Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Elizabeth Warren: The Feds Are Far Too "Cozy" With Wall Street <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Pointing to recently leaked audio recordings between officials at the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs bankers, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is slamming regulators for being far too timid and compliant when it comes to laying down the law with big banks.</p> <p>"Well, ultimately this report tells us exactly what we already knew &mdash; that the relationship between regulators and the financial institutions they oversee is too cozy to provide the kind of tough oversight that's really needed," <a href="" target="_blank">Warren said in an interview with NPR.</a></p> <div class="sidebar-small-right">"We can keep making the rules tougher and tougher, but it won't make an ounce of difference if the regulators won't enforce the rules that are there," she added. "If the regulators back down or back off whenever the banks tell them to, then it's the banks&mdash;and not the regulators&mdash;who are running the show."</div> <p>While the secret recordings, which were captured by former bank examiner for the Federal Reserve Carmen Segarra, do not expose any flagrant wrongdoing by either side, they do reveal an uncomfortable, wholly inappropriate eagerness to please Goldman Sachs. And let's keep in mind Segarra's secret tapes were recorded in 2012, at least four solid years after the financial crisis.</p> <p>After <em>This American Life </em>and <em>ProPublica</em> jointly released the tapes last week, <a href="" target="_blank">Warren and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)</a> have also called for a federal investigation into the dealings of the New York Federal Reserve.</p> <p>The New York Fed has since "categorically rejected" the accusations, but Warren tells NPR the public needs more individuals like Segerra who are willing to speak up against institutions deemed "too big to fail."</p> <p>"We need to look at whether or not we've got the right tools to protect the kind of people who <em>will</em> speak up. But, but what we've got to start with is we've got to expose what happened here, we've got to look at what the available tools are, but we've got to give the message loud and clear to the Fed: Um, this isn't gonna work &mdash; you work for the American people, you don't work for the big banks."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Corporations Regulatory Affairs Wed, 01 Oct 2014 21:04:19 +0000 Inae Oh 261491 at How Kansas Is Selling Sam Brownback's Failed Trickle-Down Tax Cuts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's reelection campaign is in serious trouble. The <a href="" target="_blank">latest poll</a> has the incumbent Republican losing to his Democratic opponent by 4 percentge points.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href=""><img alt="Sam Brownback" class="image" src="/files/Brownback_inline.jpg"></a> <div class="caption"><strong>Read more about how <a href="" target="_blank">Sam Brownback's red-state experiment could turn Kansas purple.</a> </strong></div> </div> <p><a href="" target="_blank">As I explained in our November/December issue</a>, Brownback's woes can largely be traced back to the drastic tax cuts for the wealthy that he pushed through the state legislature. Kansas' tax rate for top earners dropped from 6.45 to 4.9 percent, with further future cuts baked in. The cuts were even more generous for business owners, entirely wiping away their tax burden for pass-through income.</p> <p>Brownback sold his tax cuts on supply-side promises of unbounded future growth, but the results have been <a href=";id=4110." target="_blank">less than stellar</a>: While the state's unemployment rate, like the national jobless rate, has dropped over the past few years, Kansas' economic growth has lagged behind its neighbors'.</p> <p>Despite these disappointing results, the state has settled on enticing out-of-state businesses with its low tax rate. Check out this full-page ad from the Kansas Department of Commerce, scanned from an issue of the US Small Business Administration's magazine <em>Small Business Resource</em> by a reader:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="Kansas tax cuts" class="image" src="/files/KansasCommerce_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><a href="" target="_blank">Small Business Resource</a></div> </div> <p>That ad's pitch&mdash;"one of the most pro-growth tax policies in the country" leads to "a perfect state"&mdash;lines up with the theories of free-market economist Arthur Laffer, the grand poobah of Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics. Brownback cited Laffer's work to justify his cuts. During the thick of the legislative debate, he flew Laffer in for a three-day sales pitch, costing the state $75,000.</p> <p>When I called Laffer in August, he excitedly proclaimed that Brownback's cuts would prove a resounding success. "I'll make you a very large bet that Kansas will improve its relative position to the US over, let's say, eight years, hands down. I'll bet you with great odds," he told me. "I feel very confident that what Sam Brownback has done is and will be extraordinarily beneficial for the state of Kansas."</p> <p>As Laffer saw it, low tax rates would entice out-of-state residents and businesses to relocate. Laffer himself had moved to Tennessee sight unseen nine years ago, fleeing from California because of the Volunteer State's lack of income tax. "In someplace like Kansas, I don't think the income tax makes any sense whatsoever," Laffer said. "That's what we're trying to move toward in Kansas. The income tax is a killer."</p> <p>Except that magical migration hasn't developed yet. In August, the state <a href="" target="_blank">added</a> just 900 jobs, with a <a href="" target="_blank">tepid growth rate</a> of just half a percent for the full year. Maybe I should have made that bet with Laffer.</p></body></html> MoJo Economy Elections taxes Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:38:13 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 261196 at This Is the GOP Campaign Ad Everyone Is Laughing About <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Wednesday, the College Republican National Committee <a href="" target="_blank">released</a> a slew of nominally "culturally relevant" campaign ads. Unsurprisingly, they are bad and the internet is having a lot of fun <a href=";utm_source=gawker_twitter&amp;utm_medium=socialflow" target="_blank">mocking them</a>.</p> <p>Here is the one they made for the gubernatorial race in Florida:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>(They also <a href="" target="_blank">released versions</a> for races in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania.)</p> <p>The ads&mdash;parodies of "Say Yes To The Dress"&mdash;are being roundly mocked on social media. Deservedly so! They are objectively awful. To be honest though, if they were produced by Democrats a lot of liberals would be laughing with them instead of at them. And, look, on the one hand, c'est la vie. That's the way it goes with campaign ads. But on the other hand, it's probably worth keeping in mind because being aware of your own hypocrisy helps build character.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media 2016 Elections Wed, 01 Oct 2014 19:05:17 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 261521 at Why Is There No Code Name for the ISIS Bombing Campaign? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I learned something new today: code names for military operations only became a public thing after World War II, and it was only around 1980 that the names of major operations got turned into serious PR exercises. <a href="" target="_blank">Paul Waldman runs down all the recent hits:</a></p> <ul><li>Operation <strong>Urgent Fury</strong> (invasion of Grenada, 1983)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Just Cause</strong> (invasion of Panama, 1989)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Desert Shield/Desert Storm</strong> (Kuwait/Iraq, 1989)</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/Blog_Iraqi_Freedom.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 5px 30px;">Operation Restore Hope (Somalia, 1993)</li> <li>Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti, 1994)</li> <li>Operation Deliberate Force (NATO bombing of Bosnia, 1995)</li> <li>Operation Desert Fox (bombing of Iraq, 1998)</li> <li>Operation Noble Anvil (the American component of NATO bombing in Kosovo, which was itself called Operation Allied Force, 1999)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Infinite Justice</strong> (first name for Afghanistan war, 2001)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Enduring Freedom</strong> (second name for Afghanistan war, 2001)</li> <li>Operation <strong>Iraqi Freedom</strong> (Iraq, 2003)</li> <li>Operation Odyssey Dawn (bombing of Libya, 2011)</li> </ul><p>Aside from the fact that we have twelve of these things in just the past 30 years, Waldman points out that Republican names (in bold) are considerably more martial than Democratic names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Even though it's the military that chooses these names, you might notice that the ones during Republican administrations have a particularly testosterone-fueled feel to them, while most of the Democratic ones are a little more tentative. Something like Operation Uphold Democracy just doesn't have the same oomph as, say, Operation Urgent Fury. If the Obama administration had really wanted to get people excited about fighting ISIS, they should have called it Operation Turgid Thrusting or Operation Boundless Glory.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oddly, though, it turns out that the ISIS campaign doesn't even have <em>any name at all</em>. I guess that's a good sign.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:25:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 261506 at Take Two: Are Americans Really in Love With War? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I wrote that the American public is "in love with war." This was obviously a bit of a rant, born of frustration with our seemingly bottomless tolerance for addressing foreign policy problems in suitably small countries with military force. <a href="" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> pushed back with some polling evidence, and Daniel Larison <a href="" target="_blank">takes things a step further:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Far from being "in love" with war, a better way to think of the public's reaction is that they have been whipped into a panic about a vastly exaggerated threat by irresponsible fear-mongers. Most Americans support the current intervention because they wrongly think it is necessary for U.S. security, and they have been encouraged in that wrong view by their sorry excuse for political leaders.</p> </blockquote> <p>I got this same kind of pushback from several people, but I really think this is a distinction without a difference. As it happens, my primary point was actually the same as Larison's: that the American public is very easily whipped into a war frenzy. In the case of ISIS, all it took was a couple of atrocities on YouTube; a bit of foaming at the mouth from the usual TV permahawks; and a presidential decision to take action. Obama didn't even need to wave the bloody shirt. In fact, he's been relatively restrained about the whole thing. Still, he did commit us to military action, and that was enough. <a href="" target="_blank">Public support for bombing ISIS went from 39 percent to 60 percent in a mere twelve weeks.</a></p> <p>Does this mean the American public is in love with war? Or merely that when a war is proposed, they can be persuaded to support it pretty easily? I submit that there's not really a very big difference between the two.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Military Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:55:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 261481 at Here's How Fact Checking Exits the Real World and Enters Wonderland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So here's the big controversy of the day out in our nation's heartland. Joni Ernst, running for a Senate seat in Iowa, is one of 21 Republicans who voted in favor of a "personhood" amendment to the state constitution. It says that "the inalienable right to life of every person at any stage of development shall be recognized and protected."</p> <p>That seems clear enough. It means life begins at conception, and that embryos will have the same legal protections as you and me. Ernst's opponent, Bruce Braley, concludes, logically enough, that this would ban certain forms of contraception, prevent people from getting in vitro fertilization, and lead to the prosecution of doctors who perform those procedures.</p> <p>Ernst says this is nonsense. "That amendment is simply a statement that I support life," she says. Why, it's just a nothingburger! Sort of like a resolution endorsing apple pie or Mother's Day.</p> <p>Today, Glenn Kessler wades into this dispute. He dings Ernst for "straining credulity" about the intent of the amendment, <a href="" target="_blank">but he also has harsh words for Braley:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Braley goes too far with his scary scenarios, especially because he repeatedly said the amendment &ldquo;would&rdquo; have the impact he described. Ernst is on record of not opposing contraception&mdash;though she also favors punishing doctors who perform abortions. We concede <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_braley_ernst_debate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that the legal terrain in murky, and the impact uncertain. But that&rsquo;s all the more reason not to speak with such certainty. <strong>Braley thus earns Two Pinocchios.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore is dumbfounded by this kind of treatment,</a> and so am I. I just don't get it. Kessler is not some babe in the woulds. He knows perfectly well exactly what the goal of this amendment is. It's possible, of course, that Democrats in Iowa will prevent Republicans from enacting enabling legislation. Or that the US Supreme Court will stand in the way. But why does that matter when the intent is so clear? Likewise, Ernst may say that "I will always stand with our women on affordable access to contraception," but that's plain and simple weaseling. And it doesn't even matter. Republicans in the legislature can keep their hands completely clean and simply let activists take things to court. With an amendment like that in place, no judge could turn away a suit that asked for a ban on abortions or in-vitro fertilization or certain forms of contraception.</p> <p>As Kilgore says, "Encouraging this lack of accountability, and engaging in the worst form of false equivalency, is just a sin." All Braley is doing is calling out Ernst for the obvious implications of an amendment she supports. It's not merely a "statement" and she knows it. But in our topsy-turvy world of fact checking, Braley's plain description of the obvious real-world impact of Ernst's amendment is somehow deemed more of a lie than Ernst's slippery prevarications in the first place.</p> <p>I don't understand this. This isn't a debating society. It's not la-la land. It's the real world, and it's not partisan sniping to say that we all know what this stuff means in the real world. Shouldn't that be the domain of a fact checker?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Reproductive Rights Wed, 01 Oct 2014 14:36:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 261476 at Budget Cuts "Eroded Our Ability to Respond" to Ebola, Says Top Health Official <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="" target="_blank">confirmed</a> the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States; the infected patient was a man who traveled from Liberia to visit family in Texas. It's the latest development in the ever-worsening outbreak of the virus, which so far has sickened more than 6,500 people and killed more than 3,000. The United States government has pledged to send help to West Africa to help stop Ebola from spreading&mdash;but the main agencies tasked with this aid work say they're hamstrung by budget cuts from the 2013 <a href="" target="_blank">sequester.</a></p> <p>On September 16, the Senate Committees on Appropriations and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a <a href="" target="_blank">hearing</a> to discuss the resources needed to address the outbreak. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked NIH representative Anthony Fauci about sequestration's effect on the efforts.</p> <p>"I have to tell you honestly it's been a significant impact on us," said Fauci. "It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats. And in my institute particularly, that's responsible for responding on the dime to an emerging infectious disease threat, this is particularly damaging." Sequestration required the NIH to cut its budget by 5 percent, a total of $1.55 billion in 2013. Cuts were applied across all of its programs, affecting <a href="" target="_blank">every area of medical research.</a></p> <p>Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, testified before the committee, making a case for increased funding. Her department, which has led the US intervention in West Africa, was hit with a <a href="" target="_blank">$13 million budget cut</a> as a result of the cuts in 2013. Though appropriations increased in 2014 and are projected to rise further in 2015, the agency hasn't yet made up for the deficit&mdash;according to Bell, $100 million has already gone toward stopping the Ebola epidemic, and much more is needed. The United Nations estimates it will take over $600 million just to get the crisis under control.</p> <div class="mininav-float-left"><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/ebola-mini.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More <em>MoJo</em> coverage of the Ebola crisis. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-260876"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/09/ebola-crisis-liberia-way-worse-you-think"> Liberians Explain Why the Ebola Crisis Is Way Worse Than You Think</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-260861"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/09/these-maps-show-ebolas-spread-in-around-liberias-capital"> These Maps Show How Ebola Spread In Liberia</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-259686"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/09/ebola-world-health-organization-budget"> Why the World Health Organization Doesn't Have Enough Funds to Fight Ebola</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-258436"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/08/new-drugs-and-vaccines-cant-stop-ebola-outbreak"> New Drugs and Vaccines Can't Stop This Ebola Outbreak</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-255436"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/07/we-are-making-ebola-worse"> We Are Making Ebola Outbreaks Worse by Cutting Down Forests</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p class="ember-view">Bell also argued that the epidemic could have been stopped if more had been done sooner to build global health security. International aid budgets were <a href="" target="_blank">hit hard</a> by the sequester, reducing global health programs by $411 million and USAID by $289 million. "If even modest investments had been made to build a public health infrastructure in West Africa previously, the current Ebola epidemic could have been detected earlier, and it could have been identified and contained," she said during her testimony. "This Ebola epidemic shows that any vulnerability could have widespread impact if not stopped at the source."</p> <p>Still, CDC officials have pledged to do everything in their power to stop Ebola in its tracks. "The sooner the world comes together to help West Africa, the safer we all will be," Director Tom Frieden says in a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> released in early September. "We know how to stop this outbreak. There is a window of opportunity to tamp this down&mdash;the challenge is to scale up the massive response needed."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:24 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 261466 at It Takes HOW Much Water to Grow an Avocado?! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We've heard a lot about how the boom in almond and other nut production is <a href="" target="_blank">straining California's dwindling water supplies amid the state's worst-ever drought</a>. But what about the avocado, another trendy commodity that grows on trees and delivers all-the-rage healthy fats?</p> <p>US consumers certainly love this unctuous tropical fruit. According to the <a href="">US Department of Agriculture</a>, avocado production per capita jumped from 1.1 pounds annually in 1999 to 4.5 pounds in 2011.</p> <p>Avocados don't require nearly as much water per pound as almonds. But they do require significantly more than other kinds of produce, as my colleague Julia Lurie shows in this chart:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="260" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>(Note that the figures in this chart, and the one later in this post, include only blue water&mdash;which comes from rivers, lakes, streams, and aquifers&mdash;and not rainfall or recycled water.)</p> <p>And as in the case of almonds and so many other crops, California dominates US production, accounting for about 90 percent of the US avocado harvest. Nearly all of it takes place in Southern California, in a <a href="">five-county region</a> that straddles the coast from San Luis Obispo to San Diego.</p> <p>Like the rest of the state, the southern coastal region is locked in a drought, and largely cut off from the flow of surface water from the state's big irrigation projects. The result has been strife in the avocado groves&mdash;<a href="">sky-high water costs</a> and a <a href="">reliance on water pumped</a> from underground aquifers.</p> <p>But overall, California's avocado farms have a relatively light water impact. Unlike almonds and pistachios, whose acreage has expanded dramatically in recent years, land devoted to avocados <a href="">has actually shrunk</a>, from a high of 76,000 acres in 1987 to fewer than 60,000 acres in 2012 (although production has held steady, because yield increases have offset the loss of acres). Also unlike the state's nut growers, California's avocado farmers aren't taking advantage of a boom in demand from Asia. According to the <a href="">USDA</a>, US avocado exports are so small they're "negligible."</p> <p>Also, avocados are a perishable, seasonal product, and the <a href="">California season peaks from May through August</a>&mdash;meaning that for the rest of the year, we rely on Mexico, Chile, and Peru to satisfy our guacamole habit. All told, the USDA <a href="">reports</a>, about 70 percent of the avocados we consume are imported.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="250" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p> <p>And so most of the water impact from our growing appetite for avocados lands on other places. And as Eilis O'Neill recently <a href="">reported</a> in<em> Civil Eats</em>, satisfying our demand for off-season avocados is causing trouble in another drought-stricken region, Chile's Central Valley&mdash;which, like California's, lies between a snowcapped interior mountain range and a coastal mountain range.</p> <p>This valley is the epicenter of Chile's fruit-and-veg export behemoth that began in the 1980s. As this US Department of Agriculture report <a href="">states</a>, Chile's Southern Hemisphere location gives it a "counter-seasonal production schedule with the United States"&mdash;that is, Chile's summer starts around the time that ours ends. The rapid rise of Chilean produce into the US market is a big reason US consumers can expect bountiful produce aisles year-round&mdash;it "extended the availability of certain fruits in the market without direct competition with domestic production, and gave US consumers fruit choices beyond the traditional domestic winter fruits of citrus, apples, and pears," the USDA notes. Chile now supplies a fifth of US fruit, the USDA adds.</p> <p>Avocados <a href="">were part of that boom</a>. As O'Neill notes, land devoted to avocados has expanded rapidly&mdash;from about 6,180 hectares (15,270 acres) in 1980 to 27,000 hectares (66,700 acres) in 2006, all the way to 36,000 hectares (88,960 acres) in 2014, according to the <a href="">USDA.</a></p> <p>And just as in California, climate change and drought have meant less surface water flowing from mountain ranges to irrigate crops&mdash;and a shift to pumping water from underground aquifers. As a result, producers have "used so much of the region's waters that small farmers with shallow wells&mdash;and some nearby towns&mdash;are left with no water," O'Neill writes, echoing <a href="">reports of waterless towns</a> in California's Central Valley.</p> <p>Like our Golden State, Chile takes a laissez-faire approach to groundwater regulation, O&rsquo;Neill reports&mdash;a legacy of the reign of General Augusto Pinochet, a free-market zealot who came to power in a US-backed coup in 1973 and remained dictator until 1990.</p> <p>And large, export-minded farm operations have the wherewithal to drill larger and deeper wells, squeezing out small farms and nearby communities, O'Neill reports. Meanwhile, the profits from Chile's farm export boom <a href="" target="_blank">remains pretty concentrated in the hands of large landowners</a>.</p> <p>Chile's avocado harvest starts in <a href="">runs from August to March</a>&mdash;making it a prime supplier during the football season guacamole blitz.</p> <p>O'Neill's piece gives us something to think about as we plunge chips into that delicious dip. "When you eat an avocado that comes from [a large producer in] Chile, think about the fact that the water used to produce it is water that homes in the country's most humble communities now lack," water activist Rodrigo Mundaca tells her.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Climate Change Food and Ag Top Stories Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:22 +0000 Tom Philpott 261311 at Chart: As Top Tax Rates Dropped, Top Incomes Soared <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/survival630x120.jpg"></div> <p>We're still posting a new chart on the current state of income inequality every day over the next week. <a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday's</a> looked at how the top 1 percent of Americans have captured half of all income.</p> <p>Today, let's talk taxes. In the past few years, we've heard a lot about overtaxed "job creators" and freeloading "takers." But consider this: As the income rates for the wealthiest have plunged, their incomes have shot up.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/happy-returns-630.jpg"></div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="198" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>Source: Tax rates: <a href="" target="_blank">The Tax Foundation</a>; top incomes: <a href="" target="_blank">Emmanuel Saez</a> and Thomas Piketty (<a href="" target="_blank">Excel</a>)&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Illustrations and infographic design by </em>Mattias Mackler&acirc;&#128;&#139;</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Income Inequality Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:21 +0000 Dave Gilson 261241 at You Insult Henry Kissinger At Your Peril <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Newly declassified documents show that Fidel Castro pissed off Henry Kissinger so badly that he drew up plans to <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">"clobber the pipsqueak":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, had previously planned an underground effort to improve relations with Havana. But in late 1975, Mr. Castro sent troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.</p> <p>That move infuriated Mr. Kissinger, who was incensed that Mr. Castro had passed up a chance to normalize relations with the United States in favor of pursuing his own foreign policy agenda, Mr. Kornbluh said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro&rsquo;s head,&rdquo; Mr. Kornbluh said.</p> <p>&ldquo;You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,&rdquo; Mr. Kornbluh said, adding that Mr. Kissinger used &ldquo;language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep, that's everyone's favorite geopolitical strategic master at work. Kissinger considered Castro's actions to be a personal insult, so he began drawing up plans for the US military to blockade Cuba, mine its harbors, and potentially touch off a war with the Soviet Union. Because that's what you do when a small country irritates Henry Kissinger. Amirite?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy International Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:41:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 261471 at Mitt Romney Takes Another Crack at Explaining the 47 Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In a recent interview with Mark Leibovich, Mitt Romney offered up a new excuse for foolishly venting to a supporter during the 2012 campaign about the perfidy of the "47 percent" (i.e., the folks who take no personal responsibility for <iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="247" src="!" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 30px;" width="400"></iframe>their lives and just want lots of free bennies from the government). <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Romney told me that the statement came out wrong, because it was an attempt to placate a rambling supporter who was saying that Obama voters were essentially deadbeats. &ldquo;My mistake was that I was speaking in a way that reflected back to the man,&rdquo; Romney said. &ldquo;If I had been able to see the camera, I would have remembered that I was talking to the whole world, not just the man.&rdquo; I had never heard Romney say that he was prompted into the &ldquo;47 percent&rdquo; line by a ranting supporter. It was also impossible to ignore the phrase &ldquo;If I had to do this again.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">David Corn calls bullshit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That supporter was not rambling. Here's what he asked: "For the last three years, all everybody's been told is, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of you.' How are you going to do it, in two months before the elections, to convince everybody you've got to take care of yourself?" That was a straightforward query, succinctly put, not rambling at all. It was Romney who took the point to the next level and proclaimed that a specific number of Americans were lazy freeloaders who could not and would not fend for themselves.</p> </blockquote> <p>But I don't think this is fair. "Rambling" and "ranting" are Leibovich's words, not Romney's. All Romney says is that he was "speaking in a way that reflected back to the man." And that's true. In fact, this was pretty much my guess about what really happened that night, and I suggested at the time that it revealed a lot about Romney's execrable people skills. After all, every candidate has to interact with true believers, <a href="" target="_blank">many of whom are also rich donors.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A politician with even a tenuous grasp on how to handle this kind of pressure knows what to do: you redirect. You can't tell these folks they're crazy, of course....But you can't really agree with them either....So you soothe. <em>I get where you're coming from.</em> And then you back away. Maybe you blame it on polling data....Maybe you change the subject....Maybe you appeal to authority.</p> <p>....But you <em>handle</em> them. Except that apparently Romney can't. And that's pretty weird, isn't it? He has more experience handling the titanic egos of rich people than anyone in politics. If anyone should be able to stroke big-dollar donors without saying anything stupid, it ought to be Mitt Romney.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is basically what Romney is fessing up to. He wanted to pander to this questioner, but he didn't have the skills to do that off-the-cuff in a safe way. So, since he thought he was speaking privately, he just went ahead and gave him the full pander instead.</p> <p>Whether Romney really believed what he was saying is sort of irrelevant. I figure he probably did&mdash;sort of&mdash;though I suspect that if he'd been in a different mood he would have said something a little different. But what we really learned from this episode is that Romney had neither the guts to stand up to a rich donor nor the people skills to soothe and redirect in a safe way. In other words, he's not really the kind of guy you want to be president of the United States.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:48:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 261366 at Ebola Patient in Dallas Had Contact With Several Children <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update 3, October 1, 6:50 p.m. EDT:</strong> Liberian officials <a href="" target="_blank">identified</a> the first person diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States as Thomas Duncan, a Monrovia resident in his mid-forties. Duncan had tried to help a woman sick with the virus find treatment two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. Unable to find a place in a local hospital, the woman's family took her back to her home, where she died a few hours later.</p> <p>The story follows a pattern which the World Health Organization had warned of in a September 8 <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a>, which described how cars, sometimes packed with entire families, could cross Liberian cities in search of a place at a local hospital, only to return home for lack of space. "When patients are turned away at Ebola treatment centers, they have no choice but to return to their communities and homes, where they inevitably infect others, perpetuating constantly higher flare-ups in the number of cases," the organization said in the statement.</p> <p><strong>Update 2, October 1, 2:20 p.m. EDT:</strong> With the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the United States isolated in a Dallas hospital and in serious condition, officials are <a href="" target="_blank">closely monitoring</a> the people he came into contact with&mdash;including several children. The unidentified patient, who arrived in the United States from Liberia on September 20, fell ill and went to the hospital on September 26, but was released with a prescription for antibiotics. On Wednesday, the AP <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> that the patient told the hospital he had come from Liberia before his release.</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/ebola-mini.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More <em>MoJo</em> coverage of the Ebola crisis. </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-260876"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/09/ebola-crisis-liberia-way-worse-you-think"> Liberians Explain Why the Ebola Crisis Is Way Worse Than You Think</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-260861"> <li><a href="/mojo/2014/09/these-maps-show-ebolas-spread-in-around-liberias-capital"> These Maps Show How Ebola Spread In Liberia</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-259686"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/09/ebola-world-health-organization-budget"> Why the World Health Organization Doesn't Have Enough Funds to Fight Ebola</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-258436"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/08/new-drugs-and-vaccines-cant-stop-ebola-outbreak"> New Drugs and Vaccines Can't Stop This Ebola Outbreak</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-255436"> <li><a href="/environment/2014/07/we-are-making-ebola-worse"> We Are Making Ebola Outbreaks Worse by Cutting Down Forests</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>This is not the first time a commercial airliner has become a carrier for the virus. On July 20, a Liberian-American <a href="" target="_blank">arrived</a> in Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, and infected several people. The disease spread to another city, Port Harcourt, via one of the physicians involved in that patient's treatment. As of September 29, the CDC and World Health Organization reported 19 confirmed cases of Ebola in Nigeria, but <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> the virus was contained there.</p> <p><strong>Update, September 30, 6:15 p.m. EDT: </strong>According to officials from the Centers for Disease Control, the patient, a male, arrived in the United States from Liberia on September 20. He planned to visit with family members in Texas. He initially sought treatment at a hospital on September 26 but was sent home, and then was readmitted on September 28. Texas public health officials believe that the patient had contact with "a handful" of people while he was infectious, including family members. The officials are currently in the process of tracing those contacts. CDC officials do not believe that anyone on the flight with him has any risk of contracting Ebola.</p> <p>During a press conference, CDC officials reiterated that Ebola is not transmitted through the air, nor is it possible to catch it from someone who has been exposed but is not yet displaying symptoms.</p> <p>"Ebola is a scary disease," said CDC's Dr. Thomas Frieden. "At the same time, we are stopping it in its tracks in this country."</p> <p>***</p> <p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has <a href="" target="_blank">confirmed</a> a case of Ebola in Dallas. While other patients have been flown back to the United States for treatment, this is the first time that a patient has been diagnosed stateside.</p> <p>The patient is being kept in "<a href="" target="_blank">strict isolation</a>" at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. While hospital officials are not currently discussing which countries the patient has visited, no doubt US officials will be looking very closely at where he's traveled in the recent past, especially within the United States. The CDC will be holding a press conference on this at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. You can see it live <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ebola has already infected more than 6,000 people&mdash;and killed more than 3,000&mdash;in West Africa. Quick action prevented the disease from spreading in <a href="" target="_blank">Senegal and Nigeria</a>, but the disease continues to wreak havoc in <a href="" target="_blank">Liberia</a>, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.</p></body></html> MoJo Health Top Stories Tue, 30 Sep 2014 21:24:24 +0000 Alex Park 261351 at Half the World's Wildlife Has Disappeared in Just 40 Years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Global wildlife populations have declined by a stunning 52 percent over the past four decades, and humans are largely to blame.</p> <p>That's according to a newly released study conducted by the <a href="" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London</a>, which analyzed an index of 10,000 different animal populations (referred to in the study as the Global Living Planet Index) comprised of more than 3,000 species of vertebrates, a group of animals that includes mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds.</p> <p class="rteleft">The report attributes this insane drop almost entirely to human activity, including overfishing, unsustainable agriculture, a dramatic loss in natural habitats, and&mdash;of course&mdash;climate change.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" height="270" src="/files/newwildlife_0.jpg" width="580"><div class="caption"><a href="">WWF</a></div> </div> </div> <p class="rteleft">The most severe decline was experienced by freshwater species, whose populations fell a shocking 76 percent&mdash;nearly twice the rate experienced by marine and terrestrial species (both of which dropped by 39 percent). The most significant reductions in wildlife occurred largely in the tropics, especially in South America.</p> <p>"This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live," <a href="" target="_blank">said the Zoological Society's Ken Norris</a>, according to the AP. "There is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from industry."</p> <p>While Norris' message leaves room for a bit of encouragement, it remains to be seen if the WWF's latest data will spur significant political action, particularly in light of the upcoming <a href="" target="_blank">United Nations climate change and sustainability</a> meeting in 2015.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Climate Change Climate Desk Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:54:45 +0000 Inae Oh 261296 at More Than 80 Percent of Teens Are Using the Wrong Birth Control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended long-acting reversible contraception, like IUDs and contraceptive implants, as "first-line contraceptive choices for adolescents." The <a href="" target="_blank">guidelines</a>, published in the journal <em>Pediatrics</em> on Monday, encourage pediatricians to discuss these long-acting options, known as LARC methods, before other contraceptive choices for adolescents because of the products' "efficacy, safety, and ease of use."</p> <p>It's no secret that a lot of teens have sex; according to the report, nearly half of US high school students report having had sexual intercourse. Each year, 750,000 teenagers become pregnant, with over 80 percent of the pregnancies unplanned.</p> <p>But the recommended AAP guidelines are a huge step away from the current practices of the 3.2 million teenage women using contraceptives; in fact, it seems that the frequencies with which teens use contraceptives are inversely related to their efficacy. Here's a breakdown of contraceptive use among today's teenagers:</p> <ul><li><strong>Male condoms</strong> are by far the most frequent choice of contraception, with over half of teenage women reporting condom use the last time they had sex. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Centers for Disease Control</a>, condoms have an 18 percent failure rate.</li> <li><strong>The pill</strong>, used by 53 percent of teenage girls using contraceptives, has a 9 percent failure rate.</li> <li><strong>Contraceptive implants</strong> are small rods that, when inserted under the skin of the upper arm, release steroid hormones, preventing pregnancy for up to three years with a .05 percent failure rate. According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Guttmacher Institute</a>, implants and other hormonal methods, like hormonal patches or rings, are used by 16 percent of teens using contraceptives.</li> <li><strong>Intrauterine devices, or IUDs</strong>, are small, T-shaped devices that, once implanted in the uterus, can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years with a failure rate of less than 1 percent. IUDs are one of the <a href="" target="_blank">most popular</a> contraceptive methods in other developed countries, but, largely due to misconceptions that developed in the 70s, they're used far less frequently in the US. Only 3 percent of teens using contraceptives rely on IUDs.</li> </ul><p>Following similar guidelines published in 2012 by the&nbsp;<a href="">American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists</a>, the AAP report makes clear that teenagers using LARC methods should still use condoms to prevent STIs, and doctors should still talk to their patients about all contraceptive methods, tailoring "counseling and recommendations to each patient."&nbsp;The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover LARCs, including progestin implants and IUDs.</p></body></html> MoJo Health Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:32:37 +0000 Julia Lurie 261321 at Peak Oil Is All About Cheap Oil <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Russell Gold writes in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> that perhaps the idea of peak oil is a myth. After all, technology keeps getting better and better, allowing us to extract more oil from old fields. Of course, <a href="" target="_blank">it's expensive to do business this way:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When the oil industry overcomes an obstacle and boosts oil production, costs typically increase. That opens the door for a better and cheaper energy source that will eventually displace crude oil.</p> <p>So at some point, the cost of getting more and more oil likely will get so high that buyers can't&mdash;or won't&mdash;pay....Already, economics is bringing about some changes. Despite the abundance of oil that fracking has delivered, global oil prices remain high. This has kept the door wide open for alternative sources of energy and spending on energy efficiency.</p> <p>...."There will be peak oil, but it will be [because of] peak consumption," says Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank in Oakland, Calif. "What we all want is to move to better, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a good example of a common misconception about peak oil. The theory has never really been about the absolute limit of oil in the ground&mdash;though, of course, there <em>is</em> an eventual limit&mdash;it's been about the amount of oil that can be profitably extracted. Older fields, where you literally just have to drill a hole in the ground and wait for a gusher, are cheap fields. As the older fields play out, we have to use new technology to extend their lives. And we also have to look for oil in other, more expensive places: polar oil, deep-sea oil, tar sands, and so forth. As we do this, oil gets more and more expensive.</p> <p>There's nothing new about this. The peak oil debate has never really been about how much oil is in the ground. It's <em>always</em> been about (a) how much oil we can pump on a daily basis and (b) how much it costs to get it above ground. And as Gold points out, even with all the hoopla about fracking, the price of oil is still very high. That's because new technologies are barely keeping up with the exhaustion of older fields.</p> <p>But there's more to this. It's true, of course, that as oil gets more expensive it naturally motivates a switch to other energy sources. In that sense, peak oil takes care of itself. We'll switch to gas, and then to solar, and maybe <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_oil_capacity_goldman_sachs.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">someday to fusion. And we'll do it naturally as those sources of energy become cheaper than oil.</p> <p>In the meantime, however, there's a big problem: declining spare capacity. The real medium-term danger of peak oil lies in the fact that the world is currently pumping oil at close to full capacity. Nor is this likely to change soon, since the developing world has a huge appetite for oil even at current prices. So what happens when there's a supply disruption somewhere? The answer, unfortunately, is that any blip in supply, whether from political unrest, terrorism, or merely unforeseen natural events, can cause prices to carom wildly. A world with $100 per barrel oil is bad enough, but a world in which a single pipeline meltdown could cause prices to skyrocket to $300 per barrel for a few months and then back down is far worse.</p> <p>Will this happen? No one knows. Iraq has more pumping capacity if they can solve their political problems. Iran has more pumping capacity if they can make a nuclear deal with the West and re-enter the global market. Fracking is still on the rise, and probably will be for the rest of the decade. But oil prices spiked even during the Libya war, and that was a pretty modest supply disruption.</p> <p>In other words, no one knows for sure. I certainly don't. But the fact that demand is bumping up against supply&mdash;and will continue doing so even if supply increases&mdash;represents the real danger, economically speaking. With no spare capacity, a modest disruption in supply can cause oil prices to spike, and there's a lot of evidence to suggest that oil price spikes are at least partially responsible for every global recession of the past 40 years. That's peak oil for you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Energy Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:37:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 261301 at New Mexico AG Opens Criminal Investigation Into Missing Susana Martinez Emails <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The New Mexico Attorney General's office is <a href="">opening a criminal&nbsp;investigation</a> into missing and/or destroyed emails covering part of <a href="" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank">Republican&nbsp;Gov. Susana Martinez's</a>&nbsp;tenure as a district attorney&nbsp;and also the tenure of Martinez's successor, Amy Orlando, a close friend of&nbsp;the governor. Complicating the investigation is the fact that New Mexico's&nbsp;AG,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Democrat Gary King</a>,&nbsp;is Martinez's opponent in this year's gubernatorial race.&nbsp;</p> <p>The investigation was triggered by <a href="">an internal report</a> released last week by the district attorney in New Mexico's Third Judicial District. As <a href="">I reported</a>, it found that many emails sent and received by staff members inside the Third Judicial District office were apparently <a href="">"deleted and/or removed"</a> during the period when Martinez and later Orlando headed the office. Those missing emails&mdash;which are state property&mdash;likely include messages to and from Martinez herself, who served as DA until she became governor in 2011.</p> <p>Martinez handpicked&nbsp;Orlando as her successor, but her term was shortlived. In 2012, Orlando lost her DA election to a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor named <a href="" target="_blank">Mark D'Antonio</a>, who is a Democrat. It was D'Antonio&nbsp;who forwarded his office's findings to the AG&nbsp;for further investigation.</p> <p>At a Monday afternoon press conference, King, the state AG,&nbsp;made a brief appearance in which he <a href="">said</a> that the disappearance of the emails in question "appears not to be the result of an inadvertent clerical error or policy but rather the planned intentional destruction of vital government records." Dave Pederson, the general counsel in the AG's office, downplayed the potential conflict of interest posed by King's gubernatorial run and&nbsp;said this case "goes way beyond simply pressing the delete button on certain emails or electronic files."&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">According to</a> the <em>Santa Fe Reporter</em>,&nbsp;Pederson declined to tell reporters which statutes may have been violated to avoid alerting potential targets.</p> <p>Orlando is currently the general counsel at the state's&nbsp;Department of Public Safety (DPS). Her boss, DPS Secretary Greg Fouratt, <a href="">dismissed</a> the AG's investigation as "nothing more than a clumsy and amateur political stunt coordinated between a DA with what appears to be a personal vendetta and a gubernatorial candidate who's just a few weeks away from an election." Orlando herself slammed&nbsp;last week's report on the missing emails as an&nbsp;"amateurish political stunt on the eve of an election" that was filled&nbsp;with "baseless innuendos."</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Elections The Right Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:57:35 +0000 Andy Kroll 261271 at We Are In Love With War <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm going to make this short because I simply don't have a thousand-word essay in me about war fever. But the more I think about our campaign against ISIS, the more dismayed I become. I always figured that if the time ever came when <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Uncle_Sam_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">a president wanted to bomb Iran, it would be pretty easy to whip up the usual war frenzy over it. That's been baked into the cake for a long time. But Iraq? And without even a very big push from President Obama? I mean, for all that I'm not happy over his decision to go back to war in Iraq, he's been relatively sober about the whole thing.</p> <p>But it barely matters. The mere concrete prospect of a new war was all it took. According to polls, nearly two-thirds of Americans are on board with the fight against ISIS and nearly half think we ought to be sending in ground troops. That's <em>despite</em> the fact that practically every opinion leader in the country says in public that they oppose ground troops. At this point it would take only a tiny shove&mdash;a bomb scare, an atrocity of some kind, pretty much anything&mdash;and 70 percent of the country would be in full-bore war frenzy mode.</p> <p>It's like we've learned nothing from the past decade. Our politicians are in love with war. The public is in love with war. And the press is <em>really</em> in love with war. It just never ends.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Military Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:29:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 261291 at This Stunning Drone Footage Reveals Just How Massive Hong Kong's Protests Really Are <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Protests in Hong Kong show no sign of stopping, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators continue to demand greater autonomy from the government in Beijing. This video, featured on <a href="" target="_blank">Storyful, by Nero Chan</a> (uploaded to his Facebook account on&nbsp;September 29), offers a glimpse into the magnitude of the movement. Tomorrow is National Day, a public holiday across China. Activists say there's a chance the protests could&nbsp;swell even beyond what you can see in this video.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Video China International Top Stories Tue, 30 Sep 2014 16:26:21 +0000 James West 261286 at Intel Community Dusts Itself Off and Casually Shows Obama Who's Boss <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A friend brings to my attention <a href=";_r=2" target="_blank">this <em>New York Times</em> piece:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.</p> <p>But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. <strong>&ldquo;Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn&rsquo;t pay attention to it,&rdquo;</strong> said a senior American intelligence official. &ldquo;They were preoccupied with other crises,&rdquo; the official added. <strong>&ldquo;This just wasn&rsquo;t a big priority.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>He comments:</p> <blockquote> <p>Look, if you publicly throw the intel community under the bus, they're going to come back at you. They have better access to the press. They have careerists with longstanding media relationships that they know how to work and how to shape their stories....Plus, you're giving Republicans wonderful fuel for their absolute strongest subject&nbsp;&mdash; bar none&nbsp;&mdash; national security: Obama is fighting (insert intelligence community / generals / Secret Service / other military service), more than ISIS.</p> <p>The idiocy of picking this fight in public is pretty unnerving frankly.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's not much point in dwelling on this forever, but Obama's comment blaming the intel community for misjudging ISIS absolutely blanketed every news outlet in the country last night. It really does make you wonder what's going on over in the West Wing. Was Obama's comment on Sunday just a dumb mistake? Does he really have contempt for the intelligence community? Did he somehow think he could get away with blaming them and not getting any blowback? Or what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Obama Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:49:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 261266 at Chart: Half of All Income Goes to the Top 10 Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/survival630x120.jpg"></div> <p>We'll be posting a new chart on the current state of income inequality every day for the next couple of weeks. <a href="" target="_blank">Our last installment</a> looked at stagnating middle-class incomes.</p> <p>Today, we look at both sides of the income split and how they've traded places. For the first time in a century, the top 10 percent of Americans control more than half of all income. If this trend persists, predicts economist <a href="" target="_blank">Thomas Piketty</a>, their share will rise to 60 percent by 2030.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/xmarksthespot.jpg"></div> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="198" scrolling="no" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>Source:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Emmanuel Saez</a> and Thomas Piketty (<a href="" target="_blank">Excel</a>)&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>Illustrations and infographic design by </em>Mattias Mackler&acirc;&#128;&#139;</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Income Inequality Labor Top Stories Tue, 30 Sep 2014 10:15:08 +0000 Dave Gilson 261246 at Here's Why Obama Fumbled on the Economy Last Night <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_democrat_republican.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Paul Waldman asks us to imagine what's going to happen the next time there's some kind of <a href="" target="_blank">Islam-inspired terror attack on American soil:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The news media would amp up the fear to levels we haven't seen in the last decade, encouraging everyone to look for sleeper cells lurking down at the Piggly Wiggly. Republicans would of course unite behind President Obama in our time of mourning&mdash;kidding! <strong>They'd go on TV to denounce him for being so weak that the evildoers struck us in our very heart, and proclaim not only that the blood of the victims is on the hands of every Democrat,</strong> but that more attacks are coming and we're more vulnerable than we've ever been. Dick Cheney would emerge snarling from his subterranean lair to warn us that this is only the beginning and we really need to start bombing at least five or six more countries. Senator Lindsey Graham, who has already said about ISIL that "this president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home," might just tear off his shirt and scream, "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!" right on Fox News Sunday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now bear with me a for a moment. Here's a seemingly unrelated story about Sam Brownback's effort to spur economic growth in Kansas by <a href="" target="_blank">lowering taxes on the rich and cutting back on welfare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As he runs for reelection, Brownback is finding that what he once called a &ldquo;real live experiment&rdquo; in red-state governance is struggling to produce the benefits he had promised....In an interview on his way to Dodge City &mdash; where he would sign legislation creating a &ldquo;National Day of the Cowboy&rdquo; &mdash; Brownback said he regretted referring to his plans as an experiment. But he defended his tenure, <strong>saying it represented a Ronald Reagan-style approach to governance that eventually would rebuild Kansas&rsquo;s economy after a long slide.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;I wish I could take that back, because I don&rsquo;t consider this an experiment,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So many people on the left really want this to fail. . . . <strong>This is a long-term strategy to make us more competitive.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Democrats and Republicans are both good at some things and bad at others. One of the things that Republicans are good at is making&mdash;and repeating over and over and over&mdash;firm predictions about the outcomes of their policy preferences. If you fail to wage eternal war in the Middle East, there will be a terrorist attack in the United States. If you lower taxes, the economy will improve. Etc.</p> <p>These are easy things to understand for voters. And guess what? Eventually there <em>will</em> be a terrorist attack. Eventually the economy <em>will</em> improve. So when those things happen, Republicans have a nice, simple story already planted in the public mind that allows them to take credit or place blame for it.</p> <p>Democrats are not so good at this. President Obama fumbled last night on <em>60 Minutes</em> when he tried to take credit for the improved state of the economy compared to when he took office. Partly, of course, this is because the economy is only in so-so shape. But it's also because Democrats have no simple, pre-digested narrative. They never said&mdash;over and over and over&mdash;that if we passed a stimulus bill, the economy would improve. Or that if we rescued GM, the economy would improve. Or that if we raised taxes on the wealthy, the economy would improve. Instead, Democrats had sort of a dog's breakfast of policy choices that they endorsed, but never made into a centerpiece of a claim about economic recovery. So now, when the economy is recovering, nobody really gives them any credit.</p> <p>Now, this may be a more honest way of conducting our affairs. Most government policies really do have only a modest effect on economic growth. Likewise, most government policies have only a modest effect on the chances of someone eventually pulling off a terrorist attack. But honest or not, it means voters don't associate Democrats with much of anything. They don't give them credit for improving the economy, for example, or for preventing terrorist attacks. And honest or not, it's political malpractice.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Mon, 29 Sep 2014 23:17:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 261256 at George Zimmerman's Family Describes Living in a Paranoid World of Color-Coded Threats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In an incredibly absorbing article in <em>GQ</em>, the family of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted after <a href="" target="_blank">fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager,</a> discusses its attempts to "<a href="" target="_blank">rebrand"</a> while living in paralyzing fear.</p> <p>The Zimmermans' stories, which are both simultaneously tragic and bizarre, show a family eager to move on from the April 2012 "incident" in which George killed Trayvon Martin. They're also struggling with debt and paranoia:</p> <blockquote> <p class="rteindent1">They watched the movie <i>Argo</i> to learn how to live like CIA. Code names for everyone. No mail delivered to the house. No visitors. No talking to the few neighbors they had. No long phone conversations&mdash;keep it short and vague to outwit surveillance. Never discuss your whereabouts via phone or text. Keep a weapon close by at all times. Robert slept with his gun. Still does.</p> <p class="rteindent1">And in case someone&mdash;or multiple someones&mdash;decided to mount an attack on the house, the Zimmermans pre-packed their own "go-bags" filled with everything they would need to flee in a rush, as well as what they called "footballs"&mdash;like the one President Obama has with the nuclear codes&mdash;that contained laptops, cell phones, and other essential electronics.</p> <p class="rteindent1">They also memorized a color-coded threat-ID system. Code blue: Law enforcement at the door. Code brown: Draw your weapons. Code black: Come out guns blazing.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Zimmermans wonder if a reality show starring George or a sit-down with Fox's Sean Hannity will restore their name. In an upsetting and absurd twist, George's brother Robert, the family's <a href="" target="_blank">most vocal member</a>, describes hoping to cash-in on their newfound infamy with a show inspired by the Kardashians. He rationalizes: "Like, use the shit you've got."</p> <p>Read the full feature <a href="" target="_blank">here. </a></p></body></html> Mixed Media Guns Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:05:09 +0000 Inae Oh 261211 at Report: Secret Service Lied About White House Fence Jumper <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Omar Gonzalez, the White House fence-jumper from earlier this month, apparently surprised the guard at the front door because <a href="" target="_blank">a nearby alarm box had been muted:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After barrelling past the guard immediately inside the door, Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, dashed past the stairway leading a half-flight up to the first family&rsquo;s living quarters. He then ran into the 80-foot-long East Room, an ornate space often used for receptions or presidential addresses.</p> <p>Gonzalez was tackled by a counter-assault agent at the far southern end of the East Room. The intruder reached the doorway to the Green Room, a parlor overlooking the South Lawn with artwork and antique furniture, according to three people familiar with the incident.</p> <p><strong>Secret Service officials had earlier said he was quickly detained at the main entry.</strong> Agency spokesman Edwin Donovan said the office is not commenting due to an ongoing investigation of the incident.</p> </blockquote> <p>So....they just lied?</p> <p>On a related note, I wonder who the whistleblowers are that have been feeding all this stuff to WaPo's Carol Leonnig? Not that it matters, I suppose, but I'm curious about whether it's folks who are appalled by the security lapses or folks who have some other kind of axe to grind.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Obama Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:41:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 261221 at Here's Yet Another Rage-Inducing Scam in the American Health Care System <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is your <a href="" target="_blank">statistic of the day:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The average salary of an emergency room physician was $311,000 in 2014, rising from $247,000 since 2010 &mdash; a period when many other types of doctors experienced declines in salaries, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Emergency.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">according to Merritt Hawkins, a physician staffing firm.</p> </blockquote> <p>Why is this? A shortage of ER physicians? More emergencies? Higher standards for ER work?</p> <p>Nope. Elisabeth Rosenthal's latest rage-inducing piece about America's health care system<sup>1</sup> suggests the reason is far more corrupt. Apparently one of the great trends in American health care<sup>2</sup> is to outsource ER staffing. This means that even if you're careful&mdash;possibly while in great pain or barely even coherent&mdash;to show up at an in-network ER covered by your insurance plan, there's a pretty good chance that the actual doctors who attend you <em>aren't</em> in your network. Naturally, this being American health care,<sup>3</sup> you have no choice in this matter even if you're savvy enough to know about the whole in-network and out-of-network distinction. And as we all know, out-of-network docs in the American health care system<sup>4</sup> are basically allowed to charge any prices they want. And they do.</p> <p>This is a great scam for everyone. Presumably hospitals save money because freelance ER docs cost them less. And the ER docs cost less because they know they'll be able to run the ol' out-of-network scam on lots of patients, thus raking in the bucks. It's a win-win.</p> <p>As a result, during a period of economic stagnation that produced zero wage growth for everyone else, ER docs are now making $64,000 more than they did four years ago. And they're doing this by preying on the most vulnerable, most easily scammable members of society: folks who are flat on their backs and almost by definition unable to understand what's going on around them. Not that it would matter if they did, of course. The law provides no recourse even if you don't like this system. That's the way things roll in the American health care system.<sup>5</sup></p> <p>If this kind of stuff doesn't make you pop a vein, I'm not sure what would. It's right on a par with the telemarketing ghouls who prey on senior citizens with dementia. Except that these guys wear white coats and are welcomed into all the best country clubs.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>3</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>4</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p> <p><sup>5</sup>Best in the World, Baby.&trade;</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:03:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 261186 at Watch John Oliver Call Out America for Blindly Supporting Obama's Drone War <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>On the latest <a href="" target="_blank">"Last Week Tonight,"<strong> </strong></a>John Oliver looked into how Americans have come to widely accept President Obama's growing reliance on drone strikes, while knowing little to nothing about the administration's rules for using them.</p> <p>"Because our rules for drone strikes are a little like Harvey Keitel's balls: We've all seen them in 'The Piano,' 'Bad Lieutenant, or on SnapChat. And from, from a distance you think, 'Well, I understand the contours of those.' But if you were to really examine them, you'd discover that they're actually lost in a haze of fuzziness and grey areas. Much like the rules for our drone strikes."</p> <p>The comparison, which Oliver says has contributed to defining Obama's presidency as much as Obamacare and "receiving racist emails from distant relatives," perfectly illustrates just how little both the public and the administration knows exactly who and how many we're going about killing with such strikes ---&nbsp; strikes that have waged on despite the <a href="" target="_blank">continued lack of answers Obama </a>seems quite intent on never sufficiently explaining to us.</p> <p>"That is a little disturbing. Because the question 'how many people have you've killed in drone strikes' is not one of those questions where it's okay to say you don't know. It's not like asking someone 'who was the voice of Disney's Aladdin' or 'what are Skittles are made from.' It's different&hellip;And the crazy thing is it's literally always been like this."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Foreign Policy Military Obama Mon, 29 Sep 2014 16:22:34 +0000 Inae Oh 261171 at