Kevin Drum

Money Continues to Pile Into Self-Driving Cars

| Mon Jan. 4, 2016 10:42 AM EST

It's like Uber, but for self-driving cars:

On-demand transportation company Lyft raised $1 billion in a Series F round of funding, with $500 million coming from General Motors, the San Francisco company announced Monday.

....In addition to the injection of cash, GM will take a seat on Lyft’s board, and the two companies will create an Autonomous On-Demand Network that will enable people to book a self-driving car in the way they currently hail an Uber or Lyft ride....Although self-driving cars could still be a ways off, the investment is a clear indicator that the transportation industry believes autonomous vehicles will play a big role in the future.

The amount of money going into self-driving cars is pretty spectacular, and it's a good indication that the technology is moving forward quickly. At this point, my guess is that we'll have semi-autonomous vehicles on the road in significant numbers by 2020 and fully autonomous vehicles by 2025. If you buy a new car this year, it might well be the last car with a steering wheel that you ever own.

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News Media Infatuated With Donald Trump, Part 4,387

| Mon Jan. 4, 2016 12:04 AM EST

Oh come on. A front-page piece about the fact that Donald Trump is airing a TV ad? Seriously? And the article itself is even worse:

The Republican presidential candidate’s long-awaited and hotly anticipated first ad, which was shared exclusively with The Washington Post, is set to launch Monday as part of a series that will air in the final month before the Iowa caucuses. Trump has vowed to spend at least $2 million a week on the ads — an amount that will be amplified by the countless times they are likely to be played on cable news and across social media.

Would the Post do this for any other candidate doing something as routine as airing an ad? Has it really been long-awaited? Or hotly anticipated? And shouldn't that last line say "cable news and print media offered 'exclusive' looks"?

I know it's tedious to complain about the mainstream media going gaga over everything Donald Trump says, but WTF? It's an ad. There's nothing special about it. It's just a narrator saying the same stuff Trump has been saying forever. It's not raising the temperature of anything. So why not just write a short blog post about it and move on?

In other news, apparently there's a crazy woman who's been following Hillary Clinton around for years in order to harangue her about Bill's alleged sexual misconduct. She did it again today. In other words, this is practically the definition of "not news." So why is it news at the Post?

The allegations of misconduct that have swirled around the former president for years have reemerged in the campaign recently, thanks to GOP businessman Donald Trump, who has said that those allegations are fair game on the campaign trail.

So there you have it. If Donald Trump writes a bunch of tweets about dogs biting men, then it's news. Crikey. And as long as we're on the subject, here is Trump once again selling the myth that he's self-funding his campaign:

Trump said his advertising blitz is being financed chiefly out of his own pocket....“All me, 100 percent me — 100 percent,” Trump said. “I’m self-funding my campaign. We do have small donors that send in $12, $25, $100, but they just send it in. We’re not asking for it.

Uh huh. Except, of course, for the fact that "Donate" buttons are the main things highlighted at the top of Trump's web page. And if you click one of them, the donation page asks for contributions from $10 to $2,700. And that's actually Trump's main source of funding, not his own pocket. But sure. Other than that, he's totally self-funded and he's not asking for anything.

I'm curious: Is Donald Trump even capable of opening his mouth without saying something untrue?

The Great Oregon Standoff Enters Its First Day

| Sun Jan. 3, 2016 12:43 PM EST

When I went to bed last night, the hot topic on my Twitter feed was the occupation of a United States Fish and Wildlife Service building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This is near Burns, Oregon, which would probably need to be a little closer to Bend to even qualify as the middle of nowhere. As for the building itself, it's even more remote.

So, anyway, it turns out that a bunch of self-described militiamen, headed by Ammon and Ryan Bundy of Bundy ranch fame, decided to take over the building as a protest against federal tyranny. The particular tyranny at issue was the imprisonment of a couple of local ranchers who had burned some federal land next to their property. None of these details really matter much, though. The question is, what should we do about these guys? Here's David Atkins:

As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren't met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They're met with batons and tear gas....So on the one hand it's understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it's infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

I feel that if Bundy's little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they'll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they're asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise. As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What's good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.

And Mark Kleiman:

It’s crucial to avoid a shoot-out, but it’s equally crucial to assert the rule of law. There’s no need here to repeat the back-down in Nevada, and the ringleaders need to go away for long, long time.

It’s also crucial that Republican politicians — most importantly, the Presidential candidates — be forced to take a stand for or against acts of lawless violence. And that’s not something the President can or should try to manage alone. Everyone needs to speak out, and keep speaking out.

Gotta go with Kleiman here. I understand the gut satisfaction of fantasizing about a Bonnie & Clyde style shootout that leaves the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge soaked in terrorist blood, but that's really not what any of us should want. These guys aren't terrorists, anyway. They're just as misguided as real terrorists, but they haven't taken anyone hostage or threatened to blow up an airplane. They're just morons with guns. We can wait them out, or fill the place with tear gas, or play loud music all night like we did with Manual Noriega. I don't know. I'll leave the tactics up to professionals.

In any case, I don't really want to kill these guys, and I don't think their movement needs martyrs anyway. Just let them rot quietly away for a while until they finally come slinking out of their hole into the hands of federal officials. Then they can be put on trial. By that time, they'll just seem like a bunch of pitiful loons, and their "movement" will be dead. That's all I care about. No need to give them more publicity than they've already gotten.

But, yes, I would like to hear all the Republican presidential candidates denounce them in no uncertain terms. That shouldn't be so hard, should it?

Modern Teenagers Not So Mysterious After All

| Sat Jan. 2, 2016 2:45 PM EST

At the New York Times today, Conor Dougherty clues us in on what it's like being a teenager today:

Teenagers being teenagers, the room was full of angst and contradictions. They love Instagram, the photo-sharing app, but are terrified their posts will be ignored or mocked. They feel less pressure on Snapchat, the disappearing-message service, but say Snapchat can be annoying because disappearing messages make it hard to follow a continuing conversation. They do not like advertisements but also do not like to pay for things.

It's nice to see that modern teenagers aren't really that hard to understand after all. Plus ça change.

2016 Has Arrived With a Bang

| Sat Jan. 2, 2016 12:35 PM EST

Huh. My breakfast exploded this morning. That's never happened before.

Carly Fiorina Wins 2016 Pandering Championship After Only 11 Hours

| Fri Jan. 1, 2016 5:11 PM EST

I wasn't planning to blog anything today, but this sort of forced my hand:

CAR-LY! CAR-LY! CAR-LY! Let's all raise a cheer for the golden cornfields of Palo Alto!

What really puts this over the top is the fact that it's so chuckleheaded. No real Iowa fan would have anything but contempt for a Stanford grad who abandoned her school just for a chance to become president of the United States.

Of course, the game hasn't started yet. There's still time to issue an emergency tweet blaming this on an intern who's been summarily dismissed. Either way, though, I declare the 2016 pandering championship closed. What could possibly beat this?

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New Year's Catblogging - 1 January 2016

| Fri Jan. 1, 2016 12:00 AM EST

State Department Releases 5,500 More of Hillary Clinton's Darkest Secrets

| Thu Dec. 31, 2015 7:18 PM EST

It's the last day of the month, and that's when the State Department releases additional tranches of Hillary Clinton's email from her stint as Secretary of State. Here's one from State's chief of protocol keeping Hillary apprised of a joke Obama told about her at the White House Correspondent's dinner. Don't worry, it's unclassified:

If you want to browse through them yourself, click here. Who knows? Maybe you'll be the first to find the smoking gun that destroys Hillary once and for all!

Hey, I Like Hillary Clinton Too

| Thu Dec. 31, 2015 1:45 PM EST

Sady Doyle:

I’ve come to believe that saying nice things about Hillary Clinton can be a subversive act.

Well, I don't know about subversive. A little unusual, maybe, but that's all. So what accounts for Doyle's affection for Hillary? Basically, the fact that Hillary is still alive and kicking after spending nearly her entire life on the receiving end of attacks that would turn most of us into sobbing wrecks who refuse to answer the doorbell:

It’s almost as if, after a quarter-century of being attacked for her appearance, personality, and every waking move, breath, and word, Hillary Clinton is highly conscious of how she is perceived and portrayed, and is trying really hard to monitor her own behavior and behave in ways people will accept. Which is “disgusting,” of course. We want “authentic” candidates. Remind me: How well did the public and media react the last time she appeared in public without makeup? Or raised her voice? Or laughed? Or went to the goddamn bathroom? Or did any “authentic” thing that a real-life person does every day?

....Honestly, ask yourself: How long would you make it, if people treated you the way you treat Hillary Clinton? Would you not just be furious by now? Would you not have reached levels of blood-vessel-popping rage and despair? She’s been dealing with it for decades, and keeps voluntarily subjecting herself to it, and knows exactly how bad it will get and exactly what we’ll do to her, and yet she is running for president again, and—here’s the part I love, the part that I find hard to wrap my head around—she might actually win. That is awe-inspiring.

Yeah, pretty much. I like Hillary Clinton too,1 and for much the same reason as Doyle. I view her as nearly the exact opposite of her reputation in popular culture. She's not cunning or devious. In fact, she's the farthest thing from that. She's dutiful and always has been. She wants to do good. She's demanding of herself. She's not naturally extroverted, but forces herself to do what needs to be done. She's not naturally brilliant, but she's a studier and a hard worker. And I imagine that the relentless attacks she's put up with have indeed wounded her pretty deeply. Unlike her husband, she's not the kind of person who can brush them off as just part of the game.

Do I like Hillary because of all this? Sure, though not in any deep sense. I don't really like people I've never met. But I sure as hell admire her. She could have ended up like Richard Nixon, but she didn't. She keeps gutting it out, over and over. For that, she'll always have my esteem—and maybe even my affection.

1I also like Bernie Sanders. I used to like Martin O'Malley, but not so much anymore.

Can You Figure Out Today's Mystery Map?

| Thu Dec. 31, 2015 12:00 PM EST

Let's play a game! What is this a map of?

  1. Popularity of Adele vs. Taylor Swift in 2015
  2. Rain patterns and drought as a consequence of global warming in 2015
  3. Support for Donald Trump among Republicans in 2015
  4. Change in cable TV penetration during 2015
  5. Support for using ground troops against ISIS in 2015

The answer is 3, support for Donald Trump among Republicans. But I tricked you. It's also a map that shows where racially-charged internet searches are most common. Here is Nate Cohn on Trump's support:

His geographic pattern of support is not just about demographics — educational attainment, for example. It is not necessarily the typical pattern for a populist, either. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of Ross Perot’s support in 1992, which was strongest in the West and New England, and weakest in the South and industrial North.

But it is still a familiar pattern. It is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests.

But remember: no fair confusing correlation and causation! This might just be a big coincidence.