Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/12/todays-dictionary http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en It's Spring Fundraising Time! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/its-spring-fundraising-time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Our annual Spring Fundraising Drive is wrapping up at the end of the month, but as you all know, I'll be recuperating from my final round of chemotherapy in lovely Duarte, California, right about then. But I didn't want to be left out, so I asked if I could post my note a little earlier than I usually do.</p> <p>I figure if there's ever been a time when I'm allowed to get slightly more maudlin than usual, this is it. (But just slightly. I have a reputation, after all.) I've been writing for <em>Mother Jones</em> since 2008, and it's been such a great job that it's almost getting hard to remember ever working for anyone else. They've provided me with more freedom <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_keep_calm_donate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">to write whatever I want than anyone could hope for. That's been great for me, and I hope for all of you too.</p> <p>Writing for the print magazine has been a huge gift as well, and it's something I dearly hope to return to when all the chemotherapy is over and my strength is back to normal. It's been a privilege to share pages with such an amazingly talented bunch of journalists.</p> <p>Truthfully, I've been blessed to have such a great editorial team over the past few months, as well as such a great readership. You guys are truly the best to go through something like this with.</p> <p>So here's the ask: <em>Mother Jones</em> has done a lot for me and a lot for you over the past few years, and when I get back they're going to keep right on doing it. That makes this fundraising request a little more personal than usual, but if there's ever been a time for you to show your appreciation, this is it. If you can afford five dollars, that's plenty. If you can afford a thousand, then pony up, because you're pretty lucky, aren't you? Either way, when I get back I sure hope to see that my readers have really stepped up to the plate.</p> <p>Readers like you are a big part of what makes <em>Mother Jones</em> such a unique place. Your support allows me to write about what&rsquo;s truly important, rather than obsessing over whatever generates the most clicks and advertising revenue. And it's not just me. It gives all of us the independence to write about issues that other places won't touch. It means that we ultimately answer to you, our readers, and not a corporate parent company or shareholders (and you've never been shy about letting us know what you think!).</p> <p>Thanks for helping make <em>Mother Jones</em> what it is, and for making the last seven years some of the best of my life. And thanks in advance for whatever you can give to keep both me and <em>Mother Jones</em> going strong. Here are the links for donations:</p> <p><a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z54KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Donate by credit card here.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=JVT34NP6NHQM2" target="_blank">Donate by PayPal here.</a></p> <p><strong>P.S.</strong> Share this post on Facebook! That will help it get more attention.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Apr 2015 17:22:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 273756 at http://www.motherjones.com Welfare Reform and the Decline of Work http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/welfare-reform-and-decline-work <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A recent paper suggests that over the past two decades there's been a decline in the desire of people outside the labor force to ever get jobs. <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/04/declining-desire-to-work-and-downward-trends-in-unemployment-and-participation.html" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We conjecture that two mechanisms could explain these results. First, the EITC expansion raised family income and reduced secondary earners's (typically women) incentives to work. Second, the strong work requirements introduced by the AFDC/TANF reform would have, through a kind of &ldquo;sink or swim&rdquo; experience, left the &ldquo;weaker&rdquo; welfare recipients without welfare and pushed them away from the labor force and possibly into disability insurance.</p> </blockquote> <p>This comes via Tyler Cowen, who attended an NBER session this morning conducted by the authors of this study. He came away thinking they probably hadn't made a strong case. Still, an interesting hypothesis that probably deserves followup.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:55:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 273901 at http://www.motherjones.com Are Republicans Finally Giving Up on Killing Obamacare? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/are-republicans-finally-giving-killing-obamacare <!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_obamacare_gallup_republicans.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Let me say right up front that I'm skeptical of the following report. But then, maybe I'm blinded by partisanship. Who knows? In any case, <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/healthcare/la-na-obamacare-republicans-20150418-story.html#navtype=outfit" target="_blank">here is Noam Levey writing in the <em>LA Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>After five years and more than 50 votes in Congress, the Republican campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act is essentially over. </strong>GOP congressional leaders, unable to roll back the law while President Obama remains in office and unwilling to again threaten a government shutdown to pressure him, are focused on other issues, including trade and tax reform.</p> <p>Less noted, senior Republican lawmakers have quietly incorporated many of the law's key protections into their own proposals, including guaranteeing coverage and providing government assistance to help consumers purchase insurance.</p> <p>....At the same time, the presumed Republican presidential front-runner, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has shown little enthusiasm for a new healthcare fight. Last year, he even criticized the repeal effort....<strong>"Only 18% of Americans want to go back to the system we had before because they do not want to go back to some of the problems we had," Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster [said]...."Smart Republicans in this area get that," he added.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, maybe. Levey concedes that there will still be plenty of calls to repeal Obamacare during the 2016 presidential campaign, but he believes that in practice, Republicans will be unwilling to seriously gut a program that's now providing health coverage for 20 million Americans, a number that will only increase over the next two years.</p> <p>This is an argument I've made myself on multiple occasions, so I ought to be sympathetic to it. And I guess I am. On the other hand, I've been repeatedly astonished at the relentlessness of the GOP base's hatred of Obamacare. Over and over, I thought it would fade out. Maybe when the Supreme Court ruled it was constitutional. Maybe when Obama won in 2012. Maybe when the law finally took full effect in 2014. But like the Energizer bunny, their unholy enmity toward the law just kept going and going and going.</p> <p>So is Obamacare Derangement Syndrome finally burning itself out? I guess I'll believe it when I see it. But maybe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Health Care Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:44:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 273896 at http://www.motherjones.com No Wonder Teens Are Huffing Nicotine http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/teenagers-vaping-nicotine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You thought Big Tobacco was on the wane in the United States?</p> <p>(Insert cartoon villain voice:) "Mwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!"</p> <p>Not. Friggin'. Likely. In fact, the domestic tobacco industry is on the rebound thanks to its heavy investment in smoking "alternatives"&mdash;a.k.a. e-cigarettes, a.k.a. nicotine-delivery devices marketed in a <a href="http://www.v2cigs.com/ecigs/electronic-cigarette-flavors" target="_blank">variety of kid-friendly flavors</a>. (Marketing flavored tobacco cigarettes has been banned since 2009.)</p> <p>Kevin <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/vaping-among-teens-skyrockets-2014" target="_blank">had a post</a> on Thursday about the soaring numbers of kids who've tried e-cigs. On Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0825-e-cigarettes.html" target="_blank">announced the results</a> of a new CDC study in the journal <em>Nicotine and Tobacco Control</em>.</p> <p>From 2011 to 2013, the researchers reported, the number of middle- and high-school students using e-cigs tripled. In 2013, more than 250,000 kids who had never smoked tobacco reported using e-cigarettes, and 44 percent of those kids said they had "intentions" of trying regular cigarettes in the next year. (About 1 in 5 American adults currently smoke.) Not surprisingly, kids who had more exposure to tobacco advertising were more likely to say they intended to try smoking.</p> <p>You'll often hear vaping proponents argue that e-cigs help smokers kick the tobacco habit, thereby saving lives. And that may be true: Inhaling tobacco smoke, which still kills <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/resources/data/cigarette-smoking-in-united-states.html#nine" target="_blank">more than 480,000</a> Americans every year, is almost certainly more deadly than huffing nicotine vapors.</p> <p>The one group you won't hear the smoking cessation argument from is e-cig manufacturers. That, ironically, is because products intended to help people quit tobacco products are regulated far more strictly than the tobacco products themselves. The same goes for drug-delivery devices, which is why manufacturers fought very hard to make certain the FDA didn't put e-cigarettes in that category.</p> <p>Not that the agency didn't try. The FDA initially<a href="http://legacyforhealth.org/newsroom/press-releases/e-cigarette-or-drug-delivery-device" target="_blank"> sought</a> to regulate e-cigs as drug-delivery devices, for what else could they be? But the manufacturers promptly sued, and were handed a huge win. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/e-cigarettes-regulation-tobacco-warning-labels-menthol" target="_blank">Tobacco-friendly judges</a> bought the industry's argument that, under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, any product that contains nicotine derived from tobacco and makes no therapeutic claims must be regulated as a tobacco product&mdash;which makes it, presto, not a drug delivery device.</p> <p>Just think about how crazy this is: Nicotine is highly addictive. At low doses it's a stimulant, at higher doses a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/selling-a-poison-by-the-barrel-liquid-nicotine-for-e-cigarettes.html?_r=0" target="_blank">serious poison</a>. (The tobacco plant and other nightshades actually produce it as an insecticide, and it's sold for that use, too, with a <a href="http://beeblebeeble.com/blogs/2014/10/201410_Nicotine600x300.png" target="_blank">stringent warning label</a>.) If nicotine were marketed as medicine, you couldn't just buy it at the corner store in a dozen alluring flavors. Yet because the manufacturers make no medical claims, they can do what they want. Never mind that the 2009 law was written before e-cigarettes were widely marketed* in the United States.</p> <p>Ah, screw it. Just give me <a href="http://store.blucigs.com/pina-colada-cartridges" target="_blank">the Pi&ntilde;a Colada</a>.</p> <p>*<em>Corrections: E-cigs had been invented, but were not widely marketed in the United States or sold by tobacco companies. Also, nicotine does have medical uses, but not in this context. </em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Regulatory Affairs Tobacco Sat, 18 Apr 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Michael Mechanic 273891 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Catblogging - April 17 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/friday-catblogging-17-april-2015-picklejuice-frankie <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Friday catblogging is, of course, a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/03/friday-cat-blogging-special-10th-anniversary-edition" target="_blank">core tradition</a> around these parts. And as the blog welcomes new names and faces while Kevin&nbsp;concentrates on getting better, who said they all have be human? The door's always open for Hilbert and Hopper to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/bonus-friday-cat-blogging-17-april-2015" target="_blank">drop in</a>, but we're going to round out the feline mix with a smattering of cats who are blessed to have a <em>Mother Jones</em> staff member as their human companion.</p> <p>First up? The Oakland-based menagerie of creative director Ivylise Simones, who oversees all of <em>MoJo</em>'s lovely art and photography.</p> <p>On the right is seven-year-old Inspector Picklejuice, a shelter acquisition picked up by Ivylise when she was living in Brooklyn. On the left you'll find Frankie the Cat. This affectionate two-year-old also came from a shelter, joining the Simones household in 2014.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" src="https://vine.co/v/OtQXUgK62Pg/embed/simple" width="600"></iframe><script src="https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I'm told these two get along splendidly. Sure looks like it!</p> <p>If you recognize Picklejuice's handsome features, it may be from his widely acclaimed <a href="https://instagram.com/picklejuicethecat/" target="_blank">Instagram feed</a>, or perhaps from his star turn in our September/October 2014 issue: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/09/deep-learning-artificial-intelligence-facebook-nsa" target="_blank">click through</a> to see him&mdash;he's the looker playing in the box on the far right. (How'd he end up in a magazine illustration? I'll just say that it helps to have friends in the right places.)</p> <p>Here's another of the good Inspector, keeping a close eye on happenings from a favored perch high in the loft. It's an ideal spot to partake in two of his favorite hobbies: sleeping, and sitting around while awake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center><iframe frameborder="0" height="600" src="https://vine.co/v/OtxeBjvI0MT/embed/simple" width="600"></iframe><script src="https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It takes a good five foot vertical hop over open space to get up there. Impressive!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:30:08 +0000 Clint Hendler 273426 at http://www.motherjones.com Why the Euro Is a Selfish Jerk http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/euro-ingroup-bias <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is focused on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 through today to pitch in posts and keep the conversation going. Here's a contribution from </em><a href="https://twitter.com/keithnhumphreys">Keith Humphreys</a><em>, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University whose sharp insights on addiction, drug policy, and many other topics have helped make the </em><a href="http://www.samefacts.com/">Reality-Based Community</a><em> group blog a must read.</em></p> <p>The Euro is the Windows 8 of the economic policy design world: In both cases, it's very hard to understand how putatively smart people worked so hard to create a product so ill-suited to the needs of those who were supposed to rely on it. At this point, this isn't much of a secret: as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/12/whos-responsible-euromess">Kevin Drum</a> pointed out back in 2011, a common currency deprives markets and nations of tools that normally ameliorate the effects of capital flow imbalances, inflation spikes, and crushing debt payments. Kevin and other people who understand fiscal policy better than I ever will (e.g., <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/03/why-the-euro-is-doomed-in-4-steps/274470/">Matt O'Brien</a> and <a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/original-original-sin/?_r=0">Paul Krugman</a>) convinced me long ago that the Euro was designed with a lack of understanding of (or an unwillingness to grapple with) basic lessons of economics.&nbsp;</p> <p>But speaking as a psychologist, the common currency's fundamental design flaws don't end there: the Euro creators should have thought harder about what social scientists have learned about how compassion and cultural identity interact.</p> <p>In asking nations to entrust their economic fate to the Euro, its designers were assuming that Europeans have a reservoir of goodwill among them. That goodwill was supposed to ensure, for example, that no prospective member had to worry that a powerful member would use its Euro-derived leverage to turn the screws on a weaker member which was&mdash;to pick an example out of thin air&mdash;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/10/greeces-poor-are-back-to-where-they-were-in-1980/">wracked by colossal levels of debt, unemployment and economic misery</a>.</p> <p>But that's exactly what the Germans have done to the Greeks. Why aren't the Germans overcome with sympathy for the Greeks? It's not that Germans are selfish or hard-hearted: after all, they have spent ten times the current GDP of Greece <a href="http://fortune.com/2014/11/09/germany-east-west-economy/">helping the economically struggling people of the former East Germany</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-09886-001/">Social psychology researchers</a> have identified a powerful in group bias in willingness to help others, whether it's hiring someone for a job or supporting social welfare programs for the poor. Human beings are, in short, more inclined to help other people whom we perceive as being a member of our tribe.</p> <p>Human psychology wouldn't cause as many problems for the Euro if there was a strong European identity, if a West German was as likely to consider an East German a tribe member as they would a Greek or a Spaniard or an Italian. But when most Germans and Greeks look at each other, they fundamentally see someone who speaks a different language and hails from a different culture with a different history&mdash;and for that matter was a military enemy within living memory.</p> <p>With no shared sense of tribe comes a sharp reduction in compassion and attendant willingness to help.&nbsp; The elites who designed the Euro may genuinely have believed and even felt a sense that Europe is all about "us", but the currency's recent struggles show that for too many Europeans, it's more about us and them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:30:08 +0000 Keith Humphreys 273821 at http://www.motherjones.com Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 17 April 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/bonus-friday-cat-blogging-17-april-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>My sister has given me loads of catblogging photos to choose from, and this week I'm choosing this one. I understand that Hilbert contested Hopper's right to this spot for a bit, but Hopper defended herself and is now queen of the chair. She has quite the regal presence.</p> <p>In the meantime, padded coat hangers have been dragged downstairs, temporary window coverings have turned into cat toys, and someone is apparently pulling blue masking tape down from somewhere. On the brighter side, both cats have decided that jumping up on the couch and snoozing next to Karen while she reads or watches TV is really not a bad alternative to whoever those folks were who used to provide laps and cat food.</p> <p>I understand more cat blogging will be coming later. Keep your eyes peeled.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_04_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 273791 at http://www.motherjones.com Just How Racist Are Schoolteachers? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/teachers-racism-bias-stanford <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's no secret that black kids are more likely to be suspended from school than white kids&mdash;three times more likely, according to a 2012 <a href="http://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CMOCRTheTransformedCRDCFINAL3-15-12Accessible-1.pdf">report</a> from the Office of Civil Rights. And now a <a href="http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/08/0956797615570365.abstract" target="_blank">study</a> published this week in <em>Psychological Science</em> may shed some light on just how much of a role racial bias on the part of educators may play.</p> <p>Stanford psychology grad student Jason Okonofua and professor Jennifer Eberhardt designed a study where active K-12 teachers from across the country were presented with mocked-up disciplinary records showing a student who had misbehaved twice. Both infractions were relatively minor: one was for insubordination, the other for class disturbance. The records' substance never changed, but some bore stereotypically black names (Darnell or Deshawn) while others had stereotypically white names (Jake or Greg). Teachers answered a series of questions about how troubled they were by the infractions reflected in the documents, how severe the appropriate discipline should be, and the likelihood that the student was "a troublemaker."</p> <p>The teachers' responses after learning about the first infraction were about equal, regardless of the student's perceived race. But after hearing about the second infraction, a gap in discipline emerged: On a scale of one to seven, teachers rated the appropriate severity of discipline at just over five for students perceived to be black, compared to just over four for students perceived to be white. That may not seem like a big difference, but on one-to-seven scale, a single point is a 14 percent increase&mdash;well beyond what is typically accepted as statistically significant.</p> <p>A follow-up experiment of over 200 teachers took the questioning further, and found that teachers were more likely (though by smaller margins) to judge students perceived as black as engaging in a pattern of misbehavior, and were more likely to say they could "imagine themselves suspending the student at some point in the future."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-16%20at%203.57.25%20PM.png"><div class="caption">Okonofua and Eberhart, Association for Psychological Science</div> </div> <p>"Most school teachers likely work hard at treating their students equally and justly," says Okonofua. "And yet even amongst these well-intentioned and hard-working people, we find cultural stereotypes about black people are bending their perceptions towards less favorable interpretations of behavior."</p> <p>Many studies have looked at the subconscious racial prejudice of snap judgments&mdash;my former colleague, Chris Mooney, wrote an excellent <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/science-of-racism-prejudice" target="_blank">feature</a> on the subject last December. But according to the authors, this is the first study to look at the psychology behind the racial gap in school discipline. And, as Okonofua said, "The research shows that even if there's no race effect for an initial interaction, the stereotyping can play out over time. That's really important because in the real world, there are sustained relationships."</p> <p>And the research may have implications for other kinds of sustained relationships between two levels of authority: say a boss and an employee, a prison guard and a prisoner, or a judge and a repeat offender.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Race and Ethnicity Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:20:05 +0000 Julia Lurie 273831 at http://www.motherjones.com Vaping Among Teens Skyrockets in 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/vaping-among-teens-skyrockets-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_e_cigarette_use.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Is this chart on the right, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/04/16/high-school-middle-school-kids-now-use-more-e-cigs-than-tobacco-cdc/?hpid=z3" target="_blank">from the <em>Washington Post</em>,</a> good news or bad? On the one hand, teen cigarette use has plummeted from 16 percent to 9 percent over the past four years. On the other hand, the <em>total</em> rate of teen smoking&mdash;cigarettes plus e-cigarettes&mdash;has risen from 17 percent to 22 percent. The rise in e-cigarette use spiked especially sharply in 2014, more than tripling in a single year.</p> <p>I've heard pros and cons about e-cigarettes for the past couple of years, and I can't say I have a settled opinion about them. Taken in isolation, it's safe to say that no kind of nicotine delivery system is good for you. But traditional cigarettes are certainly more harmful than e-cigarettes, so to the extent that vaping replaces tobacco smoking, it's a net positive.</p> <p>But that huge spike in 2014 is cause for concern. At some point, teen vaping starts to look like a serious net negative even if it's accompanied by a small drop in traditional cigarette consumption. I'm still not sure what to think about this, but I'd say these latest figures from the CDC move my priors a bit in the direction of stronger regulation of e-cigarattes.</p> <p>And if you don't live in California and are wondering what the fuss is over my state's anti-vaping campaign, here's the ad that's been assaulting my TV for the past couple of months. It's paid for by revenue from good ol' Proposition 99, I assume.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/jaMgWUBPeHY" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 110px;" width="400"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:50:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 273826 at http://www.motherjones.com Corporate Lobbyists Outspend the Rest of us 34 to 1 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/corporate-lobbyists-outspend-rest-us-34-1 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Lee Drutman looks at the real problem with <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/04/16/what-we-get-wrong-about-lobbying-and-corruption/" target="_blank">lobbying in the American political system:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Looking at lobbying in the aggregate, what jumps out is the stark imbalance in resources. Corporations blow everyone else out of the water. <strong>Business accounts for roughly 80 percent of all reported lobbying expenditures, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_corporate_skyscraper_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 20px;">about $2.6 billion dollars a year now.</strong></p> <p>....<strong>Meanwhile, the types of organized interests who we might expect to provide a countervailing force to business &mdash; labor unions, groups representing diffuse public like consumers or taxpayers &mdash; spend $1 for every $34 businesses spend on lobbying, by my count.</strong> Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying annually, consistently 95 represent business. In interviewing 60 corporate lobbyists for my book <em>The Business of America is Lobbying</em>, I asked them to identify the leading opposition on an issue on which they were currently working. Not a single lobbyist volunteered a union or a &ldquo;public interest&rdquo; group.</p> <p>....This growing imbalance has had two major effects on the political system. First, it is increasingly difficult to challenge any existing policy that benefits politically active corporations....Second, the sheer amount of lobbying has created a policymaking environment that now requires significant resources to get anything done. <strong>Which means that, with increasingly rare exceptions, the only possible policy changes on economic policy issues are those changes that at least some large corporations support.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Lobbying is inevitable. You might even say that it's nothing more than politics in its purest form. But if that's true, American politics has become almost purely a game played by big corporations and their allies. The rest of us&mdash;which is to say, practically all of us&mdash;are left with nearly no say in what happens.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Corporations Dark Money Elections Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:55:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 273781 at http://www.motherjones.com Republican Judges Set to Rule on Republican Objection to New EPA Regs http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/republican-judges-set-rule-republican-objection-new-epa-regs <!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.latimes.com/nation/la-na-obama-climate-court-challenge-20150416-story.html" target="_blank">Things that make you go "hmmm":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Environmental attorneys say they are <strong>confident the court will reject the emergency appeal.</strong></p> <p>Nevertheless Thursday's hearing, <strong>before three Republican-appointed judges,</strong> marks the first of what promises to be a series of legal hurdles for climate-change rules.</p> </blockquote> <p>The subject is Obama's new rules mandating greenhouse gas reductions from power plants, which energy industry attorneys say is "double regulation" since the EPA already regulates other stuff at power plants. No, that doesn't make much sense to me either. Still, the two bolded phrases above might have been believeable together a few decades ago, but not so much now. If it's a Republican panel, I think there's at least a decent chance that we'll get a Republican ruling, regardless of whether it makes any legal sense.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Climate Change Energy Thu, 16 Apr 2015 16:13:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 273776 at http://www.motherjones.com Chris Christie's Social Security Proposal is Cruel and Callous http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/chris-christies-social-security-proposal-cruel-and-callous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So Chris Christie is going to campaign on the bold idea of <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/christie-proposing-overhaul-social-security-benefits-30303865" target="_blank">reducing Social Security benefits.</a> My guess is that Christie is going to learn that Social Security remains the third rail of American politics, and will get therefore get charred to a crisp before much longer. For this and many other reasons, we probably don't have to worry much about Christie.</p> <p>Still, it's worth looking at his proposal. It has two parts:</p> <ol><li>"I propose a modest means test that only affects those with non&ndash;Social Security income of over $80,000 per year, and phases out Social Security payments entirely for those that have $200,000 a year of other income."</li> </ol><p>Even a lot of us liberal types don't have a big objection to this. But there's a problem here: I don't have exact numbers in front of me, but I'd guess that perhaps 5 percent of retirees have outside incomes of $80,000 and maybe 1 percent have incomes over $200,000. A phaseout that affects such a small number of retirees would hardly save anything. At a guess, maybe it would reduce total payouts by 1-2 percent or so.</p> <p>But here's the second part of Christie's proposal:</p> <ol start="2"><li>"I&rsquo;m proposing we raise the age to 69, gradually implementing this change starting in 2022 and increasing the retirement age by two months each year until it reaches 69."</li> </ol><p>Ouch! <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/4/16/8422945/chris-christie-social-security" target="_blank">As Matt Yglesias points out,</a> life expectancy for the poor at age 65 has <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/05/raise-retirement-age-screw-poor" target="_blank">barely budged over the past three decades,</a> sitting stubbornly at about 15 years. A 2-year cut forces the poor to work longer <em>and</em> effectively slashes their lifetime Social <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_life_expectancy_top_bottom.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Security payout by nearly 15 percent. This is a huge reduction for anyone with a low income, and it's especially cruel since it would mostly target people who perform manual labor and have the hardest time working into their late 60s.</p> <p>I am part of a dwindling band of liberals who is willing to cut a deal on Social Security that would reduce future payouts in return for higher funding rates. Unfortunately, this was never going anywhere because conservatives weren't willing to deal on the funding side, and it's even deader today because liberals are increasingly demanding <em>increases</em> in Social Security, not cuts.</p> <p>But regardless of how you feel about all this, you should hate Christie's proposal. As I and others have pointed out repeatedly, raising the retirement age is the worst possible way of fixing Social Security's finances, doing its work primarily on the backs of low-income workers while making only token demands on the rich. It's a cruel and callous proposal and everyone should recognize it for what it is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Income Inequality Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:14:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 273771 at http://www.motherjones.com As Cities Raise Their Minimum Wage, Where's the Economic Collapse the Right Predicted? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/economic-collapse-prediction-minimum-wage-raise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/fight-for-15-masterWEB.gif"><div class="caption"><strong>The Fight for 15 protest in New York City </strong><a href="https://twitter.com/FastFoodForward/status/588329767851573248" target="_blank">Fast Food Forward</a></div> </div> <p>Fast-food cooks and cashiers demanding a $15 minimum wage walked off the job in 236 cities yesterday in what organizers called the largest mobilization of low-wage workers ever. The tax-day protest, known as Fight 4/15 (or #Fightfor15 on Twitter), caused some backlash on the Right:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>So, in demanding ridiculous wages for jobs that require no skill, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FightFor15?src=hash">#FightFor15</a> has ensured more people remain unemployed. Retards.</p> &mdash; Stevie J. West (@StevieJWest) <a href="https://twitter.com/StevieJWest/status/588392028444069889">April 15, 2015</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FightFor15?src=hash">#FightFor15</a> in which <a href="https://twitter.com/TheDemocrats">@TheDemocrats</a> talk poor people into going from unemployed to unemployable.</p> &mdash; Ben Crystal (@Bennettruth) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bennettruth/status/588388803917717505">April 15, </a></blockquote> <p>Conservatives have long portrayed minimum-wage increases as a harbingers of economic doom, but their fears simply haven't played out. San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Washington, DC, were among the first major cities to raise their minimum wages to substantially above state and national averages. The Center for Economic and Policy Research <a href="http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/min-wage-2011-03.pdf" target="_blank">found</a> that the increases had little effect on employment rates in traditionally low-wage sectors of their economies:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//mjdwcharts.s3.amazonaws.com/XBcIJ/2/index.html" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>Economists with the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California-Berkeley have <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/studies-look-at-what-happened-when-cities-raised-minimum-wage/" target="_blank">found similar results</a> in studies of the six other cities that have raised their minimum wages in the past decade, and in the 21 states with higher base pay than the federal minimum. Businesses, they found, absorbed the costs through lower job turnover, small price increases, and higher productivity.</p> <p>Obviously, there's a limit to how high you can raise the minimum wage without harming the economy, but evidence suggests we're nowhere close to that tipping point. The ratio between the United States' minimum wage and its median wage&nbsp;has been slipping for years&mdash;it's now <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119377/us-ratio-minimum-wage-median-low-international-standards" target="_blank">far lower</a> than in the rest of the developed world. Even after San Francisco increases its minimum wage to $15 next year, it will still amount to just 46 percent of the median wage, putting the city well within the normal historical range.</p> <p>The bigger threat to the economy may come from <em>not</em> raising the minimum wage. Even Wall Street analysts <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/income-inequality-damaging-economy-says-new-report" target="_blank">agree</a> that our ever-widening income inequality threatens to dampen economic growth. And according to a <a href="http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/the-high-public-cost-of-low-wages/" target="_blank">new study</a> by the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, it's the taxpayers who ultimately pick up the tab for low wages, because the federal government subsidizes the working poor through social-service programs to the tune of $153 billion a year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts Labor Top Stories #fightfor15 Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:45:48 +0000 Josh Harkinson 273746 at http://www.motherjones.com Even the World Bank Has to Worry About the Competition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/world-bank-competition-icij <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has just <a href="http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/worldbank-evicted-abandoned/worldbank-projects-leave-trail-misery-around-globe-kenya" target="_blank">published a deep look</a> into the World Bank's track record of ensuring that the projects it sponsors don't end up harming local communities.</p> <p>Since 2004, more than 3.4 million people have been economically or physically displaced by Bank projects, according to the report's analysis of the lender's data. And while the Bank has policies requiring it to reestablish and resettle such communities, the ICIJ's investigation found that they were falling short, operating under a troubling lack of safeguards, through bank officials too willing to ignore abuses committed by local partners, and with an institutional culture that values closing big deals over following up on human rights.</p> <p>After being presented with the ICIJ's findings, the bank quickly promised reforms. But <a href="http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/worldbank-evicted-abandoned" target="_blank">one part of the investigation</a> contains this interesting passage, which suggests an unexpected reason the Bank may not be able to clean up its act: competition has gotten too stiff.</p> <blockquote> <p class="mc">As it enters its eighth decade, the World Bank faces an identity crisis.</p> <p class="mc">It is no longer the only lender willing to venture into struggling nations and finance huge projects. It is being challenged by new competition from other development banks that don&rsquo;t have the same social standards&mdash;and are rapidly drawing support from the World Bank&rsquo;s traditional backers.</p> <p class="mc">China has launched a new development bank and persuaded Britain, Germany and other American allies to join, despite open U.S. opposition.</p> <p class="mc">These geopolitical shifts have fueled doubts about whether the World Bank still has the clout&mdash;or the desire&mdash;to impose strong protections for people living in the way of development.</p> <p class="mc">United Nations human rights officials have written World Bank President Kim to say they're concerned that the growing ability of borrowers to access other financing has spurred the bank to join a "race to the bottom" and push its standards for protecting people even lower.</p> </blockquote> <p>Today's package of stories, published with the <em>Huffington Post</em>, is the first installment of a series reported in 14 countries by over 50 journalists. More than 20 news organizations were involved in the effort.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Human Rights Thu, 16 Apr 2015 12:20:04 +0000 Clint Hendler 273761 at http://www.motherjones.com Health and Logistical Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/health-and-logistical-update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Howdy everyone. I'm back. But I'll bet you didn't even know I was gone.</p> <p>I spent most of the day up at City of Hope in Duarte getting a few final tests plus a final visit with my transplant physician before I go up next week for the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_city_hope_duarte.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">final stage of chemo. For those who are interested, here's my final and (hopefully) firm schedule.</p> <p>On Monday I go up to CoH and check in to the Village. This sounds like something from <em>The Prisoner</em>, but it's actually just a small collection of houses on the grounds of the campus. Unless something goes wrong that requires round-the-clock observation and care, this is where I'll be staying. It's obviously nicer and more convenient than being cooped up in a hospital room, and it comes complete with its own kitchen so I'm free to make my own meals if I want. (I can also order out from the hospital cafeteria if I don't feel like cooking my own stuff.)</p> <p>On Tuesday and Wednesday I go into the Day Hospital for an infusion of high-dose Melphalan, a powerful chemotherapy drug. This will kill off all my remaining cancerous bone marrow stem cells, and, along the way, kill off all my healthy stem cells too. So on Thursday they'll pump my own frozen stem cells back into me.</p> <p>And that's about it. Within a few days of all this I'll be laid low with fatigue, mouth sores, and loss of hair&mdash;and hopefully not much more, since that would require transfer to the hospital, which I'd sure like to avoid. For the two weeks after that, I'll take a wide variety of medications and check into the Day Hospital every morning for testing and whatever else they deem necessary (for example, IV fluids if I'm not drinking enough). The rest of the time I spend in my little house, waiting for my immune system to recover enough for me to be sent home.</p> <p>That will take me through the middle of May, at which point I should be in fairly reasonable shape. Full and complete recovery will take longer&mdash;possibly quite a bit longer&mdash;but that's unknowable at this point. I'll just have to wait and see.</p> <p>The next time you see me after this weekend I'll be bald as an egg, as any true cancer patient should be. Yes, there will be pictures. I wouldn't deprive you of that. Between now and then, wish me luck.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 16 Apr 2015 00:45:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 273751 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats in Oregon of All Places Just Torpedoed a Bill to Expand Abortion Rights http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/oregon-reproductive-rights-bill-democrats-abortion-conflict <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's how quickly the prospect of expanding abortion rights can kill a piece of legislation: In February, a group of state lawmakers introduced a bill that would require insurers to cover the full spectrum of women's reproductive services at an affordable price. Just two months later, the same lawmakers have killed the bill. The section calling for abortion coverage proved just too controversial.</p> <p>This didn't happen in the Rust Belt, or in a purple state where Democrats hold the statehouse by just a vote or two. It <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/04/15/oregon-democrats-kill-reproductive-health-bill-included-abortion-provision/" target="_blank">happened in Oregon</a>, where the Democrats control both chambers of the legislature by a supermajority and where the party has a lengthy history of going to the mat for abortion rights.</p> <p>Nina Liss-Schultz of <em>RH Reality Check </em>(and a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/authors/nina-liss-schultz" target="_blank"><em>MoJo </em>alum</a>) has <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/04/15/oregon-democrats-kill-reproductive-health-bill-included-abortion-provision/" target="_blank">the full story</a>. The tale is an illuminating one as progressives contemplate how to respond to the historic number of anti-abortion laws that have passed in the last five years.</p> <p>It's also an important dose of reality.</p> <p>Conservatives have enacted more abortion restrictions in the past few years than they have in <a href="http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2013/statetrends42013.html" target="_blank">the entire previous decade</a>. In January, though, several news reports circulated that made it seem as though a full-fledged progressive counter strike was already under way. The stories were based on <a href="http://nirhealth.org/documents/NIRHYIRFINAL010515.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> by the Guttmacher Institute and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, pro abortion-rights think tanks. They found that in 2014, dozens of lawmakers introduced dozens of bills&mdash;95, by Guttmacher's count&mdash;supporting women's reproductive rights, surpassing a record set in 1990. "A Record Number Of Lawmakers Are Starting To Fight For Reproductive Rights," one headline <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/01/06/3608279/reproductive-rights-proactive-policies/" target="_blank">announced</a>. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/12/8193651/abortion-rights-state-level" target="_blank">Another</a> read, "Inside the quiet, state-level push to expand abortion rights."</p> <p>It's certainly true that the tidal wave of new abortion restrictions has inspired a progressive backlash. But the suggestion that the two sides are evenly matched, or even approaching that point, is out of line with reality. Just four of those 95 measures were eventually passed into law. One of them was a Vermont bill to <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/3/12/8193651/abortion-rights-state-level" target="_blank">repeal the state's long-defunct abortion ban</a>, in case the makeup of the Supreme Court allowed the justices to overturn <em>Roe v. Wade</em>&mdash;a looming danger, but not the most pressing issue facing abortion rights.</p> <p>By contrast, last year alone conservative lawmakers <a href="http://www.guttmacher.org/media/inthenews/2015/01/05/" target="_blank">introduced</a> 335 bills targeting abortion access; 26 passed. And in two states that are overtly hostile to abortion rights&mdash;Texas and North Dakota&mdash;the legislature wasn't even in session. That's part of why you can <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/12/2015-abortion-bills-state-legislatures" target="_blank">expect this year's abortion battles to be even uglier</a>.</p> <p>But it's not just about sheer numbers. At the same time that progressive lawmakers were pushing forward-thinking laws, the 2014 midterms undermined their efforts. In states where there were serious efforts to expand reproductive rights&mdash;Colorado, Nevada, New York, and Washington&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/election-state-legislatures-abortion-reproductive-rights" target="_blank">Democratic losses on Election Day</a> have placed those plans on indefinite hold.</p> <p>Here's how things fell apart in Oregon, according to the <a href="https://www.thelundreport.org/content/democratic-leaders-spike-women%E2%80%99s-health-bill-over-abortion-issue" target="_blank"><em>Lund Report</em></a>, an Oregon-based health news website.</p> <blockquote> <p>[Democratic health committee chair Sen. Laurie] Monnes Anderson said the abortion language was so toxic that "leadership"&mdash;her caucus leaders&mdash;would not even allow her to have a public hearing on SB 894, let alone move it to the Senate floor. She said House Democratic leaders were also involved in the discussion over whether the bill could see the light of day.</p> </blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, in the time it took for Oregon to abandon this bill, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, and West Virginia passed <a href="http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/updates/2015newlaws.pdf" target="_blank">10 new abortion and reproductive rights </a>restrictions. What happened in Oregon shows just how much reproductive rights advocates are playing catch-up, even in states that appear friendly to their agenda.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Reproductive Rights Top Stories Wed, 15 Apr 2015 20:21:37 +0000 Molly Redden 273721 at http://www.motherjones.com Drum vs. Cowen: Three Laws http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/drum-vs-cowen-three-laws <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today Tyler Cowen published his version of <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/04/tyler-cowens-three-laws.html" target="_blank">Cowen's Three Laws:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>1. Cowen&rsquo;s First Law:</strong> There is something wrong with everything (by which I mean there are few decisive or knockdown articles or arguments, and furthermore until you have <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_three_laws.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">found the major flaws in an argument, you do not understand it)</p> <p><strong>2. Cowen&rsquo;s Second Law:</strong> There is a literature on everything.</p> <p><strong>3. Cowen&rsquo;s Third Law:</strong> All propositions about real interest rates are wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd phrase these somewhat differently:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>1. Drum's First Law:</strong> For any any problem complex enough to be interesting, there is evidence pointing in multiple directions. You will never find a case where literally every research result supports either liberal or conservative orthodoxy.</p> <p><strong>2. Drum's Second Law:</strong> There's literature on a lot of things, but with some surprising gaps. Furthermore, in many cases the literature is so contradictory and ambiguous as to be almost useless in practical terms.</p> <p><strong>3. Drum's Third Law:</strong> Really? Isn't there a correlation between real interest rates and future inflationary expectations? In general, don't low real interest rates make capital investment more likely by lowering hurdle rates? Or am I just being naive here?</p> </blockquote> <p>In any case, you can take your choice. Or mix and match!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:59:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 273691 at http://www.motherjones.com Senate's Iran Bill Probably Not a Bad Idea After All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/senates-iran-bill-probably-not-bad-idea-after-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Obama has said that he's willing to sign the latest Senate version of a bill that gives Congress a say in any nuclear deal with Iran. I'm glad to hear that because, oddly enough, I'm pretty much in favor of the current bill. <a href="http://feeds.washingtonpost.com/c/34656/f/636690/s/4564303f/sc/7/l/0L0Swashingtonpost0N0Cblogs0Cplum0Eline0Cwp0C20A150C0A40C140Cthe0Enew0Eiran0Ebill0Ebetter0Ebut0Estill0Erisky0C/story01.htm" target="_blank">Here's why:</a></p> <ul><li>Congress <em>should</em> be involved in major arms treaties, regardless of whether my preferred party happens to control Congress.</li> <li>The current bill requires Congress to vote on a final deal within 30 days. No one expects a treaty to get implemented any sooner than that anyway, so it's not much of a roadblock.</li> <li>If Congress disapproves the deal, the president can issue a veto. It would then take two-thirds of the Senate to override the veto and kill the treaty.</li> </ul><p>I don't see much of a downside to this. If Obama can't get even one-third of the Senate to go along with his Iran deal, then it probably doesn't deserve to be approved. And the threat of a suspicious and recalcitrant Congress going over the treaty language word by word might actually motivate Iran to agree to more straightforward language in the final document. It certainly shouldn't doom the negotiations or anything like that.</p> <p>A lot of this is political theater, and a lot of it is pure Israel-lobby muscle at work. Still, I suspect it does little harm and might even do a little good. And setting out the parameters of the Senate vote beforehand is probably all for the good. This isn't a bad bill.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Wed, 15 Apr 2015 14:44:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 273686 at http://www.motherjones.com Driving While Black Has Actually Gotten More Dangerous in the Last 15 Years http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/north-carolina-traffic-stops <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Walter Scott's death in South Carolina, at the hands of now-fired North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/walter-scott-traffic-stop-police-shootings" target="_blank">one of several</a> instances from the past year when a black man was killed after being pulled over while driving. No one knows <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/walter-scott-traffic-stop-police-shootings" target="_blank">exactly how often</a> traffic stops turn deadly, but studies in Arizona, Missouri, Texas, Washington have consistently shown that cops stop and search black drivers at a higher rate than white drivers. Last week, a team of researchers in North Carolina found that traffic stops in Charlotte, the state's largest city, showed a similar racial disparity&mdash;and that the gap has been widening over time.</p> <p>The researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill <a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/TrafficStops/Reports2014/Charlotte-Report.pdf" target="_blank">analyzed</a> more than 1.3 million traffic stops and searches by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers for a 12-year period beginning in 2002, when the state began requiring police to collect such statistics. In their analysis of the <a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/traffic.htm" target="_blank">data</a>, collected and made public by the state's Department of Justice, the researchers found that black drivers, despite making up less than one-third of the city's driving population, were twice as likely to be subject to traffic stops and searches as whites. Young black men in Charlotte were three times as likely to get pulled over and searched than the city-wide average. Here's a chart from the <em>Charlotte Observer</em>'s <a href="http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/crime/article18289739.html" target="_blank">report</a><strong> </strong>detailing the findings:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-14%20at%2010.00.43%20AM.png" style="width: 400px; height: 401px;"><div class="caption">Michael Gordon and David Puckett, <em>Charlotte Observer</em></div> </div> <p>Not only did the researchers identify these gaps: they showed that the gaps have been growing. Black drivers in Charlotte are more likely than whites to get pulled over and searched today than they were in 2002, the researchers found. They noted similar widening racial gaps among traffic stops and searches in <a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/TrafficStops/DrivingWhileBlack-BaumgartnerLoveEpp-August2014.pdf" target="_blank">Durham</a>, <a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/TrafficStops/Reports2014/Raleigh-2015.pdf" target="_blank">Raleigh</a>, and <a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/traffic.htm" target="_blank">elsewhere</a> in the state.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-14%20at%2012.43.40%20PM.png" style="height: 311px; width: 400px;"><div class="caption"><a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/TrafficStops/Reports2014/Charlotte-Report.pdf" target="_blank">Frank Baumgartner, Derek Epp, and Kelsey Shoub</a></div> </div> <p>Black drivers in Charlotte were much more likely to get stopped for minor violations involving seat belts, vehicle registration, and equipment, where, as the <em>Observer</em>'s Michael Gordon <a href="http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/crime/article18289739.html" target="_blank">points out</a>, "police have more discretion in pulling someone over." (Scott was stopped in North Charleston due to a broken brake light.) White drivers, meanwhile, were stopped more often for obvious safety violations, such as speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and driving under the influence. Still, black drivers&mdash;except those suspected of intoxicated driving&mdash;were always more likely to get searched than whites, no matter the reason for the stop.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-14%20at%2012.19.36%20PM.png" style="height: 263px; width: 400px;"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-14%20at%2011.46.31%20AM.png" style="height: 182px; width: 400px;"><div class="caption"><a href="http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/TrafficStops/Reports2014/Charlotte-Report.pdf" target="_blank">Frank Baumgartner, Derek Epp, and Kelsey Shoub</a></div> </div> <p>The findings in North Carolina echo those of a <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/january_february_2014/ten_miles_square/driving_while_black048283.php?page=all" target="_blank">2014 study</a> by researchers at the University of Kansas, who found that Kansas City's black drivers were stopped at nearly three times the rate of whites fingered for similarly minor violations.</p> <p>Frank Baumgartner, the lead author of the UNC-Chapel Hill study, told <em>Mother Jones</em> that officers throughout the state were twice as likely to use force against black drivers than white drivers. Of the estimated 18 million stops that took place between 2002 and 2013 in North Carolina that were analyzed by Baumgartner's team, less than one percent involved the use of force. While officers are required to report whether force was encountered or deployed, and whether there were any injuries, "we don't know if the injuries are serious, and we don't know if a gun was fired," he says.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:50:05 +0000 Jaeah Lee 273646 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Like Class Warfare—So Long As It's Against Hillary Clinton http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/hillary-clinton-mitt-romney-attack-plan-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>How do you go about redefining Hillary Clinton? As one of the most well-known political figures in modern history, just about everyone in America already has a opinion of her.</p> <p>After months in the lab and out in the field polling voters and testing messages, Republicans believe they have the answer they need to help&nbsp;prevent another four years of a Democratic presidency. As <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/gops-plan-attack-hillary-clinton-as-mitt-romney-116943.html#ixzz3XIKWRMZc"><em>Politico</em> reports today</a>, the GOP plans&nbsp;to depict Clinton as an out-of-touch one-percenter, who doesn't drive her own car or pump her own gas, who owns multiple large houses and commanded a six-figure fee for her pre-campaign speaking gigs, who can't grasp the daily life of a working-class family. As&nbsp;<em>Politico</em>'s Eli Stokols puts it, the GOP plans to "Mitt Romnify" Clinton:</p> <blockquote> <p>The out-of-touch plutocrat template is a familiar one: Democrats used it to devastating effect against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. While Hillary Clinton's residences in New York and Washington may not have car elevators, there's still a lengthy trail of paid speeches, tone-deaf statements about the family finances, and questions about Clinton family foundation fundraising practices that will serve as cornerstones of the anti-Clinton messaging effort.</p> <p>"She's admitted she hasn't driven a car for decades; she probably doesn't ever go into a coffee shop and talk to regular people unless it's for a staged photo-op,"&nbsp;said American Crossroads CEO Steven Law, alluding to Clinton's portrayal in her campaign's launch video on Sunday. "She really has lived the life of a 1-percenter these last several years, and it shows.</p> <p>"We know her team is working to rebrand her as a relatable, regular person; the question is, can she actually perform in a way that convinces people she is that person? We think that's going to be hard for her."</p> <p>The outlines of the effort to Mitt Romnify Hillary Clinton are still being sketched. Crossroads, the super PAC that spent $70 million in 2012 mostly on television ads attacking President Barack Obama, is in the middle of an extensive research project analyzing voters' existing perceptions of Clinton and their reactions to a number of potential critiques. But the Republican National Committee has done focus groups that suggest Clinton is more vulnerable to charges of being imperious and bending the rules than anything else tested against her.</p> <p>"The most potent message against Clinton is that she doesn't live an average life, she's out of touch and doesn't play by the same set of rules," said the RNC's research director, Raj Shah. "[T]hat resonates more deeply than some of the policy hits, the ethical hits."</p> </blockquote> <p>Soon after <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/04/gops-plan-attack-hillary-clinton-as-mitt-romney-116943.html#ixzz3XIKWRMZc" target="_blank">Stokols' story</a> was published, Crossroads GPS, the GOP establishment's leading dark-money group, released its own polling data from 15 battleground states highlighting what it called Clinton's "major hurdles." Based on a poll of one thousand likely voters conducted in late March, Crossroads found that 95 percent of respondents had a fully formed opinion of Clinton; her popularity was evenly split, with 49 percent favoring her and 46 percent opposing. Crossroads also claims that some of the "most potent concerns" voiced by respondents were Clinton's "record of scandals" at the State Department, as well as doubts that the former first lady "is honest and trustworthy."</p> <p>The data here aren't that surprising&mdash;after all,&nbsp;this was a poll commissioned by a Republican shop. But what caught my eye was Crossroads founder Steven Law's statement in the press release accompanying his group's findings: "A staged van tour," he said, "can't erase the legacy of scandals and luxury lifestyle that are ingrained in Americans' view of who Hillary really is." Right there Law shows his hand&mdash;<em>luxury lifestyle</em>. That's on top of his "one-percenter" jab to&nbsp;<em>Politico</em>.</p> <p>In other words, get ready for 18 months of ominous, grimly narrated attack ads about out-of-touch&nbsp;plutocrats and the lifestyles of the rich and politically famous. Except this time the target isn't Mitt Romney; it's Clinton, the Democrat <a href="https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/587336319321407488" target="_blank">trying to run</a> as the "champion" of "everyday Americans."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Dark Money Hillary Clinton Tue, 14 Apr 2015 20:18:10 +0000 Andy Kroll 273656 at http://www.motherjones.com Hair Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/hair-update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Huh. My hair is starting to fall out in clumps. That's not supposed to happen until <em>after</em> the chemo next week. I wonder what's going on?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:35:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 273631 at http://www.motherjones.com Worst. Logo. Ever. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/worst-logo-ever <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've kept my distance from the nearly insane volume of reaction to Hillary Clinton's presidential announcement this weekend, including the tens of thousands of turgid words deconstructing her allegedly revolutionary announcement <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_for_america.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">video. (Please.) It's a routine announcement, folks. We all knew it was coming. We all knew approximately what she'd say.</p> <p>What's more, I nearly always stay out of discussions about logos. I have no artistic sense, so who am I to judge? And yet....holy cow. I have to go along with the nearly unanimous stunned reaction to Hillary's campaign logo. It's hideous on so many levels it's hard to even marshal my thoughts about it. Seriously, WTF were they thinking?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Tue, 14 Apr 2015 15:45:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 273621 at http://www.motherjones.com No, the Poor Are Not Squandering Public Money on Filet Mignon http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/no-poor-are-not-squandering-public-money-filet-mignon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Are the poor blowing their food stamps in wild bacchanalias of filet mignon and lobster thermidor? Is this something that we ought to keep a closer look on as protectors of the public purse?</p> <p>You can probably figure out the answer already, but, um, no. Here are some relevant monthly figures for food spending <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_food_spending_poor.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">among the poor, <a href="http://www.bls.gov/cex/22014/midyear/decile.pdf" target="_blank">as collected by the Consumer Expenditure Survey:</a></p> <ul><li>Meat and fish: $48</li> <li>Fruits and vegetables: $42</li> <li>Alcohol: $15</li> </ul><p>Pretty obviously, there's a lot more baloney and chicken breasts here than steak and lobster. And this doesn't change a lot as you move up the income scale. The numbers above are for the poorest tenth of consumers, but they stay about the same even when you move slightly up the income ladder. The entire poorest third spends only about $323 <em>total</em> on food per month.</p> <p>Should we encourage better nutrition and better food choices among the poor? Less McDonald's and more broccoli? For all sorts of reasons, of course we should. But should we be worried that public money is being squandered on prime rib or fresh Pacific swordfish? Nope. There's just no evidence that it's happening except as the occasional scary anecdote. It's a non-problem.</p> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/14/where-the-poor-and-rich-spend-really-spend-their-money/?hpid=z4" target="_blank">Max Ehrenfreund has more details here</a> if you want some comparisons between rich and poor in various categories of consumer expenditures.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Food and Ag Income Inequality Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:53:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 273616 at http://www.motherjones.com Half of Emails Are Answered in 47 Minutes or Less http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/email-response-study-yahoo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Many people seem to agree that <a href="http://www.citeworld.com/article/2153600/social-collaboration/email-sucks-voxer-asana-mailbox-slack-acompli.html" target="_blank">email sucks</a>, and almost as many of us are annoyed by "<a href="http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/zero-dark-inbox" target="_blank">inbox zero</a>" coworkers telling everybody in earshot how damn productive they are. We get it.</p> <p>But while we all agree that email is slow, tedious, annoying, and perhaps impersonal, it turns out that many of us are actually pretty decent at returning the messages we need to. According to a <a href="http://arxiv.org/pdf/1504.00704v1.pdf" target="_blank">new study by the folks at Yahoo Labs</a> on how quickly emails get answered, about 90 percent of emails are returned within a day. In fact, half of emails are answered within 47 minutes, with the most likely return time being just about two minutes. (Of course many of those replies are short, coming in at about five words.)</p> <p>The study&mdash;which, as the largest ever of its kind, analyzed more than 16 <em>billion</em> email messages sent between 2 million (randomized and opt-in) Yahoo! email users over a several month period&mdash;went a little deeper than reply times. It also studied how extended email threads play out (the longer the thread, the quicker the replies come until there's a measurable pause before a concluding message); what time of day is best for getting a long response (morning); and demographics. Teens work the reply button the fastest, with a median reply time of about 13 minutes. Adults 20 to 35 years old came in at about 16 minutes. Adults aged 36 to 50 took about 24 minutes, and "mature" adults, aged 51 and over, took the longest at about 47 minutes. Gender seems to make less of a difference than age, with males replying in about 24 minutes and women taking about 28 (insert joke about women being more thoughtful here).</p> <p>As you might expect, all those numbers go out the window when an attachment is involved: it takes emailers almost twice the time to respond to messages containing additional files. Another not-so-surprising tidbit from the study suggests that we're quickest to reply from our phones, then our tablets, and finally our desktops. And predictably the more emails you get, the fewer you actually respond to: the data indicates that people receiving 100 emails a day may answer just five.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:25:04 +0000 AJ Vicens 273591 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Republican Dilemma: Who Do They Hate More, Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/04/todays-republican-dilemma-who-do-they-hate-more-barack-obama-or-vladimir-putin <!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 <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/world/europe/putin-lifts-ban-on-russian-missile-sales-to-iran.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">our pal in Russia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday approved the delivery of a sophisticated air defense missile system to Iran, potentially complicating negotiations on Tehran&rsquo;s nuclear program and further straining ties with Washington.</p> <p><strong>The sale could also undermine the Obama administration&rsquo;s efforts to sell Congress and foreign allies on the nuclear deal,</strong> which Iran and the United States are still struggling to complete. It might also reduce the United States&rsquo; leverage in the talks by making it much harder for the United States or Israel to mount airstrikes against Iran&rsquo;s nuclear infrastructure if the country ignored such an agreement.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, there you have it: Putin is eager to undermine any possibility of a US nuclear deal with Iran. This gives Republicans a choice: they can side with Putin or they can side with Barack Obama.</p> <p>Decisions, decisions. I wonder what they'll choose?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 14 Apr 2015 04:43:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 273607 at http://www.motherjones.com