Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Does Russian Money Keep Donald Trump Afloat? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The president speaks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin might prefer Republican nominee Donald Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, because the business magnate has &ldquo;repeatedly expressed admiration&rdquo; for the Russian leader in the past.</p> <p>&ldquo;I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said,&rdquo; the president said. &ldquo;And I think that &mdash; Trump's gotten pretty favorable coverage &mdash; back in Russia.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>The president&rsquo;s comments add considerable heft to mounting evidence that Russian hackers were behind the DNC hack. Obama said that the FBI is still investigating the origin of the hack, but he acknowledged that &ldquo;experts have attributed this to the Russians.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's one thing when a campaign manager or some campaign surrogates say that Vladimir Putin is working to help elect Trump. It's quite another when the president says it. That automatically makes it news. And Trump himself is making things worse. <a href="" target="_blank">Asked by <em>Newsweek</em>,</a> "Do you, or any of your business units have outstanding loans with Russian banks or individuals?&rdquo; his spox said "Mr. Trump does not have any business dealings in/with Russia." Then Trump tweeted this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">July 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>The evasiveness of this answer is pretty obvious. Nobody cares all that much if Trump has business in Russia, they care whether Russian money funds his business here&mdash;which might explain why he's so friendly to Russian interests. He has very carefully avoided answering that question. That's a bad sign since he would normally just lie about it. He must know that evidence of his reliance on Russian money is out there.</p> <p>Trump's tax returns would tell us the answer, of course, but Trump has declined to release them, unlike every other presidential candidate of the past few decades. Maybe now we know why.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Jul 2016 00:06:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 310156 at Democrats and Republicans Have Mirror Image Race Problems <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Donald Trump about former KKK grand wizard and famous white nationalist David Duke:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Would Trump support a Dem over David Duke? "Depending on who the Democrat is, but the answer would be yes." <a href="">#MTP</a><a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Meet the Press (@meetthepress) <a href="">July 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>"Depending on who the Democrat is" doesn't seem like a very strong repudiation of Duke, does it? Apparently Trump is still playing footsie with the racists. On Tuesday, <em>New York Times</em> reporter Maggie Haberman asked about Trump's reply to Todd:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump team warns me that if I continue to "waste our time" on Duke q's, they will allocate "resources" elsewhere <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) <a href="">July 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">And here is longtime Republican policy wonk Avik Roy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Conservative intellectuals, and conservative politicians, have been in kind of a bubble,&rdquo; Roy says. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had this view that the voters were with us on conservatism &mdash; philosophical, economic conservatism. <strong>In reality, the gravitational center of the Republican Party is white nationalism.</strong>&rdquo;</p> <p>....He expands on this idea: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a common observation on the left, but it&rsquo;s an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn&rsquo;t true &mdash; which is that <strong>conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy.</strong> I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.&rdquo;</p> <p>Trump&rsquo;s politics of aggrieved white nationalism &mdash; labeling black people criminals, Latinos rapists, and Muslims terrorists &mdash; succeeded because the party&rsquo;s voting base was made up of the people who once opposed civil rights. &ldquo;[Trump] tapped into something that was latent in the Republican Party and conservative movement &mdash; but a lot of people in the conservative movement didn&rsquo;t notice,&rdquo; Roy concludes, glumly.</p> </blockquote> <p>The problem for Republicans is simple to describe: it's not that their leaders are racist, but that they've long <em>tolerated</em> racism in their ranks. They know this perfectly well, and they know that they have to broaden their appeal beyond just whites. But they're stuck. If they do that&mdash;say, by supporting comprehensive immigration reform or easing up on opposition to affirmative action&mdash;their white base goes ballistic. In the end, they never make the base-broadening moves that they all know they have to make eventually.</p> <p>For Democrats, the problem is the mirror image. Bashing Donald Trump and his supporters for their white nationalism helps with <em>their</em> base, but it's the worst possible way to attract working-class whites who might be attracted to traditional Democratic economic messages. Once you say the word "racism," the conversation is over. Potentially persuadable voters won't hear another word you say.</p> <p>As long as this remains the case, Democrats will routinely win the presidency because their non-white base is growing every year. But Republicans will routinely win the House&mdash;and sometimes the Senate&mdash;because way more than half of all congressional districts are majority white. Result: endless gridlock.</p> <p>I wish I knew the answer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:46:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 310111 at White Men Liked Mitt Romney Better Than Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a fascinating comparison of the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections via Stuart Stevens. I'm not sure what the source is&mdash;someone's PowerPoint presentation, perhaps&mdash;but I assume the data was transcribed correctly. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_2012_2016_election_comparisons.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>This is based on one poll, and it's pre-convention. Still, it sure explodes a lot of myths about Donald Trump. He's doing <em>worse</em> among white men than Mitt Romney and much worse among white women. He's doing slightly better among the middle-aged, but far worse among the elderly. And he's doing <em>better</em> among blacks.</p> <p>On the non-surprising front, he's doing far worse among Latinos. Obama won them by 44 percent, while Clinton is winning them by 62 points. I wonder why?</p> <p>This doesn't show how Trump is doing specifically among blue-collar white men (those with no more than a high school diploma), but I wonder if he's really as popular among this demographic as everyone thinks? Or, in the end, is he just going to perform in a pretty standard Republican way, but just a bit worse?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Jul 2016 17:06:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 310096 at We Need Smarter Bears <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at John Cole's place,</a> everyone is watching the Katmai Park live bearcam. So I watched too, and it's clear that Katmai Park needs a smarter breed of bear. I watched for a few minutes, and during that time I saw a couple of dozen salmon leap up the falls in the foreground while the adorable young bear just stood around in one spot oblivious to the fact that all the fish were elsewhere, laughing at him. I feel certain this is a metaphor for something, but I can't quite think of what. Help me out.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bearcam.jpg" style="margin: 15x 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bearcam_2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Victory! (For the bear, anyway. Not so much for the salmon. But I'm rooting for my fellow mammal.) This must be a metaphor for yet something else. Perhaps that bears know more about being bears than I do? It may have taken a while to snatch breakfast from the jaws of defalls, but then again, what does a bear have besides time? It's not as if he needs to finish up fast so he can get back to Judge Judy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Jul 2016 16:02:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 310076 at Democrats Are Running an ISIS-Free Convention <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jim Geraghty <a href="" target="_blank">reviews the Democratic convention:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In the past eleven days, we&rsquo;ve seen five terrorist attacks in Europe: a truck attack in Nice, a suicide bomber in Ansbach, an attack with an axe on a train in Wuerzburg, a machete attack in Reutlingen, and a priest&rsquo;s throat slit in Rouen, France.</p> <p><strong>Not one speaker addressed ISIS or Islamist terrorism last night.</strong> Democrats formulate their governing plans in a happier, peaceful, imaginary world.</p> </blockquote> <p>It <em>is</em> a little odd. Obviously Democrats aren't going to go down the apocalyptic path that Republicans did, but destroying ISIS really would make the world a better place. You'd think someone might mention this. And yet, when Scott Pelley asked Hillary Clinton on Sunday what she most wanted to accomplish as president, <a href="" target="_blank">she said this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Well, I care most about getting the economy working for everybody.... rebuilding the ladders of care....race and discrimination....immigration reform....gun safety.</p> </blockquote> <p>During this whole laundry list, I was talking to the TV: "Say ISIS. Say ISIS. Say ISIS." But she never did. And to my surprise, nobody commented on this the next day, not even conservatives (at least, none of the ones I read). Eventually, though, it's going to become a little too obvious if no speaker ever says anything about it. Maybe Bill Clinton will mention it tonight. Or one of the military folks on Wednesday or Thursday. Somebody should.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Jul 2016 15:18:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 310066 at Party Unity Finally Comes to the Democrats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is annoying. I feel like I ought to have something to say about tonight's festivities, but I don't, really. The A-listers (Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders) all gave good speeches. Bernie held nothing back, giving a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton that showed him in his best light. Earlier in the day there had been some booing when Hillary's name was mentioned, but it seemed to die out as the night wore on, and in the prime time hour that was all most <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_michelle_obama_convention.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">people saw, it was pretty much all sweetness and light. If the object was to show off a united Democratic Party to the nation, I'd say that Team Hillary did it.</p> <p>On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump was doing his usual: doubling down on whatever he's been criticized about recently. In this case it was NATO: "We have to walk," <a href="" target="_blank">Trump said.</a> "Within two days they're calling back!...They will pay us if the right person asks. That&rsquo;s the way it works, folks." Republicans were almost universally appalled. During the Democratic speeches, Trump spent his time tweeting out his usual juvenile zingers. There's no point in highlighting them, though. It was just the workaday Trumpiness that I suspect even his fans are starting to get bored of by now.</p> <p>And...that's about it. Party unity proceeds apace among Democrats, while puerile insults continue apace in Trumpland. Tune in again tomorrow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Jul 2016 04:29:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 310051 at Hugh Hewitt Says the Kremlin Is Blackmailing Hillary Clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Speaking of Republicans and Hillary Derangement Syndrome....</p> <p>Jonah Goldberg writes today that the conventional wisdom about the DNC email leak is that Russia engineered it in order to help Donald Trump, <a href="" target="_blank">its preferred candidate:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>But there&rsquo;s another theory <strong>with wide currency out there.</strong> It&rsquo;s most articulate and forceful subscriber is Hugh Hewitt. Because Hillary&rsquo;s private server was almost certainly hacked by the Russians, we should assume that they know literally everything Hillary has sent or received over it. Most intelligence and cyber security types seem to agree. <strong>Hence, Hugh argues, Hillary is &ldquo;compromised.&rdquo;</strong> They have leverage over her.</p> <p><strong>So far, I&rsquo;m pretty much with Hugh.</strong> But here&rsquo;s what I don&rsquo;t get. If the Russians have so much leverage over Clinton, why don&rsquo;t they want her to be president? This morning, Hugh dangled a theory that the Russians were yanking her leash by showing they have the goods on her. They saved the server emails <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_smirk.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">for later (or for blackmail), but released the DNC emails to brush her back, or something.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is lunacy. For starters, keep in mind that there's no actual evidence that anyone hacked into Hillary's private server. Second, even if the Russians did hack her server, they only "have something" on Hillary if she actually <em>did something</em>. Both Hewitt and Goldberg seem to think it's so obvious that Hillary is up to her armpits in corruption that they don't even have to make an argument for this. <em>Of course she's concealing mountains of double dealing on her server.</em> And the Russians are keeping all this secret so they have leverage over President Hillary when the time comes.</p> <p>This is, of course, nuts. It's nuts to so blithely assume Hillary's corruption. It's nuts to think the Russians would keep their intel secret instead of simply releasing what they have and ruining her chances of winning. It's nuts to think that Hillary would even run for president if she knew she had some kind of huge bombshell that was likely to blow up on her.</p> <p>It would be one thing if this came out of the fever swamps. And I know my readers will all tell me that Hewitt and Goldberg <em>are</em> part of the fever swamp. But they're not. Whatever else you think of him, Goldberg isn't even all that extreme in his conservatism. Hewitt is, but he's also a smart guy who's relatively restrained by radio jock standards. They're both pretty mainstream conservatives.</p> <p>But one of them is willing to make up a completely batshit argument, while the other says he's "with Hugh" and is only willing to concede that he doesn't think his case "is quite as compelling as he makes it sound." If these guys are wondering how Donald Trump captured their party, all they have to do is look in the mirror.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 21:56:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 310011 at Bernie Sanders Can't Figure Out Why His Supporters Don't Like Hillary Clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>MoJo's ace reporting team tells us what happened when Bernie Sanders addressed his delegates at the Democratic convention. At first, when he talked about the platform and the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, <a href="" target="_blank">things went fine:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>But when he tried to rally the delegates on behalf of Clinton, his audience became restless. "Immediately, right now, we have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine," Sanders said. His delegates shouted their protests and booed, forcing Sanders to pause before continuing in his remarks. Sanders called Trump a "bully and a demagogue" who "has made bigotry the core <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bernie_mic.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 25px 0px 10px 30px;">of his campaign." Still, the boos continued. "She does too!" delegates shouted. Others yelled, "Only you! Only you!"</p> <p>Sanders declared that Trump poses a danger to the country's future, but he could not win over the crowd. "She has ruined communities!" one woman shouted. "She has ruined countries!" Sanders pointed out that Trump "does not respect the Constitution of the United States." Delegates kept on chanting: "Not with her!" and "We want Bernie!"</p> </blockquote> <p>Our reporters say that Sanders "looked a bit surprised by the intensity of the Clinton opposition." I can't imagine why. This is one of the big problems I had with him back during the primary. It's one thing to fight on policy grounds, as he originally said he would, but when you start promising the moon and explicitly accusing Hillary Clinton of being a corrupt shill for Wall Street&mdash;well, there are some bells that can be unrung. He convinced his followers that Hillary was a corporate warmonger more concerned with lining her own pockets than with progressive principles, and they still believe it. And why wouldn't they? Their hero told them it was true.</p> <p>Hillary is no saint. But her reputation as dishonest and untrustworthy is about 90 percent invention. Republicans have been throwing mud against the wall forever in an attempt to smear her, and the press has played along eagerly the entire time. When Bernie went down that road, he was taking advantage of decades of Republican lies in the hopes of winning an unwinnable battle. He was also playing directly into Donald Trump's hands.</p> <p>I don't know. Maybe he never realized how seriously his young followers took him. It's possible. But he really needs to do something about this. Tonight's speech would be a good starting point.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 21:23:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 310001 at Proton Gradients and the Origin of Life <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Where did complex life originate? The <em>New York Times</em> reports on new research <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">from a team led by William Martin of Heinrich Heine University in D&uuml;sseldorf:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Their starting point was the known protein-coding genes of bacteria and archaea. Some six million such genes have accumulated over the last 20 years in DNA databanks....Of these, only 355 met their criteria for having probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea.</p> <p>Genes are adapted to an organism&rsquo;s environment. So Dr. Martin hoped that by pinpointing the genes likely to have been present in Luca, he would also get a glimpse of where and how Luca lived. &ldquo;I was flabbergasted at the result, I couldn&rsquo;t believe it,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>The 355 genes pointed quite precisely to an organism that lived in the conditions found in deep sea vents, the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor....The 355 genes ascribable to Luca include some that metabolize hydrogen as a source of energy as well as a gene for an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_proton_gradient.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">enzyme called reverse gyrase, found only in microbes that live at extremely high temperatures.</p> </blockquote> <p>About a year ago I read <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Vital Question</em>,</a> by British biochemist Nick Lane, which was all about this theory. Roughly speaking, his entire book was about the energy needs of these ancient organisms, which is based on something called a proton gradient. This, it turns out, is a complex and highly unusual way of providing energy, but it's also nearly universal in modern life, suggesting that it goes back to the very beginnings of life. But if it's so unusual, how did it get its start?</p> <p>In the beginning, it could only work in a high-energy environment like a deep-sea vent. In these places, there was a natural gradient between proton-poor water and proton-rich water, and that was the beginning of the proton gradient. It's not the most efficient way of producing energy, but it was the only thing around 4 billion years ago. So willy nilly, life evolved to take advantage of this, and eventually evolved its own proton gradient inside cells.</p> <p>Martin has been a longtime proponent of this idea as well, and now he's produced yet more evidence that it's likely to be true. The energy producing mitochondria in all of your cells are the result of this. Even 4 billion years later, they still depend on a proton gradient. Protons, it turns out, are the key to life.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> And how is the book? It's good, though fairly dense at times if you're not already familiar with some basic chemistry and biology. And toward the end it gets rather speculative, so take it for what it's worth. But overall? If you're interested in the origins of complex life, it's worth a read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 19:19:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 309986 at 18 Great Trends of the Obama Administration—And 2 Terrible Ones <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So how has the country been doing during President Obama's term in office? Here's a scattering of indicators and how they've changed from 2008 (the last year of the Bush presidency) to now:</p> <ol><li><a href="" target="_blank">Unemployment rate (U3):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 5.8 percent to 4.7 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Underemployment rate (U6):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 10.6 percent to 9.6 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Violent crime rate (per 100,000 residents):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 459 to 366.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Fear of crime:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 37 percent to 35 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Uninsured</a> <a href="" target="_blank">rate:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 19.7 percent to 10.3 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Number of illegal immigrants:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 11.8 million to 11.3 million.</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_marine_one.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 5px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">Illegal immigrants from Mexico:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 6.6 million to 5.6 million.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Teen pregnancy rate (per thousand females):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 40 to 25.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Current account balance (trade deficit):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 4.6 percent of GDP to 2.3 percent of GDP.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">American war deaths:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 469 to 28.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Inflation rate:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 3.8 percent to 1.1 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Shootings of police officers:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 149 to 120.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Abortion rate (per thousand women):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 19 to 16.9 (through 2011).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Federal deficit:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 3.1 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Drug abuse</a>: <strong>DOWN</strong> from 22.4 million to 21.6 million (through 2013).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Drug abuse among teenagers:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 7.7 million to 5.2 million (through 2013).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Household debt (as percent of disposable income):</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from 12.8 percent to 10 percent.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Public high school graduation rate:</a> <strong>UP</strong> from 74 percent to 82 percent (through 2013).</li> </ol><p>I'm not presenting this stuff because I think it will change anyone's mind. Nor because Obama necessarily deserves credit for all of them. You can decide that for yourself. It's mostly just to get it on the record. And it's worth noting that none of this may matter in the face of two other statistics that might be more important than all the rest put together:</p> <ol start="19"><li><a href="" target="_blank">Median household income:</a> <strong>DOWN</strong> from $55,313 to $53,657 (through (2014).</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Americans killed in terror attacks:</a> <strong>UP</strong> from 14 to 50+ (so far in 2016).</li> </ol><p>If you measure household income more broadly, it looks better than the raw Census figures. And household income has finally started increasing over the past couple of years. On the terror front, the absolute number of American fatalities from terrorist attacks is obviously very small. Still, the number of brutal attacks in the US and Europe (the only ones Americans care about) has obviously spiked considerably over the past year.</p> <p>Are these two things enough to outweigh everything else? Maybe. Come back in November and I'll tell you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 17:55:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 309976 at Trump Gets a Sizeable Convention Bounce in the Polls <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We now have <a href="" target="_blank">four polls out that were taken after the Republican convention:</a> CNN, CBS, Morning Consult, and Gravis Marketing. They show an average post-convention bounce for <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_republican_convention_bounce.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Trump of 6.3 points. That's higher than the normal GOP bounce of about 4 points. They also show Trump leading Clinton by an average of 2.5 points.</p> <p>This is not, by itself, anything for Democrats to be worried about. They'll get their own bounce this week, and it won't be until mid-August that everything settles down and we have a good idea of where everything really stands. But we can say two things. First, Donald Trump is suddenly going to start talking about polls again. Second, although liberals might have thought the Republican convention was a dumpster fire, it's obvious that Trump's message&mdash;even delivered in angry, apocalyptic tones&mdash;resonates with a lot of people. Democrats better hope that Team Hillary has an effective answer to that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:09:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 309966 at Even Trump-Friendly Media Thinks Putin Prefers Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>John Schindler on the <a href="" target="_blank">DNC email leak:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The important part of this story is that Russian intelligence, using its Wikileaks cut-out, has intervened directly in an American presidential election....The most damaging aspect to the DNC leak is the certainty that Moscow has placed disinformation&mdash;that is, false information hidden among facts&mdash;to harm the Democrats and the Clinton campaign.</p> <p>....<strong>It&rsquo;s obvious that Moscow prefers Trump over Clinton in this election,</strong> which ought not surprise given the important role of Putin-friendly advisors in the Trump campaign, and what better way to help is there than to discredit Team Clinton?</p> </blockquote> <p>This is mostly interesting for where it appeared: the <em>New York Observer</em>, which is owned by Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband. Sometimes you can't even count on family to protect you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 15:32:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 309961 at Are Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Really BFFs? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_trump.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today brings one of the weirdest stories of any recent presidential campaign: Hillary Clinton's campaign has essentially accused Donald Trump of being a pawn of the Russians. Not in hints; not from an unaffiliated Super PAC; not in a deniable statement from an arms-length surrogate; and not in vague "doesn't put America first" terms. Friday's release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, <a href="" target="_blank">says Clinton's campaign manager,</a> "was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump." And Trump intervened to change the Republican platform last week in a way that "some experts would regard as pro-Russian."</p> <p>Believe it or not, though, that's not the weirdest part of this story. The weirdest part is (a) Clinton's campaign might be right, and (b) this is not really getting an awful lot of attention from the media.</p> <p>Let that sink in: the Clinton campaign has explicitly accused the Russians of being on Team Trump <em>and</em> suggested that Trump might be on Team Russia. And although the media is covering it, it's not the top story anywhere. Seriously. WTF does it take these days to lead the news?</p> <p>In a nutshell, here's the evidence. A few months ago, when the DNC's email was hacked, outside experts immediately said it looked like it had been done by the Russians. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the <em>New York Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year....Evidence so far suggests that the attack was the work of at least two separate agencies, each apparently working without the knowledge that the other was inside the Democrats&rsquo; computers.</p> <p>....The experts cited by Mr. Mook include CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that was brought into the Democratic National Committee when officials there suspected they had been hacked....Officials at several other firms that have examined the code for the malware used against the Democratic National Committee and the metadata of the stolen documents found evidence that the documents had been accessed by multiple computers, some with Russian language settings.</p> </blockquote> <p>Eventually the email cache ended up in the hands of Wikileaks, which published it on Friday. "The release to WikiLeaks adds another strange element," says the <em>Times</em>, "because it suggests that the intelligence findings are being 'weaponized' &mdash; used to influence the election in some way." Other similar stories include <a href="" target="_blank">this one from the <em>Washington Post</em></a> and <a href="" target="_blank">this one from <em>Defense One</em>.</a> Beyond that, <a href="" target="_blank">Russian media has become conspicuously pro Trump</a> over the past year.</p> <p>So that's the evidence that Russia is backing Team Trump. But what about the evidence that Trump is on Team Russia? This is a little trickier, but it turns out Trump has an impressive number of pro-Russian views:</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Washington Post</em>:</a> Trump didn't bother much with the Republican platform, but on one topic he pulled out the heavy artillery: against the advice of virtually all conservative foreign policy analysts, he insisted on gutting a plank that said the US should provide weapons to Ukraine. Also: for many years, Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was a lobbyist for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em>:</a> A few days ago, Trump told David Sanger and Maggie Haberman that he might not defend the Baltics if Russia invaded them. He also suggested that the US had little moral authority to condemn human rights abuses in other countries&mdash;a decidedly unusual view for someone running on an extreme nationalist platform.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a> Trump has also suggested that NATO should reorient itself from defending Europe against Russian aggression and instead place more emphasis on Middle Eastern terrorism.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall:</a> "Trump's foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom."</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Slate</em>:</a> Trump has teamed up with Russian investors frequently on projects, and for years has lavished a surprising amount of praise on Vladimir Putin.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Washington Times</em>:</a> Trump has been unusually sanguine about Russia's intervention in Syria. "Let Russia fight ISIS, if they want to fight &lsquo;em," Trump said last year. "Why do we care?"</li> </ul><p>Needless to say, there could be innocent explanations for all these things. Still, they add up to a suspiciously large number of positions that are not just pro-Russia, but unusually pro-Russia. Item #1 has no support among other conservatives, and items #2-6 have no real equal in <em>either</em> political party.</p> <p>So what's going on? The evidence that Putin would like to install Donald Trump in the White House is pretty strong. The evidence that Trump would pursue Russia-friendly policies in return is much more circumstantial, but still pretty substantial. Manchurian candidate jokes aside, this is something that deserves a lot more coverage than whatever Trump happened to tweet last night.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 25 Jul 2016 05:46:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 309936 at Friday Cat Blogging - 22 July 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Somebody pointed out last week that we haven't seen Hopper for a while. Is that true? Maybe! So here she is, in all her green-eyed glory.</p> <p>Have a nice weekend, everyone. We deserve one after four days of the Republican convention.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_07_22.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 35px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 309901 at Should We Allow Nonprofits to Endorse Candidates? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I work for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so I'm keenly aware that I'm not allowed to endorse candidates. That means y'all will just have to guess who I'm voting for in November. I apologize for having to keep you in such suspense.</p> <p>Until recently, though, I had no idea <em>why</em> non-profits weren't allowed to endorse candidates. Then I began hearing about the "Johnson Amendment" from Donald Trump. Obviously someone put a bug in his ear, and he's been repeating it <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lbj_senate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">like a mantra for weeks now. <a href="" target="_blank">So what's this all about?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The &ldquo;Johnson Amendment,&rdquo; as the 1954 law is often called, <strong>is a U.S. tax code rule preventing tax-exempt organizations, such as churches and educational institutions, from endorsing political candidates</strong>. At the time, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson was running for re-election, and he and other members of Congress pushed the amendment to stop support for their political opponents&rsquo; campaigns, George Washington University law professor Robert Tuttle has explained. Many have also argued the amendment served to stop black churches from organizing to support the civil rights movement.</p> <p>&ldquo;All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,&rdquo; the IRS explains of the rule on its website. &ldquo;Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>There you go. So why has Trump suddenly decided this is a threat to democracy? You can probably guess: because conservative churches want to endorse Republican candidates and give them lots of money without losing their tax-exempt status. Jerry Falwell Jr. explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>In recent years, religious liberty group the Alliance Defending Freedom has advocated for its repeal, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and lets the IRS &ldquo;tell pastors what they can and cannot preach,&rdquo; and &ldquo;aims to censor your sermon.&rdquo;...&ldquo;This is something that could make a difference with Christian voters in the fall,&rdquo; Falwell says. <strong>&ldquo;It is almost as important for Christians as the appointment of Supreme Court justices.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My first thought about this is that it would provide yet another avenue for big money in politics. I can imagine rich donors setting up, say, the Church of the Divine Supply Siders and then funneling millions of dollars in dark money through it. Fun!</p> <p>On the other hand, in a world of Super PACs and <em>Citizens United</em>, why bother? They can already do this easily enough, just as churches can set up "action committees" that are legally separate and can endorse away.</p> <p>I'd genuinely like to hear more about this. Within whatever framework of campaign finance law we happen to have, is there any special reason that nonprofits shouldn't be able to endorse, organize, and spend money on behalf of a candidate? I have to admit that no really good reason comes to mind. Am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:09:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 309891 at Trump Goes Nuts in Post-Convention Press Conference <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Did you miss Donald Trump's post-convention press conference? No worries! Twitter has you covered:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Wondering what Trump is doing on the first day of the General Election? Currently, he's insisting that Ted Cruz's father may have killed JFK</p> &mdash; Kevin Feeney (@KevinMFeeney) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump right now is going back to Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald. "Has anybody ever denied that was his father" with Oswald?</p> &mdash; Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">How long til Trump brings up Cruz's zodiac killer past? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Robert Schlesinger (@rschles) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump says if Cruz offers endorsement, "I will not accept," threatens to set up anti-Cruz Super PAC.</p> &mdash; Seema Mehta (@LATSeema) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This press conference is batshit and that&rsquo;s saying something, considering, well, you know.</p> &mdash; Anthony De Rosa (@Anthony) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Haven't we all realized by now that the more you constrain Trump with a prompter speech, the more likely he is to go apeshit the next day?</p> &mdash; Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump reiterating that he wants to demand cash tribute from Japan in exchange for military protection.</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">He&rsquo;s now adding Germany, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to his list of targets.</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Who was the last GOP nominee to make a side reference to Penthouse magazine at a presser, while standing in front of a conservative gov?</p> &mdash; Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">&ldquo;Corey Lewandowski was great, I have to tell you. And he&rsquo;s been very loyal, and he&rsquo;s been on CNN and he&rsquo;s been fighting for me.&rdquo; &mdash; Trump</p> &mdash; Matt Viser (@mviser) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Shop Ivanka's look from her <a href="">#RNC</a> speech: <a href=""></a> <a href="">#RNCinCLE</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">TWICE the RNC displayed tweets from white supremacists in the convention hall.<br><br> TWICE.<br><br> In case you're wondering if it's Trump's party now.</p> &mdash; Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Check out the look of quiet horror on Pence's face. Guess Christie didn't warn him about this. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:59:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 309871 at After Brexit, Signs Point to Recession for Britain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The latest survey of purchasing managers suggests <a href="" target="_blank">bad news for Britain:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_uk_pmi_july_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><strong>The U.K. economy likely contracted in July</strong> as businesses responded to the uncertainty created by a vote to leave the European Union by cutting output and payrolls, according to a survey of purchasing managers at manufacturers and service providers....The U.K. PMI is a measure of activity based on monthly questioning of 600 manufacturing companies and 650 service providers since 1998. It has a close correlation with official measures of economic growth.</p> <p>....Markit said the measure fell to 47.7 in July from 52.4 in June, <strong>the sharpest one-month drop on record.</strong> A reading below 50.0 signals a decline in activity, and a reading above that level indicates an expansion.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is this a temporary dip, or a sign of things to come? Obviously we don't know yet. But that's a helluva big drop for a single month.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:11:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 309861 at The Five Best Moments of the Republican Convention: Thursday Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's over. Finally. Here are today's five best moments:</p> <ul><li>Trump says blandly that he might not come to the aid of our NATO partners in the Baltics if Russia invades them. <a href="" target="_blank">Mitch McConnell</a> chalks this up to a "rookie mistake."&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Newt Gringrich</a> won't even go that far: "Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg," he says. "I'm not sure I would risk nuclear war." How confidence inspiring.</li> <li>Trump's speech <a href="" target="_blank">leaks hours early,</a> upstaging the evening speakers. It is a stunningly dystopian description of a country in terminal decline, possibly the gloomiest speech ever given by a presidential contender.</li> <li>Jerry Falwell Jr. passes along a strained joke his father told him. Dad was musing about being interviewed by Chelsea Clinton, who <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_trump_savior.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">asked him what the biggest threats to the country are. He answered "Osama, Obama, and yo mama." This went over well on the convention floor.</li> <li>Trump pal Tom Barrack <a href="" target="_blank">highlights one of the worst deals Trump ever made:</a> overpaying for the Plaza Hotel and then being forced to sell it at a loss a few years later. This is supposedly an example of what a great dealmaker Trump is.</li> <li>Trump tells America: "I am your voice." And: "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." If this reminds you of the kind of thing a cult leader might say, you're not alone. And the whole speech was spat out with a delivery that was scarily reminiscent of Mussolini or Fidel Castro.</li> </ul><p>By the end of Trump's speech, his campaign slogan for the next three months was clear: "Make America Fear Again." Buckle up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 03:35:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 309801 at No, Police Fatalities Are Not Going Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's another chart to prepare you for Donald Trump's speech tonight. It shows the number of police fatalities since the violent crime peak of 1993. For 2016, I've extrapolated from the number of fatalities through today. As you can see, there's nothing scary here. The number is down from two decades ago and basically flat over the five years.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_police_fatalities.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 02:15:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 309851 at That Deal Tom Barrack Talked About? Trump Took a Bath On It. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_plaza_hotel.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Tom Barrack is now telling us about the time he sold Trump the Plaza Hotel. "He played me like a Steinway piano," Barrack said. Trump was a steely-eyed negotiator, a tiger in the jungle.</p> <p>Who is he kidding? The Plaza Hotel was a disastrous deal&mdash;<em>for Trump</em>. Trump went with his gut and overpaid enormously. He bought it for $407 million&mdash;far more than it was worth at the time&mdash;spent over $50 million in renovations, and then, when he was going through bankruptcy proceedings, was forced to sell it in a deal that valued the hotel at $325 million. Barrack and his boss took Trump to the cleaners.</p> <p>What's more, Barrack was highlighting the absolute worst part of this deal: that Trump was so eager to get the hotel that he agreed to forego normal due diligence and instead allowed Barrack to just give him a list of stuff that needed fixing. It was massive negligence on Trump's part. If Harvard has a list of the worst, laziest deals ever made, this one would make the top ten list.</p> <p>Yet this is the example they're touting to show what a great businessman Trump is? That takes real balls. It's a testament to the fact that the Trump campaign figures it can just say anything. The Trump hagiography is once again beamed out to millions of people and nobody will ever hold them to account.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:50:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 309841 at LMAO <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Trump campaign apparently just sent out the following email:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Did I miss the speech, or is this a premature fundraising appeal? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Julie Bykowicz (@bykowicz) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Seems fine right? Only, uh, Trump hasn't <a href="" target="_blank">given his speech yet</a>. Oops?</p></body></html> Contributor Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:30:27 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 309836 at Crime Is Down and People Feel Safer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is apparently planning to deliver a hair-raising speech tonight focused on the "crime and violence that today afflicts our nation." According to Trump, homicides are up, Washington DC is a killing zone, police shootings have skyrocketed, and illegal immigrants are "roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."</p> <p>Whew. Just to prepare you for all this, here's a chart you've seen many times before showing the rate of violent crime since its peak in 1993:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_violent_crime_rate_1993_2014.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 45px;"></p> <p>We don't have official numbers for 2015 yet, and they might show a small uptick. That's the nature of these things. But it's pretty obvious that America is a considerably safer place than it's been in decades.</p> <p>But as the redoubtable Paul Manafort says, what about how people <em>feel</em>? Do they <em>feel</em> safe? That's a hard question to answer, <a href="" target="_blank">but Gallup asks it every year.</a> Here's the latest. I've included Excel's trendline just to make it clear which direction this is going:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_feel_safe_1993_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 45px;"></p> <p>Bottom line: crime is way down and people feel safer than ever. Try not let Donald scare you too much tonight.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:47:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 309826 at LEAK: Donald Trump's RNC Speech Just Hit the Web Hours Early <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is set to give his much-hyped speech accepting the Republican nomination for president tonight at the RNC in Cleveland. But&mdash;oops!&mdash;it looks like <em>Politico</em> got their <a href="" target="_blank">hands on a draft of the speech a bit early</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Per <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em></a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p>I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.</p> <p>The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.</p> <p>It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.</p> <p>I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.</p> </blockquote> <p>Go read the <a href="" target="_blank">whole thing</a>.</p></body></html> Contributor Thu, 21 Jul 2016 22:44:08 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 309816 at Another Obamacare Success: It's Cut Premiums By 30-50% <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago I mentioned that even if Obamacare premiums increase a fair amount next year, they'll still be way below original projections. An <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_health_affairs_obamacare_premiums.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">analysis today in <em>Health Affairs</em> confirms this and <a href="" target="_blank">adds more meat to the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jon Gabel and Stephen Smith of NORC at the University of Chicago conducted the most thorough analyses of how much premiums in the individual market increased between 2009 and 2013....They imply that ACA marketplace premiums for the [second-lowest-cost silver] plan in 2014 came in a remarkable 21 percent lower than average individual market premiums the year prior, <strong>or 32 percent lower when accounting for the new plans&rsquo; higher actuarial value,</strong> even without incorporating likely utilization increases in response to the additional coverage.</p> <p>....That the ACA might have caused premiums to drop so precipitously when its marketplaces took effect may seem surprising at first &mdash; it was to us....However, the premium reductions make more sense upon deeper analysis.</p> <p>First, even though sicker people were charged higher premiums in the pre-ACA world (and some were denied coverage altogether), many still purchased insurance, but likely at significantly higher rates....Moreover, by creating large premium subsidies and imposing the individual mandate, <strong>the ACA may have caused a greater influx of relatively healthy enrollees into the individual market in 2014 and beyond.</strong></p> <p>....Second, the ACA creates a <strong>price-competitive and transparent market structure,</strong> where consumers can compare similar health insurance products.</p> <p>....Third, <strong>selling costs are likely to be lower in the ACA marketplaces</strong> because of the prohibition on medical underwriting and limited variation in the policies and policy riders that can be offered.</p> </blockquote> <p>Competition is good. It's what caused the lower prices to begin with, as insurers lowballed their premiums in order to build market share. And it's what keeps prices low as insurers continue to compete on the relatively level playing field of Obamacare.</p> <p>But competition is tough on the companies doing the competing. Sometimes it causes them to exit a market. Sometimes individual regions can end up with no providers. It's rare, but not impossible. And of course, competition is only possible if there are enough competitors. That's why the Obama administration is <a href="" target="_blank">opposing the merger of two big insurers</a>&mdash;which would leave us with only three big, nationwide health insurance providers. As Adam Smith pointed out a couple of centuries ago, sellers don't like competition. They'd rather merge or collude so they can charge the highest possible prices. But competition is what's made Obamacare work, and maintaining competition is a key part of keeping costs low in the future. Anyone who believes in the free market should want more competition, not less.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 21:45:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 309796 at Quote of the Day: Mark Cuban on Trump the Pickup Artist <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Mark Cuban, former Trump supporter,</a> on what he thinks of the guy now:</p> <blockquote> <p>There's that guy who'll walk into the bar and say anything to get laid That's Donald Trump right now to a T. But it's all of us who are going to get fucked.</p> </blockquote> <p>Cuban also wonders why none of Trump's business partners are speaking at the convention. "They&rsquo;re not coming forward to speak. They&rsquo;re not coming forward to give him money." No they aren't, are they?</p> <p>As near as I can tell, no one who does business with Trump wants to repeat the experience. Nor does he have any genuine personal friends. He's cordial only as long as you're useful to him. In other words, he's basically a low-grade sociopath. He just doesn't care about people except as markers in whatever game he happens to be playing at the moment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:36:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 309726 at