Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2011/06/our-%3Cb%3Esadly%3C/b%3E-lowered-standards-dickitude http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Iowa GOP Official Warns That Child Migrants Might Be Highly Trained "Warriors" http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/iowa-gop-official-child-migrants-secret-warriors <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Iowa Republican National Committee member Tamara Scott has a special theory about the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/child-migrants-surge-unaccompanied-central-america" target="_blank">flood of child migrants</a> entering the United States: What if they're secretly ninjas?</p> <p>Republican congressmen have previously argued that the 70,000 youths who will come across the border in 2014 are being brought over to <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/online/louie-gohmert-obama-lets-immigrants-into-u-s-so-theyll-vote-democrat/" target="_blank">bolster</a> Democratic voter rolls at some point in the distant future, or that they are carrying a deadly disease that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/andy-tobin-migrants-ebola" target="_blank">does not actually exist</a> in their home countries. Scott, in a Thursday radio segment flagged by <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/gop-committeewoman-warns-child-migrants-highly-trained-warriors-who-will-rise-against-us-ame" target="_blank">Right Wing Watch</a>, sought to outdo them all:</p> <blockquote> <p>For us just to open our borders it's chaos we don't know orderly who's coming in, who's not. When we see these kids, you and I think young kids, we think maybe 12-year-olds, maybe even&hellip;middle-schoolers. But we know back in our revolution, we had 12-year-olds fighting in our revolution. And for many of these kids, depending on where they're coming from, <strong>they could be coming from other countries and be highly trained as warriors who will meet up with their group here and actually rise up against us as Americans.</strong> We have no idea what's coming through our borders, but I would say biblically it's not a Christian nation when you entice people to do wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a terrible idea for a <em>Red Dawn</em> sequel.</p></body></html> MoJo Immigration child migrants Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:25:35 +0000 Tim Murphy 258991 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 22 August 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/friday-cat-blogging-22-august-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's Domino helping Marian with a bit of gardening in the front yard. The days may not be sunny and warm forever, so she's taking advantage of whatever ones are left to her.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_domino_2014_08_22.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:55:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 258971 at http://www.motherjones.com Did Obamacare Wreck a Baseball Game? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/did-obamacare-wreck-baseball-game <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few days ago, a Chicago Cubs game was called in the fifth inning after the grounds crew had so much trouble spreading a tarp that the field got soaked during a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wrigley_field.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">rain delay and play couldn't be continued. The Corner reveals <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/386050/report-obamacare-led-chicago-cubs-tarp-gate-ian-tuttle" target="_blank">what <em>really</em> happened:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Insiders at the ball club report that the real culprit is Obamacare. Because the Affordable Care Act requires offering health benefits to employees who work more than 130 hours per month or 30 hours a week (&ldquo;full time&rdquo;), the Cubs organization reorganized much of its staff during the off-season. Sources that spoke to the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> claimed that, on Tuesday night, the crew was drastically &ldquo;undermanned.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. What do you think of that, <a href="http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/its-hard-to-find-good-help-chicago-cubs-edition" target="_blank">Dean Baker?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem with this story is that employer sanctions are not in effect for 2014. In other words, the Cubs will not be penalized for not providing their ground crew with insurance this year even if they work more than 30 hours per week. Apparently the Cubs management has not been paying attention to the ACA rules. This is yet another example of the skills gap that is preventing managers from operating their businesses effectively.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite so. My guess is that this is just another installment in the long-running effort of American corporations to use Obamacare as a scapegoat for everything under the sun. Usually this has to do with raising copays for their employees or something like that, but the ingenuity of American capitalism knows no bounds. Why not blame a rain delay on Obamacare too?</p> <p>For a more likely cause of penny pinching on the grounds crew, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-wrigley-field-is-suddenly-so-empty-1408578101" target="_blank">the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has you covered.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Sports Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:20:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 258961 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 22, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/were-still-war-photo-day-august-22-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>The USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier in the Atlantic, performs a live-fire exercise to prepare for future deployment. (US Navy Photo)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:47:15 +0000 258936 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Welfare Reform and the Great Recession http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-welfare-reform-and-great-recession <!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.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=3566" target="_blank">CBPP has posted a series of charts</a> showing the effects of welfare reform on the poor over the past couple of decades. In its first few years it seemed like a great success: welfare rolls went down substantially in the late 90s while the number of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tanf_great_recession_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">poor people with jobs went up. But the late 90s were a boom time, and this probably would have happened anyway. Welfare reform may have provided an extra push, but it was a bubbly economy that made the biggest difference.</p> <p>So how would welfare reform fare when it got hit with a real test? Answer: not so well. In late 2007 the Great Recession started, creating an extra 1.5 million families with children in poverty. TANF, however, barely responded at all. There was no room in strapped state budgets for <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=3566" target="_blank">more TANF funds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The TANF block grant fundamentally altered both the structure and the allowable uses of federal and state dollars previously spent on AFDC and related programs. Under TANF, the federal government gives states a fixed block grant totaling $16.5 billion each year....<strong>Because the block grant has never been increased or adjusted for inflation, states received 32 percent less in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars in 2014 than they did in 1997.</strong>&nbsp; State minimum-required contributions to TANF have declined even more. To receive their full TANF block grant, states only have to spend on TANF purposes 80 percent of the amount they spent on AFDC and related programs in 1995. That &ldquo;maintenance of effort&rdquo; requirement isn&rsquo;t adjusted for inflation, either.</p> </blockquote> <p>Welfare reform isn't a subject I know a lot about. I didn't follow it during the 90s, and I haven't seriously studied it since then. With that caveat understood, I'd say that some of the changes it made strike me as reasonable. However, its single biggest change was to transform welfare from an entitlement to a block grant. What happened next was entirely predictable: the size of the block grant was never changed, which means we basically allowed inflation to erode it over time. It also made it impossible for TANF to respond to cyclical economic booms and busts.</p> <p>Make no mistake: this is why conservatives are so enamored of block grants. It's not because they truly believe that states are better able to manage programs for the poor than the federal government. That's frankly laughable. The reason they like block grants is because they know perfectly well that they'll erode over time. That's how you eventually drown the federal government in a bathtub.</p> <p>If Paul Ryan ever seriously proposes&mdash;and wins Republican support for&mdash;a welfare reform plan that includes block grants which (a) grow with inflation and (b) adjust automatically when recessions hit, I'll pay attention. Until then, they're just a Trojan Horse for slowly but steadily eliminating federal programs that help the poor. After all, those tax cuts for the rich won't fund themselves, will they?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:04:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258926 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare May Not Be Popular, But Its Provisions Sure Are http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/obamacare-may-not-be-popular-its-provisions-sure-are <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Brian Beutler on the way health care reform is playing out in the <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119171/pryor-obamacare-ad-mcconnell-shutdown-threat-tell-midterm-story" target="_blank">Arkansas Senate race:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><span class="dropcap">T</span>he most interesting thing about Senator Mark Pryor&rsquo;s decision to tout his support for the Affordable Care Act in a well-financed, statewide television ad isn&rsquo;t that he stands apart from other embattled Democrats this election cycle. It&rsquo;s that Republicans scrambled to spin the story, insisting to reporters that Pryor couldn&rsquo;t possibly be running on Obamacare if he won&rsquo;t refer to the law by name.</p> <p>....Instead, Pryor says, "I helped pass a law that prevents insurance companies from canceling your policy if you get sick or deny [sic] coverage based on pre-existing conditions.&rdquo; Maybe he shouldn&rsquo;t have said anything about &ldquo;a law&rdquo; at all, but that&rsquo;s a niggling, semantic critique. That Republicans working to defeat Pryor are asking reporters to squeeze the word &ldquo;Obamacare&rdquo; into this sentence is an admission that they&rsquo;ve lost the policy fight. They criticize Pryor for eschewing the label, because the label&rsquo;s just about the only thing they&rsquo;re comfortable assailing.</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose this isn't the biggest thing in the world, and as Beutler says, Republicans <em>did</em> manage to talk several reporters into mentioning this. So from their point of view, it's just savvy media strategy. Besides, the truth is that Republicans have always focused on only a few things in their critique of Obamacare. That's because polls have shown for years that most of the <em>provisions</em> of the law are popular even though support for the law itself is pretty shaky. This causes Republicans endless grief, since Democrats get to harass them relentlessly about whether they <em>oppose</em> closing the donut hole; whether they <em>oppose</em> subsidy assistance; whether they <em>oppose</em> guaranteed issue; and so on. Republicans can hem and haw about how they'd keep all this stuff and only get rid of the nasty taxes and mandates, but even the dimmer bulbs in the GOP caucus know perfectly well that this is untrue.</p> <p>In any case, other Democratic politicians have touted their support for specific provisions of Obamacare, so Pryor isn't really doing anything new. He's just being smart. He knows that denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions is extremely unpopular, even among conservative voters, and he'd love to draw his opponent into a debate about exactly that. Tom Cotton has so far refused to take the bait, pretending that he'd somehow keep that provision while repealing everything else. This is a bald-faced lie, of course, but if he sticks to that story like glue he can probably avoid any serious damage from Pryor's attacks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Health Care Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:56:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 258921 at http://www.motherjones.com Drought Weighing You Down? Nope, It's Lifting You Up http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/08/drought-making-ground-literally-rise-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a odd piece of news: According to a <a href="https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/70191956/Borsa_Science_GPSDrought_revised.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> published Thursday in <em>Science</em>, the water loss due to this year's drought has caused the entire western side of the United States to literally rise. After examining data from nearly 800 GPS stations across the country, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that the area west of New Mexico has risen by an average of four millimeters this year. In the Sierra Nevadas and along California's coast&mdash;two areas that have received far less precipitation this year than normal&mdash;the land rose 15 millimeters.</p> <p>Adrian Borsa, a coauthor of the study, explained what's happening: "The earth is an elastic material just like a block of rubber. If you put a water load on it, the earth deforms, if you take the water away, the earth will come back." Using the GPS data, the researchers estimated that the Western United States has lost 62 trillion gallons of water to the atmosphere this year because of the drought. That's enough water to cover the entire Western US in six inches of water.</p> <p>The earth rising seems not only vaguely biblical, but also counterintuitive; one might expect the earth's surface to fall if water is being taken from it. In fact, the ground is falling in some places: Some GPS stations in California had to be left out of the study because farmers are extracting so much groundwater that the ground is literally caving in. But this study didn't examine the ground at a surface-level&mdash;it showed that the earth's crust and mantle are responding elastically to the drought. So while some areas may be falling because of man-made changes at a local level, the West as a whole is rising.</p> <p>As it turns out, the rise and fall of the earth due to water loss actually happens a little each year with the change of the seasons: Land is heavier in the winter and spring, and when water evaporates in the summer and fall, land is a little lighter. But the annual variation in California's mountains is about 5 millimeters&mdash;not this year's 15. The difference "sounds tiny," said Borsa, but from a geological standpoint, "it's a whopping signal" of the amount of water lost to the drought.</p> <p>Contrary to most drought news these days, this rise of the West doesn't have looming disastrous effects in and of itself: The researchers, for example, don't think that this change will cause more extreme earthquakes.</p> <p>But Borsa says that using GPS data on the rise of the earth could help regulators to understand how much water is being used in the West&mdash;particularly in California. California is the only Western state that doesn't measure or regulate major groundwater use; if you can drill down to it, it's all yours. A report produced for the state's Department of Food and Agriculture estimated that California's farmers will pump about 13 million acre-feet of groundwater this year&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/california-drought-report-economy-groundwater" target="_blank">enough water</a> to put a piece of land the size of Rhode Island 17 feet underwater.</p> <p>With no regulatory system in place, though, it's challenging for officials to know if these estimates are lining up with reality. "The extractions aren't monitored, so no one really knows how to monitor the water supply," says Borsa. Using GPS data "could be a great tool for water managers."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Econundrums Food and Ag Top Stories Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:00:16 +0000 Julia Lurie 258881 at http://www.motherjones.com Compton to District Security Guards: Go Ahead, Bring Your AR-15s to School http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/compton-schools-allow-ar-15-rifles-security-guards <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When students in the Compton Unified School District return to classrooms on Monday, some of them will have new pencils or notebooks. Their teachers will have new textbooks. But this year, the district's campus police will be getting an upgrade, too: AR-15 rifles.</p> <p>The board of the Los Angeles-area school district approved a measure to allow the campus cops to carry the new guns in July. The district's police chief, William Wu, told the board that equipping school police with semi-automatic AR-15s is intended to ensure student safety.</p> <p>"This is our objective&mdash;save lives, bottom line," Wu told the board.</p> <p>Crime is a serious problem in Compton, an independent jurisdiction south of downtown Los Angeles. In the 12 months preceding July, the city of nearly 100,000 experienced 28 murders, making it the 11th-deadliest neighborhood in the county, according to a <a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/neighborhood/compton" target="_blank">data analysis</a> by the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>.</p> <p>But the choice to make Compton school police the latest local law enforcement agency to adopt military-style weapons was less about dealing with street crime than it was about preventing more exotic incidents like mass shootings. At the board meeting, Wu cited an <a href="http://leb.fbi.gov/2014/january/active-shooter-events-from-2000-to-2012" target="_blank">FBI report</a> released in January that found that 5 percent of "active shooters"&mdash; or shooters which are conducting an ongoing assault on a group of people&mdash;wore body armor, which can stop most bullets fired from handguns. To make his case, Wu cited a range of examples, including the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the University of Texas shooting in 1966, in which a student killed 16 people from the campus clock tower, out of range of police sidearms. (The student was eventually killed when a group of police climbed the tower and shot him at close range.)</p> <p>"They will continue until they are stopped," Wu said, at which point a board member interjected.</p> <p>"No, they will continue until <em>we </em>stop them," he said. "Compton Unified School Police&hellip;holding it down."</p> <p>"These rifles give us greater flexibility in dealing with a person with bad intent who comes onto any of our campuses," Wu said in a statement. "The officers will keep the rifles in the trunks of their cars, unless they are needed."</p> <p>Compton is not the first district in the Southern California to allow AR-15s on its campuses. At the meeting, Wu said that Los Angeles, Baldwin Park, Santa Ana, Fontana, and San Bernardino all allow their officers to use the same weapons.&nbsp;</p> <p>Compton school police last <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/13/local/la-me-compton-schools-lawsuit-20130514" target="_blank">made news in May 2013,</a> when a group of parents and students filed a suit against the department, alleging a pattern of racial profiling and abuse targeting Latino students. The complaint said that officers beat, pepper-sprayed, and put a chokehold on a bystander who was recording an arrest with his iPod. The group also claimed that Compton school police used excessive force against students and parents who complained that English-as-a-second-language programs were underfunded. (The case is ongoing.)</p> <p>Wu said at the board meeting that seven officers have already been trained to use the new weapons. He said all officers would be purchasing their own weapons. The guns will be the officers' personal property, but they could be bringing them to work as early as September.</p></body></html> MoJo Education Guns Top Stories Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Alex Park 258656 at http://www.motherjones.com Another GOP Candidate Says Migrant Kids Might Have Ebola. (They Don't.) http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/andy-tobin-migrants-ebola <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin is the latest Republican politician to suggest migrants from Central America might bring the Ebola virus with them to the United States. Tobin, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the state's 1st Congressional District in Tuesday's primary, made the connection in an interview published in the <a href="http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/judgment-day/Content?oid=4811097" target="_blank"><em>Tucson Weekly</em></a> on Thursday.</p> <p>Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) started the GOP Ebola fearmongering trend last month when he <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/phil-gingrey-migrant-ebola-vaccines" target="_blank">wrote a letter</a> to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that "[r]eports of illegal immigrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning."&nbsp; In August, Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) leveled the same charge.</p> <p>Although allegations of disease-ridden migrants are common throughout history, vaccination rates in Central America are higher than in Texas. And Ebola, which is difficult to contract, is not found in Central America. But Tobin was undeterred.</p> <p>Per the <em>Weekly</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>&hellip;Tobin says he's hearing about worries from constituents that the recent wave of undocumented youth from Central America could cause an Ebola outbreak in the United States.</p> <p>"Anything's now possible," Tobin said last week. "So if you were to say the Ebola virus has now entered (the country), I don't think anyone would be surprised."</p> <p>Tobin acknowledged that Ebola has been limited to outbreaks in Africa, "to the extent that they're really aware of that. I think there is a reason we should be concerned about it and say, 'Hey, can you assure us the people crossing the border are not from the Middle East?'&hellip;So I use that as an example, that the public would not be surprised to hear about the next calamity at the border."</p> </blockquote> <p>But even if there were lots of people crossing the border from the Middle East, they still wouldn't be bringing Ebola, because Ebola is still confined to sub-Saharan West Africa. Here's a useful map:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/ebola_0_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Central America is on the left. </strong>Google Maps</div> </div> <p>Fortunately for Tobin, though, the bar for misinformed comments on migrants is high in Arizona's 1st District. State Rep. Adam Kwasman, Tobin's chief rival for the nomination, became a late-night punch line in July when he <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/gop-congressional-candidate-mistakes-ymca-campers-migrant-kids" target="_blank">protested</a> a YMCA camp bus he mistakenly believed was filled with undocumented youths.</p></body></html> MoJo Elections Immigration child migrants Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:01:02 +0000 Tim Murphy 258886 at http://www.motherjones.com The Intersection of Social Liberalism and Social Media is Brutal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/intersection-social-liberalism-and-social-media-brutal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I think it's safe to say that Freddie deBoer is considerably to my left. But even he finds much of contemporary social liberalism <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/08/21/where-online-social-liberalism-lost-the-script/" target="_blank">dispiriting and self-righteous:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can&rsquo;t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing.</p> <p>....<strong>I&rsquo;m far from alone in feeling that it&rsquo;s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks</strong>....If you are a young person who is still malleable and subject to having your mind changed, and you decide to engage with socially liberal politics online, what are you going to learn immediately? Everything that you like is problematic. Every musician you like is misogynist. Every movie you like is secretly racist. Every cherished public figure has some deeply disqualifying characteristics. All of your victories are the product of privilege. Everyone you know and love who does not yet speak with the specialized vocabulary of today&rsquo;s social justice movement is a bad, bad person. <strong>That is no way to build a broader coalition, which we desperately need if we&rsquo;re going to win.</strong></p> <p>....People have to be free to make mistakes, even ones that we find offensive. If we turn away from everyone that says or believes something dumb, we will find ourselves lecturing to an empty room. Surely there are ways to preserve righteous anger while being more circumspect about who is targeted by that anger. And I strongly believe that we can, and must, remind the world that social justice is about being happy, being equal, and being free.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, I suspect that this is a more acute problem on university campuses than in the rest of the world, so it hits deBoer and his students harder than it does many of the rest of us. But I think deBoer is right when he says that social media has largely sanded away the differences. If you make a mistake these days, you won't just get a disapproving stare or maybe an email or two about it. You'll get an endless stream of hate from Twitter and Facebook. And while it's easy to point out that a few hundred angry tweets aren't really all that many compared to the millions of people on Twitter, it can feel devastating if you're on the business end of this kind of avalanche. You're not thinking in terms of percentages or small fringes, you're just reading what seems like a relentless flood of scorn and malice. And it can be overwhelming, especially if you're not accustomed to it.</p> <p>Some of this is simply the price of speaking in public. The problem is that in the past there were lots of different publics. Some were small, maybe no more than family or friends. Some were a bit larger: people you worked with, or went to school with. There were local publics, statewide publics, and national publics. The bigger the public you addressed, the more vitriol you could expect to get in return. The vitriol still wasn't fun, but it was, in some sense, a trade made with your eyes open.</p> <p>No longer. If you write a blog post or a tweet, and the wrong person just happens to highlight it, your public is suddenly gigantic whether you meant it to be or not. Then the avalanche comes. And, as deBoer says, the avalanche is dominated by the loudest, angriest, least tolerant fringes of the language and conduct police.</p> <p>I suspect this wouldn't be so bad if there were an equal and opposite reaction to the avalanche. If the hundreds of angry tweets were balanced by hundreds of more thoughtful tweets, it wouldn't be so overwhelming. But what thoughtful person wants to get involved in this kind of thing? No one. That's almost the definition of being thoughtful, after all. So the vitriol pours in, and it's soul-crushing.</p> <p>And with that, I'm sort of petering out. I feel like should have a sharper point to make about all this, but I don't really. I don't know what the answer is, or even whether there is an answer. Maybe if I get a few hundred hate-tweets in response, I'll think of something.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Tech Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:14:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 258876 at http://www.motherjones.com The American Correctional Association Ushered Me Out of Its Convention With Armed Guards http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/08/armed-guards-ushered-me-out-prison-convention <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've dealt with surly, armed prison guards in my reporting career, but Tuesday was the first time the encounter involved a PR man kicking me out of a convention I had personally requested to attend, paid for, and traveled across country to attend. On Tuesday, the director of government and public affairs of the <a href="http://www.aca.org/ACA_Prod_IMIS/ACA_Member/Home/ACA_Member/Home.aspx" target="_blank">American Correctional Association</a> (ACA), a prison trade group, pulled me out of a seminar at their conference in Salt Lake City, which I'd been attending for several days. Flanking him were two men in Utah Department of Corrections uniforms, with pistols and tasers on their hips.</p> <p>The convention is a twice-yearly affair, and I've been to it before. Hundreds of prison staff and members of the vast industry surrounding corrections touch down on an American city to discuss all things prison related. This week, Salt Lake City laid out the red carpet. Downtown restaurants posted signs welcoming the prison industry. Hotels printed the ACA insignia on their keys. Bars hosted parties sponsored by corrections companies. The local prison had inmates press an "ACA 2014" license plate for each convention guest.</p> <p>The ACA is the largest and oldest correctional association in the world, and their conventions offer a rare glimpse into the world of US prisons. Vendors in the exhibit hall openly discuss their increasing sales of SWAT-style equipment to prisons. Visitors can check out the new tech like drone-detection devices, surveillance systems, and shank-proof e-cigarettes. People hold workshops on issues like sex between prison guards and inmates and the problem of drug-dealing staff. Serious topics like suicide among transgender inmate populations are often revealingly discussed in terms of liability and cost.</p> <p>But in attending ACA conventions, I've also been surprised at how many reformists there are. When I attended an ACA convention in Tampa six months ago, the main plenary was composed of wardens and mental-health workers discussing the need to reform the use of long-term solitary confinement (called "restrictive housing" in ACA jargon). In Salt Lake City, prisoner mental health and the rampant problem of hepatitis C (affecting 40 percent of inmates) were major topics.</p> <p>For someone who writes about prisons and is accustomed to being stonewalled at every turn, the ACA conventions have felt refreshingly transparent. After workshops or at company-sponsored meet-and-greets, most people are very willing to speak to a journalist, and I have always identified myself as such.</p> <p>While in Salt Lake City, I was <a href="http://storify.com/smbauer1/american-correctional-association-convention" target="_blank">live-tweeting throughout the convention</a>, posting revealing tidbits from workshops and notes on a visit to a local jail. This may have had something to do with why, on the fourth day, a man named Eric Schultz, the ACA's director of government and public affairs, came into a workshop and asked me to step outside. Standing at each side of him was an armed Utah correctional officer. He told me I was going to have to leave.</p> <p>The guards ushered us into an empty room. The reason for my dismissal changed as Mr. Schultz and I talked. First, he told me I wasn't registered as media. I explained to him that when I called to register, I was told there were no media passes, and that I should register through the normal channels. He then told me the problem was that I wasn't displaying my <em>Mother Jones</em> credentials, which was required by policy (I still have not been able to find that policy). I told him that could easily be remedied. "It's nothing against you or <em>Mother Jones</em>," he said. "But you are just going to have to leave." The burly guard stepped in closer.</p> <p>After I left the convention center, I called the main ACA office in Virginia to ask again whether media were allowed to attend the convention. The man who answered told me yes, they were.</p> <p>"Any media?" I asked.</p> <p>&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said. My editor, Monika Bauerlein, called Eric Schultz several times to discuss the matter, leaving voicemails and receiving no return calls. I later called up Schultz to ask whether he wanted to comment for this post. He hasn't responded.</p> <p>The ACA functions as the de facto oversight organization for our prison system. They set the professional standards and conduct audits. I've been told by many that their accreditation carries weight in court. What are we to infer when an institution whose purpose is to make sure our prisons are up to par doesn't allow the public to see what it's doing?</p></body></html> MoJo Human Rights Media Prisons Top Stories Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:54:05 +0000 Shane Bauer 258811 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Horrible Toll of the Recession on the Poor http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/chart-day-horrible-toll-recession-poor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When we talk about rising income inequality, we usually talk about the skyrocketing pay of the top 1 percent. And that's quite proper, since that's the main driver of increasing inequality.</p> <p>But <a href="http://www.census.gov/people/wealth/files/Wealth%20distribution%202000%20to%202011.pdf" target="_blank">new census data</a> shows that when it comes to net worth&mdash;which is basically total wealth&mdash;the biggest change has been at the bottom. Even after taking some lumps immediately after the recession, the well-off had recovered and even made some gains by 2011. But the poor have been devastated. Their median net worth has always been pretty close to zero, but by 2011 it had plummeted to $-6,029. <em>On average</em>, poor families were in the hole to the tune of $6,000, an astronomical and completely debilitating number to someone with barely poverty-level earnings.</p> <p>In other words, when it comes to wealth, the rich really are getting richer, and the poor really are getting poorer. A lot poorer.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_census_net_worth_2011.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:24:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 258846 at http://www.motherjones.com Here’s Why Bank of America’s $17 Billion Settlement Probably Won’t Cost It That Much http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/bank-of-america-17-billion-settlement-not-that-much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Thursday, the Justice Department <a href="http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2014/August/14-ag-884.html" target="_blank">announced</a> a record $17 billion settlement with Bank of America over accusations that the bank&mdash;as well as companies it later bought&mdash;intentionally misled investors who purchased financial products backed by toxic subprime mortgages. It's the largest settlement the US government has reached with any company in history, and it is roughly equal to the bank's total profits over <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/bank-of-america-reaches-17-billion-settlement-1408560100" target="_blank">the past three years</a>. But as is the case with similar settlements involving <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/7-billion-citigroup-settlement-department-justice" target="_blank">Citigroup</a> and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/10/jpmorgan-chase-13-billion-settlement-justice-department" target="_blank">JPMorgan Chase</a>, Bank of America probably won't end up paying that much.</p> <p>Potential tax deductions and tricky accounting techniques in deals like this often hide the real cost to banks. <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/why-bank-america-deal-might-not-cost-it-17b?wpisrc=nl-wonkbk&amp;wpmm=1" target="_blank">The <em>Associated Press </em>explains</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Bank of America will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion&hellip;Whether cash payments are structured as penalties or legal settlements can determine whether targeted companies can declare them as tax-deductible business expenses. Also, consumer relief is an amorphous cost category: If Bank of America's deal resembles the department's previous settlements with JPMorgan and Citigroup, that part could be less costly to the company than the huge figures suggest.</p> <p>...[M]uch of the relief will come from modifying loans that the banks have already concluded could not be recovered in full. Reducing the principal on troubled loans often just brings the amount that borrowers owe in line with what the banks already know the loan to be worth.</p> <p>Settlement math also affects the actual cost of the deals, allowing banks to earn a multiple for each dollar spent on certain forms of relief. Under Citi's deal, for example, each dollar spent on legal aid counselors is worth $2 in credits, and paper losses on some affordable housing project loans can be credited at as much as four times their actual value.</p> </blockquote> <p>Banks generally regard the consumer relief portion of settlements as "stuff they're doing anyway," banking analyst Moshe Orenbuch told the AP.</p> <p>The Bank of America settlement resolves more than two dozen investigations by prosecutors around the country.</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Economy Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:59:41 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 258831 at http://www.motherjones.com Russian Sanctions Mostly Hitting Russian Consumers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/russian-sanctions-mostly-hitting-russian-consumers <!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_putin_microphones.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The BBC reports on how those Russian sanctions against Western food have <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28855966" target="_blank">put the squeeze on European and American suppliers:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Moscow officials say frozen fish prices in the capital's major supermarkets have risen by 6%, milk by 5.3% and an average cheese costs 4.4% more than it did before the 7 August ban took effect. Russia has banned imports of those basic foods, as well as meat and many other products, from Western countries, Australia and Japan. It is retaliation for the West's sanctions on Russia over the revolt by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.</p> <p>And it is not just Moscow. On the island of Sakhalin, in Russia's far east, officials say the price of chicken thighs has soared 60%. Before the sanctions these were among the cheapest and most popular meat products in Russia.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oops. Sorry about that. It's actually Russian consumers who are paying the price. And for now, that seems to be OK:</p> <blockquote> <p>Polls show that the vast majority of Russians approve of the sanctions against Western food. They have been told by government officials and state-controlled TV that the embargo will not affect prices, and that it will actually allow Russia's own agriculture to flourish. And that message is being believed.</p> </blockquote> <p>At a guess, Russian consumers aren't very different from American consumers. Nationalistic pride will work for a while, as people accept higher prices as the cost of victory against whoever they're fighting at the moment. But that won't last any longer in Russia than it does in America. Give it a few months and public opinion is likely to turn decidedly surly. Who really cares about those damn Ukrainians anyway? They're just a bunch of malcontents and always have been, amirite?</p> <p>This is why Vladimir Putin needs a quick victory. The fact that he's not getting it will eventually prompt him to either (a) quietly give up, or (b) go all in. Unfortunately, there's really no telling which it will be.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:52:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 258841 at http://www.motherjones.com In Ferguson, Cops Hand Out 3 Warrants Per Household Every Year http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/ferguson-cops-hand-out-three-warrants-household-every-year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Alex Tabarrok comments on the <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/08/ferguson-and-the-debtors-prison.html" target="_blank">rather remarkable caseload of Ferguson's municipal court:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You don&rsquo;t get <strong>$321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants <em>per household</em></strong> from an about-average crime rate. You get&nbsp;numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant &ldquo;low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.&rdquo;</p> <p>If you have money, for example, you can easily get a speeding ticket converted to a non-moving violation. But if you don&rsquo;t have money it&rsquo;s often the start of a downward spiral that is hard to pull out of....If you are arrested and jailed you will probably lose your job and perhaps also your apartment&mdash;all because of a speeding ticket.</p> </blockquote> <p>We've all seen a number of stories like this recently, and it prompts a question: why are police departments allowed to fund themselves with ticket revenue in the first place? Or red light camera revenue. Or civil asset forfeiture revenue. Or any other kind of revenue that provides them with an incentive to be as hardass as possible. Am I missing something when I think that this makes no sense at all?</p> <p>This is sort of a genuine question. I know these policies are common, but where did they come from? Are they deliberate, created by politicians who like the idea of giving their local cops an incentive to get tough? Were they mostly the idea of police departments themselves, who figured the revenue from fines would provide a net boost in their annual funding? Or did they just accrete over time, popping up whenever there was a budget crisis and then never going away?</p> <p>Does anyone know?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:13:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 258836 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 21, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/were-still-war-photo-day-august-21-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>The US Marines practice weapon proficiency during a crew-served weapons familiarization shoot to serve in the Asia-Pacific Region. <span class="meta-field photo-desc ">(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Henry Antenor)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:56:25 +0000 258826 at http://www.motherjones.com Motown's First No. 1 Hit, "Please Mr. Postman," Released 53 Years Ago http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/08/motown-1961-hit-please-mr-postman-marvelettes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The knockout girl group song "Please Mr. Postman," by the Marvelettes was released on August 21, 1961. Later in the year it went on to become the first Motown single to hit #1 on B<em>illboard's</em> Hot 100 chart.</p> <center><object height="315" width="420"><param name="movie" value="//www.youtube.com/v/425GpjTSlS4?hl=en_US&amp;version=3&amp;rel=0"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/v/425GpjTSlS4?hl=en_US&amp;version=3&amp;rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="420"></embed></object></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Motown wouldn't hit the #1 position again until 1963, when Little Stevie Wonder's "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cSjOxqldFs" target="_blank">Fingertips, Pt. 2</a>" reached the top. From that point on, Motown was a non-stop hit machine with at least one #1 hit on the charts each year through 1974. 1970 proved to be Motown's best year&ndash;they dominated <em>Billboard</em> with seven top hits.</p> <p>The Marvelettes followed "Please Mr. Postman" with "Twistin' Postman," in an effort to cash in on their own song and the popularity of "The Twist." That song hit #34 on the pop charts, and was followed by their bigger hits "Playboy" and the current oldies radio staple "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us18AUBM2RI" target="_blank">Beechwood 4-5789</a>." Like a lot of groups of the era, the Marvelettes had a hard time cracking the charts once the British Invasion hit States.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:01:08 +0000 Mark Murrmann 258706 at http://www.motherjones.com Should Pregnant Women Eat Zero Tuna? http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/08/consumer-reports-wants-pregnant-women-stop-eating-tuna <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Food-safety experts at <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm" target="_blank"><em>Consumer Reports</em></a> crunched the numbers on mercury levels in seafood&mdash;and they have a new <a href="https://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FDA_Letter_Mercury_Levels_Fish.pdf" target="_blank">recommendation</a> for pregnant women: Don't eat tuna at all.</p> <p>The FDA recommends that pregnant and nursing women consume between 8 and 12 ounces of fish per week to provide proper nutrition for a baby's brain development and overall health. But some fish are very high in mercury, a neurotoxin that <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/20/hm.fish.mercury/index.html" target="_blank">can lead</a> to serious cognitive problems and birth defects in children and babies. And the mercury levels in oceans <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/08/humans-have-tripled-mercury-oceans" target="_blank">are rising</a>&mdash;humans have tripled the mercury content in oceans since the Industrial Revolution&mdash;leading to further mercury absorption by predators like tuna.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MercuryChart.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Consumer Reports provides charts to help curb mercury levels during fish consumption. </strong>Courtesy of Consumer Reports</div> </div> <p>A team at the Consumer Reports National Research Center analyzed data from the Food and Drug Administration's <a href="http://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm115644.htm" target="_blank">chart</a>&nbsp;on mercury levels in seafood&nbsp;and determined that consuming 6 ounces of albacore tuna in a week&mdash;the level&nbsp;recommended as safe by the FDA for pregnant women&mdash;would put a 125-pound woman over the Environmental Protection Agency's "safe" mercury threshold by more than two&nbsp;ounces.</p> <p>Canned light tuna is thought&nbsp;to offer a lower mercury tuna option, but 20 percent of the FDA's samples of it&nbsp;contained almost double the average level of mercury that it's supposed to. Some samples had more mercury than the king mackerel&mdash;one of the FDA's top four high-in-mercury fish&mdash;which the agency advises pregnant women and children to avoid. Canned tuna constitutes the second most frequently consumed seafood product in the United States.</p> <p>Some experts like Deborah Rice, a former senior risk assessor for the EPA, think that research since 2001 suggests that there is "no question" that the FDA and EPA's current limit for mercury consumption is "too high," she told <em>Consumer Reports</em>. The magazine is urging&nbsp;the FDA and EPA to recommend that&nbsp;pregnant women avoid eating any tuna&mdash;and to provide more safety information concerning tuna for pregnant women, children and people who eat a lot of fish (24 ounces of fish, around <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/415471-the-serving-size-for-fish/" target="_blank">seven servings</a>,&nbsp;or more per week).</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:00:07 +0000 Jenna McLaughlin 258691 at http://www.motherjones.com Gun-Pointing Cop Who Threatened to Kill Ferguson Protesters Is Suspended http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/gun-pointing-cop-ferguson-suspended <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, were relatively calm yesterday, especially compared to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/watch-livestream-ferguson" target="_blank">previous nights</a> where heavily armed police have responded to protests with tear gas and arrests. But there was at least one police officer who took things a little too far. In this video, an unidentified officer points a rifle at journalists and others walking in the street and warns, "I'll fucking kill you." (NSFW language in the clip.)</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3AFia3Uo0TQ?rel=0" width="630"></iframe><br> Somebody off-camera asks for his name and the officer replies, "Go fuck yourself." Soon afterward, a county police sergeant comes and ushers the officer away. Earlier today the <a href="http://www.aclu-mo.org/download_file/view_inline/1266/535/" target="_blank">ACLU asked for the officer to be removed</a> from Ferguson. The St. Louis County Police Department has announced that the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/20/police-officer-suspended-for-pointing-rifle-at-protesters-threatening-them/" target="_blank">officer has been suspended</a>, according to the <em>Washington Post</em>:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Update from <a href="https://twitter.com/stlcountypd">@stlcountypd</a> re: police officer's "inappropriate" actions overnight in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ferguson?src=hash">#Ferguson</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/KMOV">@kmov</a> <a href="http://t.co/c2QvSsqBA9">pic.twitter.com/c2QvSsqBA9</a></p> &mdash; Laura Hettiger KMOV (@LauraKHettiger) <a href="https://twitter.com/LauraKHettiger/statuses/502197359150112769">August 20, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> MoJo Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:13:06 +0000 AJ Vicens 258801 at http://www.motherjones.com Housekeeping Note http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/housekeeping-note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>That's it for the day. I'm off to the hospital for yet another test that will undoubtedly show nothing wrong with me. But you don't know until you look, do you? See you tomorrow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:28:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 258781 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Liberals Rely Too Much on Guilt? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/do-liberals-rely-too-heavily-guilt <!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.balloon-juice.com/2014/08/20/i-hate-you-for-making-me-feel-like-an-jerkhole/" target="_blank">Tim F. makes an observation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Spend some time following internet conversations about your liberal cause of the day (global warming, racial injustice, etc) and eventually someone will get to the nut of why the issue pisses many people off: they think activists want them to feel guilty and they don&rsquo;t want to feel guilty. That&rsquo;s pretty much it. A huge part of our failure to do anything about the climate disaster or racist asshole cops comes from people protecting their delicate ego.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. But I'd take this a little more seriously, because it's probably something that genuinely hurts lefty causes. It's human nature to get defensive when you feel guilty, and it's hard to recruit defensive folks to your cause. If this were only an occasional problem, that would be one thing. But let's be honest: We really do rely on guilt a lot. You should feel guilty about using plastic bags. About liking college football. About driving an SUV. About eating factory-farmed beef. About using the wrong word to refer to a transgender person. About sending your kids to a private school. And on and on and on.</p> <p>We all contribute to this, even when we don't mean to. And maybe guilt is inevitable when you're trying to change people's behavior. But it adds up, and over time lefties can get to seem a little unbearable. You have to be so damn careful around us!</p> <p>I don't really have any useful advice about this. Maybe there's nothing much to be done about it. But egos, delicate or otherwise, are just a part of the human condition. We ignore them at our peril.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:05:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 258771 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for August 20, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/were-still-war-photo-day-august-20-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>After a training mission, F-15 Eagles of the US Air Force fly over wildland fires in Southern Oregon. <span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1408556087628_1472">(High-G Productions photo by Jim "Hazy" Hazeltine.)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:40:20 +0000 258766 at http://www.motherjones.com Let Us Now Psychoanalyze Famous Men (And Their Photographs) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/let-us-now-psychoanalyze-famous-men-and-their-photographs <!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_obama_holder_ferguson.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Bob Somerby calls my attention to the following bit of psychobabble from Peter Baker and Matt Apuzzo of the <em>New York Times</em>. The subject is a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/us/holder-and-obama-differ-in-approach-to-underlying-issues-of-missouri-unrest.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSum&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">photo released by the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Mr. Holder, 63, is the one leaning forward,</strong> both in the photograph released by the White House and on the issues underlying the crisis in Ferguson, Mo. A child of the civil rights era, he grew up shaped by the images of violence in Selma, Ala., and joined sit-ins at Columbia University where protesters renamed an office after Malcolm X. Now in high office, he pushes for policy changes and is to fly on Wednesday to Ferguson to personally promise justice in the case of a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer.</p> <p><strong>Mr. Obama, 53, is the one seemingly holding back in the White House photograph,</strong> contemplative, even brooding, as if seeking to understand how events could get so out of hand. He was too young and removed to experience the turmoil of the 1960s, growing up in a multiracial household in Hawaii and Indonesia. As he now seeks balance in an unbalanced time, he wrestles with the ghosts of history that his landmark election, however heady, failed to exorcise.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously? Take a look at other photographs of Obama when he's conferring with someone. Take a look at other photographs of <em>any</em> powerful person when they're conferring with an underling. The boss is the one who's free to lounge back and relax. The underling is the one who has to lean forward and make his case. This is standard body language. Obama uses it so often that in just the August "Photo of the Day" gallery alone, I count it in three out of four photos where Obama is conferring with other people.</p> <p>Look, I've been there. You want to say something interesting. You need a hook. But come on. If you want to make the case that racial issues are more immediate for Holder than for Obama, go ahead. But don't pretend that a bog ordinary White House photograph tells you anything. That's just embarrassing. Before long you'll be hiring body language "experts" and handwriting "analysts" to help you with your leads. Here be dragons.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Media Obama Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:12:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 258751 at http://www.motherjones.com Barack Obama Loathes Congress as Much as You Do http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/barack-obama-loathes-congress-much-you-do <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ezra Klein responds to a <em>New York Times</em> article about President Obama's <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/8/20/6045891/why-congressional-democrats-don-t-like-obama" target="_blank">chilly relationship with his fellow Democrats:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama <em>does</em> see socializing with Hill Democrats as a chore. But there's a lot that Obama sees as a chore and commits to anyway. The presidency, for all its power, is full of drudgery; there are ambassadors to swear in and fundraisers to attend and endless briefings on issues that the briefers don't even really care about. <strong>The reason Obama doesn't put more effort into stroking congressional Democrats is he sees it as a <em>useless</em> chore.</strong></p> <p>The <em>Times</em> article...never names a bill that didn't pass or a nominee who wasn't confirmed because Obama's doesn't spend more time on the golf course with members of Congress. The closest it comes is...not very close. "In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama's approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office."</p> <p>This is ridiculous. There are no issues erupting at home or abroad where the problem is that House or Senate Democrats won't vote with the president. There's no legislation of importance to President Obama's legacy that would pass if only House Democrats had spent more time at the White House. I've listened to a lot of Democratic members of Congress complain about Obama's poor relationships on the Hill. Each time, my follow-up question is the same: "what would have passed if Obama had better relationships on the Hill?" Each time, the answer is the same: a shake of the head, and then, "nothing."</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd probably give a little more credit to schmoozing than this. But only a very little. At the margins, there are probably times when having a good relationship with a committee chair will speed up action or provide a valuable extra vote or two on a bill or a nominee. And Obama has the perfect vehicle for doing this regularly since he loves to play golf. But for the most part Klein is right. There's very little evidence that congressional schmoozing has more than a tiny effect on things. Members of Congress vote the way they want or need to vote, and if they respond to anyone, it's to party leaders, interest groups, and fellow ideologues. In days gone by, presidents could coerce votes by working to withhold money from a district, or by agreeing to name a crony as the local postmaster, but those days are long gone. There's really very little leverage that presidents have over members of Congress these days, regardless of party.</p> <p>Obama is an odd duck. It's not just that he doesn't schmooze. As near as I can tell, he has a barely concealed contempt for Congress. He doesn't really enjoy playing the political game, and not just because it's gotten so rancid in recent years. Even if Republicans were acting like a normal political party these days, I still don't think he'd enjoy it much. And yet, he spent years campaigning for the top political job in the United States. It's a little bit of a mystery, frankly.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Obama Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:56:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 258746 at http://www.motherjones.com What's in a Word: Trophy vs. Ribbon Edition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/08/whats-word-trophy-vs-ribbon-edition <!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://reason.com/poll/2014/08/19/57-percent-of-americans-say-only-kids-wh" target="_blank">A recent poll from <em>Reason</em> magazine</a> investigates the burning question of whether kids on sports teams should all get participation trophies, or whether it should only be the winners. Overall, 57 percent think only the winners should get trophies, but <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trophies_for_all.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the detailed breakdown is kind of interesting. It turns out that society's winners generally think that only winners should get trophies. Society's also-rans tend to think everyone should be recognized.</p> <p>I wonder how much of this has to do with the word <em>trophy</em>? For many decades, after all, the US military has awarded ribbons to anyone who participates in surface combat. This is a very egalitarian award. You don't need to have done anything special. You don't need to have won. You just need to have participated. Nobody complains about this, but then again, it's just a ribbon that shows you've been part of an actual combat action. It's not a trophy or even a medal.</p> <p>So would people react the same way to giving every kid a participation ribbon? I'll bet not. No one would object. But many of them <em>do</em> object to trophies. It's funny how a cheap bit of gold-colored plastic stirs the passions so much, isn't it?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I have no personal experience with either surface combat or kids' sports. Those who do should feel free to school me in comments if I'm wrong about any of this.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE 2:</strong> Several commenters have pointed out that, in fact, participation trophies are mostly limited to very young age groups, like five-year-olds. This makes a kind of sense, since at that age winning and losing is mostly just a matter of chance anyway. Among older kids, though, the whole "participation trophy" thing is just a myth.</p> <p>Is that true?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Military Sports Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:20:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 258736 at http://www.motherjones.com