Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/10/obam http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en The Big-Ag-Fueled Algae Bloom That Won't Leave Toledo's Water Supply Alone http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/08/giant-toxic-algae-bloom-haunts-toledo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The citizens of Toledo, Ohio, have embarked upon their new summer ritual: <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2015/07/bottled_water_is_selling_brisk.html">stocking up on bottled water</a>. For the second straight year, <a href="http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2015/20150709-noaa-partners-predict-severe-harmful-algal-bloom-for-lake-erie.html">an enormous algae bloom has settled upon Lake Erie</a>, generating nasty toxins right where the city of 400,000 draws its tap water.</p> <p>It's a kind of throwback to Toledo's postwar heyday, when the Rust Belt's booming factories deposited phosphorus-laced wastewater into streams that made their way into Lake Erie, feeding algae growths that rival today's in size. But after the decline of heavy industry and the advent of the Clean Water Act, there's a new main source of algae-feeding phosphorus into the beleaguered lake: <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/110/16/6448" target="_blank">fertilizer runoff</a> from industrial-scale corn and soybean farms. (Background <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/task_force_report_october_2013.pdf">here</a>.)&nbsp;</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/tom-philpott/2015/08/giant-toxic-algae-bloom-haunts-toledo"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Top Stories Wed, 05 Aug 2015 10:05:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 281256 at http://www.motherjones.com A Federal Judge Just Struck Down Idaho’s Law Against Secretly Videotaping Animal Abuse on Farms http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/08/judge-idaho-ag-gag-law-unconstitutional <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lN_YcWOuVqk" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Captured by <a href="http://www.burgerkingcruelty.com/more-information.php">undercover investigators</a> and released in 2012, the above video depicts a disturbing scene inside a large Idaho dairy facility. We see workers committing various acts of violence against cows: kicking and punching them, beating them with rods, twisting their tails, and, most graphically, wrapping a chain around the neck of a downed cow and dragging it with a tractor. The exposed dairy <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/10/us/idaho-dairy-animal-abuse/">promptly fired five workers in the aftermath</a>, but behind the scenes, Idaho's <a href="http://www.capitalpress.com/Dairy/20141103/dairy-industry-major-driver-in-idahos-economy" target="_blank">$6.6 billion dairy industry</a> quietly began working with its friends in the state legislature on a different response, according to US District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill.</p> <p>In a <a href="http://aldf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/8-3-2015-ALDF-decision-ag-gag.pdf">decision</a> released Monday, Winmill wrote that the Idaho Dairymen's Association "responded to the negative publicity by drafting and sponsoring" a bill that criminalizes the "types of undercover investigations that exposed the [violent] activities." Known as ag gag legislation&mdash;check out Ted Genoways' must-read <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/ag-gag-laws-mowmar-farms" target="_blank">piece</a> on the phenomenon&mdash;it <a href="http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/02/governor-otter-should-reconsider-idaho-ag-gag-bill-says-chobani-founder/#.VcEoLRNVikp">sailed through the Idaho Legislature</a> and became a law in 2014.</p> <p>Winmill declared the law unconstitutional in his decision, stating that its only purpose is to "limit and punish those who speak out on topics relating to the agricultural industry, striking at the heart of important First Amendment values." Moreover, the judge ruled, the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, "as well as preemption claims under three different federal statutes." Ouch.</p> <p>According to <a href="http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/federal-judge-in-boise-strikes-down-idahos-new-ag-gag-law/#.VcEoyRNVikp">Food Safety News</a>, seven other states have similar ag gag laws on the books. "This ruling is so clear, so definitive, so sweeping," Leslie Brueckner, senior attorney for Public Justice (co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the case), <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/08/04/3687617/idaho-ag-gag-law-unconstitutional/">told</a> <em>ThinkProgress</em>. "We couldn't ask for a better building block in terms of striking these laws down in other states."</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Tue, 04 Aug 2015 22:34:42 +0000 Tom Philpott 281276 at http://www.motherjones.com Jeb Bush: "I'm Not Sure We Need Half a Billion Dollars" for Women’s Health http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/jeb-bush-defund-planned-parenthood <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9FwNcUYabI4" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>When he was governor of Florida, Jeb Bush vetoed state funding for Planned Parenthood. He thinks the next president should do the same&mdash;at the federal level.</p> <p>That's what Bush said Tuesday at the <a href="http://sendconference.com/" target="_blank">Send North America</a> conference, one of America's largest evangelical gatherings. He wasn't done talking about women's health care, though:</p> <blockquote> <p>You could take dollar for dollar&mdash;although I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars&mdash;for women's health issues, but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine community health organizations that exist to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government.</p> </blockquote> <p>Reminder: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/03/what-happens-when-you-defund-planned-parenthood" target="_blank">This is what happens</a> when Planned Parenthood is defunded.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE, Tuesday, August 4, 3:30 p.m. PT (Becca Andrews):</strong> Bush later issued a statement that he "misspoke." It <a href="https://jeb2016.com/statement-federal-funding-planned-parenthood/?lang=en" target="_blank">reads</a>: "There are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women&rsquo;s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don&rsquo;t have the access they need." He goes on to say that the "half a billion dollars" line only referred to Planned Parenthood.</p></body></html> MoJo Video 2016 Elections Jeb Bush Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Top Stories Tue, 04 Aug 2015 21:45:45 +0000 Becca Andrews 281271 at http://www.motherjones.com Dreaming about Debates http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/dreaming-about-debates <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ed Kilgore <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2015_08/lunch_buffet_867056922.php" target="_blank">tells us about his night:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ugh, dreamed about the Voters First Presidential Forum a good part of the night. 'Twas even more boring the third time around.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh lordy. I wonder if I dream about stuff like this? Probably. So even though it would frustrate Freud, I think it's all for the best that I never remember my dreams.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 04 Aug 2015 21:33:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 281281 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Adds a Touch of Class to the Anti-Planned Parenthood Mob http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/donald-trump-planned-parenthood <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In a radio interview yesterday with conservative host <a href="http://www.hughhewitt.com/donald-trump-on-things-2016/" target="_blank">Hugh Hewitt</a>, Donald Trump took the unusual step of agreeing with other Republican presidential candidates. He said that it would be better for the federal government to shut down than to continue funding Planned Parenthood.</p> <p>"The only way to get rid of Planned Parenthood money for selling off baby parts is to shut the government down in September. Would you support that?" Hewitt asked. Trump replied, "Well I can tell you this. I would." In the late '90s, Trump said he supported <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/420929/trump-abortion-ramesh-ponnuru" target="_blank">keeping late-term abortions legal</a>, but since first considering a run for the GOP nomination in 2011, he has been pro-life.</p> <p>Trump joins a long list of conservatives who have expressed outrage over undercover videos released by a <a href="https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/meet-the-terrorists-in-the-war-on-women" target="_blank">network</a> of anti-abortion activists last month. Jeb Bush also offered his two cents. "The next president should defund Planned Parenthood," he said in an <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FwNcUYabI4&amp;feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">interview</a>. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal <a href="http://gov.louisiana.gov/index.cfm?md=newsroom&amp;tmp=detail&amp;articleID=5061" target="_blank">severed</a> the state's Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood yesterday. Meanwhile, the Senate debated a bill that aimed to strip all federal funding of Planned Parenthood. The bill ultimately failed after the threat of a Democratic filibuster led by Massachusetts Sen. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/elizabeth-warren-planned-parenthood-defund" target="_blank">Elizabeth Warren</a> and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.</p> <p>Republican senators and 2016 hopefuls Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have promised to do everything in their power to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, even if it comes down to a government shutdown. Arizona Sen. John McCain, who chastised his colleagues for the 2013 shutdown, told <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/08/04/429219665/planned-parenthood-opponents-talk-government-shutdown-after-bill-fails" target="_blank">NPR</a> that he believes a shutdown would be justified in this case. "If [Democrats] want to stand before the American people and say they support this practice of dismembering unborn children, then that's their privilege," McCain said.</p> <p>It's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/08/04/how-the-planned-parenthood-debate-could-cause-a-another-government-shutdown/" target="_blank">possible</a> that when Congress returns from its five-week August recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will attach a new bill to defund Planned Parenthood to a must-pass budget bill, employing the same tactics that were used in the 2013 shutdown.</p> <p>Now that Trump has signed on to a potential shutdown, he thinks it could succeed. He acknowledged to Hewitt that the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act in 2013 was a political disaster for the Republicans&mdash;but that was their own fault. "If they had stuck together, they would have won that battle," he asserted. "I think you have to in this case, also."</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Reproductive Rights Tue, 04 Aug 2015 20:45:34 +0000 Becca Andrews 281266 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Cliffhanger: Will Rick Perry Make It To the Main Debate Stage? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/todays-cliffhanger-will-rick-perry-make-it-main-debate-stage <!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_fox_debate_projection.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Vox's Andrew Prokop takes a look at the polls released today and gives us his projection of who's going to make the cut for the main stage in <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/8/4/9094247/republican-debate-2016-qualifiers" target="_blank">Thursday's Fox News Republican debate:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Fox has said it will average the last five national polls before 5 pm today, and <em>New York</em> magazine's Gabriel Sherman has reported that the network will use only live interview polls. If that's the case, polls by NBC/WSJ, Monmouth, CBS News, Bloomberg Politics, and Fox News itself will be averaged....The candidates excluded from the primetime debate appear to be Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's kind of too bad about Perry. He's been saying the occasional interesting thing lately, and while he's unlikely to win, he seems more likely to me than Carson or Huckabee or Cruz.</p> <p>My guess is that no one has any problem with the other six who didn't make it. Their support is minuscule and they don't seem even remotely likely to improve much. But Perry? His formal qualifications are good&mdash;12 years as governor, ran once before in 2012&mdash;and you never know about all that Texas money sloshing around. And there's really no downside. His famous "oops" from last time around was the most memorable moment of the debate cycle. If he does something as dumb this time, at least we'd get some good entertainment value out of it.</p> <p>Anyway, we'll get the official word on all this from Fox in a couple of hours. I know you're all waiting on the edges of your seats. As for me, it's lunchtime in California. So I'm going to go get some lunch.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Yep, this is how it turned out. Official Fox News announcement <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/08/04/fox-news-announces-candidate-line-up-for-prime-time-debate/" target="_blank">here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 04 Aug 2015 19:04:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 281261 at http://www.motherjones.com If You Don't Get Donald Trump's Appeal, You Really Need to Catch Up on Your "Celebrity Apprentice" Viewing http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/if-you-dont-get-donald-trumps-appeal-you-really-need-catch-your-celebrity-apprent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What's the source of Donald Trump's appeal?<sup>1</sup> Responding to one of David Brooks' periodic psychoanalysis sessions of the American voting public, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/08/04/morning-plum-large-majority-of-republicans-trusts-donald-trump-on-illegal-immigration/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent makes a wacky counterproposal:</a> "What if a key source of his appeal is that a lot of Republican voters agree with what he&rsquo;s saying about the issues?"</p> <p>That's a thought. Trump's position on the issues is pretty much the same as all the other GOP candidates, except more, and "more" seems to be what a lot of Republicans want these days. You can never have too much "more" in today's tea-party dominated Republican Party, and Trump has more "more" than anyone.</p> <p>But I want to toss out another suggestion. To a lot of us, Trump is a celebrity real estate developer who likes to get into petty feuds with fellow celebrities. That doesn't seem very presidential. But that's the old Trump. The modern Trump still gets into petty feuds with fellow celebrities, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_boardroom.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">but he's also the star of <em>Celebrity Apprentice</em>, and that's how a lot of people view him these days.</p> <p>You've seen the show, right? You're not one of those vegan weenie lefties who lives in a bubble of art museums and Audubon meetings, unwilling to sully yourself with popular TV, are you? The kind who looks down on regular folks?</p> <p>Oh hell, sure you are. So here's how the show works. A bunch of C-list celebrities compete in teams each week at tasks given to them by Trump. At the end of the show, Trump grills the losing team in the "boardroom," eventually picking a single scapegoat for their failure and firing them. As the show ends, the humiliated team member shuffles disconsolately down the elevator to a waiting car, where they are driven away, never to be seen again. This is the price of failure in Trumpworld.</p> <p>Now, picture in your mind how Trump looks. He is running things. He sets the tasks. The competitors all call him "Mr. Trump" and treat him obsequiously. He gives orders and famous<sup>2</sup> people accept them without quibble. At the end of the show, he asks tough questions and demands accountability. He is smooth and unruffled while the team members are tense and tongue-tied. Finally, having given everything the five minutes of due diligence it needs, he takes charge and fires someone. And on the season finale, he picks a big winner and in the process raises lots of money for charity.</p> <p>Do you see how precisely this squares with so many people's view of the presidency? The president is the guy running things. He tells people what to do. He commands respect simply by virtue of his personality and rock-solid principles. When things go wrong, he doesn't waste time. He gets to the bottom of the problem in minutes using little more than common sense, and then fires the person responsible. And in the end, it's all for a good cause. <em>That's</em> a president.</p> <p>Obviously this is all a fake. The show is deliberately set up to make Trump look authoritative and decisive. But a lot of people just don't see it that way. It's a <em>reality</em> show! It's showing us the real Donald Trump. And boy does he look presidential. Not in the real sense, of course, where you have to deal with Congress and the courts and recalcitrant foreign leaders and all that. But in the Hollywood sense? You bet.</p> <p>So keep this in mind, you liberal latte sippers and Beltway media elites. For the past seven years (11 years if you count the original <em>Apprentice</em> show), about 10 million people<sup>3</sup> have been watching Donald Trump act presidential week after week. He's not a buffoon. He's commanding, he's confident, he's respected, he demands accountability, and he openly celebrates accomplishment and money&mdash;but then makes sure all the money goes to charity at the end. What's not to like?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Actually, according to the latest polls, he appeals to about <a href="http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-gop-primary" target="_blank">24 percent</a> of <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx" target="_blank">23 percent</a> of the electorate, which works out to a little less than 6 percent support. If you keep that in mind, Trumpmania starts to seem both a little less impressive and a little less scary. Still, let's ignore that and just work with the premise of trying to figure out Trump's appeal. Otherwise I don't have a blog post to write.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Well, sort of famous, anyway. More famous than most cabinet members, certainly.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>Though that's dropped in the past couple of seasons. Maybe Trump decided he needed to run for president before the show finally suffered the ultimate disgrace of being canceled.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 04 Aug 2015 18:16:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 281241 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump's Top Iowa Staffer Made This Amazing Infomercial for Bedazzler http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/donald-trumps-tana-goertz-bedazzler <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>With the first Republican presidential debate two days away, Donald Trump is leading his nearest competitor in the national polls by as much as 12 points. In Iowa, the Real Clear Politics poll average puts him <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/ia/iowa_republican_presidential_caucus-3194.html" target="_blank">in second</a> behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but in the <a href="http://www.oann.com/trump-has-big-lead-in-iowa/" target="_blank">most recent poll</a> of the race, Trump took a commanding 30.9 percent of the vote in a 16-candidate field. As <em>GQ's </em>Drew Magary <a href="http://www.gq.com/story/trump-supporters-gop-campaign-iowa" target="_blank">notes</a>, Trump's <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/donald-trump-twitter-vengeance" target="_blank">comments</a> about Mexicans, China, and many of his opponents have fueled his rise in the state.</p> <p>So what kind of crack campaign operation does Trump have in the first-in-the-nation caucus state? Who is the dark-arts practitioner responsible for helping a New York City billionaire win the hearts and minds of America's heartland?</p> <p>Actually, the linchpin of Trump's Iowa strategy isn't a politico at all&mdash;she's a former reality TV star who not so long ago starred in&nbsp;infomercials for Bedazzler. Meet Tana Goertz, Iowa co-chair of Trump for President:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xomlmdZK_Ek?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>On her website, Goertz also hawks a children's book based on her own "inspirational tale" called <em>I'm Bigger Than This</em>; a gray t-shirt, with "ENTREPRENEUR 24/7 365" inscribed on it; an audio CD of business advice she recorded called "Fake it til you make it!"; and information about an <em>Apprentice</em>-like program she runs for kids called "Kids Apprentice Program." The program is "designed to serve children who are self-motivated future leaders" by offering them boardroom experience and forcing them to do "<em>Apprentice</em>-like tasks." For $50, you too could raise the next Donald Trump.</p> <p>Goertz, who <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2015/07/09/tana-goertz-hired-donald-trump-presidential-campaign-apprentice/29922251/" target="_blank">bills herself</a> as the candidate's "hype girl" who "fires up the crowd and educates Iowans on how great he is," was hired by Trump in July. But their relationship wasn't always so strong. After Trump fired her from <em>The</em>&nbsp;<em>Apprentice</em> in 2005, Goertz condemned the show's process. "It was all bullshit," she told a local news station.</p> <p>Evidently they made amends. Goertz's site boasts multiple testimonials from Trump ("Tana is truly a star!"), and you can even watch her audition tape, in which she tries to sell Mary Kay cosmetics products to middle-aged men:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="473" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/J_z3cKBSNxI?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Now if only she'd bedazzle this hat:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' hat sold out at Trump Tower in NYC: <a href="http://t.co/iUFnsD2axN">http://t.co/iUFnsD2axN</a> <a href="http://t.co/QCP79Ys8Iw">pic.twitter.com/QCP79Ys8Iw</a></p> &mdash; Eyewitness News (@ABC7NY) <a href="https://twitter.com/ABC7NY/status/625853195634388992">July 28, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Donald Trump Tue, 04 Aug 2015 16:59:12 +0000 Tim Murphy 281226 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Not Just You. Blockbuster Movies Really Have Gotten Incomprehensible Lately. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/its-not-just-you-blockbuster-movies-really-have-gotten-incomprehensible-lately <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Phil Hoad of the <em>Guardian</em> laments the rise of impenetrable plots in action movies, and suggests that it's a recent phenomenon. I disagree: I think it's been going on for years. Perhaps it's just <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_avengers_ultron.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">finally gotten so ridiculous that no one can make excuses for it anymore.</p> <p>The question is: why? Interestingly, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/30/hollywood-blockbusters-lost-plot-avengers-terminator" target="_blank">Hoad says screenwriters aren't at fault:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The past decade has seen, in the struggle for prime spots on the movie-going calendar, the rise of release dates locked in years in advance. In order to hit those targets, production schedules have little room for deviation; finished scripts often lag behind the key special-effects sequences, which are devised early so mockups around which actors can be directed are ready when shooting starts. <strong>Screenwriters, says [Drew] Pearce, are often left to link the showpieces as best as they can.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Because of that, you get these kind of labyrinthine machinations to desperately weave in character motivation, geography and the practical aspects of getting from one scene to another.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;People are so in the white-hot crucible of terror of making the movie,&rdquo; he continues, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s very difficult for them to take a step back and look at the story at a macro level.&rdquo; This often results in a storyline that&rsquo;s hectoring but lacking in any emotional through-line; the kind of rickety plot-slalom that in the case of the interminable Transformers films, batters the viewer into a state of &ldquo;weird, robot-based PTSD&rdquo;.</p> </blockquote> <p>Now, Pearce is himself a screenwriter, so perhaps it's only natural that he faults other parts of the filmmaking process. Still, this has the ring of truth to me. If your goal is to have as many big FX scenes as possible, and the screenwriter's job is to somehow weave each of them together in less than 200 words, that's a recipe for impenetrability. Especially when some of the bridge sequences probably end up on the cutting room floor during editing.</p> <p>I guess the more interesting question is whether the target audience cares. <em>I</em> care, but Hollywood doesn't make blockbuster films for me. As we're told over and over and over, they're made for young males aged 16-25. If these folks don't care <em>why</em> things are happening on the screen, then there's not much point in wasting time on frippery like character development and narrative coherence, is there?</p> <p>In any case, I'm glad someone has written about this. Back when I still went to movies, I really started to wonder if something was wrong with me. I'd watch these action films and then walk out of the theater wondering what the hell just happened. Do movies simply move too fast for my 55-year-old brain to keep up with? Am I like some member of a lost Amazonian tribe seeing a photograph for the first time?</p> <p>That's still possible. But Hoad gives me hope. Maybe the real answer is that blockbusters <em>really don't</em> make much sense anymore, and don't even try. Pity.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 04 Aug 2015 16:34:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 281236 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP Plans to Kick Disability Can Down the Road http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/gop-plans-kick-disability-can-down-road <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Social Security disability fund is running out of money, so Congress has to do something. But what? A simple reallocation of money from the main retirement trust fund is the usual solution, but Republicans are dead set against it this <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_disability_rejected.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">time. Unfortunately, they can't figure out what to do instead. <a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/inside-the-gop-s-plans-to-stop-a-social-security-meltdown-20150803" target="_blank">Dylan Scott:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Lawmakers are planning to package some disability reforms together, <strong>but whatever bill Congress comes up with won't do enough quickly enough to fix the program's finances and stop the cut.</strong> So they'll have to move some money around to avert a crisis. According to lawmakers, aides, and other sources, one of the options being seriously considered is what's known as interfund borrowing: The much-bigger retirement fund would loan money to the disability program.</p> <p><strong>And because the disability fund would have to pay the money back, it would set the stage for another debate about Social Security in the near future.</strong> A loan would give Congress the ability to effectively set a date for when Social Security's disability program would need to be addressed again, which is part of the appeal to Republicans, and many in Washington think that would lead to a broader conversation.</p> <p>So a loan would prevent the cut and serve a future political purpose. But that's also why the tactic is likely to be met with resistance from many Democrats and outside lobbying groups.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess I'm a little surprised by this, but maybe I shouldn't be. The obvious purpose of this is to pass a quick patch so the issue doesn't have to be addressed in mid-2016, right in the middle of a presidential campaign. Just give the disability fund another 12 months of money and then the whole thing can be shoved into 2017.</p> <p>For some reason, I thought Republicans would welcome a showdown over the disability program during campaign season. The fact that they don't suggests they know that cutting disability benefits is a political loser. Better to do it when the spotlight isn't shining quite so brightly. Plus there might be a Republican in the White House by 2017. Maybe that's part of their thinking too.</p> <p>Or maybe this is just like the Highway Trust Fund or the doc fix or a dozen other programs that Republicans can never figure out how to handle thanks to their theological insistence that spending more money sometimes requires higher taxes. When you take that off the table, even small budget shortfalls turn into nightmare crises. This is yet another one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:32:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 281231 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Was Totally Right to Skip the Big Candidate Forum in New Hampshire http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/gop-new-hampshire-forum <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So this is what it looks like when Donald Trump stays home. The businessman and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/what-we-learned-playing-donald-trump-board-game" target="_blank">board game magnate</a>, who is currently leading the Republican presidential field by a mile, skipped the first full candidate forum of the 2016 presidential race on Monday in New Hampshire. His official reason: the host newspaper, New Hampshire's <em>Union-Leader</em>, had <a href="http://www.unionleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20150729/NEWS060501/150729077" target="_blank">already signaled</a> that it wasn't interested in endorsing his campaign. But maybe he had an inkling of what we know for certain now&mdash;14 candidates racing against the clock to recite canned talking points makes for a total snoozefest.</p> <p>The moderator, Jack Heath, <a href="https://twitter.com/charliespiering/status/628373108857151488" target="_blank">deliberately</a> steered clear of any Trump-related questions, which is a shame, because Trump, even in absentia, might have have at least forced the candidates to talk about something besides themselves. As it was, Monday's forum, the first of three such Q&amp;A sessions in early primary states and a dress rehearsal of sorts for the first GOP debate on Thursday, was like freshman orientation in a class of introverts. The candidates were provided the most generic of icebreaker questions (Carly Fiorina was asked for an example of a time she showed leadership), which they promptly segued away from, and pivoted to the boilerplate speeches they've already been delivering in Iowa and New Hampshire for months. Because it was a forum, not a debate, the candidates weren't allowed to interact with each other. Save for Scott Walker noting that no one in his family had been president before, none of them even tried. In a rare moment of drama, the C-SPAN cameras caught Chris Christie with a finger (his) wiggling in his ear.</p> <p>But there were still a handful of highlights:</p> <ul><li>Four years after famously forgetting the third federal agency he intended to eliminate, former Texas governor Rick Perry was offered a shot at a do-over. "I've heard this question before!" he said eagerly. Then he pivoted to another topic and never answered it.</li> <li>Jeb Bush said the president needs to do more to combat the "barbarians" of ISIS, but perhaps wary of unpleasant comparisons to that other Bush (or both of them, really), stopped short of saying "boots on the ground" were needed in the Middle East beyond special forces Ttroops.</li> <li>Fortunately, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was happy to do just that, calling on an America-Turkish-Egyptian force to bring Syria back under control. He'd tell those allies, "You're gonna pay for this war, we paid for the last two. We are gonna pull the caliphate up by its roots."</li> <li>Graham, who could surely use the boost, also got a laugh from the audience when he suggested that the solution to Washington's gridlock was to "drink more."</li> <li>Ben Carson announced that he would reform the tax code by consulting with "the fairest individual in the universe&mdash;that would be God." The result, he explained, would be a base tax rate of around 10 to 15 percent, similar to a church tithe. But an hour later, he informed the audience that taking more than 10 percent of a billionaire's income is "called socialism."</li> <li>Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said President Obama has "declared war on trans-fats and a ceasefire with the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism." (That would be Iran.) His first act as president: hold a huge meeting with the Joint Chiefs to announce that America "is back."</li> <li>Much has been made of the Republican party's recent shift toward criminal justice reform, which includes lighter sentencing for many drug crimes. But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered a snapshot on how elements of the party might push back. Seizing on northern New England's heroin epidemic, he reprised an argument that any legalization of marijuana except for strictly medicinal uses would only contribute to drug abuse. Expect this to come up again at a later date, when candidates are allowed to talk to each other.</li> <li>How will the next president's policies on climate change be affected by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/obama-epa-clean-power-plan" target="_blank">the White House's big new plan to fight global warming</a>? We still have no idea, because only one candidate was asked about the proposal, and then only in passing. For the record, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says it will be a "buzzsaw to the nation's economy."</li> </ul></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Top Stories Tue, 04 Aug 2015 02:22:19 +0000 Tim Murphy 281201 at http://www.motherjones.com State Department Officials Overruled Their Own Human Trafficking Experts http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/state-department-prevented-experts-shaming-politically-sensitive-countries-human-trafficking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The State Department inflated the grades of diplomatically sensitive countries in its yearly assessment of human trafficking around the globe,&nbsp;according to an <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/03/us-usa-humantrafficking-disputes-special-idUSKCN0Q821Y20150803?feedType=RSS&amp;feedName=topNews&amp;utm_source=twitter" target="_blank">investigation published by Reuters</a> on Monday.</p> <p>A negative ranking in the department's annual <a href="http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245365.pdf" target="_blank">"Trafficking in Persons Report"</a> can shame offending nations, and even lead to sanctions. And while it isn't unusual for the rankings to be reviewed by officials outside the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons&mdash;the State Department unit home to analysts who investigate countries' trafficking records&mdash;Reuters suggests that this year's report was subject to unprecedented interference from senior officials. As the investigation explains:</p> <blockquote> <p style=""><span id="articleText">The analysts, who are specialists in assessing efforts to combat modern slavery&mdash;such as the illegal trade in humans for forced labor or prostitution&mdash;won only three of [17] disputes [with senior diplomats outside the Office], the worst ratio in the 15-year history of the unit&hellip;As a result, not only Malaysia, Cuba and China, but&nbsp;countries such as India, Uzbekistan and Mexico, wound up with better grades than the State Department's human-rights experts wanted to give them</span>.</p> </blockquote> <p style="">The State Department denies that the ratings issued in the final report were politically motivated. But countries that at the moment are particularly diplomatically strategic for the United States were given higher grades than the&nbsp;human trafficking analysts originally recommended. The experts were shot down, for example, when they tried to put Malaysia, Cuba, and China on the Tier 3 "blacklist," a level reserved for countries with the worst records that can trigger sanctions. (Instead, they were placed on the Tier 2 "watch list," a category for countries needing special scrutiny but still judged to be making significant efforts to meet minimum standards.) Reuters explains:</p> <blockquote> <p style=""><span id="articleText">The Malaysian upgrade, which was highly criticized by human rights groups, could smooth the way for an ambitious proposed U.S.-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries. Ending Communist-ruled Cuba's 12 years on the report's blacklist came as the two nations reopened embassies on each other's soil following their historic d&eacute;tente over the past eight months. And for <a class="vglnk" href="http://www.reuters.com/places/china" rel="nofollow"><span>China</span></a>, the experts' recommendation to downgrade it to the worst ranking, Tier 3, was overruled despite the report's conclusion that Beijing did not undertake increased anti-trafficking efforts.</span></p> </blockquote> <p>For Malaysia, where dozens of suspected <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/malaysia-mass-graves-150524070422569.html" target="_blank">mass migrant graves</a> were discovered this spring, placement on the Tier 2 watch list was particularly important: As <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/malaysias-undeserved-promotion-in-an-annual-report-on-human-trafficking/2015/07/31/bc05cb72-3561-11e5-94ce-834ad8f5c50e_story.html" target="_blank">the <em>Washington Post</em> reports</a>, if the Southeast Asian country had been put in Tier 3, it could not have participated in the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/07/trans-pacific-partnership-explainer-free-trade-deal" target="_blank">Trans-Pacific Partnership</a>, the controversial trade and investment deal that the Obama administration has been trying to push through Congress this year.</p></body></html> MoJo Foreign Policy International Tue, 04 Aug 2015 00:43:31 +0000 Samantha Michaels 281191 at http://www.motherjones.com Elizabeth Warren Slams Republicans for Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/08/elizabeth-warren-planned-parenthood-defund <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4IH2SRYykW8" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>As the Senate convened on Monday to vote on a <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/03/429026760/the-attack-on-planned-parenthood-funding-is-the-latest-of-many" target="_blank">bill</a> seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the floor to issue a fierce defense of the health organization.</p> <blockquote> <p>"Do you have any idea what year it is?" Warren asked. "Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950's or the 1890's? Should we call for a doctor? Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women's health care centers. You know, on second thought, maybe I shouldn't be that surprised. The Republicans have had a plan for years to strip away women's rights to make choices over our own bodies. Just look at the recent facts."</p> </blockquote> <p>The Massachusetts senator continued her impassioned speech and listed examples of Republican-lead efforts to gut health care services to women over the years, including the recent budget proposal that includes a measure to remove federal funding for family planning providers.</p> <p>The most recent call to gut federal spending on Planned Parenthood was sparked by several <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/planned-parenthood-sting-videos-explained" target="_blank">videos secretly recorded</a> by a sting mission that appeared to capture top officials from the organization discussing the sale of fetal tissues. Following the public release of the videos, Planned Parenthood was hit by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/07/planned-parenthood-reportedly-hacked-3301" target="_blank">two cyber-attacks</a>&mdash;one aimed at its website and another claiming to have hacked into the organization's databases and employee information.</p> <p>The group, which now <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/7/22/9013565/planned-parenthood-government-funding" target="_blank">receives $528 million</a> in federal funding (or 41 percent of its annual budget), also provides contraception to almost 40 percent of women who rely on public programs for family planning.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/planned-parenthood-sting-videos-explained" target="_blank">The videos have already moved Congress </a>to launch two probes into the organization's activities. Eight Republican governors&mdash;including several who are running for president&mdash;have <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/248760-fears-on-left-grow-for-planned-parenthood" target="_blank">opened parallel investigations</a>. Many Republican senators&mdash;including several who are running for president&mdash;have vowed to strip Planned Parenthood of its hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.</p> <p>While its opponents tried to brand Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill, the group has stressed that abortions <a href="http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/planned-parenthood-at-a-glance" target="_blank">make up only 3 percent</a> of its services, and STI screenings, Pap tests, and pregnancy prevention comprise the vast majority of its activities.</p></body></html> MoJo Reproductive Rights Sex and Gender Mon, 03 Aug 2015 21:34:36 +0000 Inae Oh 281181 at http://www.motherjones.com Scott Walker Thinks Obama’s Climate Plan Will Jack Up Your Electric Bill. He’s Wrong. http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/08/republicans-are-wrong-about-obamas-climate-plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/obama-epa-clean-power-plan" target="_blank">released the final version</a> of his signature climate plan, which sets new limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. Each state has a unique target, custom-built for its particular mix of energy sources. Each state also has total freedom to determine how exactly to reach the target. But the rules are clearly designed to expedite the closure of coal-fired power plants, the nation's number-one source of CO2 emissions.</p> <p>It took less than a day for the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-power-plant-rules-challenges_55bf9689e4b0d4f33a036802?utm_hp_ref=climate-change" target="_blank">first legal challenges</a> to the plan to emerge from coal interests. The news rules also attracted some pointed criticism from leading Republican presidential contenders, including Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Here's what Walker had to say on Twitter:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Obama's plan should be called the Costly Power Plan because it will cost hard-working Americans jobs and raise their energy rates. -SW</p> &mdash; Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) <a href="https://twitter.com/ScottWalker/status/628247260162199552">August 3, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Neither of those predictions is likely to come true. Cries about job loss and high costs always accompany new environmental regulation. In the case of the Clean Power Plan, as the rules announced today are known, the fear revolves around the image of coal plants around the country going dark. Folks get laid off from the plant, there's less electricity on the grid, so the price of electricity goes up, so factories can't afford to pay their workers, so they lay them off&hellip;you get the idea.</p> <p>But as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/will-obamas-climate-plan-cause-blackouts" target="_blank">I've reported in the past</a>, that view of the plan is misguided for two reasons. The first is that Obama's new rules, while an important and historic milestone in the annals of climate action, really aren't much of a departure from the direction that the energy market is already going. As our friend <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/08/02/obama_climate_change_plan_the_clean_power_plan_is_supposed_to_be_bold_but.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_top" target="_blank">Eric Holthaus at <em>Slate</em> points out</a>, many states are already well on their way to achieving the new carbon targets simply because, for lots of reasons, making tons of inefficient energy from dirty old coal plants just isn't economically feasible anymore. So you'd be hard-pressed to pin any particular lost job in the coal industry on Obama alone.</p> <p>The second reason Walker and his ilk are off-base is that they focus too heavily on the coal-killing aspect of the plan, without also considering two equally vital aspects: (a) The building of tons of new energy supplies from renewables, and (b) big improvements in energy efficiency, which will allow us to use less power overall.</p> <p>It's true that by the time the plan takes effect, electricity prices will have risen steadily, as they always have for as long as we've had electricity. Because electric utilities typically have monopolies over their service area and prize reliability over affordability, power costs don't naturally fall over time in the way that the costs of other technologies do. But even though electric <em>rates</em> will probably go up, monthly electric <em>bills</em> are likely to go down, thanks to efficiency improvements. The exact calculus will be different in every state, but to take one example, the Southern Environmental Law Center <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/02/will-obamas-climate-plan-cause-blackouts" target="_blank">projected</a> that in Virginia, the Clean Power Plan will lead to an 8 percent reduction in electric bills. <a href="http://www.nrdc.org/air/pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-benefits.asp" target="_blank">According to</a> the Natural Resources Defense Council, savings like that add up to $37.4 <em>billion </em>for all US homes and businesses by 2020. The NRDC also projects that the plan will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the energy efficiency sector, as homeowners, businesses, factories, etc. invest in upgrades that enable them use less power.</p> <p>In any case, the solar industry alone already employs <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/01/solar-jobs-economy" target="_blank">more than twice</a> the number of people who work in coal mining. Making the energy system more climate-friendly is as much about juicing the clean energy industry as it is dismantling the coal industry.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Jeb Bush Scott Walker Infrastructure Mon, 03 Aug 2015 20:48:46 +0000 Tim McDonnell 281161 at http://www.motherjones.com Abortion Is Not Murder http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/abortion-not-murder <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ramesh Ponnuru comments on Planned Parenthood's <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/421967/utilitarian-defense-planned-parenthood-ramesh-ponnuru" target="_blank">sale of fetal tissue from the abortions it performs:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A recent Sarah Silverman tweet distilled one argument many liberals are making about the Planned Parenthood videos into a few characters: <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_planned_parenthood_logo.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">&rdquo;Abortion is still legal in the great U.S of A. It would be insane not to use fetal tissue 4 science &amp; education in such cases. #StandwithPP.&rdquo;</p> <p>The death penalty is also still legal in our great country. Should we employ methods of execution so as to yield the highest number of usable organs?....</p> </blockquote> <p>Whenever I write about abortion, I usually get a bunch of tweets or emails asking if I even understand the conservative position. Answer: of course I do. Most conservatives say that abortion is murder. Given that premise, their opposition to funding abortion, legalizing abortion, using some day-after pills, selling fetal tissue, and so forth, makes sense.</p> <p>So I'm going to ask the mirror image question here: does Ponnuru understand the liberal position on abortion? Most of us don't think of fetuses as persons, which means abortion doesn't involve killing a human being in any meaningful sense. Given that premise, our support of funding abortion, legalizing abortion, promoting day-after pills, selling fetal tissue, and so forth, makes sense.</p> <p>To us lefties, the death penalty involves killing a human being. Abortion doesn't. So it's perfectly reasonable to have different views about how the remains are treated in each case.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> There are, of course, nuances in these positions regarding abortion on both sides. We're all familiar enough with them that it seems unnecessary to repeat them here. That said, at its most basic, liberals don't generally consider aborting a fetus to involve killing a human being. Obviously the rest of our views follow from that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 03 Aug 2015 19:49:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 281171 at http://www.motherjones.com Malaysia Announces Biggest "Donor Contribution" In History http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/malaysia-announces-biggest-donor-contribution-history <!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.wsj.com/articles/malaysia-agency-says-money-in-razaks-personal-account-isnt-from-1mdb-1438615126" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Malaysia&rsquo;s anticorruption agency said Monday that 2.6 billion ringgit (about $700 million) was deposited into Prime Minister Najib Razak&rsquo;s personal account and that the money was from a &ldquo;donor contribution,&rdquo; not from 1Malaysia Development Bhd, a state investment fund also known as 1MDB.</p> </blockquote> <p>$700 million! That makes Sheldon Adelson look like a piker. I think American donors need to pick up their game.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:42:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 281146 at http://www.motherjones.com Amy Schumer Announces Plan To Tackle Gun Control http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/08/amy-schumer-joins-gun-control-fight <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://news.yahoo.com/video/amy-chuck-schumer-gun-violence-163113197.html?format=embed" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Amy Schumer just <a href="http://mashable.com/2015/08/03/amy-schumer-gun-control/" target="_blank">joined</a> the gun control fight.</p> <p>During a press conference on Monday, the comedian, along with her cousin New York Senator Chuck Schumer, unveiled a new initiative to tackle gun violence. Last month, 59-year-old John Russell Houser allegedly opened fire inside a Louisiana movie theater during a screening of Schumer's latest film "Trainwreck." He <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/mass-shooting-movie-theater-lafayette" target="_blank">killed three people,</a> including two women, before killing himself.</p> <p>"Unless something is done and done soon, dangerous people will continue to get their hands on guns," Schumer told reporters. "We need a background check system without holes and fatal flaws."</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Sen-Schumer-comedian-Amy-Schumer-call-for-more-6421168.php" target="_blank">three-part legislative plan</a> will seek to limit gun access to the mentally ill and violent criminals by rewarding states that provide thorough background check information while penalizing states that fail to do so. The two also called on Congress to fund greater mental health and substance abuse programs.</p> <p>Over the weekend, Schumer responded to an open letter from a daughter of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivor that urged her to speak out and support gun control legislation. The letter, <a href="https://medium.com/human-development-project/an-open-letter-to-amy-schumer-8f1fd3637d41" target="_blank">posted on <em>Medium</em></a>, asked Schumer to be a "voice for our generation and for women&mdash;two groups who make up most of the victims of the gun violence in our country."</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/cdickason11">@cdickason11</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/sfclem">@sfclem</a> Her name was Mayci, not Marci and I think about her and Jillian everyday. Don't worry I'm on it. You'll see.</p> &mdash; Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) <a href="https://twitter.com/amyschumer/status/627474594417381376">August 1, 2015</a></blockquote> </center> <p>"These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence," Schumer said on Monday. "But I promise you they will not be my last."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Guns Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:56:08 +0000 Inae Oh 281121 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's New Power Plant Regulations Are Modest, But Still a Big Deal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/obamas-new-power-plant-regulations-are-modest-still-big-deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Obama is unveiling his plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants today, and it's generally being hailed as the most important environmental regulation of his presidency. Tim McDonnell has the details <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/obama-epa-clean-power-plan" target="_blank">here.</a> Rebecca Leber outlines the probable legal attack on Obama's plan <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122444/last-defining-court-battle-obamas-presidency" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <p>But Michael Grunwald isn't buying the hype. He's not impressed with Obama's plan to <a href="http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2015/08/why-obamas-epic-climate-plan-isnt-such-a-big-deal-000183" target="_blank">reduce power plant emissions 32 percent by 2030:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>That&rsquo;s nice, but by the end of this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the power sector&rsquo;s emissions will already be down 15.4 percent from 2005 levels &mdash; about half the anticipated reductions in just a decade, and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_power_plant_carbon_emission_reductions_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">before the plan goes into effect. <strong>In other words, even under the strengthened plan, the rate of decarbonization is expected to slow over the next 15 years.</strong> What, did you think the strongest action ever taken to combat climate change would actually accelerate the nation&rsquo;s efforts to combat climate change?</p> <p>....<strong>If you&rsquo;re really ranking them, the Clean Power Plan is at best the fourth-strongest action that Obama has taken to combat climate change,</strong> behind his much-maligned 2009 stimulus package, which poured $90 billion into clean energy and jump-started a green revolution; his dramatic increases in fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks, which should reduce our oil consumption by 2 million barrels per day; and his crackdown on mercury and other air pollutants, which has helped inspire utilities to retire 200 coal-fired power plants in just five years.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a little unfair in two ways. First, the 15 percent reduction of the past decade was the low-hanging fruit. The initial cuts are always the easiest. The next 15 percent will be harder, and mandating that it happen at about the same rate is more stringent than it sounds.</p> <p>Second, the decrease over the last decade happened mostly because gas-fired plants became cheaper than coal thanks to the boom in natural gas fracking. That's a one-time deal, and there's no guarantee that something similar will drive further decreases. Having a mandate in place forces it to happen regardless of future events in the energy market.</p> <p>That said, Grunwald has a point in a technical sense: the reductions mandated in the EPA plan are good but not great, and the mandates for renewable energy are pretty unambitious. Obama could have done better.</p> <p>Or could he? That's a never-ending source of disagreement. Should Obama have gotten a bigger stimulus? Should he have insisted on a public option in Obamacare? Could he have put in place stronger financial regulations than he got in Dodd-Frank? Could he have negotiated a stronger treaty with Iran?</p> <p>The answers are: maybe, maybe, maybe, and maybe. We'll never know the absolute maximum that Obama could have gotten in these situations. The same is true for the EPA regs. Congress and the courts&mdash;and the public&mdash;will have something to say about them, and it's not clear if Obama could have safely gone further than he did. We'll never know.</p> <p>In the meantime, Grunwald is right to say that the new mandates aren't really all that tough. At the same time, the fact that we have any power plant mandates at all really is a big deal. Just setting the precedent that the federal government should regulate carbon emissions from power plants is a critical first step, and if it survives court challenges and congressional temper tantrums it will likely lead to further cutbacks in the future. And <em>that's</em> a big deal.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:51:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 281131 at http://www.motherjones.com Jeb Bush Takes on Lazy Bum Members of Congress http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/jeb-bush-takes-lazy-bum-members-congress <!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_jeb_congress_pay.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/jeb-bush-targets-lawmakers-who-skip-work" target="_blank">Steve Benen</a> points us to Jeb Bush's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBE3P2yD7so" target="_blank">latest YouTube video:</a> a cheap 15-second spot calling out members of Congress for being lazy bums and suggesting that the laziest ones deserve to have their pay docked. "Bush's proposed solution is quite foolish," Benen says, but is it? If Jeb were serious, then yes, it would be pretty dumb. But I'm sure he knows perfectly well that presidents aren't allowed to cut congressional pay any more than Congress can cut the president's pay. This is pretty clear from the oddness of his phrasing&mdash;is he talking about Congress or about individual members of Congress or what?&mdash;which means he's not really proposing anything at all.</p> <p>So what's the point? Once again, affinity marketing. Lots of people think Congress is doing a lousy job, and Jeb wants them to know that he agrees. But is it <em>good</em> affinity marketing? Well, the YouTube spot went up two weeks ago, and so far has gotten 767 views. That's about as well as my cat videos perform. So this is probably just a routine attempt to throw some mud on the wall and see if it sticks. If it does, great. It becomes a campaign message. If not, move on. After all, you don't think Jeb actually cares about this, do you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:01:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 281126 at http://www.motherjones.com Watch John Oliver Explain Why Washington D.C. Should Be the 51st State http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/08/john-oliver-dc-voting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4Z4j2CrJRn4" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>On Sunday, <em><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z4j2CrJRn4" target="_blank">Last Week Tonight</a> </em>took on the issue of restricted voting rights for Washington D.C. residents, despite the fact they pay federal taxes and have a larger population than some entire states such as Vermont and Wyoming. Even the Dalai Lama once called the situation "quite strange."</p> <p>"The people of D.C. clearly deserve a greater voice in their own affairs and they've actually come tantalizingly close to getting a voting representative in Congress," John Oliver explained. "In 2009, a bill to give D.C. a vote was introduced in the Senate, and the Senate did the most dickish thing imaginable: passing it, but with a little addition."</p> <p>That controversial addition sought to repeal all of D.C.'s gun control laws, further illustrating the uphill battle that is granting D.C. statehood.</p> <p>"It was the kind of amendment NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre dreams about as he sleeps in his bullet-filled bathtub, I presume," Oliver said.</p> <p>As a result the bill was dropped.</p> <p>With the help of a group of singing children, Oliver continued his call for D.C.'s statehood with an amended tune about America's 50 states. Not convinced? The song ends with the suggestion, "Well then let's all kick out Florida cause no one thinks they're great."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Media Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:32:12 +0000 Inae Oh 281116 at http://www.motherjones.com One Pollster Has Stopped Polling the Republican Primary. Will Others Follow? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/one-pollster-has-stopped-polling-republican-primary-will-others-follow <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've been wondering for a while who the first pollster would be to stop polling the Republican primary. <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article29787529.html" target="_blank">Today I got my answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As candidates jostle to make the cut for the first GOP presidential debate this week, the McClatchy-Marist Poll has temporarily suspended polling on primary voter choices out of concern that public polls are being misused to decide who will be in and who will be excluded.</p> <p>....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a problem when it&rsquo;s shaping who gets to sit at the table,&rdquo; said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s making candidates change their behavior. Kasich is trying to get a big bounce. Rand Paul has a video with a chain saw. Lindsay Graham is hitting cell phones with golf clubs,&rdquo; Miringoff said. <strong>&ldquo;Now the public polls are affecting the process they&rsquo;re supposed to be measuring.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Miringoff is also concerned that candidates may be excluded from the debate due to differences between 10th and 11th place that are so close they're within the margin of error. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/foxs-poll-cutoff-republican-debate-works-better-rachel-maddow-suggested-last-nigh" target="_blank">I think those concerns are overblown,</a> but that doesn't mean they aren't real. There's clearly a certain amount of arbitrariness at work here.</p> <p>I doubt that very many outfits will pull out of primary polling. But a few more might, and of course that also affects which candidates will make the cut. In the end, then, McClatchy might be kidding itself here. There's just no way for news organizations that make editorial and placement judgments to avoid affecting the events they report on. It might be best to accept that and deal with it openly instead of pretending they can make it go away.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 03 Aug 2015 04:28:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 281111 at http://www.motherjones.com As Federal Aid Goes Up, College Costs Rise Enough to Gobble It All Up http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/federal-aid-goes-college-costs-rise-enough-gobble-it-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Josh Mitchell of the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> writes today about the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/federal-aids-role-in-driving-up-tuitions-gains-credence-1438538582" target="_blank">spiraling cost of college:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The federal government has boosted aid to families in recent decades to make college more affordable. A new study from the New York Federal Reserve faults these policies for enabling college institutions to aggressively raise tuitions.</p> <p>....Conservatives have long held that generous federal-aid policies inflate higher-education costs, a viewpoint famously articulated by <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_higher_ed_costs.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">then-Education Secretary William Bennett in a 1987 column that came to be dubbed the Bennett Hypothesis.</p> </blockquote> <p>Regular readers know that I have <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/01/cost-college-probably-going-keep-going" target="_blank">at least a bit of sympathy for this view.</a>&nbsp; But Mitchell doesn't really explain how the data supports this hypothesis. So I'll give it a try. As you can see on the right, federal aid increased very modestly from 2000 to 2009. Then it went up sharply starting around 2010. If this aid were truly helping make college more affordable, out-of-pocket expenses for students (i.e., actual cash outlays net of loans and grants) would start to flatten out or even go down.</p> <p>But that hasn't happened. You can lay a straightedge on the red line in the bottom chart. Basically, families received no net benefit from increased federal aid. Actual cash outlays rose at exactly the same rate as they had been rising before.</p> <p>My guess is that this will continue until universities get to the point at which students and families simply don't value higher education enough to pay any more. That's the gating item, not aid programs. When out-of-pocket expenses finally equal the value that students put on a college degree, prices will stabilize.<sup>1</sup> That's my guess, anyway.</p> <p>The <em>Journal</em> article has more on this, and the Fed study is <a href="http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr733.pdf" target="_blank">here</a> if you want to read more about the methodology&mdash;much more sophisticated than mine&mdash;that the authors used to come to a similar conclusion.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Actually, it's when the perceived value of a college degree equals current cash outlays plus whatever burden students associate with future loan paybacks. However, the latter is pretty tricky to quantify since it varies widely depending on the university, the student's major, and their subjective discount rate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 02 Aug 2015 21:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 281106 at http://www.motherjones.com Tell Us What You Really Think About Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/tell-us-what-you-really-think-about-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've sort of promised myself not to write about Donald Trump, but (a) it's a weekend, and (b) David&nbsp;Fahrenthold has a pretty entertaining piece about Trump in the <em>Washington Post</em> today. Here's a brief excerpt of some of the reactions Fahrenthold got to a <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-trump-platform-because-i-said-so/2015/08/01/4684802c-36f7-11e5-9739-170df8af8eb9_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">variety of Trump's blatherings:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Mark Krikorian</strong>, a foe of illegal immigration, on Trump's immigration ideas: &ldquo;Trump is like your Uncle George at Thanksgiving dinner, saying he knows how to solve all the problems. It&rsquo;s not that he&rsquo;s always wrong. It&rsquo;s just that he&rsquo;s an auto mechanic, not a policy guy.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>David Goldwyn</strong>, a former State Department official in the Obama administration, on Trump's plan to fight ISIS by simply bombing them and then taking all their oil: &ldquo;That is sheer lunacy on so many counts, it&rsquo;s hard to start.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_donald_trump.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Some anonymous sources</strong> on the same idea: &ldquo;Oil-industry experts expressed skepticism about this plan. Skepticism, in fact, may not be a strong-enough word.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Michael Tanner</strong> of Cato, on Trump's endless vision of new building projects combined with his insistence on lowering taxes: &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t spend more and collect less. That&rsquo;s kind of basic math. You can argue about how the math adds up in the other people&rsquo;s plans. But there&rsquo;s math <em>there</em>. This, there&rsquo;s just no math.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Gary Hufbauer</strong> of the Peterson Institute on Trump's plan to jack up tariffs on countries he doesn't like: &ldquo;If you thought this had a ghost of a chance &mdash; which it doesn&rsquo;t &mdash; you would sell all your stocks,&rdquo; because of the damage that a trade war would do to the U.S. economy.</p> </blockquote> <p>You know, when Mark Krikorian is critical of your anti-immigration ideas; Michael Tanner is skeptical of your tax-cutting ideas; and oil companies want no part of your oil-stealing ideas, you just know there's something wrong.</p> <p>Anyway, Fahrenthold's piece is worth a weekend click. And you might as well do it while you can. We won't have Trump to kick around forever.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 01 Aug 2015 23:23:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 281101 at http://www.motherjones.com Our Anti-ISIS Program in Syria Is a Bad Joke http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/our-anti-isis-program-syria-bad-joke <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So how are we doing in our efforts to train moderate Syrian allies to help us in the fight against ISIS? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/31/world/middleeast/us-trained-islamic-state-opponents-reported-kidnapped-in-syria.html" target="_blank">Here's the <em>New York Times</em> two days ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A Pentagon program to train moderate Syrian insurgents to fight the Islamic State has been vexed by problems of recruitment, screening, dismissals and desertions <strong>that have left only a tiny band of fighters ready to do battle.</strong></p> <p>Those fighters &mdash; <strong>54 in all</strong> &mdash; suffered perhaps their most embarrassing setback yet on Thursday. One of their leaders, a Syrian Army defector who recruited them, was abducted in Syria near the Turkish border, along with his deputy who commands the trainees....Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter has acknowledged the shortfalls, citing strict screening standards, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_al_nusra.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">which have created a backlog of 7,000 recruits waiting to be vetted. Mr. Carter has insisted the numbers will increase.</p> </blockquote> <p>Okay, I guess 54 is a....start. So how good are they? <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/01/world/middleeast/nusra-front-attacks-us-backed-syrian-rebel-group.html" target="_blank">Here's the <em>New York Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A Syrian insurgent group at the heart of the Pentagon&rsquo;s effort to fight the Islamic State came under intense attack on Friday</strong>....The American-led coalition responded with airstrikes to help the American-aligned unit, known as Division 30, in fighting off the assault....<strong>The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front,</strong> which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon&rsquo;s anti-Islamic State training program.</p> <p>....<strong>&ldquo;This wasn&rsquo;t supposed to happen like this,&rdquo;</strong> said one former senior American official, who was working closely on Syria issues until recently, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments....Division 30 said in a statement that five of its fighters were killed in the firefight on Friday, 18 were wounded and 20 were captured by the Nusra Front. It was not clear whether the 20 captives included the six fighters and two commanders captured a day earlier.</p> </blockquote> <p>Let's see, that adds up to either 43 or 51 depending on how you count. Starting with 54, then, it looks like Division 30 has either 11 or 3 fighters left, and no commanders. But apparently that's not so bad!</p> <blockquote> <p>A spokesman for the American military, Col. Patrick S. Ryder, wrote in an email statement that &ldquo;we are confident that this attack will not deter Syrians from joining the program to fight for Syria,&rdquo; and added that <strong>the program &ldquo;is making progress.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....[A senior] defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports, <strong>described what he called &ldquo;silver linings&rdquo; to the attack on Friday:</strong> that the trainees had fought effectively in the battle, and that coalition warplanes responded quickly with airstrikes to support them.</p> </blockquote> <p>The trainees fought effectively? There are no more than a dozen still able to fight. That's not the same definition of "effective" that most of us have. As for the US Air Force responding quickly, that's great. But the quality of the US Air Force has never really been in question.</p> <p>This is starting to make Vietnam look like a well-oiled machine. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:44:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 281096 at http://www.motherjones.com The Clinton Rules, Tax Record Edition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/clinton-rules-round-587 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was sitting in the living room this afternoon and Hopper jumped into my lap. So I told Marian to turn the TV to CNN and I'd watch the news until Hopper released me. The first thing I saw was John Berman teasing a segment about Hillary Clinton releasing a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brianna_keilar.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">health statement plus eight years of tax records. In other words, pretty routine stuff for any serious presidential candidate. But when Berman tossed to Brianna Keilar, here's what she said:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>KEILAR:</strong> When you think of a document dump like this, you normally think of, uh, in a way, sort of having something to hide. But the Clinton campaign trying to make the point that they're putting out this information and they're trying to be very transparent.</p> </blockquote> <p>Talk about the Clinton rules! Hillary Clinton releases nearly a decade's worth of tax records, and the first thing that pops into Keilar's mind is that this is probably an effort to <em>hide</em> something. But hey! Let's be fair. The Clinton campaign says it's actually so that people can see her tax records. But they would say that, wouldn't they?</p> <p>Unbelievable. If any other candidate released eight years of tax records, it would be reported as the candidate releasing eight years of tax records. But when Hillary does it, there's very likely something nefarious going on. God help us.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 31 Jul 2015 21:01:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 281086 at http://www.motherjones.com