Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/04 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Trump "Considering" Intriguing New Way to Lie With Statistics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-considering-intriguing-new-way-lie-statistics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-considers-change-in-calculating-u-s-trade-deficit-1487523299" target="_blank">Oh FFS:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, <strong>a shift that would make the country&rsquo;s trade gap appear larger than it had in past years,</strong> according to people involved in the discussions.</p> <p>The leading idea under consideration would <strong>exclude from U.S. exports</strong> any goods first imported into the country, such as cars, and then transferred to a third country like Canada or Mexico unchanged, these people told <em>The Wall Street Journal.</em></p> <p>Economists say that approach would inflate trade deficit numbers because <strong>it would typically count goods as imports when they come into the country but not count the same goods when they go back out,</strong> known as re-exports.</p> </blockquote> <p>While we're at it, let's change our new jobs report to show all the people who have gained a job but not the ones who have lost a job. That should make the economy look great, just like Trump wants it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 01:46:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 326081 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Thin Skin Is Keeping Him From Staffing the Federal Government http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trumps-thin-skin-keeping-him-staffing-federal-government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Rex Tillerson's choice of Elliott Abrams to be his deputy at the State Department was vetoed by the White House. Abrams had once said some bad things about Donald Trump, so he was out. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/us/politics/trump-candidates-top-posts.html" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports on what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump remains fixated on the campaign as he applies a loyalty test to some prospective officials....Six of the 15 statutory cabinet secretaries are still awaiting Senate confirmation as Democrats nearly uniformly oppose almost all of the president&rsquo;s choices.</p> <p>....<strong>It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary,</strong> much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. <strong>Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions.</strong> Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, Democrats are slow-walking Trump's cabinet choices. You can decide for yourself if this is justified. But it's the deputies who often really run things, and Trump has only managed to name three out of 15 candidates. After he interviewed all those cabinet nominees, I guess he got bored.</p> <p>In other words, it's not Democrats who are holding up the rest of government. The problem is that Trump has no idea what he's doing, and his staff is too busy with Trump's thin skin and chaotic management style to find qualified deputies that are acceptable to him. After the debacle with his National Security Advisor, I imagine this has gotten even harder. You could almost feel qualified conservatives backing away from Trumpland as that shitshow played out.</p> <p>Trump has always had a pretty small set of people acceptable to him, and now a shrinking number of experienced players are finding Trump acceptable to them. This doesn't bode well for basic management of government business, let alone the "change for the ages" that he promised last night.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 22:07:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 326076 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Strict Voter ID Laws Suppress Minority Voting? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/do-strict-voter-id-laws-suppress-minority-voting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Do photo ID laws reduce minority turnout? Previous studies have suggested that the answer is yes, but the effect is fairly small. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/02/15/do-voter-identification-laws-suppress-minority-voting-yes-we-did-the-research/" target="_blank">However, in the <em>Washington Post</em> last week,</a> three scholars wrote about a new study they conducted, which offers "a more definitive assessment" than previous studies. Their conclusion: states with strict photo ID laws produce a far lower turnout among minorities than other states.</p> <p>It's taken me a while to comment on this because I had to read the report a few times to make sure I understood everything. In the end, I found several reasons to be skeptical of their conclusion.</p> <p>First off, they found much stronger effects in primaries than in general elections. Now, maybe this really is the case, and I can certainly invent plausible stories about why it might be so. But it still seems odd.</p> <p>Second, in a draft version of their study, <a href="http://pages.ucsd.edu/~zhajnal/page5/documents/voterIDhajnaletal.pdf" target="_blank">they say this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Importantly, we see no effects for Asian Americans, the one minority group that is, by at least some standards, not socioeconomically disadvantaged. The effects of these laws seem to be concentrated toward the bottom end of the racial hierarchy.</p> </blockquote> <p>In later drafts, their numbers have been updated and it turns out that Asian Americans <em>are</em> affected by voter ID laws&mdash;which makes their important finding disappear. But if this was an important <em>verification</em> in one draft, it ought to be an important <em>discrepancy</em> in the final draft. However, it's not mentioned.</p> <p>Third, hardly any of their findings are statistically significant. I'm not a big stickler for 95 percent significance always and everywhere, especially for something like this, where there's one messy set of real-life data and you have to draw conclusions from it one way or another. If the results are significant at 85 or 90 percent, that's still strongly suggestive. Nonetheless, that's all it is.</p> <p>Fourth, the effect size on African Americans is considerably less than it is for Hispanics and Asian Americans. Maybe this is just because blacks are more politically organized, and therefore more likely to overcome the deterrent effects of photo ID laws. Maybe.</p> <p>So far, none of these are deal breakers. They made me a little tentative about accepting the authors' results, but that's all. But then we get this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_voter_id_black_hispanic_asian.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Here's what's going on. On the left, you see their main results, based on a model they constructed. It shows very large effects: in states with strict photo ID laws, turnout decreases 8 percentage points among Hispanics, 2 percent among African Americans, and 5 percent among Asians.</p> <p>On the right, you see the results from a second test. It compares turnout in states before and after they enacted strict photo ID laws, and it shows much smaller effects: about 2 percentage points for all minorities. This strikes me as a <em>better</em> test, since it eliminates lots of confounding variables that crop up when you compare one set of states to a different set. But the authors go to considerable lengths to downplay these results, for reasons that I don't find very persuasive. Yes, their sample size is smaller, and yes, things can change from year to year. But their sample sizes aren't that small, and the differences in a single state over the course of two years is probably smaller than the differences between states in the same year.</p> <p>Maybe I'm totally off base here. I don't have the raw data or the chops to analyze it. Still, if I had to bet money, I'd bet that the second test is more reliable, and the real effect of photo ID laws is a decreased turnout of about 2 percentage points among minorities. That's plenty to affect a close election, and the motivation for these laws is plainly partisan and racial. They should be done away with everywhere.</p> <p>That said, I continue to suspect that the effect is fairly modest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:46:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 326071 at http://www.motherjones.com We Should Practice Truth in Statistics, Even When It Hurts http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/we-should-practice-truth-statistics-even-when-it-hurts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday <a href="http://www.vox.com/2017/2/18/14659952/trump-transcript-rally-melbourne-florida" target="_blank">on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You look at what's happening in Germany, <strong>you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden.</strong> They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, <a href="http://www.vox.com/world/2017/2/19/14662244/trump-sweden-terrorist-attack-fake" target="_blank">Beauchamp then says this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem, though, is that this &ldquo;rape epidemic&rdquo; is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.</p> <p><a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/swedens-rape-crisis-isnt-what-it-seems/article30019623/" target="_blank">Canadian reporter Doug Saunders</a> rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it &ldquo;falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.&rdquo; Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that&rsquo;s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.</p> <p>....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.</p> </blockquote> <p>Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001&mdash;which is all but useless in 2017<sup>1</sup>&mdash;and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report <a href="https://www.bra.se/bra/publikationer/arkiv/publikationer/2005-12-14-brottslighet-bland-personer-fodda-i-sverige-och-i-utlandet.html" target="_blank">(tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_immigrants_sweden_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.</p> <p>Now, there's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.</p> <p>Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:54:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 326066 at http://www.motherjones.com A Travel Query for the Hive Mind http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/travel-query-hive-mind <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_zuma_big_ben_fireworks.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 0px 0px;"></p> <div class="caption">Ben Cawthra/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA</div> <p>OK, hive mind, I have a question for you. My sister is heading to London later this year, and this time she has a shiny new iPhone to take with her. She's on T-Mobile, so allegedly she'll have access to calling, texting, and low-speed data without doing anything. So here's one plan:</p> <ul><li>Download the maps she needs before she leaves.</li> <li>Rely on T-Mobile for calling and texting.</li> <li>Use WiFi whenever she's at the hotel, in a coffee shop, etc.</li> <li>Register for The Cloud, and use that when she's out and about.</li> <li>When all else fails, use T-Mobile's low-speed data.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively:</p> <ul><li>Buy a SIM when she gets there and use local calling, texting, and high-speed internet.</li> </ul><p>Do I have any T-Mobile readers who have been to London lately? What's the dope? What do you think her best alternative is?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Thanks everyone! It sounds like T-Mobile's native service works pretty well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 16:29:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326061 at http://www.motherjones.com Premiere Episode of Trump Show Disappoints With Sluggish Pacing and Dated Material http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/premiere-episode-trump-show-disappoints-sluggish-pacing-and-dated-material <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today's episode of the Trump Show was disappointing. It started late, it was only 30 minutes long, and much of it was read off a teleprompter. A few miscellaneous comments:</p> <ul><li>No tie! Truly, Trump is a man of the people.</li> <li>The first five minutes is dedicated solely to trashing the media. He says he wants to speak directly to The People without the filter of fake news. "When the media lies, I won't let them get away with it."</li> <li>This is all done in service of a speech carried live and commercial-free by all three cable news channels.</li> <li>The White House is running "smoothly, <em>very</em> smoothly."</li> <li>He wants to bring back mining jobs for "clean, <em>very</em> clean coal." I'm sensing a rhetorical trend here.</li> <li>He reprises several of his greatest hits: His Obamacare replacement will provide much better health care at a much lower cost. No more jobs are going to be sent overseas. He's going to slap a 35 percent tax on goods sent back here. And he still wants a "trillion dollar" infrastructure plan.</li> <li>Jobs are already "pouring back in" to the country.</li> <li>"Not one network will show the crowd," he says at the exact moment the pool camera pulls back to show the crowd.</li> <li>He says he got the price of Air Force One down by a billion dollars. When did that happen? Let's google a bit...ah. It's just your basic Trump bullshit. The CEO of Boeing has agreed to keep the price tag below $4 billion for a project that's currently estimated to cost between <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/defense/314613-boeing-ceo-says-progress-made-on-reducing-air-force-one-costs" target="_blank">$3.2 billion</a> and <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/dec/06/donald-trump/fact-checking-donald-trumps-tweet-air-force-one-bo/" target="_blank">$3.7 billion.</a> Nice work, Donald.</li> <li>He also got the price of the F-35 down by "hundreds of billions" dollars. It's actually hundreds of <em>m</em>illions, but who's counting? And it was a price reduction that was <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-has-fixed-f-35-program-ten-days" target="_blank">already in the works</a> before Trump ever got involved.</li> <li>He says Obama was letting immigrants into the country with "no vetting, no nothing." This is just a ridiculous lie.</li> </ul><p>Meh. I doubt this rally did much for him. Even his most fervent supporters are starting to figure out that Trump isn't accomplishing a whole lot. Besides, how often can he go back to this well? Is he going to hold a pep rally every month? If he does, he better start coming up with some new material.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 01:04:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 326056 at http://www.motherjones.com Waiting For Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/waiting-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>OMG OMG OMG!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plane_waiting_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 10px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:45:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 326046 at http://www.motherjones.com Who Really Benefits From Repealing the Stream Protection Rule? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/who-really-benefits-repealing-stream-protection-rule <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Behold the politics of Donald Trump in a nutshell:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Talking to Trump voters here, several have said that Trump "put the miners back to work." (They are referring to the stream rule rollback)</p> &mdash; Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) <a href="https://twitter.com/daveweigel/status/833024830442180608">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Weigel is in Florida, so the workers in question are mostly Appalachian miners. Here's a quick look at Appalachian coal mining employment:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_appalachia_coal_mining_jobs_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This chart shows two things. First, coal mining in Appalachia has been plummeting for a long time. Decades, actually. So it's pretty easy to see why Appalachian coal miners are in dire straits and eager to listen to someone, <em>anyone</em>, who sounds sympathetic to their plight.</p> <p>Second, Trump is getting a lot of of attention for rolling back the Stream Protection Rule, but it's not going to put anyone back to work. I had to cheat to even get it to show up on the chart. It's responsible for maybe a hundred mining jobs out of a total decline of 30,000 between 2009 and 2020.</p> <p>So who <em>does</em> benefit from rolling back this rule? Well, OSM figures that Appalachian mine owners will save about $24 million per year in compliance costs.<sup>3</sup> So they're pretty happy. This is a dynamic that we're going to see over and over from Trump:</p> <ul><li>He puts on a big show about something or other. Workers cheer.</li> <li>Offstage, it turns out the benefit to workers is minuscule.</li> <li>Instead, the bulk of the benefits end up going to corporations and the rich.</li> <li>Liberals will find out about this because the <em>New York Times</em> will probably write about it. Working-class Trump fans won't, because none of it will be reported by Fox News or Drudge or Limbaugh or <em>Breitbart</em>.</li> </ul><p>Executive summary: workers get a pittance, the rich get rewarded, and streams and rivers will continue to be fouled by mine tailings. But Trump's supporters will be happy because they'll be kept in the dark by all the people supposedly looking out for them.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I've gotten several requests for a longer look at coal mining employment. Here it is.<sup>4</sup> Please note two things: (1) this is for the entire US, not just Appalachia, and (2) it's for <em>coal miners</em>, not total coal mine employment. You can't compare it to the chart above.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_coal_miners_us_1950_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>This is approximate. I counted <a href="https://www.msha.gov/sites/default/files/Data_Reports/Charts/Coal_Employment_by_State_and_County_CY09to15.pdf" target="_blank">coal mine employment</a> from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama. The projection is based on a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/0383(2017).pdf" target="_blank">50 percent loss</a> of coal production and coal jobs between 2012 and 2020. The Office of Surface Mining figures that the Stream Protection Rule will cost about 260 mining jobs, and that Appalachia will bear 46 percent of compliance cost. (See <a href="https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20170111_R44150_aeb8ad15c32441ec3bdb6788400bda94f4aa8d86.pdf" target="_blank">this CRS report,</a> p. 17.) So we can roughly figure that it will cost Appalachia a little over a hundred mining jobs.<sup>2</sup></p> <p><sup>2</sup>The <em>net</em> job loss will be about zero, thanks to additional hires of engineers and biologists. However, that does nothing for miners.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>See <a href="https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20170111_R44150_aeb8ad15c32441ec3bdb6788400bda94f4aa8d86.pdf" target="_blank">here,</a> p. 15. Total estimated compliance costs are $52 million per year, with Appalachia bearing 46 percent of the total.</p> <p><sup>4</sup> Data for 1950-1985 from <a href="http://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/virtual_disk_library/index.cgi/4265704/FID3754/pdf/Coal_nuc/006493.pdf" target="_blank">here.</a> Data from 1985-2016 from <a href="https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CES1021210001#0" target="_blank">FRED.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 326036 at http://www.motherjones.com NSC Aide Fired, Now Owes Us Account of Trump Call to Mexico's President http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/nsc-aide-fired-now-owes-us-account-trump-call-mexicos-president <!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.politico.com/story/2017/02/white-house-nsc-aide-craig-deare-dismissed-235175" target="_blank">Now is the winter of our discontent:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday....The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC's senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Earlier in the week, at a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, <strong>Deare harshly criticized the president and his chief strategist Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House,</strong> according to a source familiar with the situation.</p> <p>He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president &mdash; <strong>and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump's call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I can't fault Trump for firing Deare. Then again, I also can't fault Deare for going berserk. Sometimes a marriage just doesn't work.</p> <p>However, now that Deare is out of a job, perhaps he'd like to share his detailed and embarrassing readout of that Mexico conversation? My email address is below.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_02_17.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 19:44:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 326031 at http://www.motherjones.com Gossip of the Day: What's the Deal With KT McFarland? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/gossip-day-whats-deal-kt-mcfarland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's a weekend. How about some gossip?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">contact says, Just was told Trump told KT McFarland to pick her new boss. She named Bolton. see where this goes</p> &mdash; Laura Rozen (@lrozen) <a href="https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/832747056879919104">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">contact earlier said the personnel disagreement btw Adm. Harward &amp; Trump was centered on McFarland. KT is very close to the Trump family</p> &mdash; Laura Rozen (@lrozen) <a href="https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/832747764366864384">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Apparently David Petraeus has withdrawn his name for consideration over the same issue as Robert Harward. He wants control over NSC personnel, but Trump refuses to give up McFarland as deputy. Given the fact that McFarland hasn't held a government post in over 30 years and is wildly unqualified to be the #2 person on the National Security Council, there must be some strangely tight bond to account for Trump keeping her even though it's preventing him from appointing his preferred candidates to the #1 spot.</p> <p>OTOH, we also know that Trump doesn't like John Bolton's walrus mustache. Would he demand that Bolton shave it off as a requirement of the job?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 19:25:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 326026 at http://www.motherjones.com Arizona Suggests Forced Suicide For Death Row Inmates http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/arizona-suggests-forced-suicide-death-row-inmates <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's getting tougher and tougher to obtain the lethal cocktail used to execute prisoners <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/02/18/lethal-injection-drugs-are-scarce-arizona-wants-its-death-row-inmates-to-bring-their-own/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories_pn-lethalinjection-820am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.4127bc76aa6a" target="_blank">convicted of capital crimes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now Arizona has responded with a new &mdash; and some say bizarre &mdash; solution to this quandary: Death row inmates can bring their own execution drugs. The state&rsquo;s manual for execution procedures, which was revised last month, says attorneys of death row inmates, or others acting on their behalf, can obtain pentobarbital or sodium Pentothal and give them to the state to ensure a smooth execution.</p> </blockquote> <p>Note to conservatives: sometimes you just have to give up. Do you <em>really</em> care that much about killing lots of bad guys as opposed to letting them rot in prison for the rest of their lives? It might be time to let go and save your energy for other battles. This one is getting absurd.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:30:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326021 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Decrees That the Economy Must Grow Twice as Fast http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-decrees-economy-grow-twice-fast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Congressional Budget Office <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/presentation/51812-nabe-presentation.pdf" target="_blank">forecasts</a> that the labor force will grow 0.5 percent annually over the next ten years and productivity will grow 1.4 percent. That's total economic growth of 1.9 percent per year. But the Trumpists are forecasting 3.5 percent growth over the next decade. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they supercharge the economy, pulling everyone back into work and achieving labor force growth of 0.8 percent. They still need productivity growth of 2.7 percent. That's astronomically higher than anyone thinks possible. So how are Trump's economists justifying this?</p> <p>The answer is simplicity itself. <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-teams-growth-forecasts-far-rosier-than-those-of-cbo-private-economists-1487356278" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What&rsquo;s unusual about the administration&rsquo;s forecasts isn&rsquo;t just their relative optimism but also the process by which they were derived. Normally, the executive branch starts with a baseline forecast prepared by career staff of the CEA....Discussions for the Trump administration unfolded differently, <strong>with transition officials telling the CEA staff the growth targets that their budget would produce and asking them to backfill other estimates off those figures.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So...they're doing it by just <em>telling</em> their economists what growth will be. That's an interesting approach. But what's the point of this? Here's a pair of growth forecasts&mdash;one for 2 percent and one for 4 percent&mdash;that should illustrate things:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_effect_growth_taxes_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>If you assume higher growth, you can cut taxes and still get more revenue. Alternatively, you can spend more on the military or a border wall without increasing the deficit. Or a combination of both.</p> <p>In other words, it's magic fairy dust. Sprinkle it around and you can do anything you want. Problems only arise if a bunch of snooty Ivy League economists insist that you're delusional, which explains why Trump hasn't bothered to hire anyone for his Council of Economic Advisors. They would just tell him stuff he doesn't want to hear. It also explains why Paul Ryan isn't playing this game too: his budget is vetted by the CBO, which has no intention of aiding and abetting fantasyland figures like these.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_productivity_growth_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>It's hard to know what the point of this is. Most likely, Trump said on the campaign trail that he'd grow the economy at 4 percent, and by God he's going to stick with that. (Remember: 3.5 rounds up to 4, so his campaign promise is safe.) Besides, Trump probably really believes that he can get the economy growing that fast through the sheer force of his personality.</p> <p>The real shock here isn't Trump&mdash;we already know <em>he's</em> divorced from reality&mdash;but the rest of his staff. Is there really not a single person in the White House who has both the gumption and the standing to tell Trump that the president can't peddle this kind of drivel in an official document? Is there no one who can tell him that Twitter is one thing, but the Budget of the United States of America is another?</p> <p>I guess not.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The original illustration of 2 percent vs. 4 percent growth used figures for nine years of growth instead of ten. It's been corrected.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 04:39:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 326001 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Edits a Tweet http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/donald-trump-edits-tweet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>At 4:32 pm, President Trump put up this tweet:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tweet_enemy_people_original.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>It was quickly deleted and 16 minutes later it was replaced with this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tweet_enemy_people_revised_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>Fascinating! Here are the edits Trump made:</p> <ol><li>Changed "and many more" to the more specific @ABC and @CBS.</li> <li>Eliminated the ugly extra spaces after the parentheses.</li> <li>Capitalized the P in "people."</li> <li>Removed "SICK!"</li> </ol><p>What can this mean? Did someone tell Trump that his tweet sounded like something Hitler might have written and he should probably revise it? No one has ever told him this before, so it seems unlikely this time too. Presumably he made these changes all on his own. Let's do a little Kremlinology here:</p> <ol><li>It's obvious that Trump's <em>real</em> enemies are CNN, NBC, and the <em>Times</em>. Then, later, he tossed in CBS and ABC. Was this to cover his tracks? Nah. He doesn't care what us overeducated elitists think. More likely it's because he decided his fans<sup>1</sup> wouldn't automatically fill in ABC and CBS, so he needed to be more explicit about it. After all, he wants his fans to distrust <em>all</em> the media they consume except for Fox, so it makes sense to be very clear about this.</li> <li>Eliminating the spaces is either because Trump has a love of neatness we've never seen before, or because they pushed his tweet over 140 characters. However, the tweet is only 123 characters long, so I guess it must have been a purely esthetic bit of editing.</li> <li>Hmmm. <em>American people</em> vs. <em>American People</em>. That's a tough one. The latter is more Germanic, which might have appealed to him. In English, though, it's also less literate. That might have appealed to him too. Or, maybe Trump just capitalizes stuff randomly and there's nothing to this.</li> <li>This is the real chin scratcher. Did he think that <em>SICK!</em> was going too far? I can't imagine why. And the one-word adjective at the end is standard Trump Twitter grammar. We do know that Trump is a germaphobe, so maybe he doesn't even like typing the word. However, a quick search shows that he's called several people sick in the past year (Karl Rove, Megyn Kelly, failing <em>New York Times</em>). So what is it? WHY DID DONALD TRUMP REMOVE THE WORD "SICK" FROM THIS TWEET???</li> </ol><p>Oh, and by the way, calling the press an enemy of the people really is pretty Hitleresque. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that an awful lot of Trump's supporters might not consider that such a bad thing.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>As always, remember that his supporters are the audience for his tweets, not you or me.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 23:30:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 325996 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 17 February 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/friday-cat-blogging-17-february-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>We have exciting news this week: Yale University has decided to <a href="http://news.yale.edu/2017/02/11/yale-change-calhoun-college-s-name-honor-grace-murray-hopper-0" target="_blank">rename one of its colleges after Hopper.</a> It's a well-deserved honor for her contributions to this blog, and she will be replacing the odious John Calhoun, who spent the second half of his life defending states rights and slavery in uncompromising terms.</p> <p>You will note, by the way, that Yale plans to keep up a pretense in public that Hopper College is actually named after an admiral who earned degrees from Yale in the 30s and went on to do some kind of computer stuff. But we all know better, don't we?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2017_02_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:02:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 325986 at http://www.motherjones.com Violent Crime Peaked In Britain in 2006 Because.... http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/violent-crime-peaked-britain-2006-because <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I missed this when it was first written&mdash;probably because it was only a week after Donald Trump won the election&mdash;but Robert Waldmann decided to <a href="http://rjwaldmann.blogspot.com/2016/11/marking-my-beliefs-to-market_16.html" target="_blank">check out a few of his predictions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In April 2008, I predicted that the UK violent crime rate would peak <a href="http://rjwaldmann.blogspot.it/2008/04/get-lead-out-in-freakiest-bit-of.html" target="_blank">some time around 2008.</a> I just googled and found that it peaked in around 2006 or 2007.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the chart, courtesy of the Institute for Economics and Peace:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iep_crime_britain.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Note two things here. First, Britain's violent crime rate peaked about 15 years after it did in the US. Second, it dropped a lot faster than it did in the US. Why?</p> <p>Because, first, Britain adopted unleaded gasoline <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/crime-down-britain-its-not-surprise" target="_blank">about 13 years after the US</a> (1988 vs. 1975). And second, because it phased out leaded gasoline a lot faster than the US. Within four years Britain had cut lead emissions by two-thirds, which means there was a very sharp break between infants born in high-lead and low-lead environments. Likewise, this means there was a sharp break between 18-year-olds with and without brain damage. In 2006, nearly all 18-year-olds had grown up with lead poisoned brains. By 2010, that had dropped substantially, which accounts for the stunning 40 percent drop in violent crime in such a short time.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>This is one of the reasons the lead-crime hypothesis is so persuasive. Not only does recorded crime fit the predictions of the theory&mdash;both in timing and slope&mdash;but it does so in many different countries. What other theory would predict a gradual drop in violent crime between 1991-2010 in the US and a sharp decline in violent crime between 2006-10 in Britain? Especially considering that the US and Britain have entirely different policing, poverty rates, race issues, etc.?</p> <p>Anyway, I might as well take this opportunity to repeat my prediction that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/prediction-terrorism-middle-east-will-decline-half-between-2020-and-2040" target="_blank">terrorism in the Middle East will begin to decline between 2020-30.</a> You heard it here first.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>And it continued dropping for several years after that. There was a big increase last year, but it was almost entirely driven by changes in measurement, not changes in the actual crime rate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:51:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 325981 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Have No Good Options for Funding Their Obamacare Replacement http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/republicans-have-no-good-options-funding-their-obamacare-replacement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff reports on one way Republicans are thinking about <a href="http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/2/17/14642124/obamacare-health-tax-exclusion" target="_blank">paying for their Obamacare replacement:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republican legislators need a way to pay for their eventual Obamacare replacement plan. One leading contender is capping the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, which shows up in multiple replacement plans as well as recent interviews with legislators. <strong>It&rsquo;s going to be a huge fight.</strong></p> <p>Right now, companies and their workers pay no taxes on health benefits. This means the federal government misses out on a lot of potential revenue &mdash; $260 billion in 2013, according to Congressional Budget Office data.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is not just a huge fight, it's probably an unwinnable fight. As Kliff points out, Obamacare's Cadillac tax is a cousin of this proposal&mdash;it levies a fine on <em>extremely expensive</em> plans <em>sometime in the future</em>&mdash;and even at that it's already been delayed from 2018 to 2020 and most likely will never be allowed to take effect.</p> <p>By contrast, the Republican plan would have to affect far more plans and it would have to affect them right away. If it doesn't, it won't raise any money. For example, here's a <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/113th-congress-2013-2014/reports/44906-HealthOptions.pdf" target="_blank">CBO estimate</a> of revenue from a plan that taxes about half of the value of employer-based health plans:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_revenue_health_tax_exclusion.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>That's a fair amount of revenue, but CBO also estimates that it would lead to about 6 million people losing their employer plans by Year 5. And even among the workers who didn't lose their coverage, they'd probably get hit with reduced benefits or increased deductibles.</p> <p>Do you remember the fuss over "if you like your health plan, you can keep it"? That promise was actually true for <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/dec/12/lie-year-if-you-like-your-health-care-plan-keep-it/" target="_blank">all but about two percent of the insured population,</a> but that two percent caused massive conservative outrage anyway. A Republican plan that affected 50 percent of the insured population would cause heads to explode. So naturally they'd try to phase it in, or back load it, or delay it for a few years, or something&mdash;<em>anything</em>&mdash;to keep it from biting too hard at first. But the more they do this, the less money it will raise. If you limit it to, say, the top ten percent and phase it in over five years, it would probably raise $10-15 billion in Year 10. That's hardly worth it.</p> <p>Bottom line: if Republicans do this in a serious way, it will raise money but the entire country will go ballistic. If they try to play games, it <em>might</em> keep the outrage tamped down, but it won't raise enough money to be worth it. Economically it might be a good idea, but politically, I just don't see how they can pull this off.</p> <p>Of course, they could raise the same amount of money just by levying a small tax on rich people. Obviously that's out of the question though.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:40:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 325971 at http://www.motherjones.com AP: Trump Considering Using National Guard for Immigration Raids http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/ap-trump-considering-using-national-guard-immigration-raids <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://apnews.com/5508111d59554a33be8001bdac4ef830" target="_blank">From the AP:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is considering a proposal to <strong>mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants,</strong> including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.</p> <p>The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana....Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, <strong>according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly,</strong> a retired four-star Marine general.</p> <p>....<strong>Requests to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment and a status report on the proposal were not answered.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The White House may not have commented when the AP called them, but now that the story has been published they're suddenly outraged:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is not true. DHS also confirms it is 100% false <a href="https://t.co/MFIJci7XaU">https://t.co/MFIJci7XaU</a></p> &mdash; Sean Spicer (@PressSec) <a href="https://twitter.com/PressSec/status/832616382667726851">February 17, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Hmmm. This <em>is</em> not true. But has it <em>ever</em> been true? Perhaps we wouldn't need to parse the verb tense so closely if it were any other press secretary, but I think we should with Sean Spicer. And if it's not true, what's up with the memo? Is it a forgery? Was it written by one of those scurrilous "Obama holdovers" who infest the federal government and are trying to make Trump look bad at every turn? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:01:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 325966 at http://www.motherjones.com Evening Roundup and Dead Pool Update - 16 February 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/evening-roundup-16-february-2017 <!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> explains why President Trump decided to <a href="https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/donald-trump-media.html" target="_blank">hold a press conference today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For days, a frustrated and simmering president fumed inside the West Wing residence about what aides said he saw as his staff&rsquo;s inadequate defense and the ineffectiveness of his own tweets....&ldquo;<strong>I turn on the T.V., open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos,</strong>&rdquo; Mr. Trump said as he attempted &mdash; with little discipline &mdash; to read from prepared remarks listing his accomplishments since being inaugurated one month ago. &ldquo;Chaos. <strong>Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.</strong>&rdquo;</p> <p>....It all made the brooding boss feel better, people close to Mr. Trump said. The news conference, they said, was Mr. Trump&rsquo;s best effort at spitting the bit out of his mouth and escaping the bridle of the West Wing, where he views his only way to communicate his side of any argument is his 140-character limited Twitter feed.</p> </blockquote> <p>The weird thing is that I suspect Trump believes this. Within his little bubble, everything really does seem to be running smoothly. He signs executive orders, holds "listening sessions," meets with foreign leaders, and issues directives to his staff. He's doing what he imagines a president should do, and figures that should produce presidential results. If the press says otherwise, then that's prima facie evidence that the press is dishonest and has it out for him.</p> <p>In other news, a judge has ordered EPA nominee Scott Pruitt to release thousands of emails he exchanged with fossil fuel interests while he was attorney general of Oklahoma. But he has until Tuesday to release them, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/scott-pruitt-emails-fossil-fuel-interests-235115" target="_blank">and Pruitt's confirmation vote is Friday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Senate Democrats have latched onto the court case in a last-ditch attempt to delay Friday afternoon&rsquo;s expected vote. &ldquo;Sometime &mdash; a week from now, maybe days from now &mdash; my fear is that a number of members, especially on the other side, will have been put in a very bad position and asked to vote for a nominee that they otherwise may not have supported had they known,&rdquo; Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said on Thursday.</p> </blockquote> <p>On the immigration front, it turns out that Trump is getting cold feet about ending DACA, the Obama program that protects illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children. He thinks of himself as a guy with a heart, and hates the idea of doing something that will make him look callous. His staff, however, has no such qualms. The <em>LA Times</em> reports that they've come up with a couple of ways to <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-daca-20170216-story.html" target="_blank">end DACA without Trump himself doing anything:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump aides [are considering] new legal guidance that details who is a priority for deportation. If the Justice Department determines that DACA is not legal or is no longer a responsible use of prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security would be instructed to stop awarding and renewing work permits.</p> <p>Another possible path involves the courts. A handful of governors are considering a challenge patterned on the 2014 lawsuit filed by several conservative state officials against the Obama administration&rsquo;s expansion of deportation protections. If they sue, Sessions could instruct his lawyers not to defend the program in court, exposing it to indefinite suspension by a federal judge.</p> </blockquote> <p>With Trump, the buck always stops somewhere else. Finally, yet more people are <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/shermichael-singleton-housing-urban-development.html" target="_blank">leaving the Trump administration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Shermichael Singleton, who was one of the few black conservatives in the Trump administration, had been working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development....Mr. Trump&rsquo;s advisers turned up public writings by Mr. Singleton that appeared during the later stages of the campaign in which he was deeply critical of the candidate.</p> </blockquote> <p>Can't have that! <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/donald-trump-administration/2017/02/white-house-failed-background-checks-dismissals-235112" target="_blank">Plus this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Several White House staffers were dismissed Thursday morning after failing FBI background checks, according to sources familiar with the matter. Some of the aides were "walked out of the building by security" on Wednesday after not passing the SF86, a Questionnaire for National Security Positions for security clearance.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently six people failed their background checks. This kind of stuff happens, but six? That's pretty remarkable. I've updated the Dead Pool below.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_02_16.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 06:19:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 325956 at http://www.motherjones.com K.T. McFarland Is Too Much to Swallow, So Robert Harward Turns Down NSA Position http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/kt-mcfarland-too-much-swallow-so-robert-harward-turns-down-nsa-position <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>After Michael Flynn resigned/was fired as National Security Advisor, everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the top prospect to replace him turned out to be Retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward. He's well respected by both Democrats and Republicans and would have brought some needed experience and sobriety to the White House.</p> <p>Unfortunately, Harward turned down the job. It all hinged on whether he would be allowed to choose his own team. <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/robert-harward-turns-down-national-security-adviser-job/" target="_blank">Here is CBS News:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Two sources close to the situation confirm <strong>Harward demanded his own team, and the White House resisted.</strong> Specifically, Mr. Trump told Deputy National Security Adviser <strong>K. T. McFarland</strong> that she could retain her post, even after the ouster of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Harward refused to keep McFarland as his deputy, and after a day of negotiations over this and other staffing matters, Harward declined to serve as Flynn&rsquo;s replacement.</p> </blockquote> <p>McFarland hasn't held a government position for over 30 years, but she <em>has</em> appeared regularly on Fox News as a standard-issue hardline pundit for the past decade. In Trump's eyes, this qualifies her to be the #2 person on the National Security Council. Apparently Harward didn't agree. <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/robert-harward-national-security-adviser-trump-balks-235120" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em> has more:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to an individual familiar with Harward's thinking, [Harward] turned down the Trump offer because he did not receive sufficient assurances about staffing and autonomy. Specifically, the source said<strong> Harward wanted commitments that the National Security Council would be fully in charge of security matters, not Trump's political advisers.</strong> And he wanted to be able to select his own staff.</p> <p>Trump's decision last month to place his top strategist and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon on the National Security Council was roundly criticized as a departure from tradition, and previous administrations have tried to keep the NSC as divorced from politics as possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, Harward is a serious guy who wanted the National Security Council to be staffed with national security experts, not Fox News hacks and political operators. That was too much for the Trump team, so Harward pulled out, reportedly <a href="https://twitter.com/jaketapper/status/832384718624665600" target="_blank">calling</a> the offer a "shit sandwich."</p> <p>That's all bad enough, but it raises another question: now that this is all public knowledge, will anyone serious be willing to take this position? How could they?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 05:02:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 325951 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Outline Plan to Eliminate Health Care for Millions http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/republicans-outline-plan-eliminate-health-care-millions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Ryan outlined the latest Republican replacement for Obamacare today. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/affordable-care-act-congress.html" target="_blank">Here's the nickel summary from the <em>New York Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Republican plan includes tax credits to help people buy insurance and new incentives for consumers to establish savings accounts to pay medical expenses. The tax credits would increase with a person&rsquo;s age, but &mdash; unlike the assistance provided under the Affordable Care Act &mdash; would not vary with the amount of a person&rsquo;s income.</p> <p>....But the outline <strong>did not say how the legislation would be paid for,</strong> essentially laying out the benefits without the more controversial costs. It also <strong>included no estimates of the number of people who would gain insurance through the plan,</strong> nor did it include comparisons to the Affordable Care Act, which covers about 20 million people.</p> </blockquote> <p>The GOP outline is <a href="https://gallery.mailchimp.com/301a28247b80ab82279e92afb/files/5c7c3226-a149-4842-ab43-707b7b4720fc/Healthcare_Policy_Brief.pdf" target="_blank">here,</a> but you might as well save yourself the trouble of clicking the link. There are no real details there either. They don't say how big their tax credit is, but they hint that it will be laughably small, especially for older workers. They do say they're going to repeal all Obamacare taxes and get rid of the individual mandate. They promise to switch Medicaid to either a fixed allotment or a block grant; repeal the Obamacare expansion; and put the whole program "on a budget." The Medicaid allotment would grow by "an inflationary index"&mdash;but they don't say which one. The plan introduces support for "catastrophic" coverage, which would (maybe) provide plans that are technically cheap enough to be affordable with the tax credit, but which are essentially useless for providing normal health care.</p> <p>And as long as we're on the subject of health care, the Trump administration issued some proposed new Obamacare regs yesterday. In a nutshell, they plan to shrink the new enrollment period from 90 day to 45 days and make a technical change that would reduce subsidies for a family by about $300 per year. However, this might not matter since they seem to be doing their best to create so much chaos that no insurer is going to stay in the market anyway. If you want more details, <a href="http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/2/15/14625014/obamacare-trump-regulation-marketplaces" target="_blank">Sarah Kliff has 'em.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 03:11:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 325946 at http://www.motherjones.com Here Are Your Highlights of Today's Trump Press Meltdown http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/here-are-your-highlights-todays-trump-press-meltdown <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Donald Trump went full Sarah Palin today at his <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/donald-trump-press-conference-transcript.html" target="_blank">press conference.</a> It was glorious. I think you have to watch it to really get the full effect, but here are a few highlights.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="344" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWhiteHouse%2Fvideos%2F1225328447554886%2F&amp;width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=265569630491558&amp;height=344" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>First off, the word of the day is <em>mess</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess&hellip;I just want to let you know, I inherited a mess&hellip;ISIS has spread like cancer&mdash;another mess I inherited&hellip;And you look at Schumer and the mess that he's got over there and they have nothing going.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Delusional.</strong> Trump inherited an economy in pretty good shape. Crime has steadily decreased over the past decade. ISIS is losing ground and close to defeat. Illegal immigration has been stable for many years. Test scores for schoolkids are up. Fewer than a dozen American soldiers have died in combat in the past year. Obamacare has cut the number of people without health insurance almost in half. The budget deficit is down to 3 percent of GDP. After years of stagnation, wages are finally starting to go up. Unemployment and inflation are both low.</p> <blockquote> <p>I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes&hellip;270 which you need, that was laughable. We got 306 because people came out and voted like they've never seen before so that's the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Also delusionial.</strong> He got 304 electoral votes, and Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama all did better.</p> <blockquote> <p>We've begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare&hellip;I know you can say, oh, Obamacare. I mean, they fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they are not the Republican people our representatives are representing.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Plausible!</strong> Trump and the Republicans in Congress probably do think they represent only Republicans.</p> <blockquote> <p>The leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them, I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said, you saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Huh?</strong></p> <blockquote> <p><em>If the information coming from those leaks is real, then how can the stories be fake?</em></p> <p>The reporting is fake. Look, look&hellip;You know what it is? Here's the thing. The public isn't&mdash;you know, they read newspapers, they see television, they watch. They don't know if it's true or false because they're not involved. I'm involved. I've been involved with this stuff all my life. But I'm involved. So I know when you're telling the truth or when you're not. I just see many, many untruthful things.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: True.</strong> Trump almost certainly does see many, many untruthful things.</p> <blockquote> <p>I mean, I watch CNN, it's so much anger and hatred and just the hatred. <em>I don't watch it any more</em>&hellip;Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o'clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit&hellip;<em>Now, I will say this. I watch it.</em> I see it. I'm amazed by it.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Schr&ouml;dinger's cat.</strong> Trump both watches and doesn't watch CNN.</p> <blockquote> <p>We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons, like lots of things, are done with uranium, including some bad things.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Half true.</strong> No, Hillary Clinton didn't give Russia any uranium. (She was one of many who approved a deal for the Russian atomic energy agency to buy a Canadian company that controls 20 percent of the US uranium reserves. But none of it can exported outside the United States.) However, it <em>is</em> true that bad things can be done with uranium.</p> <blockquote> <p>QUESTION: Let's talk about some serious issues that have come up in the last week that you have had to deal with as president of the United States. You mentioned the vessel&mdash;the spy vessel off the coast of the United States.</p> <p>TRUMP: Not good.</p> <p>QUESTION: There was a ballistic missile test that many interpret as a violation of an agreement between the two countries; and a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer.</p> <p>TRUMP: Not good.</p> <p>&hellip;QUESTION: So when you say they're not good, do you mean that they are...</p> <p>TRUMP: Who did I say is not good?</p> <p>QUESTION: No, I read off the three things that have recently happened. Each one of them you said they're not good.</p> <p>TRUMP: No, it's not good, but they happened.</p> <p>QUESTION: But do they damage the relationship? Do they undermine...</p> <p>TRUMP: They all happened recently.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: True.</strong> These are all things that happened recently.</p> <blockquote> <p>JAKE TURX, A REPORTER FOR A SMALL ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWISH PUBLICATION: Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven't seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their <em>zaidy</em>. However, what we are concerned about, and what we haven't really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it... There has been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people who are committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to&hellip;</p> <p>TRUMP: He said he was gonna ask a very simple, easy question. And it's not, its not, not&mdash;not a simple question, not a fair question. OK sit down, I understand the rest of your question.</p> <p>So here's the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person&hellip;See, he lied about&mdash;he was gonna get up and ask a very straight, simple question, so you know, welcome to the world of the media. But let me just tell you something, that I hate the charge, I find it repulsive.</p> <p>I hate even the question because people that know me and you heard the prime minister, you heard Ben Netanyahu yesterday, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, I've known Donald Trump for a long time and then he said, forget it. So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>Fact-check: Incoherent.</strong> Turx explicitly tried to assure Trump that nobody thought he was anti-Semitic, but Trump's skin is so thin that he immediately decided Turx was calling him a racist and an anti-Semite. I wonder why?</p> <p>By the way, the entire point of this press conference seemed to be directed at one thing: accusing the press of being horrible and dishonest. This came up in nearly every Trump answer. This is a great strategy for shoring up his base, of course. As near as I can tell, conservatives all thought this dumpster fire of a press conference was a terrific performance.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Feb 2017 23:59:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 325941 at http://www.motherjones.com My Job Just Got a Lot Easier http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/my-job-just-got-lot-easier <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump held a remarkable press conference today&mdash;about which more later&mdash;but first I have to thank him. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jL3yF9wYR3U" target="_blank">Here's an exchange with NBC's Peter Alexander:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>ALEXANDER: You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan, 304, 306 electoral votes. But President Obama had 365....</p> <p>TRUMP: Well, I'm talking about Republicans.</p> <p>ALEXANDER: George H.W. Bush, 426 when he won as president. So why should Americans trust you?</p> <p>TRUMP: Well no, I was given that information. I don't know, I was just given&mdash;we had a very, very big margin.</p> <p>ALEXANDER: I guess my question is why Americans should trust you when you use information...</p> <p>TRUMP: <strong>Well, I don't know, I was given that information. I was given&mdash;I actually, I've seen that information around.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is great! I mean, I write for a magazine, and let's face it: fact checking is a pain. I know my fellow writers will back me up here. I suppose it's good for readers, who want accurate information, but it's a huge time sink for us content creators. Next time, my conversation will go like this:</p> <blockquote> <p>FACT CHECKER: You say in your article that hippos are the largest mammals. Are you sure?</p> <p>ME: I don't know, I was given that information. They're really big.</p> <p>FACT CHECKER: And mice are the smallest?</p> <p>ME: I've seen that information around.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is going to make my job a <em>lot</em> easier. Thanks, Mr. President!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Feb 2017 20:16:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 325921 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Is Not Doing Well In the Polls http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-not-doing-well-polls <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Pew offers up the <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2017/02/16/1-early-public-attitudes-about-donald-trump/" target="_blank">following comparison today:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_trump_disapproval_february_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Well, at least Trump is #1 at something. In related news, I was looking at Pollster yesterday and found something odd. I've mentioned before that although Trump's disapproval rating has gone up since Inauguration Day, so has his approval rating. But it turns out that if you look only at live phone polls&mdash;generally considered the highest quality polls&mdash;his approval rating has <a href="http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/trump-job-approval/edit#!minpct=30&amp;maxpct=65&amp;mindate=2000-01-01&amp;maxdate=2017-02-16&amp;smoothing=moderate&amp;showpoints=yes&amp;showsplines=yes&amp;hiddenpollsters=ppp-d,rasmussen,ipsos-reuters,politico-morning-consult,surveymonkey,yougov-economist,zogby&amp;hiddensubpops=A%20-%20D,A%20-%20R,A%20-%20i,RV%20-%20D,RV%20-%20R,RV%20-%20i&amp;partisanship=S,P,N&amp;parties=D,R,I,N&amp;selected=approve,disapprove&amp;fudge=1" target="_blank">actually plummeted by six points:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_trump_approval_live_phone_2017_02_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #cfcfcf; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I know that there are differences between phone, IVR, and Internet polls, and IVR polls are generally considered pretty high quality these days. But the IVR/Internet polls show Trump's approval up four points, while the live phone polls show his approval down six points. That's a net ten point difference, which is huge.</p> <p>It's early days, and maybe it's just a matter of small sample sizes or something. But I wonder what's really going on with Trump's approval rating?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Feb 2017 19:22:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 325911 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The S&P 500 Since the End of the Great Recession http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/chart-day-sp-500-end-great-recession <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Since President Trump is bragging yet again about the stock market, here's your periodic reminder of what it really looks like:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sp500_2010_february_2017.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Thanks Obama!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Feb 2017 17:17:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 325881 at http://www.motherjones.com Atheists Open Gap Against Muslims For Title of Most Hated Religious Group in America http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/atheists-no-longer-most-hated-religious-group-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Pew Research <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2017/02/15/americans-express-increasingly-warm-feelings-toward-religious-groups/?utm_content=buffer210e3&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer#views-of-religious-groups-vary-widely-by-religious-affiliation-partisanship" target="_blank">released some exciting news yesterday</a> about religious affiliation: among most age groups, I am no longer part of the most hated religion in America. In fact, among millennials, there are <em>four</em> religious groups more disliked than atheists. Woot! Overall, Muslims are now two points ahead of atheists for the title of most hated, compared to only one point three years ago.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Oldsters still dislike atheists even more than they fear Muslims, but it's a close call. Pretty soon, every age group in America will hate someone else more than they hate atheists. Thrilling, isn't it?</p> <p>On a more serious note, Pew also reports a rather astonishing increase in warmth toward <em>all</em> religious groups among Americans. Apparently we hate other people's religions a little less than we did in 2014. Progress.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Also, no one is trying to ban atheists from entering the country. The good news just keeps pouring in for us godless heathens.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_atheists_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Feb 2017 16:58:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 325876 at http://www.motherjones.com