Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2011/08/liberals-have-been-played-chumps%22 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Bernie Sanders is Going to Town on the Democratic Convention. That's Fine. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/bernie-sanders-going-town-democratic-convention-thats-fine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Washington Monthly</em>, D.R. Tucker is pretty fed up with Bernie Sanders. He agrees with me that Sanders seems too bitter these days, and he also thinks that Bernie should dial back the attacks on Hillary now that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bernie_arms.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">she's the almost certain winner of the primary. <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2016_05/everyday_is_a_whining_road060681.php" target="_blank">But he also says this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As the old joke goes, even Stevie Wonder can see that Sanders is going to have an epic meltdown at the convention if superdelegates reject his request for the nomination. The behavior of Sanders, his campaign staff, and some of his supporters is profoundly disappointing to those who wanted Sanders to play a constructive and healthy role in defining the post-Obama Democratic Party. During the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton may have said a few undiplomatic words about Obama in the final days of her campaign, but it never seemed as though Clinton personally loathed the future president. Things are much different this time around.</p> <p>....Clinton and the Democratic Party should be quite concerned about the prospect of a disastrous convention, disrupted by Sanders supporters upset over their hero not getting what they believe he was entitled to.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't believe this for a second. Take a look at what Bernie has been doing lately. He's demanded more representation on the platform committee. He's objected to a couple of committee chairs. He's remarked that he hopes Hillary chooses a vice president who's not in thrall to Wall Street.</p> <p><em>This is exactly what Sanders should be doing.</em> Teeing off on Hillary is a bad idea for Sanders, for the Democratic Party, and&mdash;given who the Republican nominee is&mdash;bad for the country and the world. Sanders may, as Tucker says, loathe Clinton, but he needs to put that aside.</p> <p>But there's no reason for him to put aside the enormous leverage he possesses to move the party in a more progressive direction. He won a lot votes. He has a lot of delegates. He has a substantial following that's willing to take cues from him. There's no intelligent politician in the country who wouldn't use that to push the country in a direction he deeply believes in. Hillary would do the same thing in his position.</p> <p>So go ahead Bernie: press for a more progressive platform. Press for a progressive vice president. Press for primary rule changes that you think would give progressive candidates a better shot at winning. Press for the policies you believe in, and don't hold back. In the end, the threat of Donald Trump will prevent Bernie and his followers from hating Hillary too long, but in the meantime there's no reason not to use every weapon in his arsenal to browbeat both Hillary and the Democratic Party into moving in the direction he wants them to go.</p> <p>Just keep the personal attacks, both real and implied, out of the picture. They do you no good.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 21:24:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 305251 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton Has a Shouting Problem http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/hillary-clinton-has-shouting-problem <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A friend of mine sends me an email about Hillary Clinton:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have two daughters, 28 and 25, who live in NYC and a son, 23, just out of college and soon to move to Washington DC. Last weekend we were with all three in Charlottesville. I brought up the subject of the election and they all three basically said the same thing: Trump is a jackass and they are going to vote for Hillary, <strong>but for god's sake why does she scream and shout at her rallies, etc.</strong></p> <p>They say that virtually all of their friends are driven crazy by it and they basically prefer her to Trump except for the shouting and screaming <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_speech_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">shtick. <strong>My oldest says it is now considered a sexist term but, frankly, Hillary comes across as too "shrill."</strong></p> <p>Listen, I like Hillary a lot but she has got to stop this shouting bullshit. It comes across as insincere and phony and&mdash;as Joe Klein puts it&mdash;it's not necessary in the era of microphones. Hillary is at her most impressive when she just talks like a normal human&mdash;remember how she came across in the Benghazi hearings? I am confident that plenty of Hillary's people read your blog, so please beg them to lean heavily on her to stop the shouting and just talk to people like they aren't a bunch of deaf morons standing a half-mile away. Obviously Trump has picked up on the resonating significance of this shouting thing and if there is one thing we can agree on it's that he has a intuitive ear for what gets people riled-up.</p> </blockquote> <p>I could take the coward's way out and say that I'm just passing along the observations of another person here, but the truth is that I find Hillary hard to listen to as well. The shouting is one part of it, but the other part (in victory speeches and ordinary stump speeches) is that she never has anything even remotely interesting to say. I know that these kinds of speeches are usually pretty canned affairs, but there's no reason Hillary can't mix things up a little bit. Stuff happens in the world all the time, and you can use this stuff as a hook to make your speeches more likely to drive ratings and get better TV coverage.</p> <p>A lot of people will take this criticism as pure sexism. Maybe it is. It's not as if Bernie Sanders has a carefully modulated tone of voice, and young people seem to like him just fine. Still, fair or not, sexist or not, this is a common observation about Hillary. And it's hardly impossible to learn how to speak better in public. It just takes a little time and practice. In marketing&mdash;and that's largely what politics is&mdash;you don't complain about lousy customers if they turn out not to like your product or your advertising. The customer is always right, by definition. This is a weak spot for Hillary, and she ought to work on it.</p> <p>And while we're on the subject, Team Hillary really, really needs to get over its idiotic obsession with trying to hang a disparaging nickname on Donald Trump. All it does is validate <em>his</em> nicknames and put Hillary in the same gutter he works out of. In the end, that's not what a majority of the public is likely to want. They want a president, not a game show host.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 20:50:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 305246 at http://www.motherjones.com Federal Judge Launches a Thousand Tiny Violins for Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/federal-judge-thousand-tiny-violins-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago Donald Trump unloaded an extraordinarily blistering public attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/05/27/trump-attacks-federal-judge-in-trump-u-case/" target="_blank">overseeing the class-action lawsuit against Trump University:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. Frankly, he should recuse himself because he&rsquo;s given us ruling after ruling after ruling, negative, negative, negative.&rdquo; Mr. Trump also told the audience, which had previously chanted the Republican standard-bearer&rsquo;s signature &ldquo;build that wall&rdquo; mantra in reference to Mr. Trump&rsquo;s proposed wall along the Mexican border, that Judge Curiel is &ldquo;Mexican.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;<strong>What happens is the judge, who happens to be, we believe, Mexican, which is great. I think that&rsquo;s fine,</strong>&rdquo; Mr. Trump said.</p> <p>....&ldquo;I think Judge Curiel should be ashamed of himself,&rdquo; Mr. Trump said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m telling you, this court system, judges in this court system, federal court, they ought to look into Judge Curiel. Because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace, OK? But we&rsquo;ll come back in November. Wouldn&rsquo;t that be wild if I&rsquo;m president and I come back to do a civil case? Where everybody likes it. OK. This is called life, folks.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>As it happens, Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, but hey, what's a little race-baiting between Trump and a few thousand close friends and few million TV viewers?</p> <p>More broadly, though, what the hell was this all about? Well, it turns out that Trump probably had forewarning about what was coming down the pike. The <em>Washington Post</em> had filed a motion to unseal some documents in the trial, and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/judge-orders-release-of-internal-trump-university-documents/2016/05/28/2e960e5e-24f9-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html" target="_blank">one of their arguments</a> was that since Trump was now the presumptive <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_worlds_smallest_violin_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Republican nominee for president, that increased the public interest in these documents. <a href="http://www.politico.com/f/?id=00000154-f8b3-da5b-afd4-fbb33c940001" target="_blank">The judge agreed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As an initial matter, the court must strongly presume the public interest in access. But &ldquo;the interest in access to court proceedings in general may be asserted more forcefully <strong>when the litigation involves matters of significant public concern.</strong>&rdquo; As the Post points out, the Ninth Circuit found that [Trump University] was a public figure for purposes of defamation.</p> <p>....<strong>Subsequently, Defendant became the front-runner for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential race,</strong> and has placed the integrity of these court proceedings at issue. The Ninth Circuit has directed courts considering the public disclosure of litigation materials to take into account &ldquo;whether a party benefitting from the order of confidentiality is a public entity or official; and...whether the case involves issues important to the public.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So Trump is now more than just a public figure: he's a legitimate contender for high public office. And that means his actions justifiably invite stronger scrutiny.</p> <p>So what was Trump's ploy here? Does he not realize that publicly bashing a judge is a bad idea? Federal judges don't have to worry about Trump's mob and they don't have to worry about being re-elected. Or did he think that ranting against the judge before the ruling was handed down would help him on appeal? <em>I criticized him, and he took it personally and ruled against us.</em> Maybe. Or does Trump simply have no self control and couldn't help himself?</p> <p>Generally speaking, I think Trump still doesn't realize that running for president is different from anything else he's ever experienced. The bullying just doesn't work the way it used to. The press scrutiny is beyond even Trump's imagining. Money and organization matter. You have to appeal to more than just a half of a half of the electorate. And in this case, the fact that he's the presumptive nominee of a major political party means that his actions are presumptively of legitimate public interest.</p> <p>Live by earned media, die by earned media. In the meantime, let us all break out the crocodile tears for Trump. It's schadenfreude time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 18:59:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 305241 at http://www.motherjones.com SFMOMA Is Great, But it Could Be Better http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/sfmoma-great-it-could-be-better <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Michael O'Hare is delighted with the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, <a href="http://www.samefacts.com/2016/05/everything-else/sfmoma/" target="_blank">but he does have a couple of complaints:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What&rsquo;s not so great, so far: while it&rsquo;s free for anyone under 19, standard admission is $25. This is very bad, and a big deal: if you spend that much to get <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sfmoma_tickets.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in, you are under pressure to try to see too much and stay too long.</p> <p>....There is only one open evening a week, otherwise it&rsquo;s 10-5, which is as silly as a theater programming nothing but matinees. Museums have a disagreeable tradition of being for tourists and the unemployed wives of wealthy businessmen. A museum is the ideal place for a first date, and even to meet new people (no pressure, and lots of stuff to talk about); why make it so difficult to go there after work?</p> </blockquote> <p>On the second point, this is a good example of my habit of being wary of obvious complaints. I'm certain that every art museum executive in the country is aware of this issue, so it's pretty unlikely it's happening out of ignorance or malice. There's probably a very good reason for it. We'd just have to ask. At a guess, that reason is that it's been tried by lots of museums before and it's a steady money loser because nobody comes. I'll also guess that oldsters like Mike and me might be wrong about kids thinking that SFMOMA would make a dandy first date. Just saying.</p> <p>The first point is a little different. Sure, high admission prices are also an obvious problem, but I'm surprised museums don't try a theme park solution that was pioneered by, of all companies, Blockbuster. (Well, that's the first place I encountered it, anyway.) Keep the price at $25, but make every ticket automatically good for three days. My guess is that this would have a minimal effect on revenue, but for those few who'd like to wander back in a day or two instead of conducting a one-day death march, it would be great. There might be issues with people giving away or selling their tickets after visiting for a day, but I'll bet there's a tech solution for that. Silicon Valley is only a few miles away, guys. Maybe every ticket includes a photo. If you don't want your photo taken, then it reverts to a one-day ticket. This might well be worth giving some more thought to.</p> <p>And if you've made it this far, here's your reward: <a href="http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/San-Jose-Teens-Glasses-Prank-at-San-Francisco-Museum-of-Modern-Art-Goes-Viral-381055301.html" target="_blank">San Jose Teen's Glasses Prank at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Goes Viral.</a> Really, you need to click on this. It's hilarious. A Sokal hoax for the modern art biz.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 15:55:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 305236 at http://www.motherjones.com Word of the Day: A•poph•a•sis http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/word-day-apophasis <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I have to say that these OED folks are remarkably up to date. Very impressive.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_apophasis_4%0A.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 10px 0px 5px 100px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 12:59:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 305226 at http://www.motherjones.com Four Pictures and a Video http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/four-pictures-and-video <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><strong>Picture #1:</strong> On the Verizon website, the number of "agents" who are eagerly waiting for you to call is...<a href="https://twitter.com/mixonic/status/736575632226852865" target="_blank">a random number between 1 and 15.</a> The wait time is also a random number.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_verizon_agents_waiting.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p><strong>Picture #2:</strong> Congratulations, particle physicists! You have finally isolated the rare glutino and packaged it for the masses. Who says basic science is useless?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_glutino_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p><strong>Picture #3:</strong> Rejection letter to George Orwell <a href="https://twitter.com/MichaelLCrick/status/736678479505293312" target="_blank">for <em>Animal Farm</em>:</a> "What was needed, (someone might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs." So I've heard.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_animal_farm_rejection.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p><strong>Picture #4:</strong> It could have been worse. They could have supplied him with Viagra.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Georgia AD apologizes for paying Ludacris 65k plus liquor and condoms <a href="https://t.co/36nmvBT1Mn">https://t.co/36nmvBT1Mn</a> <a href="https://t.co/LmpvtetlHl">pic.twitter.com/LmpvtetlHl</a></p> &mdash; The Comeback (@thecomeback) <a href="https://twitter.com/thecomeback/status/736548651460268032">May 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p><strong>And a video: </strong>I'm not sure Hopper ever noticed what was going on.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/N7qN0dqZeT0?start=0" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 65px;" width="500"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 29 May 2016 00:16:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 305231 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: "Suck It Up, Cupcake" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/quote-day-suck-it-cupcake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Oh FFS:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wapo_palin_apology_lap.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>Really? Sarah Palin is still front-page news? Seriously? On the other hand, I have to admit that <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/05/27/sarah-palin-assails-obama-for-hiroshima-visit/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_pp-palin-758am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" target="_blank">she's hard to resist:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Palin said Obama&rsquo;s visit suggested that the president believes that &ldquo;the greatest generation was perpetuating the evil of World War II.&rdquo;...[The] tea party heroine said Trump would be a president &ldquo;who knows how to win.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;You mess with our freedom,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;we&rsquo;ll put a boot in your ass. It&rsquo;s the American way.&rdquo;</strong> At that, the crowd chanted, &ldquo;USA! USA! USA!&rdquo;</p> <p>Palin was the warm-up act at Trump&rsquo;s large rally, speaking on stage before the candidate arrived in San Diego. She took issue with Obama&rsquo;s statement overseas this week that other world leaders have been &ldquo;rattled&rdquo; by the rise of Trump. &ldquo;Rattled, are they now?&rdquo; Palin said....She pointed out that the yellow Gadsden flag flown at tea party rallies depicts a rattlesnake &ldquo;coiled, prepared, ready to strike.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;So, yeah, rattlin&rsquo; &ndash; it&rsquo;s a good thing,&rdquo;</strong> she said.</p> <p>....Turning to look at the television cameras and journalists on the press riser, Palin lambasted the &ldquo;sheep in the media.&rdquo; &ldquo;Their head is still a-spinnin&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Do you know how thoroughly distrusted you are, mainstream media? ... <strong>He is now we the people&rsquo;s nominee, so suck it up, cupcake!</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh well. At least it's Saturday. Maybe no one will notice that I caved in and wrote about this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 May 2016 19:26:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 305221 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Dose of Liberal Heresy: Campaign Finance Reform Isn't That Big a Deal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/todays-liberal-heresy-campaign-finance-reform-not-big-deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was musing the other day about something or other, and for some reason it occurred to me that there are several subjects near and dear to progressive hearts that I flatly disagree with. I'm not talking about, say, charter schools, where there's a robust, ongoing intra-liberal debate and both sides already have plenty of adherents. Nor am I talking about things like Wall Street regulation, where everyone (including me) thinks we need to do more but we disagree on technical issues (Bernie wants to break up big banks, I want to double capital requirements).</p> <p>I'm thinking instead of things that seem to enjoy something like 90+ percent liberal support&mdash;and which I think are basically a waste of liberal time and energy. So if I write about them, a whole lot of people are going to be pissed off. Something like 90+ percent of my readership, I'd guess. Who needs the grief? After all, for the most part there's usually not much harm in spending time and energy on these things (though there are exceptions).</p> <p>But let's give it a go anyway. Maybe this will be the first entry in a periodic series. Maybe I'll discover that I'm not quite as alone on these issues as I think. Here's my first entry.</p> <h2><strong>Campaign Finance Reform</strong></h2> <p>Liberals love campaign finance reform. <em>Citizens United</em> is our <em>Roe v. Wade</em>, and it's become an even more central issue since Bernie Sanders began his presidential run last year. As near as I can tell, Bernie&mdash;along with most liberals&mdash;thinks it's the key foundational issue of modern progressivism. Until we seriously reduce the amount of money in political campaigns, no real progressive reform is possible.</p> <p>I'm pretty sure this is completely wrong. Here are seven reasons that have persuaded me of this over the years, with the most important reason left to the end:</p> <ol><li><strong>Half a century has produced nothing.</strong> Liberal groups have been putting serious effort into campaign finance reform <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/american-campaign-finance-scandal-history" target="_blank">for about 40 years now.</a> The only result has been abject failure. Ban union donations, they create PACs. Ban hard money, you get soft money. Ban soft money, you get Super PACs. Etc. None of the reforms have worked, and even before <em>Citizens United</em> the Supreme Court had steadily made effective reform efforts harder and harder. What's even worse, the public still isn't with us. If you ask them vaguely if they think there's too much money in politics, most will say yes. If you ask them if they really care, <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/111652/campaign-financing-appears-nonissue-voters.aspx" target="_blank">they shrug.</a> After nearly half a century, maybe it's time to ask why.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Other countries spend less.</strong> Most other rich countries spend a lot less on political campaigns than we do. Are they less in thrall to moneyed interests because of this? Some are, some aren't. I've never seen any convincing evidence that there's much of a correlation.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Billionaires are idiots.</strong> Seriously. The evidence of the last decade or so suggests that billionaires just aren't very effective at using their riches to win elections. This is unsurprising: billionaires are egotists who tend to think that because they got rich doing X, they are also geniuses at Y and Z and on beyond zebra. But they aren't. This stuff is a hobby for them, and mostly they're just wasting their money.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>The small-dollar revolution.</strong> Starting with Howard Dean in 2004, the internet has produced an explosion of small-dollar donations, accounting for over a third of presidential fundraising in 2012 and 2016. This year, for example, Hillary Clinton has so far <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pres16/" target="_blank">raised</a> $288 million (including money raised by outside groups). Bernie Sanders has raised $208 million, all of it in small-dollar donations averaging $27. Ironically, at the same time that he's made campaign finance reform a major issue, Bernie has demonstrated that small dollars can power a serious insurgency.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Money really is speech.</strong> Obviously this is an opinion, and a really rare one on my side of the political spectrum. But why <em>should</em> political speech be restricted? My read of the First Amendment suggests that if there's any single kind of speech that should enjoy the highest level of protection, it's political speech.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>We may have maxed out anyway.</strong> There's increasing evidence that in big-time contests (governors + national offices), we've basically reached the point of diminishing returns. At this point, if billionaires spend more money it just won't do much good even if they're smart about it. There are only so many minutes of TV time available and only so many persuadable voters. More important, voters have only so much bandwidth. Eventually they tune out, and it's likely that we've now reached that point.<br><br> In the interests of fairness, I'll acknowledge that I might be wrong about this. It might turn out that there are clever ways to spend even more; billionaires might get smarter; and <em>Citizens United</em> has only just begun to affect spending. Maybe in a couple of decades I'll be eating my words about this.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Campaign spending hasn't gone up much anyway.</strong> I told you I'd leave the most important reason for the end, and this is it. It's easy to be shocked when you hear about skyrocketing billions of dollars being spent on political campaigns, but billions of dollars aren't that much in a country the size of the United States. <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/" target="_blank">In 2012,</a> Obama spent $1.1 billion vs. Mitt Romney's $1.2 billion. That's about 1 percent of total ad spending in the US. Hell, <a href="http://adage.com/article/digital/sprint-t-mobile-spend-big-pursuit-verizon-t/242953/" target="_blank">in the cell phone biz alone,</a> AT&amp;T spent $1.3 billion vs. Verizon's $1.2 billion. If you want to look at campaign spending, you really need to size it to the growth in GDP over the past half century or so.</li> </ol><p>So here it is. These two charts show our skyrocketing spending on presidential campaigns as a percent of GDP. Data for the chart on the left <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/historic-price-cost-presidential-elections" target="_blank">comes from <em>Mother Jones</em>.</a> The chart on the right <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/cost.php?display=T&amp;infl=N" target="_blank">comes from the Center for Responsive Politics.</a> Total presidential spending is up about 18 percent since 2000. I supposed I'd like to see this reduced as much as the next guy, but it's hard to see it as the core corrupter of American politics. It's a symptom, but it's really not the underlying disease. There really are problems with the influence of the rich on American politics, but campaigns are probably the place where it matters least, not most.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_presidential_election_1960_2012_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 1px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 May 2016 19:04:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 305216 at http://www.motherjones.com Mass Transit Ridership Is Down. How Can We Fix This? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/mass-transit-ridership-down-how-can-we-fix <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Tyler Cowen point us to Wendell Cox, who says that&nbsp; aside from New York City, <a href="http://www.newgeography.com/content/005255-new-yorks-incredible-subway" target="_blank">mass transit ridership in the US is looking grim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If New York City Subway ridership had remained at its 2005 level, overall transit ridership would have decreased from 9.8 billion in 2005 to 9.6 billion in 2015. The modern <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_la_metro_ridership_2006_2015_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">record of 10.7 billion rides would never have been approached.</p> </blockquote> <p>Despite spending billions of dollars on new rail lines in LA, mass transit in Southern California <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ridership-slump-20160127-story.html" target="_blank">certainly fits this bill:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the region's largest carrier, lost more than 10% of its boardings from 2006 to 2015, a decline that appears to be accelerating....In Orange County, bus ridership plummeted 30% in the last seven years....Southern California certainly isn't alone. Public transportation use in many U.S. cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., has slumped in the last few years.</p> </blockquote> <p>But all is not lost. If you take a longer look at Los Angeles transit, it turns out there are things you can do to increase ridership. It's complicated, though, so you'll need to read carefully:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thirty years ago, [Metro] handled almost 500 million annual bus boardings in Los Angeles County. In the decade that followed...<strong>Metro raised fares and cut bus service hours. <em>[Ridership during this period declined from 497 million to 362 million. &ndash;ed.]</em></strong></p> <p>In 1994, an organization that represented bus riders sued Metro in federal court....<strong>Metro agreed to stop raising fares for 10 years and relieve overcrowding by adding more than 1 million hours of bus service. Ridership soared.</strong> Metro buses and trains recorded about 492 million boardings in 2006, the most since 1985.</p> <p>But from 2009 to 2011, several years after federal oversight ended and during the Great Recession, <strong>the agency raised fares and cut bus service by 900,000 hours. By the end of 2015, ridership had fallen 10% from 2006,</strong> with the steepest declines coming in the last two years.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. There's an answer in there somewhere. We just need to tease it out. Here's an annotated version of the full chart that I excerpted above. Maybe that will help.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_la_metro_ridership_1985_2015_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 12px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 May 2016 15:05:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 305211 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 27 May 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/friday-cat-blogging-27-may-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was going to link to <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/27/11794970/donald-trump-energy-gullibility" target="_blank">Dave Roberts' post</a> about Donald Trump's big energy speech yesterday, but then I couldn't think of anything to say about it. Before I knew it, catblogging time had arrived. So you're on your own. Click the link and draw your own conclusions.</p> <p>Or just skip it and instead admire Hilbert and Hopper peering out from under the rocking chair. For the record, they write all their own speeches.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2016_05_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 19:04:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 305196 at http://www.motherjones.com Just How Bad Is Gawker, Anyway? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/just-how-bad-gawker-anyway-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So: <em>Gawker</em>. The general reaction of the press to the revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel has been behind the libel suit against <em>Gawker</em> all along has been close to unanimous: it's bad. The generally accepted storyline is that Thiel was pissed off at <em>Gawker</em> for outing him as gay many years ago, and has been plotting revenge ever since. His deep pockets pretty much ensured that eventually he'd be able to sue them into oblivion, and sure enough, he has.</p> <p>But do we really want a world in which angry billionaires who don't like the press they get can use their riches to put news organizations out of business? They don't even have to win. Just file enough lawsuits that meet the bare minimum standard to keep from being frivolous, and eventually they'll win. Now that Thiel has proven the concept, we can expect a lot more of this. <a href="http://fusion.net/story/306927/peter-thiel-gawker-dangerous-blueprint/" target="_blank">See Felix Salmon for a good precis of this argument.</a></p> <p>However, there's another point of view. John Hempton expresses it eloquently:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/felixsalmon">@felixsalmon</a> Denton and <a href="https://twitter.com/Gawker">@Gawker</a> crossed the line of human decency long ago. The option of behavior change has been open for years.</p> &mdash; John_Hempton (@John_Hempton) <a href="https://twitter.com/John_Hempton/status/736233278148071424">May 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Ryan Holiday makes a pretty good case for the odiousness of <em>Gawker</em> <a href="http://observer.com/2016/05/peter-thiels-reminder-to-the-gawker-generation-actions-have-consequences/" target="_blank">here.</a> Nick Denton, the owner of <em>Gawker</em>, more or less responds that <a href="http://gawker.com/an-open-letter-to-peter-thiel-1778991227" target="_blank">Thiel should just suck it up.</a> This kind of shit gets published all the time in places like New York and Washington DC. Why shouldn't Silicon Valley have to put up with it too?</p> <p>What to think? Here's the problem: I don't read <em>Gawker</em>. I've been on their site once in a while, and generally find it boring. I click on things here and there, and mostly find writers desperately trying to bring some snark to a topic that's really kind of dull. So I go away for a year or so before something happens to bring me back.</p> <p>So here's what I need: a <em>Gawker</em>-style listicle that sets out, say, the ten most loathsome things <em>Gawker</em> has done. Does anyone know where I can find something like that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 17:18:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 305186 at http://www.motherjones.com Cell Phones and Brain Cancer: A Mother Jones Symposium http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/cell-phones-and-brain-cancer-mother-jones-symposium <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/05/federal-study-links-cell-phone-radiation-cancer" target="_blank">From <em>Mother Jones</em> this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's the moment we've all been dreading. Initial findings from a massive federal study, released on Thursday, suggest that radio-frequency (RF) radiation, the type emitted by cellphones, can cause cancer.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess it's up to me to present the authorized opposing viewpoint. I'm going to outsource it to Aaron Carroll, <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/none-of-you-can-troll-me-like-austin-can-also-cell-phones-and-cancer-again/" target="_blank">who's pretty annoyed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&nbsp;It was a rat study....9 hours a day, seven days a week....At the end of the study, survival was lower in the control group of males than in all the exposed males. Survival was lower in the control group of females for two of the three exposed groups. Yet no headlines blared that cell phones extend life.</p> <p>....Now let&rsquo;s get to brain cancer....no significant differences in the incidences of lesions in exposed male rats compared to controls....No differences were seen in the female rats at all. The cardiac schwannomas were more compelling, but again,<img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brain_cancer_1975_2013.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;"> only for males. No differences for females.</p> <p>....I didn&rsquo;t see any sample size calculation....power calculation....about 14%. This means that false positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There&rsquo;s no clear dose response....Also, this: Cell phones are UBIQUITOUS in the United States. If they were causing cancer, we would expect to see rates of cancer going up, right? That&rsquo;s not what we&rsquo;re seeing. They&rsquo;ve been decreasing since the late 1980&rsquo;s.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd add one more thing. This is going to sound snarky, but honest, it's not. Here it is: people don't use their cell phones much to make phone calls. This is especially true of young people, which means it's a trend that will only get more pronounced with time. But there's really no way that a cell phone used for, say, texting or Snapchatting could cause brain cancer. Maybe skin cancer? Fingertip cancer?</p> <p>On the other hand, maybe it's not the cell phones at all. Maybe it's the cell towers. Has everyone here read <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_%28short_story%29" target="_blank"><em>Waldo</em></a>? Maybe you should.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 15:54:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 305166 at http://www.motherjones.com Feeling the Bern in California http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/feeling-bern-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bernie_sanders_california.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The <em>LA Times</em> reports that Bernie Sanders is doing something unusual: campaigning everywhere in California. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-california-campaign-exurbs-20160527-snap-story.html" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>All week Bernie Sanders has galloped about California, showing up in places where presidential candidates usually don&rsquo;t tread. On Sunday he was in Vista. On Tuesday he hit Riverside and San Bernardino. On Wednesday he was in Cathedral City and Lancaster. On Thursday, Ventura. On Saturday, he&rsquo;ll be in Santa Maria.</p> <p>....His move to the exurbs and to other less definitely Democratic turf is driven by several realities particular to California. Foremost is the state of the Democratic campaign: Sanders continues to trail Clinton, even if the race appears to be narrowing. So he needs every vote he can get....Another factor makes the exurbs a potential goldmine for Sanders, in particular: While the state as a whole took a giant hit during the Great Recession, the exurbs were particularly hard hit.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's actually a simpler explanation for this: 2016 is the first time in half a century that anyone has bothered campaigning <em>at all</em> in a California presidential primary in June&mdash;let alone for an entire month. In the past, nomination fights have been over by March or April, and California's only real role has been to act as a base for fundraising. And there's not much point in holding a fundraiser in Lancaster.</p> <p>So that explains all the exurbs. Sure, they might be Bernie territory, but he still wouldn't be there in an ordinary year. He'd either be out of the race entirely or else he'd already be the winner, and he'd be holding $5,000-a-plate dinners in Brentwood and Atherton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 15:27:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 305156 at http://www.motherjones.com Congress Continues Not to Care About Phone Scams Aimed at Elderly http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/congress-continues-not-care-about-phone-scams-aimed-elderly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has an article today about the massive spike in robocall phone scams, mostly aimed at the elderly. Luckily, there are several well-known ways that phone companies could put a stop to this. <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/phone-scam-onslaught-has-authorities-scrambling-1464341401" target="_blank">So what's happening on that front?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The FCC is strongly encouraging phone carriers to offer customers technology that aims to detect robotic calls and stop them before getting through, said an agency spokesman. Carriers are &ldquo;working toward that goal,&rdquo; said Kevin Rupy, vice president of law and policy at USTelecom, a trade association.</p> </blockquote> <p>Excellent. The FCC is "strongly encouraging" telcos to do something. And the telcos are "working toward" doing something. Someday. Maybe.</p> <p>Sounds like a job for Congress. Since telcos obviously don't plan on actually doing anything unless they're forced to, it's time to force them. Of course, that would require Congress to actually do something. During an election year. Can't have that, can we? Gotta keep the oldsters nice and angry. Maybe next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 14:46:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 305151 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Toes the Line on Energy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/trump-toes-line-energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Stop me if I'm wrong, but Donald Trump's big energy speech today was just the usual conservative mishmash, right? Global warming doesn't exist. Drill baby drill. Dig more coal. Repeal job-killing Obama environmental rules. Fracking is great. Wind and solar, meh. Nukes, sure, whatever.</p> <p>This is the usual establishment Republican line, and Trump is carefully toeing it. Or am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 01:55:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 305141 at http://www.motherjones.com How Can You Like Barack Obama But Loathe Hillary Clinton? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/how-can-you-barack-obama-loathe-hillary-clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Shaun King says he's giving up on the Democratic Party. He can't abide Hillary Clinton's establishment views and thinks the Democratic Party is fundamentally corrupt and in thrall to moneyed interests. Fair enough. This isn't my position, but I understand it.</p> <p>But there are times when I wonder if we've all succumbed to some kind of mass memory wipe. Although King dislikes Hillary, he says he respects President Obama "a great deal." This prompts interviewer Emmett Rensin to ask an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Obama_Clinton.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">obvious question: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have pretty similar domestic policy positions. So why loathe one but like the other? <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/26/11778158/shaun-king-democratic-party" target="_blank">Here is King's answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think we would have to go down each and every one of the president&rsquo;s positions to really evaluate, what does the president think about health care? Yes, there is a thing called Obamacare &mdash; <strong>but was that what he campaigned on?</strong> What came out of the sausage factory, was that his dream? <strong>No. Of course not.</strong></p> <p>So is the president for universal health care? <strong>Well, he was. For years and years and years.</strong> And I don't know that he stopped being for universal health care. It was just that he used virtually all the political capital he had in his first term to get something decent through Congress, and what came out was very different.</p> </blockquote> <p>What? I don't doubt that Obama, in his heart of hearts, favors truly universal health care. He's said as much in the past&mdash;though in the next breath he's always added that it might take a while to get there. But the only thing he ever <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/factsheet_healthcare.pdf" target="_blank">campaigned on</a> was Obamacare. He unveiled his health care plan nine years ago almost to the day, and&mdash;well, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obama-unveils-universal-health-care-plan/" target="_blank">let's roll the tape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama's plan retains the private insurance system but injects additional money to pay for expanding coverage. It would also create a National Health Insurance Exchange to monitor insurance companies in offering the coverage. Those who can't afford coverage would get a subsidy on a sliding scale depending on their income, and virtually all businesses would have to share in the cost of coverage for their workers. The plan is similar to the one covering members of Congress.</p> <p>Obama's package would prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The plan doesn't have the mandate that rival Democratic candidate John Edwards is proposing to ensure that all Americans get coverage. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee would require everyone to have health insurance, much like state requirements for auto insurance for every driver. Both candidates would require businesses to help cover their workers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obama was, by universal consensus, <em>less</em> ambitious on health care than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. He introduced his plan in 2007, he campaigned on it for the next 18 months, and it's quite close to what eventually got passed. The big difference is that the final version of Obamacare added an individual mandate, something that Hillary had in her plan from the start.</p> <p>There are plenty of reasons to like Obama more than Hillary Clinton. I certainly do. But we all need to stay reality-based too. On domestic policy there was very little difference between Obama and Clinton during the 2008 campaign, and to the extent there was, it was generally Obama who was considered a bit more centrist. It was Obama who was the darling of Wall Street. His climate change plan was all but identical to Hillary's but included lots of happy talk about clean coal. Etc. etc.</p> <p>This whole thing is crazy. Do people even remember the 2008 campaign? Obama was an inspirational speaker, for sure, but on policy matters he was a relentlessly pragmatic, mainstream Democrat. And that's how he's governed ever since he won. If you like Obama on domestic policy, it's really hard to see just what you'd have against Hillary. Their differences lie mostly in foreign policy instincts, and not anywhere else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 23:03:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 305121 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Housing Is Back! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/chart-day-housing-back <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Well, maybe. April saw sales of 619,000 new single-family homes. This is starting to get very close to the average from 1980-2001, before the housing bubble and subsequent crash. At our current rate, we'll exceed the old average by this time next year.</p> <p>Is this good or bad? It's nowhere near bubble territory, so it should be good. If people are buying new homes, it's a sign not just that the economy is picking up (we already knew that), but that people are confident enough in the economy to tie themselves into 30-year mortgages at the same rate they did back when the economy was motoring along. So: two cheers for housing!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_new_single_family_homes_q1_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 19:27:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 305096 at http://www.motherjones.com The Campaign Press Corps Needs to Rediscover Its Inner Cynic http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/campaign-press-corps-needs-rediscover-its-inner-cynic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For the past several months, the press&mdash;and sadly, I suppose I have to include myself in this&mdash;has demonstrated an eager willingness to chatter away about literally anything Donald Trump says. Trump's MO is pretty simple: say ridiculous stuff, but say it with utter confidence. If any other politician said the kinds of things he said, reporters would take it as obvious&mdash;and fairly desperate&mdash;spin. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_paul_manafort.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But Trump's apparently total belief in what he says causes reporters to shed their years of well-earned cynicism and write with an almost wide-eyed fascination.</p> <p>This is sort of inexplicable. It's as if campaign reporters have never encountered a top-notch salesman outside the world of politics. Good sales people aren't slick and oily, folks. They aren't the ones who sell used cars&mdash;that's for penny-ante sales people. The really good ones go after much bigger game. They speak with total confidence, they appear to believe everything they say, and they have the gift of seeming completely truthful. Trump is one of the best, and he doesn't try to hide it. He's written whole books about it. He's <em>proud</em> of his ability to snooker folks, and he brags about it openly if you ask him.</p> <p>But no matter. Say it with enough brio and the marks will come running.</p> <p>This has been obvious for a long time, so why bring it up now? Because apparently Trump has finally trained an acolyte. A few months ago he hired Paul Manafort to run his delegate operation, but that job is no longer necessary now that he's wrapped up the nomination. So these days Manafort plays some kind of vague role in the Trump campaign that will probably get sorted out eventually when all the current infighting is over. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-paul-manafort-general-election_us_574619eee4b0dacf7ad3e201" target="_blank">Yesterday he gave an interview to Howard Fineman,</a> and Manafort sounded just like the master himself. It was endless spin delivered with absolute, utter confidence regardless of how ridiculous it was.</p> <p>And as near as I can tell, Fineman bought it. There's barely a hint of cynicism, barely a nod to the possibility that Manafort is just delivering garden variety political spin. "Manafort's sunny vision may be a little skewed," Fineman says, arousing hope that he <em>does</em> see through Manafort's charade, but no: "Having made millions as an image crafter for foreign tyrants, he can't help but see Trump as an easy lift by comparison." See? The guy's just calling them as he sees them!</p> <p>This is all bad enough, but there's more: as near as I can tell, Fineman's interview generated as much chatter as an interview with Trump himself&mdash;most of it taking Manafort at face value. So now we have <em>two</em> master salesmen who can generate endless chatter just by delivering ordinary spin and making it sound like something more.</p> <p>I dunno. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe this was just a standard bit of beat sweetening, and nothing to get bothered about. But I'm bothered anyway. Trump is a master salesman, and the same reporters who routinely get suckered by Silicon Valley "visionaries" seem to be getting suckered not just by Trump anymore, but by Trump's minions as well. Where's the cynicism, folks?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 18:11:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 305071 at http://www.motherjones.com Bernie Sanders Is Switching Teams http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/bernie-sanders-switching-teams <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump says he'd be delighted to debate Bernie Sanders:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.</p> &mdash; Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) <a href="https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/735689625407131648">May 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is just sad. Trump is the master of modern publicity, and he knows perfectly well that a debate like this would (a) help Trump and (b) hurt Hillary. That's it. That's all it would do. And Bernie is all in.</p> <p>Is Bernie really so aggrieved by losing the Democratic nomination that he's now willing to explicitly campaign on Trump's behalf? Because that's all this is. What happened to the old Bernie Sanders?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 16:45:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 305056 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Time to Kill Off the Scripps Spelling Bee http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/its-time-kill-scripps-spelling-bee <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff provides the basic argument for <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/26/11770814/spelling-bee-2016-co-champions" target="_blank">killing off the spelling bee:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here's how the final round of the Spelling Bee works. Once the competition is narrowed to two or three competitors, officials go to a list of 25 words. These are supposed to be the Bee's hardest words, reserved for the very top contenders.</p> <p>....But something weird happened in 2014: Both finalists got all their words right. It happened again in 2015....Co-championships used to be rare in the spelling bee world. Before 2014, there had only been three such instances in the Bee's 90-year history. And now we've had the unprecedented situation of back-to-back co-champions. <strong>All because we're running out of words that are too hard to spell.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've been unhappy about the spelling bee for years. For starters, I don't like the idea of national TV coverage for kids that young. Like the Little League World Series, it becomes an ever bigger television spectacle every year, and I just flatly think <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Spelling_Bee_1930.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">that's wrong. At the very least, we should wait until kids are in high school before they get that much pressure dumped on them.</p> <p>There's also the fact that the bee has become cool at precisely the time that no one cares about spelling anymore. Computers have made it an obsolete skill, so the bee reinforces the notion that academic prowess is dumb and nerdy. Look at all those kids spending thousands of hours practicing something of no use whatsoever! Suckers!</p> <p>Finally, as Kliff points out, the bee has finally been hacked. Unlike most competitions, spelling bees have a ceiling. If you can spell every word in the dictionary, you're done. You're the best speller that will ever live. And that makes it time to retire the trophy.</p> <p>I'm all in favor of academic competitions. Maybe ESPN could hire some color commentators and televise the Academic Decathlon or something. That's mostly for high school juniors and seniors, which is fine, and there's no ceiling on the competition. If the kids keep getting better, just make the questions harder. Or maybe ESPN should make up its own academic version of American Ninja Warrior. "No one has ever made it through the trigonometry ladder in less than two minutes, but it might happen tonight! Tune in!"</p> <p>But the spelling bee? It had a great run. Now it's time to end it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 16:20:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 305051 at http://www.motherjones.com Economic Productivity Is Looking Bleak http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/economic-productivity-looking-bleak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://next.ft.com/content/925d8e6c-226f-11e6-9d4d-c11776a5124d#axzz49l7DGHcO" target="_blank">From the <em>Financial Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Productivity is set to fall in the US for the first time in more than three decades, raising the prospect of persistent wage stagnation and the risk of a further populist backlash. Research by the Conference Board, a US think-tank, also shows the rate of productivity growth sliding behind the feeble rates in other advanced economies, <strong>with gross domestic product per hour projected to drop by 0.2 per cent this year.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The San Francisco Fed tracks a different measure called utilization-adjusted total factor productivity, which they say is a better benchmark of technological improvements than old-school labor productivity. <a href="http://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/indicators-data/total-factor-productivity-tfp/" target="_blank">Here's their current series:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_factor_productivity.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 7px;"></p> <p>These are 4-quarter growth rates, but the San Francisco Fed says that utilization-adjusted TFP has already gone negative on a pure quarterly basis: it was -2.66 percent in the last quarter of 2015 and -0.58 percent in the first quarter of 2016. So everyone agrees: no matter how you measure it, productivity growth is pretty weak these days. Is this because technological change has stagnated? Because low wages have prevented businesses from spending money on new labor-saving machinery? Because we're not measuring the effect of the app economy properly?</p> <p>Hard to say. Come back in a decade and I'll tell you. In the meantime, it's something to keep an eye on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 15:26:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 305046 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's PSA: It's Time to Brush Up On All the Clinton Crap of the 90s http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/todays-psa-its-time-brush-all-clinton-crap-90s <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday I nominated Joe Conason to write a series of cheat sheets on all the Hillary Clinton "scandals" of the 90s. Today he emailed to beg off, offering an excuse about having to finish up a "book," <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hunting_hillary.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">which I gather from context is some kind of long, paper-based blog post. Anybody ever heard of this before?</p> <p>But all is not lost. While we wait for this "book," it turns out that he and Gene Lyons have created "The Hunting of Hillary," an abridged version of their original comprehensive look at all the Clinton crap of the 90s. And it's free! I read most of it over lunch today, and if you need a quick refresher on this stuff, it's pretty good.</p> <p>For those of you who are new to all this, I'll warn you right off that you might initially feel inundated by a horde of Hales and McDougals and Tuckers and Nelsons and Scaifes. Don't worry, though: it will start to make sense eventually. They're mostly just various types of unsavory Arkansas political fauna.</p> <p>Anyway, <a href="http://hillarybook.nationalmemo.com/" target="_blank">it's all here in PDF form,</a> free for nothing more than an email address. I hate to do this to you, but I have a feeling we're all going to need to brush up on this stuff sooner rather than later. Might as well do it now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 04:58:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 305026 at http://www.motherjones.com "Roots" Remake Gets the Drudge Treatment http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/roots-remake-gets-drudge-treatment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This week's <em>Hollywood Reporter</em> features a 4,000-word cover story about A&amp;E's remake of <em>Roots</em>. About halfway through, <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/roots-reborn-how-a-slave-897055" target="_blank">reporter Marisa Guthrie inserts this brief sentence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The original <em>Roots</em> has its deficiencies. It hasn't aged well at all; Burton admits that it feels "dated." At times, it's also overly sentimental and historically dubious. <strong>A handful of white characters diverge seriously from Haley's novel, most conspicuously a benevolent slave-ship captain played by Ed Asner.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Here's how this plays at the <em>Drudge Report</em>:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_roots_reborn_drudge.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 47px;"></p> <p>Credit where it's due: Drudge knows his audience well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 03:34:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 305021 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Tried to Cheat Veterans out of $1 Million http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/donald-trump-tried-cheat-veterans-out-1-million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I want to make this simple. Here's what Donald Trump did recently:</p> <ul><li>He pledged $1 million to help veterans.</li> <li>He tried to weasel out of it for months and hoped no one would notice.</li> <li>When he finally got caught, he ponied up grudgingly and insulted the reporter who caught him.</li> </ul><p>Even among sleazebags, <em>this is not normal behavior</em>. This is pathological sleaziness. It's literally beyond belief. Do not let Trump distract you with his <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_five_dollars_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">latest barrage of insults. Do not turn your attention to the latest polls. Do not let this be normalized away as "just another Trump thing."</p> <p>Maybe we need to put this in simpler terms. $1 million is one ten-thousandth of Trump's claimed wealth. The average American household has a net worth of <a href="http://time.com/money/2917709/wealth-inequality-doubled-over-last-10-years-study-finds/" target="_blank">about $50,000.</a> One ten-thousandth of that is $5. In terms of its effect on his personal finances, what Trump did was the equivalent of promising five bucks to a homeless vet and then trying to weasel out of it. What kind of person would do that?</p> <p>This deserves far more attention than it's gotten. If character is supposed to be important in our presidents, this is evidence of the most contemptible kind of character imaginable. <em>He tried to cheat a bunch of veterans!</em> Can we please not shrug our shoulders and let this fade away?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 19:09:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 304901 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekly Flint Water Report: May 14-19 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/weekly-flint-water-report-may-14-19 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 189 samples. The average for the past week was 17.08.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_05_19.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 18:01:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 304871 at http://www.motherjones.com