Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Microsoft Announced Some Stuff Yesterday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday really highlighted the difference between Apple PR and Microsoft PR. Last month, I started hearing about Apple's big product announcement at least a week before it happened. By the time Der Tag rolled around I had read at least a dozen previews, and on the day itself practically everyone was not just reporting on it, but liveblogging it, tweeting it, Instagramming it, and just generally going bananas. And that was for an announcement that turned out to be fairly unexciting.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Microsoft put on its big product announcement show. I had no idea it was on the calendar. I hadn't read a word about it beforehand. On the day itself, my Twitter feed was silent. The front pages of newspapers were busy with other <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_surface_pro_4.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">things. And that's despite the fact that Microsoft was actually introducing some fairly cool stuff.</p> <p>(Note: this is not meant as an Apple vs. Windows fight. If you think nothing related to Windows could ever be cool, that's fine.)</p> <p>But it also highlighted how far from the mainstream my tastes seem to be. One of Microsoft's announcements, for example, was a new notebook with a detachable screen that can be used as a tablet. Ho hum. There are dozens of those around. Except for one thing: this notebook screen has 267 ppi resolution, which means you can actually use it as a tablet without your eyes going cockeyed. But that got hardly any attention at all. Why? Am I the only one who's been pining for a genuinely high-res Windows tablet? And even if I am, why else would anyone even care about this new laptop? It's expensive and otherwise not especially noteworthy.</p> <p>Ditto for the new Surface Pro 4. It's slightly bigger and a bit lighter than the old Surface Pro, and it sports faster processors. That's all fine, though nothing to shout about. But! Its screen is super high-res, just like the notebook. I've been pining away for this for years. I want one. And I have a birthday coming up.</p> <p>So that's question #1: Does the rest of the world think that 200 ppi is basically fine? I mean, it <em>is</em> fine, in a way. I use a 200 ppi tablet all the time, and it's OK. But it's not great. Surely this deserves more attention, especially since Retina displays have been a selling point for iPads for a long time.</p> <p>Question #2: Still no GPS? Come on. What would it take, a ten-dollar chip plus an antenna? On a tablet that costs a thousand bucks, you'd think Microsoft could spring for this. But maybe no one cares. Am I the only person who thinks it's sometimes useful to use a big tablet rather than a tiny phone to display maps? Unfortunately, I can rarely do that because you need GPS for it to work. (Or, alternatively, some way to tap into my phone's GPS, the same way I tap into its internet connection via WiFi.)</p> <p>And now for Question #3. Let's let <em>Slate's</em> Will Oremus <a href="" target="_blank">set the stage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Surface Pro 4 nominally starts at $899, but that&rsquo;s without a keyboard, or the fast processor, or any of the other goodies that make the Surface a viable PC. Realistically, it&rsquo;s going to run you well over $1,000 and will top $1,500 fully loaded. So, yes, it had <em>better</em> replace your PC.</p> </blockquote> <p>What's the deal with the continuing obsession over fast processors? I've been using Windows tablets with crappy Atom processors for a couple of years, and never had any complaints. I could easily use any of them as my primary desktop machine. The lowest-end processor on the Surface 4 is quite a bit faster than an Atom SOC, so why all the angst over needing something even better?</p> <p>Obviously there are exceptions. If you're doing software builds or heavy-duty video editing or high-end gaming, you'll want lots of memory and the fastest processor you can get. But you're probably not going to do any of those things on a tablet anyway, no matter how good it is. For all the ordinary stuff us white-collar worker types do&mdash;spreadsheets, word processing, email, web browsing, etc.&mdash;just about any modern processor will work fine. Why sweat it?</p> <p>(More generally,&nbsp;Oremus is right about the price, though. You'll need a keyboard and a docking station if you plan to use a tablet as your primary machine. That will push the Surface Pro 4 up to $1,200 or so even at the low end.)</p> <p>And what the hell, as long as I'm on the subject, here's Question #4: why are Macs so popular among journalists? Back in the day, Macs had real advantages in display graphics, which led to the development of lots of image editing and page makeup software for Macs. That made them very popular with graphic artists. But writers? Word processing is word processing. A cheap notebook does it as well as an expensive one. So why did journalists migrate to Macs in such numbers? Anyone have any idea?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 19:53:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 286376 at Quote of the Day: You'd Have to Be Nuts to Want a Leadership Role in the Republican Party <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We all know that John Boehner quit the speakership because he was finally fed up trying to deal with the lunatics in his own party. But how about some of the tea party darlings, like Trey Gowdy or Paul Ryan? <a href="" target="_blank">Apparently they feel about the same:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Gowdy] insists he&rsquo;s not interested in joining leadership, not in any capacity. He is funny, and biting, about the chaos of the present House.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t have a background in mental health, so I wouldn&rsquo;t have the right qualifications to lead right now,&rdquo;</strong> he says. Who wants you to be in leadership? &ldquo;No friend does,&rdquo; he says.</p> <p>....&ldquo;To me, just speaking as one member, the smartest kid in the class is Paul Ryan,&rdquo; Gowdy said. &ldquo;If I had one draft choice and I was starting a new country, I would draft Paul to run it. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_squirrel_2015_10_07.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">he&rsquo;s super, super smart. <strong>And when someone is super, super smart and is not interested, that tells you something. It tells me a lot.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>By coincidence, this is sort of related to the conservative fantasy I talked about in the <a href="" target="_blank">previous post.</a> Folks like Gowdy and Ryan are smart enough to see it too, even though they're both stone conservatives themselves. A leadership role wouldn't give them the power to actually implement the conservative agenda, but too many conservatives these days don't care. They're living the fantasy that if only their leaders fought hard enough, they could win. So when they don't win, it must mean that they didn't fight very hard. Right now, there's just no way to puncture that fantasy.</p> <p>And why the squirrel illustration? Nothing to do with Gowdy or Ryan or the tea party or conservatives being squirrely or nuts. Honest! This is just our household squirrel, who was outside feeding his face a few minutes ago. So I went out and took his picture. And speaking of squirrels, here's an interesting squirrel factlet: if you Google "squirrel saying," 7 of the top 20 hits are about the difficulties that German speakers have saying "squirrel."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 18:36:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286366 at How Our Constitution Indulges the Great Conservative Fantasy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A few days ago</a> Matt Yglesisas wrote a #Slatepitch piece arguing that Hillary Clinton "is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas"&mdash;and that's a <em>good</em> thing. In a nutshell, Democrats can't get anything done through Congress, so they need someone willing to do whatever it takes to get things done some other way. And that's Hillary. "More than almost anyone else around, she knows where the levers of power <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_tough.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 24px 0px 15px 30px;">lie, and she is comfortable pulling them, procedural niceties be damned."</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, conservatives were shocked. Shocked! Liberals are fine with tyranny! Today Matt responded <a href="" target="_blank">in one of his periodic newsletters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A system of government based on the idea of compromises between two independently elected bodies will only work if the leaders of both bodies want to compromise. Congressional Republicans have rejected any form of compromise, so an effective Democratic president is going to try to govern through executive unilateralism. I don't think this is a positive development, but it's the <em>only possible</em> development.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't think I'm as pessimistic as Yglesias, but put that aside for a moment. Look at this from a conservative point of view. They want things to move in a conservative direction. But compromise doesn't do that. In practice, it always seems to move things in a more liberal direction, with a few conservative sops thrown in that eventually wither away and die. This leaves them with little choice except increasingly hard-nosed obstructionism: government shutdowns, debt ceiling fights, filibusters for everything, voter ID laws, etc. etc.</p> <p>And there's a lot of truth to this to this view. The entire Western world has been moving inexorably in a liberal direction for a couple of centuries. It's a tide that can't be turned back with half measures. Conservative parties in the rest of the world have mostly made their peace with this, and settle for simply slowing things down. American conservatives actually want to <em>reverse</em> the tide.</p> <p>That's all but impossible in the long term. It's just not the way the arc of history is moving right now. But American conservatives are bound and determined to do it anyway.</p> <p>This is the fundamental problem. British conservatives, in theory, could turn back the clock if they wanted to, but they don't. Their parliamentary system allows them to do it, but public opinion doesn't. If they want to retain power, there's a limit to how far they can fight progress. If American conservatives were in the same situation, they'd probably end up in the same place. Once they actually got the power to change things, they'd very quickly moderate their agenda.</p> <p>It's in this sense that our system of governance really is at fault for our current gridlock. Not <em>directly</em> because of veto points or our presidential system or any of that, but because these features of our political system allow conservatives to live in a fantasy world. They dream of what they could do if only they had the political power to do it, and they really believe they'd do it all if they got the chance. Thanks to all those veto points, however, they never get the chance. Full control of the government would disabuse everyone very quickly of just how far they're really willing to go, but it never happens.</p> <p>We are living through an era in which conservatives are living a fantasy that can never be. But our system of governance denies them the chance to test that fantasy. So it continues forever. It will stop eventually, either because conservatives somehow <em>do</em> gain total political power and are forced to face up to its limits, or because it burns itself out through continual head banging that gets them nowhere combined with demographic changes that decimate their base. Probably the latter. It's only a question of how long it takes.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 17:52:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 286361 at Let's Experiment With the Minimum Wage and EITC <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_state_eitc.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">When you add up the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit, Brad DeLong thinks <a href="" target="_blank">it should add up to a living wage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Of course, minimum-wage advocates are fearful of the following: We say raise the minimum wage, they say increase the earned income tax credit instead. We say increase the earned income tax credit, they say it is more important to reduce the deficit. We say fund the earned income tax credit by raising taxes, they say lower taxes promote entrepreneurship. We say cut defense spending, they say ISIS and Iran. The shift of attention to the earned income tax credit is then seen as&mdash;which it often is&mdash;part of the game of political Three Card Monte to avoid doing anything while not admitting you are opposed to doing anything.</p> <p>That is all very true.</p> <p>So raise the minimum wage, and then bargain back to a lower minimum wage and a higher income tax credit if it turns out that there are significant disemployment affects.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, that would be fine except that the same people who refuse to increase the EITC are the same ones who refuse to raise the minimum wage. We're no more likely to get a $15 (or $12 or $13 or $14) minimum wage than we are to get a more generous EITC. Ditto for wage subsidies, which are popular in some conservative circles. The excuses may vary depending on the circumstances, but they will always add up to No.</p> <p>Perhaps a better bet is to focus on the state level. <a href="" target="_blank">Plenty of states</a> have an EITC that piggybacks on the federal EITC, and that means there are plenty of laboratories of democracy where we could try different combinations of EITC and minimum wage to see what works best. Who knows? Maybe a few states could even be talked into trying out wage subsidies.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 16:16:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286336 at Folks in West Virginia Aren't Getting Enough Sleep <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Wonkblog,</a> Christopher Ingraham passes along the results of a new study about where people sleep the best and the worst. It tuns out I'm in pretty good shape: Orange County reports generally excellent sleep. But if you live in the Insomnia Belt, stretching down the Appalachians from West Virginia into eastern Texas, you may be in trouble. Why? Apparently no one knows. But it might explain why they're so cranky these days.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sleep_map.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 15:32:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 286326 at Bill Clinton Explains the Appeal of Donald Trump with the Perfect Backhanded Compliment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Former President Bill Clinton appeared on the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Late Show </em>on Tuesday night</a>, where he was asked by host Stephen Colbert to explain the meteoric rises of both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.</p> <p>While he was quick to tout Sanders' appeal as resonating with voter frustration that the system is "rigged against them," Clinton actually had far more to say about his former friend Trump than he did about his wife's increasingly formidable challenger from Vermont.</p> <p>"He's a master brander and he's the most interesting character out there," Clinton said of Trump. "And because he said something that overrides the ideological differences."</p> <p>"There is a macho appeal to saying, 'I'm just sick of nothing happening. I'm going to make things happen. Vote for me,'" he added.</p> <p>This is the second time Clinton has called out Trump for running a political campaign based on branding. Just last week, he hit back at Trump's insults describing his wife's tenure as secretary of state as the very "worst in history."</p> <p>"Well the thing about branding is, you don't have to be&mdash;you can be fact-free," Clinton told <a href="" target="_blank">CNN</a>'s Erin Burnett.</p> <p>On Tuesday, Clinton also shut down a previous report citing his influence on Trump making a run for the White House. Watch above.</p></body></html> Mixed Media 2016 Elections Media Wed, 07 Oct 2015 15:21:38 +0000 Inae Oh 286321 at The Feds Are Officially Investigating Hollywood's Glaring Gender Gap <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has officially launched an investigation looking into the lack of female directors working in Hollywood.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The LA Times </em></a>reports government officials have already requested interviews from some 50 women working in the industry and will start interviews as soon as next week to ultimately determine if Hollywood is violating federal law.</p> <p>"I hope they force people to change the way they do business because Hollywood is not exempt from the law," Lori Precious <a href="" target="_blank">said </a>in response to Monday's news. Precious is one of the women the EEOC requested to talk to as a part of the formal probe.</p> <p>The inquiry comes as an increasing number of women in Hollywood, both directors and actresses, come forward with personal stories alleging a disturbing pattern of discrimination, including high profile women such as Ava DuVernay and Meryl Streep. In May, the American Civil Liberties Union urged the government to formally investigate the persistant claims.</p> <p>"Blatant and extreme gender inequality in this large and important industry is shameful and unacceptable,&rdquo; director of the the ACLU Southern California Project Melissa Goodman <a href="" target="_blank">wrote in a press release</a> back in May. "The time has come for new solutions to this serious civil rights problem."</p> <p>Earlier this year, a staggering gender bias study found only 30.2 of all speaking characters in 2014 were played by women.</p> <p>"For every 2.3 male characters who say 'Dude,' there is just woman saying, 'Hello?!" the <em>T<a href="" target="_blank">imes</a></em><a href="" target="_blank"> Manhola Dargis wrote.</a></p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Sex and Gender Wed, 07 Oct 2015 13:09:00 +0000 Inae Oh 286316 at These Photos of Wet Dogs Are Shameless Clickbait, and You Will Click on Them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After moving to New York City in 2010, the French photographer <a href="" target="_blank">Sophie Gamand</a> has made her living taking pictures of dogs&mdash;not a bad strategy in the internet era. <a href="" target="_blank">Strays</a>, purse-sized pups <a href="" target="_blank">draped in jewels</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Hairless Mexican dogs</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">flower-bedecked pit bulls</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">shelter dogs</a>, and, yes, wet ones. It's been two years since Gamand found a viral audience for her portraits of canines pulled straight from the bath, eyes full of reproach, water streaming from whiskers.</p> <p>The wet dog series won her a <a href=";FromImageGalleryGroupID=2" target="_blank">Sony World Photography Award</a> in 2014 and a book deal from Grand Central Publishing. <em>Wet Dog</em>, out October 13, is gloriously uncomplicated: It consists of 144 pages of scruffy, soaked canines and sentimental commentary on the bond between the dogs and their owners. "Elevating dog photography to the status of art," Gamand's website boasts, "these expressive portraits of our canine friends mirror our very own human emotions." You know, like the frustration of getting shampoo in your eye. Or the indignity of shower caps.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-benji-web_1.jpg" style="height: 945px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-chelsea1-web%20%281%29_0.jpg" style="height: 945px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-Diamond-web.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/coco1_credit%20Sophie%20Gamand%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-Wanda-web%20%281%29_1.jpg" style="height: 420px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/britney2_credit%20Sophie%20Gamand.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/chiki-baby_credit%20Sophie%20Gamand.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-Pancake-and-chelsea-web_0.jpg" style="height: 806px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pucci_credit%20Sophie%20Gamand.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/WET%20DOG%201_credit%20Sophie%20Gamand%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 630px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/SophieGamand-WetDog-Marnie-web%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 945px; width: 630px;"><div class="caption">Sophie Gamand</div> </div></body></html> Mixed Media Photo Essays Top Stories Wed, 07 Oct 2015 10:00:16 +0000 Madison Pauly 286286 at The Meat Industry Is Licking Its Chops Over Obama's Massive Trade Deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The US meat industry scored a big victory this week when world leaders <a href="">hammered out an agreement</a> that would reduce trade barriers across the Pacific: from the United Sates, Canada, Mexico, Peru, and Chile on this side to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Singapore on the other.</p> <p>President Barack Obama has made passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, the signature goal of his second term. Now it goes to Capitol Hill for approval&mdash;which it will likely get, given that back in June, Congress <a href="">granted</a> the president "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals, meaning that it will be considered in&nbsp;up-down, simple-majority votes in both chambers, with no chance of amendment or filibuster.</p> <p>So how would the TPP affect Big Meat in the United States? The industry <a href="">is currently facing stagnant domestic demand for its product as Americans eat less meat</a>. The TPP would open markets in countries that currently protect domestic farmers with tariffs. Japan, for example, <a href="">agreed</a> to slash its tariff on imported beef from 38 percent to 9 percent over the next 15 years&mdash;likely making it much easier for American importers to gain a foothold. Because the pact has been negotiated in secret and few details about it have been released, it's impossible to estimate how big of a boost the TPP will provide to US meat purveyors. But it already has industry groups doing the money dance. &nbsp;</p> <p>In a <a href="">press release</a> celebrating the TPP, the National Pork Producers Council declared that the trade pact "could increase US pork exports over time exponentially." The National Chicken Council, meanwhile, <a href="">crowed</a> that the TPP "represents a significant opportunity to expand US chicken exports and bring increased economic benefits to chicken farmers and companies across the country." The United States Cattleman's Association, facing <a href="">severely declining US beef demand</a>, hailed it in an emailed statement as "welcome news to a domestic industry in need of expanding international market access and reduction of tariffs in the countries included."&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, when <a href="">asked why they're eating less meat</a>, Americans commonly cite a desire to reduce the environmental and social impacts of industrial-scale meat production: everything from <a href="">animal cruelty</a> to <a href="">fouled water</a> and <a href="">air</a> to <a href="">labor abuses at slaughterhouses</a> and <a href="">pillaged local economies</a>. An export boom will only intensify those trends.</p> <p>"We are already seeing the industry posturing in anticipation for the TPP to pass," Kendra Kimbirauskas, an Oregon farmer and CEO of the <a href="">Socially Responsible Agricultural Project</a>. In Oregon, she adds, "representatives for the industry have spoken about wanting to triple dairy production in the Pacific Northwest to meet Asian demand for powdered milk."</p> <p>She points to another concern with the deal: the infamous Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause, which would allow corporations within the TPP zone to challenge regulations imposed by member governments in a binding international court. For instance, a company could protest against health and safety regulations if it felt they restricted its business.<strong> (</strong>Here's a <a href="">blistering critique</a> of the ISDS clause from Sen. Elizabeth Warren.)<strong> </strong>Two foreign companies&mdash;Brazil's JBS and China's Shuanghui&mdash;<a href="">now control nearly half of US pork production</a>. Neither Brazil nor China is in the TPP, but nothing's stopping either from opening a subsidiary in, say, Australia or Japan, and then filing an Investor-State Dispute Settlement suit to stifle some state regulation on factory-scale livestock farming, says Karen Hansen-Kuhn, director of international strategies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.</p> <p>"The few tools that impacted communities have remaining to protect themselves from CAFO [concentrated animal feeding operations] pollution could be in jeopardy if those regulations are seen as a barrier to trade with the potential to impact corporate profits," Kimbirauskas adds.</p> <p>Hansen-Kuhn also notes that the US trade representative's <a href="">summary</a> of the TPP contains this line: The "TPP Parties have also agreed to increased transparency and cooperation on certain activities related to agricultural biotechnology"&mdash;another way of saying genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. That's vague language, and the TPP's full criteria for GMOs has not been spelled out. But it certainly appears to place pressure on TPP countries that have opted not to use them, like <a href="">Japan</a> and <a href="">Peru</a>.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Top Stories Wed, 07 Oct 2015 10:00:15 +0000 Tom Philpott 286266 at Bobby Jindal Lashes Out at Father of Oregon Shooter: "He's the Problem Here" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If, after last week's shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, you held the gunman responsible, Bobby Jindal&nbsp;thinks you've missed the mark.</p> <p>On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jindal&nbsp;published a self-described "<a href="" target="_blank">sermon</a>"&nbsp;on his campaign website, addressing what he believes are the root causes of mass shootings. These&nbsp;causes include, but are not limited to, "cultural decay," violent video games, absent fathers, and the general devaluing of human life.</p> <p>"It's the old computer axiom&mdash;garbage in, garbage out," Jindal <a href="" target="_blank">wrote</a>. "We fill our culture with garbage, and we reap the result."</p> <p>Jindal also lashed out at the shooter's father, who <a href="" target="_blank">has called for</a> gun control in the wake of his son's rampage. "He's a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public," Jindal wrote. "He's the problem here.</p> <p>Jindal's&nbsp;response to this instance of gun violence is similar to his reaction to a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">shooting</a> at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, in which three people (including the gunman) were killed. Shortly after that happened, Jindal offered condolences to the families, resisted discussing gun control reform in lieu of praying for the victims' families, and even <a href="" target="_blank">criticized</a> President Barack Obama for "trying to score cheap political points." However, after the shooting at an army recruiting station in Chattanooga, Tennessee, just days later, the Louisiana governor reacted <a href="" target="_blank">quite differently</a>. Jindal&nbsp;was quick to politicize the issue by pinning&nbsp;the shooting on radical Islamic terrorism, a problem that he alleges the White House has largely ignored.</p> <p>"This shooting underscores the grave reality of the threat posed to us by Radical Islamic terrorism every single day," Jindal <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> in an official statement after the Chattanooga shooting. "It's time for the White House to wake up and tell the truth...and that truth is that Radical Islam is at war with us, and we must start by being honest about that."</p> <p>In the spirit of honesty, it <a href="" target="_blank">should also be noted</a> that Jindal's own state has the second-highest rate of deaths by firearm per 100,000 people, second only to Alaska.</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Elections Guns Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:58:56 +0000 Miles E. Johnson 286291 at Perhaps We Should Retire the Idea That Joe Biden Is "Authentic" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in August, Maureen Dowd wrote several hundred words about what a horrible person Hillary Clinton is. No surprise there. She could pretty easily write a million if the <em>Times</em> gave her the space. But then, having obsessed over Hillary's sinister <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_joe_biden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">psyche for the thousandth time, she turned to the possibility of white knights jumping into the presidential race to save us all. In particular, there was Joe Biden, who was now reconsidering a run <a href="" target="_blank">after the death of his son Beau:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk....&ldquo;Dad, I know you don&rsquo;t give a damn about money,&rdquo; Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.</p> <p>Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, <strong>arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's a touching scene, but also an odd one: Dowd didn't attribute it to anyone. Not even "a friend" or "someone with knowledge of the situation." In <em>Politico</em> today, Edward-Isaac Dovere says <a href="" target="_blank">there's a reason for that:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her</strong>....It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening. <strong>But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in <em>The New York Times</em>, asking them to call.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that&rsquo;s what it is,&rdquo; said one person who&rsquo;s recently spoken to Biden about the prospect of running.</p> <p>....At the end of August, while friends were still worrying aloud that he was in the worst mental state possible to be making this decision, <strong>he invited Elizabeth Warren for an unannounced Saturday lunch</strong> at the Naval Observatory. According to sources connected with Warren, he raised Clinton&rsquo;s scheduled appearance at the House Benghazi Committee hearing at the end of October, <strong>even hinting that there might be a running-mate opening for the Massachusetts senator.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, I don't have any independent knowledge of whether Dovere is right about this. But it sure sounds plausible, and it's a good illustration of why you should take claims of "authenticity" with a big shaker of salt. Biden is an outgoing guy and gets along well with the press. But that just means he's an outgoing guy who gets along well with the press. Authenticity has nothing to do with it.</p> <p>It's one thing for people close to a candidate to leak information that makes their man look good&mdash;that's so common I'm not sure it even has a name&mdash;but for the candidate himself to use <em>his son's death</em> as a way of worming his way into a weekly column written by a woman who detests Hillary Clinton more fanatically than anyone this side of Ken Starr? I'm not quite sure what to call that, but authentic isn't it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:20:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 286296 at Dear Nevada, #&$% You. Sincerely, San Francisco. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/HOMELESS_A_300_0.jpg"></a> <div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>The Shockingly Effective, Surprisingly Cheap Way to End Homelessness </strong></a></div> </div> <p>For years, the Las Vegas Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, Nevada's primary state mental facility, gave discharged patients a bus ticket out of town. Poor and mentally ill, they ended up homeless in cities around the country&mdash;especially in California, where more than 500 psychiatric patients were sent over a five year period.</p> <p>Twenty-four of these patients landed in San Francisco, costing the city hundreds of thousands<strong> </strong>of dollars in medical care, housing, and services. Now Nevada has agreed to cover the costs&mdash;or most of them at least. On Monday <a href="" target="_blank">a tentative settlement was reached</a> and the state agreed to pay $400,000, just short of the $500,000 San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued for back in 2013. The settlement is expected to be approved by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors and Nevada's Board of Examiners later this month.</p> <p>The class action lawsuit filed by Herrera followed an investigation by the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Sacramento Bee</em>,</a> which revealed that 1,500 Nevada homeless patients had been given bus tickets, and were advised to seek medical care elsewhere. A third were sent to California, landing in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which are already <a href="" target="_blank">struggling to house</a> a growing number homeless people.</p> <p>Chronically homeless people&mdash;especially those with mental illnesses&mdash;can cost millions. As we <a href="" target="_blank">reported earlier this year</a> the county of Santa Clara spent $520 million a year, mostly on the hospital stays and the cost of jailing the persistently homeless&mdash;a mere 2,800 people.</p> <p>Still, Nevada health officials tried for two years to get out of paying San Francisco. They argued that what happened in Nevada is similar to San Francisco's "Homeward Bound" program, which relocates homeless people to live with family or friends in other cities.</p> <p>But now, according <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The San Francisco Chronicle</em></a><em> </em>Nevada has decided to end the fight. After&nbsp;Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital lost its accreditation in 2013, Nevada invested $30 million to reform its system of care. Homeless patients are no longer bused to other areas and state officials want to move forward. The facility regained its accreditation this year.</p> <div style="width: 1px; height: 1px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font: 10pt sans-serif; text-align: left; text-transform: none; overflow: hidden;"><br> Read more here:</div> <p>"The settlement will bring an amicable resolution to this matter," Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. "The settlement will also validate the patient management best practices and procedures which Nevada has had in place for two years."</p></body></html> MoJo Income Inequality Top Stories Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:18:52 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 286241 at Silicon Valley Is Even Whiter Than You Thought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The funders behind Silicon Valley's hottest companies tend to look a lot like the people they invest in: white and male.</p> <p>Of the 551 senior venture capitalists<a href="#correction">*</a> <a href="" target="_blank">examined</a> in a new three-month study by the tech news site the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Information</em></a> and the VC firm SocialCapital, less than 1 percent (precisely four executives) were black, and another 1.3 percent were Hispanic. Twenty percent, or 110 people, were Asian.</p> <p>While there has been considerable focus on the diversity figures of major companies such as <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a> recently, little attention has been paid to the racial and gender makeup of the decision-makers who invest millions of dollars in tech startups, hoping they succeed.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp; <div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Race-and-Ethnicist-Diversity-Venture-Capitalists.jpg"><div class="caption">The Information</div> </div> </div> </div> <p>Ninety-two percent of top venture capital executives are men. According to the report, that's "way worse" than the gender disparity in tech companies, where 77 percent of leadership roles are occupied by men.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Gender-Diversity-Silicon-Valley-Venture-Capitalists_1.jpg"><div class="caption">The Information</div> </div> <p>The striking numbers reinforce the narrative surrounding Silicon Valley's diversity problems, as <a href="" target="_blank">companies</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">civic leaders</a> alike push to improve the racial and gender balance of the companies that make the gadgets and apps we consume. Not all VCs are doing poorly&mdash;the 15-person senior investment team at Y Combinator<a href="#correction">*</a>, the well-known startup accelerator firm, has "four Asian men, a black man, three white women, and an Asian woman," according to the report. Yet the report found that a quarter of firms have an all-white management crew.</p> <p>As <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="" target="_blank">pointed out</a> in July, the number of African Americans employees at Twitter, Facebook, and Google combined could <a href="" target="_blank">fit on a single Airbus A830</a>. Now we know the number of black venture capitalists, at least in this study, could fit in an Uber.</p> <p>In an op-ed Tuesday titled "Bros Funding Bros: What's Wrong with Venture Capital," SocialCapital founder Chamath Palihapitiya <a href="" target="_blank">criticized</a> the backwards nature of the venture capitalist community and called for changes.</p> <p>"The VC world is cloistered and often afraid of change&mdash;the type of change that would serve the world better," Palihapitiya wrote. "An industry that wields the power to change lives is failing to do just that. Ultimately, fund investors will wake up to this bleak reality. We must change before this happens."</p> <p>You can check out the rest of the the<em> Information</em>'s Future List <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p id="correction"><em>Correction: Following the publication of this story, Information and SocialCapital corrected several portions of <a href="" target="_blank">their report</a>, including their description of the racial and gender makeup of Y Combinator's investment team. The story has been updated to reflect those changes.</em></p></body></html> Mixed Media Charts Race and Ethnicity Sex and Gender Tech Top Stories Tue, 06 Oct 2015 21:17:23 +0000 Edwin Rios 286256 at Watch the Government Shoot Thousands of Moths Out of a Drone <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Pink bollworms are a species of pest (they're baby moths) that love to feast on cotton. They've been largely eliminated from the United States, but flare-ups do occur now and then, causing an expensive headache for farmers. So the US Department of Agriculture is experimenting with an innovative but also kind of weird and gross solution, which you can see in the video above.</p> <p>The process starts by raising bollworms in a lab that are fed a red, oil-based dye. When the bollworms mature into moths, the coloration stays with them, so they can be distinguished from wild moths. The lab moths are blasted with radiation, which makes them sterile. Then they're released into the wild over fields with bollworm infestations. When the sterile lab moths mate with the wild ones, they're tricked into thinking they're going to reproduce, but don't. So no new moths.</p> <p>Scientists have experimented with releasing sterile moths for the last few years. But now, they've enlisted a new tool: drones equipped with moth cannons. Anytime a bollworm infestation pops up, just call in a drone to deliver a few thousand <a href="" target="_blank">irradiated moths</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Animals Climate Change Climate Desk Science Tue, 06 Oct 2015 20:48:43 +0000 Tim McDonnell 286111 at Paul Krugman Explains the Latest Draft of the TPP <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Suppose there's a complex public policy proposal being debated and you want to know where you should stand. However, you really don't want to devote a huge amount of time to diving into all the details. There are just so many hours in the day, after all.</p> <p>One possibility is to simply see what people on your side of the tribal divide think about it. But that's surprisingly unreliable. A better approach is to take a look at who's <em>opposed</em> to the proposal. That's what Paul Krugman <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tpp_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">does today regarding the <a href="" target="_blank">final draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What I know so far: <strong>pharma is mad</strong> because the extension of property rights in biologics is much shorter than it wanted, <strong>tobacco is mad</strong> because it has been carved out of the dispute settlement deal, <strong>and Rs in general are mad</strong> because the labor protection stuff is stronger than expected....I find myself thinking of Grossman and Helpman&rsquo;s work on the political economy of free trade agreements, in which they conclude, based on a highly stylized but nonetheless interesting model of special interest politics, that</p> <blockquote> <p>An FTA is most likely to be politically viable exactly when it would be socially harmful.</p> </blockquote> <p>The TPP looks better than it did, which infuriates much of Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Krugman describes himself as a "lukewarm opponent" of TPP who now needs to do some more homework. I'd probably call myself a lukewarm supporter. One reason is that the dispute resolution provisions, which provoked a lot of anger on the left, never struck me as either unusual or all that objectionable in practice. The IP stuff bothered me more, and that's been improved a bit in the final draft. It's still not great, but it's not quite as horrible as before. So you can probably now count me as a slightly stronger supporter.</p> <p>But I wonder what Republicans will do? They're the ones who are ideologically on the side of trade agreements, and they've spent a lot of time berating President Obama for not putting more effort into trade deals. But with campaign season heating up, it's become more toxic than ever to support any initiative of Obama's. Plus Donald Trump is busily working his supporters into a lather about TPP. I wouldn't be surprised to see quite a few defections from the Republican ranks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:35:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 286261 at Here's One Simple Rule For Deciding Who the Media Covers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marco_rubio.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Waldman notes today that Marco Rubio is the latest beneficiary of the media spotlight. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If history is any guide, the &ldquo;outsider&rdquo; candidates will eventually fall, and Rubio is the only &ldquo;insider&rdquo; candidate whose support is going up, not down. Scott Walker is gone, Jeb Bush is struggling, and none of the other officeholders seem to be generating any interest among voters. Rubio has long had strong approval ratings among Republicans, so even those who are now supporting someone else don&rsquo;t dislike him. He&rsquo;s an excellent speaker both with prepared texts and extemporaneously. When you hear him talk he sounds informed and thoughtful, and much less reactionary than his actual ideas would suggest. He presents a young, Hispanic face for a party that desperately needs not to be seen as the party of old white guys.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is all true, but it gives the media way too much credit. Here's the rule they use for deciding who to cover:</p> <ul><li>If you're leading or rising in the polls, you get coverage.</li> </ul><p>That's it. All the other stuff about Rubio has been true all along, and nobody cared about him. Now he's rising in the polls and is currently in about fourth place. So he's getting coverage.</p> <p>This happened first to Donald Trump, then to Ben Carson, then to Carly Fiorina, and now to Rubio. Bernie Sanders, oddly enough, remains fairly immune. Maybe this rule only applies to Republicans this year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 17:38:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 286236 at Ben Carson on Oregon Shooting: "I Would Not Just Stand There and Let Him Shoot Me" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Ben Carson says he would have led an effort to stop the shooter who killed 13 people last week in Roseburg, Oregon, had he been there during the attack.</p> <p>During an interview of <em>Fox &amp; Friends </em>Tuesday, host Brian Kilmeade asked the GOP presidential candidate what he would do if a gunman asked him, "What religion are you?" The shooter <a href="" target="_blank">allegedly asked</a> his victims their religion before shooting them and opted to fatally injure those who responded that they were Christian.</p> <p>"Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," Carson <a href="" target="_blank">responded</a>. "I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'"</p> <p>This is not the first time that Carson has weighed in on the shooting. Last Friday afternoon, Carson sent a tweet that went viral, proclaiming "I am A Christian."</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align center" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="und">Yes, <a href="">#IamaChristian</a>. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) <a href="">October 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Elections Guns Top Stories Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:54:50 +0000 Miles E. Johnson 286216 at Ben Carson Supports Arming Kindergarten Teachers to Combat Gun Violence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><object classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" codebase=",0,47,0" height="390" id="flashObj" width="640"><param name="movie" value=""><param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF"><param name="flashVars" value="videoId=4533673821001&amp;playerID=2207682275001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6Fnwgpz2JFHz_Jerf-MHxK_Ad&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true"><param name="base" value=""><param name="seamlesstabbing" value="false"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="swLiveConnect" value="true"><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" base="" bgcolor="#FFFFFF" flashvars="videoId=4533673821001&amp;playerID=2207682275001&amp;playerKey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6Fnwgpz2JFHz_Jerf-MHxK_Ad&amp;domain=embed&amp;dynamicStreaming=true" height="390" name="flashObj" pluginspage="" seamlesstabbing="false" src="" swliveconnect="true" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640"></embed></object> <p>Ben Carson has some thoughts on gun control.</p> <p>Less than a week after the massacre at an <a href="" target="_blank">Oregon community college</a> that left 10 people dead, including the shooter, the Republican presidential candidate dismissed renewed calls for gun safety and called for kindergarten teachers to be armed.</p> <p>"If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere I would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon," Carson told <a href="" target="_blank"><em>USA TODAY</em></a> on Tuesday. "If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn't."</p> <p>Carson's calls to arm teachers echoes similar views expressed by GOP presidential front-runner <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>, who suggested the Oregon shooting could have been avoided if school officials were armed. "Let me tell you, if you had a couple teachers with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off," he told an event in Tennessee.</p> <p>The proposal comes just one day after Carson also suggested during a <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook Q&amp;A</a> that enacting gun control laws would be more "devastating" than the results of gun violence:</p> <p>"As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies," he wrote on Monday. "There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking&mdash;but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away."</p> <p>The talk of arming teachers from Trump led Comedy Central comedian <a href="" target="_blank">Larry Wilmore</a> to respond on his Monday night show: "Let's not elect a guy who's getting his policy ideas from the movie <em>Kindergarten Cop</em>." Watch below:</p> <div style="background-color:#000000;width:520px;"> <div style="padding:4px;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="288" src="" width="512"></iframe> <p style="text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;"><b><a href="">The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore</a></b><br> Get More: <a href="">The Nightly Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href="">The Nightly Show on Facebook</a>,<a href="">The Nightly Show Video Archive</a></p> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Guns Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:49:58 +0000 Inae Oh 286211 at Let's Not Rewrite History on Gun Violence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>"This is something we <em>should</em> politicize," President Obama said last week after the gun massacre in Oregon. "It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic." Jonah Goldberg is annoyed that Obama said this even though he's routinely spoken out against politicizing issues in the past. "He's not about to try building consensus on gun violence among people of good faith," Goldberg says. <a href="" target="_blank">Then this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama's comments on Thursday highlighted the problem with his approach to politics. He would rather go for everything he wants and get nothing, but keep the political issue, than make progress on common ground.</p> <p>Virtually none of the proposals on his gun-control wish list &mdash; more comprehensive federal background checks, closing the gun show "loophole," etc. &mdash; would help bring down the homicide rate....Typically, mass killers don't buy guns at gun shows. And a CNN analysis found that a comprehensive background check system wouldn't have prevented any of the "routine" killing sprees Obama referred to, save one.</p> <p>....<strong>After the Sandy Hook slaughter, there was a bipartisan consensus that more needed to be done on the mental health side. But Obama, fresh off reelection, rejected a piecemeal approach, largely <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gun_background_check.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">preferring to go for a "comprehensive" solution. He ended up with nothing at all.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Um, what? Shortly after Sandy Hook, Joe Biden released the final report of his task force on gun violence. It contained recommendations in four areas, one of which was increased access to mental health services. Several bipartisan bills that targeted mental health did indeed get introduced, and I believe Obama supported all of them. So why didn't they pass? That's always hard to say, but the best guess is that it's because they all cost money, and Republicans were unwilling to vote for increased spending. So they died. Obama's preference for a "comprehensive" approach had nothing to do with it.</p> <p>Beyond that, sure, Obama wanted&nbsp;comprehensive legislation. But in the end, this got whittled down to one thing: a bipartisan bill mandating universal background checks. It was watered down repeatedly, and was about as weak as possible by the time it finally got a vote. Despite massive public support, even from gun owners, it failed after an enormous effort to reach out to all those people of good faith Goldberg talks about. I think you can guess who voted against it.<sup>1</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>It was 41 Republicans and 5 Democrats, in case you've forgotten.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:38:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 286221 at Why Did Lindsey Graham Vote Against Hurricane Sandy Relief in 2013? Here Are Half a Dozen Guesses. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham voted against a $51 billion aid bill for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, but feels differently about federal aid for the devastating floods that have racked his state. "Let's just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs," Graham told Wolf Blitzer yesterday. Blitzer then asked him <a href="" target="_blank">why he had opposed Sandy relief:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. Pressed further, he said: "Anyway, I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, he did indeed vote against Sandy aid. I don't know why he did it either, but I can take a few guesses:</p> <ul><li>He was pissed off over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the recently concluded fiscal cliff negotiations, which Republicans lost.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the national debt and wanted to make a point about out-of-control spending before the upcoming debt ceiling showdown.</li> <li>He was pissed off over sequester caps that prevented big increases in military spending.</li> <li>He was pissed off over flood insurance provisions in the bill, which had been loudly denounced by the Club for Growth.</li> <li>He was pissed off over alleged pork in the aid bill.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively, Graham didn't really think about it at all, which is why it's slipped his mind by now. Maybe he just vaguely figured the bill would pass, so this was a chance to demonstrate fiscal toughness without running the risk of being held personally responsible for enormous human suffering in New Jersey. After all, 35 other Republican senators voted against it too. So why not join them?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:41:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286206 at Thanks to the NSA, Data Sharing With Europe Just Got a Little Harder <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_edward_snowden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The long arm of Edward Snowden <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">just got a little longer today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Europe&rsquo;s highest court on Tuesday <strong>struck down an international agreement</strong> that had made it easy for companies to move people&rsquo;s digital data between the European Union and the United States. The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, could make it more difficult for global technology giants &mdash; including the likes of Amazon and Apple, Google and Facebook &mdash; to collect and mine online information from their millions of users in the 28-member European Union.</p> </blockquote> <p>So what does this have to do with Snowden? Since 2000, a "Safe Harbor" agreement has allowed US companies to store personal data on European nationals as long as the companies comply with a specific set of rules to minimize abuse. At the time, it was commercial abuse that everyone had in mind. <a href="" target="_blank">Today it's government abuse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s decision stems from a complaint lodged in 2013 by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over Facebook&rsquo;s compliance with EU data-privacy rules. In his charge filed to the Irish data-protection authority, the U.S. social-media company&rsquo;s lead regulator in Europe, <strong>Mr. Schrems claimed that allegations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed Facebook wasn&rsquo;t sufficiently protecting users&rsquo; data because it is subject to mass surveillance in the U.S.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>There are workarounds for this, but they're complicated and burdensome. What's more, efforts to reach an updated agreement will be difficult since the court ruling allows privacy regulators in every country to set up their own rules. This means that negotiations with the EU almost certainly have to include every national regulator who wants a voice, since each one can essentially veto an agreement in their own country.</p> <p>Alternatively, the US could announce major reforms to its NSA spying programs. Just kidding, of course. We all know that's unpossible.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:11:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 286201 at The Latest Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Actually Good News <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A year after its <a href="" target="_blank">controversial</a> Supreme Court victory, Hobby Lobby found itself on the other side of a court decision&mdash;this time for denying a transgender employee access to the women's restroom.</p> <p>Since she transitioned more than five years ago, frame shop manager <a href="" target="_blank">Meggan Sommerville</a> has been forced to either use the men's restroom in her Illinois Hobby Lobby store or wait until her lunch break, when she could slip into other businesses nearby to use a women's restroom. In a May decision made public for the first time <a href="" target="_blank">on Sunday</a>, a state administrative judge <a href="">ruled</a> that the chain's treatment of Sommerville violates Illinois' Human Rights Act, <a href="" target="_blank">finding</a> "direct evidence of sexual related identity discrimination" in the store's decision to bar her from the women's restroom until she had gender reassignment surgery.</p> <p>The judge's order was a recommended ruling; a final decision from the state's Human Rights Commission is still pending. In the meantime, for Sommerville, nothing has changed: Hobby Lobby still requires her to use the men's restroom.</p> <p>Hobby Lobby hired Somerville in 1998, and two years later, she was transferred to the company's location in east Aurora, Illinois. By 2010, she was presenting and identifying as female and had legally changed her name to Meggan Renee. When she formally approached her employer to notify them of the transition, the company altered her personnel file to reflect the change, and Sommverville changed her nametag. Yet the company denied her request to use the women's restroom, demanding that she provide<strong>&nbsp;</strong>documents that would compel them to do so. Still, even after Sommerville did so, Hobby Lobby continued to deny her request, going so far as to issue her a written warning for using the women's restroom in February 2011. The company later insisted that she undergo gender reassignment surgery, which would allow her to change her birth certificate, before she could use the women's bathroom in the store.</p> <p>Sommerville filed a complaint, but it was dismissed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights in 2012 for lack of evidence, a decision that was later <a href="" target="_blank">overturned</a>.</p> <p>Sommerville's bosses instructed her not to use the restroom in part because another employee expressed "discomfort," the ruling revealed. "A co-worker's discomfort cannot justify discriminatory terms and conditions of employment," Judge William Borah wrote. "The prejudices of co-workers or customers are part of what the Act was meant to prevent." Furthermore, Borah found that Hobby Lobby's decision to build a unisex restroom for Sommerville's use was an example of segregation and "perpetuates different treatment."</p> <p>"Do I want to continue doing what I do? Yes," Sommerville <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the <em>Windy City Times</em>. "I enjoy it. Why should I quit? I'm good at what I do. I love what I do. If I quit, I give a right to any other company to discriminate against their employee in the hopes that they will quit so they will be done with them. No one should be forced to quit where they're being harassed and discriminated against. This case is bigger than me."</p></body></html> MoJo Civil Liberties Human Rights Labor Sex and Gender Top Stories Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:00:13 +0000 Madison Pauly 286116 at Coming Soon: Quantum Computing on Your Desktop PC? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_qubit_silicon.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today has been pretty dull in the world of political news, so let's continue trawling other parts of the global knowledge ecosystem for interesting tidbits. <a href="" target="_blank">This one looks potentially important:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For decades, researchers have been trying to build a computer that harnesses the enormous potential of quantum mechanics. Now engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have overcome the final hurdle, <strong>by creating a quantum logic gate in silicon&nbsp;&mdash; the same material that today's computer chips are made from.</strong></p> <p><strong>The newly developed device allows two quantum bits&nbsp;&mdash; or qubits&nbsp;&mdash; to communicate and perform calculations together,</strong> which is a crucial requirement for quantum computers. Even better, the researchers have also worked out how to scale the technology up to millions of qubits, which means they now have the ability to build the world's first quantum processor chip and, eventually, the first silicon-based quantum computer.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quantum computing is sort of like fusion power: constantly right around the corner, but never quite there. The fundamental problem is that qubits suffer from decoherence unless they're kept completely isolated from their surrounding environment, which is pretty tough since they also need to communicate with other qubits in order to be useful. Researchers have gotten a lot better at controlling qubits in recent years, but as the UNSW paper points out, <a href="" target="_blank">this has required the use of fairly exotic materials:</a> "single photons, trapped ions, superconducting circuits, single defects or atoms in diamond or silicon, and semiconductor quantum dots."</p> <p>By contrast, a two-qubit logic gate that can be implemented in silicon using standard lithographic techniques is a whole different matter. If this turns out to be for real, chips containing thousands or millions of qubits are finally within practical reach.</p> <p>This would be very cool, though only for a certain subset of problems amenable to massive parallel processing. This is inherent in the difference between standard computers and quantum computers. A standard computer with, say, 50 bits, can be in any one of 2<sup>50</sup> states <em>at a single time</em>. That's about a quadrillion states. This state changes with every beat of the computer's internal clock, and eventually you get an answer to whatever problem you've programmed the computer to solve. By contrast, a quantum computer with 2<sup>50</sup> qubits can be in a quadrillion states <em>simultaneously</em> thanks to an aspect of quantum weirdness called superposition. Once you set up the program, you just collapse the quantum state and the answer is spit out instantly.</p> <p>This is not the kind of thing you'd use to write an iPhone app. But it could be used to break some public-key encryption systems. It might also be useful for things like modeling protein folding, which is fundamentally a quantum problem that requires a tremendous amount of computing time using traditional computers. There's also potential for exponentially faster database queries.</p> <p>And one other thing: it's possible that large-scale quantum computing could lead to breakthroughs in emulating human thought processes and speeding up the creation of artificial intelligence. Maybe.</p> <p>Anyway, it's fascinating stuff, and it seems as if useful quantum computing may be finally getting within reach. If it does, it would blow away Moore's law for certain kinds of problems&mdash;possibly many more than we think once we get the hang of writing a whole different kind of code. In a few years, maybe we'll even get customer support voice recognition systems to work properly.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 04:44:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286191 at Do You Spend an Hour Waiting For Your Doctor? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_doctor_waiting_time.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">A new study has been making the rounds today.</a> Over at JAMA, a team of researchers used one survey to calculate average time spent in face-to-face time with a doctor and another survey to calculate total average "clinic time" (wait time plus doctor time). If you subtract doctor time from clinic time, you get average wait time. That's shown in the chart on the right.</p> <p>But something isn't right here. The takeaway is that minorities tend to have longer wait times than whites, which wouldn't surprise me at all. (They also have longer travel times.) But even whites have an average wait time of one hour. That's nowhere near this white boy's experience for any of the doctors/medical systems I've ever been part of. What's more, other studies suggest that average wait time is around 20 minutes or so, which seems more likely.</p> <p>So....I'm not sure what's going on here. Something about this study doesn't seem right, and I don't know if it's in the methodology or in the interpretation everyone is putting on it. In any case, if you read about this study, I'd take it with a grain of salt for the moment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 02:51:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 286186 at The World Has Gone Crazy Over Ad Blocking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ad_blocking_headlines.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's pretty amazing. Ad blockers have been around forever. I've been using AdBlock Plus for nearly a decade and nobody ever cared. It was just a quiet little thing that a few power users knew about.</p> <p>But as soon as Apple decided to allow ad blocking on the iPhone, suddenly the world went nuts. News headlines exploded. Half the sites I visit now check for ad blockers and hit me with guilt-inducing messages about how I'm bankrupting them if I decline to read their latest Flash creations and bouncing gif animations. Hell, I just got one of these messages on For a while, the <em>Washington Post</em> randomly declined to let me read their articles <em>at all</em> unless I removed my ad blocker.</p> <p>I've got one question and one comment about this. The comment is this: Screw you, Apple. Everything was fine until you decided to barge in. The question is this: Is publisher panic over loss of ad revenue rational? Genuine question. I understand that mobile is where all the ad dollars are, and I understand that Apple accounts for a sizeable chunk of the mobile market. But is ad blocking ever likely to become a mass phenomenon, or will it continue to be used only by power users? I suppose there's no way to know. In any case, the recent hysteria over ad blocking sure does show the incredible PR power of Apple. If you take something that's been around forever&mdash;4G LTE, large screens, ad blocking&mdash;and slap it on an iPhone, everyone goes nuts. It's Apple's world and the rest of us are just pawns in the games they play.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 01:37:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 286176 at