Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Tales From City of Hope #7: Weekend Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_day_3_cake.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;" width="290">Since my actual stem cell transplant happened on Thursday, that counts as Day Zero. Today is Day +2. It turns out that part of the prep for the transplant was an IV injection of both Benadryl and Ativan, so I was pretty conked out the entire day. Friday was about the same. Strong stuff, but today I seem to be more alert. For now, anyway.</p> <p>My white cell count continues to drop, which is paradoxically a good thing. Basically, my immune system will drop nearly to zero, probably around Monday or Tuesday, and then begin rebounding. Assuming nothing goes wrong, the main effect will be lots of fatigue and poor appetite. So let's hope nothing goes wrong, shall we?</p> <p>In the meantime, while I wait for a guest post from President Obama, my mother has promised to deliver me a traditional chocolate birthday cake of my childhood on Sunday. We shall christen it the Day +3 cake since we're not even within shouting distance of my birthday at the moment.</p> <p>Otherwise, today is busy! Marian is here, doing some laundry while I'm being hydrated for four hours. Later my sister is coming, and our friend Eileen a little after that. Should be quite the party.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Apr 2015 16:54:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 274216 at This Stat Will Make Deforestation Hit Home <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Okay, so <a href="" target="_blank">deforestation</a> is sad, and it's Arbor Day so we should be extra sad about it. But there are <a href="" target="_blank">so</a> <a href="" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="" target="_blank">things</a> to be sad about, right? Well maybe this stat, from <a href="" target="_blank">a study</a> that came out last month, will make the loss of the world's forests sink in for you:</p> <blockquote> <p>More than 70 percent of the worlds's forests are within 1 kilometer of a forest edge. Thus, most forests are well within the range where human activities, altered microclimate and nonforest species may influence and degrade forest ecosystems.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's right, we've arrived at the point where the majority of the forest in the world is just a short walk from the stuff humans have built. If you need that in graph form, here you go:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <p class="rteindent4"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/grafarbor.jpg" style="float: right;"></p> <div class="caption">Science Advances</div> </div> <p>According to the study, which was published in the journal <em>Science Advances</em>, the largest remaining contiguous forests are in the Amazon and the Congo River Basin. The study also synthesized past forest fragmentation research and found that breaking up habitats to this degree has reduced biodiversity by as much as 75 percent in some areas.</p> <p>Happy Arbor Day&hellip;</p></body></html> Blue Marble Science Rainforests Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:33:20 +0000 Luke Whelan 274186 at Say What You Will About Almonds, but They Are Wildly Popular <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>California's thirsty almond orchards have been generating an impressive amount of debate as the state's drought <a href="" target="_blank">drags on</a>. But that won't likely stop their expansion. The title of a new <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> from the Dutch agribusiness-banking giant Rabobank explains why: "California Almonds: Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees."</p> <p>The report is "exclusive for business clients of Rabobank," but an accompanying <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a> offers some good tidbits. "Drought conditions and the stronger US dollar have increased the price of almonds for all buyers," it states. On the US East Coast, wholesale prices for premium almonds have risen 20 percent since last year. "In Europe, the almond is becoming increasingly popular, not only as a nutritious snack but especially as a go-to ingredient for manufacturers," it continues. There, wholesale prices are up 50 percent since last year, while "buyers in India and Hong Kong are paying 25 percent and 20 percent more, respectively."</p> <p>Those higher prices will evidently more than compensate California farmers for higher watering costs, and inspire than to expand acreage. Rabobank expects California almond production to rise by&nbsp;2 percent to 3.5 percent per year over the next decade, accoring to <a href="http://Read%20more%20here:%20" target="_blank"><em>Sacramento Bee</em></a>'s Dale Kasler, who got a look at the Rabobank study.</p> <p>That's impressive growth. If almond output expands by 3 percent per year over the next ten years, then&mdash;using this <a href="" target="_blank">trusty formula</a>&mdash;production will grow a whopping 34 percent between now and 2025. That's a lot of growth for a state that already churns out 80 percent of the world's almonds. This scenario doesn't imply a 34 percent expansion in almond acreage&mdash;some of the almond trees that will contribute to that growth in output have already been planted and will be coming into production over the next few years (it takes almonds about <a href="" target="_blank">four years</a> to begin producing after they're planted). But it does imply a robust expansion. Kasler quotes the study:</p> <blockquote> <p>Higher prices and good profits for California almond growers will continue to encourage more planting of almond orchards.... Nurseries report very little slowing in orders of new trees.</p> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:39:45 +0000 Tom Philpott 274171 at Friday Cat Blogging - April 24 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>While Kevin is undergoing treatment, we've invited <a href="" target="_blank">lots of</a> <a href="" target="_blank">exciting</a> <a href="" target="_blank">guest</a> <a href="" target="_blank">writers</a> to stop by in his honor. But there's no reason the hospitality can't extend to another species, is there?</p> <p>This week's <em>Mother Jones </em>affiliated cat is Max, who joined&nbsp;reporter <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Caldwell</a> last summer as the fifth (and only feline) resident of his Washington, DC row house. Here's a shot of Max exploring the dark corners of his realm.</p> <center> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">So amazed to discover the underground territory</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on <time datetime="2015-01-14T03:02:07+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Jan 13, 2015 at 7:02pm PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Max's background is almost as shrouded and mysterious as that crawl space. How old is he? No one knows. How many people have cared for him before Pat and his roommates? No one's quite sure about that either.</p> <p>As the story goes, Max has been bequeathed from shared home to shared home like a well-loved futon as his keepers have, one after the other, moved out of the beltway. And while that might make him sound like a very mobile cat, Pat reports he's quite sedentary in most respects. His favorite form of play&mdash;swatting at things just above his head&mdash;can and usually is performed while reclining on his back. This Thanksgiving, he gave the humans a brief scare by slipping away while they were out celebrating. But true to his nature, when they came home Max seemed to have whiled away the hours just a few yards from the window they'd mistakenly left open.</p> <p>Unlike <a href="" target="_blank">Hilbert and Hopper</a>, Max can't count on Southern California's sun to keep him warm, so over the winter his roommates cleverly rigged up a cat bed right above a radiator. Ready for a nap?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <center> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">I feel ya buddy</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Patrick Caldwell (@patcaldwell) on <time datetime="2015-02-21T18:34:04+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Feb 21, 2015 at 10:34am PST</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script></center> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the roommate most responsible for Max heading to Kansas City for medical school come fall, this peripatetic puss's future is a bit unsettled. Will he stay with his current community, or will he head west? If he stays, what if the new roommate is allergic, or&mdash;as hard as this may be to imagine&mdash;not a cat person? Yes, there may be yet another loving home in his future.</p> <p>Whatever happens, there's no doubt Max will land on his feet. Cats always do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:35:04 +0000 Clint Hendler 274151 at Bonus Friday Cat Blogging - 24 April 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the top photo, Hopper is scrooched under Karen's display case just to show she can do it. But something has caught her attention. It turned out to be Hilbert, who was innocently walking down the stairs and got pounced on a few seconds after this picture was taken. And with that the evening festivities were on.</p> <p>The next day Hilbert found something more relaxing to do. He discovered the kitchen window and curled up to watch the local parrot population. What could be more entertaining?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_04_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 90px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2015_04_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 90px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 274161 at Native American Actors Walk Off Set of New Adam Sandler Movie Over Racist Jokes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>About a dozen Native American actors <a href="" target="_blank">quit</a> the set of a new Adam Sandler film, produced by Netflix, to protest the script's portrayal of Apache culture and what the actors claim are racist jokes about native women and elders.</p> <p>According to a report by <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Indian Country</em></a>, the actors of "The Ridiculous Six," a spoof of the classic western flick "The Magnificent Seven," complained to producers about the offensive stereotypes, which include the naming of female characters as Beaver's Breath and No Bra. One scene also has a native woman "squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe."</p> <p>Allison Young, a Navajo Nation tribal member and student, said the actors talked to the producers and told them what they found offensive. "They just told us, 'If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave,'"she said. "I didn't want to cry but the feeling just came over me. This is supposed to be a comedy that makes you laugh. A film like this should not make someone feel this way."</p> <p>Loren Anthony, another tribal member and actor, told<em> Indian Country</em> that while he initially had reservations about appearing in the film, producers had assured him the jokes would not be racist. But from the very beginning, he said, things "started getting weird" and what were supposed to be jokes were simply offensive.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">On set, going to brawl out with Nick Nolte. #TheRidiculousSix #NickNolte #NMfilm #NM #film #SAGfilm #LasVegasNM #movies #NativeActor #Acting #Actor #hollywood #Comedy #NativePride #NativeAmerican</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Loren Anthony (@lorenanthony) on <time datetime="2015-04-21T14:31:00+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Apr 21, 2015 at 7:31am PDT</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <script async defer src="//"></script><p>Netflix&nbsp;<a href=";smid=tw-nytimes" target="_blank">defends </a>the film as a supposed satire. "The movie has 'ridiculous' in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous," the company said in a statement. "It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of&mdash;but in on&mdash;the joke."</p> <p>"The Ridiculous Six" follows a string of flops for Sandler, whose recent films include the 2012 movie "Jack and Jill," which succeeded in <a href="" target="_blank">winning</a> every single category at the Razzies that year. His latest production stars Nick Nolte, Steve Buscemi, Will Forte, and Vanilla Ice. A preview of what that looks like below:</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-version="4" style=" background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% - 2px); width:calc(100% - 2px);"> <div style="padding:8px;"> <div style=" background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;"> <div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf//42xcNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1x8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8xPmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p style=" margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;"><a href="" style=" color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;" target="_top">Awesome time with all my fellow Native's - Navajo, Apache, Comanche, Choctaw. Cherokee.</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A photo posted by Vanilla Ice &acirc;&#156;&#133; (@vanillaiceofficial) on <time datetime="2015-04-24T03:14:18+00:00" style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;">Apr 23, 2015 at 8:14pm PDT</time></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>"Nothing has changed," Young says. "We are still just Hollywood Indians."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Race and Ethnicity Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:37:02 +0000 Inae Oh 274166 at If You Read One Post About Labor Force Participation This Decade, Let It Be This One <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is focused on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 through today to pitch in posts and keep the conversation going. Here's a missive from Max Sawicky</em><em>, a DC-based economist and blogger. You can read his always entertaining work on welfare policy, politics, and many other topics at <a href="" target="_blank">MaxSpeak, You Listen!</a></em> <em>or find him on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p> <p>I started blogging in <a href="" target="_blank">May of 2002</a>. In those days the liberal side of the blogosphere was relatively thin, so I got a bit of notoriety. In my recollection, that fall I started noticing the blog of Mr. Kevin Drum. As the weeks went on I noticed this guy Drum was writing <em>a lot</em>, all well-reasoned, articulate prose. Other people were noticing as well. He left me in the dust. At least Kevin was reading me. At some point he came through D.C. with his wife and we had lunch.</p> <p>I'm honored to be invited to contribute to this <em>festschrift</em>. Yes, that's the <a href="" target="_blank">word</a> his editors used when they got in touch. Such high-falutin academic terminology. I prefer to think of it as a roast. But there is nothing funny about Kevin. He's just too damn reasonable and level-headed. No doubt this contributes to his success. I usually have something obnoxious to say about everybody, but with Kevin I draw a blank. Since I've been able to infiltrate the ginormous <em>Mother Jones</em> web site, I need to come up with something. My default mode is attack, so here's some MaxSpeak love for KD and <em>MoJo</em>.</p> <p>In <a href="" target="_blank">this post from just last weekend</a>, Kevin links to <a href="" target="_blank">a bit from Tyler Cowen</a>. <em>That was your first mistake, Brother Drum. </em>I realize linking is not endorsing, though KD offers a limited, tentative 'interesting possibility' type of approval. You see, the prolific and very smart Tyler hails from the zany economics department of George Mason University. No good can come from referencing him. These characters spend all their time excoriating Government and social protection for the working class from tenured, <a href="" target="_blank">Koch-subsidized</a> positions at a public university. Sweet.</p> <p>Professor Cowen briefly discusses a paper suggesting the Clinton era welfare reform (sic) reduced labor force participation. (I too am an economist, in case you didn't know. <a href="" target="_blank">Ph.D.</a> from Dave's All-Night University.) The paper suggests that the causes are the imposition of work requirements under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF; formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or just 'the welfare'), and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).</p> <p>The TANF explanation makes no sense. To get benefits you have to work, sooner or later. Previously, you didn't. How could that reduce labor force participation? (On pushing welfare people into Social Security Disability Insurance, thus far there is no evidence of that.) The other cause&mdash;the EITC providing enough benefits to a couple to enable one spouse to work less&mdash;is pretty well known, though the magnitude of the effect is weak. This is all basic stuff in the literature, as noted in Cowen's comments section by <a href="" target="_blank">Virginia Postrel</a>, but it's evidently new to Tyler. In his defense, Tyler publishes a dynamite <a href="" target="_blank">guide</a> to ethnic dining in the MD/DC/VA metro area.</p> <p>So the upshot is this whole mess is <em>thesis interruptus</em>. Even Tyler is skeptical in the end. Though he alludes to it vaguely, the implication of one spouse working somewhat less because the other earns more is not necessarily Bad, unless you're a <a href="" target="_blank">Stakhanovite</a>. More time not working can be more time with the kids.</p> <p>The 1996 welfare reform looked good in the late '90s, but that was when the whole labor market looked really, really good. <a href="" target="_blank">Since 2000, not so much</a>. Poverty rates, for instance, have consistently gone up since then. People have not been empowered to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Looking to Tyler for enlightenment on anti-poverty programs is like taking Driver's Ed from Vin Diesel.</p> <p>Your go-to sources on the plight of the poor would include <a href="" target="_blank">Jared Bernstein</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Bruenig</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Kathy Geier</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Shawn Fremstad</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Elise Gould</a>, among others, and occasionally <a href="" target="_blank">your humble servant</a>.</p> <p>I wish Kevin the best for an industrial-strength recovery so he can continue to set a good example for progressive commentary, while also providing me periodically with inviting targets. And I look forward to <em>Mother Jones</em>' expos&eacute; of Scott Walker's background in Wisconsin animal husbandry. With the obligatory <a href="" target="_blank">slide show</a>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Apr 2015 13:40:06 +0000 Max Sawicky 274111 at Tales From City of Hope #6: What Does Kevin Smell Like? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As you recall from yesterday, the DMSO preservative used to keep my stem cells fresh was alleged to cause a distinct body odor. So today, after the transfusion, I asked everyone who came into my <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kevin_smell.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">room what I smelled like. The results are displayed on the right in chart form because Science&trade;.</p> <p>The results were disappointing. My sample size was dismally small, and 100 percent female. No single result rose to the level of significance at the 95 percent level. There wasn't even a modal response. In fact, it was worse than that. One respondent said garlic, but all four of the others said definitely not garlic. One said sweet and another said not sweet. And one person said there was no odor at all.</p> <p>The best I can conclude is that there <em>is</em> an odor of some kind, but everyone smells something different. I should add, however, that the test conditions were suboptimal. I'm such a good stem cell producer that I only needed two bags of cells. Some people need as many as ten. This means less DMSO for me and therefore less odoriferousness. Beyond that, given the poor state of the data, your guess is as good as mine.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Apr 2015 01:58:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 274156 at The Feds Say One Schmuck Trading From His Parents' House Caused a Market Crash. Here's the Problem. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday, the Justice Department and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a key Wall Street regulator, blasted out <a href="" target="_blank">press</a> <a href="" target="_blank">releases</a> declaring a great victory in their war on illegal manipulation of financial markets. The reason for the feds' braggadocio? They think they've caught <a href="" target="_blank">the guy who caused</a> May 2010's "flash crash," a market seizure that vaporized a trillion dollars in shareholder value in a matter of minutes.</p> <p>Federal regulators say that Navinder Singh Sarao, a 36-year-old British futures trader whose company was <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly based in his parents' home</a>, illegally placed huge sell orders he never intended to complete, artificially driving down the price of a key futures contract so he could later swoop in to buy it cheaply. (This is called "spoofing" in financial jargon.) There's one big problem, though: By charging Sarao with "contributing to the market conditions that caused" the flash crash, federal regulators are changing their story about what really happened to financial markets five years ago.</p> <p>Here's the background. In the days and weeks after the flash crash, the Securities and Exchange Commission, alongside other regulators, worked diligently to figure out what had happened. The flash crash was chaos: Liquidity evaporated, the same stocks traded at both a penny and at $100,000, and CNBC hosts freaked out even more than usual. (Prices eventually returned to normal, and the SEC canceled some of the weirdest trades.)</p> <p>The flash crash was essentially over in five minutes. But it took regulators nearly five months to come up with a theory about what happened. And in late September 2010, when the SEC and the CFTC&mdash;the same agency now charging Sarao with causing the crash&mdash;released a joint report on what happened, they <a href="" target="_blank">didn't mention</a> spoofing, let alone Sarao. Instead, they blamed a large trade by a firm out of Kansas City.</p> <p>It's not even clear that the feds' new explanation is correct. As Matt Levine <a href="" target="_blank">notes</a> over at <em>Bloomberg View</em>, regulators believe that Sarao continued to place massive fake sell orders in the years after the flash crash, but somehow that activity never triggered another crisis:</p> <blockquote> <p>If regulators think that Sarao's behavior on May 6, 2010, caused the flash crash,&nbsp;and if they think he continued that behavior for much of the subsequent five years, and if that behavior was screamingly obvious, maybe they should have stopped&nbsp;him a little earlier?</p> <p>Also, I mean, if his behavior on May 6, 2010, caused the flash crash, and if he continued it for much of the subsequent five years, why&nbsp;didn't he cause, you know, a dozen flash crashes?&nbsp;</p> <p>So I mean&hellip;maybe he didn't cause the flash crash?</p> </blockquote> <p>But in some ways, it doesn't particularly matter whether regulators' new theory is correct. What matters is that it took so long for them to develop it.</p> <p>As I <a href="" target="_blank">reported in January 2013</a>, today's financial markets move so fast that regulators can't even monitor them in real time, let alone intervene if something starts to go wrong. Sophisticated trading algorithms can buy and sell financial products faster than you can blink&mdash;all without human intervention, let alone real-time human judgment. When something does go wrong, it can take months or years to figure out what happened. "A robust and defensible analysis of even a small portion of the trading day can itself take many days," Gregg Berman, who wrote the 2010 SEC/CFTC report, told me in 2013.</p> <p>Since real-time intervention by human regulators is impossible, regulators have to rely on automatic measures&mdash;fail-safes that stop trading if prices rise or fall too fast, for example. But these sorts of automatic braking systems are, by definition, designed in response to the previous crisis. "We're always fighting the last fire," Dave Lauer, a market technology expert who has worked for high-speed trading firms, said in 2013. As I wrote then:</p> <blockquote> <p>Years of mistakes and bad decisions led to the 2008 collapse. But when the next crisis happens, it may not develop over months, weeks, or even days. It could take seconds.</p> </blockquote> <p>More <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Corporations Crime and Justice Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Thu, 23 Apr 2015 23:17:01 +0000 Nick Baumann 274146 at Bitcoin's Problem With Women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>While Kevin Drum is focused on getting better, we've invited some of the remarkable writers and thinkers who have traded links and ideas with him from Blogosphere 1.0 through today to pitch in posts and keep the conversation going. Here's a contribution from Felix Salmon</em><em>, who, after years of blogging on finance and the economy for Reuters and other outlets, is now a senior editor at </em><a href="" target="_blank">Fusion</a><em>.</em></p> <p>Nathaniel Popper's new book, <a href=""><i>Digital Gold</i></a>, is as close as you can get to being the definitive account of the history of Bitcoin. As its subtitle proclaims, the book tells the story of the "misfits" (the first generation of hacker-libertarians) and "millionaires" (the second generation of Silicon Valley venture capitalists) who were responsible for building Bitcoin, mining it, hyping it, and, in at least some cases, getting rich off it.</p> <p>The tale is selective, of course: Not everybody involved with Bitcoin talked to Popper, and the identity of Bitcoin's inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, remains a mystery. But Popper did talk to most of the important people in the cryptocurrency crowd, and he tells me that he put real effort into trying "to find a woman who was involved in some substantive way."</p> <p>The result of that search? Zero. Nothing. Zilch. Popper's book features no female principals at all: The sole role of women in the book is as wives and girlfriends.</p> <center> <div class="embed-twitter"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" width="500"> <p>Big crowd at <a href="">#bitcoinexpo</a> in London <a href=""></a></p> <p>&mdash; Stacy Herbert (@stacyherbert) <a href="">November 30, 2013</a></p> </blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></p> </div> </center> <p>There are nasty consequences of this. If you are a woman involved with Bitcoin, you are invariably going to get treated like an outsider. As <a href="">Victoria Turk</a> says, "it seems that the only Bitcoin community that particularly welcomes female participation is the NSFW subreddit r/GirlsGoneBitcoin," which is basically a site where women get paid in cryptocurrency to pose nude. Or look at Arianna Simpson's <a href="">enraging account</a> of what it's like to be a woman at a Bitcoin meetup:</p> <blockquote> <p>The person who actually suggested the event to Ryan was another young woman (the only other woman at the event), a VC who was in town from San Francisco and was interested in checking it out for the first time. The aforementioned groper knew Ryan vaguely from other Bitcoin events, and greeted their arrival with a warm "Oh, nice to see you! I see you brought your girlfriend this time." When the two of them try to point out that a) they are not together and b) she was actually the one who had brought him, they are cut off with a swift "Sure, sure, I just wanted to see what the dynamic was between you two." Apparently that's code for "checking if you're ok with my hitting on her," as that's exactly what he proceeds to do.</p> </blockquote> <p>Men make up an estimated <a href="">96 percent</a> of the Bitcoin community, which means that if Bitcoin does end up succeeding, as its adherents think it will, and if the people who own Bitcoin see their holdings soar in value, then <i>all</i> of the profits will end up going to what <a href="">Brett Scott</a> calls the "crypto-patriarchy." Not many men, to be sure: As <a href="">Charlie Stross</a> says, the degree of inequality in the Bitcoin economy "is ghastly, and getting worse, to an extent that makes a sub-Saharan African kleptocracy look like a socialist utopia." But it's not many men, and effectively zero women.</p> <p>Popper doesn't dwell on the almost complete absence of women in the Bitcoin story&mdash;in fact, he doesn't mention it at all in his book. And the Bitcoin elite themselves aren't doing much introspection on the topic. (We still have Bitcoin developers like the one in Simpson's article saying things like "women don't care about cryptocurrencies.") But the gender gap is a bigger problem than Bitcoiners realize. Unless and until women can be brought into the Bitcoin fold, broader adoption is simply not going to happen.</p> <p>If you talk about Bitcoin with the people who use it, the language they use is always about technology and finance. Bitcoiners tend to think in terms of how things work, rather than how they're used in the real world. Buying and selling Bitcoin is still much more difficult than it should be, despite many years of development, which implies that people aren't concentrating enough on real-world ease-of-use.</p> <p>In general, people buy Bitcoin for one of three reasons: because they're speculating on its future value, because they are doing something illegal, or because they have ideological reasons for doing so. But if there's ever going to be broad adoption of Bitcoin technology, it will need to be appealing to law-abiding people who neither know nor care what the blockchain is, and who have no particular beef whatsoever with fiat currencies.</p> <p>That's a product design job, and frankly, it's a product design job well suited for women who aren't approaching the problem while grinding the ideological axes so widely held inside the Bitcoin community. As one woman involved with Bitcoin put it to me, "Money is a political issue for Bitcoiners. It's a human issue for everybody else."</p> <p>Right now, Bitcoin is almost purpose-built for the $582 billion international remittances market, where women are <a href="">half of the senders, and two-thirds of the recipients</a>. And while there is no shortage of Bitcoin-based remittance products out there, none of them seem to be designing for real-world use cases. The developers are solving technical problems, and ignoring the much bigger and more important human problems.</p> <p>Let's say you wanted to build a mobile savings app in sub-Saharan African. If you asked male Bitcoin developers to build such a thing for a target audience of young African girls, they might have talked about how to maximize the amount of money saved. But, working on the ground in South Africa, the <a href="">Praekelt Foundation</a> came from a different perspective. Apps like these aren't really about maximizing savings, so much as they're about empowerment. If you can build a product for girls that ratifies their identity and individuality and gives them self-esteem, then you're creating something much more valuable than a few dollars' worth of savings: You're keeping them in school, and you're keeping them healthy, and you're <a href="">helping them</a> to not get pregnant. <em>That's</em> the kind of way that cryptocurrencies could change the world. The problem is that the men in Popper's book just don't think that way.</p> <p>Bitcoin boosters like venture capitalist Marc Andreessen have an interesting reaction when people criticize Bitcoin on the grounds that the community is just male nerds. Yes, they say, it is&mdash;<a href="">just like the internet was, 20 years ago</a>. In other words, far from treating the homogeneity of Bitcoin as a problem, they treat it as being auspicious. And, so far at least, there's no evidence that they're really attempting to fix the problem.</p> <p>The lack of women in Bitcoin isn't just an issue of equality. It's a fundamental weakness of the currency itself. As long as the Bitcoin community is dominated by men geeking out about the blockchain, it's never going to be able to make the <i>human</i> connections that are required for widespread adoption. Right now, the best that anybody can hope for (and no one's holding their breath even for this) is that a handful of female geeks might be welcomed into the clique of male geeks who are working on Bitcoin-related projects.</p> <p>But even if that happens, it's not even close to being sufficient. Bitcoin, at its core, is an attempt to solve big socioeconomic problems through technology. So long as it remains an overwhelmingly male domain, it's going to continue to concentrate on the economic problems, while missing the big social problems. Which means that it's going to continue going nowhere.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Books Economy Sex and Gender Top Stories Thu, 23 Apr 2015 21:41:03 +0000 Felix Salmon 274126 at This Incredible Video Captures a Chilean Volcano Erupting for the First Time in Over 40 Years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div id="fb-root">&nbsp;</div> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-video" data-allowfullscreen="true" data-href="/RYOT/videos/vb.204441986236107/1087600497920247/?type=1"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"> <blockquote cite="/RYOT/videos/1087600497920247/"> <p>BREAKING: Volcano Calbuco has just erupted in Chile and people have been evacuated. See updating story here: sure to like our page too for any important updates: RYOT (h/t</p> Posted by <a href="">RYOT</a> on Wednesday, April 22, 2015</blockquote> </div> </div> <p>More than 4,000 people in southern Chile have been evacuated after a powerful volcano, shown above, erupted twice&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">first on Wednesday</a> evening and then again several hours later, resulting in a spectacular lightning display across the night sky. This is the biggest eruption of the Calbuco volcano since 1972. No deaths or missing people have been reported so far, according to Chile's <a href="" target="_blank">interior minister, Rodrigo Penailillo</a>. Below are more remarkable photos of the volcano's eruption:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Happening now <a href="">#volcancalbuco</a> <a href="">#puertomontt</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jessica Holder D (@_jeckah_) <a href="">April 22, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href="">#Chile</a> land of earthquakes, floods, fires....and erupting volcanoes. Evacuations in 20km radius. <a href="">#VolcanCalbuco</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Aida Santory (@GlobalMediaDiva) <a href="">April 22, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p><a href=""></a> cagaita <a href="">#volcancalbuco</a> <a href="">#puertomontt</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ultra-Magnus (@klgoricardo) <a href="">April 22, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>This is what it looks like when lightening strikes an erupting volcano: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Polly Mosendz (@polly) <a href="">April 23, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center></body></html> Mixed Media Climate Desk Thu, 23 Apr 2015 21:21:36 +0000 Inae Oh 274131 at Tales From City of Hope #5: My Stem Cells Have Come Home to Papa <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It is 9:49 am PDT on April 23, and my stem cell transfusion is complete. It took less than 20 minutes. Now the stem cells just have to graft and start multiplying, each of them eventually maturing into some kind of blood product (red blood cell, white blood cell, platelet, etc.). This will take about a month, but I'm not home free even then. It turns out that these will initially be "baby" cells, and it takes them about a year to fully learn how to do their jobs. Who knew that itty bitty cells had to attend cell training school?</p> <p>The entire remainder of my visit at City of Hope is just waiting for my immune system to recover and to keep an eye out for severe side effects in case they happen. In a few days I'll be losing my appetite, but apparently this is because I'll be losing my sense of taste. In the past, I've lost my appetite due to IV painkillers in the hospital or extreme fatigue at home. In both cases food tasted normal, but I just couldn't stand the thought of eating anything.</p> <p>So will this be better or worse? Presumably, food will be tasteless but not repulsive. That strikes me as no fun, but actually more tolerable than being actively repulsed by food. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:28:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 274116 at Who's Tired Of Politics? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday lifelong political junkie George Packer <a href="" target="_blank">reluctantly confessed something:</a> "It might not be wise for a sometime political journalist to admit this, but the 2016 campaign doesn&rsquo;t seem like fun to me."</p> <p>Ed Kilgore and Dylan Byers both took issue with this. In a nutshell, <a href="" target="_blank">Kilgore thinks</a> 2016 will be a fairly consequential election and the horse race will be fairly unpredictable, while <a href="" target="_blank">Byers thinks</a> the horse race <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_presidential_horserace_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">will have as many twists and turns as usual. Lots of fun for everyone!</p> <p>I'm a bit of an odd duck on this subject: a daily blogger and political junkie who has only a slight interest in the campaigns themselves. I have <em>some</em> interest, and I usually end up writing plenty of campaign posts, but it mostly seems like uninteresting kabuki to me. Candidates are so thoroughly media trained these days that you mostly know what they're going to say before they open their mouths. "Gaffes" are seldom more than slightly ambiguous extemporaneous constructions that the media plays along with either out of boredom or a desire to seem like they're not playing favorites. All the marketing minutiae of ad buys and demos and GOTV innovations is interesting in an academic sense, but it hardly seems to matter much in the face of overwhelming evidence that a few basic fundamentals decide the race months before Election Day. And the tired and almost childish obsession of the press corps with dumb adherence to narratives and personalities is enough to make any serious reader scream.</p> <p>But these aren't really Packer's main beefs with presidential campaigns. This is:</p> <blockquote> <p>The reason is the stuckness of American politics. Especially in the years after 2008, the worst tendencies of American politics only hardened, while remaining in the same place. Beneath the surface froth and churn, we are paralyzed. You can sense it as soon as you step out of the train at Union Station in Washington, the instant you click on a <em>Politico </em>article about a candidates&rsquo; forum in Iowa: miasma settles over your central nervous system and you start to go numb. What has happened is that the same things <em>keep</em> happening. The tidal wave of money keeps happening, the trivialization of coverage keeps happening, the extremism of the Republican Party keeps happening (Ted Cruz: abolish the I.R.S.; Rand Paul: the Common Core is &ldquo;un-American&rdquo;). The issues remain huge and urgent: inequality, global warming, immigration, poorly educated children, American decline, radical Islamism. But the language of politics stays the same, and it is a dead language. The notion that answers will come from Washington or the campaign trail is beyond far-fetched.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is it, and it's a common complaint. Both parties are stuck in the same sound bites; neither is willing to seriously compromise; and given the structure of the US government it's vanishingly unlikely that either party can get much of anything done. Tax policy can be changed via reconciliation, and Barack Obama had a short window where he got some things done via a huge Democratic majority in the Senate. Neither party is likely to replicate that in the near future. Likewise, for all the sound and fury, the differences between mainstream Democratic and Republican foreign policy have become pretty narrow since George Bush's Iraq debacle.</p> <p>As Packer says, American politics is stuck. It's paralyzed. Exhibit 1: We've just witnessed a historically unprecedented delay in confirming an Attorney General that everyone agrees is eminently qualified. Why? Because of a bit of clever Republican gameplaying over an abortion clause that was fundamentally trivial but great red meat for the base. When the Democratic base finally cottoned on to the game, they went predictably ballistic and everything stalled. It was all just dumb kabuki: gameplaying from Republicans, predictable outrage from Democrats, and all over a long accepted principle that bans federal funding of abortion. Two months of gridlock over trivial symbolism. And why not? Everyone knows there was nothing important that had any chance of getting done anyway.</p> <p>So yeah: unless you're a horse race junkie by nature, it's pretty hard to get excited by the horse race when it has almost no chance of changing things except on the margins. This will change eventually, but probably no time soon.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Thu, 23 Apr 2015 16:21:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 274101 at The American Teen Whose Death-by-Drone Obama Won't Explain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Thursday, President Barack Obama appeared in the White House press room to reveal that a US strike in January on an Al Qaeda compound had killed two hostages held by the terrorist group, Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, and Warren Weinstein, an American. He offered his condolences to their families for the mistake that led to their deaths.</p> <p>It's remarkable that Obama spoke of this at all. The US targeted killing program is shrouded in secrecy, and the president had never before issued a statement like this about people accidentally killed by US drone strikes. (He did not use the word "drone.") One such death that stands out is that of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American citizen who was killed in a US drone strike.</p> <p>Abdulrahman was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric turned Al Qaeda propagandist. The father was killed in a drone strike that targeted him in Yemen in September 2011. The son was killed weeks later in a separate strike in Yemen. According to his family, <a href="" target="_blank">the attack was on a restaurant</a>. Attorney General Eric Holder later said that this strike did not "specifically" target the young man.</p> <p>The US government has never said that Abdulrahman was involved in terrorist activities. In 2012, I <a href="" target="_blank">asked Obama during a Reddit AMA</a> what he thought about the teen's death, and the question received hundreds of votes from Redditors, meaning the president and/or his social-media team almost certainly noticed it. Yet Obama didn't respond.</p> <p>Now that he's established the precedent of explaining the killings of US citizens in targeted strikes, Obama and the administration might see fit to say what happened in the case of Abdulrahman. Was his death accidental or is there evidence he was involved with terrorists?</p> <p>For more on Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, read <a href="" target="_blank">Tom Junod's 2012 piece on his killing</a>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Crime and Justice Foreign Policy International Top Stories Thu, 23 Apr 2015 15:15:15 +0000 Nick Baumann 274096 at It's Not the 1 Percent Controlling Politics. It's the 0.01 Percent. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Even before presidential candidates started <a href="" target="_blank">lining up</a> <a href="" target="_blank">billionaires</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">kick-start</a> their campaigns, it was clear that the 2016 election could be the biggest big-money election yet. This chart from the political data shop <a href="" target="_blank">Crowdpac</a> illustrates where we may be headed: Between 1980 and 2012, the share of federal campaign contributions coming from the very, very biggest political spenders&mdash;the top 0.01 percent of donors&mdash;nearly tripled:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/crowdpac-chart630.gif"></div> <p>In other words, a small handful of Americans<a href="#correction">*</a> control more than 40 percent of election contributions. Notably, between 2010 and 2012, the total share of giving by these donors jumped more than 10 percentage points. That shift is likely the direct result of the Supreme Court's 2010 <em>Citizens United</em> ruling, which struck down decades of fundraising limits and kicked off the super-PAC era. And this data only includes publicly disclosed donations, not dark money, which almost certainly means that the megadonors' actual share of total political spending is even higher.</p> <p>It's pretty fair to assume that most of these top donors are also sitting at the top of the income pyramid. Out of curiosity, I compared the share of campaign cash given by elite donors alongside the increasing share of income controlled by the people who make up the top 0.01 percent&mdash;the 1 percent of the 1 percent. The trend lines aren't an exact match, but they're close enough to show how top donors' political clout has increased along with top earners' growing slice of the national income. Again, note the bump around 2010 and 2011, when the <em>Citizens United </em>era opened just as the superwealthy were starting to recover from the recession&mdash;a rebound that has <a href="" target="_blank">left out most Americans</a>.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p id="correction"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a few hundred people control 40 percent of election contributions, based on my own calculations. According to Crowdpac</em>, <em>the number is around 25,000.</em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Charts Dark Money Elections Money in Politics Top Stories Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:15:13 +0000 Dave Gilson 274001 at This Is Why You Crave Sugar When You're Stressed Out <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's something that won't come as a surprise to anyone who has ever devoured a pint of Rocky Road after a miserable day at work: Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently found that 80 percent of people report eating more sweets when they are stressed. Their <a href="" target="_blank">new study</a>, published in the the <em>Journal of Clinical Endocrinology &amp; Metabolism</em>, offers a possible explanation.</p> <p>Sugar, the researchers found, can diminish physiological responses normally produced in the brain and body during stressful situations. With <a href="" target="_blank">stress levels on the rise</a>, this could explain why more people are reaching for sweets.</p> <p>The three-phase study involved 19 women, ages 18 to 40, who spent three days on a low-sugar diet at the research facility. Saliva samples and MRIs were taken and stress was induced through timed math tests. After being discharged, over the course of 12 days, the women consumed sweetened drinks three times a day. Half had beverages sweetened with the artificial sweetener aspartame, while the rest had drinks sweetened with real sucrose. This phase was followed by an additional three-day stint at the facility during which MRIs and saliva samples were taken again.</p> <p>After the 12-day period, the group that had sucrose-sweetened beverages showed higher activity in the left hippocampus (an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory that is <a href="" target="_blank">sensitive to chronic stress</a>) and significantly reduced levels of cortisol (the hormone released in response to stress) compared to those who had artificially sweetened beverages.</p> <p>While this study was one of the first to show that sugar can reduce stress responses in humans, it followed up on previous studies that found similar conclusions in animal subjects. The researchers noted the need for future research&mdash;especially on whether long-term sugar consumption has the same effect.</p> <p>"The concern is psychological or emotional stress could trigger the habitual overconsumption of sugar," lead author Kevin D. Laugero <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> <em>Science Daily. </em>Not exactly great news for those of us who enjoy <a href="" target="_blank">eating our feelings</a>.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Health Top Stories Sugar Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 273876 at Tales From City of Hope #4: The Smell of Victory in the Morning <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Chemotherapy is over and tomorrow is Tag Null: that is, Day Zero, when they pump my own frozen stem cells back into me. The entire process takes about 20 minutes, but I'll be in the hospital practically the entire day getting liters and liters of IV fluids. This is partly to keep me hydrated and partly just because they want to keep me under observation for a while.</p> <p>But here's the interesting thing. The stem cells are kept in a preservative solution to keep them fresh, and apparently this will give me a strong body odor of some kind. But what? One nurse said I would smell like bad garlic for a day. That sounds bad. But a different nurse said I would smell like creamed corn. That seems more tolerable. Yet a third suggested it differed by nationality, and a white boy like me might smell like iodine.</p> <p>But which is it? To me, of course, I will smell fresh as a new-plucked daisy. It's only other people who have to put up with my olfactory weirdness. In any case, I plan to ask everyone who comes into my room what I smell like. Spoiled tuna? A lovely cheese casserole? Bacon and eggs? Who knows?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_garlic_vs_creamed_corn.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 45px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Apr 2015 02:45:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 274091 at Obama Just Called Out Florida's Climate Deniers in Their Own Backyard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Barack Obama just marked Earth Day with a speech on climate change, given from a podium in Florida's Everglades National Park. The choice of venue was appropriate from an environmental perspective&mdash;the Everglades is <a href="" target="_blank">already acutely feeling the impacts of sea level rise</a>&mdash;but it was also telling from a political standpoint. Although our swampiest national park has a <a href="" target="_blank">long history of bipartisan support</a>, it's located in a state that has recently produced some of the most absurdist climate denial in recent memory&mdash;and Obama didn't forget to mention it.</p> <p>Florida is home not just to Sen. Marco Rubio, a GOP presidential contender who <a href="" target="_blank">maintains that humans can't affect the climate</a>, but also to Gov. Rick Scott, who landed in headlines last month after <a href="" target="_blank">apparently barring state employees</a> from talking about climate change.</p> <p>"Climate change can no longer be denied," Obama said today. "It can't be edited out. It can't be omitted from the conversation&hellip;Simply refusing to say the words 'climate change' doesn't mean climate change isn't happening."</p> <p>Obama also took a jab at Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for <a href="" target="_blank">bringing a snowball</a> onto the Senate floor. "If you have a coming storm, you don't stick your head in the sand," he said. "You prepare for the storm."</p> <p>You can watch the full speech below (starts at 48:00):</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Obama Science Top Stories Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:05:44 +0000 Tim McDonnell 274081 at By Immense Coincidence, GOP Benghazi Probe Scheduled to Finish Up During Height of 2016 Hillary Campaign <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Bloomberg News:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The findings of a Republican-led committee investigating Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s response to the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, <strong>likely will not be released until next year, just months before the 2016 presidential election.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I am shocked, shocked to hear this news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Wed, 22 Apr 2015 19:16:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 274076 at Obama Has a Plan to Expand Medicaid in Red States—by Weakening It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One of the Affordable Care Act's major provisions sought to expand the number of people covered by Medicaid by allowing people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty line to enroll.</p> <p>But in many parts of the country, it hasn't worked out that way. Individual states are largely responsible for running Medicaid, and despite the act's generous terms&mdash;the federal government promised to initially cover 100 percent of the cost, then 90 percent after 2016&mdash;only 29 states have taken the deal. Of the holdouts, most are conservative states with Republican governors where Obama is unpopular.</p> <p>Some red states have been coming around, lured by of the enormous infusion of federal funds they'll receive by expanding Medicaid. And without participating, states soon stand to lose billions in other payments designed to compensate hospitals for care for the uninsured. (Florida could <a href="" target="_blank">lose more than $2 billion</a> on account of leaving 800,000 residents uninsured who could otherwise be covered under Medicaid.)</p> <p>Despite that carrot and stick, Republican-controlled states have demanded additional concessions from the Obama administration before taking part in the expansion&mdash;and in many cases, as a <a href="" target="_blank">new paper from the National Health Law Program</a> suggests, the administration has agreed to changes that undermine its own goal of expanding coverage.</p> <p>These changes have made some states' Medicaid programs more, well, Republican&mdash;not to mention punitive. Take Arkansas, which in 2013 was allowed to use its Medicaid funds to let poor residents buy private insurance on the state health exchange&mdash;policies that may not have the same protections or coverage as traditional Medicaid. Iowa and New Hampshire have followed suit.<strong> </strong>According to the NHLP, these initial waivers emboldened states to seek even greater concessions. An example is Indiana, where, in exchange for agreeing to expand Medicaid, officials not only won the right to charge poor people premiums and co-payments, but also to lock people out of the program for at least six months if they fail to pay those premiums.</p> <p>The administration has granted such waivers through its authority to authorize so-called demonstration projects to encourage policy innovation in the states. But NHLP contends that waivers like Indiana's violate the law, which "requires demonstrations to actually demonstrate something." As NHLP points out, reams of research have long showed that such premiums dramatically reduce health coverage for low-income people. After the Obama administration granted Indiana's request, Arkansas went back to ask for permission to charge premiums, too. And it prevailed.</p> <p>And yet some states still want more. Florida, for instance, is <a href="" target="_blank">considering a bill</a> that would use billions of dollars of Medicaid money to provide vouchers to poor people to buy private insurance. But anyone getting a voucher would have to pay mandatory premiums, and also either have a job or be in school. Childless adults need not apply. (The administration hasn't signed off on this one&mdash;yet.)</p> <p>NHLP suggests that the Obama administration is undercutting its very strong bargaining position by allowing states to dismantle Medicaid through waivers, at the expense of the very poor and sick. Its white paper notes that Medicaid's history proves even the most ardent opponents of government health care eventually come around: In 1965, when the program was first created, only 26 states joined in. Five years later, though, almost all had.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Obama Wed, 22 Apr 2015 19:10:46 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 274016 at Scott Walker Celebrates Earth Day by Proposing To Fire 57 Environmental Agency Employees <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Happy Earth Day! Today is a day we can all band together and share our love for this beautiful planet&mdash;or at least drown our sorrows about climate change with <a href="" target="_blank">nerdy themed cocktails</a>. Later today, President Barack Obama will mark the occasion with a <a href="" target="_blank">climate-focused speech</a> in the Florida Everglades. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, had a different idea: Fire a big chunk of the state's environmental staff.</p> <p>From the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Fifty-seven employees of the state Department of Natural Resources began receiving formal notices this week that they might face layoff as part of Gov. Scott Walker's budget for the next two fiscal years&hellip;</p> <p>The DNR's scientific staff conducts research on matters ranging from estimating the size of the state's deer herd to to studying the effects of aquatic invasive species. Work is paid for with state and federal funds&hellip;</p> <p>All told, Walker's budget would cut 66 positions from the DNR. Of this, more than 25% would come from the science group. Cosh said a smaller number of employees received notices than the 66 positions in the budget because some positions targeted for cuts are vacant.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's no secret that a signature tactic in <a href="" target="_blank">Walker's controversial environmental record</a> has been to degrade the DNR, which in addition to carrying out research is tasked with regulating the state's mining industries. Still, the timing of this particular announcement is striking. I guess no one marked Earth Day on Walker's calendar.</p> <p>Neither Walker's office nor DNR immediately returned requests for comment.</p> <p>As consolation for this depressing news, here's is a <a href="" target="_blank">webcam of pandas</a> at the San Diego Zoo.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Scott Walker Top Stories Wed, 22 Apr 2015 17:48:21 +0000 274051 at How Californians Screwed Drought-Plagued California <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Solving California's water crisis got a lot harder on Monday when a state appeals court <a href="" target="_blank">struck down</a> steeply tiered water rates in the city of San Juan Capistrano. Like many other California cities, this affluent Orange County town encourages conservation by charging customers who use small amounts of water a lower rate per gallon than customers who use larger amounts. The court ruled that the practice conflicts with Proposition 218, a ballot measure that, among other things, bars governments from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it.</p> <p>The drought isn't the only way Prop. 218 is hamstringing California cities. Early last year, San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency announced a controversial pilot program that would allow Google buses and other tech shuttles to use public bus stops for <a href="" target="_blank">$1 a stop</a>. Activists, who saw the shuttles as symbols of inequality and out-of-control gentrification, wanted the agency to charge Google much more than that and use the profits to subsidize the city's chronically underfunded public transit system. But MTA officials <a href="" target="_blank">argued that their hands were tied</a>: Prop. 218 <a href="" target="_blank">prevented</a> them from charging more than the estimated $1.5 million cost of administering the program.</p> <p>Prop. 218, the "Right to Vote on Taxes Act," was a constitutional amendment drafted in 1996 by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the group that led the tax revolt that swept California in the 1970s and eventually helped elect President Ronald Reagan. After 1978, when the group's signature initiative, Prop. 13, began severely limiting property tax increases, cities and counties moved to plug their budgetary holes with other types of taxes and fees. Prop 218 was designed to constrain those workarounds by requiring that any new tax be approved by voters or affected property owners. For the purposes of the act, taxes included any fees from which a government derived a profit.</p> <p>Prop. 218 has been widely criticized for making it harder for cities to raise revenues, but the recent cases with water rates and tech shuttles point to another issue: the way the initiative prevents state and local governments from addressing urgent social and environmental problems. It's worth remembering that withdrawing water from California's dwindling reservoirs to feed verdant lawns is in itself a tax of sorts, and Mother Nature may not wait until the next election to revoke our ability to levy it.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Tech Top Stories taxes Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:25:14 +0000 Josh Harkinson 274011 at Ted Cruz's Princeton Years Included Jokes About a Woman's Hymen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>During his days as a member of Princeton University's debate team, <a href="" target="_blank">Ted Cruz</a> earned a reputation as a spirited orator. But when an opponent would try to poke fun at him, Cruz's rhetorical skills couldn't compensate for his complete lack of a sense of humor. According to a <a href="" target="_blank">story in the <em>Times</em> today</a>, the situation would get even worse when he actually tried to be funny himself:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Cruz&rsquo;s own attempts at humor sometimes missed the mark. In one debate, he proposed a method to detect infidelity, in which God should "give women a hymen that grows back every time she has intercourse with a different guy, because that will be a 'visible sign' of the breach of trust," according to a recollection by David Kennedy published in a Harvard debate team reunion booklet in 2001.</p> <p>Mr. Kennedy&rsquo;s debate partner mocked Mr. Cruz&rsquo;s knowledge of the subject matter by contorting herself to see how the anatomy in question could be "visible," according to the booklet.</p> </blockquote> <p>Other than demonstrating Cruz had an odd understanding of how a woman's body operates, the "joke" clearly did not resonate with anyone. But that didn't mean Cruz lacked a lighter side. His fellow debate team members remember his love for musicals, which he'd frequently blast in car rides to competitions. "He was an extreme fan of the 'Les Mis&eacute;rables' soundtrack," one member recalled to the <em>Times</em>.</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Sex and Gender Ted Cruz Wed, 22 Apr 2015 15:39:41 +0000 Inae Oh 274036 at Washington State Is So Screwed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>California's been getting all the attention, but it isn't the only agriculture-centric western state dealing with brutal drought. Washington, a major producer of wheat and wine grapes and the source of nearly <a href="" target="_blank">70 percent of US apples grown for fresh consumption</a>, also endured an usually warm and snow-bereft winter.</p> <p>The state's Department of Ecology has <a href="">declared</a> "drought emergencies" in 24 of the state's 62 watersheds, an area comprising 44 percent of the state. Here's more from the agency's <a href="">advisory</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Snowpack statewide has declined to 24 percent of normal, worse than when the last statewide drought was declared in 2005. Snowpack is like a frozen reservoir for river basins, in a typical year accumulating over the winter and slowly melting through the spring and summer providing a water supply for rivers and streams.&nbsp;This year run-off from snowmelt for the period April through September is projected to be the lowest on record in the past&nbsp;64 years.</p> </blockquote> <p>The drought regions <a href="">include</a> apple-heavy areas like <a href="" title="Yakima Valley">Yakima Valley</a> and the <a href="" title="Okanogan">Okanogan region</a>. Given that warmer winters&mdash;and thus less snow&mdash;are <a href="" target="_blank">consistent with the predictions of climate change models</a>, the Washington drought delivers yet more reason to consider expanding fruit and vegetable production somewhere far from the west coast. That's an idea I've called de-Californication (see <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>). But we'll need a new term to encompass the northwest. De-westernization? Doesn't have quite the same ring.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Food and Ag Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:50:04 +0000 Tom Philpott 273941 at Obama Is Poised to Give GMO and Meat Companies Something They've Always Wanted <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Obama and his Senate GOP critics are locked in a long-simmering feud, but there's one topic that has them clasping hands and singing kumbaya: global free-trade deals. The erstwhile foes are joining forces to push two massive ones: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would knock down trade barriers for a group of nations including the United States, Canada, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam; and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would do the same between the US and the European Union.</p> <p>Last week, a bipartisan group of senators <a href="">rolled out</a> legislation, vigorously promoted by the White House, that would give the president broad authority to negotiate and push such trade deals through Congress, a process known as "fast track." Since it facilitates <a href="">corporate-friendly trade rules,</a> the fast-track bill is expected to enjoy strong support from Republican lawmakers. But progressive Democratic senators are lining up to oppose it, setting up a battle royal pitting President Obama and his own congressional caucus&mdash;one the<em> New York Times</em>' Jonathan Weisman <a href="">calls</a> "sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama's last 19 months in office."</p> <p>In a <a href="" target="_blank">post last year</a>, I laid out why the US meat industry loves the TPP: namely, that it would open the floodgates to lucrative markets in Japan, Vietnam, and Malaysia, all of which limit imports of US meat to protect domestic farmers</p> <p>Another massive agribusiness sector, the GMO seed pesticide industry, potentially stands to gain from the TTIP, because the European Union has much more restrictive regulations on rolling out novel crops than does the United States. Some member states, including <a href="">France</a>, maintain moratoriums on planting certain GM crops. Attempting to drum up support for the fast-track bill on Capitol Hill, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and US Trade Representative Michael Froman have been been promising to use the proposed treaty has a hammer to force broader acceptance in the EU.&nbsp;</p> <p>"Vilsack said the administration would 'continue to negotiate very hard' to prevent individual EU countries from blocking use of approved biotech products," reports <em>Agri-Pulse's</em> Philip Brasher, in an <a href="">account</a> of a hearing last week held by the Senate Finance Committee. As for Froman, he told the committee that "we're not trying to force anybody anywhere to eat anything, but we do think the decisions about what is safe should be made by science and not by politics."</p> <p>Vilsack has also rallied the agribusiness industry to lobby Congress in favor of the fast-track bill, calling on "farmers, ranchers, agribusiness owners, and other industry groups to urge Congress to pass trade promotion authority for President Obama and to support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement," <a href="">reports</a> the North American Meat Institute.</p> <p>But what's good for the meat and biotech industries industry isn't necessarily good for the country. As the<em> Intercept</em>'s Lee Fang <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>, Obama's Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is negotiating the trade deals, is shot through with former biotech-industry flacks. The fast track bill would further curtail public debate on a treaty process that's already been <a href="">notoriously secretive</a>. I hope Democratic senators defy the president on this one.</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Economy Food and Ag Foreign Policy International Top Stories Wed, 22 Apr 2015 10:00:06 +0000 Tom Philpott 274006 at