Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Book Review: The Marshmallow Test <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="the marshmallow test" class="image" src="/files/marshmallow-test-250.jpg"></div> <p><strong>The Marshmallow Test</strong></p> <p>By Walter Mischel</p> <p>LITTLE, BROWN</p> <p>Much ado has been made of the titular psych test, in which kids able to wait 20 minutes to earn two marshmallows instead of settling for one right away were shown, decades later, to rate better on everything from educational level to their risk of becoming a drug addict. In this book, Walter Mischel, who designed the original experiment, dispels the notion that the ability to delay gratification is a have-or-not-have trait. The patient kids, he writes, used strategies anyone can learn. ("I think, therefore I can <em>change</em> what I am.") And if you're just not motivated, don't fret. After all, Mischel notes, what fun is life without a little indulgence?</p> <p><em>This review originally appeared in our <a href="" target="_blank">September/October issue</a> of</em> Mother Jones.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Books Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:35:05 +0000 Lei Wang 258996 at 10 Fascinating Articles From the CIA's Secret Employee Magazine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In 2007, Jeffrey Scudder, a veteran information technology specialist at the Central Intelligence Agency, came across the archives of the agency's in-house magazine, <em>Studies in Intelligence</em>. The catch: They were classified. So Scudder filed a Freedom of Information Act request. And then things got messy. "I submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career," he told the <em>Washington Post</em>.</p> <p>As a profile of Scudder in the <em>Post</em> explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>He was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family's computers seized. Stripped of his job and his security clearance, Scudder said he agreed to retire last year after being told that if he refused, he risked losing much of his pension.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, in response to a <a href="" target="_blank">lawsuit filed by Scudder</a>, the CIA has declassified and released some of the hundreds of journal articles he's requested. Nearly 250 of them have been posted <a href="" target="_blank">on the CIA's website</a>. Published over four decades, they offer a fascinating peek at the history of US intelligence as well as the <a href="" target="_blank">corporate culture</a> of "the Company."</p> <p>Here are 10 that grabbed our attention:</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">"How We Are Perceived"</a>:</strong> "It came as a shock to learn that there seem still to be large numbers of well read and presumably intelligent US citizens who perceive that we are assassins, blackmailers, exploiters of sex and illicit drugs as well as the creators of our own foreign policy separate and distinct from that of the Department of State," a clandestine service member wrote in this essay from the winter of 1986. "How can it be that perceptions differ so radically from reality?"</p> <p>Answer: Leaks to the press "together with some of our acknowledged missteps" had fed a trail of Soviet propaganda, which misinformed the American public. Even the State Department and military intelligence harbored "misperceptions" about the work of the CIA, the author continued, listing a half-page of apparent myths&mdash;which has not yet been declassified. "We have the option of keeping mum and allowing the misperceptions to grow, or of tackling them head-on. We have only ourselves to blame if we do nothing to set the record straight."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2. <a href="" target="_blank">"11 September 2001: With the President"</a>:</strong><strong> </strong>President George W. Bush's CIA briefer, Michael J. Morrell, recalls the events of 9/11, which he witnessed as part of the executive entourage:</p> <blockquote> <p>The president asked me who was responsible for the attacks. I said "Sir, I haven't seen any intelligence that would point to responsibility, so what I'm going to say is simply my personal view." The president told me he understood. I said two terrorist states were capable of conducting such a complex operation [REDACTED] I pointed out [REDACTED]; that neither had much to gain and both had plenty to lose from attacking the United States. Rather, I said the culprit was almost certainly a nonstate actor, adding that I had no doubt that the trail would lead to the doorstep of Bin Laden and al-Qa'ida.</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3. <a href="" target="_blank">"Leo Theremin&mdash;CIA Nemesis"</a>:</strong> Best known as the inventor of the <a href="" target="_blank">eponymous instrument</a> used to make UFO noises in B-movies, inventor Leo Theremin was also a Soviet spy. The "Russian Thomas Edison" survived the gulag to become a KGB researcher whose "very existence was a state secret." His biggest coup: Placing an ingenious bug inside a wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States that was given to the American ambassador in Moscow in 1945. The hidden microphone was not found until 1960.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="studies in intelligence" class="image" src="/files/studies-intelligence630px.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Not available on newstands: The CIA's <em>Studies in Intelligence </em></strong>CIA</div> </div> <p><strong>4. <a href="" target="_blank">"An Interview With NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael V. Haydem"</a>: </strong>In this prescient Q&amp;A from the pre-9/11 and pre-Snowden era, the then-NSA director and future CIA director spoke about his agency's reputation for excessive secrecy:</p> <blockquote> <p>Everything's secret. I mean, I got an e-mail saying, "Merry Christmas." It carried a Top Secret NSA classification marking. The easy option is to classify everything. This is an Agency that for most of its existence was well served by not having a public image. When the nation felt its existence was threatened, it was willing to cut agencies like NSA quite a bit of slack. But as that threat perception decreases, there is a natural tendency to say, "Now, tell me again what those guys do?" And, therefore, the absence of a public image seems to be less useful today than it was 25 years ago. I don't think we can survive without a public image.</p> </blockquote> <p>Asked about cooperation between intelligence agencies, Hayden's answer foreshadowed the intelligence failures behind 9/11 and the coming hunt for Osama bin Laden:</p> <blockquote> <p>Without getting too much into some really sensitive stuff, let's think about conducting operations against a major international terrorist leader&hellip;Think about two agencies, for illustrative purposes, 35 miles apart, trying to marry the data to get the son of a gun. And each of them saying, "I'll give you my finished reporting, but not my tickets." You cannot tell me that's the correct approach in the first year of the 21st century. We're like two foreign potentates, negotiating a transfer of prisoners, and we're both wrapping ourselves around our own tradecraft.</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>5. <a href="" target="_blank">"Interview with Erna Flegel"</a>:</strong> In 1981, future CIA chief Richard Helms spoke with a nurse who was stationed in Adolf Hitler's <a href="" target="_blank">Berlin bunker</a> as Nazi Germany collapsed in 1945. About her former employer, whom she was a "fanatical admirer," Flegel gushed, "When Hitler was in the room, he filled it entirely with his personality&mdash;you saw only him, aside from him nothing else existed. The fascinating thing about him was his eyes; up to the end, it was impossible to turn away from his eyes."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/guatemala_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A redacted passage in an article about assassination planning in Guatemala. </strong>CIA</div> </div> <p><strong>6.</strong> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">"CIA and the Guatemala Assassination Proposals, 1952-1954"</a>:</strong> As this heavily-redacted article explains, later reviews of CIA activities in Guatemala in the 1950s turned up documents that had not been disclosed during earlier investigations into CIA assassination plots. What was in those rediscovered files? For example, while it was plotting the overthrow of "Communist" Jacobo Arbenz:</p> <blockquote> <p>Discussions of assassination reached a high level within the Agency. Among those involved were [REDACTED] was present at least one meeting where the subject of assassination came up. DCI Allen Dulles and his special assistant, Richard Bissell, probably were also aware in general terms that assassination was under discussion. Beyond planning, some actual preparations were made. Some assassins were selected, training began, and tentative "hit lists" were drawn up.</p> </blockquote> <p>"Yet," the article asserted, "no covert action plan involving assassinations of Guatemalans was ever approved or implemented."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>7.</strong> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">"Interrogation of an Alleged CIA Agent"</a>:</strong> This 1983 paper opens with the transcript of the questioning of a suspected American operative by a particularly indefatigable interrogator known as A.I.:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A.l.: </strong>Do you work for the American Central Intelligence Agency, Joe?<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>Hell, no.<br><strong>A.l.: </strong>Why do you persist in lying to me?<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>I am not lying. You have no right to treat me like this.<br><strong>A.l.: </strong>Of course not.<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>Since you agree with me, may I go?<br><strong>A.l.: </strong>So you are not lying ... interesting.<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>May I go now?<br><strong>A.l.: </strong>Who are your superiors at the CIA?<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>I don't know what you are talking about.<br><strong>A.l.: </strong>You had better think about that statement before I make a record of it.<br><strong>Hardesty: </strong>Go to hell.<br><strong>A.l.:</strong> Why so hostile?</p> </blockquote> <p>A.I. is short for Artificial Intelligence. The exchange actually took place between a human and a computer, indicating the agency's early interest in the kind of sophisticated computer learning that's since become <a href="" target="_blank">increasingly commonplace</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>8. <a href="" target="_blank">"Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story [REDACTED]"</a>:</strong> This undated release, apparently from the late '90s, takes on the PR disaster spawned by <em>San Jose Mercury-News</em> reporter Gary Webb, who had accused the CIA of <a href="" target="_blank">importing drugs</a> into the United States in the '80s. Webb's claims were "alarming," and the agency was particularly stung by the allegation that it had worked to destroy the black community with illegal drugs. Fortunately, the <em>Studies in Intelligence</em> article explains, "a ground base of already productive relations with journalists" helped "prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster." Hostile reporters attacked Webb's work and he eventually became a persona non grata in the newspaper world.</p> <p>Ultimately, claims the article, part of the problem with the response to Webb's stories was a "societal shortcoming": "The CIA-drug story says a lot more about American society&hellip;that [<em>sic</em>] it does about either CIA or the media. We live in somewhat coarse and emotional times&mdash;when large numbers of Americans do not adhere to the same standards of logic, evidence, or even civil discourse as those practiced by members of the CIA community." In 1998, the agency partly vindicated Webb's reporting by <a href="" target="_blank">admitting</a> that it had had business relationships with major drug dealers. Jeremy Renner stars as the late Webb in a new movie, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Kill the Messenger</em></a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>9.</strong> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">"The Evolution of US Government Restrictions on Using and Exporting Encryption Technologies"</a>: </strong>During the Clinton administration, the government was powerless to stop the development of open-source encryption tools. This <em>Studies in Intelligence</em> article details the many failed official attempts to control the development and proliferation of encryption tools. In the face of opposition from researchers, the business community, and its own experts, the government eventually eased restrictions on the technology. But, as the author noted, spooks yearned for the golden age of electronic eavesdropping: "The US Government, and NSA in particular, would like to return to the Cold War era of complete government control over strong cryptography and skillful manipulation of the research and corporate communities."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>10. <a href="" target="_blank">Par-Faits (And Other Faits)</a></strong>: In 1984, a Mr. [REDACTED] <a href="" target="_blank">compiled quotations</a> from Performance Appraisal Reports (PARs) over the years along with introductory quips. The subjects and supervisors quoted are also, mercifully, anonymous.</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Almost flawless&mdash;so to speak:</strong> "His English is flawless, if not close to it."<br><strong>The clairvoyant case officer:</strong> " ... His operational reporting is often on time, often ahead of time."<br><strong>His eyes are clear but his prose is measured and smoke-watered:</strong> "With the perspective of twenty months of overview of his long march, rather than with the smoke-watered eyes of those who peer too closely into his campfire, I conclude that his pace has been measured."<br><strong>The hyperactive dog of a case officer:</strong> "&hellip;He is a man of constant motion&mdash;some of it unnecessary&hellip;he bloodhounds even the longest odds and opportunities."<br><strong>Although some may wonder:</strong> "All said and done, Mr. S. is human."</p> </blockquote></body></html> MoJo Civil Liberties Foreign Policy Top Stories historical memory Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:13 +0000 Dave Gilson, Michael Mechanic, Alex Park, and AJ Vicens 260596 at Declassified Documents Reveal the CIA's Sense of Humor (and Literary Aspirations) <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Within a trove of recently declassified articles from <em>Studies in Intelligence</em>, the CIA's in-house journal, we found a number of humor pieces based on the agency's internal employee evaluations. Here is one such piece in its entirety, from the Spring 1984 issue. The author's name was, naturally, redacted.</p> <p><span class="section-lead"><strong>****</strong></span></p> <p><span class="section-lead"><strong>PAR-Faits (AND OTHER Faits)</strong></span></p> <p>What follow are quotations from Performance Appraisal Reports that Mr. [redacted] compiled over the years, and for which he composed introductory comments. The quotations are rendered faithfully, with typographical and other errors intact, for they contribute to the fun. The subjects, supervisors, and reviewing officials mentioned and quoted in this compilation are to remain forever, and mercifully, anonymous.</p> <p><strong>The Golden Rule-Redux:</strong></p> <p>"I believe that the readers of this PAR, as well as the previous one written by the Rating Officer, should know that the Rating Officer and I have had and continue to have many strong personal and professional differences of opinion. He believes, for example, that I have reached my level of competency, and I believe that he has exceeded his."</p> <p><strong>Mastering the surprise ending:</strong></p> <p>"It should be recognized that by employing the proper technique, very comfortable shoes can be made from a sow's ear but making [redacted] silk purse requires an entirely different raw material."</p> <p><strong>Making no bones about it-in the vernacular:</strong></p> <p>"Subject is also responsible for all Headquarters support of a complex covert action operation aimed at maintaining the political stability of a regime headed up by a weirdo who goes around saying things like 'dat get me shame'."</p> <p><strong>When faint praise is called for:</strong></p> <p>"Operationally, Subject was not loafing."</p> <p><strong>For one who skates well on thin ice:</strong></p> <p>"Subject is quick to spot thin stuff and do something about it&mdash;particularly when it comes to good operational tradecraft."</p> <p><strong>For one who can bench press human dynamics while reciting from Rabindranath Tagore:</strong></p> <p>"His ability in oral expression and human dynamics was strongly demonstrated... "</p> <p><strong>Growth Potential:</strong></p> <p>"As the period drew to a close, Subjects apparatus had begun taking shape... "</p> <p><strong>Being hugely successful:</strong></p> <p>"He largely recruited a high level source."</p> <p><strong>What to do to protect colleagues from being hit by large and fast moving desks:</strong></p> <p>"Mr. [redacted] continued to be the Elmer's glue of the large and fast-moving [redacted] Desk.</p> <p><strong>Almost flawless&mdash;so to speak:</strong></p> <p>"His English is flawless, if not close to it."</p> <p><strong>When in doubt clutter things up; its good for cover:</strong></p> <p>"He characteristically complicates simple things."</p> <p><strong>The smiling, freely offered thumb in the eye:</strong></p> <p>"One thing not noted previously is his calm and pleasant demeanor which tends gratuitously to mask his toughness as a case officer."</p> <p><strong>The clairvoyant case officer:</strong></p> <p>"...His operational reporting is often on time, often ahead of time."</p> <p><strong>Then there's this little QP drummer:</strong></p> <p>"He marches to the beat of his own drummer."</p> <p><strong>Although not a hot-head:</strong></p> <p>"This officer has a warm mind."</p> <p><strong>His eyes are clear but his prose is measured and smoke-watered:</strong></p> <p>"With the perspective of twenty months of overview of his long march, rather than with the smoke-watered eyes of those who peer too closely into his campfire, I conclude that his pace has been measured."</p> <p><strong>Big jokes from little mischiefs grow?</strong></p> <p>"...his personal eagerness tends sometimes to lead him into small mischiefs."</p> <p><strong>Although an off-quay visionary he can trumpet, and drum, and stomp his foot all at the same time:</strong></p> <p>"He has been like a one-man band trying to cover the waterfront on a far frontier."</p> <p><strong>The Good Humor Man endures:</strong></p> <p>"He has endured rapid personnel changes with good humor."</p> <p><strong>The hyperactive dog of a case officer:</strong></p> <p>"...He is a man of constant motion&mdash;some of it unnecessary...he bloodhounds even the longest odds and opportunities."</p> <p><strong>Although some may wonder:</strong></p> <p>"All said and done, Mr. S. is human."</p> <p><strong>When tippling leads to being Freud, and the naked truth must be revealed:</strong></p> <p>"At the right psychological moment he unfrocked himself in [redacted] cafe."</p> <p><strong>The crawl-on-your-belly-and-hiss approach:</strong></p> <p>"...a target of opportunity whom he approached in his own inimical style."</p> <p><strong>Dignity in catastrophe: </strong></p> <p>"Subject handles flaps with aplomb."</p> <p><strong>Standing tall in the Lilliput of Liaison:</strong></p> <p>"Due to his height this man should probably be directed along liaison lines or staff work."</p> <p><strong>The runaway case officer:</strong></p> <p>"He is not only a self-starter but a self-goer&mdash;at times tending to go too fast."</p> <p><strong>Unless one speaks quietly and carries a big stick:</strong></p> <p>"The operational carrot is easily lost sight of and is difficult to catch."</p> <p><strong>The Case of the Abandoned Suitcase:</strong></p> <p>"He began to pursue ops leads as soon as his suitcase hit the ground."</p> <p><strong>The cape-and-dagger jock:</strong></p> <p>"He involves himself athletically in Base and local activities."</p> <p><strong>The strong tryer:</strong></p> <p>"I would rate his effort to do the job as strong."</p> <p><strong>When finishing working hard on his syntax...:</strong></p> <p>"He at least secured his own housing on which he has been working hard to fix up."</p> <p><strong>The monosyllabic hot dog:</strong></p> <p>"His performance has been-WOW"</p> <p><strong>The musty Middle East:</strong></p> <p>"This officer has been associated long enough with Arab affairs. He now needs fresh air."</p> <p><strong>After making good strides in the wrong direction...:</strong></p> <p>"He has made good strides in the right direction."</p> <p><strong>The gritty performer:</strong></p> <p>"This officers performance has been outsanding."</p> <p><strong>The forward leaning, vine swinging Case officer:</strong></p> <p>"Mr. K. moved in sure-handed fashion."</p> <p><strong>The Compleat hard target Case officer:</strong></p> <p>"He is a hard-nosed supervisor and a hard-headed officer."</p> <p><strong>Besieged, bothered and bewildered:</strong></p> <p>"He has reached a standoff with the bureaucracy around him."</p> <p><strong>The operational arsonist:</strong></p> <p>"Subject has kept the target fires burning."</p> <p><strong>When aptitude isn't apt:</strong></p> <p>"His apptitude for spelling is poor."</p> <p><strong>When he's not plodding he Lies down, humps his back and makes himself small:</strong></p> <p>"He is steady and defendable."</p> <p><strong>Because his compass came in his air freight...:</strong></p> <p>"It took the officer less than one week after his arrival here to get his bearings.</p> <p><strong>Just give him a tune-up, but don't touch the cheerful plugs:</strong></p> <p>"He tries hard in a situation that has him more stymied than most of us, and he plugs along cheerfully."</p> <p><strong>The lean and meaningness officer:</strong></p> <p>"He has brought new energy and meaningness to the program."</p> <p><strong>While shunning the unusual infinitude of every day chores...:</strong></p> <p>"He handles the usual infinitude of occasional case officer tasks."</p> <p><strong>To be some kind of mixed up butterfly...:</strong></p> <p>" ... He needs to get the operational chrysallis out of the political coccoon it is in."</p> <p><strong>He trembles at dullness, but&mdash;:</strong></p> <p>"He confidently attends all sorts of events of interest."</p> <p><strong>The wary grunter:</strong></p> <p>"He gives a negative first impression, primarily because he is inarticulate."</p> <p><strong>When the anatomy of an Advance Work Plan is necessarily obscure:</strong></p> <p>"Mr. S. has had supervisory responsibility for parts of two I.A.'s..."</p> <p><strong>Not risking over confidence:</strong></p> <p>"He can look back at this job as 'pretty well done'."</p> <p><strong>The little engine with the retarded spark:</strong></p> <p>"During the reviewing period this officer has made good use of the limited intelligence resources available to him."</p> <p><strong>Somewhere down there is gold; it just doesn't pan out:</strong></p> <p>"Subject probably has much good in him. Somehow, though, it has not come through."</p> <p><strong>The tribal wit:</strong></p> <p>" ... he is a happy headhunter."</p> <p><strong>In addition to avoiding prickly confrontations...:</strong></p> <p>"Subject is not one to sit on his laurels."</p> <p><strong>Migratory fixation:</strong></p> <p>"I am looking forward to the next reviewing period when the birds will come home to roost." (next FR) "They have, and they have settled on the highest branches."</p> <p><strong>Seen through a glass darkly:</strong></p> <p>"Insofar as I am able to comprehend it, I have no quarrel with the substance of the rating officer's comments."</p> <p><em>Click <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> to view the original document&mdash;and "<a href="" target="_blank">More PAR Bloopers</a>," courtesy of your favorite spy agency. </em></p></body></html> Mixed Media Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:00:13 +0000 Michael Mechanic 260591 at "NO." Scotland Will Not Leave the United Kingdom <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>David Cameron has been spared his worst fear: Being the Tory who lost England's hat. <em>The</em> <em>Guardian</em> <a href="" target="_blank">has called</a> the independence referendum and it appears that voters have declined to strike out on their own. Scotland will not leave the United Kingdom.</p> <p>"No" was the slight favorite heading into yesterday's vote, but that doesn't mean England isn't breathing a sigh of relief. A few months ago this result would have come as no surprise, but as the polls tightened over the last few weeks, storm clouds set in over Westminster, and the narrative seemed to suggest independence was in the wind. If momentum was in fact on the "Yes" side, it ran out of time.</p> <p>The referendum was the result of decades of work on the part of Scottish nationalists. And though they lost, it's hard to say that traditional Unionists really won. There will be <a href="" target="_blank">further devolution</a>. Scotland will have more autonomy than at any time since joining the Union. Indeed, if Labour wins the next election, greater devolution could be coming to Wales and Northern England as well, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Ed Milibrand</a>. None of that wouldn't be happening had the SNP not made this race so close.</p> <p>Most everyone outside of Scotland is happy about this because it saves them a lot of messiness, especially in Brussels and DC. As my Welsh godmother said in reference to her Edinburgh-born husband, "I'm glad I'm not suddenly married to a foreigner."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo International Top Stories Fri, 19 Sep 2014 04:32:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 260566 at Hillary Clinton Threads the Needle: Obama's Done Okay But Economic Benefits Need to Be "Broadly Shared" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton doesn't think much of her old employer. "Congress living in an evidence free zone," she said Thursday, "where what the reality is in the lives of Americans is so far from the minds of too many." Speaking on a panel about women and economics hosted by the Center for American Progress (a liberal think tank run by Clinton's ex-policy advisor Neera Tanden), Clinton gave a few hints of which domestic policy proposals could anchor her presumed 2016 presidential campaign.</p> <p>Speaking in non-partisan terms, Clinton slammed Congress for its lack of action on raising the minimum wage, with the former secretary of state saying that a failure to boost the wages of the working poor is particularly damaging for women. She noted that two-thirds of minimum wage jobs are held by women. "The floor is collapsing&mdash;we talk about a glass ceiling, these women don't even have a secure floor under them," she said.</p> <p>Boosting the minimum wage has become a standard Democratic talking point. But Clinton went beyond that standard fare and emphasized the plight of tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, bartenders, and hair stylists. "Women hold nearly three-quarters of the jobs that are reliant on tips," she said. "And in fact, they don't get the minimum wage with the tips on top of it."</p> <p>Although the federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour since 2009, there is an exemption carved out for workers who receive tips. Employers only have to pay those people $2.13 an hour (steady since 1991); the tips are presumed to make up for the difference. But often times the tips don't suffice, and <a href="" target="_blank">employers, who are supposed to fill the gap, don't always do so</a>.</p> <p>These workers are "at the mercy not only of customers who can decide or not to tip," Clinton said. "They're at the mercy of their employers who may collect the tips and not turn them back."</p> <p>Clinton didn't dive into the policy details on how to fix this problem. But the Center for American Progress <a href="" target="_blank">released</a> a report right after the event that suggested raising the tipped wage up to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage (which the report proposed bumping to $10.10 per hour).</p> <p>The general tone of Clinton's speech suggested how she'd thread the needle by supporting President Barack Obama's record while crafting her own agenda when she hits the campaign trail. "The president came in&mdash;he deserves an enormous amount of credit for stanching the bleeding and preventing a further deterioration and getting us out of that ditch we were in," she said. "But we know that unless we change our policies, a lot of the benefits are not going to be broadly shared, and that's what we're talking about here."</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Income Inequality Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:14:34 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 260531 at Don't Worry, the Crazy Is Coming Soon in the House Benghazi Hearing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday's Benghazi hearing, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R&ndash;SC), was shockingly calm. Aside from a bit of gotcha over a 15-year-old report, there were no conspiracy theories, no hot buttons pressed, no shrieking clown shows. The extremely sober topic was whether the State Department has been <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gowdy_hearing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">successfully implementing the recommendations made by the Accountability Review Board shortly after the attacks. Everyone was on their best behavior, <a href="" target="_blank">and even Ed Kilgore was impressed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now it's possible Gowdy will be taken to the woodshed by other Republicans (not to mention the conservative media that has made <em>Benghazi!</em> a sort of national security counterpart to Agenda 21), and come back snarling and ranting. But for the first time since September 11, 2012, the subject is being discussed by Republicans in an atmosphere that isn't reminiscent of a Tea Party street rally.</p> </blockquote> <p>Go ahead and call me a stone partisan blinded by my own ill will toward Republicans, but come on. Gowdy doesn't need to be taken to the woodshed by anyone. This is just well-played theater from a guy who's a mite smarter than the usual tea party crackpot. He's gulling everyone into treating this like a serious investigation so that he'll have some credibility stored up when it comes time for the hundredth repetition of the stand-down myth or the latest insane parsing of the White House talking points. That's what this is all about.</p> <p>I'll apologize if Gowdy manages to keep the tone of this hearing civil and judicious all the way to the end. But I'm not too worried about having to eat any crow here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Military The Right Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:01:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 260571 at This Restaurant Is Trying To Be The Worst One on Yelp <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Botto Bistro wants to be the worst-reviewed restaurant on Yelp. Fed up with <a href="" target="_blank">the site's alleged manipulation</a> of consumer reviews, owners David Cerretini and Michele Massimo have been offering a 25 percent discount at their Bay Area Italian eatery for each excoriating Yelp review, the <em>Richmond Standard</em> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>. Here are some recent entries from Botto Bistro's <a href="" target="_blank">Yelp page</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Yelp1.png"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Yelp2.png"></div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Yelp3.png"></div> <p>Yelp has for years <a href="" target="_blank">been accused</a> of soliciting money from mom-and-pop restaurant owners in exchange for hiding negative customer reviews. In response to a lawsuit over the alleged practice, a court recently ruled that Yelp <a href="" target="_blank">has the legal right to manipulate reviews</a> and engage in "hard bargaining"&mdash;practices restaurant owners have called extortion. Yelp denies that it accepts money to alter or suppress reviews.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">According to Inside Scoop SF</a>, Yelp's only response to Botto Bistro has been a boilerplate email from its customer service division (see below), to which the restaurant sent a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/botto%20exchange.png"><div class="caption">Inside Scoop SF</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Food and Ag Tech yelp Thu, 18 Sep 2014 19:34:08 +0000 Josh Harkinson 260561 at How to Discriminate Against Pre-Existing Conditions in Two Easy Tiers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Via ProPublica, here's an editorial published yesterday <a href="" target="_blank">in the <em>American Journal of Managed Care</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For many years, most insurers had formularies that consisted of only 3 tiers: Tier 1 was for generic drugs (lowest co-pay), Tier 2 was for branded drugs that were designated &ldquo;preferred&rdquo; (higher co- pay), and Tier 3 was for &ldquo;nonpreferred&rdquo; branded drugs (highest co-pay)....Now, however, a number of insurers have split their all-generics tier into a bottom tier consisting of &ldquo;preferred&rdquo; generics, and a second tier consisting of &ldquo;non-preferred&rdquo; generics.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. What's going on here? In some cases, this new non-preferred tier is reserved for higher-priced medicines. That's pretty easy to understand: insurers are trying to motivate their patients to choose cheaper drugs when they're available. That's the same reason copays are lower for generics compared to brand name drugs.</p> <p>But it turns out that sometimes <em>all</em> the generic drugs for a particular disease are non-preferred and therefore have high copays. What are insurance companies trying to motivate in these cases? <a href="" target="_blank">Charles Ornstein takes a guess:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The editorial comes several months after two advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services claiming that several Florida health plans sold in the Affordable Care Act marketplace discriminated against H.I.V. patients by charging them more for drugs.</p> <p>Specifically, the complaint contended that the plans placed all of their H.I.V. medications, including generics, in their highest of five cost tiers, meaning that patients had to pay 40 percent of the cost after paying a deductible. The complaint is pending.</p> <p><strong>"It seems that the plans are trying to find this wiggle room to design their benefits to prevent people who have high health needs from enrolling,"</strong> said Wayne Turner, a staff lawyer at the National Health Law Program, which filed the complaint alongside the AIDS Institute of Tampa, Fla.</p> </blockquote> <p>If <em>all</em> your HIV drugs are expensive, then people with HIV will look for another plan. Technically, you're not discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition, but you're sure giving them a reason to shop around someplace else, aren't you?</p> <p>At the moment, this practice appears to be confined to just a few insurers and a few classes of drugs. But if it catches on, it will prompt everyone to follow suit. After all, you can hardly afford to be the insurance company of choice for chronically sick people, can you? This is worth keeping an eye on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:37:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 260556 at Here Are the 10 Best Songs for Scotland's Historic Vote for Independence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Scotland is heading to the polls right now to decide on whether or not to become an independent country. A "Yes" vote would be the biggest constitutional change for the United Kingdom in over three centuries, splintering a long-held relationship that has seen the good times and the bad, and weathered plenty of mutual disagreements up until now. And like any pending break-up, we find that music helps soothe or heighten the experience, and connects us to the universal themes of love and loss.&nbsp;So, Scottish chums, whatever side you're on, here's a playlist for you, on this almighty day-of-days.</p> <p><b>1. Queen: I Want to Break Free</b></p> <p>Obviously. One for the "Yes" camp. (Worth it in my opinion just for Freddy with a mustache in drag vacuuming the carpet.) "I want to break free from your lies/You're so self-satisfied I don't need you/I've got to break free!" Sing it Freddy. Sing it Scotland.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><b>2. Natalie Imbruglia: Torn</b></p> <p>If Scotland votes "Yes" and leaves the union bereft and sobbing, this Aussie songtress might be blaring from&nbsp;a few stereos across the Isles tomorrow:&nbsp;"Nothing's fine, I'm torn." Sing it England! Sing it Wales!</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>3. &acirc;&#128;&#139;&acirc;&#128;&#139;Bj&ouml;rk: Declare Independence</strong></p> <p>This is a&nbsp;song that famously landed the Icelandic singer in hot water with the Chinese authorities after a 2008 concert in Shanghai&nbsp;in which she called&nbsp;for Tibetan independence. Brave.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">She faced a&nbsp;ban</a>&nbsp;from future performances on the mainland after that. It's easy to see why China's famously&nbsp;censorial authorities were not impressed: "Start your own currency!/Make your own stamp/Protect your language/Declare independence/Don't let them do that to you!"</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>4. Oasis:&nbsp;Don&rsquo;t Look Back In Anger</strong></p> <p>No matter what happens, some good advice for both sides. "My soul slides away, but don't look back in anger."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>5. Alicia Keys: Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart</strong></p> <p>Here's one for an emotional Prime Minister David Cameron, potentially presiding over a messy, painful divorce.&nbsp;"I'm going to find a way to make it without you/Tonight, I'm going to find a way to make it, without you." Ouch. Let it out.</p> <p>&acirc;&#128;&#139;<iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>6. &acirc;&#128;&#139;Thelma Houston: Don't Leave Me This Way</strong></p> <p>That beat speaks for itself.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>7. Beyonce: Irreplaceable</strong></p> <p>"Don't ever get to thinking you're irreplaceable," sings Queen Bey. This is the anthem for pretending everything will be fine post-breakup, that it's not a big deal, that you can find another, just as easily, and that it wasn't that good anyway, so don't go thinking you meant anything to me... Get lost.</p> <p>(I love you, come back).</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>8. Boyz II Men: End of the Road</strong></p> <p>"Although we've come to the end of the road/Still I can't let you go/It's unnatural, you belong to me, I belong to you."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>9. Mariah Carey: We Belong Together</strong></p> <p>Who could miss this song in any breakup playlist? It's worth watching to the part of the video where Mariah is losing her shit in the&nbsp;apartment, writhing in the short tunic-shirt thing, near the&nbsp;end of this narratively nonsensical clip.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>10. Alice Deejay: Better Off Alone</strong></p> <p>Mm. And lastly, any break-up is incomplete without some sweet late-90s Top 40.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media International Media Music Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:24:56 +0000 James West 260526 at IHOP Has Cut Back Its Menu By 30 Items <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's an interesting factoid: in 2008 we apparently reached Peak Menu. That year, the average menu contained 99.7 items. Then the housing bubble burst, we entered the Great Recession, and menus <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_menu_length.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">began to shrink. Today's menus feature a paltry 92.6 items.</p> <p>Why is this? Cost is one reason: it's cheaper to support a smaller menu. But Roberto Ferdman writes that <a href="" target="_blank">there's more to it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The biggest impetus for all the menu shrinking going on is likely tied to a change in the country's food culture: Americans are becoming a bit more refined in their tastes.</p> <p>"Historically, the size of menus grew significantly because there wasn't the food culture there is today,"&nbsp;said [Maeve Webster, a senior director at Datassential]. "People weren't nearly as focused on the food, or willing to go out of their way to eat specific foods."</p> <p>For that reason, as well as the fact that there were&nbsp;fewer restaurants then, there used to be&nbsp;a greater&nbsp;incentive for restaurants to serve as many food options as possible. That way, a customer could would choose a particular restaurant because it was near or convenient, rather than for a specific food craving (which probably wasn't all that outlandish anyway). But now, given the increasing demand for quality over quantity, a growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines, Americans are&nbsp;more&nbsp;likely to judge a restaurant if its offerings aren't specific enough.</p> <p>"The rise of food culture, where consumers are both interested and willing to go to a restaurant that has the best Banh Mi sandwich, or the best burger, or the best trendy item of the moment, means that operators can now create much more focused menus," said Webster. "It also means that&nbsp;the larger the menu, the more consumers might worry all those things aren't going to be all that good."</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Let me say, based on precisely no evidence, that I find this unlikely. Have American tastes really gotten more refined since 2008? Color me skeptical. And even if American palates <em>are</em> more discriminating, are we seriously suggesting that this has affected the menu length at IHOP, Tony Roma's, and Olive Garden&mdash;the three examples cited in the article? I hope this isn't just my inner elitist showing, but I don't normally associate those fine establishments with a "growing appetite for exotic foods and a willingness to seek out specialized cuisines."</p> <p>So, anyway, put me down firmly in the cost-cutting camp. Long menus got too expensive to support, and when the Great Recession hit, casual dining chains needed to cut costs. They did this by lopping off dishes that were either expensive to prep or not very popular or both. Occam's Razor, my friends, Occam's Razor.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Food and Ag Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:11:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 260536 at Apple Gives Its Middle Finger to the NSA <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm a little late getting started this morning, even though I actually woke up much earlier than usual. What happened is that I wrote a post; then lost it by hitting the wrong key and blowing away my browser window; then recreated it; and then decided not to publish it after all. I'm still not sure if this is because the post was genuinely ill-conceived, or because I'm just <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_apple_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">too cowardly to put it up. Questions, questions....</p> <p>In any case, <a href="" target="_blank">I'm fascinated to see this tidbit</a> among all the boring recent Apple iPhone news (bigger screen, thinner profile, yawn):</p> <blockquote> <p>Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police &mdash; even when they have a search warrant &mdash; taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.</p> <p>....The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said in the new privacy policy.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure how universally this kind of technical fix can be applied elsewhere. I have a feeling that in practice, it's probably a limited solution. But it would certainly be a bit of poetic justice if the NSA's overreach and the government's unwillingness to rein them in led to a sea change in private security that simply makes it impossible to respond to mass requests for customer data.</p> <p>Of course, this might not be the end of things. For the time being, actual traditional governments with police forces and courts are still more powerful than even the highest of high-tech corporations. If Congress passes a law requiring Apple to maintain unlock codes, then they'll have to do it whether they like it or not. I wonder how this is all going to play out?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Tech Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:54:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 260521 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 18, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Marines prepare to conduct a simulated raid in Hawaii, part of their pre-deployment training cycle.(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Thu, 18 Sep 2014 13:26:11 +0000 260511 at The MoJo Investigative Fund Needs Your Help <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Mother Jones Investigative Fund is the secret behind some of the best work <em>Mother Jones</em> does. Right now we're trying to raise an infusion of $65,000 over the next two weeks, and I'm worried that we won't reach our goal.</p> <p>The urgency is real. Just look at the headlines: The pivotal midterm elections are approaching, with nearly unlimited &ldquo;dark money&rdquo; flowing to candidates. Politicians are itching to send our military back into the Middle East quagmire. Our police forces are being militarized at a scary pace. Women, immigrants, and the poor are under attack.</p> <p>But <em>Mother Jones</em> is fighting back. We expose the powerful, reveal the truth, and shape the national debate with solid, unassailable reporting. If you support this kind of reporting, please donate $5 or more to our investigative fund. Your gift of any amount is fully tax-deductible, and we'll immediately use it to support <em>Mother Jones'</em> reporting.</p> <p>It only takes a minute to make your tax-deductible contribution, and you can give using your smartphone, tablet, or computer.</p> <ul><li>To donate via credit card, <a href=";list_source=7Z94DRU&amp;extra_don=1" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> <li>To donate via PayPal, <a href=";hosted_button_id=LDTEDETCLTJSY" target="_blank">click here.</a></li> </ul><p>Thanks!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 260501 at The Walmart Heirs Give a Measly Amount to Charity <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Walmart heirs are infamous for their <a href="" target="_blank">wealth</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">penny-pinching</a>. Christy, Jim, Alice, and Rob Walton wouldn't be the sixth-, seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-richest Americans, respectively, if not for Walmart's relentless <a href="" target="_blank">exploitation of its low-wage workers</a>. But the Waltons' stinginess also extends to their philanthropy. According to a new analysis by the union-backed <a href="" target="_blank">Making Change at Walmart</a> campaign, the Walton scions give way less money to charity than other &uuml;ber-rich Americans. In fact, the six other richest Americans have each donated many times more money to philanthropic causes than all four Walton heirs combined:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Walton-charity-WEB.gif"><div class="caption">Making Change at Walmart</div> </div> <p>Typically, the extremely wealthy give <a href="" target="_blank">a higher portion of their incomes</a> to charity than middle and upper-middle income Americans. After all, you can only buy so many yachts, vacation homes, and Teslas before you start to look for other ways to spend money. But that doesn't seem to be true for the Waltons, who've redefined what it means to be a Scrooge. Americans' average net worth is about <a href="" target="_blank">$650,000</a> per household (the median is only about <a href="" target="_blank">$70,000</a>), and the average annual charitable donation is about <a href="" target="_blank">$3,000 per household</a>. Meanwhile, the average Walton has a net worth of $36 billion and gives about $730,000 to charity each year. This means that the four richest Waltons have, on average, a net worth that's 55,000 times higher than that of the average American household, yet give, as a percent of that wealth, about 1/230th as much to charity in a typical year:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="200" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="600"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo Charts Income Inequality Top Stories Walmart Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:30:07 +0000 Josh Harkinson 260491 at Quote of the Day #2: Pick an Issue, Any Issue <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From self-declared visionary Newt Gingrich,</a> asked what the Republican agenda should be for this year's campaign:</p> <blockquote> <p>I don&rsquo;t actually care what it is, for the next seven weeks, as long as it exists.</p> </blockquote> <p>Come on, folks! Just pick anything that sounds good and rally around it. Does Newt have to do <em>all</em> your thinking for you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections The Right Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:21:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 260506 at Scotland Should Plan On Having Its Own Currency <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When provinces propose a split with the mother country, they usually insist that they'll continue to use the old currency. This is odd on its face since having your own money is usually considered one of the key attributes of a sovereign state. So what's the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pound_sterling.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">appeal of keeping the old country's currency? <a href="" target="_blank">Greg Ip ponders the question:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Facilitating trade and capital movements is only one part of the story. Another, I think, is political and emotional. Forming a new country is fraught with risk. For savers, in particular the elderly, one risk looms especially large: that one&rsquo;s retirement savings are suddenly redenominated in a new currency whose value is then inflated away. In both Quebec and Scotland, independence is mostly a movement of the left, and a separate currency would create the ever-present temptation to use the printing press to accommodate fiscal expansion and industrial policy. By promising to keep the old currency, separatists are reassuring savers that they will not succumb to the temptation of inflation.</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder if this is true? I hope it's not. I don't have a strong opinion about Scottish independence, but I do have a strong opinion about this. Here it is: if you favor independence, but only if Scotland holds onto the British pound, you're an idiot. If you don't trust a Scottish government to run its own monetary policy, then you don't trust a Scottish government. Period.</p> <p>There are other arguments for currency union, of course, but I don't think they add up to much. Nor do I truly believe them. They mostly seem like post hoc rationalizations to provide people with a more palatable reason for keeping the British pound than fear of a reckless Scottish monetary authority. Generally speaking, the history of currency unions is simply too fraught for anyone who's paying attention to really think it's a good idea. And as Ip points out, they rarely last very long anyway.</p> <p>An independent Scotland should have its own currency and its own monetary policy. If this makes you nervous, then the whole idea of independence should make you nervous.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Wed, 17 Sep 2014 21:38:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 260496 at Prison Rates are Down. Thanks to Lead, They're Going to Stay Down. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday the Bureau of Justice Statistics released the latest numbers on incarceration rates, and the headline news is that we're sending fewer people to prison. But there's an interesting wrinkle in the numbers that few news outlets have picked up on, even though it's a trend that's been obvious in the numbers for a long time. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_incarceration_rate_age.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 70px;"></p> <p>That's from Rick Nevin, and you know what's coming next, don't you? Lead. It explains a lot of what's going on here.</p> <p>The US started phasing out gasoline lead in 1975, which means that children born after 1975 were exposed to steadily less lead. And the effect was cumulative: the later they were born, the less lead they were exposed to and the less crime they committed when they grew up. However, children born <em>before</em> 1975 were unaffected by all this. They were born in a high-lead era, and since all that matters is exposure during early childhood, the damage had already been done.</p> <p>In 2013, this means that the statistics show a reduction in crime rates in adults under the age of 40, and the younger the cohort the lower the crime rate. Unsurprisingly, this also means they're incarcerated at lower rates. The chart above shows this fairly dramatically.</p> <p>But it also shows that incarceration rates have stayed steady or increased for older men. Those <em>over</em> the age of 40 had their lives ruined by lead when they were children, and the effect was permanent. They're still committing crimes and being sent to prison at the same rate as ever. It's hard to explain both these trends&mdash;lower prison rates for kids, higher prison rates for the middle-aged&mdash;without taking lead into account.</p> <p>This is one of the reasons that the lead-crime hypothesis is important. In one sense, it's little more than a historical curio. It explains the rise and fall of crime between 1960 and 2010, but by now most environmental lead has been cleaned up and there's only a limited amount left to worry about. So it's interesting, but nothing more.</p> <p>But here's why it matters: if the hypothesis is true, it means that violent crime rates aren't down because of transient factors like drug use or poverty or harsh penal codes. The reduction is permanent. Our children are just flatly less violent than the lead-addled kids who grew up in the years after World War II. And that in turn means that the decline in incarceration rates is permanent. We don't need as much prison space as we used to, and we don't need punitive penal codes designed to toss kids behind bars for 20 years at the first sign of danger.</p> <p>In other words, we can ease up. Our kids are less violent and our streets are less dangerous. Nor is that likely to change. The lead is mostly gone, and it's going to stay gone. We're safer today not because of broken windows or three-strikes laws or 20-year sentences for dealing cocaine. We're safer because we're no longer poisoning our children in ways that turn them into hair-trigger thugs. And guess what? If we cleaned up the ambient lead that still remains, we'd be even safer 20 years from now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Science Wed, 17 Sep 2014 17:18:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 260461 at Quote of the Day: Go Away, I'm Performing Brain Surgery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby,</a> declining to respond to allegations of plagiarism:</p> <blockquote> <p>Dr. Wehby is too busy performing brain surgery on sick children to respond, sorry.</p> </blockquote> <p>This might be the most brilliant refusal to comment ever in the history of politics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:03:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 260456 at Republicans Are No Longer Favored To Take Control of the Senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Speaking of poll aggregators and the Senate race, <a href="" target="_blank">here's an interesting infographic from Vox:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_senate_average.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>I actually haven't been following the polling super closely, so I didn't realize that basically no one is still projecting a Republican takeover except for Nate Silver&mdash;though things are still close enough that none of this probably means much yet. We're still six weeks away from Election Day, and a lot can happen in six weeks.</p> <p>Still, there's a bottom line here for reporters: <em>Republicans are no longer favored to take control of the Senate.</em> At least, not by the folks who have had the best records for projecting election results over the past decade or so. This should no longer be the default assumption of campaign roundup stories.</p> <p>There's much more at the link, including forecasts for individual races.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:43:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 260446 at Polling Cage Fight Heats Up Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Nate Silver today:</p> <blockquote> <p>I don&rsquo;t like to call out other forecasters by name unless I have something positive to say about them....</p> </blockquote> <p>But he wants to make an exception for one guy: Sam Wang. The guy is so preposterously deluded that <a href="" target="_blank">something just has to be said:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That model is wrong &mdash; not necessarily because it shows Democrats ahead (ours barely shows any Republican advantage), but because it substantially underestimates the uncertainty associated with polling averages....In 2010, for example, Wang&rsquo;s model made Sharron Angle the favorite in Nevada against Harry Reid; it estimated she was 2 points ahead in the polls, but with a standard error of just 0.5 points. If we drew a graphic based on Wang&rsquo;s forecast like the ones we drew above,<sup></sup>it would have Angle winning the race 99.997 percent of the time, meaning that Reid&rsquo;s victory was about a 30,000-to-1 long shot. To be clear, the FiveThirtyEight model had Angle favored also, but it provided for much more uncertainty. Reid&rsquo;s win came as a 5-to-1 underdog in our model instead of a 30,000-to-1 underdog in Wang&rsquo;s; those are very different forecasts....If you want a &ldquo;polls only&rdquo; model that estimates the uncertainty more rigorously, I&rsquo;d recommend The Huffington Post&rsquo;s or Drew Linzer&rsquo;s.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not quite sure how it happened, but Silver has managed to become truly torqued off about Wang. If Wang's prediction of this year's Senate race turns out to be more accurate than Silver's, I almost hate to think what might happen. Silver's head is going to explode or something. In any case, this is far <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wang_senate_2014_09_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 10px 15px 30px;">more fun than you normally get from a couple of geeky poll aggregators.</p> <p>By the way, Wang is now <a href="" target="_blank">projecting</a> that Democrats have an 81 percent chance of controlling the Senate after the election. Not by much, mind you: he figures they're likely to hold exactly 50 seats, which would make Joe Biden the tiebreaker and give Democrats a bare majority. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 17 Sep 2014 14:47:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 260441 at We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 17, 2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Army soldiers prepare to board a CH-47F Chinook with the Flying Dragons task force, which searches for illegal weapons in compounds in Afghanistan. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:43:43 +0000 260431 at Book Review: The Underground Girls of Kabul <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="underground gils of kabul" class="image" src="/files/girls-kabul-250.jpg"></div> <p><strong>The Underground Girls of Kabul</strong></p> <p>By Jenny Nordberg</p> <p>CROWN PUBLISHING</p> <p>It sucks to be female in Afghanistan. No surprise there. Journalist Jenny Nordberg's revelation&mdash;to Western eyes, anyway&mdash;is that more than a few Afghan families raise their girls as boys. The practice, <em>bacha posh</em>, accepted when done discreetly, serves as a roundabout way for girls to attend school and earn money, and for couples who lack sons to avoid public humiliation. The real tension comes with puberty, when the bacha posh is expected to give up her ambitions, respectful treatment, male playmates, and even her freedom to leave the home. Nordberg's intimate exploration leaves us rooting for her brave subjects, if deeply pessimistic about the prospects of women in this maddeningly repressive culture.</p> <p><em>This review originally appeared in our <a href="" target="_blank">September/October issue</a> of</em> Mother Jones.&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Afghanistan Books Sex and Gender Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:30:05 +0000 Michael Mechanic 258981 at Poverty Keeps Getting Worse and Worse for Working-Age Adults <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Census Bureau released its <a href="" target="_blank">annual poverty report</a> today, and the headline number shows that the official poverty rate declined from 15.0 percent to 14.5 percent. This decline was driven entirely by a drop in the number of children living in poverty.</p> <p>This gives me an excuse to make a point that doesn't get made often enough. You'll often see charts showing that the overall poverty rate has remained roughly the same since the late 60s, and that's true. But this is largely due to more generous Social Security benefits, which have reduced elderly poverty from over 30 percent to under 10 percent.</p> <p>There's been no such reduction among working age adults. In fact, just the opposite. The low point for working-age poverty was about 9 percent, reached in 1968, and since then it's steadily increased. There are small variations from year to year, but basically it went up to about 10-11 percent in the 80s and then increased to 13.6 percent during the Great Recession. It's stayed there ever since.</p> <p>The safety net has helped most of these folks tread water, but it doesn't change the fact that the market economy has gotten steadily bleaker for the poor over the past 40 years. It's great that we've made such significant inroads against elderly poverty, but aggregates can fool you about the rest of the country. Among everyone else, poverty has only gotten worse and worse.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poverty_18_64_2013.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 1px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:14:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 260426 at The Endless Rabbit Hole of Secession, Shetland Islands Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>NOTE: There's, um, a pretty important update at the bottom of this post.</strong></p> <p>Following a string of links from an Atrios post, I came across this paragraph from a piece a few months ago about the <a href="" target="_blank">possibility of Scottish independence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As for Mr Salmond&rsquo;s fantasies about oil revenues: stocks are dwindling, fracking is driving down the price, when territorial waters are drawn up he may find some of what he thinks is his oil in the North Sea will actually be England&rsquo;s, <strong>and the Shetland Islands &mdash; in whose waters much of his reserves lie &mdash; say that if Scotland goes independent, they will seek to re-join Norway.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Wait. What? <em>Re</em>join Norway? Hasn't it been quite a few centuries since they had anything to do with Norway? I clearly haven't been paying enough attention to this stuff. What's it all about? <a href="" target="_blank">Here's a piece from earlier this year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>David Cameron today summoned Norwegian Ambassador H&aring;rek Hardbalne to Downing Street to demand that Norway makes clear it has no territorial interest in the Shetland Islands. <strong>This follows yesterday&rsquo;s extraordinary announcement by the leader of Shetland Islands&rsquo; Council, Leif Erikson, that Shetland planned to hold a separate referendum on independence from Scotland should Scots choose independence from the UK on September 18th.</strong></p> <p>....In an interview with the BBC, ambassador Hardbalne said that he did not wish to comment on the surprise move by Shetland but wished to stress that Norway has always upheld the democratic rights to self determination. The BBC reported that the threat of sanctions and exclusion from NATO already had the Norwegians running scared.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's <em>Dr.</em> Leif Erikson, by the way. In any case, apparently the Shetland Islands really have been making noises about this. If Scotland secedes in order to grab a bigger share of North Sea oil wealth, then why shouldn't they secede from Scotland? They have <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shetland_islands_oil.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the same gripe about unfair division of oil revenues, after all. <a href="" target="_blank">This is from 2012:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Orkney and Shetland islands could remain part of the UK if the rest of Scotland votes to separate, according to a report submitted by their MSPs to the Government. The islands could even declare independence themselves, it adds.</p> <p>Alternatively, they could agree to join a separate Scotland only if they are granted a much bigger portion of North Sea oil and gas revenues, around a quarter of which lies in Shetland&rsquo;s waters alone. Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, agreed the threat was political &ldquo;dynamite&rdquo; but questioned why Mr Salmond was the only politician who could use oil wealth to argue for self-determination.</p> </blockquote> <p>This bit of soap opera is obviously old news to anyone who's followed the Scottish independence movement closely, but that doesn't happen to include me. In any case, it's an amusing confirmation of my belief that no matter how small a political unit you have, there's always a piece of it that's richer than the rest and feels like it should no longer have to subsidize all the rest of the freeloaders. I wonder if the Shetland Islanders would be open to an invitation to join the state of California?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It appears that I've been taken in by an April Fools post regarding the whole Norway business. Leif Erikson is not the leader of the Shetland Islands council, and&nbsp;H&aring;rek Hardbalne (aka Hagar the Horrible) is not the ambassador from Norway. So sorry. But in a way, being suckered into this joke somehow makes this whole post better, doesn't it?</p> <p>As for the rest of it, there doesn't seem to be much to that either. There's been some talk here and there about secession and/or rejoining the UK if Scotland votes for independence, but nothing very serious. Basically, I was pretty thoroughly snookered by all this.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE 2:</strong> If you're interested, the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has a more sober assessment of the Shetland Islands <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Bottom line for those too lazy to click: "People on this remote North Sea archipelago are following the Scottish independence campaign as intently as the rest of the U.K. Some even want another vote soon after&mdash;on their own independence from Scotland....To be sure, the breakaway campaign is a fringe one. 'I don't get a sense there is an appetite for full independence,' said Malcolm Bell, a member of Shetland Island council."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:02:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 260411 at This Republican Tried To Stop North Carolina From Apologizing For A Racist Massacre. He’d Like Your Vote, Please. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In 1898, furious that a mixed-race coalition had swept the city's municipal elections, white supremacists burned down a black-owned newspaper in Wilmington, North Carolina; overthrew the local government; and killed at least <a href="" target="_blank">25 black residents</a> in a week of rioting. It was one of the worst single incidents of racially motivated violence in American history. But in 2007, when a nonpartisan commission recommended that the state legislature <a href=";BillID=H751&amp;votesToView=all" target="_blank">pass a resolution</a> formally apologizing for the massacre, Republican Senate nominee Thom Tillis, then a first-term state representative, rose to block it.</p> <p>"It is time to move on," he wrote in a message to constituents. "In supporting the apology for slavery, most members felt it was an opportunity to recognize a past wrong and move on to pressing matters facing our State. HB 751 and others in the pipeline are redundant and they are consuming time and attention that should be dedicated to addressing education, transportation, and immigration problems plaguing this State."</p> <p>But at the time, Tillis&mdash;who <a href="" target="_blank">showed up</a> in Wilmington on Tuesday with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in tow&mdash;offered another explanation for opposing the measure: Not all whites had participated in the riots. So Tillis pushed for an amendment introduced by a fellow state representative that would have added language to the bill commemorating the heroic white Republican lawmakers who had opposed the violence. "The proposed amendment would have acknowledged the historical fact that the white Republican government joined with black citizens to oppose the rioters," he argued. The amendment failed, and Tillis ended up voting no on the final version.</p> <p>Although North Carolina has been targeted by the GOP as a top pickup opportunity, Tillis has struggled to gain traction&mdash;in part because of his leadership role in the unpopular state legislature. In the most recent poll, he <a href="" target="_blank">trailed</a> Kay Hagan,&nbsp;the Democratic incumbent, by nine points.</p></body></html> MoJo Elections Race and Ethnicity Top Stories Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:37:37 +0000 Tim Murphy 260381 at