Kevin Drum

Raw Data: State Abortion Restrictions Over the Past Three Decades

| Fri Jan. 22, 2016 1:26 PM EST

Here's what's happened to abortion restrictions since the Republican landslide of 2010. After decades of passing a couple dozen laws each session, the number of new restrictions has skyrocketed. In the aftermath of the Democratic midterm debacle, states have averaged over a hundred per session. The moral of the story is: Midterms matter. States matter. If this doesn't stop, the year 1950 is coming soon to a state near you.

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I Still Think Trump Will Lose

| Fri Jan. 22, 2016 12:44 PM EST

Just for the record, I haven't changed my mind: Donald Trump will not win the Republican nomination for president. At some point fairly soon, the other candidates are going to take off the gloves and really go after him. When that happens, Trump will have to fight back in a fairly ordinary way. Insults on Twitter will no longer be enough. Eventually the attacks will stick, Trump will do something dumb, and his support will drop.

That's it. That's all I've got. I don't know who's going to hit him hard. I don't know which attack will stick. I don't know what kind of mistake Trump will make. I don't know what will finally bring Republican voters to their senses. But something will.

Unless, of course, the Republican candidates continue to inexplicably shuffle around morosely and simply accept their fate as pathetic losers. It's hard to believe that's what's happened so far, and hard to believe it will continue. But I guess it's possible. Maybe what the GOP really needs is an institutional-size Prozac. Or Viagra. Or something.

When Will It Become Illegal to Drive a Car in the United States?

| Fri Jan. 22, 2016 12:16 PM EST

When will driverless cars become a reality? That is, real driverless cars, where you just tell it where you want to go and then sit back and enjoy the ride?

My guess is seven or eight years. Maybe you think five. Or ten. Or fifteen.

But here's a more interesting question: after driverless cars become widely available, how long will it be until human-driven cars are made illegal? I say ten years. It will vary state to state, of course, and there will likely be exceptions of various kinds (specific types of commercial vehicles, ATVs meant for fun, etc.). Still, without a special license they'll become broadly illegal on streets in fairly short order. The proximate cause will be a chart something like the one on the right.

Republicans Find New $1.7 Billion Iran Chew Toy

| Fri Jan. 22, 2016 11:26 AM EST

Here's the latest appeasement of Iran from the capitulator-in-chief:

A deal that sent $1.7 billion in U.S. funds to Iran, announced alongside the freeing of five Americans from Iranian jails, has emerged as a new flashpoint amid a claim in Tehran that the transaction amounted to a ransom payment.

The U.S. Treasury Department wired the money to Iran around the same time its theocratic government allowed three American prisoners to fly out of Tehran on Sunday aboard a Dassault Falcon jet owned by the Swiss air force.

....Republican lawmakers are calling for an inquiry....“There’s no way the recent events occurred randomly,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R. Kan.), who wrote Secretary of State John Kerry this week to ask about the payment. “We will do our best to find out if this was in our interest.”

You know, I could almost believe that this was just a coincidence. If it were really a direct payoff, both sides would have taken more care to conceal it. At least, that's how these things usually go.

But I suppose it probably was a payoff. We would have been forced to pay out the money eventually anyway, but I guess the Iranians wanted to feel like they got the better of the Great Satan or something. And now the Republicans have something new to hold an endless series of hearings about. Everybody wins!

National Review Is Against Trump, But it Probably Doesn't Matter

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 11:32 PM EST

National Review has finally released its big anti-Trump issue. A bevy of conservative stars contributed to the issue, and they complained about Trump's boorishness, his ignorance, his bullying, his libertine personal life, his racism, his narcissism, his love of dictators, his vitriol, and the fact that he'd probably lose to Hillary Clinton. But the most common complaint was simple: Trump is no conservative. Here are a few snippets:

The Editors: Trump’s political opinions have wobbled all over the lot. The real-estate mogul and reality-TV star has supported abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy....Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

Glenn Beck: While conservatives fought against the stimulus, Donald Trump said it was “what we need”....While conservatives fought against the auto bailouts, Donald Trump claimed “the government should stand behind [the auto companies] 100 percent”....While conservatives fought against the bank bailouts, Donald Trump called them “something that has to get done.”

Mona Charen: One thing about which there can be no debate is that Trump is no conservative—he’s simply playing one in the primaries. Call it unreality TV. Put aside for a moment Trump’s countless past departures from conservative principle on defense, racial quotas, abortion, taxes, single-payer health care, and immigration....Is Trump a liberal? Who knows? He played one for decades — donating to liberal causes and politicians (including Al Sharpton) and inviting Hillary Clinton to his (third) wedding. Maybe it was all a game, but voters who care about conservative ideas and principles must ask whether his recent impersonation of a conservative is just another role he’s playing.

David Boaz: Without even getting into his past support for a massive wealth tax and single-payer health care, his know-nothing protectionism, or his passionate defense of eminent domain, I think we can say that this is a Republican campaign that would have appalled Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan.

Brent Bozell: Until he decided to run for the GOP nomination a few months ago, Trump had done none of these things, perhaps because he was too distracted publicly raising money for liberals such as the Clintons; championing Planned Parenthood, tax increases, and single-payer health coverage; and demonstrating his allegiance to the Democratic party.

Erick Erickson: In October 2011, when many of the other Republican candidates were fighting Barack Obama, Donald Trump told Sean Hannity, “I was [Obama’s] biggest cheerleader.” Trump donated to both the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign, as well to Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and other Democrats. In 2011, according to the website OpenSecrets.org, “the largest recipient [of Donald Trump’s political spending] has been the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee with $116,000.”

Dana Loesch: I love conversion stories. I have my own, from when I became a conservative 15 years ago. But I’m not running for president. Donald Trump is. And his “conversion” raises serious questions. Trump wrote in his book The America We Deserve that he supported a ban on “assault weapons.” Not until last year did he apparently reverse his position. As recently as a couple of years ago, Trump favored the liberal use of eminent-domain laws.

David McIntosh: For decades, Trump has argued for big government. About health care he has said: “Everybody’s got to be covered” and “The government’s gonna pay for it.” He has called for boycotts of American companies he doesn’t like, told bureaucrats to use eminent domain to get him better deals on property he wanted to develop, and proudly proposed the largest tax increase in American history. Trump has also promised to use tariffs to punish companies that incur his disfavor. He offers grand plans for massive new spending but no serious proposals for spending cuts or entitlement reforms.

Whew! But will it do any good? Probably not. The kind of people who read National Review are already convinced that Trump is a menace. Trump's fans, by contrast, are far more likely to have heard of Rush Limbaugh than William F. Buckley or Edmund Burke. And Rush thinks that Trump is great.

At the moment, everyone is eagerly awaiting "Trump's reaction" to NR's destruction derby. I sure hope they've never asked him for money in the past. In any case, I'm sure he'll just write them off as establishment losers who are jealous of his success and afraid they won't get invited to his inauguration. Still, at least the editors of National Review will always be able to say that their magazine has lasted a lot longer than the Trump magazine.

UPDATE: Oh goody! Trump, as usual, is already bored and tweeting out insults:

National Review is a failing publication that has lost it's way. It's circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!

Very few people read the National Review because it only knows how to criticize, but not how to lead.

The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!

Hmmm. Kinda weak tea. I give it a C-. And Trump used the apostrophe wrong twice in the first tweet. He must be tired. I guess the NR criticism hit him hard after all. And as long as we're here, let's do a fact check:

Is NR's circulation "way down"? Their circulation normally goes up when a Democrat gets elected president and then slowly falls off. Their circulation today is down from its 2010 peak, but about the same as it was during the Bush administration. I rate this Mostly False.

Would William F. Buckley be ashamed of this issue—or of NR in general? Nope. I rate this Pants on Fire.

Does NR only know how to criticize, not lead? Yeah. It's a magazine, after all. I rate this True. Still, people with glass keyboards should probably tread lightly on the CAPS LOCK key.

Why Does Everyone Still Treat Donald Trump With Kid Gloves?

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 6:41 PM EST

As many, many people keep pointing out, no one has really taken on Donald Trump. Nor does anyone seem likely to start. Trump has somehow developed a myth of invincibility: nothing anyone says ever hurts him, so why bother trying?

But this is ridiculous. No one has ever really tried. The other Republican candidates tiptoe around, uttering only milquetoast criticisms, and nobody cares what Democrats have to say. But if there's anything Trump has shown us, it's the fact that presidential contenders can be a whole lot blunter than we ever thought. So why not really go after him? I can think of at least half a dozen avenues:

  • His serial affairs, divorces, and remarriages to models and actresses.
  • His obvious lack of religious faith.
  • His miserable financial record: bankruptcies, lawsuits, failed businesses, refusal to pay vendors, etc.
  • His endless penny ante shilling (Trump steaks, Trump University, Trump mortgages, etc.)
  • His many, many liberal beliefs held as recently as a decade ago.
  • His absurd penchant for lying.
  • The "bone spurs" that kept him out of the Vietnam War.
  • His abominable charitable record
  • His risible habit of naming everything after himself.

I'm not suggesting that somebody ask him about this stuff. That will just produce the usual hot air. Nor am I thinking of routine "contrast" ads. I'm thinking of full-bore, kick 'em in the nuts, Willie Horton style ads. Ones where you get to frame the attack in as vicious and unfair a way as you want. Ads that will really hurt him.

Would it work? Beats me. But it's hard to believe that no one is even bothering to try long after it's become obvious that he's not going to collapse on his own. There's a ton of money sloshing around the Republican primary this year, and Republicans aren't especially noted for conducting touchy-feely campaigns. So why is Trump being treated with kid gloves?

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Enough With the Eugenics Already

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 5:49 PM EST

Jonah Goldberg:

I have on my desk Thomas Leonard’s Illiberal Reformers which I am very much looking forward to reading and, if time permits, reviewing. Leonard is a brilliant and meticulous historian and his new book investigates the eugenic roots of progressivism. More on that in a moment.

Everybody needs a hobby, but this is sure an odd thing to keep obsessing about. Yes, many early progressives believed in eugenics. Modern liberals aren't especially proud of this, but we don't deny it either. There are ugly parts of everyone's history.

So why go on and on about it? If it's a professional historical field of study for you, sure. Go ahead. But in a political magazine? It might make sense if you're investigating the roots of current beliefs, but eugenics died an unmourned death nearly a century ago. And no matter what you think of modern liberal views toward abortion or right-to-die laws, nobody can credibly argue that they're rooted in anything but the opposite of eugenics. Early 20th century progressives supported eugenics out of a belief that it would improve society. Contemporary liberals support abortion rights and right-to-die laws out of a belief in individual rights that flowered in the 60s.

So what's the deal? Is this supposed to be something that will cause the general public to turn against liberals? Or what? It really doesn't make much sense.

Are Immigration Agents Defying the President?

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 2:37 PM EST

As you all know, the Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the legality of President Obama's 2014 immigration program—Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, or DAPA. Like DACA, the "mini-DREAM" rule that Obama established in 2012, DAPA codifies the president's ability to direct prosecutorial resources by explicitly telling immigration agents to do what they've mostly been doing anyway: ignore undocumented immigrants who have clean records and have been in the US for a long time. The key word here is "mostly." Nearly all immigrants who fit the DAPA criteria are left untouched, but immigration agents continue to randomly deport some of them. Over at the New Republic, Spencer Amdur makes an interesting argument that this is at the core of the legal case:

As the administration tries to rationalize its immigration policy, the biggest challenge has actually come from within....In 2011, the head of ICE, John Morton, issued a memorandum directing agents not to focus their limited resources on immigrants with clean records, long-time residence, and families in the United States....Morton issued several of these “priorities” memos, and line-level agents almost universally ignored them, continuing to deport immigrants with deep roots here and no convictions.

....Later in 2011, the administration instructed immigration prosecutors to close cases of people who were not priorities for deportation; little changed. In 2012, the administration asked agents to stop sending detention requests to local police for immigrants without criminal records. Still nothing.

....This pattern of defiance is not mentioned in any of the briefs or court decisions in United States v. Texas. But it was an essential antecedent for DAPA, which effectively forces immigration agents to follow the previous policies....This is the elephant in the courtroom. The lawsuit is not just about the balance of power between the president and Congress, as the briefs suggest. It’s about democratic control of the police. Do our elected officials have the right to control the enforcement bureaucracy?

The fact that this isn't mentioned in any of the briefs suggests it's not taken seriously by anyone. Should it be?

Lets All Agree That Apostrophe's Arent Necessary

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 2:08 PM EST

German Lopez says that "apostrophes offer an exciting opportunity to show other people how smart and educated you are"—which all by itself makes it worth learning how to use them. For example:

Another common issue is irregular plural words, like children and teeth. For these words, you add an apostrophe and an s — so children's toys and teeth's roots.

Live by the apostrophe, die by the apostrophe. My middle-school English teacher beat into us that only humans can possess things. Animals too, I suppose. Or countries. But in any case, never inanimate objects. So it's "roots of teeth," because teeth don't own roots.

Of course, some young punks think this is a dated rule that makes no sense, and they go around merrily giving inanimate objects possession of everything. This is appalling. Of course this rule makes no sense, but that's the whole reason that good grammar demonstrates how smart and educated you are. If we did what made sense, we'd eliminate the apostrophe entirely since it's never necessary for comprehension. But that way lies anarchy.

Anyway, everyone1 loves to argue about grammatical minutiae, so have a beer and get to it in comments.

1Actually, not everyone. But my readers sure seem to like it!

Ted Cruz vs. Donald Trump: Who Is the Least Charitable?

| Thu Jan. 21, 2016 1:16 PM EST

McKay Coppins tells us that Ted Cruz is "facing questions" about his lack of entirely Christ-like generosity:

In a series of interviews this week, political opponents and pastors alike suggested Cruz — an avowed Baptist who is aggressively courting evangelical voters — has flouted the Biblical commandment of tithing in his personal life....According to personal tax returns released during his 2012 Senate bid, Cruz contributed less than 1% of his income to charity between 2006 and 2010 — a far cry from the 10% most evangelical leaders believe the Bible demands.

Well, Ted had all those loans from Goldman Sachs to pay off, so he probably didn't have much to spare for tithing. Anyway, those loans were used for the greatest possible gift to the Lord: Ted Cruz's ascension to the Senate.

Of course, Cruz is Mother Teresa compared to his competition:

Tax filings of the Donald J. Trump foundation show Trump has made no charitable contributions to his own namesake nonprofit since 2008. Without an endowment, the fund has continued to give grants only as a result of contributions from others.

....Pressed by the AP on the details of his contributions, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks provided a partial list of donations that appeared to correspond with the foundation's gifts — indicating that Trump may be counting other people's charitable giving as his own.

"I give to hundreds of charities and people in need of help," Trump said in an emailed response to questions from the AP about how he tallied his own philanthropy. "It is one of the things I most like doing and one of the great reasons to have made a lot of money." The Trump campaign did not respond to a request that it identify donations that Trump himself gave.

More here. Obviously Trump is lying about this, but that's hardly even noteworthy anymore. As near as I can tell, he's congenitally unable to tell the truth about anything related to his finances. I mean, this is a guy who's using other people's money for his supposedly self-funded campaign and who claims to this day that he did great with his Atlantic City casinos.

But he's somehow invulnerable anyway. As best I can figure it, Trump (a) never goes to church, (b) has never read the Bible, (c) is unusually stingy, and (d) lives a personal life of serial affairs with younger women followed by serial divorces. But somehow lots of evangelicals think he's a Godly man anyway.

Cruz, on the other hand, is the son of a guy who runs the Purifying Fire International ministry—a preacher so evangelical he seems ready to explode at times. Cruz went to a Baptist high school; he talks about religion interminably; and he attends church regularly. But somehow lots of evangelicals have abandoned him for Trump.

Strange times.