Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Benghazi Committee Finally Wraps Up and...Concludes Nothing New <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sad_elephant_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The GOP elephant labored mightily for over two years, <a href="" target="_blank">and today delivered a mouse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, <strong>finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.</strong></p> <p>The 800-page report, however, included some new details about the night of the attacks, and the context in which it occurred, and it delivered a broad rebuke of government agencies like the Defense Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department &mdash; and the officials who led them &mdash; for failing to grasp the acute security risks in the Libyan city, and especially for maintaining outposts in Benghazi that they could not protect.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, nothing. Previous reports have already criticized the security in Benghazi, including the State Department's own investigation, which was concluded nearly four years ago.</p> <p>Still, the investigation accidentally uncovered the fact that Hillary Clinton used a private email server while she was Secretary of State, so I suppose it was mission accomplished after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 14:58:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 307881 at Shane Bauer's Four Months As a Private Prison Guard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>What is life like in a medium-security private prison? MoJo's Shane Bauer applied for a job at the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana to find out. Winn is run by the Corrections Corporation of America, which earned over $150 million running 61 prisons across the country last year. Why is running prisons so profitable? After four months working at Winn, Bauer reports that one reason is simple: the pay for guards is abysmally low and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shane_bauer.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the facility was chronically understaffed. This certainly helped CCA's bottom line, but it also produced persistent violence that <a href="" target="_blank">the tiny staff was barely able to control:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On my fifth week on the job, I'm asked to train a new cadet...."It's pretty bad in here," I tell him. "People get stabbed here all the time." At least seven inmates have been stabbed in the last six weeks....Three days later, I see two inmates stab each other in Ash. A week after that, another inmate is stabbed and beaten by multiple people in Elm. People say he was cut more than 40 times.</p> <p>....If I were not working at Winn and were reporting on the prison through more traditional means, I would never know how violent it is. While I work here, I keep track of every stabbing that I see or hear about from supervisors or eyewitnesses. During the first two months of 2015, at least 12 people are shanked. The company is required to report all serious assaults to the DOC. But DOC records show that for the first 10 months of 2015, CCA reported only five stabbings. (CCA says it reports all assaults and that the DOC may have classified incidents differently.)</p> <p>Reported or not, by my seventh week as a guard the violence is getting out of control. The stabbings start to happen so frequently that, on February 16, the prison goes on indefinite lockdown. No inmates leave their tiers. The walk is empty. Crows gather and puddles of water form on the rec yards. More men in black are sent in by corporate. They march around the prison in military formation. Some wear face masks.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a long piece, and it's not easy to summarize. Its power comes from the relentless, detailed buildup of Bauer's record of daily life at Winn. Do yourself a favor and put aside some time to read it.</p> <p>And if you also want to watch the video version, we have that too: <a href="" target="_blank">Part 1</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Part 2</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Part 3</a>, and Parts 4-6 to come later in the week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:17:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 307861 at Hillary Clinton Continues to Not Be a Shady Character <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Reporters sure are desperate to demonstrate some kind of shadiness on Hillary Clinton's part. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's a headline in the <em>LA Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Democrats mistakenly release transcript confirming big payout to Clinton friend Sidney Blumenthal</p> </blockquote> <p>Sounds shady! I clicked immediately, wanting to know <em>who</em> gave Blumenthal a big payout. The answer, it turns out, is Media Matters, for which he works. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_warren_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">This is in no way shady and in no way connected to Hillary Clinton anyway. And here's an <a href="" target="_blank">AP headline from this weekend:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton's State Dept. calendar missing scores of entries</p> </blockquote> <p>This also sound shady! But no. It turns out that on Hillary Clinton's official State Department schedule, she sometimes had private meetings and didn't list the participants. "No known federal laws were violated," the article says.</p> <p>Sheesh. Is this the best they can do? I know that we're all desperate for balance given the tsunami of lies and sleaze coming from the Trump campaign, but surely there's <em>something</em> a little more concrete we can lay at Hillary's feet? This is lame.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 22:39:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 307846 at Three Quotes of the Day About Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's what people said about Donald Trump on the Sunday chat shows yesterday. Keep in mind that these quotes are all from Trump's <em>supporters</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer</a></strong> on Trump's repeated statement that Judge Gonzalo Curiel was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage: "I don't believe that Donald Trump meant it in the manner that he said it."</p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Newt Gingrich</a></strong> on Trump's constant backtracking: "I think he stands for an evolving process of trying to come to grips with really big problems."</p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Sen. Mitch McConnell</a></strong> on whether Trump is qualified to be president: "I'll leave that to the American people to decide."</p> </blockquote> <p>And as long as we're on the subject of Trump, be sure to check out Michael Finnegan's piece in the <em>LA Times</em> about <a href="" target="_blank">Trump's failed condo development in Baja California:</a> "Most of the Trump Baja condo buyers accused Trump and two of his adult children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., of duping them into believing that Trump was one of the developers, giving them confidence that it was safe to buy unbuilt property in Mexico." It's yet more of the usual Trump sleaze.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 21:46:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 307831 at Supreme Court: Texas Law Plainly Provided No Bona Fide Health Benefits <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today's abortion decision is good news for supporters of reproductive rights, but it didn't provide much guidance about what it means for a law to place an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions. The majority opinion ruled that Texas's law failed the test laid out in <em>Casey</em>, which balances the burden a law places on women seeking abortions with the benefit the law confers. The problem is that HB2 so plainly provided no benefit that it wasn't really a hard call. Here is Justice Breyer on the requirement that doctors performing abortions <a href="" target="_blank">have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, <strong>Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.</strong></p> <p>....That brief describes the undisputed general fact that <strong>&ldquo;hospitals often condition admitting privileges on reaching a certain number of admissions per year.&rdquo;</strong>...The president of Nova Health Systems...pointed out that it would be difficult for doctors regularly performing abortions at the El Paso clinic to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals because &ldquo;[d]uring the past 10 years, over 17,000 abortion procedures were performed at the El Paso clinic [and n]ot a single one of those patients had to be transferred to a hospital for emergency treatment, much less admitted to the hospital.&rdquo; In a word, <strong>doctors would be unable to maintain admitting privileges or obtain those privileges for the future, because the fact that abortions are so safe meant that providers were unlikely to have any patients to admit.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>And here he is on the requirement that abortion providers meet the requirements for surgical centers:</p> <blockquote> <p>The record makes clear that the <strong>surgical-center requirement provides no benefit</strong> when complications arise in the context of an abortion produced through medication. That is because, in such a case, <strong>complications would almost always arise only after the patient has left the facility.</strong></p> <p>Nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in death, but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient&rsquo;s own home. Colonoscopy, a procedure that typically takes place outside a hospital (or surgical center) setting, has a mortality rate 10 times higher than an abortion.</p> </blockquote> <p>The majority opinion relied primarily on reams of real-world evidence that made it crystal clear that HB2 provided no bona fide safety benefits. Unfortunately, that means that no real discussion of "undue burden" was required, so it's not clear what effect this case will have as precedent. We'll have to wait and see what lower courts do with it and how the anti-abortion forces rewrite their laws in order to get another crack at a different ruling.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:47:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 307801 at Britain Is a Total Mess Right Now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The day before the Brexit vote, Nick Clegg, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, wrote a piece titled <a href="" target="_blank">"What you will wake up to if we vote to Leave..."</a> It's astonishingly prescient and worth a read. Apparently not very many people believed him, though.</p> <p>But he was totally right, and no one knows what the hell is going on anymore. The process of leaving the EU officially starts when Britain invokes Article 50 of the EU charter, but oddly enough, no one seems to be especially eager to do <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson_car.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">that. David Cameron, the caretaker prime minister, has announced that he doesn't plan to do this anytime soon, and Boris Johnson, the leader of the Brexit forces, <a href="" target="_blank">seems to be OK with that:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Johnson offered no details about when or how Britain should invoke Article 50 &mdash; the formal process for leaving the European Union &mdash; nor did he lay out a plan for how Britain could maintain free trade with the European Union, the world&rsquo;s largest common market, without accepting the bloc&rsquo;s demand for the unrestricted movement of workers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, the pound continues to fall and the financial community <a href="" target="_blank">continues to panic.</a> Tomorrow the Labor Party will hold a vote of confidence on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, which he's expected to lose by a landslide. Scotland is threatening to secede yet again. And the EU is saying that if Britain wants to retain access to the common market, then they have to <a href="" target="_blank">accept free immigration too:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If it wants access to the bloc&rsquo;s single market, post-Brexit Britain must accept EU freedom of movement rules and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice, EU diplomats have warned ahead of a vital summit. <strong>The idea that Britain could have access under a European Economic Area style deal and impose border controls was a non-starter, diplomats said.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, who knows? Maybe that's just their opening negotiating position. But the Brexiteers are in for some serious trouble if it turns out that the price of access to the European market is the very thing that prompted their victory in the first place.</p> <p>What a mess. And all for nothing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 17:33:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 307786 at OECD Report: Pure Math > Applied Math <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Washington Monthly</em>, Jill Barshay reports on the latest study <a href="" target="_blank">comparing math instruction between nations:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Researchers looked at math instruction in 64 countries and regions around the world, and found that <strong>the difference between the math scores of 15-year-old students who were the most exposed to pure math tasks and those who were least exposed was the equivalent of almost two years of education.</strong> The research was based on how students answered survey questions that accompanied an international test, called the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA.</p> <p>The result was surprising for two reasons. First, the PISA exam itself is largely a test of applied math, not equation-solving....<strong>It&rsquo;s also surprising because many veteran educators recommend using real-world applications of abstract math concepts as a motivational tool.</strong> And the OECD doesn&rsquo;t disagree. But real-world examples aren&rsquo;t enough. Students still need to learn the broad concepts and the mathematical notation. In South Korea, for example, students get a big dose of both applied and pure math instruction and they score among the top 10 in the world.</p> </blockquote> <p>I browsed through the <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> myself, and unless I missed something I can't say that these results surprise me even slightly. As the report notes, kids are tracked into different kinds of math instruction in most schools, and the brighter kids are therefore exposed to more advanced math than the others. That's both normal and necessary, and the only real question is whether it's done properly. If poor kids are tracked into less advanced classes at unfairly high levels, then we have a problem. Here's what the report says about that:</p> <blockquote> <p>Across the OECD countries, socio-economic differences among students and schools account for around 9%&nbsp;&mdash; and some countries, as much as 20%&nbsp;&mdash; of the variation in familiarity with mathematics concepts.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's surprising all right, but mainly because 9 percent is a pretty low number. I would have guessed higher. What we're primarily left with here is that some kids are better at math than others; those who are good at math take more advanced classes; and more advanced classes expose them to more abstract concepts. So where's the surprise?</p> <p>As for the ability to solve real-world problems, there's no surprise there either. I doubt the difference is due to the kinds of math the kids are exposed to. It's due to the fact that some kids are better at math than others in the first place and have taken more advanced classes. The PISA exam may be a test of applied math, but obviously you have to know the underlying pure math too.</p> <p>Finally, one related note: I've always wondered about the use of using real-world problems as a "motivational tool." The problem is that once you get past the level of basic arithmetic, real-world problems tend to be pretty artificial. There just aren't very many real-world applications of high school algebra or geometry, and I've often wondered if story problems only make that more obvious. In introductory algebra, for example, you often get problems about trains meeting or how much of a head start someone on foot needs to get somewhere before a car would. Those are so obviously non-useful, though, that they also seem non-motivational. If this is all you can do with algebra, why bother?</p> <p>I don't think there's a good answer to this. Real life just doesn't require much in the way of algebra or geometry for most people. But I guess you have to try.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pisa_familiarity_with_mathematics.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:59:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 307781 at Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren Just Joined Up to Tear Donald Trump Apart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren took a little trip to Ohio today to see the sights, do some antiquing, and eviscerate Donald Trump.</p> <p>Here's the distinguished senator from Massachusetts up first:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="354" scrolling="no" src=";show_text=0&amp;width=630" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="639"></iframe></p> <p>And now, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="354" scrolling="no" src=";show_text=0&amp;width=630" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>They have a pretty good buddy cop situation going on here. Maybe Clinton will make her VP after all?</p></body></html> Contributor Video 2016 Elections Donald Trump Hillary Clinton elizabeth warren Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:30:34 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 307776 at Supreme Court Sets a Limit on Anti-Abortion Laws <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Supreme Court has overturned HB2, a Texas law designed to all but <a href="" target="_blank">eliminate access to abortion in the state:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.</p> <p>&ldquo;We conclude,&rdquo; Justice Breyer wrote, &ldquo;that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_texas_abortion_clinics.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>HB2 was an obvious TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law. Its provisions do virtually nothing to protect women's health, but they do make it nearly impossible for most abortion clinics, especially those outside large cities, to operate. In the aftermath of the law's passage, the number of abortion clinics operating in Texas <a href="" target="_blank">plummeted almost immediately.</a></p> <p>It was obvious from the start that this ruling would split on partisan lines, with Anthony Kennedy as the tiebreaker. This means that probably the most important thing we've learned today is just how far Kennedy can be pushed. He's voted in favor of several abortion restrictions over the past decade, but this one went too far. In practical terms, that means abortion opponents have tested the limits of what they can get away with, and the Texas law represents the outer boundary.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">More here</a> from the majority opinions.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jun 2016 15:23:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 307751 at How Should We Talk About Racism? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steve Randy Waldman picks up today on a brief Twitter disagreement from a few days ago. Here's (part of) his response to my contention that racism was at the heart of <a href="" target="_blank">Britain's vote to leave the EU:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>It may or may not be accurate to attribute the political behavior of large groups of people to racism, but it is not very useful.</strong> Those people got to be that way somehow. Presumably they, or eventually their progeny, can be un-got from being that way somehow. It is, I think, <strong>a political and moral error to content oneself with explanations that suggest no remedy at all,</strong> or that suggest prima facie problematic responses like ridiculing, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_farage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ignoring, disenfranchising, or going to war with large groups of fellow citizens, unless no other explanations are colorable.</p> <p>....It seems to me that the alleged &ldquo;good guys&rdquo; &mdash; the liberal, cosmopolitan class of which I myself am a part &mdash; have fallen into habits of ridiculing, demonizing, writing off, or, in our best moments, merely patronizing huge swathes of the polities to which we belong. They may do the same to us, but we are not toddlers, that is no excuse. In the United States, in Europe, we are allowing ourselves to disintegrate and arguing about who is to blame. Let&rsquo;s all be better than that.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have a good answer to this, and I've struggled with it for some time. On the one hand, the truth is important. If I believe that racism is an important driver of a political movement (Brexit, Donald Trump), then I should say so. It's dishonest to tap dance around it just because it's uncomfortable or politically unhelpful.</p> <p>At the same time, it usually <em>is</em> politically unhelpful. Accusations of racism tend to end conversations, not start them&mdash;and, as Waldman says, implicitly suggest that our problems are intractable. What's more, there's a good case to be made that liberals toss around charges of racism too cavalierly and should dial it back. In fact, you can go even further than that. <em>Politically</em>, liberals might very well be off never using the R-word again.</p> <p>So: should we tell the truth as we see it even if it rarely leads to any useful outcome? Or adopt softer language that skirts the issue but has a better chance of prompting engagement from non-liberals? I don't know. But speaking just for myself, I generally try not to ridicule or demonize "huge swathes" of the country. Instead, I prefer to put the blame where I mostly think it belongs. In the post Waldman is referring to, for example, <a href="" target="_blank">I said this about Brexit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At its core, it&rsquo;s the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by <strong>cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them</strong>&mdash;all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we&rsquo;ve seen in decades. It&rsquo;s loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I&rsquo;d ever see in my lifetime. But that&rsquo;s where we are.</p> </blockquote> <p>People are people. To some extent, we're all prisoners of the environments we were raised in and the trials we've been through over the course of our lives. That might call for empathy and understanding as much as it calls for censure. But one thing it <em>doesn't</em> excuse is politicians and media personalities who very much know better but cynically appeal to racial sentiment anyway, either for ratings or for votes. Calling out these folks for appealing to racism&mdash;or even just tolerating it&mdash;is almost certainly useful. It might not happen fast, but eventually they can be embarrassed into cutting it out. It sure is taking a long time, though.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jun 2016 19:36:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 307716 at Hillary Clinton Is No Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In the <em>LA Times</em> today, Barton Swaim argues that in this year's presidential election "we are faced with a choice between two pathologically dishonest candidates." He runs through a few of Donald Trump's seemingly bottomless supply of obvious lies, and then turns his attention to Hillary Clinton:</p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton&rsquo;s career offers a similarly dizzying array of bogus claims&mdash;(1) that she had known nothing about the firing of White House travel office employees in 1993, though she had orchestrated it; (2) that she deplaned in Bosnia under sniper fire; (3) that she was named for Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Everest when she was 5; (4) that she was a fierce critic of NAFTA &ldquo;from the very beginning&rdquo; when in fact she worked to get it passed; (5) that she &ldquo;did not email any classified material to anyone,&rdquo; though of course she did, many times.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the sign of a pathologically dishonest candidate? Swaim rather easily found five clear and consequential lies from Trump's campaign this year, but not a single one from Hillary's. He had to go back more than 20 years to put together this list, and even so he couldn't manage to find five clear examples. #3 was a trivial recounting of a family story that apparently wasn't true. #4 is modestly misleading, but not much more. (Hillary was <a href="" target="_blank">privately skeptical of NAFTA</a> from the beginning, and became more public about it after she was no longer part of her husband's administration.) #5 is not a lie at all. It's true&mdash;unless you count a bunch of emails that were retroactively classified only years after she sent them.</p> <p>So that leaves #1 and #2. I'll give Swaim both of them. That's two lies between 1993 and 2008&mdash;about as many as Trump tells each day before lunch. If Hillary is really pathologically dishonest, surely Swaim could have pretty easily found more examples more recently? Frankly, if Hillary really does average one lie per decade, it might very well place her among the most honest politicians on the planet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jun 2016 17:40:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 307711 at Chart of the Day: Brexit Would Have Turned Out Very Differently if Kids Turned Out to Vote <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This will come as no surprise, but here's the fundamental reason that Brexit won:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_referendum_age_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 55px;"></p> <p>The younger the voter, the more strongly they voted to remain in the EU. The older the voter, the more likely they were to actually get out and vote. Eventually the kids are going to figure out how badly their elders are screwing them, and maybe then they'll finally muster the energy to cast a ballot. I wonder what it's going to take to make that happen?</p> <p>(Preference via <a href="" target="_blank">YouGov</a>. Turnout via <a href="" target="_blank">SkyData</a>.)</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:30:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 307701 at The Paradox of Immigration: Opposition Is Strongest Precisely Where There Are the Fewest Immigrants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>James Fallows is in western Kansas around Dodge City, where many of the cities are majority Latino and full of immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Cuba, and more recently Somalia and Sudan. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what he says:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I can&rsquo;t let this day end without noting the black-versus-white, night-versus-day contrast between the way immigration, especially from Mexico and other parts of Latin America, is discussed in this part of the country <em>where it is actually happening,</em> versus its role in this moment&rsquo;s national political discussion.</p> <p>....<em>Every single</em> person we have spoken with &mdash; Anglo and Latino and other, old and young, native-born and immigrant, and so on down the list &mdash; <strong><em>every</em></strong> one of them has said: We <em>need</em> each other! There is work in this community that we all need to do. We can choose to embrace the world, or we can fade and die. And we choose to embrace it.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have actual data on this, but my sense from both the US and Britain is that the most fervent opposition to immigration&mdash;legal or otherwise&mdash;comes precisely from the regions where it's had the least impact. Here in the US, for example, immigration from Latin America has been heaviest in the southern sun belt states of California, Texas, Arizona, and a few others. And yet Donald Trump's "build a wall" narrative played well in places like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, all of which have relatively small Latino populations. Similarly, Brexit did best in the small towns and rural areas of England, the places that have the fewest immigrants and that depend the most on EU trade.</p> <p>That's not to say that opposition to immigration is absent in places like London or San Diego. It's not. But these places mostly seem to have adapted to it and figured out that it's not really all that bad. It's everywhere else, where immigration is mostly a <em>fear</em>, that anti-immigrant sentiment has the strongest purchase. And that's why peddling fear is so effective.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 22:58:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307696 at Let Us Now Figure Out Who to Blame for Brexit <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Brexit has passed, and now it's time to find someone to blame. Sure, you can go with the pack and blame David Cameron or Nigel Farage, but that's not much fun. Here are four plausible but not entirely obvious choices:</p> <h3><strong>Ed Milliband</strong></h3> <p>In order to keep peace within his own party, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a vote on Brexit in 2013. It seemed fairly harmless at the time: Cameron's Conservative Party was about 20 seats short of an outright majority in Parliament, so he was governing in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems opposed the referendum, and as long as they remained in the coalition, there would most likely have been <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ed_milliband.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">no vote. To maintain this status quo, neither the Lib Dems nor the opposition Labor Party even had to gain any seats in the 2015 election. They just had to hold their own.</p> <p>But Ed Milliband proved to be such a hapless leader of the Labor Party that he lost 26 seats in the election. This was just enough to give the Tories a bare majority, and that paved the way for Brexit.</p> <p>Alternatively, you could blame Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who managed his party's coalition with Cameron poorly and lost an astounding 49 of its 57 seats in the 2015 election. But Labor was the primary opposition party and should have been able to pick up most of those seats, so let's stick with Milliband on this one.</p> <h3><strong>Angela Merkel</strong></h3> <p>For all the praise she gets, Angela Merkel has been one of the most disastrous European leaders in my lifetime. She's as responsible for Brexit as anyone I can think of, thanks to two catastrophic decisions she made.</p> <p>The first was her insistence on punishing Greece following its collapse after the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around on all sides for the Greece debacle, but as the continent's economic leader Germany held most of the high cards during negotiations over Greece's fate. Merkel had a choice: (a) punish Greece for running up <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_merkel_refugee.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">unsustainable debts and lying about them, or (b) accept that <a href="" target="_blank">Germany bore much of the blame itself</a> for the crisis and that Greece had no way of rescuing itself thanks to the straitjacket of the common currency. The former was a crowd pleaser. The latter was unpopular and would have required sustained, iron-spined leadership. In the event, Merkel chose to play to the crowds, and Greece has been a basket case ever since&mdash;with no end in sight. It hardly went unnoticed in Britain how Europe treated a country that was too entangled with the EU to either fight back or exit, and it made Britain's decision to forego the common currency look prescient. And if that had been a good choice, maybe all the rest of "ever closer union" wasn't such a great idea either.</p> <p>Merkel's second bad decision was more recent. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is David Frum:</a> "If any one person drove the United Kingdom out of the European Union, it was Angela Merkel, and her impulsive solo decision in the summer of 2015 to throw open Germany&mdash;and then all Europe&mdash;to 1.1 million Middle Eastern and North African migrants, with uncountable millions more to come." It's hard to fault Merkel for this on a humanitarian basis, but on a political basis it was a disaster. The barely-controlled wave of refugees Merkel encouraged has caused resentment and more all over Europe, and it unquestionably played a big <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_mail_immigration.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">role in the immigrant backlash in Britain that powered the Leave vote.</p> <h3><strong>Paul Dacre</strong></h3> <p>Paul Dacre is the longtime editor of the <em>Daily Mail</em>, and he's standing in here for the entire conservative tabloid press, which has spent decades lying about the EU and scaring the hell out of its readership about every grisly murder ever committed by an immigrant. In a journalistic style pioneered by Boris Johnson&mdash;who we'll get to next&mdash;the <em>Mail</em> and other tabloids have run hundreds of sensational stories about allegedly idiotic EU regulations and how they're destroying not just Britain's way of life, but its very sovereignty as well. These stories range from deliberately exaggerated to outright false, and they're so relentless that the EU has an <a href="" target="_blank">entire website dedicated to debunking British tabloid myths</a> from A (abattoirs) to Z (zoos). The chart below, <a href="" target="_blank">from the <em>Economist</em>,</a> tots up all the lies, and the <em>Mail</em> is the clear leader.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_economist_eu_lies_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>The EU is hardly a finely-tuned watch when it comes to regulations, but the vast majority of the outrage over its rulings is based almost literally on nothing. Nonetheless, the outrage is real, and it was fueled largely by Dacre's <em>Daily Mail</em> and its fellow tabloids.</p> <h3><strong>Boris Johnson</strong></h3> <p>Why Boris? After all, it was Nigel Farage, the odious leader of the openly xenophobic UKIP party, who led the charge to leave the EU. This is, perhaps, a judgment call, but I've long had a stronger disgust for those who tolerate racism than for the open racists themselves. The latter are always going to be around, and sometimes I even have a little sympathy for them. They've often spent their entire lives marinating in racist communities and are as much a victim of their upbringing as any of us.</p> <p>But then there are those who should know better, and Boris Johnson is very much one of them. The usual caveat is in order here: I can't look into Johnson's heart and know what he really thinks. But he's had a long journalistic career, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson_leave.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and an equally long history of tolerating racist sentiments. As a longtime Euroskeptic&mdash;though probably more an opportunistic one rather than a true believer&mdash;it's no surprise that he campaigned for Brexit, but in doing so he knowingly joined hands with Farage and his UKIP zealots, providing them with a respectability they wouldn't have had without him. He knew perfectly well that the Leave campaign would be based primarily on exploiting fear of immigrants, but he joined up anyway.</p> <p>Johnson is hardly the only British politician to act this way, of course. But he's the most prominent one, so he gets to stand in for all of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:48:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 307691 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 June 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here are the cultural references in this morning's four blog posts:</p> <ul><li>Bette Davis, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>All About Eve</em>.</a></li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><em>New York Daily News</em>,</a> October 30, 1975.</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Sun</em>,</a> April 11, 1992.</li> <li>Sinclair Lewis, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>It Can't Happen Here</em>.</a></li> </ul><p>And here is Hilbert, one of the primary cultural references for Friday catblogging. How could you possibly walk by this and not give him a tummy rub?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2016_06_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 18:53:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 307606 at Sure, Donald Trump Could Win. Here's How. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Paul Waldman asks:</a> "In Britain, cultural resentments won out over stability. Can Donald Trump create the same result here?"</p> <p>Sure. The odds may be against it, but of course Trump can win in November. Let's set the stage with the observation that both candidates start with about 45 percent support. Like it or not, that's where we are right now. Republicans could nominate Donald Duck and he'd start off with 45 percent support. Ditto for Democrats. That said, here's the most likely path to a Trump victory:</p> <ol><li>Trump gets smart and dials back the cretinism a bit. It wouldn't take long for the #NeverTrumpers to fall in line. The key tells would be statements like "He seems to be finally growing into his role," or "He's right that we can't afford three or four Hillary nominees to the Supreme Court." A few weeks after you hear stuff like this, #NeverTrump will be relegated to the ash heap of history.</li> <li>Bernie Sanders remains bitter and fails to rally his troops, who remain convinced that Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, corporate shill. So they stay home in a funk instead of working to defeat Trump.</li> <li>The media continues its practice of giving Trump air time to spread wild lies whenever he wants. This is fairly likely since they still haven't internalized the corollary to the <a href="" target="_blank">Lesley Stahl lesson:</a> fact checks don't matter. Only the loud, confident assertion matters.</li> <li>Hillary's email troubles don't get resolved and continue to dog her throughout the campaign.</li> </ol><p>None of this relies on any kind of big external event, like a terrorist attack or an economic plunge. It just relies on Trump getting a little smarter and then a few things going his way. It could happen here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 17:41:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307591 at It Was Immigration Wot Won It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The UK always had one foot in and one foot out of the EU. <strong>(This is the main reason departure seemed such folly; the UK had already opted out of the worst parts of EU membership.)</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've seen a lot of people making similar comments. Britain wasn't part of the euro. They aren't part of Schengen. They're not fully part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. They've retained a case-by-case opt-out in Justice and Home Affairs issues. They get a special rebate <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_breaking_point_farage.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">on contributions to the EU budget. And earlier this year, David Cameron negotiated a further package of British opt-outs.</p> <p>So what's the deal? What more did the British want?</p> <p>The answer is simple: an end to immigration. That's it. Elderly Brits didn't vote to leave because of EU laws over the shape of bananas. They voted to leave because they had reached their "breaking point" over the flow of immigrants. They didn't want any more Poles or any more Muslims or any more Pakistanis.</p> <p>It's pretty simple: 52 percent of the electorate voted to keep Britain white. Let's not overthink this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 16:11:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 307571 at EU to Britain: Drop Dead <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The folks who were opposed to Brexit want Britain to <a href="" target="_blank">get the hell out as soon as possible:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The EU&rsquo;s top leaders have said they expect the UK to act on its momentous vote to leave the union <strong>&ldquo;as soon as possible, however painful that process may be&rdquo;</strong> and that there will be &ldquo;no renegotiation&rdquo;....The German MEP Elmar Brok, who chairs the European parliament&rsquo;s committee on foreign affairs, told the <em>Guardian</em>...&ldquo;They will have to negotiate from the position of a third country, not as a member state. <strong>If Britain wants to have a similar status to Switzerland and Norway, then it will also have to pay into EU <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boris_johnson.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">structural funds like those countries do. The British public will find out what that means.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>But Brexit's biggest supporter <a href="" target="_blank">suddenly wants to go slow:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Boris Johnson has said Britain should not immediately trigger article 50 to start exit negotiations with the EU after the momentous referendum verdict. In sombre tones and accompanied by fellow Brexit campaigners Gisela Stuart and Michael Gove, the former mayor of London said there was <strong>&ldquo;no need for haste&rdquo;</strong> and &ldquo;nothing will change in the short term&rdquo; in his first press conference since the vote.</p> <p>....<strong>The downbeat press conference reflected a decision by the victorious Vote Leave campaign to try to calm the collapse of the financial markets as the magnitude of the political and economic repercussions unfold.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Meanwhile, Donald Trump says the plummeting pound is <a href="" target="_blank">great news for his golf course in Turnberry,</a> so it's all good.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 15:04:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 307556 at Blue Cross Pulling Out of Minnesota <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>See update below.</strong></p> <p>This is some <a href="" target="_blank">genuine bad news for Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. "Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years," BCBSM said in a statement.</p> <p>....The decision will have far-reaching implications. Blue Cross and Blue Shield says the change will affect about, "103,000 Minnesotans [who] have purchased Blue Cross coverage on their own, through an agent or broker, or on MNsure."</p> </blockquote> <p>When United Healthcare closed up shop, it wasn't that big a deal. UH is a huge insurer, but not a major&nbsp;Obamacare player. Blue Cross is different. It's a huge insurer <em>and</em> a major player in the individual health care market.</p> <p>If this is just a problem with Minnesota, it's not too big a deal. If it's a sign of broader Blue Cross problems nationwide&mdash;and Blue Cross has previously announced losses in Illinois, Michigan, and other states&mdash;then it's a big deal indeed. Fasten your seat belts.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Apparently Blue Cross <a href="" target="_blank">isn't actually pulling out of Minnesota completely:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a sign of continuing tumult in the health insurance industry, the state&rsquo;s largest insurer said Thursday it will no longer offer its traditional suite of flexible and broad-reaching policies for those consumers who don&rsquo;t get coverage through the workplace. Instead, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will sell only health plans with a <strong>narrow network,</strong> which limits patient coverage to specific doctors, hospitals and prescription drug benefits.</p> <p>....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very difficult decision for us,&rdquo; said Michael Guyette, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, who <strong>described the move as a &ldquo;refocusing of our portfolio&rdquo; rather than an all-out exit from the individual market.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So Blue Cross is staying in the individual market, but offering only narrow network plans. That's still bad news for Obamacare, but not nearly as bad as Blue Cross leaving the market entirely.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 14:40:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 307541 at Brexit Wins <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_bbc_call_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 0px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>British voters have voted to leave the EU. What a waste. I'm skeptical that this will cause economic Armageddon, but I doubt that it will do Britain any good either. Now they'll spend the next three or four years up to their gills in rancorous negotiations on the terms for exit, and all to accomplish next to nothing.</p> <p>In the short term, however, everyone is going to freak out. Financial markets are already throwing a fit, with the pound absolutely cratering. It had strengthened earlier in the week as it looked like Brexit would lose, but earlier tonight, as the first results started trickling in, it dropped like a stone. It <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brexit_pound_cratering_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">lost more than 10 percent of its value in just a few hours, and is now trading at it lowest level against the dollar in 30 years.</p> <p>I don't have any personal axe to grind on Brexit. Except for one: I am sick and tired of watching folks like Boris Johnson, Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and others appeal to the worst racial instincts of our species, only to be shushed by folks telling me that it's not <em>really</em> racism driving their popularity. It's economic angst. It's regular folks tired of being spurned by out-of-touch elites. It's a natural anxiety over rapid cultural change.</p> <p>Maybe it's all those things. But at its core, it's the last stand of old people who have been frightened to death by cynical right-wing media empires and the demagogues who enable them&mdash;all of whom have based their appeals on racism as overt as anything we've seen in decades. It's loathsome beyond belief, and not something I thought I'd ever see in my lifetime. But that's where we are.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jun 2016 04:12:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307521 at Donald Trump Makes a Dupe of Yet Another TV Professional <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jamelle Bouie makes a seemingly indisputable point about Donald Trump:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is what I mean. Sure Trump can give a speech and then someone asks him a basic question and he falls apart. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) <a href="">June 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Let's dispute this anyway. Bouie is referring to an interview by Lester Holt that's airing tonight on the NBC Nightly News. Here's a slightly cleaned up version of the <a href="" target="_blank">portion he's talking about:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>LESTER HOLT: You also made the claim that [Hillary Clinton's] e-mail, personal e-mail server, had been hacked, probably by foreign governments, suggesting that...she would be compromised as president. What evidence do you have?</p> <p>DONALD TRUMP: Well first of all, she shouldn't have had a personal server, okay? She shouldn't have had it. It's illegal. What she did is illegal. Now she might not be judging that way because, you know, we&nbsp;&mdash; we have a rigged system. But what she did is illegal. She shouldn't have had a personal server &mdash;</p> <p>HOLT: But is there any evidence that it was hacked other than routine fishing attacks?</p> <p>TRUMP: I think I read that and I heard it and somebody &mdash;</p> <p>HOLT: Where?</p> <p>TRUMP:&nbsp;&mdash; that also gave me that information. I will report back to you. I'll give it to you.</p> <p>HOLT: But you just said it with such certainty yesterday.</p> <p>TRUMP: I don't know if certainty. Probably she was hacked. You know, you can be hacked and not know it, but she probably was hacked. The fact is she should not have it, she should not have had a personal server.</p> </blockquote> <p>"I will report back to you." How lame! But before you scoff too much, think about what happened during this brief exchange:</p> <ol><li>Holt repeated the claim that Hillary Clinton's email server had been hacked, "probably by foreign governments."</li> <li>Trump made a little speech about her personal server being illegal</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_holt_interview.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Holt repeated the claim, using the words "hacked" and "fishing attacks."</li> <li>Trump says he read that somewhere and he'll get back to Holt with the evidence.</li> </ol><p>To folks like us, who follow this stuff obsessively, this seems obviously ridiculous. But to the average viewer it's exactly the opposite. Trump has managed to maneuver Holt into spending 40 seconds of his evening newscast repeating damaging charges against Hillary Clinton. Between the two of them, in the space of that 40 seconds, you hear the words <em>personal server</em> four times, <em>hacked</em> five times, <em>illegal</em> three times, and&nbsp;<em>compromised</em>, <em>rigged</em>, and <em>fishing attacks</em> once each. When it's over, Trump promises to produce evidence backing this up. "I will get it to you," he says, in a tone that very much suggests he will indeed get it to us. (Click the link and listen to Trump if you don't believe me about this.)</p> <p>This is the farthest thing from lame. <em>It is an awesome display of media manipulation.</em> The average person will come away from this with one and only one impression: Hillary Clinton probably used an illegal email server that was hacked by foreign governments. Period. Holt's skepticism doesn't even come through because he's too worried about trying to sound professional&mdash;and Trump took advantage of that to make Holt into yet another of his unwitting media dupes. This entire interview was nothing but a huge win for Trump. Holt served up every single thing he wanted on a silver peacock feather.</p> <p>If you don't want to give Trump air time to make baseless charges, then you should refuse to air his baseless charges. This whole section of the interview should have been left on the cutting room floor. If everyone did that, eventually Trump would learn that making wild accusations won't get him precious exposure. But TV news loves wild accusations and pretends that airing them is OK as long as they follow up with a knowing, eyes-raised pronouncement that "no evidence was forthcoming from the Trump campaign." Haha. All of us who are in the know understand what <em>that</em> means.</p> <p>This should stop. Period. Everyone is playing Trump's game, and it's way past time to knock it off.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 23:09:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 307506 at Yes, Automation Is Going To Take Away Our Jobs—Eventually <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Will increasingly intelligent automation eventually put humans out of work? There are some plausible reasons to think this might never happen. But there are also some really dumb reasons to think it won't happen. The dumbest, by a mile, is basically, "That's what everyone said about the Industrial Revolution and it just made us richer." This is such a phenomenally stupid argument that I can't even bring myself to waste time explaining why it's so dumb.</p> <p>But there's another surprisingly common bad argument: "Look around, automation is opening up more jobs for people than ever!" I'm not especially trying to pick on Tim Lee here, but I'm pretty surprised to see him <a href="" target="_blank">pushing a version of this claim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our collective obsession with job-stealing robots can cause us to overestimate the impact of automation &mdash; and obscure an important point about the economy. In many service industries, human labor is a mark of luxury. So at the same time robots destroy manufacturing jobs, the demand for labor-intensive services is soaring. We can see the signs of this all around <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_robocop_real_cops.jpg" style="margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">us. There's the rise of Etsy, an online marketplace whose main selling point is that the products are not mass-produced. [etc.]</p> <p>....One way to see this is by looking at the US Labor Department's projections of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States between 2014 and 2024. A bunch of slots are taken up by therapists and caretakers: physical therapists and their aides and assistants, occupational therapy aides and assistants, home health aides.</p> <p>....In a sense, it's possible to automate many aspects of these jobs. Instead of having a therapist come to your home, someone could send you a video demonstrating therapy techniques....For someone who needed therapy care, this kind of semiautomated therapy service would probably be better than nothing. But it's a lot worse than having a face-to-face meeting with a human being...."Therapy" delivered by an app or even a robot is a different kind of service, just as coffee delivered by a vending machine is a different kind of service than a cup of coffee prepared by a human barista.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is crazy. All he's saying is that automation isn't yet good enough to replace human caretakers or human baristas. But no one says otherwise. As for "handmade," that's been a mark of luxury for centuries, ever since "handmade" became a retronym in the first place.</p> <p>It's pointless to argue that automation isn't currently taking away jobs. The evidence is just too ambiguous to allow a firm conclusion on that score, and at most it's had only a small effect anyway. The only interesting question is whether artificial intelligence will <em>eventually</em> get to the point where robots can drive cars and dig trenches and do your taxes and help old people get around. I happen to think the answer is yes, <a href="" target="_blank">probably by around 2030 or 2040 or so</a>&mdash;but I acknowledge that I might be wrong about that. Maybe it will be more like 2070. Or maybe there's some not-yet-understood reason that it will never happen at all. Arguments on that score are welcome.</p> <p>But pointing to the present as evidence that automation is over-hyped is a non-sequitur. Nobody's arguing that robots <em>today</em> can make your coffee or keep the elderly company, so why even bring it up? In another few decades, though, I'll bet the elderly will <em>prefer</em> robot caretakers who are endlessly patient, willing to talk on any subject, and never screw up. There won't be a person in the country who'd prefer the crappy, ill-trained, and unreliable level of care and attention that most nursing home residents receive today.</p> <p>Just to wrap up, then, here are the two worst arguments against the eventual job-killing rise of intelligent robots:</p> <ul><li>The Industrial Revolution didn't put us all out of work.</li> <li>Automation today isn't putting us all out of work.</li> </ul><p>Neither one of these arguments offers the slightest insight into what will happen if and when AI becomes human level or close to it. If you come across either one, just back away slowly and move on to the latest cute cat video on YouTube.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 21:38:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 307486 at I Would Vote For Bernie Sanders If He'd Promise to Ban Popups on the Web <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>&lt;rant&gt;I had a slight meltdown about an hour ago when a little ScreenTip&reg; showed up in Excel. It was covering something I needed to see and I couldn't get rid of it and I'd finally had enough. I started pounding the keyboard and yelling and just generally scaring the hell out of the cats. This is probably a sign that I need to restart my meds,<sup>1</sup> but it's also a sign that I'm so sick and tired of the endless crap that pops up on my computer that I feel like screaming sometimes. Seriously, does every goddam page on the internet have to feature some kind of popup either when I land or when I leave or when I mouse over the wrong thing or whatever? Can't I just read in peace? For a few minutes at least? Please?&lt;/rant&gt;</p> <p>The answer is no, of course. And surely one of the most hated popups on the internet is the omnipresent ForeSee survey popup. And just to piss <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_foresee_survey.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">me off even more, check out the gloriously buzzword-laden gobbledegook they <a href="" target="_blank">serve up on their "About Us" page:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As a pioneer in <strong>customer experience analytic</strong>s, ForeSee continuously measures satisfaction with the customer experience and delivers <strong>powerful insights</strong> on where organizations should prioritize improvements for <strong>maximum impact</strong>. ForeSee applies its trusted technology across channels and <strong>customer touch points</strong>, including websites, contact centers, retail stores, mobile and tablet sites and apps and <strong>social media initiatives</strong>. Executives and managers confidently <strong>prioritize efforts</strong> that achieve business goals because ForeSee&rsquo;s proven methodology is <strong>predictive of customer loyalty</strong>, purchase behavior, future financial success and even stock prices.</p> </blockquote> <p>Jesus Christ. Is there anyone left in the tech industry who can write in ordinary English? And more to the point, is there some cookie or something I can install that will prevent all ForeSee popups from ever sullying my screen ever again?&lt;/rant for real this time&gt;</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Unfortunately, this is not a joke. My med-free experiment doesn't seem to be working well. It's probably time to start up the Effexor again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:52:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 307466 at USDA: Avocado Consumption Has Skyrocketed In the 21st Century <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Vox today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A new analysis published in <em>JAMA</em> this week looked at US eating habits from 1999 to 2012 and found that...there was no change in total fruits and vegetables consumed. (When Americans do eat vegetables, <strong>fully half of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_usda_potato_vegetable.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">them are tomatoes and potatoes</strong> &mdash; often in the form of sugar-laden ketchup and greasy fries.)</p> </blockquote> <p>Wait. Potatoes are a vegetable? <a href="" target="_blank">Wikipedia</a> skirts the question entirely by calling them a "starchy, tuberous crop"&mdash;and pretty much everything that grows is a crop. <a href="" target="_blank">Britain's Department of Health</a> dithers: "Potatoes are botanically classified as a vegetable, but they are classified nutritionally as a starchy food." The USDA just flatly calls them vegetables. <a href=";ref=collection&amp;embed=True&amp;widgetId=37373" target="_blank">As the chart on the right shows,</a> potatoes account for 30 percent of America's consumption of "vegetables and legumes." And they aren't legumes, are they?</p> <p>Fine. Technically they're a vegetable. You learn something new every day. And I'm not just saying that. You really <em>can</em> learn something new every day from the USDA. Following the link to this little pie chart led me to <a href="" target="_blank">ERS Charts of Note,</a> a daily chart from the USDA's Economic Research Service. And it's great! Here are some recent charts:</p> <ul><li>Supermarket shrink varies by type of fresh fruit and vegetable</li> <li>Most U.S. farm estates exempt from Federal estate tax in 2015</li> <li>U.S. milk production continues to grow</li> <li>India is the world&rsquo;s leading importer of soybean oil</li> <li>U.S. honey consumption per person has risen in recent years</li> <li>U.S. stocks of natural cheese are at the highest levels since 1984</li> <li>A growing number of school meals are served at no charge to students</li> <li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_usda_avocado_imports.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Avocado imports grow to meet increasing U.S. demand</li> </ul><p>They're not kidding about the avocado imports, either. In the past 15 years, per-capita avocado consumption has increased from two pounds per person to seven pounds per person. Virtually all of that increase has been supplied by imports from Mexico, which are probably super cheap thanks to NAFTA. If Donald Trump had his way, your typical guac-drenched fast-food burrito wouldn't exist. What kind of a world would that be?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 18:22:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 307461 at Weekly Flint Water Report: June 10-16 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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 137 samples. The average for the past week was 7.05.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_06_16.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Jun 2016 17:03:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 307451 at