Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2010/06/kevin-drum/www.mms.gov/authors/authors/kate-sheppard http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Republicans Invent New Supreme Court Tradition Out of Thin Air http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/republicans-invent-new-supreme-court-tradition-out-thin-air <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Republicans are pretty unanimously refusing to consider confirming a Supreme Court nominee to replace Antonin Scalia before the election. That's hardly unexpected, but what cracks me up is their effort to make this sound like a principled stand. "It&rsquo;s been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice," <a href="http://time.com/4224275/republican-debate-transcript-south-carolina-ninth/" target="_blank">Marco Rubio said last night,</a> apparently not understanding what "lame duck" means. "We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year," Ted Cruz agreed, apparently not realizing that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kennedy_swearing_in.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in 1988. No matter. "It&rsquo;s been standard practice over the last 80 years to not confirm Supreme Court nominees during a presidential election year," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mitch-mcconnell-supreme-court-antonin-scalia_us_56bfcde2e4b08ffac1259285" target="_blank">thundered Chuck Grassley,</a> the chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, which will hold hearings on Obama's nominee.</p> <p>This has quickly become a meme on the right. It's a <em>deeply held American tradition</em> not to confirm Supreme Court justices during an election year. Needless to say, this is ridiculous. Anthony Kennedy aside, the reason Supreme Court nominees haven't been confirmed during election years for the last few decades is just coincidental: none of them happened to have died or retired during an election year.<sup>1</sup><a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/13/10987692/14-supreme-court-confirmations" target="_blank">Some tradition.</a> Perhaps Scalia should be posthumously censured for having the gall to break this custom.</p> <p>In any case, congratulations as usual to Mitch McConnell for not bothering with this self-righteous pretense. He says the Senate won't vote on a replacement for Scalia because, basically, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/14/us/politics/battle-begins-over-naming-next-justice.html?action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=span-abc-region&amp;region=span-abc-region&amp;WT.nav=span-abc-region&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">they just don't want to.</a> "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice," he said yesterday, and that's that. Republicans have the power to delay in hopes of electing a Republican in November, and that's what they're going to do.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Abe Fortas was rejected during the 1968 election year, but this had nothing to do with any kind of hallowed tradition. It was because Republicans and Dixiecrats were pissed off at the Warren Court, and preventing LBJ from elevating Fortas to chief justice was a way of showing it. They were able to use an ethics scandal to gin up opposition, and Fortas never even made it to a floor vote.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 14 Feb 2016 17:55:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 296911 at http://www.motherjones.com Liberals Are Heading Down the Path of Fox News. It's Time to Knock It Off. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/liberals-fox-news <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over the past few weeks I've written five posts making the following points:</p> <ol><li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_heads_sand.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/raw-data-how-white-are-academy-awards-anyway" target="_blank">acting Oscars</a> are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/sags-its-all-about-bragging" target="_blank">not really</a> all that white.</li> <li><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/raw-data-lead-poisoning-kids-flint" target="_blank">Flint</a> is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/lead-and-race-flint%E2%80%94and-everywhere-else" target="_blank">not</a> a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-some-context-blood-lead-levels-flint" target="_blank">public</a> health <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/flint-probably-has-bigger-problems-lead-pipes" target="_blank">holocaust</a>.</li> <li>The <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/take-it-easy-hillary-clinton-and-1994-crime-bill" target="_blank">1994 crime bill</a> didn't <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/get-your-memes-right-1994-crime-bill-didnt-create-mass-incarceration" target="_blank">create</a> mass incarceration.</li> <li>Photo ID laws <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/do-strict-photo-id-laws-massively-depress-minority-turnout" target="_blank">probably don't</a> have massive turnout effects.</li> <li>Social welfare spending has <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-why-bernie-sanders-doesnt-say-much-about-welfare-reform" target="_blank">gone up a lot</a> over the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/take-2-another-look-bernie-sanders-welfare-reform-and-deep-poverty" target="_blank">past three decades,</a> and welfare reform had <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/follow-1-welfare-reform-and-deep-poverty" target="_blank">very little impact</a> on either this or the deep poverty rate.</li> </ol><p>I'm not really very excited about writing stuff like this. I generally prefer to use my emotional energy fighting conservatives and boosting liberal causes. On the other hand, facts and realism matter. I don't want to see my side adopt the habits that we mock so mercilessly in conservatives.</p> <p>One of the things that bothered me in all five cases is that these points could all be made perfectly well with the truth. The <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/01/oscarssowhite-targeting-precisely-wrong-thing" target="_blank">non-acting Oscars</a> really have shut out minorities almost completely. Lead poisoning of children <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/02/lead-exposure-gasoline-crime-increase-children-health" target="_blank">really is a serious problem.</a> The 1994 crime bill may not have been responsible for mass incarceration, but it had plenty of other problems&mdash;though they turned out have a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/follow-2-1994-crime-bill-and-mass-incarceration" target="_blank">pretty modest effect</a> in the end. Photo ID laws do have <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/voter-suppression-kevin-drum" target="_blank">modest</a> but <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/voter-id-laws-terrible-public-policy-probably-pretty-feeble" target="_blank">pervasive</a> effects on minority voting, and in a 50-50 country this can <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/06/quote-day-voter-why-republicans-voter-id-laws" target="_blank">make</a> a big <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/08/schlafly-voter-suppression-laws-partisan" target="_blank">difference</a>. And social welfare spending may have gone up a lot, but it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/12/new-study-says-poverty-rate-hasnt-budged-40-years" target="_blank">still hasn't</a> made <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/poverty-still-winning-war-poverty" target="_blank">much of a dent</a> in poverty.</p> <p>What to think of this? Maybe it's just coincidence that I've noticed a bunch of items like this recently. After all, everyone in the political arena, friends and foes alike, has long used hyperbole as a way of marshaling action. Human nature being what it is, people just won't pay much attention to measured and nuanced debate. You have to hit them over their heads to get their attention, and sometimes that means going overboard on the outrage if you want to make a difference in the world.</p> <p>And in the end, what's worse? Generating a lightly misleading meme about acting Oscars being white&mdash;because actors are the only part of the film industry that most people know or care about&mdash;or doing nothing and gaining no attention for the fact that behind the camera Hollywood remains lily white? That's not always an easy question to answer.</p> <p>Still, that's me talking my book. When this kind of thing starts to define a movement, you end up with Fox News and the tea party. We should be loath to go too far down that road. Being reality-based matters, even if it's not always entirely on your side.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 14 Feb 2016 13:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 296841 at http://www.motherjones.com The American State of Teenage Sex, in 3 Charts http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/state-of-teen-sex-america-chart-abstinence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Back in 2002, the <a href="http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/~/media/publications/PDFs/evalabstinence.pdf" target="_blank">government funded a study</a> that showed there was no evidence that abstinence programs increased a kid's likelihood of abstaining from sex. In fact, no studies have found evidence that teaching abstinence works to prevent teenage pregnancies. And yet this year, the federal government will fund abstinence-only education to the tune of <a href="http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&amp;FeatureID=2434" target="_blank">$85 million</a>.</p> <p>Last week, for the third<strong> </strong>year in a row, President Barack Obama's budget proposal included cuts to some $10 million of that abstinence-only education funding. Obama has consistently taken an anti-abstinence-education stance over the course of his political career. Back on the campaign trail in 2008, he said he believes <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/under-obama-administration-abstinence-only-education-finds-surprising-new-foothold/2012/05/08/gIQA8fcwAU_blog.html" target="_blank">contraception</a> should be part of sex education curricula. He wasn't alone: In 2010, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) took a poll and found that 88 percent of parents of junior high school students and 85 percent of parents of high school students believe information about how to use and where to get contraceptives is an appropriate topic for sexuality education. Even Obama's first budget as president aimed to make <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2009/05/07/39144/obama-abstinence-budget/" target="_blank">similar cuts to abstinence education funding</a>. GOP members of Congress fought it, and the attempt ultimately failed. The same happened in 2010 and is pretty likely to happen this time, too.</p> <p>All this means that over the past two decades, more than <a href="http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&amp;FeatureID=2434" target="_blank">$1.8 billion in federal dollars</a> have been funneled into abstinence-only education.</p> <p>The Obama administration has had some victories. In 2010 and 2011, Obama and Congress agreed to <a href="http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&amp;pageid=1341&amp;nodeid=1" target="_blank">eliminate two-thirds of funding</a> for previously existing abstinence programs, and then allocated almost $190 million in new funding to initiatives aimed at preventing unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.</p> <p>Meanwhile, as the various wings of the government have been fighting over what dollars go where<strong>,</strong> teen pregnancy rates have plummeted <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/teenpregnancy/about/index.htm" target="_blank">to record lows</a> over the past three years. What's more, rates fell 51 percent between 1990 and 2010. The reasons for the decline are complicated and hard to pinpoint; some studies give credit to better contraception and more precise use of it.</p> <p>But when it comes to American teens and sex, we still have a lot of problems to fix: According to a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 41 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds admit to knowing little or nothing about condoms. And <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2015/std-surveillance-report-press-release.html" target="_blank">more young people than ever</a>&mdash;aged 15 to 24&mdash;are getting sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65 percent of chlamydia cases in 2014 were in 15- to 24-years-olds, as were 53 percent of gonorrhea cases. We don't know which kids sat through abstinence classes, but this is the age group that received the most federal funding for abstinence education. (Although perhaps it's fair to note that abstinence groups would attribute the increase in STDs to the rise of hookup culture and media representations of sex.)</p> <p>From <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/shpps/2012/pdf/shpps-results_2012.pdf" target="_blank">2000 to 2014</a>, the number of schools that required kids to learn about STD prevention dropped by 10 percent. To combat the rising rates of STDs and the lack of education, different states are taking different approaches. A Utah lawmaker i<a href="http://kutv.com/news/local/lawmaker-wants-to-teach-more-than-abstinence-only-in-school-sex-education" target="_blank">s trying to persuade his colleagues</a> to pass a law that allows kids to learn comprehensive sex education in schools&mdash;a tall order, considering the moral code of the state. To the west, California passed a law last year that <a href="http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2015/10/09/california-schools-required-teach-comprehensive-sex-ed-2016/" target="_blank">requires comprehensive sex education</a> in schools for 2016. San Francisco schools are considering <a href="http://abc7ny.com/education/san-francisco-considers-handing-out-condoms-to-middle-schoolers-/1183384/?utm_content=buffercff30&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer" target="_blank">making condoms available</a> to students as early as sixth grade. They would not be the first California schools to do so; Oakland Unified schools implemented a similar policy in 2014. On the opposite end of the spectrum, last year Texas took $3 million from its state budget for HIV and STD prevention and reallocated it to abstinence education.</p> <p>For a quick look at where the United States stands on abstinence education and teen sex, here are three charts from an upcoming <em>Mother Jones </em>feature story on abstinence education:</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Abstinence_stats__STDS_630.png"></div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Abstinence_chart_630.png"></div> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Abstinence_map_630.png"></div></body></html> MoJo Sex and Gender Sun, 14 Feb 2016 11:00:11 +0000 Becca Andrews 296411 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Is Still Lying About Opposing the Iraq War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/donald-trump-still-lying-about-opposing-iraq-war <!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://time.com/4224275/republican-debate-transcript-south-carolina-ninth/" target="_blank">Donald Trump tonight:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I&rsquo;m telling you, I&rsquo;m the only one on the stage that said, &ldquo;Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.&rdquo; Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn&rsquo;t a politician, fortunately. But I said it. And I said it loud and clear.</p> </blockquote> <p>He's lying. He didn't oppose the Iraq War before it started. Long ago he <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/10/donald-trump-brought-it-lets-ask-him-evidence-he-fought-against-going-iraq" target="_blank">promised us 25 clippings</a> proving that he spoke up against the war, but he's never coughed them up. That's because he can't. It's pathetic.</p> <p>I didn't get to watch the debate tonight, so I don't have any further pearls to offer at the moment. But I'm sure I'll get around to it later tonight. It sounds like it was quite the edifying food fight.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 14 Feb 2016 04:16:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 296901 at http://www.motherjones.com Cruz, Rubio, and Other Conservatives Want to Stop Obama From Replacing Scalia http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/scalia-death-conservatives-obstruct-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on Saturday, leaving a vacancy on the highest court nine months before Election Day. That should leave President Barack Obama plenty of time to find a qualified replacement to succeed Scalia. But within minutes of the announcement that Scalia had died, prominent conservatives began demanding that no new justice be confirmed until after Obama's presidency ends next year. In essence, they want the Republican-controlled Senate to block any nomination that Obama might send it. And leading this charge was Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate. In a <a href="https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/698634625246195712" target="_blank">tweet</a>, Cruz declared, "Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, &amp; the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement." Soon after that, Sen. Marco Rubio, another presidential wannabe, <a href="https://twitter.com/SabrinaSiddiqui/status/698642350374002689" target="_blank">said</a> the same.</p> <p>This is a quickly spreading right-wing meme. Here are other conservatives demanding government obstruction to deny Obama the chance to fulfill his constitutional duty:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Yes. And it should. But will it? <a href="https://t.co/uPFgRxisRF">https://t.co/uPFgRxisRF</a></p> &mdash; Instapundit.com (@instapundit) <a href="https://twitter.com/instapundit/status/698631569821536256">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Senate must simply refuse to appoint anybody. Would be outrageous to replace a giant like Scalia with a minnow like Sotomayor.</p> &mdash; Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) <a href="https://twitter.com/charlescwcooke/status/698630021943074817">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">If Scalia has actually passed away, the Senate must refuse to confirm any justices in 2016 and leave the nomination to the next president.</p> &mdash; Sean Davis (@seanmdav) <a href="https://twitter.com/seanmdav/status/698625855262760961">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">What is less than zero? The chances of Obama successfully appointing a Supreme Court Justice to replace Scalia?</p> &mdash; Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) <a href="https://twitter.com/conncarroll/status/698626902160838656">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There hasn't been a justice confirmed in an election year to an election-year vacancy in more than 80 years. No reason to do so now.</p> &mdash; Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) <a href="https://twitter.com/EdWhelanEPPC/status/698633297652482049">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Look forward to this issue&mdash;when to fill Scalia's slot and who should appoint his successor&mdash;becoming a major fight in the presidential campaign.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the judiciary committee, issued this <a href="https://twitter.com/toddzwillich/status/698643999582588928" target="_blank">statement</a>: "I hope that no one will use this sad news to suggest POTUS should not perform its [sic] constitutional duty." He was a little late with that.</p> <p><strong>Update: </strong>Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has weighed in too:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">And McConnell delivers the hammer <a href="https://t.co/rYWVwQrffh">pic.twitter.com/rYWVwQrffh</a></p> &mdash; Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) <a href="https://twitter.com/samsteinhp/status/698647733851140096">February 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Crime and Justice Supreme Court Sat, 13 Feb 2016 23:07:37 +0000 Tim Murphy 296871 at http://www.motherjones.com Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Has Died http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/supreme-court-justice-anton-scalia-has-died <!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.mysanantonio.com/news/us-world/article/Senior-Associate-Justice-Antonin-Scalia-found-6828930.php" target="_blank">Of "apparently natural" causes</a> during the night. This is going to set up an unbelievable battle in the Senate. I wonder if Republicans will even <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_scalia_oral_arguments.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">make a pretense of seriously considering whoever President Obama nominates?</p> <p>In the meantime, the court is split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals. So even if Republicans refuse to confirm a new justice, Obama's laws and executive orders are safe for another year in any case for which the opinion hasn't yet been finalized. You can't overturn an action on a 4-4 vote. This means that EPA's carbon rules are probably safe. Ditto for Obama's immigration executive order. Union shops in the public sector are probably safe. Abortion restrictions probably won't go anywhere. One-person-one-vote is probably safe.</p> <p>Either way, this is now the most important issue in the presidential campaign. Appointing Supreme Court justices has always been one of the biggest reasons to care about who wins in November, but it's stayed mostly under the radar until now. No longer. Both sides will go ballistic over this, and the Supreme Court will suddenly seem like the most vital presidential power ever. If you thought things were getting nasty before this, just wait. You ain't seen nothing yet.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> The last time a justice was confirmed during an election year was Anthony Kennedy in 1988. However, the stakes weren't as high. He was a conservative replacing a conservative, and didn't change the balance of the court much. Clarence Thomas was confirmed in late 1991, shortly before an election year, but we all know how that went. Among other things, he was replacing William Brennan, a very liberal justice, and his confirmation changed the balance of the court considerably.</p> <p>Rick Hasen has more on the political implications of Scalia's vacant seat <a href="http://electionlawblog.org/?p=79915" target="_blank">here.</a> Ted Cruz has already announced that the Senate should not allow Obama to choose a successor, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell agrees. Other Republicans are sure to follow. Fasten your seat belts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 22:21:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 296866 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekend Follow-Up #2: The 1994 Crime Bill and Mass Incarceration http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/follow-2-1994-crime-bill-and-mass-incarceration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The 1994 crime bill has come in for a lot of attention lately, and even Bill and Hillary Clinton have said they now regret some of its provisions. But which ones?</p> <p>Generally speaking, liberals still applaud several of its biggest accomplishments: the assault weapon ban, the Violence Against Women Act, and the COPS program that funded additional police and better community training.</p> <p>But Republicans exacted a price for this. In particular, they wanted an expansion of the death penalty and several provisions that stiffened sentencing of felons. As it turns out, though, Republicans didn't have a very good idea of what their own favorite policies would actually accomplish. Are you surprised? For example, <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/12/19/u_s_capital_punishment_death_penatly_information_center_finds_executions.html" target="_blank">here's the death penalty:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_1994_crime_bill_death_penalty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 70px;"></p> <p>The crime bill created lots of new capital crimes, but its actual effect was nil. The death penalty was already losing support by 1994, and has been banned by an increasing number of states ever since. On the federal level, death sentences have always been a tiny fraction of the total (around four or five per year), and that didn't change after 1994.</p> <p>So what about sentencing? The crime bill <em>did</em> have an effect here, but it was generally pretty modest. Here are a couple of charts from an unpublished review of the law <a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/187109.pdf" target="_blank">seven years after it passed:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_1994_crime_bill_3_strikes_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_1994_crime_bill_truth_sentencing_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Why the small effect? In the case of 3-strikes, it simply didn't affect very many people. It did increase average time served by several months, but that's about it. And the much-loathed Truth-in-Sentencing provisions had even less effect. This is because more than half the states already had TIS requirements even before the 1994 bill passed, and not many passed new ones as a result of the law. It did push up the trend in incarceration and time served by a few tenths of a percentage point, but that had only a minuscule effect on overall incarceration rates.</p> <p>The crime bill also included a few other witless measures, like reducing educational opportunities for inmates, and it unquestionably contributed to the crime hysteria that was prevalent at the time. Nonetheless, its most hated features never had a big effect.</p> <p>Two years later Clinton also signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which had some pretty objectionable changes to habeas corpus. This was arguably worse than anything in the 1994 bill, but it didn't have a substantial overall effect on incarceration rates.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 22:20:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 296851 at http://www.motherjones.com Things Donald Trump Will Do In His Second Year http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/things-donald-trump-will-do-his-second-year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A non-exhaustive list:</p> <ul><li>Make tomatoes great again.</li> <li>Rename Denali to Mt. Trump.</li> <li>Forbid stupid homeowner association rules.</li> <li>Fix Windows once and for all.</li> <li>Eliminate ex-president Obama's Secret Service detail.</li> <li>Annex Cuba.</li> <li>Build a permanent moon base as favor to Newt Gingrich. Also: lots of new zoos.</li> <li>Send Atrios to a reeducation camp until his attitude improves.</li> <li>Build a beautiful new Strategic Petroleum Reserve to handle all the oil he's going to take from ISIS.</li> <li>Nationalize Twitter.</li> <li>Present Sarah Palin with a Kennedy Center Honor for the Performing Arts.</li> <li>Invent really good artificial sugar and fat substitutes.</li> <li>Declare war on Denmark, just to piss off Bernie Sanders.</li> </ul></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 20:09:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 296856 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekend Follow-Up #1: Welfare Reform and Deep Poverty http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/follow-1-welfare-reform-and-deep-poverty <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'd forgotten about this even though <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/12/new-study-says-poverty-rate-hasnt-budged-40-years" target="_blank">I wrote about it</a> two years ago, but here's yet another chart about <a href="https://courseworks.columbia.edu/access/content/group/c5a1ef92-c03c-4d88-0018-ea43dd3cc5db/Working%20Papers%20for%20website/Anchored%20SPM.December7.pdf" target="_blank">"deep poverty":</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" p="" src="/files/blog_welfare_reform_deep_poverty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 3px;"></p> <p>In this case, deep poverty is defined as households with income under 50 percent of the poverty line (about $10,000 for a family of three). The calculation is based on more accurate measures of poverty that have since been endorsed by the Census Bureau.</p> <p>Now, this is a different measure of poverty than the one used by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/take-2-another-look-bernie-sanders-welfare-reform-and-deep-poverty" target="_blank">that I noted yesterday.</a> Their measure is both tighter (looking at even lower poverty rates) and looser (it counts households that are in extreme poverty even for short times). So it's not entirely an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, once you look at the historical numbers, it doesn't look like the 1996 welfare reform act slowed down the growth of welfare spending, nor did it have more than a very small effect on deep poverty.</p> <p>None of this is especially meant to defend welfare reform. But 20 years later, it doesn't look like it really had quite the catastrophic impact that a lot of people were afraid of at the time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 19:45:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 296846 at http://www.motherjones.com I'm Now a Certified and Legally Responsible Non-Harasser of Women http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/im-now-certified-and-legally-responsible-non-harasser-women <!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_certificate_harassment.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Hey, look what I got. That's right: I've completed MoJo's required course on sexual harassment, no longer limited just to supervisors.</p> <p>This doesn't have much practical value, since I work at home and have no one to harass even if I wanted to. Nonetheless, I was eager to take the course. You see, I'm immersed in opinions about PC culture and diversity and the idiocy of it all etc. etc. But I have no personal experience of it. If you're talking about schools, I graduated 40 years ago and I have no kids. If you're talking about Silicon Valley or Wall Street, I have no clue about either. If you're talking about workplace harassment, it never really came up at any of my previous jobs, and I haven't participated in an actual workplace since 2001.</p> <p>So how was it? Pretty boring, really. If someone rejects your advances repeatedly, back off. Don't fire someone for rejecting you. Don't go into a woman's cubicle a dozen times of day to take a deep sniff. (Yes, that was a real example.) Don't spend three hours a day watching hardcore porn in your office. Don't go around telling black people they're "articulate" or Asian people that "of course" they're good at math. Don't lose your temper. Talk out your problems. Don't be an asshole.</p> <p>Of course I, along with almost everyone who reads this blog, is an overeducated know-it-all who finds all this stuff trivially obvious. That's not true of everyone by a long way, and stuff like this is probably useful for them. This was also a pretty breezy course, not like the 8-hour sessions that are apparently required at some places. (I guess. How would I know?)</p> <p>Bottom line: I didn't learn much, but I suppose plenty of people would. And it really wasn't very onerous. Mostly just common sense, not lefty indoctrination. So what's everyone complaining about?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 12:17:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 296836 at http://www.motherjones.com Hooray! A Brand New Site For Creating Lots of Charts About Democracy. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/hooray-brand-new-site-creating-lots-charts-about-democracy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The world is awash in charts these days. It's a great example of a simple proposition of economics: when something gets cheaper to produce, we produce a lot more of it. Just as computers turned a dozen daily pieces of mostly useful snail mail into hundreds of mostly useless emails, they've turned data laboriously collected by experts and then laboriously converted into clunky bars and lines by the art department into colorful masterpieces that can be created by pretty much everyone at the push of a button or a modest investment in learning Excel. Half the charts I produce for this blog come either directly from my good friends at the St. Louis Fed or indirectly by downloading their handy datasets into Excel.</p> <p>There are lots of sites that produce charts these days, with new ones popping up all the time. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/02/12/open-data-and-15-million-new-measures-of-democracy/" target="_blank">Joshua Tucker</a> points us today to <a href="https://v-dem.net/en/" target="_blank">V-Dem,</a> which provides "15 million data points on democracy, including 39 democracy-related indices." The V-Dem website tells us that it is "a collaboration among more than 50 scholars worldwide which is co-hosted by the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden; and the Kellogg Institute at the University of Notre Dame, USA." So let's take a look.</p> <p>V-Dem is pretty easy to use: pick one or more countries, one or more variables, and a time period. Click "Generate Graph" and you're off. So let's take a look at a few that I drew more or less at random. Here's #1:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vdem_paid_campaign_advertising_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>That's peculiar, isn't it? We're used to thinking of the United States as the king of money in politics, but we're actually the steady blue line right in the middle. Italy apparently spends more than us and Germany spends a lot more. But in the 2000s, Germany plummeted down to middle and Sweden skyrocketed up to the middle. By 2013 we were all pretty much the same.</p> <p>Of course, I have no idea what this is based on. In theory, I could download the codebook and eventually decipher the data sources, but you can probably guess what the odds of that are. So for now it remains a bit of a mystery. Here's #2:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vdem_political_party_cohesion.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>This one is less surprising. It tells us that in the mid-1900s American political parties weren't very cohesive. Then around 1980 they started to become much more cohesive, looking more and more like parliamentary parties in Europe. Oddly, though, V-Dem thinks that Democrats and Republicans got a bit <em>less</em> cohesive around 2005. This contradicts the conventional wisdom enough that it might be worth someone's while to look into it. #SlatePitch, anyone? Here's #3:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vdem_womens_political_participation.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Sweden and Germany are the winners here, unsurprisingly. But the US does pretty well too. We've gone from a distant fourth place in 1972 (among the seven countries shown) to a close tie for first. Of course, everyone else has gotten a lot better too. In fact, if you want to zoom way in for the details and take a glass-half-empty approach to things, we're actually in last place now. We were doing pretty well until 1993, but since then we've made almost no progress. Once again, if this is true it would be interesting to investigate. What happened in 1993 to suddenly blunt the rise of women's participation in politics?</p> <p>So that's that. On the upside, there's a lot of data here and it's pretty easy to generate colorful charts out of it. It's interesting too. Three out of three random charts that I created instantly posed challenges to the received wisdom that might benefit from further study. On the downside, it's difficult to figure out the source of the indices or to download the data series themselves unless you're willing to download the entire dataset and load it into your statistical app of choice. That makes further study hard for non-experts. Nothing's perfect, I guess.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 11:52:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 296831 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do Foreign Singers Sound So American? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/why-do-foreign-singers-sound-so-american <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm asking this just out of curiosity. Feel free to mock me about it in comments.</p> <p>Here's my question. When I listen to popular music, I almost never hear a foreign accent. I hear accents perfectly well in ordinary speech, but not when the words are sung. With occasional exceptions, when I listen to U2, Adele, Abba, or Keith Urban, I don't hear Irish, British, Swedish, or Australian accents. To me, the lyrics mostly sound pretty close to my own familiar California accent.</p> <p>So....is this because popular foreign singers deliberately adopt an American accent? Is it due to some inherent property of slow, melodic speech? Is it because my hearing is defective?</p> <p>There are exceptions, of course. The Beatles all had such distinctive Liverpool accents that I usually recognize it in their singing. Beyond that, I don't really listen to enough music to have much sense of how common this is, especially outside of the top 40 realm. Anyone know what the deal is here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:24:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 296826 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 12 February 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/friday-cat-blogging-12-february-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just look at our little lovebirds. So adorable. So innocent looking. In reality, of course, they are just furry little batteries, recharging for their next romp around the house. In the meantime, though, Hilbert and Hopper remind you not to forget Valentine's Day. Buy your loved one some treats this weekend. Treats are good.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2016_02_12.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:51:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 296796 at http://www.motherjones.com Raw Data: Income Gains By Age Since 1974 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/raw-data-income-gains-age-1974 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's some raw data for you. It's nothing fancy: just plain old cash income growth for individuals, <a href="https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/people/" target="_blank">straight from the Census Bureau.</a> It gives you a rough idea of how different age groups have been doing over the past few decades. Enjoy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_median_income_age_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 23px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:45:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 296791 at http://www.motherjones.com Senator Sanders, Why Do You Hate President Obama? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/senator-sanders-why-do-you-hate-president-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Most of last night's debate was pretty familiar territory. But toward the end, Hillary Clinton <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/11/transcript-the-democratic-debate-in-milwaukee-annotated/" target="_blank">unleashed a brand new attack:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Today Senator Sanders said that President Obama failed the presidential leadership test....In the past he has called him weak. He has called <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_debate_2016_02_11.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">him a disappointment. He wrote a forward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyers' remorse when it comes to President Obama's leadership and legacy.</p> <p>....The kind of criticism that we've heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans....What I am concerned about is not disagreement on issues, saying that this is what I would rather do, I don't agree with the president on that. Calling the president weak, calling him a disappointment, calling several times that he should have a primary opponent when he ran for re-election in 2012, you know, I think that goes further than saying we have our disagreements.</p> <p>....I understand we can disagree on the path forward. But those kinds of personal assessments and charges are ones that I find particularly troubling.</p> </blockquote> <p>The problem Sanders has here is that this is a pretty righteous attack. Back in 2011 <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/special/2011/07/22/277124/bernie-sanders-primary-obama/" target="_blank">he really did say,</a> "I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president...who cannot believe how weak he has been, for whatever reason, in negotiating with Republicans and there&rsquo;s deep disappointment." And he really did push the idea of a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/bernie-sanders-talks-primary-challenge-obama-good-idea-our-democracy-and-democratic-part/" target="_blank">primary challenger to Obama.</a> And he really did <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/30/politics/bernie-sanders-democrats-obama-progressives-hillary-clinton/" target="_blank">write a blurb</a> for <em>Buyer's Remorse: How Obama let Progressives Down</em>. So there's not much he can do about this attack except sound offended and insist that everyone has a right to criticize the president.</p> <p>But will it work? It was actually the only hit last night that struck me as genuinely effective. Obama still has a lot of fans who are probably surprised to hear that Sanders has been so tough on their guy. If Hillary Clinton keeps up this line, it might be pretty damaging.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:40:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 296776 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/health-update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my chemo regimen changed last month. The Revlimid reduced my M-protein level for a little while, but then flattened out around 0.6, which is still a long way <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_m_protein_2016_02_12.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">from zero.<sup>1</sup> So now we're trying Revlimid plus dexamethasone. Dex is pure evil, but it's also pretty good at fighting multiple myeloma, so let's all give a big round of applause to evil! My first test result came back yesterday, and after only three weeks on the dex my M-protein marker has finally budged from 0.6. It's now down to 0.48. There's still a long way to go, but at least things are once again moving in the right direction.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Standard explainer: myeloma cells produce M-proteins, so measuring them is a good proxy for the level of cancerous cells in my bone marrow. This will never get to zero, but when the M-protein marker reaches zero it means the myeloma is at a very, very low level. So that's the goal.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:55:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 296771 at http://www.motherjones.com Take 2: Another Look at Bernie Sanders, Welfare Reform, and Deep Poverty http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/take-2-another-look-bernie-sanders-welfare-reform-and-deep-poverty <!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.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-why-bernie-sanders-doesnt-say-much-about-welfare-reform" target="_blank">A couple of days ago,</a> in a post showing the growth of social welfare spending over the past few decades, I noted that the passage of the 1996 welfare reform act didn't even show up as a blip. In terms of money spent, it's turned out to be a non-issue.</p> <p>This was not meant to be a defense of welfare reform. Believe it or not, I really do try not to write authoritatively about subjects I know little about, and welfare reform is a complicated topic that I'm only glancingly familiar with. I don't really have either the chops or the desire to relitigate it right now.</p> <p>However, that post prompted a response that's probably worth dealing with at least briefly: namely that even if the dollar amount was relatively small, welfare reform did hurt the very poorest. This is a live topic right now because of the recent publication of<span class="a-size-large" id="productTitle"> <a href="http://www.amazon.com/2-00-Day-Nothing-September-Hardcover/dp/B015QNU1HW/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1455295116&amp;sr=1-2" target="_blank"><em>$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America</em>,</a> by </span>Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer. Among other things, Edin and Shaefer focus on the effects of cash, and they note that welfare reform eliminated cash payments to the very poorest, who generally don't have jobs. This was deliberate: the whole point of welfare reform was to link public assistance to jobs as a way of motivating the poor to find work.</p> <p>There remains plenty of disagreement about whether this was a good idea. For now, though, I just want to present Edin and Shaefer's own data about extreme poverty. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_extreme_poverty.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>The green line is the one to pay attention to if you want to know the comprehensive effect of all changes to the social welfare system over the past couple of decades. And what it shows is that the percentage of households with children in extreme poverty increased from about 1 percent to 1.5 percent. That represents an increase of fewer than 500,000 households.</p> <p>In other words, if we simply handed over $10,000 to every household with children in extreme poverty, it would cost only about $15 billion. Given that we spend about $1 trillion annually on social welfare benefits, this is peanuts. It's not money that prevents us from addressing deep poverty, it's political preference. Welfare reform was very deliberately crafted to reduce payments to people who don't work, and one of the effects of that is a small increase in extreme poverty.</p> <p>If you want Bernie Sanders to publicly denounce this state of affairs, this is the issue you need to address. To what extent should our welfare system hand out cash to nonworking adults? For how long? With what strings attached? My guess is that Sanders doesn't really want to dive into this because he knows it's a big hot button and he doesn't want to get bogged down in something that takes the spotlight away from his larger economic message. But that's just my guess.</p> <p>If you want to read more about this, there's plenty available. We've written about it several times at <em>Mother Jone</em>s, including <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/extreme-poverty-unemployment-recession-economy-fresno" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/kathryn-edin-poverty-research-fatherhood" target="_blank">here</a>, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/10-poverty-myths-busted" target="_blank">here</a>, and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/07/book-review-2-dollars-day-kathryn-edin-luke-shaefer" target="_blank">here</a>. Over at Brookings, Ron Haskins critiques Edin and Shaefer <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/social-mobility-memos/posts/2015/09/14-cash-welfare-sipp-complete-picture-haskins" target="_blank">here.</a> They respond <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/social-mobility-memos/posts/2015/09/17-reform-welfare-reform-edin-shaefer" target="_blank">here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:19:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 296766 at http://www.motherjones.com In Obama's America, Nobody Can Buy a Good Tomato http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/obamas-america-nobody-can-buy-good-tomato <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Julia Belluz writes today about one of my saddest pet peeves: <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/12/10972140/fruits-vegetables-taste-better-europe" target="_blank">the sad state of tomatoes in America.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Harry Klee, a horticulture professor at the University of Florida, spent years developing a nutrient-dense tomato that also happens to taste great. <strong>It&rsquo;s been called &mdash; by a panel of 500 experts &mdash; one of the most delicious tomatoes on the planet</strong>....Klee&rsquo;s tomato, the Garden Gem, is also eminently durable, with a great shelf life and track record of disease resistance &mdash; properties growers care about. But he&rsquo;s been told the Garden Gem is a little too small (about a half <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tomato.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">or a third the size of your average supermarket tomato). And that means it&rsquo;d require more labor to pick, and therefore a little more cost. The fact that it's delicious doesn't count for much.</p> <p>"The bottom line here with the industrial tomatoes is that tomatoes have been bred for yield, production, disease resistance," Klee told me....This greatly distresses Klee. "I have a lot of worries, and one is that we are raising a whole generation of people who don&rsquo;t know what a tomato is supposed to taste like," he said. <strong>"If they go to Italy and buy a tomato at a roadside stand, it&rsquo;s a life-changing event."</strong> For now most Americans are stuck with massive, perfectly red, eminently tasteless tomatoes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, <em>I</em> want a Garden Gem, even if it is small. Of course, I'd want one even more if it were large. When I was growing up (cue Boomer nostalgia music) we bought tomatoes from a local stand and they were both huge and delicious. We ate them like apples. Were they the best tomatoes on the planet? Probably not. But they were pretty good! Light years better than anything I can get in the supermarket today. So it's not impossible to grow tomatoes that are both tasty and large.</p> <p>Thankfully, this is one of the things Donald Trump will probably fix once he becomes president. There will no longer be any undocumented workers around to pick them, but that's a problem for another day.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 16:00:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 296756 at http://www.motherjones.com U6 Is Now the Last Refuge of Scoundrels http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/u6-now-last-refuge-scoundrels <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is getting ridiculous. On Tuesday <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/2/9/10956660/donald-trump-new-hampshire" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a> repeated his fatuous nonsense about the real unemployment rate being 42 percent. Then <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/11/upshot/the-real-jobless-rate-is-42-percent-donald-trump-has-a-point-sort-of.html?ref=topics&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">Neil Irwin</a> of the <em>New York Times</em> inexplicably decided to opine that "he's not entirely wrong" because there are lots of different unemployment rates. Et tu, Neil? Bill O'Reilly picked up on this theme today, with guest Lou Dobbs casually declaring that unemployment is "actually" 10 percent. Finally, in the ultimate indignity, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/11/transcript-the-democratic-debate-in-milwaukee-annotated/" target="_blank">Bernie Sanders</a> decided to take this idiocy bipartisan: "Who denies that real unemployment today, including those who have given up looking for work and are working part-time is close to 10 percent?"</p> <p>Can we cut the crap? Trump is obviously just making shit up, but the 10 percent number is colorably legitimate. It's officially called U6, a measure of unemployment <em>plus</em> folks who have been forced to work part time <em>plus</em> workers who are "marginally attached" to the labor force. Right now it stands at 9.9 percent.</p> <p>But you can't just toss this out as a slippery way of making the economy seem like it's in horrible shape. If you're going to tout U6, you have to compare it to <em>what's normal for U6</em>. And what's normal in an expanding economy is about 8.9 percent. This means that even big, bad U6 is within a hair of its full-employment value.</p> <p>The US economy is not a house afire. That said, unemployment is low. Inflation is low. Wages are finally growing. The economy is expanding. Gasoline is cheap. Interest rates are low and houses are affordable. I'm getting pretty tired of the endlessly deceitful attempts to make it seem as if we're all but on the edge of economic Armageddon, and the last thing we need is for liberals to sign up for this flimflam too. It's good politics, I guess, but it's also a lie.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_u6_february_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 05:49:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 296746 at http://www.motherjones.com Tonight's Debate Really Drove Home the Bernie vs. Hillary Dilemma http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/hillary <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's roughly how the first hour of tonight's debate went:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Bernie: Free health care for everyone!</em></p> <p>Hillary: Let's not overpromise. Maybe we can get partway there. You know, one percent at a time.</p> <p><em>Bernie: When I'm president we'll have free college for everyone!</em></p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_sanders_debate_2016_02_11.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Hillary: But we have to get the policy right. All the stakeholders need to buy in. It's tricky.</p> <p><em>Bernie:&nbsp; We need radical transformation of our criminal justice system!</em></p> <p>Hillary: A commission had some good ideas recently and I endorse them.</p> <p><em>Bernie: Let the children in!</em></p> <p>Hillary: Yes, but first we need an appropriate process.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK, I'm kidding. Sort of. But this is the bind Hillary Clinton is in. Bernie Sanders delivers all these big, stemwinding proposals and doesn't really have to explain how he's going to pass any of them or get them paid for. But he sure is visionary! Hillary, conversely, is just constitutionally incapable of talking like this. When a problem is raised, her mind instantly starts thinking about what works and who will vote for it and where the payfors are going to come from. And that means she sounds like an old fuddy duddy patiently explaining why your bright idea won't work. No wonder young voters don't care much for her.</p> <p>This has been true the entire campaign, of course, but I thought tonight's debate brought it into much sharper relief than usual. Did it hurt her? I've pretty much given up trying to divine the reactions of the studio audience to these debates, so I don't know. I guess that if you think we need to dream big dreams and the fuddy duddies ought to stand aside, you're more convinced than ever that Hillary is part of the problem, not part of the solution. If you have some respect for how hard the political process is, and how slowly progress is made, you're more convinced than ever that Bernie is talking through his hat and Hillary is the only reasonable choice.</p> <p>And for those who are undecided? I guess we'll find out soon enough.</p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/11/transcript-the-democratic-debate-in-milwaukee-annotated/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" target="_blank">Debate transcript here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 04:47:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 296741 at http://www.motherjones.com Republican Tax Plans Will Be Great for the Ri—zzzzz http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/republican-tax-plans-will-be-great-ri%E2%80%94zzzzz <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Our good friends at the Tax Policy Center have now analyzed&mdash;if that's the right word&mdash;the tax plans of <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/template.cfm?PubID=2000560" target="_blank">Donald Trump</a>, <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/url.cfm?ID=2000547" target="_blank">Jeb Bush</a>, and <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/template.cfm?PubID=2000606" target="_blank">Marco Rubio</a>. You can get all the details at their site, but if you just want the bottom line, you've come to the right place.</p> <p>The chart on the left shows who benefits the most from each tax plan. Unsurprisingly, they're all about the same: middle income taxpayers would see their take-home pay go up 3 or 4 percent, while the rich would see it go up a whopping 10-17 percent. On the deficit side of things, everyone's a budget buster. Rubio and Bush would pile up the red ink by $7 trillion or so (over ten years) while Trump would clock in at about $9 trillion. That compares to a current national debt of $14 trillion.</p> <p>No one will care, of course, and no one will even bother questioning any of them about this. After all, we already know they'll just declare that their tax cuts will supercharge the economy and pay for themselves. They can say it in their sleep. Then Trump will say something stupid, or Rubio will break his tooth on a Twix bar, and we'll move on.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rubio_bush_trump_tax_gain.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rubio_bush_trump_tax_cost.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:34:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 296716 at http://www.motherjones.com God Is Testing Marco Rubio http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/god-testing-marco-rubio <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oh come on. Even Marco Rubio doesn't deserve this. Maybe it's time to ease up on the poor guy.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Rubio got blueberry pancakes w blueberry syrup. He's trying to eat soft foods, he said, because he cracked a molar on a Twix bar yesterday.</p> &mdash; erica orden (@eorden) <a href="https://twitter.com/eorden/status/697812156939636736">February 11, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 11 Feb 2016 22:29:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 296706 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's What Bernie Sanders Actually Did in the Civil Rights Movement http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/bernie-sanders-core-university-chicago <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Civil rights icon John Lewis <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/john-lewis-bernie-sanders-civil-rights" target="_blank">told reporters</a> that he never encountered Bernie Sanders when the Vermont senator was working with Lewis' Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. Because he made his remarks at a press conference announcing the Congressional Black Caucus PAC's endorsement of Sanders' opponent, Hillary Clinton, Lewis' comments can be seen as a mild dig at Sanders. (In the same breath he said he <em>had</em> met Bill and Hillary Clinton.)</p> <p>But it's also undoubtedly true.</p> <p>The Georgia congressman was a titan of the civil rights movement. A participant in the Freedom Rides organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), he went on to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and still bears the scars he received at Selma. Sanders' involvement was, by comparison, brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies. But Sanders was, in his own right, an active participant in the movement during his three years at the University of Chicago.</p> <p>Although Sanders did attend the 1963 March on Washington, at which Lewis spoke, most of his work was in and around Hyde Park, where he became involved with the campus chapter of CORE shortly after transferring from Brooklyn College in 1961. During Sanders' first year in Chicago, a group of apartment-hunting white and black students had discovered that off-campus buildings owned by the university were refusing to<strong> </strong>rent to black students, in violation of the school's policies. CORE organized a 15-day sit-in at the administration building, which Sanders helped lead. (James Farmer, who co-founded CORE and had been a Freedom Rider with Lewis, came to the University of Chicago that winter to praise the activists' work.) The protest ended when George Beadle, the university's president, agreed to form a commission to study the school's housing policies.</p> <p>Sanders was one of two students from CORE appointed to the commission, which included the neighborhood's alderman and state representative, in addition to members of the administration. But not long afterward, Sanders blew up at the administration, accusing Beadle of reneging on his promise and refusing to answer questions from students on its integration plan. In an open letter in the student newspaper, the <em>Chicago Maroon</em>, Sanders vented about the double-cross:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bernieletter_0.jpg"><div class="caption">Chicago Maroon</div> </div> <p>That spring, with Sanders as its chairman, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of SNCC. Sanders announced plans to take the fight to the city of Chicago, and in the fall of 1962 he followed through, organizing picketers at a Howard Johnson in Cicero. Sanders told the <em>Chicago Maroon</em>, the student newspaper, that he wanted to keep the pressure on the restaurant chain after<strong> </strong>the&nbsp;<a href="https://durhamcountylibrary.org/exhibits/dcrhp/howardjohnson.php" target="_blank">arrest</a> of 12 CORE demonstrators in North Carolina for trying to eat at a Howard Johnson there:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/howardjohnson.jpg"><div class="caption">Chicago Maroon</div> </div> <p>Sanders left his leadership role at the organization not long afterward; his grades suffered so much from his activism that a dean asked him to take some time off from school. (He didn't take much interest in his studies, anyway.) But he continued his activism with CORE and SNCC. In August of 1963, not long after returning to Chicago from the March on Washington, Sanders was charged with resisting arrest after protesting segregation at a school on the city's South Side. He was later fined $25, according to the <em>Chicago Tribune</em>:</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" src="/files/berniearrest.jpg"></div> Chicago Tribune</div></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:49:07 +0000 Tim Murphy 296676 at http://www.motherjones.com Clinton and Sanders Just Weighed In on an Old Battle in the Fight for Reproductive Rights http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/hillary-clinton-and-bernie-sanders-abortion-policy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>B<span class="message_body">oth Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have repeatedly emphasized the importance of protecting women's reproductive rights, but </span>mostly they've focused on domestic policy. Now, looking overseas, they say the United States should change the regulation of foreign aid for abortions.</p> <p>The 1973 <a href="http://www.genderhealth.org/the_issues/us_foreign_policy/helms/" target="_blank">Helms amendment</a> blocks the use of foreign aid for women who were raped in conflict zones or developing countries and seeking an abortion. The amendment states, "No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions." The <a href="https://fundabortionnow.org/learn/hyde" target="_blank">Hyde amendment</a>, which was passed three years after the Helms amendment, prohibits federal funding from being used for elective abortions&mdash;abortions that are not because of incest, rape, or life endangerment.</p> <p>According to the <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-helms-amendment-abortion_us_56bcabdfe4b08ffac124143b?nz4wvcxr" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a>, </em>Clinton promised to change the Helms amendment and create an exception for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother. Sanders said he would use executive action to repeal the Helms amendment altogether.</p> <p>"Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment," Arianna Jones, his deputy communications director, told the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-helms-amendment-abortion_us_56bcabdfe4b08ffac124143b?nz4wvcxr" target="_blank"><em>Huffington Post</em></a>. "As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments."</p> <p>Clinton was asked about the Helms amendment during her Iowa campaign, where she said she thinks rape is being used increasingly as <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/23/politics/hillary-clinton-rape-abortion-isis/" target="_blank">a war weapon. </a></p> <p>"I do think we have to take a look at this for conflict zones," Clinton <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/23/politics/hillary-clinton-rape-abortion-isis/" target="_blank">said at the town hall</a>, responding to a question from an audience member. "And if the United States government, because of very strong feelings against it, maintains our prohibition, then we are going to have to work through nonprofit groups and work with other countries to...provide the support and medical care that a lot of these women need."</p> <p>A Clinton campaign spokeswoman wrote in an email to the <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-helms-amendment-abortion_us_56bcabdfe4b08ffac124143b?nz4wvcxr" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a> </em>that Clinton would "fix" the Helms amendment: "The systematic use of rape as a tool of war is a tactic of vicious militias and insurgent and terrorist groups around the world. She saw first-hand as Secretary of State the suffering of survivors of sexual violence in armed conflict during her visit to Goma in 2009. She believes we should help women who have been raped in conflict get the care that they need."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Reproductive Rights Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:13:43 +0000 Becca Andrews 296686 at http://www.motherjones.com No One Wants to Take Orders From Marco Rubio http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/no-one-wants-take-orders-marco-rubio <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When the "establishment" is trying to figure out who they support in a presidential primary, I figure one of the key issues is: "Can I imagine myself taking orders from this person?"</p> <p>OK, not "orders," precisely. But you know what I mean. The president is the party leader, and one of the whole points of being part of the establishment is that you're the kind of person who accepts the leadership of your president. This explains, for example, why the establishment is horrified about Donald Trump. They can't imagine taking orders from a politically ignorant jackass like him. And they hate Ted Cruz's guts, so they can't abide the idea of taking orders from him either.</p> <p>But what about Marco Rubio? Everyone's been wondering lately why the establishment didn't rally around Rubio earlier, since he seemed like sort of an obvious choice. My guess is that it's not because they hate Rubio, or because they think he's a buffoon. But they do think he's a nervous and overly ambitious young man who's a bit of an empty suit. If he's the nominee, they'll suck it up and support him. But the idea of taking orders from this pipsqueak sticks in their craw.</p> <p>They're in quite the pickle, aren't they?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 11 Feb 2016 20:17:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 296696 at http://www.motherjones.com