Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2010/05/crss/node/%E2%80%9D http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Ukraine Beginning to Spiral Out of Control? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/ukraine-beginning-spiral-out-control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Events in Ukraine are starting to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/clashes-spread-across-eastern-ukraine/2014/04/24/781f8a6c-cb98-11e3-93eb-6c0037dde2ad_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">spin out of control:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ukrainian security forces killed &ldquo;up to five&rdquo; pro-Russian activists Thursday in the restive eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said, as Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned any use of the Ukrainian military against its own citizens.</p> <p>....Putin spoke forcefully against the military action as the clashes were underway. &ldquo;If the Kiev regime has started to use the army against the population inside the country, it, beyond any doubt, is a very serious crime,&rdquo; Putin said at a media forum in St. Petersburg.</p> </blockquote> <p>President Obama sounded glum about the prospects for peace in Ukraine and told reporters this morning that the US has "teed up" a new round of sanctions that could be implemented against Russia if they move troops across the border. This will have a limited impact since US trade with Russia is relatively small, but&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/24/ukraine-government-troops-move-against-pro-russian-separatists-live-updates#block-53590800e4b006956226b5e0" target="_blank">Reuters reports</a> that EU leaders "have asked the EU executive arm, the European commission, to propose economic, trade and financial restrictions on Crimea for rapid implementation." If they're serious, that would hurt Putin considerably worse than anything we could do on our own.</p> <p>Stay tuned.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum International Military Thu, 24 Apr 2014 13:29:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 250511 at http://www.motherjones.com Vermont to Require GMO Labeling http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/vermont-require-gmo-labeling <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>When Maine and Connecticut passed laws last year requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients, there was a catch: They withheld implementation "until other states pass similar legislation with the hope of sharing the expense of any litigation," <a href="http://brownfieldagnews.com/2014/04/23/vermont-passes-gmo-labeling-bill/" target="_blank">reports</a> the ag trade paper <em>Brownfield. </em>This week, they appear to have gotten their wish. On Wednesday afternoon, Vermont <span data-ft='{"tn":";"}'>Gov. Peter Shumlin</span> took to Facebook to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Governor.Peter.Shumlin" target="_blank">announce</a> his intention to sign a bill that had been recently passed his own state's legislature&mdash;one with a concrete plan for implementation, by July 1, 2016. "The legislature has spoken loud and clear," he declared. "Vermonters deserve to know what is in their food."</p> <p>As for the litigation fears expressed by its fellow New England states, Vermont has an answer, <em>Brownfield</em> reports: "The bill also sets up an $8 million fund to implement the rules and defend them if necessary." No doubt, law firms are already jostling for pieces of that action. The agrichemical and food-processing industries, which <a href="http://votersedge.org/california/ballot-measures/2012/november/prop-37/funding#.U1hcc4KQGB0" target="_blank">spent $46 million to defeat a labeling ballot initiative</a> in California in 2012 and another <a href="http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/10/28/why-big-companies-are-spending-21-million-to-beat-i-522/" target="_blank">$21 million to beat a Washington State labeling campaign last year, </a>will almost certainly attempt to block the Vermont law in court.</p> <p>An article published last month in the Vermont paper <em>VTDigger.com</em> <a href="http://vtdigger.org/2014/03/19/senators-preview-legal-challenges-gmo-labeling-law/" target="_blank">portrays</a> the intense lobbying the industry brought to bear as the legislature debated the bill, and lays out the likely legal arguments it will make in court to crush it:</p> <blockquote> <p>A potential lawsuit would hinge on several legal arguments: First Amendment rights and protections against compelled speech, &ldquo;equal protection&rdquo; laws, rules prohibiting conflict between state and federal laws, and the so-called &ldquo;dormant commerce&rdquo; clause saying states can&rsquo;t make laws that will have adverse impact on interstate commerce.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, taking to the courts to defeat a popular initiative won't do much to improve the GMO seed/agrichemical industry's public image. I laid out the reason I support GMO labeling in <a href="http://A%20potential%20lawsuit%20would%20hinge%20on%20several%20legal%20arguments:%20First%20Amendment%20rights%20and%20protections%20against%20compelled%20speech,%20%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%9Cequal%20protection%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%9D%20laws,%20rules%20prohibiting%20conflict%20between%20state%20and%20federal%20laws,%20and%20the%20so-called%20%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%9Cdormant%20commerce%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%9D%20clause%20saying%20states%20can%C3%A2%C2%80%C2%99t%20make%20laws%20that%20will%20have%20adverse%20impact%20on%20interstate%20commerce." target="_blank">this post</a> on California's failed ballot initiative.</p> </body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Regulatory Affairs Thu, 24 Apr 2014 12:27:28 +0000 Tom Philpott 250491 at http://www.motherjones.com Koch-Linked Firm Devoted to Grooming "Electable" Candidates Signs Up Arkansas GOP Leader http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/koch-bruce-westerman-tom-cotton-arkansas-congress-aegis <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>In January, <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/koch-brothers-candidate-training-recruiting-aegis-strategic">broke the story</a> of one of the newest affiliates of Charles and David Koch's sprawling political machine, a consulting firm named <a href="http://aegis-strategic.com/">Aegis Strategic</a> created to identify, recruit, and groom free-market-minded candidates for elected office. Aegis <a href="http://aegis-strategic.com/services/">bills</a> itself as a one-stop shop for aspiring politicians, able to handle general consulting, fundraising, direct mail, social media, and more. The firm is run by <a href="http://www.jeffcrank.com">Jeff Crank</a>, a radio host and two-time congressional candidate who previously ran the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers.</p> <p>When we reported on the firm earlier this year, Aegis Strategic had only one client: Marilinda Garcia, a New Hampshire state lawmaker running for Congress. But new campaign filings show that Aegis has since signed up at least one more congressional hopeful: <a href="http://www.brucewesterman.com">Bruce Westerman</a>, the Republican majority leader of&nbsp;the Arkansas state House.</p> <p>Westerman is <a href="http://atr.rollcall.com/second-republican-enters-race-to-replace-cotton/">running to replace</a> Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas' 4th Congressional District. (Cotton is now running for Senate and hoping to oust the incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. Americans for Prosperity has <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/mark-pryor-tom-cotton-arkansas-obamacare-affordable-care-act-elections-2014-104615.html" target="_blank">spent</a> <a href="http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2014/04/01/pryor-camp-on-new-afp-anti-obamacare-ad-the-kochs-are-getting-desperate" target="_blank">millions</a> of dollars <a href="http://americansforprosperity.org/arkansas/newsroom/new-afp-ad-trucker-tells-sen-pryor-obamacare-hurts-ar-families/" target="_blank">attacking</a> Pryor on the airwaves.)&nbsp;Westerman's campaign paid Aegis $4,000 for strategy consulting in March, campaign records show. (In January, Westerman also <a href="https://twitter.com/bruce_westerman/status/424003865147502593">tweeted</a> a photo of himself with Brad Stevens, Aegis Strategic's director of candidate identification, with the message, "Caught up with part of campaign team.")</p> <p>According to Westerman's campaign website, he's the first GOPer to lead the Arkansas House in 138 years. And he wouldn't be in that position without the help of the Kochs' political network,&nbsp;especially Americans for Prosperity. During the 2012 election cycle, AFP reportedly spent upwards of $1 million in Arkansas&nbsp;on mailers, a bus tour (featuring Cliff from the TV show <em>Cheers</em>), phone banking, and grassroots canvassing. That effort helped flip both the state House and Senate&nbsp;from Democratic to Republican control. AFP figured so prominently in the 2012 cycle that the <em>Arkansas Times</em> <a href="http://www.arktimes.com/arkansas/arkansans-of-the-year-koch-brothers/Content?oid=2624384&amp;showFullText=true">named</a> the Koch brothers "Arkansans of the Year."</p> <p>Both&nbsp;of&nbsp;Aegis' two congressional clients&nbsp;also have received financial support&nbsp;from Kochworld. Garcia received a $2,500 donation from Koch Industries' political action committee, two $2,500 checks from AFP-New Hampshire's Greg Moore, and $250 from Alan Philp, whom Aegis <a href="http://aegis-strategic.com/about/" target="_blank">lists</a> as its&nbsp;chief operating officer. Westerman also&nbsp;got a $250 check from Philp.</p> <p>Now, after AFP helped Westerman take the helm in Arkansas, another offshoot of the Koch political operation is working to send him to Washington.</p> </body></html> MoJo Congress Dark Money Elections Money in Politics The Right Top Stories Thu, 24 Apr 2014 10:06:11 +0000 Andy Kroll 250431 at http://www.motherjones.com Why American Apples Just Got Banned in Europe http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/europe-just-banned-apples-you-eat <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Back in 2008, European Food Safety Authority began pressing the chemical industry to provide safety information on a substance called diphenylamine, or DPA. Widely applied to apples after harvest, DPA prevents "storage scald"&mdash;brown spots that "becomes a concern when fruit is stored for several months," according to <a href="http://postharvest.tfrec.wsu.edu/pages/W99A03">Washington State University</a>, reporting from the heartland of industrial-scale apple production.</p> <div class="sidebar-small-right"><strong><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/05/7-dodgy-foodag-practices-banned-europe-just-fine-here" target="_blank">Read about 7 more dodgy food practices that are banned in Europe&mdash;but just fine in the United States.</a></strong></div> <p>DPA isn't believed to be harmful on its own. But it has the potential to break down into a family of carcinogens called nitrosamines&mdash;not something you want to find on your daily apple. And that's why European food safety regulators wanted more information on it. The industry came back with just "one study that detected three unknown chemicals on DPA-treated apples, but it could not determine if any of these chemicals, apparently formed when the DPA broke down, were nitrosamines," Environmental Working Group shows in an important <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/report_-_u.s._apples_sprayed_with_chemical_banned_in_eu.doc" target="_blank">new report</a>. (The EFSA was concerned that DPA could decay into nitrosamines under contact with nitrogen, a ubiquitous element, EWG notes.) Unsatisfied with the response, the EFSA banned use of DPA on apples in 2012. And in March, the agency the <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2013:217:0001:0027:EN:PDF">slashed</a> the tolerable level of DPA on imported apples to 0.1 parts per million, EWG reports.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/tom-philpott/2014/04/europe-just-banned-apples-you-eat"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Top Stories Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:01:28 +0000 Tom Philpott 250446 at http://www.motherjones.com Not Everyone Needs to Learn Programming, But Every School Should Offer It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/not-everyone-needs-learn-programming-every-school-should-offer-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/high-school-students-are-all-about-computers-but-get-little-instruction-in-computer-science/2014/04/23/13979eda-c185-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html?hpid=z3" target="_blank">From the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a world that went digital long ago, computer science is not a staple of U.S. education, and some schools do not even offer the course, including 10 of 27 high schools in Virginia&rsquo;s Fairfax County and six of 25 in Maryland&rsquo;s Montgomery County....Across the Washington region&rsquo;s school systems, fewer than one in 10 high school students took computer science this academic year, according to district data.</p> </blockquote> <p>That first stat surprises me. My very average suburban high school offered two programming courses way back in 1975 (FORTRAN for beginners, COBOL for the advanced class). Sure, back in the dark ages that meant filling in coding sheets, which were sent to the district office, transcribed onto punch cards, and then run on the district's mainframe. Turnaround time was about two or three days and then you could start fixing your bugs. Still! It taught us the rudiments of writing code. I'm surprised that 40 years later there's a high school in the entire country that doesn't offer a programming class of some kind.</p> <p>The second stat, however, doesn't surprise me. Or alarm me. It's about what I'd expect. Despite some recent hype, computer programming really isn't the kind of class that everyone needs to take. It's an advanced elective. I'd guess that no more than 10 percent of all students take physics, or advanced algebra, or art class for that matter. Ten percent doesn't strike me as a horrible number.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Education Tech Thu, 24 Apr 2014 01:27:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 250496 at http://www.motherjones.com Net Neutrality Finally Dies at Ripe Old Age of 45 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/net-neutrality-finally-dies-ripe-old-age-of-45 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Apparently net neutrality is officially dead. The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports today that the FCC has given up on finding a legal avenue to enforce equal access and will instead propose rules that explicitly allow broadband suppliers to <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304518704579519963416350296?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories&amp;mg=reno64-wsj" target="_blank">favor companies that pay them for faster pipes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Federal Communications Commission plans to propose new open Internet rules on Thursday that would allow content companies to pay Internet service providers for special access to consumers, according to a person familiar with the proposal.</p> <p>The proposed rules would prevent the service providers from blocking or discriminating against specific websites, <strong>but would allow broadband providers to give some traffic preferential treatment,</strong> so long as such arrangements are available on "commercially reasonable" terms for all interested content companies. Whether the terms are commercially reasonable would be decided by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.</p> <p>&hellip;The FCC's proposal would allow some forms of discrimination while preventing companies from slowing down or blocking specific websites, which likely won't satisfy all proponents of net neutrality, the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. The Commission has also decided for now against reclassifying broadband as a public utility, which would subject ISPs to much greater regulation. However, the Commission has left the reclassification option on the table at present.</p> </blockquote> <p>So Google and Microsoft and Netflix and other large, well-capitalized incumbents will pay for speedy service. Smaller companies that can't&mdash;or that ISPs just aren't interested in dealing with&mdash;will get whatever plodding service is left for everyone else. ISPs won't be allowed to deliberately slow down traffic from specific sites, but that's about all that's left of net neutrality. Once you've approved the notion of two-tier service, it hardly matters whether you're speeding up some of the sites or slowing down others.</p> <p>This might have been inevitable, for both legal and commercial reasons. But that doesn't mean we have to like it.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Regulatory Affairs Tech Top Stories Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:38:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 250476 at http://www.motherjones.com Here Is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's Wonderful Defense of Gay Marriage http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/the-word-stunner-does-not-appear-in-this-post <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Hello. Good afternoon.</p> <p>"Stone Cold" Steve Austin's <a href="http://deadspin.com/stone-cold-steve-austin-gives-a-nsfw-defense-of-gay-m-1566573678" target="_blank">defense of gay marriage</a> is filled with cursing and common sense. All in all, pretty great!</p> <blockquote> <p>I don't give a shit if two guys, two gals, guy-gal, whatever it is, I believe that any human being in America, or any human being in the goddamn world, that wants to be married, and if it's same-sex, more power to 'em. What also chaps my ass, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say, 'We as a church do not believe in that.' Which one of these motherfuckers talked to God, and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do? Okay, so two cats can't get married if they want to get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison, and accept God and He's going to let him into heaven? After the fact that he did all that shit? See that's all horseshit to me, that don't jive with me.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV9_ivcKZw0" target="_blank">Listen:</a></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="480" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TV9_ivcKZw0" width="640"></iframe></p> <p><em>(via </em><a href="http://deadspin.com/stone-cold-steve-austin-gives-a-nsfw-defense-of-gay-m-1566573678" target="_blank">Deadspin</a><em>)</em></p> </body></html> Mixed Media Gay Rights Wed, 23 Apr 2014 22:37:52 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 250471 at http://www.motherjones.com The Fourth Amendment Takes Yet Another Body Blow http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/fourth-amendment-takes-yet-another-body-blow <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>This week the Supreme Court has handed down decisions on affirmative action and child porn that have gotten a lot of press. But the affirmative action decision was probably inevitable, and the child porn case is an oddball example of statutory interpretation that probably has no greater significance.</p> <p>More important is <em>Navarette vs. California</em>, which has real potential to do some long-term damage. In this case, a 911 caller reported an erratic driver, who was then pulled over and eventually convicted of transporting four bags of marijuana. The police had no probable cause to stop the driver except for that one anonymous phone call, but <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Constitution_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px; border: 1px solid black; border-image: none;">the Court upheld the conviction anyway. Justice Scalia is typically apoplectic in his dissent, <a href="http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/04/today-war-classes-people-use-drugs-v-fourth-amendment" target="_blank">but nonetheless makes some good points:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It gets worse. Not only, it turns out, did the police have no good reason at first to believe that Lorenzo was driving drunk, they had very good reason at last to know that he was not. The Court concludes that the tip, plus confirmation of the truck&rsquo;s location, produced reasonable suspicion that the truck not only had been but still was barreling dangerously and drunkenly down Highway 1. In fact, alas, it was not, and the officers knew it. They followed the truck for five minutes, presumably to see if it was being operated recklessly. And that was good police work. While the anonymous tip was not enough to support a stop for drunken driving under <em>Terry v. Ohio</em>, it was surely enough to counsel observation of the truck to see if it was driven by a drunken driver.</p> <p>But the pesky little detail left out of the Court&rsquo;s reasonable-suspicion equation is that, for the five minutes that the truck was being followed (five minutes is a long time), Lorenzo&rsquo;s driving was irreproachable. Had the officers witnessed the petitioners violate a single traffic law, they would have had cause to stop the truck, and this case would not be before us. And not only was the driving irreproachable, but the State offers no evidence to suggest that the petitioners even did anything suspicious, such as suddenly slowing down, pulling off to the side of the road, or turning somewhere to see whether they were being followed. Consequently, the tip&rsquo;s suggestion of ongoing drunken driving (if it could be deemed to suggest that) not only went uncorroborated; it was affirmatively undermined.</p> </blockquote> <p>The problem here is obvious: the Court has basically said that an anonymous 911 call is sufficient <em>all by itself</em> to justify a police stop and subsequent search of a vehicle.</p> <p>In this particular case, it's likely that the 911 caller was entirely sincere. But that's surely not always the case, and this decision gives police far greater discretion to stop pretty much anyone they like for any reason. You don't even need to roll your front bumper a foot over the limit line in an intersection to give them a pretext.</p> <p>If we're lucky, this case will become a footnote, with the precise nature of its facts giving it little value as precedent. But if we're not so lucky, it's yet another step in the Supreme Court's decades-long project to chip away at the Fourth Amendment. When an unknown caller is all it takes to trigger a search, the entire notion of "probable cause" is pretty much consigned to the ash heap of history.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> A regular reader points out that my summary isn't entirely accurate. Under <em>Navarette</em>, an anonymous tip is enough for police to stop a vehicle, but to search it they still need some suspicion of illegal activity. In this case they "smelled marijuana."</p> <p>That's true, and I should have said so. The reason I didn't is that I figure this was basically pretextual. There's <em>always</em> a post hoc reason if the police decide they want to search your car. And even if you think the cops really did smell something, they never would have gotten there without the stop, and there was no reason for the stop in the first place. This strikes me as a pretty direct line from anonymous tip to search, with only the thinnest pretense of probable cause.</p> <p>I admit that my cynicism here isn't legally relevant. But honestly, once you allow the stop, cops will find a reason the search the car. There's simply nothing in their way any longer.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Courts Crime and Justice Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:21:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 250441 at http://www.motherjones.com Rand Paul Apparently Thinks Republicans Controlled Congress in 1978 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/rand-paul-apparently-thinks-republicans-controlled-congress-1978 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Over at the mother ship, David Corn has assembled a bunch of clips of Rand Paul being less than reverential toward Ronald Reagan. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/04/rand-paul-jimmy-carter-was-better-budget-ronald-reagan" target="_blank">Here's an example from 2009:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>People want to like Reagan. He's very likable. And what he had to say most of the time was a great message. But the deficits exploded under Reagan....The reason the deficits exploded is they ignored spending. Domestic spending went up at a greater clip under Reagan than it did under Carter.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ouch! That's not just a hit on Reagan, it's a direct suggestion that his fiscal policy was worse than Jimmy Carter's. Jimmy Carter's!</p> <p>David has a bunch more along these lines. But here's my favorite part:</p> <blockquote> <p>After this article was posted, Paul's office sent this statement from the senator: "I have always been and continue to be a great supporter of Ronald Reagan's tax cuts and the millions of jobs they created. Clearly spending during his tenure did not lessen, but he also had to contend with Democrat majorities in Congress."</p> </blockquote> <p>Um, didn't Jimmy Carter also have to contend with Democratic majorities in Congress? Bigger ones, in both houses? Or am I thinking about a different Jimmy Carter?</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Congress Economy Rand Paul Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:14:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 250436 at http://www.motherjones.com Medicaid Expansion Now an Even Better Deal For States http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/medicaid-expansion-now-even-better-deal-states <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbpp_medicaid_expansion.jpg" style="margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;">Need some more good news on Obamacare? How about some mixed news instead? <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4131" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates released last week show that health reform&rsquo;s Medicaid expansion, which many opponents wrongly claim will cripple state budgets, is an even better deal for states than previously thought....CBO now estimates that the federal government will, on average, pick up more than 95 percent of the total cost of the Medicaid expansion and other health reform-related costs in Medicaid and the Children&rsquo;s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) over the next ten years (2015-2024).</p> </blockquote> <p>The good news is obvious: the Medicaid expansion is an even better deal for states than we thought. The federal government will pick up nearly the entire cost of expansion, and when you account for money that states will save from reduced amounts of indigent care and greater help with mental health costs, the net cost of expansion gets very close to zero.</p> <p>The mixed nature of this seemingly good news comes from the reason for CBO's more optimistic budget projection: it's because they think the program will cover fewer people than they previously projected. There had always been a fear among states that lots of people who were already eligible for Medicaid&mdash;but had never bothered applying for it&mdash;would hear the Obamacare hoopla and "come out of the woodwork" to claim benefits. Since these folks weren't technically part of the expansion, states would be on the hook to cover the bulk of their costs.</p> <p>CBO now believes this fear was overblown. Apparently most people who didn't bother with Medicaid before Obamacare took effect aren't going to bother with it now either. That's good for state budgets, but obviously not so good for all the people who could be getting medical care but aren't.</p> <p>For what it's worth, this is a tradeoff we're going to see a lot of. Unless the actual cost of medical care comes down, the budget impact of Obamacare is always going to depend on how many people benefit from it. If lots of people sign up, that's good for public health but costly for taxpayers. If fewer people sign up, then government spending goes down but fewer people receive medical care. There aren't very many ways around this iron law.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:10:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 250421 at http://www.motherjones.com Running Away From Obamacare Is a Fool's Errand http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/running-away-obamacare-fools-errand <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Are red-state Democrat senators certain losers to Republican challengers in this year's midterm election? According to recent polling, no. The races are all pretty close. But <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_site_new.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px; border: 1px solid black; border-image: none;">Greg Sargent points out that these Democrats <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/04/23/morning-plum-conventional-wisdom-about-2014-takes-another-hit/" target="_blank">do indeed have an Obamacare problem:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In Arkansas, 52 percent would not vote for a candidate who disagrees on Obamacare, versus 35 percent who are open to doing that. In Louisiana: 58-28. In North Carolina: 53-35. It seems plausible the intensity remains on the side of those who oppose the law. This would again suggest that the real problem Dems face with Obamacare is that it revs up GOP partisans far more than Dem ones &mdash; exacerbating the Dems&rsquo; already existing &ldquo;midterm dropoff&rdquo; problem.</p> <p>However, in Kentucky, the numbers are a bit different: 46 percent would not vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on the law, while 39 percent say the opposite &mdash; much closer than in other states. Meanwhile, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear &mdash; the most outspoken defender of Obamacare in the south &mdash; has an approval rating of 56-29.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm keenly aware that I've never run for dogcatcher, let alone had any experience in a big-time Senate race. So my political advice is worth zero. And yet, polls like this make me more, not less, invested in the idea that running away from Obamacare is a losing proposition. Electorates in red states know that these Democrats voted for Obamacare. Their opponents are going to hammer away at it relentlessly. In practical terms, it's impossible for Dems to run away away from Obamacare, and doing so&nbsp;just makes them look craven and unprincipled.</p> <p>The only way to turn this around is not to distance yourself from Obamacare, but to try and convince a piece of the electorate that Obamacare isn't such a bad deal after all. You won't convince everyone, but you don't need to. You just need to persuade the 5 or 10 percent who are mildly opposed to Obamacare that it's working better than they think. That might get the number of voters who would "never" vote for an Obamacare supporter down from the low 50s (Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina) to the mid 40s (Kentucky). And that might be enough to eke out a victory.</p> <p>Needless to say, this works best if everyone is pitching in. And surely this is the time to start. The early website problems have been resolved and the initial signup period has been a success. Conservative kvetching has taken on something of a desperate truther tone, endlessly trying to "deskew" the facts and figures that increasingly make Obamacare look like a pretty&nbsp;effective program. There are lots of feel-good stories to tout, and there are going to be more as time goes by. What's more, the economy is improving a bit, which always makes people a little more sympathetic toward programs that help others.</p> <p>Obamacare isn't likely to be a net positive in red states anytime soon. But it's not necessarily a deal breaker either. It just has to be sold&mdash;and the sellers need to show some real passion about it. After all, if they don't believe in it, why should anyone else?</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Health Care Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:24:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 250411 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Does Everyone Think Lolita Is a Teenager? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/why-does-everyone-think-lolita-teenager <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>This is way off my usual beaten path, but <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117471/sexy-lolita-book-covers-vladimir-nabokov" target="_blank">here is Hillary Kelly in the <em>New Republic</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>People have the wrong idea about <em>Lolita</em>, and Lolita. Today, the name is widely used as a synonym for a sexually precocious young girl. But the most important fact of the novel is that Lolita is a 12-year-old girl....This makes the oversexed, hyper-titillating cover art that has been repeatedly slapped on Lolita incredibly bizarre&mdash;not to mention disturbing. We aren't meant to find Lolita sexy. We shouldn't find Lolita sexy. Nabokov himself said that readers were "misled" by the book's repuation "into assuming this was going to be a lewd book." I'm not so na&iuml;ve as to imagine book covers always faithfully replicate the literary intentions of their authors. But <em>Lolita</em> covers aren't simply exaggerated or oversimplified representations. They're downright creepy.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. I didn't know that. But there's a good reason for this: I've never read the book. Like a lot of people, however, I <em>have</em> seen the movie. And in the movie, Sue Lyon plays a teenage Lolita. So I always figured Lolita was indeed a high-school age girl. I don't know if Stanley Kubrick made this decision for artistic reasons or&mdash;ah, wait. Sure enough, the ever-helpful Wikipedia <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita_%281962_film%29" target="_blank">informs me that</a> "Lolita's age was raised from twelve to early teens in the film to meet the MPAA standards. As such, Sue Lyon was chosen for the title role partly due to her more mature appearance."</p> <p>Anyway, I wonder if this is the wellspring of much of the common confusion? I'll bet a whole lot more people have seen the movie than ever read the book.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Books Film and TV Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:20:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 250401 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 23, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/were-still-war-photo-day-april-23-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/0423-630.jpg"></div> <div id="meta"> <div class="photo-desc" id="description_div"> <p class="rtecenter"><em>Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, convoy their light armored vehicles across the beach as a Navy landing craft, air cushion with Assault Craft Unit 4 departs the beach of Sierra del Ret&Igrave;n, Spain, during Spanish Amphibious Bilateral Exercise 2014 Feb. 24, 2014. Spanish PHIBLEX is an annual exercise designed to improve interoperability, increase readiness and develop professional and personal relationships between U.S. forces and participating nations. The MEU is deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group as a sea-based, expeditionary crisis response force capable of conducting amphibious missions across the full range of military operations. (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/13894052243/" target="_blank">U.S. Marine Corps photo</a> by Sgt. Austin Hazard/Released)</em></p> </div> </div> </body></html> MoJo Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:07:13 +0000 250396 at http://www.motherjones.com Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/04/superweeds-arent-only-trouble-gmo-soy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Soybeans are the <a href="http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/woc_2012.pdf" target="_blank">second-largest US crop after corn</a>, covering about a quarter of American farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except <a href="http://soystats.com/2012-soybean-highlights/" target="_blank">Brazil</a>. According to the <a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx#.U1b1TYKjIuI" target="_blank">US Department of Agriculture</a>, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122498255" target="_blank">Roundup</a>. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal&mdash;it accounts for <a href="http://www.agmrc.org/commodities__products/grains__oilseeds/soy/organic-soy-profile/" target="_blank">less than 1 percent of total American acreage devoted to soy</a>. (The remaining 9 percent or so of soybeans are conventionally grown, but not genetically modified.)</p> <p>Americans don't eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn't mean we're not exposed to them. After harvest, <a href="http://www.soyatech.com/soy_facts.htm" target="_blank">the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts</a>: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat, and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the <a href="http://www.soyconnection.com/soybean_oil/soybean_oil_overview.php" target="_blank">US Soy Board</a>, soy accounts for 61 percent of American's vegetable oil consumption.</p> <p>Given soy's centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613019201">study</a> published in the peer-reviewed journal <em>Food Chemistry</em> are worth pondering. The authors found that Monsanto's ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to withstand its own blockbuster herbicide, contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior.</p> <p>In the study, the researchers looked at samples of three kinds of soybeans grown in Iowa: (1) those grown from GM herbicide-tolerant seeds; (2) those grown from non-GM seeds but in a conventional, agrichemical-based farming regime; and (3) organic soybeans, i.e., non-GM and grown without agrichemicals.</p> </body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/tom-philpott/2014/04/superweeds-arent-only-trouble-gmo-soy"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Tom Philpott Corporations Food and Ag Top Stories Wed, 23 Apr 2014 10:00:21 +0000 Tom Philpott 250346 at http://www.motherjones.com Most Independent Voters Aren't, Really http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/most-independent-voters-arent-really <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>I write from time to time about the myth of the independent voter, which goes something like this: there aren't any. Oh, lots of people <em>say</em> they're independent, but it turns out that most of them lean in one direction or another, and when Election Day rolls around the leaners vote just as reliably as stone partisans. <em>True</em> independents&mdash;the ones who switch between parties from election to election&mdash;make up only about 10 percent of the electorate.</p> <p>Still, 10 percent is 10 percent. It's not quite <em>nothing</em>. But it turns out that it really is. Today, Lynne Vavreck breaks things down a bit further and explains <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/upshot/the-myth-of-swing-voters-in-midterm-elections.html?rref=upshot" target="_blank">just how these folks vote:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Only a small percentage of voters actually switched sides between 2008 and 2010. Moreover, there were almost as many John McCain voters who voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2010 as there were Obama voters who shifted the other <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_independent_voter.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">way....On average, across districts, roughly 6 percent of Obama voters switched and just under 6 percent of McCain voters switched.</p> </blockquote> <p>So, yes, there are some true switchers. But mostly they're going to cancel each other out. The net result from a huge push for swing voters is likely to be no more than 2 or 3 percentage points. In a few high-stakes states in a presidential election, that might make them worth going after. But in your average congressional election, it's a waste of time and money. So what does make the difference?</p> <blockquote> <p>On turnout, the numbers were not evenly balanced for Democrats and Republicans. Only 65 percent of Obama&rsquo;s 2008 supporters stuck with the party in 2010 and voted for a Democrat in the House. <strong>The remaining 28 percent of Mr. Obama&rsquo;s voters took the midterm election off. By comparison, only 17 percent of McCain&rsquo;s voters from 2008 sat out the midterms.</strong></p> <p>....It may seem hard to believe that the [2010] shellacking was more about who turned up than about who changed their minds between 2008 and 2010, but it lines up with a lot of other evidence about voters&rsquo; behavior. Most identify with the same political party their entire adult lives, even if they do not formally register with it. They almost always vote for the presidential candidate from that party, and they rarely vote for one party for president and the other one for Congress. And most voters are also much less likely to vote in midterm elections than in presidential contests.</p> </blockquote> <p>The problem is that going after turnout is every bit as hard as picking up the crumbs of the swing voters. Traditional Democratic constituencies&mdash;minorities, low-income voters, and the young&mdash;simply don't turn out for midterm elections at high rates. They never have, despite Herculean party efforts and biannual promises that this time will be different. But it never is. They'll vote for president, but a big chunk of them just aren't interested in the broader party.</p> <p>So what's the answer? Beats me.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 23 Apr 2014 00:31:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 250391 at http://www.motherjones.com How Taxpayers Subsidize the Multi-Million Dollar Salaries of Restaurant CEOs http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/restaurant-ceo-pay-subsidized-taxpayers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>As the fight to raise the minimum wage has gained momentum, the restaurant industry has emerged as the biggest opponent. This is no surprise, since the industry claims the&nbsp;highest percentage of low-wage workers&mdash;60 percent&mdash;of any other business sector. Front-line fast-food workers earn so little money that about half of them rely on some form of public assistance, to the tune of <a href="http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/publiccosts/fast_food_poverty_wages.pdf" target="_blank">about $7 billion a year. </a>That hidden subsidy has helped boost restaurant industry profits to record highs. In 2013, the industry reaped&nbsp;$660 billion in profits, and it in turn channeled millions into backing efforts&nbsp;to block&nbsp;local governments from raising pay for low-wage workers and to keep the minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13 an hour (exactly where it's been for the past 22 years). But public assistance programs aren't the only way taxpayers subsidize the restaurant industry.</p> <p>A <a href="http://www.ips-dc.org/reports/restaurant_industry_pay/" target="_blank">new report from the Institute for Policy Studies</a> finds that the public has been contributing to excessive CEO compensation as well, helping to widen the gap between the lowest-paid workers and their bosses. Thanks to a loophole in the tax code, corporations are allowed to deduct unlimited amounts of money from their tax bills for executive compensation, so long as it comes in the form of stock options or "performance pay." The loophole was the inadvertent result of an attempt by Congress to rein in CEO compensation by limiting the tax deduction for executive pay to $1 million a year. That law exempted pay that came&nbsp;in the form of stock options or performance pay.&nbsp;This&nbsp;loophole has proven lucrative for CEOs of all stripes, but it is particularly egregious in an industry&nbsp;that pays its workers so little that it is already heavily subsidized by taxpayers.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to IPS, the CEOs of the 20 largest companies that belong to the&nbsp;National Restaurant Association personally reaped more than $660 million over the past two years in performance pay&mdash;compensation that collectively ended up cutting their companies' tax bills by more than $230 million. That hefty subsidy is enough to cover the average cost of food stamps for 145,000 families for a year, according to IPS.</p> <p>Topping the list of executives raking in big bucks with help from the taxpayers is the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who was paid $236 million in performance pay and other deductible compensation over the past two years, an outlay that saved the company $82 million in taxes. That $82 million tax subsidy could easily translate into a living wage pay raise for more than 30,000 baristas, who now make on average $8.79 an hour.</p> <p>There's also&nbsp;Yum! brands CEO David Novak, who over the past 14 years&nbsp;has been the beneficiary of a special tax-deferred retirement plan not available to ordinary workers. His subsidized retirement assets now top more than $232 million. Meanwhile, his employees at Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC earn so little money that they're estimated to rely on <a href="http://www.nelp.org/page/-/rtmw/uploads/NELP-Super-Sizing-Public-Costs-Fast-Food-Report.pdf?nocdn=1" target="_blank">$650 million in public assistance every year</a>. IPS&nbsp;figures that Novak's retirement benefits alone could save taxpayers $61 million in public assistance costs annually if they&nbsp;were instead used to raise the pay of 16,000 of Yum!'s low-wage workers to $15 an hour, a move that would take about 9 percent of the company's employees off the public dole. Instead, though, Yum! officials have been working behind the scenes to fend off legislation that might <a href="http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/10/11079/flu-burger-alec-wants-sick-people-serving-you-food" target="_blank">give their workers a paid sick day</a> now and then. No wonder fast-food workers are<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/12/fast-food-strike-minimum-wage" target="_blank"> going on strike</a>.</p> </body></html> MoJo Corporations Human Rights Income Inequality Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:35:23 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 250331 at http://www.motherjones.com Male Doctors Bill Medicare for More Services Than Female Doctors http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/male-doctors-bill-medicare-more-services-female-doctors <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/4/22/5639500/medicare-pays-women-less-than-men" target="_blank">Via German Lopez,</a> today brings us an interesting study from Andrew Fitch of NerdWallet. Long story short, he finds that male doctors get paid a lot more by Medicare than female doctors.</p> <p>Obviously there are several reasons for this. Chief among them: Higher paid specialties tend to be dominated by men, and men see more Medicare patients than women. <a href="http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/health/2014/04/22/doctor-salary-gender-pay-gap/" target="_blank">But here's the most interesting bit:</a></p> <ul> <li> <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicare_services_male_female_doctors.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;"><strong>Male doctors perform more services per patient treated.</strong>&nbsp; To explore this, NerdWallet Health devised a metric to calculate a physician&rsquo;s average &ldquo;service volume&rdquo; per patient. We found that male doctors billed Medicare, on average, for one more procedure per patient than female physicians (5.7 services performed per patient by male doctors vs. 4.7 services per patient by female doctors).</li> <li> <strong>This gap in service volume is true across specialties.</strong> Male doctors performed more services per patient than female doctors across nearly all specialties. In a specialty like pathology&nbsp;&mdash; where doctors infrequently provide services directly to patients&nbsp;&mdash; we found no variation in average service volume.</li> </ul> <p>On average, male doctors bill 5.7 services per patient vs. 4.7 for women! That's a huge gap. And it's not just that cardiologists tend to bill for more services than, say, pulmonologists. Even within specialties, men bill for more services than women.</p> <p>But why? Are they just generally more aggressive? Are they gaming the system? Do sicker patients prefer male doctors for some reason? If this analysis turns out to be true, it would sure be fascinating for someone to follow up and try to figure out what's going on.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Sex and Gender Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:45:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 250351 at http://www.motherjones.com Martin Sheen Reprises His "West Wing" Roleā€”for a Sentencing Reform PSA http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/martin-sheen-president-bartlet-sentencing-reform-video-mandatory-minimum-famm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>On Tuesday, Brave New Films released a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8NJ0qEFvpk" target="_blank">new PSA</a> calling on Congress to pass the <a href="http://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-bill/1410" target="_blank">Smarter Sentencing Act</a>. The proposed sentencing-reform legislation aims to reduce prison populations and costs by creating less severe minimum terms for nonviolent drug offenders. (On Monday, <em>Yahoo News</em> <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/obama-plans-clemency-for-hundreds-of-drug-offenders--162714911.html" target="_blank">reported</a> that President Obama could grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of nonviolent drug offenders by the end of his second term.) The video was produced in partnership with the ACLU and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (<a href="http://famm.org/the-facts/" target="_blank">FAMM</a>), and stars actor <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/10/charlie-sheen-machete-kills-vs-martin-sheen-west-wing" target="_blank">Martin</a> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/10/22/1053811/september-mor/" target="_blank">Sheen</a>. It's titled "President Bartlet has a message for Congress," in reference to Sheen's role on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/08/aaron-sorkin-leon-wieseltier-newsroom-mpaa-washington-dc" target="_blank">Aaron </a><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/08/aaron-sorkin-leon-wieseltier-newsroom-mpaa-washington-dc" target="_blank">Sorkin</a>'s political drama <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/01/west-wing-big-block-cheese-day-ideas-ranked" target="_blank"><em>The West Wing</em></a>.</p> <p>Watch it here:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/C8NJ0qEFvpk" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>"When BNF joined with FAMM and the ACLU to rally support for the Smart Sentencing Act, we couldn't think of a better spokesperson than Martin Sheen,"&nbsp;Brave New Films president Robert Greenwald said. "When he portrayed President Bartlett on <em>The West Wing</em>, his character commuted the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders. In the real world, Martin Sheen has been an <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/01/drug-courts-martin-sheen-defends-them-in-congress-but-do-they-work/" target="_blank">advocate</a> for sentencing reform and alternatives to the harsh, long prison sentences we give to nonviolent drug offenders."</p> <p>Sheen isn't the only one in Hollywood trying to raise awareness about this. Last year,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/03/film-review-gi-joe-retaliation-so-much-political-trolling-the-rock-channing-tatum" target="_blank">Dwayne "The Rock"</a> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/05/film-review-fast-furious-6-tank-canary-islands" target="_blank">Johnson</a> starred in the drama <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/02/film-review-snitch-dwayne-rock-johnson-frontline-pbs-mandatory-minimums" target="_blank"><em>Snitch</em></a>, a film about a father who reunites with his estranged son after the kid is thrown in prison due to draconian <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&amp;q=cache:A7W3l227R9MJ:judiciary.house.gov/hearings/printers/110th/36343.PDF+&amp;hl=en&amp;gl=us&amp;pid=bl&amp;srcid=ADGEESi0P6G3RmuKJ3EcsRw0N4vUF0BsionTVtKBKQzIGg_jwKvnnLkinzB0aPjNn-O_Gf-WzBZYjqPYRF98FP6dQZHMvceQ0tVo5Nn9YdBTzNH6zW4Apif_00gbTZoREUUgh-NHl3gE&amp;sig=AHIEtbQ4XdOvTPrFRJOiA7UOdRYtK_4FBQ" target="_blank">mandatory minimum sentencing laws</a>. The film is based on a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/02/film-review-snitch-dwayne-rock-johnson-frontline-pbs-mandatory-minimums" target="_blank">1999 episode</a> of PBS' <em>Frontline&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/snitch/" target="_blank">titled</a>, "Snitch: How Informants Have Become a Key Part of Prosecutorial Strategy in the Drug War." (FAMM teamed up with Participant Media, the production company behind the film, to create <a href="http://www.participantmedia.com/2013/02/participant-media-locks-social-action-campaign-snitch/" target="_blank">awareness</a> about the issues of mandatory-minimum drug sentencing.)</p> <p>Now, here's a clip of Sheen as Bartlet on <em>The West Wing</em>, talking about the failing War on Drugs and the American prison population:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/TblMETUE8yw" width="630"></iframe></p> </body></html> Mixed Media Courts Crime and Justice Film and TV Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:37:59 +0000 Asawin Suebsaeng 250336 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Wind Turbines Don't Kill Very Many Birds http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/chart-day-wind-turbines-dont-kill-very-many-birds <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bird_fatalities.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 20px 15px 30px;">Tom Randall is fed up with hysteria over wind turbines being responsible for bird genocide. <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-21/beware-the-blades-of-death-world-s-top-serial-bird-killers-.html" target="_blank">The numbers just don't support it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The estimates above are used in <a href="http://worldofwind.vestas.com/en/impact-on-wildlife" target="_blank">promotional videos</a> by Vestas Wind Systems, the world's biggest turbine maker. However, they originally came from a study by the U.S. Forest Service and are similar to numbers used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Society&nbsp;&mdash; earnest defenders of birds and bats.</p> <p>....It&rsquo;s nice for wind-farm planners to take migration patterns and endangered habitats into account. But even if wind turbines were to double in size and provide 100 percent of our energy needs (both of which defy the laws of physics as we currently understand them), they still wouldn&rsquo;t compare to the modern scourges of high-tension power lines or buildings with glass windows. Not even close.</p> </blockquote> <p>Wind turbines can be noisy and they periodically kill some birds. We should be careful with them. But the damage they do sure strikes me as routinely overblown. It's bad enough that we have to fight conservatives on this stuff, all of whom seem to believe that America is doomed to decay unless every toaster in the country is powered with virile, manly fossil fuels. But when environmentalists join the cause with trumped-up wildlife fears, it just makes things worse. Enough.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Energy Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:22:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 250341 at http://www.motherjones.com America's Middle Class is Losing Out http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/americas-middle-class-losing-out <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>First, there was Wonkblog. Then came 538. Then Vox. And now we have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/upshot/" target="_blank">The Upshot,</a> a new venture from the <em>New York Times</em> that aims to present wonky subjects in more depth than you normally find them on the front page. Today, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy kick off the wonkiness with an interesting analysis of median income in several rich countries. Their aim is to estimate the gains of the middle class, and their conclusion is that America's middle class is losing out.</p> <p>Their basic chart is below. As you can see, in many countries the US showed a sizeable gap in 1990. Our middle class was much richer than most. By 2010, however, that gap had closed completely compared to Canada, and become much smaller in most other countries. Their middle classes are becoming more prosperous, but lately ours hasn't been:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_income_gap.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Germany and France show the same low-growth pattern for the middle class that we see in the United States, but countries like Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Britain have shown much faster growth. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/23/upshot/the-american-middle-class-is-no-longer-the-worlds-richest.html?rref=upshot&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">What's going on?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[The data] suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it.</p> <p>....The struggles of the poor in the United States are even starker than those of the middle class. A family at the 20th percentile of the income distribution in this country makes significantly less money than a similar family in Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland or the Netherlands. Thirty-five years ago, the reverse was true.</p> </blockquote> <p>Note that these figures are for after-tax income. Since middle-income taxes have been flat or a bit down in the United States, this isn't likely to have had much effect on the numbers.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:20:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 250326 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 22, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/were-still-war-photo-day-april-22-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/0422-630.jpg"></div> <div id="meta"> <div class="photo-desc" id="description_div"> <p class="rtecenter"><em>Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Battalion Landing Team, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, participate in a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise during Exercise Ssang Yong 14 at Su Seung-ri Range, Pohang, Republic of Korea, April 4, 2014. SY 14 is conducted annually in the Republic of Korea to enhance interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces by performing a full spectrum of amphibious operations while showcasing sea-based power projection in the pacific. (<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/marine_corps/13893978465/" target="_blank">U.S. Marine Corps photo</a> by Lance Cpl. Andrew Kuppers/Released)</em></p> </div> </div> </body></html> MoJo Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:04:49 +0000 250321 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Here's How the GOP Shows Its Enviro Cred http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/quote-day-heres-how-gop-shows-its-enviro-cred <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Jonah Goldberg says it's unfair that environmental groups are <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/commentary/la-oe-goldberg-keystone-democrats-20140422,0,7790783.column#axzz2zch3TzR5" target="_blank">almost uniformly anti-Republican:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Contrary to what you may have heard, GOP politicians still care about the environment, but they take their cues from public opinion, not from the green lobby. This often means that when the green lobby denounces Republicans (or centrist Democrats) for supporting drilling or fracking, the greens are at odds with the majority of Americans.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you go. Conservatives care deeply about the environment, and they demonstrate this commitment by ignoring "global warming hysteria" and instead pandering to public opinion polls at every turn. I'm glad we got that straightened out.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:58:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 250316 at http://www.motherjones.com Can the Democrats Mobilize Voters Without a 47% Video Moment? http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/04/can-democrats-mobilize-voters-without-47-video-moment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>David Corn joined guest host Joy Reid on <a href="http://on.msnbc.com/1eY5F4p" target="_blank">MSNBC's Hardball</a> to discuss the Democrats' prospects in the upcoming midterm elections. Historically the Democratic coalition doesn't show up for midterm elections. Can the Dems use the Koch Bros to galvanize voters? How can the party attach the general issue of inequality to specific state races?</p> <p><iframe border="no" height="497" scrolling="no" src="http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_hardball_1dems_140421" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>David Corn is </em>Mother Jones<em>' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/authors/david-corn">click here</a>. He's also on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/davidcorndc">Twitter</a> and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/davidcorndc">Facebook</a>.</em></p> </body></html> MoJo Video Elections Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:00:19 +0000 250311 at http://www.motherjones.com 6 Photos of the Oldest Living Things in the World http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/04/oldest-living-things <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>For the last decade, photographer and artist <a href="http://www.rachelsussman.com/oltw/" target="_blank">Rachel Sussman</a> has traveled the world to document its oldest living organisms. Her photographs, stories, and essays are interwoven in her new book,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Oldest-Living-Things-World/dp/022605750X%3FSubscriptionId%3D0ENGV10E9K9QDNSJ5C82%26tag%3Doltw-20%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D022605750X" target="_blank"><em>The Oldest Living Things in the World</em></a>.&nbsp;I talked with Sussman about her first encounter with a very old tree, climate change, and how she tracked down her ancient subjects.</p> <p><strong><em>Mother Jones</em>:</strong> How did you come up with the idea for this project?</p> <p><strong>Rachel Sussman:</strong> I had gone to Japan in 2004.&nbsp; I wasn't having the best time, and was even at one point thinking of going home. I had learned this one phrase, "<em>fundoshi o shimete kakaru" </em>which literally means "tighten your loin cloth"&mdash;a saying that basically means "buck up." I ended up taking that advice. A couple of people had told me that I should go visit this 7,000-year-old tree. So instead of going home, I went the opposite direction, to this island called Yakushima, where this tree lives. The funny thing is that I didn't have an epiphany standing in front of the tree. It was incredible and obviously had an impact. But it was over a year later, sitting at a restaurant in Soho, eating Thai food with some friends that I had my eureka moment.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/seagrassmaster.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>100,000-year-old sea grass, Baleric islands, Spain </strong></div> </div> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> What was the research process like?</p> <p><strong>RS:</strong> One thing that is really interesting is that there is no area that deals with longevity across species. For example, dendrochronologists study tree history, and mycologists study fungi. But they don't talk to each other. So there was no list of old organisms. Apart from a lot of Google searches, I would try to find the published scientific research. It might start out with a rumor in a local newspaper&mdash;"hey, here is this 100,000-year-old sea grass"&mdash;and I then track down some hard facts and contact the researchers, who nine out of 10 times, are so thrilled that someone is interested in their esoteric work.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Baobab_parfurimaster.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>2,000-year-old Parfuri Baobab, Kruger Game Preserve, South Africa </strong></div> </div> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> What's the oldest thing you've photographed?</p> <p><strong>RS:</strong> Half-million-year-old bacteria found in Siberian permafrost. Unfortunately, I didn't get to go to Siberia. The research was done in the Neils Bohr institute in Copenhagen, so I went there and looked at a soil sample under the microscope and made some digital images.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bacteriamaster.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Soil sample containing 400,000-600,000-year-old Siberian bacteria </strong></div> </div> <p><strong>MJ:</strong>&nbsp; How will climate change affect these organisms?</p> <p><strong>RS:</strong> On the one hand they are these amazing symbols of resilience and perseverance; on the other hand if you think of almost every marker of climate change, they are impacted&mdash;by rising temperatures, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, rising carbon dioxide, polar ice caps melting, basic human encroachment.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/coralmaster.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>2,000-year-old brain coral, Speyside, Tobago </strong></div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/pandomaster_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>80,000-year-old colony of Quaking Aspens, Fish Lake, Utah</strong></div> </div> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> What does it feel like to gaze at something that's so old and majestic?</p> <p><strong>RS:</strong> It's different for different ones. For the giant sequoias, of course, they take your breath away. Whereas some of these other things&mdash;the 3000 year old lichen living in Greenland&mdash;that does not take your breath away, I would walk right past it without even knowing the difference. Some of them, the fact that they're so diminutive and have been alive for millennia is just mind-blowing.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <img alt="" class="image" src="/files/lichenmaster.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>3,000-year-old lichen, Southern Greenland </strong></div> </div> </body></html> Blue Marble Interview Photo Essays Books Climate Change Religion Tue, 22 Apr 2014 10:00:16 +0000 H.F. Bhojani 250211 at http://www.motherjones.com In America, Spending Cuts Are Driven by the Rich http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/america-spending-cuts-are-driven-rich <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body> <p>Over at the Monkey Cage, Larry Bartels presents the remarkable chart on the right. Its message is simple: In most affluent countries, there's net support for government spending cuts, but it doesn't depend much on income. Not only is the level of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_spending_cuts_rich_poor.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">support modest, but it's the same among rich and poor.</p> <p>But not in America. Here, demand for spending cuts is driven <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/21/u-s-is-a-world-leader-in-class-conflict-over-government-spending/" target="_blank">almost entirely by the well-off:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What accounts for the remarkable enthusiasm for government budget-cutting among affluent Americans? Presumably not the sheer magnitude of redistribution in the United States, which is modest by world standards. And presumably not a traditional aversion to government in American political culture, since less affluent Americans are exposed to the same political culture as those who are more prosperous. A more likely suspect is the entanglement of class and race in America, which magnifies aversion to redistribution among many affluent white Americans.</p> <p>....The U.S. tax system is also quite different from most affluent countries&rsquo; in its heavy reliance on progressive income taxes. The political implications of this difference are magnified by the remarkable salience of income taxes in Americans&rsquo; thinking about taxes and government....Income taxes seem to dominate public discussion of taxes and tax policy. For example, years of dramatic political confrontation culminated in a grudging agreement to shave a few percentage points off the Bush tax cuts for incomes over $400,000 per year; meanwhile, a major reduction in the payroll taxes paid by millions of ordinary working Americans expired with barely a whimper.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's no surprise that spending cuts are popular in other countries: most of them spend a lot of money, and they fund it with high tax rates on just about everyone. But that's decidedly not the case in the United States. Our government spending is relatively low and so are our tax rates. But none of that matters. Rich Americans don't like paying taxes, and as we know from <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/nobody-cares-what-you-think-unless-youre-rich" target="_blank">multiple lines of research</a>&mdash;in addition to plain old common sense&mdash;the opinions of the rich are what drive public policy in America. Add in longstanding grievances against providing benefits to people with darker skins, and you've got a big chunk of the middle class on your side too. This works great for the rich. For the rest of us, not so much.</p> </body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Race and Ethnicity Mon, 21 Apr 2014 20:15:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 250286 at http://www.motherjones.com