Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2011/07/isi- http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Friday Cat Blogging - 1 August 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/friday-cat-blogging-1-august-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Domino's new favorite snoozing spot is the closet in our master bedroom. Naturally, knowing that everyone would want to be kept up to date on this development, I took a picture. Unfortunately, it turns out that cameras need a stream of photons to work properly, and the inside of a closet doesn't have many. So all I got were a bunch of black blurs. Soon enough, though, Domino saw the camera and came out. So I followed her over to the water dish, and eventually took a picture there. Even with plenty of help from Mr. Photoshop, however, it wasn't very good either. So I waited. Eventually, Domino went back into the closet and curled up, and this time I took some pictures with the flash.</p> <p>Which picture to use? I hate flash pictures. I especially hate them when they basically lie&mdash;making a dark closet look brightly lit, for example. But the other picture was pretty lousy. Decisions, decisions. In the end, I opt for lousy but honest. Let's call it "Still Life With Two Cats" just to make it seem a little more refined. Like Domino.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_08_01.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 90px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 01 Aug 2014 19:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 257536 at http://www.motherjones.com John Brennan Needs to Leave the CIA, One Way or Another http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/john-brennan-needs-leave-cia-one-way-or-another <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What's going on with the CIA hacking into Senate computers? Here's a very brief, very telescoped timeline to get you up to speed:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>2009:</strong> The Senate Intelligence Committee begins working on an investigation of CIA torture during the Bush administration. Then CIA Director Leon Panetta secretly orders a parallel internal review.</p> <p><strong>December 2012:</strong> The Senate finishes a draft of its report and submits it to the CIA for review and declassification.</p> <p><strong>March 2013:</strong> John Brennan takes over from David Petraeus as CIA director.</p> <p><strong>June 2013:</strong> The CIA issues a blistering response to the Senate report, vigorously disputing its conclusions that the CIA routinely engaged in brutal torture of detainees.</p> <p><strong>December 2013:</strong> Sen. Mark Udall reveals the existence of the "Panetta Review"&mdash;actually a series of memos&mdash;written at the same time Senate staffers were collecting material for their report. He suggests that it "conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee&rsquo;s report." In plainer English: the CIA lied about what its own review concluded.</p> <p>The CIA, apparently under the impression that Senate staffers had gotten access to the Panetta Review improperly&mdash;and had removed copies from their secure reading room at CIA headquarters&mdash;hacks into the computers used by Senate staffers. As part of their secret investigation, they read emails and do a keyword search to find out how the Senate staffers had gotten access to the memos. No one on the Senate is aware of any of this.</p> <p><strong>January 2014:</strong> The CIA presents the results of its investigation to the Senate Intelligence Committee and accuses its staffers of misconduct. They also refer the matter to the FBI for criminal investigation.</p> <p><strong>March 2014:</strong> Sen. Dianne Feinstein launches a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/feinstein-cia-searched-intelligence-committee-computers/2014/03/11/982cbc2c-a923-11e3-8599-ce7295b6851c_story.html" target="_blank">blistering attack</a> on the CIA for hacking into the Senate computers in violation of an explicit agreement that they wouldn't do so. Brennan counterattacks vigorously. "As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth," he says.</p> <p><strong>Yesterday:</strong> The CIA inspector general releases a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/r/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2014/07/31/National-Security/Graphics/Cleaned2014-07-30%20Unclass%20Summary%20of%20RDI%20ROI%2031%20Jul%2014.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> admitting that Senate staffers had done nothing wrong and that five CIA staffers did indeed hack into Senate computers. In other words, Brennan was very badly mistaken in March when he loudly insisted that nothing of the sort had happened.</p> </blockquote> <p>So then: The CIA lied about the conclusions of its own internal review. The Senate found out about this. The CIA then hacked into Senate computers to find out how they had discovered the incriminating evidence. Then they lied again, denying that they had done this. David Corn lays out two possible explanations for Brennan's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/cia-chief-brennan-senate-spying-scandal" target="_blank">misleading statements in March:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Either he knew that his subordinates had spied on the Senate staffers but had claimed otherwise, or he had not been told the truth by underlings and had unwittingly provided a false assertion to the public. Neither scenario reflects well upon the fellow who is supposed to be in-the-know about the CIA's activities&mdash;especially its interactions with Congress on a rather sensitive subject.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nope. Either way, he ought to resign or be fired. This is simply not excusable behavior in a public official.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Crime and Justice Foreign Policy Fri, 01 Aug 2014 17:43:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 257526 at http://www.motherjones.com Should Pundits Apologize More Often? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/should-pundits-apologize-more-often <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/08/01/trust-and-the-professional-pundit/#pq=rW9f5g" target="_blank">From Dan Drezner:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One norm I&rsquo;d really like to see emerge is pundits admitting error and apologizing when they get things wrong, and Frum did that.&nbsp; But I&rsquo;m curious what other norms, if any, should be strengthened among the pontificating class.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd dissent slightly from this. Should pundits do a better job of admitting when they get things wrong? Sure. Who can argue with that? But should they apologize? I'm not so sure. Being wrong isn't a sin, after all, especially for someone in the business of offering up opinions. I'd be happy to see a bit more self-reflection about what caused the error, but there's no need for an apology.</p> <p>Now, Drezner wrote this in the context of David Frum's allegation that a <em>New York Times</em> photo had been faked, which turned out to be untrue. This is obviously a case that calls for an apology since Frum accused someone of wrongdoing. But that's a bit different from simply being wrong in an analytic or predictive way. That kind of error, as long as it's honest, deserves some reflection, but not an apology.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Fri, 01 Aug 2014 15:55:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 257516 at http://www.motherjones.com Opposition to Obamacare Suddenly Spiked in July http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/opposition-obamacare-suddenly-spiked-july <!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 news on Obamacare from the Kaiser Family Foundation: it suddenly became a <a href="http://kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-july-2014/" target="_blank">lot more unpopular in July:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_unfavorable_july_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>So what happened? I can't think of any substantive news that was anything but good, so I figure it must have been the Hobby Lobby decision. Did that turn people against Obamacare because they disapproved of the decision? Or because it reminded them that Obamacare pays for contraceptives? Or what? It's a mystery, all the more so because every single demographic group showed the same spike. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all spiked negative. The rich and the poor spiked negative. The young and the old spiked negative. Ditto for men, women, whites, blacks, and Hispanics. It's a little hard to figure out why the Hobby Lobby decision would have affected everyone the same way, but I can't think of anything else that happened over the past month that could have caused this. It certainly wasn't John Boehner's lawsuit, and I very much doubt it was the Halbig decision.</p> <p>So it's a bit of a puzzler&mdash;though perhaps another chart explains it. It turns out that in conversations with family and friends, people have heard bad things about Obamacare more than good things by a margin of 27-6 percent. Likewise, they've seen more negative ads than positive by a margin of 19-7 percent. Roughly speaking, the forces opposed to Obamacare continue to be louder and more passionate than the forces that support it. I don't think that's actually changed much recently, so it probably doesn't explain the sudden spike in July's polling. But it might explain part of it.</p> <p>Or, it might just be a statistical blip. Who knows?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 01 Aug 2014 15:16:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 257511 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in July http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-net-new-jobs-july <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm" target="_blank">added 209,000 new jobs in March,</a> but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 119,000. The headline unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.2 percent.</p> <p>The jobs number is a little lower than expected, and continues to show that the recovery is weak. On the bright side, the unemployment number increased not because more people were out of work, but because more people were entering the labor force. It's basically not a negative sign. <a href="http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/july-jobs-report-first-impressions/" target="_blank">As Jared Bernstein says:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is some evidence that the all-important labor force participation rate may be stabilizing. It rose a tenth last month to 62.9%, but has wiggled between 62.8% and 62.2% since last August. If the firming job market has in fact arrested the decline in this key metric of labor supply, it will be an important and favorable sign.</p> </blockquote> <p>Overall, the economy still appears to be dog paddling along. GDP growth is OK but not great; jobs growth is OK but not great; and wage growth is positive but not by very much. More and more, this is starting to look like the new normal.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_new_jobs_july_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 8px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 01 Aug 2014 14:22:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 257506 at http://www.motherjones.com California Projects Very Modest Obamacare Rate Hikes in 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/california-projects-very-modest-obamacare-rate-hikes-2015 <!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/business/la-fi-obamacare-2015-rates-20140801-story.html#page=1" target="_blank">Good news from the Golden State!</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Defying an industry trend of double-digit rate hikes, California officials said the more than 1.2 million consumers in the state-run Obamacare insurance exchange <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_obamacare_increases_2015_small.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">can expect modest price increases of 4.2% on average next year.</p> <p>...."We have changed the trend in healthcare costs," said Peter Lee, Covered California's executive director. "This is good news for Californians."....State officials and insurers credited the strong turnout during the first six-month enrollment window that ended in April for helping to keep 2015 rates in check.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's still early days for Obamacare, and it's not yet clear if it deserves credit for keeping California's rate hikes low. It may instead be due to the recent slow growth of medical costs nationally. Nonetheless, this is a very positive sign. California is a big market, and it's one that's traditionally seen steep rate hikes in the individual insurance market. At the very least, we can certainly say that conservative predictions of catastrophically high rate increases thanks to Obamacare have turned out to be groundless. Again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 01 Aug 2014 05:30:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257501 at http://www.motherjones.com John Boehner's Lawsuit Against Obama Is Perfectly Reasonable http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/john-boehners-lawsuit-against-obama-perfectly-reasonable <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've made this point before, but I'd like to make it again: Exactly <em>why</em> is John Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama so frivolous? I don't mean this in a strictly legal sense. It may be that the suit fails immediately for lack of standing.<sup>1</sup> Or that the merits of this particular case don't hold water. We can let the lawyers battle that out.</p> <p>Politically, though, what's wrong with asking a court to decide if a federal agency has overstepped the will of Congress in its execution of the law? The answer, of course, is: nothing. People do it all the time, hundreds of times a year. The <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_US_Capitol_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">only difference here is that a house of Congress is doing it. But why does that suddenly make it frivolous?</p> <p>It could be that you think courts should stick to their traditional practice of staying neutral in "political" disputes between branches of the government. That's fine. But it's not an argument that's gotten much air time. You might also think it sets a bad precedent. But again, I'm not hearing that. Instead, the argument seems to be that this suit is simply absurd on its face, an idiotic piece of grandstanding by the Republican Party.</p> <p>There's no question that it's a piece of grandstanding. Nor that House Republicans could be making better use of their time. And yes, it's obviously deeply politically motivated. But that doesn't mean it's frivolous. So once again: why is it that suing a federal agency over its interpretation of a law suddenly becomes ridiculous just because Congress does it?</p> <p>I'm open to good arguments on this score. Go ahead and convince me.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I hope not, though. I understand why standing is important,<sup>2</sup> but I'm unhappy that there seem to be a fair number of colorably important cases in which it's all but impossible to find someone with standing to sue. That's just not right.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Honest, I really do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Thu, 31 Jul 2014 23:24:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257491 at http://www.motherjones.com Microsoft Loses Another Round in E-Mail Privacy Case http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/microsoft-loses-another-round-e-mail-privacy-case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/judge-orders-microsoft-to-turn-over-data-held-overseas/2014/07/31/b07c4952-18d4-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html?hpid=z4" target="_blank">The latest in the privacy wars:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A federal court in New York ruled Thursday that Microsoft must comply with a U.S. search warrant to turn over a customer&rsquo;s e-mails held in a server overseas.</p> <p>....A number of tech firms and privacy advocates have joined [Microsoft] in arguing that if the government prevails and can reach across borders, it will cause foreign individuals and businesses to flee to their non-U.S. competitors. <strong>Microsoft also argued that the United States would not be in a position to complain when foreign governments do the same and insist on access to e-mail content stored in the country.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. How <em>would</em> we feel if, say, an Egyptian court demanded that Microsoft turn over emails stored on a server in California? Hmmm.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Thu, 31 Jul 2014 22:08:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 257481 at http://www.motherjones.com Yes, the CIA Spied on the Senate http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/yes-cia-spied-senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Earlier this year, CIA Director John Brennan accused staffers from the Senate Intelligence Committee of removing classified material from the CIA office where they were researching a report on the agency's use of torture during the Bush administration. This turned out to be very poor tradecraft on Brennan's part, since it implicitly revealed the fact that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers even though it wasn't supposed to. Brennan tried to mount a suitably aggressive counterattack to Senate outrage over this, <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/07/31/234997/cia-staffers-accessed-senate.html?sp=/99/100/&amp;ihp=1" target="_blank">but today it all came crashing down:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency&rsquo;s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.</p> <p>....The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel&rsquo;s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency&rsquo;s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.</p> <p>CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee&rsquo;s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general&rsquo;s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.</p> </blockquote> <p>I find that my reaction remains one of schadenfreude. Dianne Feinstein and the rest of the Intelligence Committee seem to be mostly unconcerned with the omnipresent surveillance apparatus constructed by the US intelligence community, so it's hard to feel very sorry for them when they learn that this apparatus is also sometimes directed at Senate staffers. If this affair had persuaded a few senators that maybe our intelligence chiefs are less than totally honest about what they do, it might have done some good. But it doesn't seem to have done that. With only a few exceptions, they're outraged when the CIA spies on <em>them</em>, but that's about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Congress Thu, 31 Jul 2014 17:43:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257451 at http://www.motherjones.com Why American Politics Is Broken In One Sentence http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/why-american-politics-broken-one-sentence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Dave Weigel explains modern politics <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/07/31/how_even_the_shrunk_down_republican_border_bill_is_turning_into_a_debacle.html" target="_blank">in a single sentence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Voters are aware of a border crisis, they are aware that Barack Obama is president&mdash;they blame him for nothing getting done.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. Republicans can basically do anything they want and never get blamed for it. Most voters don't even know who's in control of Congress anyway. When something goes wrong, all they know is (a) something went wrong, and (b) Barack Obama is the president and he should have done something about it.</p> <p>That being the case, what incentive do Republicans have for making things go right? Pretty much none. This is, roughly speaking, a fairly new insight, and it explains most of what you need to know about American politics in the Obama era.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Thu, 31 Jul 2014 16:06:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 257421 at http://www.motherjones.com This Is the Lamest Defense of GMO Foods Ever http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/lamest-defense-gmo-foods-possible <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="258" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/1ecT2CaL7NA" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>Over on our environment blog, Chris Mooney posts an excerpt from an interview in which Neil deGrasse Tyson <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/neil-degrasse-tyson-on-gmo" target="_blank">defends GMO foods:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food," asserts Tyson. "There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There's no wild cows...You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called artificial selection."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a very common defense of GMO foods, but I've always found it to be the weakest, least compelling argument possible. It's so weak, in fact, that I always wonder if people who make it are even operating in good faith.</p> <p>It's true that we've been breeding new and better strains of plants and animals forever. But this isn't a defense of GMO. On the contrary, it's precisely the point that GMO critics make. We have about 10,000 years of evidence that traditional breeding methods are basically safe. That's why anyone can do it and it remains virtually unregulated. We have no such guarantee with artificial methods of recombinant DNA. Both the technique itself and its possible risks are completely different, and Tyson surely knows this. If he truly believed what he said, he'd be in favor of removing all regulation of GMO foods and allowing anyone to experiment with it. Why not, after all, if it's really as safe as Gregor Mendel cross-breeding pea plants?</p> <p>As it happens, I mostly agree with Tyson's main point. Although I have issues surrounding the way GMO seeds are distributed and legally protected, the question of whether GMO foods are safe for human consumption seems reasonably well settled. The technology is new enough, and our testing is still short-term enough, that I would continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to approving GMO foods. Still, GMO breeds created under our current regulatory regime are basically safe to eat, and I think that lefty critics of GMO foods should stop cherry picking the evidence to scare people into thinking otherwise.</p> <p>(Please send all hate mail to Tom Philpott. He can select just the juiciest ones to send along to me.)</p> <p>But even with that said, we shouldn't pretend that millennia of creating enhanced and hybrid breeds tells us anything very useful about the safety of cutting-edge laboratory DNA splicing techniques. It really doesn't.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Thu, 31 Jul 2014 15:47:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257416 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Vulture Fund Suing Argentina Is Just a Lonely Defender of the Free Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/quote-day-vulture-fund-suing-argentina-just-lonely-defender-free-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is fellow hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb defending Paul Singer, the billionaire owner of the vulture fund that successfully forced Argentina into default because it was insisting on <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/in-hedge-fund-argentina-finds-relentless-foe/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMedia&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">full payment for old Argentine bonds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He doesn&rsquo;t get into fights for the sake of fighting. He believes deeply in the rule of law and that free markets and free societies depend on enforcing it.</p> </blockquote> <p>You betcha. Anytime a Wall Street tycoon is supposedly fighting for deep principles, hold onto your wallet. They don't become billionaires because of their deep commitment to fair play and the unfettered operation of capital markets. However, there's also this:</p> <blockquote> <p>The big question, however, is whether Argentina will ever pay Elliott what it wants. If the firm fails to collect, that would underscore the limits of its legal strategy. There is no international bankruptcy court for sovereign debt that can help resolve the matter. Argentina may use the next few months to try to devise ways to evade the New York court. Debt market experts, however, do not see how any such schemes could avoid using global firms that would not want to fall afoul of Judge Griesa&rsquo;s ruling.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is an interesting point. Normally, Argentina would just continue to pay the holders of its "exchange" bonds and refuse to pay the vulture funds that refused to go along with the terms of its bankruptcy and restructuring a decade ago. Elliott and the other vultures would be out of luck. The problem is that Argentina's payments are funneled through a US bank, and the judge in the case has forced US banks to halt payments.</p> <p>But in all the articles I've read about this, I've never really seen an adequate explanation of why it's so impossible to avoid funneling payments through the US. I get that Argentina can no longer use an American US bank. Also, I assume, they can't use a big global bank that does business in the US. But surely there are mid-size banks that do no business in the US that could act as payment agents? If dollars were the issue, they could pay off in euros instead. I don't know what it would take legally for Argentina to switch either payment agents or the denominations of its bonds, but it doesn't <em>sound</em> impossible. And yet apparently it is. Why?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Thu, 31 Jul 2014 14:24:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 257401 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans About to Blow Up Emergency Border Crisis Funding http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/republicans-about-blow-emergency-border-crisis-funding <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Obama administration is&mdash;once again&mdash;being forced to go into crisis mode to keep the government functioning because Republicans refuse to do their most basic job: appropriating money to deal with emergencies. This time it's for the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-border-budget-tradeoffs-20140731-story.html" target="_blank">refugee disaster on the border:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Border agencies say their existing budgets &mdash; sapped by added costs from overtime, detention and transportation for the children, more than 57,000 of whom have arrived since October &mdash; will start running dry before lawmakers get back in September.</p> <p>Administration officials warn that the price of congressional inaction will be steep, estimating the cost of caring for each immigrant youth runs between $250 and $1,000 a day.</p> <p>"Scary," Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said about the agencies' budget outlook.</p> <p>On Wednesday, officials at the Office of Management and Budget were putting together plans to scrounge up funds. But without congressional approval, President Obama is limited to moving around money only in small amounts. That probably means the redistribution <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Immigration_Sign.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">will touch many different programs &mdash; a distressing prospect for officials in vulnerable agencies.</p> </blockquote> <p>So why is it that Republicans can't agree on even a minimal stopgap funding bill? <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/tea-party-opposition-puts-fate-of-house-republican-border-bill-up-in-the-air/2014/07/30/162149d2-1813-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html?hpid=z3" target="_blank">Because Ted Cruz is grandstanding again:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;The Obama White House should put Ted Cruz on the payroll,&rdquo; said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), a vocal Cruz opponent. &ldquo;We have a chance to pass a good bill, not a perfect bill. Boehner is working hard to get to 218 votes and yet there is Ted Cruz, telling us to do nothing. If he wants to come over and run for speaker, that&rsquo;s fine, but otherwise he should stay over there in the Senate.&rdquo;</p> <p>....At a conference meeting Tuesday, Boehner announced that he would pare down his initial framework after hearing numerous complaints about its size and scope....But Steve King, Gohmert and Salmon &mdash; along with Cruz and others &mdash; want House Republicans to defund Obama&rsquo;s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, which has granted temporary relief for some children of illegal immigrants and is set for renewal this fall. Boehner has resisted the idea. But late Wednesday, GOP aides said that leaders were likely to allow a vote on a standalone bill that would defund DACA before voting to approve the border spending measure. If the bill to defund DACA were to pass, it wasn&rsquo;t clear exactly how House leaders would merge the two proposals and send them to the Senate.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, Cruz is trying to rally House conservatives to vote against Boehner's stopgap bill unless it also kills DACA, the so-called mini-DREAM executive action that halts deportations of children who have been in the country for many years. If he succeeds, then no funding bill will pass before Congress goes on vacation. That's why the Obama folks are in crisis mode. We can't just starve the kids who have come across the border, after all, and that means Obama is once again forced to be the grown-up in the room.</p> <p>Your Republican Party at work, folks. George Washington would be proud.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Thu, 31 Jul 2014 05:07:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 257386 at http://www.motherjones.com Lucy and the Great 10% Myth http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/lucy-and-great-10-myth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Andrew Sullivan reminds me of something I was curious about the other day. <a href="http://time.com/3045996/brain-lucy-science-10-percent-wrong/" target="_blank">He quotes Jeffrey Kluger,</a> who writes in <em>Time</em> that he's annoyed with the movie <em>Lucy</em> because it perpetuates the ridiculous myth that we only use 10 percent of our brains. I sympathize. I was sort of annoyed just by seeing that in the trailer. But it did make me wonder: where did this urban legend come from, anyway? <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_percent_of_brain_myth" target="_blank">Wikipedia to the rescue:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One possible origin is the reserve energy theories by Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis...William James told audiences that people only meet a fraction of their full mental potential....In 1936, American writer Lowell Thomas summarized this idea...."Professor William James of Harvard used to say that the average man develops only ten percent of his latent mental ability."</p> <p>In the 1970s, psychologist and educator Georgi Lozanov, proposed the teaching method of suggestopedia believing "that we might be using only five to ten percent of our mental capacity."....According to a related origin story, the 10% myth most likely arose from a misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of neurological research in the late 19th century or early 20th century. For example, the functions of many brain regions (especially in the cerebral cortex) are complex enough that the effects of damage are subtle, leading early neurologists to wonder what these regions did.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. So we don't really know for sure. That's disappointing but not surprising. It's remarkable how often we don't know where stuff like this comes from.</p> <p>As for its continuing popular resonance, I have a theory of my own. There are an awful lot of people out there with&nbsp;remarkable&mdash;and apparently innate&mdash;mental abilities. They can multiply enormous numbers in their heads. They can remember every day of their lives. That kind of thing. And yet, they operate normally in other regards. The fact that they've stored, say, distinct memories of the past 15,000 days of their lives doesn't seem to take up any cerebral space or energy that they needed for anything else. So surely all that storage and retrieval capacity is just sitting around unused in the rest of us?</p> <p>No, it's not. But the idea resonates because freakish mental skills seem to be so much further out on the bell curve than freakish physical skills. It makes the whole 10 percent thing seem pretty plausible. And that's why it sticks around.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> Or does it? I mean, has anyone tried to find out how many people still believe this myth? For all I know, everyone has long been aware that it's not true. We need a poll!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Film and TV Science Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:44:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 257326 at http://www.motherjones.com An Awful Lot of People Think Obama Is Bored With Being President http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/awful-lot-people-think-obama-bored-being-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You have to give the Fox News polling operation credit for mixing things up in an interesting way sometimes. At first glance, their latest poll is just a collection of all the usual leading questions about Obama busting up the Constitution, Obama being a loser compared to Vladimir Putin, Obama being incompetent, etc. etc. This is mostly yawn-worthy stuff intended as fodder for their anchors. All that's missing is a question about whether Obama plays too much golf. <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/interactive/2014/07/28/fox-news-polls-midterm-elections-2016-presidential-matchups/" target="_blank">But then there's this:</a></p> <p><img align="cednter" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_want_to_be_president.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p> <p>Who else would think to ask a question like that? But it's kind of fascinating, really. And what's most fascinating is that it's barely partisan at all. In virtually every group, something like 40 percent of the respondents think Obama is bored with the whole presidenting thing. That goes for Democrats as well as Republicans; for blacks as well as whites; for the rich as well as the poor; and for liberals as well as conservatives. It's not quite a majority in any group&mdash;though it's pretty close among Hispanics and senior citizens&mdash;but an awful lot of people sure are convinced that Obama has already checked out of the Oval Office. He might want to do something about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:05:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 257321 at http://www.motherjones.com GDP Increases At a Smart 4.0% Rate in Second Quarter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/gdp-increases-smart-40-rate-second-quarter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's something that counts as good news: GDP increased in the second quarter <a href="http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdpnewsrelease.htm" target="_blank">at an annual rate of 4.0 percent.</a> At the same time, the first quarter numbers were revised to a slightly less horrible -2.1 percent growth rate. This means, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2014_q2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">roughly speaking, that the economy has grown about 1.9 percent over the first half of the year.</p> <p>Now, this is obviously nothing to write home about. A growth rate of 1 percent per quarter is pretty anemic. Still, it's better than expectations after the terrible Q1 numbers, and the rebound in Q2 suggests there really was some make-up growth. A fair amount of this growth came from inventory build-up, which is normally a reason for caution, but after two previous quarters of inventory decline it's probably not the warning sign it might otherwise be.</p> <p>All in all, this is decent news. It's still not possible to say that the economy is roaring along or anything, but the Q1 number now looks like it really was an anomaly. Slowly and sluggishly, the economy is continuing to recover for the ~95 percent of us who haven't been unemployed for months or who haven't given up and exited the labor force entirely. For those people, economic growth is still slow enough to leave them behind. One good quarter is nice, but we still have a lot of work to do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:15:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 257311 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Still Holding Up Virtually All Obama Appointments http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/republicans-still-holding-virtually-all-obama-appointments <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Bernstein notes today that although filibuster reform has technically given Democrats the ability to confirm any executive branch appointment, in practice Republicans can still tie up the Senate by insisting on lengthy parliamentary delays for every nominee. <a href="http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-29/republican-tantrum-damages-government" target="_blank">And that's what they're doing:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Senate Republicans continue to impose an across-the-board virtual hold on every executive branch nomination....Republican foot-dragging has created a backlog of more than 100 nominees, almost none of whom are controversial, and some of whom have been waiting since January for Senate floor action.</p> <p>....I understand that Republicans are upset about the Democrats' filibuster reform. It has robbed them of leverage over nominations &mdash; even if it's entirely their own fault for having abused that leverage. But Republicans aren&rsquo;t harming Senate majority leader Harry Reid by blocking nominations. They&rsquo;re harming the functioning of the U.S. government. (Perhaps it might be nice to have ambassadors appointed in a few important nations?) And they are needlessly, cruelly, messing with people&rsquo;s lives. On top of all that, they&rsquo;re eliminating the leverage of individual Senators. As Ted Cruz (maybe) just learned, there&rsquo;s no point putting an individual hold on a nomination that is already being held up by the entire Republican caucus.</p> <p><strong>And why? For the sake, as far as I can tell, of a tantrum.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Pretty much. But this is what they've been doing all along. The point of filibustering everything and everyone has never been just to prevent a few objectionable candidates from being confirmed. It's been to tie up Senate floor time and disrupt even the routine functioning of a federal government that's under Democratic control. Even with filibuster reform they can still do that, so why should they stop now? A broken government is nothing but good news for Republicans.</p> <p>Bernstein says in another post today that he's tired of hearing about political polarization. It's not really anything new, after all. That's true enough, and this is a good example. It's not a case of polarization, it's just a straightforward case of assholery. There's no principle or ideology behind this, they're merely causing dysfunction for the sake of causing dysfunction. Welcome to the modern GOP.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Wed, 30 Jul 2014 05:52:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 257306 at http://www.motherjones.com My Ten-Dollar Offer to the Halbig Truthers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/my-ten-dollar-offer-halbig-truthers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's no question that the statutory text of Obamacare contains a mistake. In one of its sections, it authorizes federal subsidies only for taxpayers who enroll through a state-based exchange, not for those who enroll through the federal <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ten_dollar_bill_again_again.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">exchange. But was it <em>really</em> a mistake? <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118880/halbig-gruber-video-gives-right-excuse-flip-aca-subsidies" target="_blank">Brian Beutler comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Right-wing activists have spent the last several months fabricating a rival narrative<span class="em">&mdash;</span>a ludicrous theory of intent, in which leading Democrats meant to condition the subsidies, but decided to keep the inducement a secret from reporters, back bench members, governors, budget analysts, and health care reform advocates. This kind of deceptive argumentation is perhaps to be expected from activists. <strong>What's become incredibly frustrating to me about the <em>Halbig </em>brouhaha in the last few days is watching the conservative health care writers who were in the same trenches watching the same debate unfold<span class="em">&mdash;</span>attempting, from a very skeptical vantage point, to explain the bill correctly<span class="em">&mdash;</span>suddenly turn around and vouchsafe the Halbig Truthers.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That suggests something to me. As far as I know, not a single reporter who covered the Obamacare battle believes that Congress intended to restrict subsidies to state exchanges. As Beutler says, "To the extent that the question wasn&rsquo;t probed widely, if at all, it's because that would've been almost like asking whether the subsidies were intended to be denominated in Rubles." <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/26/5937593/obamacare-halbig-gruber-tax-credits" target="_blank">Sarah Kliff agrees:</a> "It was never a question, during the five years I've spent writing about Obamacare, whether this would be case." Nobody in Congress questioned the universality of subsidies. Nobody in the executive branch questioned it. No governors questioned it. None of the bureaucrats tasked with building the exchanges questioned it. And nobody in the press questioned it.</p> <p>And that brings me to my suggestion: Is it really true that no one in the press questioned it? For the moment, let's forget about liberals. Hell, everyone knows we're in the bag for Obamacare, and by now we've probably scrubbed all our old posts of damning evidence. Ditto for the mainstream media. They're just shills for Obama anyway. But how about <em>conservatives</em>? They covered the Obamacare battle pretty obsessively too. Here's my guess: every single article written by conservatives between January 2009 and March 2010 (a) assumed that subsidies were universal and (b) never so much as mentioned the possibility that they weren't. In other words, they all believed in universal subsidies too because there was never any reason in their reporting to believe otherwise. Not one single reason.</p> <p>But maybe I'm wrong! So here's my offer: I will send a crisp, new ten-dollar bill to anyone who can point out a conservative who so much as suspected that subsidies were limited to state exchanges prior to March 2010. Surely that's incentive enough? Let's start digging up evidence, people.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 30 Jul 2014 00:31:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 257286 at http://www.motherjones.com The Forgotten Murder Trial of the NRA's Top Lawyer http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/nras-murder-mystery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Robert J. Dowlut is the NRA's top lawyer, a "human encyclopedia" on the subject of state gun laws and the man responsible for much of the gun lobby's success in a series of court cases that have steadily eroded restrictions on gun ownership in the United States. "He is a really <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nra_murder_mystery.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 27px 0px 15px 30px;">reliable and exhaustive source for legal input on the issue," says one admirer.</p> <p>But 50 years ago, according to a pile of court documents MoJo's Dave Gilson uncovered for <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/robert-dowlut-nra-murder-mystery" target="_blank">"The NRA's Murder Mystery,"</a> a teenage Dowlut had a rather different relationship with guns:</p> <blockquote> <p>Shortly before dark on the evening of April 17, 1963, Robert J. Dowlut went looking for a gun inside the city cemetery in South Bend, Indiana. Making his way through the headstones, he stopped in front of the abandoned Studebaker family mausoleum. He knelt by the front right corner of the blocky gray monument and lifted a stone from the damp ground. Then, as one of the two police detectives accompanying him later testified, the 17-year-old "used his hands and did some digging." He unearthed a revolver and ammunition. As Dowlut would later tell a judge, the detectives then took the gun, "jammed it in my hand," and photographed him. "They were real happy."</p> <p>Two days earlier, a woman named Anna Marie Yocum had been murdered in her South Bend home. An autopsy determined she had been shot three times, once through the chest and twice in the back, likely at close range as she'd either fled or fallen down the stairs from her apartment. Two .45-caliber bullets had pierced her heart.</p> <p>....The following morning, Dowlut was charged with first-degree murder. A year and a half later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. Before the judge handed down a life sentence, he asked the defendant if there was any reason why he shouldn't be put away. Dowlut replied, "I am not guilty." A day later, the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City registered Dowlut, now 19, as prisoner number 33848.</p> <p>Less than six years later, Robert Dowlut would be a free man&mdash;his murder conviction thrown out by the Indiana Supreme Court because of a flawed police investigation. The court ordered a new trial, but one never took place. Dowlut would return to the Army and go on to earn college and law degrees. Then he would embark on a career that put him at the epicenter of the movement to transform America's gun laws.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/robert-dowlut-nra-murder-mystery" target="_blank">Click the link</a> to read the whole story.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Guns Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:48:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 257221 at http://www.motherjones.com Guns and Doctors: A Follow-Up http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/guns-and-doctors-follow <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Aaron Carroll responds to my skeptical take on doctors asking patients about their gun ownership:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think you ask legitimate questions, but these are consensus things that pediatricians ask about. You&rsquo;re thinking like an adult, and not as a parent.</p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know if internists ask adults about guns. I doubt they do. But pediatricians do ask parents. They also ask if parents have talked about street safety. They ask if they keep chemicals out of reach of their children. They ask if they&rsquo;ve checked the temperature of the hot water heater. They ask about water safety, bathtubs, and talk about drowning. Fire safety. Bike safety. Car safety (including airbags). I could go on and on and on.</p> <p>This is what pediatricians do. You may be too far removed from that to remember, but it is! Read <a href="http://brightfutures.aap.org/pdfs/bf3%20pocket%20guide_final.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Bright Futures</em></a>. It&rsquo;s hundreds of pages long.</p> </blockquote> <p>In my post, I was mostly thinking about adult doctors, not pediatricians, though I suppose both were on my mind. In any case, this is an obvious distinction, and I thought it was worth passing along.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Guns Health Care Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:05:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 257201 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: "The Press Loves to Cover Her Hard" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/quote-day-press-loves-cover-her-hard <!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_hillary_clinton_speech.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Dave Weigel notes that the media is <em>still</em> obsessed with Hillary Clinton's comment about being <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/07/29/the_long_tail_of_dead_broke.html" target="_blank">"dead broke" when she and Bill left the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>They've got to be sick of this by now. Maggie Haberman had it nailed three weeks ago: Hillary Clinton was "still raw over the partisan wars that hindered her husband&rsquo;s legacy and left the couple with millions of dollars in legal debt." Her answer, as she told Ramos, was accurate, and it's baffling to her that this became a "gaffe." As she continued her tour, HarperCollins was printing up copies of <em>Clinton, Inc.</em>, a tell-all by the <em>Weekly Standard's</em> Daniel Halper. <strong>On Page 18, Halper recalls that in 2001 "the Clintons were broke, owing a fortune in legal fees from the many investigations into their personal lives," and that they had to be loaned $1.3 by Terry McAuliffe.</strong> Until just a month ago, that was how even conservatives remembered the Clintons' departure from the White House.</p> </blockquote> <p>What's the deal with this? Sure, Hillary could have responded to questions about her wealth a little better. She's not the natural politician Bill is. But really, there's not much else here. So why does it continue to be news a full month later? Uber-insider Mark Halperin explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>She has a lot of positive attributes that are currently just being overwhelmed by all this negative coverage. And it&rsquo;s going to keep going. The momentum&mdash;there&rsquo;s, there&rsquo;s&mdash; <strong>The press loves to cover her hard.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This comes courtesy of Bob Somerby, who's been following this ever since the initial flood-the-zone coverage of Hillary's "gaffe" in the <em>Washington Post</em>. <a href="http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2014/07/destined-to-get-horrible-coverage-but.html?m=0" target="_blank">Somerby tells the rest of the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Multimillionaire TV stars asked if voters would support a person as wealthy as Clinton. In response to Clinton&rsquo;s answers, some of the nation&rsquo;s most famous pundits launched their famous &ldquo;gaffe culture.&rdquo;</p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em> even launched a front-page jihad concerning the size of Clinton&rsquo;s speaking fees. In the <em>New York Times</em>, Maureen Dowd assailed Clinton for her &ldquo;rapacious&rdquo; behavior and her &ldquo;wanton acquisitiveness,&rdquo; which she was said to be passing along to her daughter.</p> <p>....Halperin made a starting suggestion&mdash;he suggested the press corps&rsquo; coverage of a major candidate could determine the outcome of our next White House campaign.</p> <p>Plainly, that&rsquo;s what happened in Campaign 2000, when a twenty-month war against Candidate Gore let George Bush reach the White House. In the main, that war was conducted by the mainstream press corps, <em>not</em> by the RNC.</p> <p>The press corps&rsquo; poisonous war against Gore let Bush reach the White House. But it&rsquo;s a basic law of the guild: Major journalists <em>never</em> suggest that the behavior of their own guild could have such startling effects.</p> </blockquote> <p>The media's preoccupation with the Clintons' wealth won't last forever. Even for the Washington press corps, it's too transparently silly to pretend that it's somehow surprising that a presidential candidate is wealthy. But Somerby and Halperin are right: it's a sign of things to come. The press has never liked Hillary, and she's never liked them, and that's that. If she decides to run for president, this is going to be one of her biggest problems&mdash;or maybe her biggest, period. She's just never going to catch a break.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Hillary Clinton Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:49:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 257196 at http://www.motherjones.com Should Doctors Ask You About Your Guns? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/should-doctors-ask-you-about-your-guns <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In Florida, it's illegal for a physician to ask you if you own a gun. Pediatrician Aaron Carroll <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/upshot/do-you-own-a-gun-in-florida-doctors-cant-ask-you-that.html" target="_blank">thinks this is ridiculous:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When pediatricians ask you about using car seats, they&rsquo;re trying to prevent injuries. When they ask you about how your baby sleeps, they&rsquo;re trying to prevent injuries. When they ask you about using bike helmets, they&rsquo;re trying to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gun_sale.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">prevent injuries. And when they ask you about guns, they&rsquo;re trying to prevent injuries, too.</p> <p>....When I ask patients and parents whether they own guns, if they tell me they do, I immediately follow up with questions about how they are stored. I want to make sure they&rsquo;re kept apart from ammunition. I want to make sure they&rsquo;re in a locked box, preferably in a place out of reach of children. Doing so minimizes the risks to children. That&rsquo;s my goal.</p> <p>When we, as physicians, ask you if you drink or smoke, it&rsquo;s not so that we can judge you. It&rsquo;s so we can discuss health risks with you. When we ask you about domestic violence, it&rsquo;s not to act like police detectives. It&rsquo;s so that we can help you make better choices for your health. When we ask you about what you eat or whether you exercise, it&rsquo;s so we can help you live better and longer. We&rsquo;re doctors; it&rsquo;s our job.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't often disagree with Carroll, but I think I might here. Not about Florida's law: that really is ridiculous. The state may have an interest in making sure doctors don't give demonstrably bad advice, but it certainly doesn't have a legitimate interest in preventing them from asking simple, fact-oriented question. This represents prior restraint on non-commercial speech, and as such it's beyond the pale.</p> <p>That said, <em>should</em> physicians ask about gun ownership? I'm not so sure. Carroll says he only wants to discuss "health risks," and that's appropriate. Doctors have expertise in the area of human health: that is, the biology and physiology of the human body. But that's not the same thing as the <em>safety</em> of the human body.</p> <p>Not only do doctors have no special professional expertise in this area, but it's simply too wide open. Does your car have air bags? Do you ever jaywalk? Have you checked your electrical outlets lately? Is your house built to withstand an earthquake? Do you know how to work safely on your roof? Do you make sure to watch your kids in the pool? Are you planning any trips to eastern Ukraine?</p> <p>I could go on forever in this vein. These are things unrelated to human physiology. If you define them all as health risks, you're simply defining every aspect of life as a health risk, and therefore your doctor's concern. That goes too far, and I don't blame people for sometimes reacting badly to it. There are certainly gray areas here, but generally speaking, if I want advice about my health, I'll see a doctor. If I want advice about gun safety, I'll talk to a gun pro. I think it might be best to leave it this way.</p> <p><strong>FULL DISCLOSURE:</strong> My view is almost certainly colored by the fact that I'm all but phobic about doctors. I hate visiting them, I hate talking to them, and I hate the fact that they never seem to really, truly respond to what I tell them. I would be very annoyed if a doctor suddenly veered off and started quizzing me about general safety issues.</p> <p>I'm keenly aware that this is an obvious overreaction on my part, and I do my best to restrain it when I'm actually talking to a doctor. Nonetheless, it's there.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Guns Health Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:47:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 257156 at http://www.motherjones.com Color Me Skeptical About a Guaranteed Income for All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/color-me-skeptical-about-guaranteed-income-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Should we have a guaranteed minimum income in the United States? Something nice and simple that would replace nearly our entire current alphabet soup of means-tested welfare programs?<sup>1</sup> Dylan Matthews posts about this frequently, and others <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Uncle_Sam_Money.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">chime in occasionally as well. It even has some support among conservatives.</p> <p>I am not so sure, myself. Keith Humphreys makes a couple of good points <a href="http://www.samefacts.com/2014/07/domestic-politics/two-unknowns-of-a-guaranteed-minimum-income/" target="_blank">here,</a> but I want to step back a bit. At a bare minimum, I need answers to four questions:</p> <ol><li>How big would it be?</li> <li>Is it a family benefit or a personal benefit?</li> <li>Is it for adults only, or would children also qualify for a benefit?</li> <li>How would it phase out with income?</li> </ol><p>There are many more details to work out, all of them important, but I don't think you can even begin to talk about this without answers to these four basic questions.</p> <p>I'm skeptical about the whole thing because I don't think you can make the details work out. Nor do I think that it's politically feasible either now or in the future.<sup>2</sup> What's more, I'm always skeptical of ideas like this that haven't been adopted by any other country, even the ones with far more liberal welfare states than ours. I figure there must be a reason for this.</p> <p>But I'm happy to be proven wrong. Just give me a policy skeleton to work with. What exactly are we talking about here?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Proponents usually (but not always) make exceptions for education and health care, which are too variable and too expensive to be handled by a simple minimum income.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Perhaps it's feasible in our far-distant robot future. Maybe even necessary. For now, though, let's stick to the medium-term future.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Income Inequality Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:50:42 +0000 257146 at http://www.motherjones.com America Should Get Out of the Peacekeeping Business in Israel http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/america-should-get-out-peacekeeping-business-israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/07/28/the-one-thing-everyone-in-israel-seems-to-agree-on-john-kerry-blew-it/?hpid=z1" target="_blank">From the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.</p> <p>[Examples follow]</p> </blockquote> <p>And it's not just Israelis. Elsewhere in the <em>Post</em>, David Ignatius <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-john-kerrys-big-blunder-in-seeking-an-israel-gaza-cease-fire/2014/07/28/ab3fbfd2-1686-11e4-9349-84d4a85be981_story.html" target="_blank">takes Kerry to task too:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he&rsquo;s pursuing a Gaza cease-fire &mdash; and it&rsquo;s not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.</p> <p>Kerry&rsquo;s error has been to....</p> </blockquote> <p>I think we should stop right there. Kerry has made only one mistake, and that was trying to negotiate a ceasefire in the first place. He didn't fail because of any personal shortcomings; he failed because there were no terms under which either side would ever have agreed to a ceasefire. The fighting will stop when both sides decide to stop, and not a minute before. It's long past time for everyone to acknowledge this.</p> <p>The United States has been trying to broker peace in the Middle East for the past 20 years. Maybe longer, depending on how you count. But 20 years at least, and every attempt has failed. Various Americans have tried, all with different approaches, and the result has been the same every time: not just failure, but a steady and inexorable deterioration of the situation. It's no longer credible to pretend that maybe a different person with a different approach and different sympathies might have made a difference in any particular situation. Blaming Kerry for this latest failure is just delusional.</p> <p>Quite famously, we all "know" what a deal between Israel and the Palestinians needs to look like. It's obvious. Everyone says so. The only wee obstacle is that neither side is willing to accept this obvious deal. They just aren't. The problem isn't agreeing on a line on a map, or a particular circumlocution in a particular document. The problem is much simpler than that, so simple that sophisticated people are embarrassed to say it outright: Two groups of people want the same piece of land. Both of them feel they have a right to it. Both of them are, for the time being, willing to fight for it. Neither is inclined to give up anything for a peace that neither side believes in.</p> <p>That's it. That's all there is. All the myriad details don't matter. Someday that may change, and when it does the United States may have a constructive role to play in brokering a peace deal. But that day is nowhere in the near future. For now, it's time for America to get out of the peacekeeping business. Our presence there does no good, and might very well be doing active harm. This doesn't mean withdrawing from the region, it just means getting out of the shuttle diplomacy business. Neither side is ready for it, and probably won't be for years. Let's end the charade.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:58:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 257141 at http://www.motherjones.com Take Two: Just How Good Are Generic Meds Anyway? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/take-two-just-how-good-are-generic-meds-anyway <!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.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/doctors-arent-really-very-smart-about-buying-generics" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> I wrote a post about generic painkillers and the fact that doctors themselves&mdash;who should know better&mdash;often don't use them. "If physicians aren't really sold on generics in their own personal lives," I asked, "does this mean they're not really sold on them in their professional lives too?"</p> <p>Well, perhaps I got it backwards. A friend sent me a link to a <em>Forbes </em>article from last year about the FDA <a href="http://fortune.com/2013/01/10/are-generics-really-the-same-as-branded-drugs/" target="_blank">retracting its approval of a generic version of Wellbutrin:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The episode is bringing momentum to a movement that has been quietly building among many doctors and medical societies that are increasingly willing to ask a question that borders on heresy: Are generics really identical to the branded products they are meant to replicate? To a surprising degree, they say, the answer is no.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re a layperson, this is the way you probably think of generics: They&rsquo;re the exact same products in different packaging; generics companies can sell such medications for a fraction of the cost of the originals because they don&rsquo;t have to spend huge sums on drug development and marketing....But generic drugs diverge from the originals far more than most of us believe.</p> <p>....The FDA&rsquo;s rules effectively acknowledge that. The agency&rsquo;s definition of bioequivalence is surprisingly broad: A generic&rsquo;s maximum concentration of active ingredient in the blood must not fall more than 20% below or 25% above that of the brand name. This means a potential range of 45%, by that measure, among generics labeled as being the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, physicians are becoming increasingly concerned about the reliability of prescription generics, so maybe they're a little bit skeptical about over-the-counter generics too.</p> <p>Now, I doubt that anyone seriously thinks this applies to aspirin or ibuprofen. There's nothing proprietary about the formulas for these medications, and everyone knows how to make them just as well as the big guys. Still, I suppose it's possible that a generalized uncertainty about generic prescription meds could translate into a bit of uncertainty about OTC meds too. And that little bit might be enough to make lots of doctors shrug their shoulders and plunk down an extra dollar or two for a name brand.</p> <p>I'm just guessing here, of course. Mostly I just thought it was an interesting article and wanted to pass it along.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Tue, 29 Jul 2014 05:04:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 257126 at http://www.motherjones.com