, it turns out that virtually no postwar COIN effort led by a big Western country has been successful. Western help is OK, but the COIN effort has to be led by the local regime. It's not a sufficient condition for success, but it's a necessary one.</p> <p>Paul and Clarke are basically confirming this. Sure, American air strikes might help in terms of the sheer firepower needed to successfully fight ISIS. But of the other three key COIN practices, two are purely local and the third is mostly local. There's very little the United States can do to help out on these fronts. Only the Iraqi government can increase its legitimacy among the Sunni minority, and only the Iraqi government can properly motivate its military. (The US can provide training and materiel, but it can't provide commitment and motivation.) Even the problem of reducing tangible support for the ISIS insurgents is mostly something only the Iraqi government can do. The US can help, but only if Iraqis are leading the way.</p> <p>At the moment, there's little evidence that the Iraqi government is capable of doing any of these three things. The new government of Haider Al-Abadi might be able to make progress on these fronts, but it hasn't demonstrated that yet. Until it does, more US help is almost certainly doomed to failure.</p> <p>Instinctive hawks should think long and hard about this. The record of the United States in counterinsurgencies is dismal. If the conditions are just right, we might be able to do some good in Iraq. At the moment, though, the conditions are appalling. We can put a few fingers in some dikes, but unless and until the Iraqi government steps up to the plate, there's virtually no chance that deeper US involvement will turn out well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 02 Sep 2014 18:24:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 259491 at http://www.motherjones.com Inflation Is Still the Great Bogeyman of the Rich http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/inflation-still-great-bogeyman-rich <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Krugman is trying to figure out why wealthy elites are so damn obsessed with the dangers of moderately higher inflation. After all, in a deep recession, inflation is likely to spur economic growth, and that <em>helps</em> rich folks. Their assets increase in value and they become even richer. So what's their problem?</p> <p><a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/inflation-septaphobia-and-the-shock-doctrine/?module=BlogPost-Title&amp;version=Blog%20Main&amp;contentCollection=Opinion&amp;action=Click&amp;pgtype=Blogs&amp;region=Body" target="_blank">In a post yesterday,</a> Krugman refers to my suggestion that it's mostly a case of <em>septaphobia</em>, or fear of the 70s. The idea here is that inflation really did run out of control in the 70s, and it really did take a massive recession engineered by Paul Volcker to rein it in. If that was one of your seminal experiences of the consequences of loose money, then it's no surprise that you fear inflation. But Steve Randy Waldman <a href="http://www.interfluidity.com/v2/5561.html" target="_blank">says this is "bass-ackwards":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Elites <em>love</em> the 1970s. Prior to the 1970s, during panics and depressions, soft money had an overt, populist constituency....The 1970s are trotted out to persuade those who disproportionately bear the burdens <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_win.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of an underperforming or debt-reliant economy that There Is No Alternative, nothing can be done, you wouldn&rsquo;t want to a return to the 1970s, would you?</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite right. Because the high inflation of the 70s really was painful for the middle class, the 70s do indeed serve a very useful purpose to elites who want to keep fear of inflation alive. But that begs the question: <em>Why</em> do they want to keep fear of inflation alive? The fact that elites have hated inflation forever isn't an answer. During the days of the gold standard, high inflation really did hurt the wealthy. But today's economy is vastly different from the hard-money + financial repression economy of the 70s and before. Inflation is much less threatening to the rich than it used to be. Why haven't they figured this out?</p> <p>I'm not sure, but I do want to note that both Krugman and Waldman have at least partly misunderstood me. Although I do think that septaphobia is a real thing, I mainly think it's a real thing <em>for the non-rich</em>. It's primarily the middle class that fears a rerun of the 70s. That might have been a bit muddled in my <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/why-are-we-all-so-obsessed-inflation" target="_blank">initial post</a> (which Krugman linked to), but I made this clearer in a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/whos-afraid-itsy-bitsy-bit-inflation-anyway" target="_blank">subsequent post about the roots of inflation phobia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>So what's the deal? I'd guess that it's a few things. First, the sad truth is that virtually no one believes that high inflation helps economic growth when the economy is weak....Second, there's the legitimate fear of accelerating inflation once you let your foot off the brake....Third, there's the very sensible fear among the middle class that high inflation is just a sneaky way to erode real wages....Fourth, there's fear of the 70s, which apparently won't go away until everyone who was alive during the 70s is dead. Which is going to be a while.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/class-interests-and-monetary-policy-take-ii/?module=BlogPost-Title&amp;version=Blog%20Main&amp;contentCollection=Opinion&amp;action=Click&amp;pgtype=Blogs&amp;region=Body" target="_blank">Krugman responds to Waldman here,</a> and even though Waldman says my argument is bass-ackwards, I actually think he and I mostly agree. Krugman may be right that higher inflation would help the rich right now, and that they'd support it if they were smart. But Waldman argues there's more to it. Basically, he thinks the rich are fundamentally conservative: inflation might help them <em>on average</em>, but there are still going to be plenty of losers whenever there's an engineered change to the economy. Since the rich, by definition, are already doing pretty well, why risk it?</p> <p>I think that's probably right, though&nbsp;Waldman probably overstates its importance. Wealthy elites aren't <em>that</em> conservative, especially when it comes to making money. Still, it's almost certainly a significant factor. But I also think Krugman is right about false consciousness. In fact, that was #1 on my list above: the fact that virtually no one really, truly believes in Keynesian stimulus. (Waldman makes this point too.) If rich elites <em>really did</em> believe that a bit of high inflation would get the economy booming, I think they'd swallow their innate conservatism and support it. But they don't. Almost no one really believes it in their guts.</p> <p>That's a failure of the economics profession, perhaps, but it's also a legacy of septaphobia. After all, if you take a look solely at the surface&mdash;and that's what most of us do, rich and poor alike&mdash;what's the lesson of the 70s? That's easy: Inflation got out of control and the economy went to hell. Then Paul Volcker reined in inflation, and the economy boomed. What's more, the rich have prospered mightily in the 30 years of low inflation since then. So why mess with a good thing?</p> <p>So yes: It's septaphobia, both in a real sense and as a useful morality tale. It's false consciousness from wealthy elites who don't really believe that inflation will spur the economy. And it's the innate conservatism of the rich, who don't have much incentive to accept change when they're already doing pretty well. Add to that the fact that inflation phobia is an easy sell to voters because the middle class really does have reason to fear inflation, and you have everything you need to make it nearly impossible to convince people that a bit of higher inflation would be a good thing right now. And so we stagnate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:26:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 259471 at http://www.motherjones.com Putin Brags About How Fast He Could Take Ukraine http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/09/putin-brags-about-how-fast-he-could-take-ukraine <!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.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/02/putin-russian-forces-could-conquer-ukraine-capital-kiev-fortnight" target="_blank">Here's the latest from Russia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Vladimir Putin has said Russian forces could conquer the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, in two weeks if he so ordered, the Kremlin has confirmed.</p> <p>Moscow declined to deny that the president had spoken of taking Kiev in a phone conversation on Friday with Jos&eacute; Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European commission....Barroso asked Putin about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. Nato says there are at least 1,000 Russian forces on the wrong side of the border. The Ukrainians put the figure at 1,600.</p> <p>"The problem is not this, but that if I want I'll take Kiev in two weeks," Putin said, according to <em>La Repubblica</em>.</p> <p>The Kremlin did not deny Putin had spoken of taking Kiev, but instead complained about the leak of the Barroso remarks.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, the leak is the <em>real</em> problem here. Invading Ukraine is a mere piffle.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:58:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 259461 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 29 August 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/friday-cat-blogging-29-august-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's the return of quilt blogging! Sort of. In any case, there's a quilt in the background because that happens to be where Domino was posing this week. I think she's auditioning to be the model for a new pair of sculptures outside the New York Public Library.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_08_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:51:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 259426 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: When Women Fail, They Pay a Bigger Price Than Men http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-when-women-fail-they-pay-bigger-price-men <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The chart below is not part of a study that examines a statistically random set of data. It's quite informal, and probably suffers from some inherent sampling biases. Nonetheless, it's pretty astonishing:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_men_women_performance_reviews.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 45px;"></p> <p>Here's the background: Kieran Snyder asked men and women working in the tech industry to share their performance reviews with her. Virtually all of them were high performers who got generally strong reviews. <a href="http://fortune.com/2014/08/26/performance-review-gender-bias/" target="_blank">But it wasn't all positive:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In the 177 reviews where people receive critical feedback, men and women receive different kinds. The critical feedback men receive is heavily geared towards suggestions for additional skills to develop....The women&rsquo;s reviews include another, sharper element that is absent from the men&rsquo;s:</p> <p><em>&ldquo;You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don&rsquo;t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.&rdquo;</em></p> <p>[Etc.]</p> <p>This kind of negative personality criticism&mdash;watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgmental!&mdash;<strong>shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://blogs.reuters.com/equals/2014/08/29/how-letting-women-fail-can-help-them-succeed/" target="_blank">This comes via Shane Ferro,</a> who concludes that there's probably good reason for women to be more cautious than men in their professional lives. It's easy to tell women they shouldn't be afraid to fail. "But we as a society (men and women), need to stop judging women so harshly for their flaws. For them to be equally good, it has to be okay that they are equally bad sometimes."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sex and Gender Fri, 29 Aug 2014 18:19:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 259421 at http://www.motherjones.com Has Vladimir Putin Painted Himself Into a Corner? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/has-vladimir-putin-painted-himself-corner <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Max Fisher writes today that Vladimir Putin probably never wanted to invade Ukraine. So why did he? It all started when he was elected to a third term as president <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/8/29/6082769/one-chart-why-putin-invading-ukraine" target="_blank">amid continuing economic stagnation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Putin expected another boisterously positive reception, but that's not what he happened. Instead, he got protests in major cities, opposition candidates, and, even according to the highly suspicious official tally, only 63 percent of the vote.</p> <p>Putin panicked. He saw his legitimacy slipping and feared a popular revolt. So he changed strategies. Rather than basing his political legitimacy on economic growth, he would base it on reviving Russian nationalism: imperial nostalgia, anti-Western paranoia, and conservative Orthodox Christianity.</p> <p>....Then the Ukraine crisis began....In March 2014, Putin indulged his own rhetoric about saving Ukraine's ethnic Russians &mdash; and seized an opportunity to reclaim a former Soviet strategic port &mdash; when he launched a stealth invasion of Crimea....This is when the crisis began to slip beyond Putin's control....The nationalistic rhetoric inside Russia was cranked up to a fever pitch. Putin's propaganda had built a parallel universe for Russians, in which the stakes in eastern Ukraine were dire not just for Russia but for the world....But the violence in eastern Ukraine was spinning out of control, with Ukrainian military forces looking like they were on the verge of overrunning the rebels.</p> <p>In a rational world, Putin would have cut his losses and withdrawn support for the rebels. But, thanks to months of propagandistic state media, Russians do not live in a rational world. They live in a world where surrendering in eastern Ukraine would mean surrendering to American-backed Ukrainian Nazis, and they believe everything that Putin has told them about being the only person capable of defeating these forces of darkness. To withdraw would be to admit that it was all a lie and to sacrifice the nationalism that is now his only source of real legitimacy. So Putin did the only thing he could to do to keep up the fiction upon which his political survival hinges: he invaded Ukraine outright.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is this basically correct? It's more or less the way I view events in Russia, so it appeals to me. But I don't know enough about Russia to have a lot of confidence that this is really the best explanation for Putin's actions.</p> <p>It's also not clear&mdash;to me, anyway&mdash;that Putin is truly stuck in a situation he never wanted. I agree that this interpretation makes sense. Eastern Ukraine just flatly doesn't seem worth the price he would have to pay for it. But that's easy to say from seven thousand miles away. I wonder if this is really the way Putin sees things?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Fri, 29 Aug 2014 17:14:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 259401 at http://www.motherjones.com There Are No Lessons of History http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/there-are-no-lessons-history <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Adam Gopnik argues that knowing history won't really help you understand the lessons of history. There are just too many of them, and you can always cherry pick whichever lesson supports the thing you <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_past_future.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">wanted to do in the first place. Rather, <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/help-know-history?src=mp" target="_blank">it should teach us humility:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The best argument for reading history is not that it will show us the right thing to do in one case or the other, but rather that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out.</p> <p>....<strong>The real sin that the absence of a historical sense encourages is presentism, in the sense of exaggerating our present problems out of all proportion to those that have previously existed.</strong> It lies in believing that things are much worse than they have ever been&mdash;and, thus, than they really are&mdash;or are uniquely threatening rather than familiarly difficult. Every episode becomes an epidemic, every image is turned into a permanent injury, and each crisis is a historical crisis in need of urgent aggressive handling&mdash;even if all experience shows that aggressive handling of such situations has in the past, quite often made things worse.</p> </blockquote> <p>Unfortunately, I doubt that Gopnik is right. Outside of academia, I haven't noticed that a knowledge of history is correlated in any way with a calmer perspective on our current problems.</p> <p>Take President Obama. He's a smart guy. He knows history, and he has an instinctively level-headed attitude toward life in the first place. What's more, he very famously won office partly on the strength of his skepticism toward military intervention and his opposition to "dumb wars."</p> <p>So what happened after he took office? He almost immediately approved a surge in Afghanistan. Then another surge. That didn't work out especially well, and by 2011, when Libya was going up in flames, Obama was obviously reluctant to get involved. But he did anyway. And that turned into a complete clusterfuck. But even <em>that</em> wasn't quite enough. Two years later he almost got talked into intervening in Syria before turning aside at the last minute. And that brings us to the present day and the threat of ISIS.</p> <p>As near as I can tell, Obama is now, finally, genuinely, skeptical about military intervention. That's why he's been so reluctant to approve wider air strikes against ISIS even though there's hardly a more deserving target of a bombing campaign anywhere in the world. He understands in his gut that it's not likely to work, and that it <em>definitely</em> won't work without an Iraqi government that can competently provide the ground troops to do the bulk of the fighting. Right now that doesn't exist, so Obama is refusing to be drawn into an unwinnable quagmire. He finally understands.</p> <p>But this isn't because of his knowledge of history. It's because of Afghanistan. And Libya. And Syria. It took three consecutive slaps in the face to finally convince his gut of what his brain probably believed all along.</p> <p>In the end, I think this is why I sympathize with Obama's foreign policy choices even though I've been at least moderately opposed to all his interventions. I'd like to think that I would have made different decisions if I'd been in his place, but the truth is I probably wouldn't have. The institutional and political pressures in favor of military action are just too strong. More than likely, I would have caved in too until I eventually learned better from bitter experience.</p> <p>Is Gopnik's brand of historical fatalism any better than historical blindness? It's hard to say. But it probably doesn't matter. When it comes time to actually do things, we learn from experience, not the past.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Obama Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:37:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 259391 at http://www.motherjones.com BREAKING: Economy Continues to Stagnate http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/breaking-economy-continues-stagnate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>If, despite my warnings, you allowed yesterday's upward GDP revision to kindle a tiny spark of excitement about the economy, today's news should bring you <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-consumer-spending-declines-0-1-in-july-1409315651?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection" target="_blank">right back down to earth:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Household spending fell in July, a sign that cautious consumers could hold back economic growth in the second half of the year....Personal income, reflecting income from wages, investment, and government aid, rose 0.2% in July&mdash;the smallest monthly increase of the year....Meanwhile, the report showed a key measure of inflation&mdash;the personal consumption expenditures price index&mdash;rose 1.6% in July from a year earlier. <strong>That matched the prior month's annual gain, and is below the Federal Reserve's 2% long-run target for the 27th straight month.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Spending is down, which is no surprise since personal income is pretty much flat. This suggests that perhaps we could tolerate a wee bit higher inflation as a way of getting the economy moving, but of course we can't do that. Sure, inflation has been below its target for 27 months, but you never know. The 28th month might be different! And even the prospect of a single month of moderate inflation runs the risk of turning us into Zimbabwe.</p> <p>So instead we just sit and stagnate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:32:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 259386 at http://www.motherjones.com Will Democrats Keep Control of the Senate This Year? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/will-democrats-keep-control-senate-year <!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_senate_forecast_pec_28_august_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium thinks that Democrats currently have a 72 percent chance of retaining control of the Senate this year. Most other forecasting outfits think Republicans have a 60-70 percent chance of winning control. <a href="http://election.princeton.edu/2014/08/28/senate-democrats-are-outperforming-expectations/" target="_blank">Why the difference?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In most cases, added assumptions (i.e. special sauce) have led the media organizations to different win probabilities&nbsp;&mdash; which I currently believe are wrong....The major media organizations (NYT, WaPo, 538)...all use prior conditions like incumbency, candidate experience, funding, and the generic Congressional ballot to influence their win probabilities&nbsp;&mdash; and opinion polls.</p> <p>....Longtime readers of PEC will not be surprised to know that I think the media organizations are making a mistake. It is nearly Labor Day. By now, we have tons of polling data. Even the stalest poll is a more direct measurement of opinion than an indirect fundamentals-based measure. I demonstrated this point in 2012, when I used polls only to forecast the Presidency and all close Senate races. That year I made no errors in Senate seats, including Montana (Jon Tester) and North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp), which FiveThirtyEight got wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd sure <em>like</em> to believe this. PEC is my go-to political polling site, after all. But it sure doesn't <em>feel</em> like Democrats are in the driver's seat right now, does it? All of my political instincts scream that Wang's forecast is wrong.</p> <p>That's probably because I'm a pessimist by nature. But you either believe in poll aggregation or you don't. I do, and PEC has performed well in every election for the past decade. So just as I wouldn't "deskew" bad poll results I didn't like, I guess I won't try to second-guess good poll results that don't seem quite right. If Wang thinks Democrats are currently favored to keep control of the Senate, then so do I.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Fri, 29 Aug 2014 04:09:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 259376 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: "We Don't Have a Strategy Yet." http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/quote-day-we-dont-have-strategy-yet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_tan_suit_2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcriptpresident-obamas-aug-28-remarks-on-ukraine-and-syria/2014/08/28/416f1336-2eec-11e4-bb9b-997ae96fad33_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">From President Obama,</a> asked if he needs congressional approval to go into Syria:</p> <blockquote> <p>I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's not going to go over well, is it? Three years after the Syrian civil war started and (at least) half a year after ISIS became a serious threat in Iraq, you'd think the president might be willing to essay a few broad thoughts about how we should respond.</p> <p>Don't get me wrong. I think I understand what Obama is doing here. He's basically trying to avoid saying that we <em>do</em> have a strategy, and the strategy is to do the absolute minimum possible in service of a few very limited objectives. And generally speaking, I happen to agree that this is probably the least worst option available to us. Still, there's no question that it's not very inspiring. You'd think the brain trust in the White House would have given a little more thought to how this could be presented in a tolerably coherent and decisive way.</p> <p>In the meantime, "We don't have a strategy yet" is about to become the latest 24/7 cable news loop. Sigh.</p> <p>Oh, and the tan suit too. It's quite the topic of conversation in the Twittersphere.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Military Obama Thu, 28 Aug 2014 21:31:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 259366 at http://www.motherjones.com In the Restaurant Biz, It Pays To Be a Man http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/restaurant-biz-it-pays-be-man <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/28/chart-the-troubling-gender-pay-gap-in-the-american-restaurant-industry/" target="_blank">Via Wonkblog,</a> here's a chart showing the pay gap between men and women in the restaurant industry. It comes from a <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/restaurant-workers/" target="_blank">recently released EPI report,</a> and as you can see, not only are men better paid in virtually every category, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_restaurant_pay.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">but the premium goes up for the highest paying jobs. Bussers and cashiers are paid nearly the same regardless of gender. But when you move up to cooks, bartenders, and managers, the premium ranges from 10-20 percent.</p> <p>This data isn't conclusive. There are other reasons besides gender for pay gaps, and the EPI report lists several of them. Whites make more than blacks. High school grads make more than dropouts. Older workers make more than younger ones. You'd need to control for all this and more to get a more accurate picture of the gender gap.</p> <p>But in a way, that misses the point. There are lots of reasons for the gender gap in pay. Some is just plain discrimination. Some is because women take off more time to raise children. Some is because women are encouraged to take different kinds of jobs. But all of these are symptoms of the same thing. In a myriad of ways, women still don't get a fair shake.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Sex and Gender Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:22:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 259336 at http://www.motherjones.com Mitch McConnell Doesn't Get to Decide if Republicans Will Threaten Another Government Shutdown http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/mitch-mcconnell-doesnt-get-decide-if-republicans-will-threaten-another-government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Are congressional Republicans threatening once again to shut down the government this year unless they get their way on a bunch of pet demands? Over at TNR, <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119241/marco-rubio-mitch-mcconnell-arent-threatening-government-shutdown" target="_blank">Danny Vinik doesn't think so:</a> "There is no excuse for the news media to inflate the quotes of Republican politicians to make it seem that they are threatening to shut down the government again," he says. <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119247/republican-government-shutdown-over-immigration-real-threat" target="_blank">But Brian Beutler thinks Vinik is being too literal.</a> It's true that no one is explicitly using the word <em>shutdown</em>, but no one ever does. Still, he says, "the threat is clear."</p> <p>I'm with Beutler, but not because of any particular parsing of recent Republican threats. It's because of this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The truth is practically irrelevant to the question of whether [recent saber rattling] presages a government shutdown fight. Just as it doesn&rsquo;t really matter whether Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell actually has a government shutdown in mind when he promises to strong-arm Obama next year, or whether he intends to cave.</p> <p>In either case he&rsquo;s threatening to use the appropriations process as leverage to extract concessions. That's a government shutdown fight. <strong>And no matter how he plays it, he will unleash forces he and other GOP leaders have proven incapable of restraining. They can&rsquo;t control the plot.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. It's just not clear that McConnell has any real leverage over Ted Cruz or that John Boehner has any leverage over Michele Bachmann. Once they implicitly endorse the rider game, they cede control to the wingnuts. And the wingnuts <em>want</em> to shut down the government. Fasten your seatbelts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress The Right Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:15:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 259331 at http://www.motherjones.com Stock Buybacks Are a Symptom, Not a Disease http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/stock-buybacks-are-symptom-not-disease <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Roberts writes in the <em>LA Times</em> today about <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-roberts-corporate-responsibility-20140828-story.html" target="_blank">stock buybacks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here's a depressing statistic: Last year, U.S. companies spent a whopping $598 billion &mdash; not to develop new technologies, open new markets or to hire new workers but to buy up their own shares. By removing shares from circulation, companies made remaining shares pricier, thus creating the impression of a healthier business without the risks of actual business activity.</p> </blockquote> <p>I agree: that statistic <em>is</em> depressing. In fact, back in the days of my foolish youth, when I dabbled a bit in stock picking, one of my rules was never to invest in a company that had done a share buyback. I figured it was a sign of tired management. If they couldn't think of anything better to do with their money than that, what kind of future did they have? Moving on:</p> <blockquote> <p>Share buybacks aren't illegal, and, to be fair, they make sense when companies truly don't have something better to reinvest their profits in. <strong>But U.S. companies do have something better: They could be reinvesting in the U.S. economy in ways that spur growth and generate jobs.</strong> The fact that they're not explains a lot about the weakness of the job market and the sliding prospects of the American middle class.</p> <p>....Without a more socially engaged corporate culture, the U.S. economy will continue to lose the capacity to generate long-term prosperity, compete globally or solve complicated economic challenges, such as climate change. We need to restore a broader sense of the corporation as a social citizen &mdash; no less focused on profit but far more cognizant <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_austerity_state_local_federal_spending_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of the fact that, in an interconnected economic world, there is no such thing as narrow self-interest.</p> </blockquote> <p>I agree with some of what Roberts says about American corporations increasingly being obsessed with short-term stock gains rather than long-term growth. It's also true that stock buybacks are partly driven by CEO pay packages that are pegged to share price. Those have been standard complaints for decades. But it's misleading to suggest that US companies could be spurring the economy if only they'd invest more of their profits in growth. That gets it backwards. Companies will invest if they think they'll get a good return on that investment, and that decision depends on the likely trajectory of the macroeconomy. If it looks like economic growth will be strong, they'll invest more money in new plants and better equipment. If not, they won't.</p> <p>The macroeconomy doesn't depend on either companies or individuals acting altruistically. You can't pass a law banning stock buybacks and expect that companies will invest in plant expansion and worker training instead. They'll only do it if those investments look likely to pay off. Conversely, forcing them to make investments that will lose money does nothing for the economy except light lots of money on fire.</p> <p>You want companies to invest in the future? The first step is supporting economic policies that will grow the economy. If we were willing to do that, corporate investment would follow. If we don't, all the laws in the world won't keep the tide from coming in.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:42:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 259316 at http://www.motherjones.com Economy Doing Ever So Slightly Better Than We Thought http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/economy-doing-ever-so-slightly-better-we-thought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The economy is doing ever so <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/gdp-expanded-at-4-2-rate-in-second-quarter-1409229416?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTWhatsNewsCollection" target="_blank">slightly better than we thought:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.2% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The agency had previously estimated the second quarter's growth rate at 4%, relying on incomplete data for international trade, inventories and other sectors.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nobody should mistake this for anything meaningful. Obviously it's better for GDP to be revised up than down, but this particular change is so small that it's not really noticeable. GDP growth for the first half of the year now clocks in at about 2.1 percent instead of 1.9 percent, but that's pretty anemic either way.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:58:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 259311 at http://www.motherjones.com Have We Reached Peak Kevin? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/have-we-reached-peak-kevin <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the <em>Guardian</em> today, Paula Cocozza writes about her effort to hunt down the origin of the phrase "peak X." She turned to linguist Mark Liberman, who runs the Language Log <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_matterhorn.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">blog, but he says <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/aug/27/have-we-reached-peak-peak-rise-ubiquitous-phrase" target="_blank">it's a hard idiom to track:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is some good news, though. Liberman remembers the first time he noticed the phrase. It was in 2008, when the US writer John Cole blogged that "we may have hit and passed Peak Wingnut", a derogatory term for rightwingers.</p> <p>Cole's post is nearly six years old, but can he recall what inspired the phrase? "I came up with 'peak wingnut' because I was shocked," Cole says. "The Republicans seemed to get crazier and crazier. The source of it is [US blogger] Kevin Drum. At the <em>Washington Monthly</em>, one of the things he was always talking about was peak oil."</p> <p>This comes as news to Drum, who now writes for the web magazine <em>Mother Jones</em>. He was not the only person writing about peak oil, of course, but he was the one Cole read. "I'm very proud of that," he says. "I had no idea that I had been so influential."</p> </blockquote> <p>So now I have three items for my future obituary: creator of Friday catblogging, popularizer of the lead-crime theory, and just possibly the kinda sorta inspiration for the Peak X meme. Not bad!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Energy Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:28:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 259256 at http://www.motherjones.com New Discovery Cuts Brainwashing Time in Half http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/scientists-make-momentous-advance-brainwashing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The frontiers of science <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/scientists-experiment-with-reworking-memory-in-mice-1409158818?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories" target="_blank">continue to expand:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In experiments on mice, scientists rewired the circuits of the brain and <strong>changed the animals' bad memories into good ones.</strong> The rewriting of the memory wasn't done with drugs but by using light to control the activity of brain cells. While science is a long way from achieving a similar feat in people, it adds to a body of research that is starting to uncover the physiological basis of memory.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, I know what you're wondering. And the answer is yes:</p> <blockquote> <p>The researchers said they were able to do the opposite as well&mdash;<strong>change a pleasurable memory in mice into one associated with fear.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So I guess that wraps up both <em>Brave New World</em> and <em>1984</em> all in one nice, neat package. What could go wrong?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Science Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:43:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 259236 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Let's Just Drop a Few Bombs and See What Happens http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/quote-day-lets-just-drop-few-bombs-and-see-what-happens <!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.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/27/bill-kristol-bomb-isis_n_5721582.html?&amp;ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000021" target="_blank">From Bill Kristol,</a> during an appearance on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's show, bringing his megawatt analytic powers to bear on the problem of ISIS in Iraq:</p> <blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Bill_Kristol.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What&rsquo;s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that are going to be bad there.</p> </blockquote> <p>You can't make this stuff up. We liberals often accuse folks like Kristol of mindlessly advocating military action all the time, no matter what. But we're exaggerating, aren't we? Nobody literally wants to unleash an air campaign just to see what happens. Nobody just casually ignores the possible drawbacks. That's ridiculous! Why do we insist on juvenile caricatures like this?</p> <p>I don't know. Why do we?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:45:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 259231 at http://www.motherjones.com White Privilege? What White Privilege? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/white-privilege-what-white-privilege <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the latest from the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-charles-belk-beverly-hills-police-apologzie-20140826-story.html" target="_blank">annals of criminal justice in America:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Beverly Hills police officials said Tuesday that it was "extremely unfortunate" that officers handcuffed and detained an African American film producer who was in the city to attend a pre-Emmy party.</p> <p>Producer Charles Belk "matched the clothing and physical characteristics" of a suspected bank robber when he was pulled over by officers on Friday evening....&ldquo;Hey, I was &lsquo;tall,&rsquo; &lsquo;bald,&rsquo; a &lsquo;male&rsquo; and &lsquo;black,&rsquo; so I fit the description.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Come on, Charles! Buck up. Mistakes can happen. I'm sure the Beverly Hills PD would have treated a white guy who fit the description of a bank robber exactly the same way. In fact, I'll bet this happens <a href="http://www.vox.com/xpress/2014/8/27/6074253/bill-oreilly-white-privilege" target="_blank">all the time to Bill O'Reilly.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:54:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 259226 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Federal Deficit Is In Pretty Good Shape These Days http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-federal-deficit-pretty-good-shape-these-days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You already know this&mdash;don't you?&mdash;but just to refresh your memories, here's the <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45653" target="_blank">latest projection</a> of the federal deficit from the Congressional Budget Office. As you can see, <em>for the entire next decade</em> CBO figures that the deficit will be running at a very manageable 3 percent of GDP, right in line with historical averages. Be sure to show this to all your friends who are consumed with deficit hysteria. There's really not much reason to panic about this.</p> <p>Now, CBO's forecast doesn't take into account future booms or busts in the economy, since they can't predict those. And as the chart makes crystal clear, <em>that's</em> what causes big changes in the deficit. It's the economy, stupid, not runaway spending. When times are good, the deficit shrinks. When times are bad, it gets worse. If you really want to avoid big deficits in the future, stop obsessing about cutting spending on the poor, and instead spend some time obsessing about economic policies that will help grow the economy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_deficit_august_2014.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 3px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:51:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 259221 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Iraq Policy Has Been Pretty Masterly http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/obamas-iraq-policy-has-been <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm not a diehard supporter of Barack Obama's foreign policy. Some of his actions I just plain disagree with: the surge in Afghanistan, the enormous increase in drone use, his almost inhuman patience in putting up with Bibi Netanyahu's nearly open contempt for him. Then there are other actions of his that were arguably justifiable but have worked out less well than he hoped. However, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_national_security.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">they mostly represent very, very tough problems. And foreign policy is hard&mdash;especially now. Almost nobody gets even a small fraction of what they want out of it.</p> <p>That said, the relentless criticism of Obama's approach toward ISIS strikes me as unusually shortsighted. As near as I can tell, he's handled it almost perfectly so far. If we had offered air support to destroy ISIS six months or a year ago, it probably would have made things worse. Iraq flatly wasn't able to provide the ground troops to complement an air campaign, and America would have shared in the inevitable fiasco. We also would have been explicitly bound to Nouri al-Maliki and his policies, which were the very ones responsible for the rise of ISIS in the first place. The outcome of all this would have been the worst of all possible worlds for American interests.</p> <p>Instead, Obama allowed Maliki to fail on his own, and then used the leverage of promised American air assistance to engineer his ouster. Needless to say, this hardly guarantees eventual success against ISIS, but is there really any question that it was a necessary precondition for success? I don't think so. Maliki never would have left unless he was forced out, and it was plain that his brutally sectarian governing style was fueling the insurgency, not halting it. He had to leave.</p> <p>The alternative to Obama's strategy wasn't more aggressive action. That would have been disastrous. Nor would it have made a difference if Obama had left a few troops in Iraq back in 2009. Nor would stronger intervention in Syria have made a difference. It might even have made things worse. The truth is simpler. There's no single reason for the rise of ISIS, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/8/25/6065529/isis-rise" target="_blank">but there <em>is</em> a single primary reason:</a> Nouri al-Maliki. Obama saw that clearly and kept his eye on what was important, working patiently and cold-bloodedly toward engineering Maliki's departure. It was hardly a perfect plan, and messiness was always inevitable. Nonetheless, it was the best plan available. Because of it, there's now at least a chance of defeating ISIS.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Does "masterly" go too far? Maybe so. But I was trying to attract attention to my main point: the ISIS threat couldn't even be addressed until Iraq's political dysfunction was addressed first. Unlike a lot of people, Obama recognized that and stuck to a toughminded approach that focused on getting rid of Maliki instead of getting distracted by endless calls for a stronger intervention before Maliki was gone. It wasn't easy, but it was the smart thing to do.</p> <p>Can the new government fight ISIS more effectively? There's no way of knowing yet. But at least they've been given a chance.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Obama Tue, 26 Aug 2014 17:00:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 259161 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Europe's Central Bank Finally Getting Worried About Deflation? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/europes-central-bank-finally-getting-worried-about-deflation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Brad DeLong notes that Mario Draghi, the head of Europe's central bank, went off text in his speech at Jackson Hole. Here's his summary of <a href="http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2014/08/an-interesting-ad-lib-from-ecb-head-mario-draghis-jackson-hole-speech-morning-comment.html" target="_blank">Draghi's extended ad-lib:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The speech text says:</p> <blockquote> <ol><li>The ECB knows that inflation has declined.</li> <li>The decline in inflation has not led to any decline in expectations of inflation.</li> <li>THE ECB will, if necessary, within its mandate, use QE and other policies to keep expectations of inflation from declining.</li> </ol></blockquote> <p>The speech as delivered says:</p> <blockquote> <ol><li>The ECB knows that inflation has declined.</li> <li>My usual line is that the decline in inflation is due to temporary factors that will be reversed.</li> <li>That explanation is now long in the tooth: the longer "temporary" lasts the greater the danger.</li> <li>In fact, it is too late to "safeguard the firm anchoring of inflation expectations".</li> <li>Inflationary expectations have already declined.</li> <li>We will use all the tools we have to reverse this.</li> </ol></blockquote> <p>Is this deviation a mere line wobble....Is this deviation an audience effect....Or does it signal a recognition on Draghi's part that the Eurozone is heading for a triple dip, and that if he doesn't assemble a coalition to do much more very quickly to boost aggregate demand we will have to change the name "The Great Recession" to something including the D-word, and he will go down in history as the worst central banker since the 1930s?</p> <p>I would like to know...</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose we'd all like to know. The Germans better start taking this stuff seriously pretty soon. They can't stick their heads in the sand and live in the past forever.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:21:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 259156 at http://www.motherjones.com Wyoming Is Thinking About Accepting Medicaid Expansion After All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/wyoming-thinking-about-accepting-medicaid-expansion-after-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Michael Hiltzik passes along the news that Wyoming's governor is the latest traitor to the cause of denying health care to poor people <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-another-gop-state-may-be-signing-up-for-medicaid-20140825-column.html" target="_blank">no matter what the cost:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The reason for Wyoming's wavering is clear: It's money.</p> <p>The Health Department says Medicaid expansion could save the state $50 million or more if it expands the program, for which the federal government will pay at least 90%. Meanwhile, Wyoming hospitals say they're losing more than $200 million a year in uncompensated care for people without insurance.</p> <p>The state Legislature has rejected the expansion, but Republican Gov. Matt Mead has been saying it's time to pack up. He's entering negotiations <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicaid_expansion.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">with the feds for a way to expand Medicaid next year, covering as many as 17,600 low-income residents.</p> </blockquote> <p>I imagine that before very much longer, most of the other Midwest holdouts will go ahead and accept Medicaid expansion too. That will leave only the hard-core holdouts of the Old South, where the poor are apparently especially undeserving. I guess there must be some kind of difference between poor people in the Midwest and poor people in the South. I wonder <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_African-American_population" target="_blank">what it could be?</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:54:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 259146 at http://www.motherjones.com Ukraine Claims it Has Captured Russian Soldiers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/ukraine-claims-it-has-captured-russian-soldiers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ukraine claims that it now has proof that Russian soldiers have been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/27/world/europe/ukraine.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=LedeSum&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">involved in fighting on Ukrainian soil:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ukraine released video footage on Tuesday of what it said were 10 captured Russian soldiers, raising tensions as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia arrived in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, for talks later in the day with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Petro O. Poroshenko.</p> <p>....The release of the videos and the high-level talks came a day after Ukraine accused Russia of sending an armored column across the border, prompting Geoffrey R. Pyatt, the United States ambassador to Ukraine, to express alarm on Twitter. &ldquo;The new columns of Russian tanks and armor crossing into Ukraine indicates a Russian-directed counteroffensive may be underway. #escalation,&rdquo; he wrote.</p> <p>....&ldquo;Everything was a lie. There were no drills here,&rdquo; one of the captured Russians, who identified himself as Sergey A. Smirnov, told a Ukrainian interrogator. He said he and other Russians from an airborne unit in Kostroma, in central Russia, had been sent on what was described initially as a military training exercise but later turned into a mission into Ukraine. After having their cellphones and identity documents taken away, they were sent into Ukraine on vehicles stripped of all markings, Mr. Smirnov said.</p> </blockquote> <p>This kind of thing represents a cusp of some kind. If it's true, Putin has to decide pretty quickly whether to gamble everything on an outright invasion, or whether to back off. If it turns out to be a Ukrainian invention, Putin has to decide whether to use it as a casus belli. These are dangerous times.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Apparently Russia has <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/26/russia-admits-soldiers-in-ukraine" target="_blank">admitted the soldiers are theirs:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Sources in Moscow have admitted that a number of men captured inside Ukraine were indeed serving Russian soldiers, but said they crossed the border by mistake...."The soldiers really did participate in a patrol of a section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, crossed it by accident on an unmarked section, and as far as we understand showed no resistance to the armed forces of Ukraine when they were detained," a source in Russia's defence ministry told the RIA Novosti agency.</p> </blockquote> <p>Uh huh. I suppose Putin will now claim that detaining the soldiers is an act of war unless they're immediately released.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Tue, 26 Aug 2014 14:18:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 259141 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's the Latest Right-Wing IRS Fantasy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/heres-latest-right-wing-irs-fantasy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a great example of the conservative media bubble at work. I was browsing The Corner a few minutes ago and came across a post telling me that the government has, rather astonishingly, acknowledged that it has <em>another</em> backup of Lois Lerner's missing emails. Judicial Watch, which has been trying to get hold of these emails, sent out a press release <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/386277/there-are-no-missing-lois-lerner-e-mails-justice-department-concedes-andrew-c-mccarthy" target="_blank">trumpeting its discovery:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner&rsquo;s emails, <strong>indeed all government <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_backup_tapes.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">computer records,</strong> are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe....This is a jaw-dropping revelation. The Obama administration had been lying to the American people about Lois Lerner&rsquo;s missing emails....<strong>The Obama administration has known all along where the email records could be&nbsp;&mdash; but dishonestly withheld this information.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well. That's fascinating. But I wondered what was really up. I went to Google News but all I found were links to conservative news sites. The Judicial Watch story was plastered over all of them: Forbes, The Blaze, NRO, Breitbart, Fox, Townhall, the Washington Examiner, the Free Beacon, and the New York Observer. But none of the usual mainstream news sources seemed to have anything about this.</p> <p>Except for <em>The Hill</em>. Hooray! <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/finance/215940-conservative-group-lerner-emails-arent-missing" target="_blank">So I clicked:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[An] administration official said Justice Department lawyers had dropped no bombshells last week, and that Judicial Watch was mischaracterizing what the government had said.</p> <p>The official said that Justice lawyers were only referring to tapes backing up IRS emails that were routinely recycled twice a year before 2013, when the investigation into the Tea Party controversy began....The administration official said that the inspector general is examining whether any data can be recovered from the previously recycled back-up tapes and suggested that could be the cause of the confusion between the government and Judicial Watch.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roger that. What he's saying is that backup tapes are routinely recycled and written over, but it's possible that some of the tapes weren't <em>entirely</em> written over. There's a chance that old emails might still be at the tail end of some of the tapes and could be recovered. And who knows: maybe some of them were Lerner's. This is, as you can imagine, (a) the longest of long shots, and (b) a pretty difficult forensic recovery job even if some parts of the backup tapes contain old messages. It's certainly not a jaw-dropping revelation.</p> <p>But in right-wing fantasyland, it's no doubt already become conventional wisdom that the feds have some kind of massive government-wide backup system that contains every email ever written by any federal employee. The Obama administration has just been hiding it.</p> <p>Which is exactly what you'd expect from them, isn't it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice The Right Tue, 26 Aug 2014 05:16:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 259126 at http://www.motherjones.com