Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2009/08/succession-politics-and-health-care-reform/politics/2002/11/.http%3A/www.boston.com/news/politics/2002/11/http%3A/www.%24www.bidpalace.com/photos/whitehouse/3818150328 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Anchor Babies Exist, But Probably Not Very Many of Them http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/anchor-babies-exist-probably-not-very-many-them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Do "anchor babies" exist? Or are they just a pernicious myth invented by the anti-immigration right? The <em>LA Times</em> sent reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske to Rio Grande City in Texas to <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/immigration/la-na-texas-anchor-babies-20150903-story.html" target="_blank">check things out:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In this county in the heart of the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, so-called anchor babies have been delivered for decades, some to women who have already settled in Texas, others to those who crossed the river expressly to give birth on U.S. soil. "About six months ago I got one who was literally still wet from the river," [Dr. Rolando] Guerrero said.</p> <p>....Just how many Mexican mothers come to give birth to the babies and the cost of caring for them are unclear. <strong>"They do come on purpose," said Thalia Munoz, chief executive of Starr County Memorial.</strong> "We have to absorb the costs.&hellip; It's a persistent problem. It's a fact: They come over here for the anchor baby, they come over for the benefits."</p> <p>....The doctors said they saw fewer women coming to have babies after Texas officials ordered a surge of law enforcement and National Guard troops to the border last summer in response to an influx of Central American immigrants. Instead of gunfire at night, Margo heard U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Department of Public Safety helicopters. <strong>But since then, "slowly, it's been going back up," Guerrero said.</strong></p> <p>....At Starr County Memorial, <strong>most of the mothers the doctors see do not cross intentionally to give birth,</strong> they said &mdash; they were already living on the U.S. side of the border with families of mixed status. "I have families where I've delivered three or four" U.S.-born babies, Guerrero said.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's unlikely that we'll ever get a firm handle on how common this phenomenon is. But if the evidence of this story is typical, we can say that (a) anchor babies certainly exist, but (b) probably not in very large numbers. That's not likely to satisfy anyone, but sometimes life is like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:07:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 283306 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do High Schools Erase All the Test Score Gains of the Past 40 Years? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/why-do-high-schools-erase-all-test-score-gains-past-40-years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>SAT scores have been dropping slowly but steadily <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-scores-at-lowest-level-in-10-years-fueling-worries-about-high-schools/2015/09/02/6b73ec66-5190-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html" target="_blank">for the past decade:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. <strong>The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven&rsquo;t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say.</strong> That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;Why is education reform hitting a wall in high school?&rdquo;</strong> asked Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank. &ldquo;You see this in all kinds of evidence. Kids don&rsquo;t make a whole lot of gains once they&rsquo;re in high school. It certainly should raise an alarm.&rdquo;</p> <p>It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores, but educators cite a host of enduring challenges in the quest to lift high school achievement. Among them are <strong>poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills</strong> that plague many urban neighborhoods.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm delighted to see an education story that acknowledges <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/kids-school-test-scores-charts-kevin-drum" target="_blank">the plain evidence of test score gains,</a> even if just in an aside. The simple fact is that standardized test scores have risen significantly in both reading and math over both the past decade and the past four decades. In elementary and middle schools, they have <em>not</em> been either stagnant or dropping, but based on the usual reporting of this stuff, I doubt that one person in a hundred is aware of this.</p> <p>But I'm also happy to see the flip side of this acknowledged: in general, all these gains wash away in high school. On the "gold standard" NAEP test, math scores have gone up just a few points among 17 year olds and reading scores have been flat. The usual explanation is that reforms have initially been centered on elementary and middle schools, and scores will go up for older kids once those reforms start to become widespread in high schools. Maybe. But that excuse is starting to look old in the tooth. And even if high schools haven't seen a lot of reforms yet, why is it that they seem to have a <em>negative</em> effect on student performance? If math scores were up, say, ten points by the end of middle school and remained ten points up by the end of high school, that would be one thing. High schools wouldn't be adding anything, but they wouldn't be doing any harm either. But that's not the case. Kids come out of middle school better prepared today, but come out of high school no better than they did in 1971. High school is actually <em>erasing</em> gains.</p> <p>This is, needless to say, troubling. Poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills are problems at all ages, so that explains little. Nor does disaggregating scores by race, since demographic changes have been similar at all age levels. But the plain truth is that the only thing that really matters is how well prepared kids are when they finish high school. All the test score gains in the world mean nothing if they're gone by age 17. This is something we really need to figure out.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/9yearolds.gif" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 4px 5px 10px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/myth6.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 14:22:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 283301 at http://www.motherjones.com Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Headed to Court Over Refusal to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/kentucky-clerk-court-over-refusal-issue-gay-marriage-licenses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Kim Davis, the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/kentucky-clerk-gay-marriage-license-supreme-court" target="_blank">defiant Rowan county clerk</a> who cites "God's authority" in refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is set to appear in court Thursday morning in Kentucky. U.S. District Judge David Bunning will decide whether Davis can be found in <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/03/politics/kentucky-clerk-same-sex-marriage-kim-davis/index.html" target="_blank">contempt of court</a>, as lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union argue.&nbsp;</p> <p>The appearance comes amid Davis's ongoing failure to comply with the Supreme Court's landmark ruling that invalidated gay marriage bans nationwide. Since the decision in June, Davis has refused to issue marriage licenses <a href="http://http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/us/same-sex-marriage-kentucky-kim-davis.html" target="_blank">to both straight and same-sex couples</a>. Despite the Supreme Court denial of her emergency application requesting a delay on Monday, Davis continued to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples, creating testy scenes inside and outside the clerk's office, and drawing national attention.</p> <p>The showdown in Kentucky, the first time the issue of same-sex marriage has returned back to the Supreme Court since June, has become a lightening rod for gay marriage opponents who argue that Davis' religious beliefs should allow her to defy the constitutional mandate. Both legal experts and same-sex marriage supporters say she has no legal standing.</p> <p>The scene on Thursday:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Supporters of KY Clerk Kim Davis are demonstrating outside federal courthouse in Ashland for 11am contempt hearing. <a href="http://t.co/7wFKTtOBlM">pic.twitter.com/7wFKTtOBlM</a></p> &mdash; Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) <a href="https://twitter.com/dominicholden/status/639414048342306817">September 3, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>"The ACLU has asked she&nbsp;be fined in an amount sufficient to compel her compliance to the court's ruling," Ria Tabacco Mar, an ACLU attorney, <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/aclu-files-contempt-motion-against-kentucky-clerk-refusing-issue-same-sex-367529" target="_blank">told <em>Newsweek</em>.</a> "No one wants Kim Davis to go to jail, we just want her to follow the law and do her job."</p> <p>We'll update this post once we know the outcome of the hearing.</p></body></html> MoJo Gay Rights Supreme Court Thu, 03 Sep 2015 13:56:33 +0000 Inae Oh 283296 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Future of Health Care Costs Looks Surprisingly Rosy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/chart-day-future-health-care-costs-looks-surprisingly-rosy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You've seen various versions of this chart from me before, but perhaps you'd like to see it from a pair of highly-qualified researchers rather than some shorts-clad blogger? Not a problem. <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21501.pdf" target="_blank">A recent paper</a> out of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC shows that the annual increase in health care costs has been dropping steadily for more than 30 years. The green arrow shows the trendline.</p> <p>Obviously this won't go on forever. But once again, it shows that the recent slowdown in health care costs isn't just an artifact of the Great Recession. That probably helped, but the downward trend far predates the recession. Bottom line: there will still be spikes and valleys in the future, but there's every reason to think that the general trend of health care costs over the next few decades will be either zero (i.e., equal to overall inflation) or pretty close to it.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_annual_increase_1960_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 01:25:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 283291 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Has Lost Between $1 and $6 Billion Over His Business Career http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/donald-trump-has-lost-between-1-and-6-billion-over-his-business-career <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This post is about Donald Trump&mdash;sorry!&mdash;but the topic is something I've been a little curious about for a while: how much of Trump's wealth is inherited vs. earned? The basics are easy: Trump's father turned over control of the family real estate business to him in 1974. At the time, it was worth about $200 million. Trump would eventually inherit one-fifth of this, so his share of the company was worth about $40 million to start with.</p> <p>Over at <em>National Journal</em>,&nbsp;Shirish D&aacute;te estimates that if Trump had put that money into an index fund of S&amp;P 500 stocks, it would be worth about $3 billion today. If he'd taken the $200 million he was reportedly <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_s_and_p_return_1974_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">worth in 1982 and done the same, he'd be worth $8 billion. So how does that compare to Trump's actual net worth? <a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/twentysixteen/2015/09/02/1-easy-way-donald-trump-could-have-been-even-richer-doing-nothing" target="_blank">Here's D&aacute;te:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Every year, Trump shares a lot of information with us that helps us get to the figures we publish. But he also consistently pushes for a higher net worth&mdash;especially when it comes to the value of his personal brand,&rdquo; <em>Forbes</em> reporter Erin Carlyle wrote this June, explaining the magazine&rsquo;s assessment that Trump was worth <strong>$4.1 billion,</strong> less than half of his claimed net worth. A subsequent review by Bloomberg found he was worth <strong>$2.9 billion.</strong></p> <p>....Perhaps the most deeply researched account of his wealth is a decade old: the book <em>TrumpNation</em>, by former <em>New York Times</em> journalist Tim O&rsquo;Brien, who found three sources close to Trump who estimated that he was worth <strong>between $150 million and $250 million</strong>....Trump wound up suing O&rsquo;Brien for defamation, claiming his book had damaged his business. The suit was eventually dismissed, but not before Trump sat for a deposition in which he admitted that he routinely exaggerated the values of his properties.</p> <p>....That 2007 deposition also revealed that in 2005, two separate banks had assessed Trump&rsquo;s assets and liabilities before agreeing to lend him money. One, North Fork Bank, decided he was worth <strong>$1.2 billion,</strong> while Deutsche Bank found he was worth no more than <strong>$788 million.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So....at a guess, Trump is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion in 2015. Anything above that is based on valuations of his personal brand&mdash;which might be worth something in theory, but buys no jet fuel or campaign ads. In terms of actual, tangible net worth, he's worth considerably less than the $3 billion (or $8 billion) he'd be worth if he'd just dumped his share of the family fortune into a Vanguard fund.</p> <p>In other words, over the course of the past four decades, Trump's business acumen has netted him somewhere between -$1 billion and -$6 billion. Ouch. Virtually every person in America can claim a better financial record than that.</p> <p>Now, in fairness, D&aacute;te's numbers for the S&amp;P fund assume that all dividends are reinvested, which would have meant Trump had no income to live on. Obviously he spends a fair amount every year, and if you take that into account the Vanguard strategy wouldn't look as good. Plus, of course, there's the fact that D&aacute;te is a THIRD-RATE LOSER who is JEALOUS of Trump's BRILLIANT CAREER and does anything he can to DEMEAN Trump's SUCCESS. So take him with a grain of salt.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 23:06:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 283281 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton Announces Support to Ban Wall Street Bonuses for Government Officials http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/hillary-clinton-golden-parachutes-elizabeth-warren <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On Monday, Hillary Clinton came out in support of legislation seeking to end the so-called "golden parachute" payouts that traditionally benefit private sector executives who take on jobs within the federal government&mdash;a practice long criticized by Wall Street reformers such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren.</p> <p>"The American people need to be able to trust that every single person in Washington&mdash;from the President of the United States all the way down to agency employees&mdash;is putting the interests of the people first," Clinton wrote in an blog post for the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hillary-clinton/wall-street-revolving-door_b_8064504.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067" target="_blank"><em>Huffington Post</em></a>, published Monday. "We want to do more to make sure that happens."</p> <p>Clinton's backing of the the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act comes after a report in the <em>Intercept</em> last month that revealed <a href="https://theintercept.com/2015/07/30/two-big-reasons-hillary-clinton-isnt-taking-elizabeth-warrens-revolving-door-dare/" target="_blank">two senior-level State Department officials</a> during her time as secretary,&nbsp;Thomas Nides and Robert Hormats, had received hefty payments from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs respectively after taking on jobs with the State Department.</p> <p>In July, Warren issued a challenge to all presidential candidates to support the legislation, <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/elizabeth-warren-just-issued-a-major-challenge-to-all-presidential-contenders/" target="_blank">calling</a> it "a bill any presidential candidate should be able to cheer for."</p> <p>&iuml;&raquo;&iquest;"We have a presidential election coming up," she told a crowd in Phoenix. "I think anyone running for that job&mdash;anyone who wants the power to make every key economic appointment and nomination across the federal government&mdash;should say loud and clear that they agree: we don't run this country for Wall Street and mega corporations. We run it for people."</p> <p>Clinton's announcement on Monday shows she is listening closely to what Warren has to say.</p> <p>Since announcing her second run for president, the former secretary of state has embraced a number of policies close to Warren's heart, specifically on Wall Street reform. Last December, Clinton <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/02/hillary-clinton-liz-warren-nice-little-chat" target="_blank">reportedly met privately with Warren</a> to discuss her policy ideas. News of the conversation signaled Clinton could be ready to take a more populist approach to her campaign for the White House.</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Money in Politics Wed, 02 Sep 2015 19:33:00 +0000 Inae Oh 283266 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton's Favorability Ratings Are Right In Their Normal Groove http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/hillary-clintons-favorability-ratings-are-right-their-normal-groove <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/02/what-hillarys-sinking-poll-numbers-really-mean-in-one-chart/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent says</a> that Hillary Clinton's tanking favorability ratings should take no one by surprise. It's what happens every time an election starts up and she's once again viewed as a partisan political figure. "Her drop was probably inevitable once she made the transition from Secretary of State &mdash; a job that carries the trappings of above-politics statesmanship, or if you prefer, states-womanship &mdash; to candidate for president."</p> <p>There's much more at the link, but the annotated chart below pretty much tells the story. When she's removed from the fray, her unfavorability ratings bounce around between 20 and 40 percent. When she's involved in an election, they go up to 45-55 percent or even a little higher. The same thing is happening this time around.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_unfavorability_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:55:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 283271 at http://www.motherjones.com 3 Hurricanes Are Hitting the Pacific at the Same Time, and the View From Space Is Amazing http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/09/three-hurricanes-pacific-photos <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are marveling at a particularly awesome view from orbit right now. This week marks the first time that three major hurricanes&mdash;dubbed Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena&mdash;have been captured simultaneously churning across the Pacific Ocean, according to the United Kingdom's Met Office. (The National Hurricane Center <a href="https://twitter.com/EricBlake12/status/637729647246094336" target="_blank">agrees</a>.)</p> <p>The storms are being fueled by warmer waters caused by this year's El Ni&ntilde;o, the global climate event that occurs every five to seven years, bringing drought to places like Australia, while heaping rain on the Western United States. The Met Office says temperature anomalies in this part of the world are currently at their highest since 1997-98.</p> <p><a href="http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2015/09/02/active-pacific-tropical-cyclone-season-continues/" target="_blank">According to the Met Office</a>: "Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena were all at category 4 simultaneously in the Pacific east of the International Dateline&mdash;the first time three major hurricanes have been recorded at the same time in this region." The Met Office says tropical cyclone activity across the northern hemisphere this year is about 200 percent above normal. Six hurricanes have crossed the central Pacific, more than in any other year on record, the agency says.</p> <p>The view from space is incredible:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Three major hurricanes pictured together over Pacific for first time - ever <a href="http://t.co/ZsVT0rcD00">http://t.co/ZsVT0rcD00</a> <a href="http://t.co/ms2IHvsBxG">pic.twitter.com/ms2IHvsBxG</a></p> &mdash; Independent US (@IndyUSA) <a href="https://twitter.com/IndyUSA/status/638829215995985920">September 1, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">3 Pacific cyclones, a hurricane off Africa -- <a href="https://twitter.com/JaneJaeLee">@JaneJaeLee</a> finds out what's going on. <a href="http://t.co/hZGZjwEHrO">http://t.co/hZGZjwEHrO</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/NatGeo">@NatGeo</a></p> &mdash; Jeffrey L Katz (@JeffreyLKatz) <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffreyLKatz/status/639056471196610561">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Hurricane <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Jimena?src=hash">#Jimena</a> lurking in the Pacific. <a href="http://t.co/TMOSFn8vGR">pic.twitter.com/TMOSFn8vGR</a></p> &mdash; Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) <a href="https://twitter.com/astro_kjell/status/638137675350831104">August 30, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Historic central/eastern Pacific outbreak- 3 major hurricanes at once for the first time on record! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ElNino?src=hash">#ElNino</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/climate?src=hash">#climate</a> <a href="http://t.co/t4fdIZwhOO">pic.twitter.com/t4fdIZwhOO</a></p> &mdash; Eric Blake (@EricBlake12) <a href="https://twitter.com/EricBlake12/status/637729647246094336">August 29, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration <a href="http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-hurricanes" target="_blank">says</a> manmade global warming is likely to drive up the number of intense hurricanes like these around the world&mdash;despite a predicted overall drop in all types of weaker, tropical storms. By the end of the century, hurricanes will likely produce substantially higher rainfall&mdash;up to 20 percent more&mdash;than present-day hurricanes.</p> <p>So far, Hawaii appears to be safe, and no humans are in the paths of destruction, allowing us to enjoy the spectacular view.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Climate Desk Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:05:36 +0000 James West 283251 at http://www.motherjones.com Freddie Gray Hearings Open Amid Police Clashes http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/freddie-gray-hearings-open-with-police-clashes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hearings in the case against six Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/freddie-gray/bs-md-ci-freddie-gray-hearing-20150902-story.html" target="_blank">began this morning</a> against an all-too-familiar backdrop of police confrontations with protesters.</p> <p>The first pretrial hearing of the case, involving six officers charged in <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/medical-examiner-freddie-gray-homicide" target="_blank">Gray&rsquo;s death in police custody</a>, opened with victories for the prosecution, as a judge denied motions to dismiss the case and to recuse the state's attorney. Outside the courthouse, protesters clashed with police. People on the scene described police <a href="https://twitter.com/revshiz/status/639078091822878720" target="_blank">grabbing women</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/anyaparampil/status/639069662492393473" target="_blank">harassing members of the press</a>, and restricting sidewalk access to the courthouse. Netta Elzie, a prominent black activist, also tweeted an account of Kwame Rose, another black activist and Baltimore resident, being hit by a police car and promptly arrested.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-video tw-align-center" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Baltimore. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FreddieGray?src=hash">#FreddieGray</a>. Baltimore police just arrested <a href="https://twitter.com/kwamerose">@kwamerose</a> <a href="http://t.co/p43ERG0Xml">pic.twitter.com/p43ERG0Xml</a></p> &mdash; ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) <a href="https://twitter.com/Nettaaaaaaaa/status/639070203708620800">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Baltimore's finest. Protest. 2015. <a href="https://t.co/bTgUXAOnLW">https://t.co/bTgUXAOnLW</a></p> &mdash; deray mckesson (@deray) <a href="https://twitter.com/deray/status/639071910295412737">September 2, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Inside the court, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/latest-gray-hearing-deputies-reporters-gather-120902199.html" target="_blank">denied motions</a> to recuse State&rsquo;s Attorney Marilyn Mosby from the case and to dismiss charges because of alleged prosecutorial misconduct on behalf of Mosby. Defense attorneys for the six officers, who&nbsp;face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to second-degree assault, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/defense-marilyn-mosby-should-recuse-herself-from-freddie-gray-case/2015/05/08/d701c51c-f5c8-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html" target="_blank">argued</a> that Mosby should recuse herself, citing her relationship to the Gray family's attorney and her husband's position as a city councilman as reasons for a conflict of interest.</p> <p>This story will be updated as it develops.</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:51:11 +0000 Miles E. Johnson 283246 at http://www.motherjones.com Iran Will Always Be Three Months Away From Having Nukes http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/iran-will-always-be-three-months-away-having-nukes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman writes about the asymmetric political risks that Democrats and Republicans face <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/02/in-an-unusual-development-congressional-dems-display-admirable-backbone/" target="_blank">over the Iran nuclear deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If the agreement proves to be a failure &mdash; let&rsquo;s say that Iran manages to conduct a nuclear weapons program in secret, then announces to the world that they have a nuclear weapon &mdash; it will indeed be front-page news, and the Democrats who supported the deal might suffer grave political consequences. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nuclear_explosion.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">So in order to vote yes, they had to look seriously at the deal and its alternatives, and accept some long term political peril.</p> <p>By contrast, there probably is less long term risk for Republicans in opposing the deal.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s true that if the deal does achieve its goals, it will be added to a list of things on which Republicans were spectacularly wrong, but which led them to change their opinions not a whit....Iraq War....Bill Clinton&rsquo;s tax-increasing 1993 budget....George Bush&rsquo;s tax cuts....But if the deal works as intended, what will be the outcome be? Iran without nuclear weapons, of course, but that is a state of being rather than an event. There will be no blaring headlines saying, &ldquo;Iran Still Has No Nukes &mdash; Dems Proven Right!&rdquo; Five or ten years from now, Republicans will continue to argue that the deal was dreadful, even if Iran&rsquo;s nuclear ambitions have been contained.</p> </blockquote> <p>In a way, it's actually worse than this. Even if Iran doesn't get nukes there will be endless opportunities to raise alarms that it's going to happen <em>any day now</em>. Israeli leaders have been warning that Iran is three months away from a nuclear bomb for over two decades. There will always be new studies, new developments, and new conflicts that provide excuses for hysterical Fox News segments telling us we're all about to die at the hands of the ayatollahs. To see this in action, just take a look at Obamacare. All the top line evidence suggests it's working surprisingly well. Maybe better than even its own supporters thought it would. But that hasn't stopped a torrent of alarming reports that provide countless pretexts for predicting Obamacare's imminent doom. Premiums are going up 40 percent! Workers' hours are being slashed! You won't be able to see your family doctor anymore! Death panels!</p> <p>So have no worries. Iran could be nuclear free in 2050 and Bill Kristol's grandkids will still be warning everyone else's grandkids that the ayatollahs are <em>this close</em> to getting a bomb. It's kind of soothing, in a way, like a squeaky door that you'd miss if you ever oiled it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:43:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 283256 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's the Price Tag for CAP's New Child Care Program: About $100 Billion http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/heres-price-tag-caps-new-child-care-program-about-100-billion <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Center for American Progress&mdash;aka "Hillary's Think Tank"&mdash;has released <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/report/2015/09/02/119944/a-new-vision-for-child-care-in-the-united-states-3/" target="_blank">"A New Vision for Child Care in the United States."</a> But it's not really very new. It's just a tax credit that varies with income. If you're at the poverty level, you'd get a tax credit of about $13,000 paid directly to the child care facility of your choice. If you make more, the tax credit <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cap_child_care.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">would be less. The maximum out-of-pocket expense for families would range from 2 percent at the low end to 12 percent at the high end.</p> <p>Does this sound familiar? It should: it bears a strong family resemblance to Obamacare.</p> <p>But it might be a good idea regardless of how new it really is. I'm certainly a fan of both preschool and subsidized child care. The big question is going to be how much it costs, and that's something the authors don't address. There's probably a reason for that. My very rough horseback calculation suggests it could run up a tab of $100 billion per year. Maybe more.<sup>1</sup><strong>[See update below.] </strong></p> <p>That's a lot of money. How's it going to be paid for? <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/09/02/this-could-be-the-new-big-idea-about-childcare-from-democrats/" target="_blank">Danielle Paquet asked CAP about this,</a> and was told vaguely that "restructuring the tax system" and "closing wasteful loopholes" might do the trick. I dunno. That's a lot of wasteful loopholes.</p> <p>Needless to say, this is one of the downsides of taking public policy seriously. If you're Donald Trump, you just tell everyone not to worry. "I'm going to be great for the kids," and he'll take care of it from there. But if you're a Democrat, you normally feel obliged to present an actual plan that can actually work in the real world&mdash;and that means people can attach a price to it. And that, in turn, means you can be badgered about how you're going to pay for it.</p> <p>Politically speaking, this is something that Democrats will need to be careful about. There's a temptation among liberals to be the anti-Trump, tossing out dozens of detailed white papers to solve all the world's problems. But this gives conservatives an opening to add up the cost of all those white papers and start bellowing about how their very own proposals prove that Democrats want to bankrupt the country and tax millionaires into insolvency. It's best to tread carefully here.</p> <p>On the other hand, maybe Hillary could benefit from a small dose of Trumpism. Maybe she should adopt CAP's proposal and just declare that she's going to soak the rich to pay for it. Why pussyfoot around it? After all, polls show that taxing the rich at higher rates is a pretty popular idea. Maybe it's time to go bullroar populist and just beat the tar out of the malefactors of great wealth.</p> <p>Then again, maybe not. That doesn't really sound much like Hillary, does it?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The program is for kids aged 0-4. My estimate is based on about 20 million kids qualifying, with an average tax credit in the neighborhood of $8,000 each. That's $160 billion. If two-thirds of all families take advantage of this tax credit, that comes to about $100 billion. Needless to say, more detailed cost estimates are welcome.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I am mistaken. CAP estimates a cost of $40 billion for their proposal, which they believe would not just help working families, but also stimulate the economy:</p> <blockquote> <p>The economy as a whole benefits from policies that help working families. As an example, the Canadian province of Quebec developed a nearly universal child care assistance program, and economists at the University of Quebec and the University of Sherbrooke estimate that the program boosted women&rsquo;s labor force participation by nearly 4 percentage points, which in turn boosted GDP by 1.7 percentage points.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm habitually skeptical of claims that social programs will recoup all or part of their costs by boosting the economy, but it's probably true in this case. The effect of increased employment on GDP is pretty straightforward. The policy question, of course, is <em>how much</em> this will offset the program costs. But then, that's always the policy question, isn't it?</p> <p>In any case, I'm not sure how CAP gets to $40 billion, and it strikes me as a little low. But it might be right. It would be interesting to see an estimate from a reliable third-party source.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 16:21:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 283241 at http://www.motherjones.com September Is All Set to Be Ben Carson Month http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/september-all-set-be-ben-carson-month <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump's moment in the spotlight is up. He won't go gently into that good night, but go he will. The big question at this point is who will replace him as the tea party's temporary favorite? The answer appears to be Ben Carson, the retired <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ben_carson_hands.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">neurosurgeon who made a name for himself among conservatives with a speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Here's a short excerpt:</p> <blockquote> <p>The PC police are out in force at all times....We&rsquo;ve got to get over this sensitivity....what we need to do in this PC world is forget about unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought....PC is dangerous....one last thing about political correctness, which I think is a horrible thing, by the way....I&rsquo;m not politically correct....</p> </blockquote> <p>Do you notice a trend? Carson also talked about HSAs (a replacement for Obamacare) and tithing (a 10 percent flat tax) and the deficit (bad) and education (good) and moral decay (ruined the Roman empire) and, yes, even mentioned God a few times. But political correctness is his real schtick, and he hates it even more than Trump.</p> <p>But why? Since Carson seems set to become the Next Big Thing, Ed Kilgore decided to explain him to us. In the first GOP debate, Carson made mention of the "Alinsky Model," which enjoyed a brief vogue among conservatives a few years ago and then sort of disappeared from sight. <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/the-secret-to-ben-carsons-success-calm-bedside-manner" target="_blank">Kilgore takes off from there:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The &ldquo;Alinsky Model&rdquo; is a dog whistle to a certain breed of conspiracy minded hard-core conservative, as is the identification of [Hillary] Clinton with the &ldquo;secular progressive movement.&rdquo; Both are references some might recognize from Glenn Beck&rsquo;s many discourses, and both are meant to describe people who are actively and consciously working through deceit to enslave if not destroy (Carson&rsquo;s word) America. <strong>The Alinsky Model&rsquo;s main weapon, according to most aficionados of this sort of thinking, is &ldquo;political correctness,&rdquo;</strong> which happens to be Dr. Ben Carson&rsquo;s favorite phrase for everything he is fighting against.</p> <p>....The more you listen to Carson talking about &ldquo;political correctness,&rdquo; the more it becomes obvious he&rsquo;s not attacking college speech codes or disputes over racial or ethnic or gender terms, but liberal elite mockery of right-wing conspiracy theories....In this context, it becomes clear that Carson&rsquo;s occasional &ldquo;gaffes&rdquo; aren&rsquo;t really accidents, but what he believes: <strong>Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery; Obama might be planning to cancel elections; Democrats are opening the borders to bring in immigrants who will increase the welfare population and thus keep Democrats in power.</strong> Even though these are not unusual beliefs in the fever swamps of the far right, they are exotic for a major-party presidential candidate.</p> <p>....And there&rsquo;s something extra special about an African-American preemptively labeling suspected incidents of racism and sexism as mere political incorrectness, which he then defends as essential free speech! Let it rip!</p> </blockquote> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, this is your next man of the moment. Like Trump, he specializes in mood affiliation politics: nice, easy, common-sense solutions to all our problems, without bothering to explain how any of this stuff can actually work. Unlike Trump, he has a very calm demeanor. So if you like your third-grade comfort food politics with a side of bombast, Trump is your guy. But if you like it smooth and affable, Carson is. Take your pick.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 15:31:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 283226 at http://www.motherjones.com Ted Cruz Blames President Obama for Inciting Murder of Texas Cop http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/ted-cruz-obama-darren-goforth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Following the brutal murder of Texas Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth over the weekend, Sen. Ted Cruz is <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/ted-cruz-goes-after-obama-gun-crime" target="_blank">blaming</a> the Obama administration, especially the president, for inspiring anti-police sentiment and incidents of gun violence toward law enforcement officials.</p> <p>"Cops across this country are feeling the assault," Cruz told reporters when campaigning in Milford, New Hampshire, on Monday. "They're feeling the assault from the president, from the top on down as we see. Whether it's in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials, of the president, of the attorney general, is to vilify law enforcement.</p> <p>"That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all," he added.</p> <p>The Texas senator and presidential hopeful even accused President Barack Obama of staying "silent" on Goforth's murder, when in fact the president condemned the shooting and violence against police officers as <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/08/31/obama-targeting-police-completely-unacceptable/71499082/" target="_blank">"completely unacceptable.</a>" On his way to Alaska on Monday, Obama also phoned Goforth's wife to express his condolences.</p> <p>Cruz is hardly the first to denounce the president for provoking anti-police hostilities. Following the murders of two New York Police Department officers in December, former Mayor <a href="http://video.foxnews.com/v/3955392125001/rudy-giuliani-on-murder-of-two-nypd-officers/?#sp=show-clips" target="_blank">Rudy Giuliani went on Fox News</a> and accused Obama of disseminating "propaganda" that "everybody should hate the police."</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Crime and Justice Guns Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:59:03 +0000 Inae Oh 283201 at http://www.motherjones.com Iran Deal Now Assured of Passage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/iran-deal-now-assured-passage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Iran nuclear agreement picked up its 34th supporter in the Senate this morning, assuring that even if Congress rejects the deal (which it probably will), it won't be able to override President Barack Obama's veto of the rejection.</p> <p>In the end, this probably didn't matter much, since Nancy Pelosi says the House already had enough votes to sustain a veto, but it never hurts to be sure. Next up: If Obama can round up 41 votes, the Senate won't even be able to reject the deal in the first place and no veto will be necessary. I think that's a long shot, since now, with passage secured, it leaves wavering senators free to vote against it in the knowledge that their vote won't matter. We'll see.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> And the 34th and deciding senator is&hellip;drum roll, please&hellip;Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Obama Top Stories Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:20:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 283211 at http://www.motherjones.com You Will Die Alone in a Ditch With a Headache—But at Least the Headache Won't Have Been Your Fault http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2015/09/true-happiness-requires-sacrifice <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Alcohol is great. Maybe not health-wise, and maybe not for your uncle who has a bunch of DUIs, but, in general, society has long agreed that alcohol is great. The bad thing about alcohol is that sometimes drinking it makes your head hurt the next day. In the world, we call this a hangover. Some people get them worse than other people. The lucky ducks who seem spry and dandy no matter how much they put away the night before often offer unluckier ducks #smarttips for not getting hangovers.<em> </em><em>Drink water! Eat grease! Meditate! Pray! Have you tried barre classes?</em> These tips probably never work for you&mdash;or at least never work <em>consistently</em> for you. (Everything works anecdotally once in a while.) But that's probably your fault, right? I mean everything is your fault. That's why you drink so much in the first place. Your parents got divorced because of you. Your spouse is unhappy because of you. The Dow Jones is down because of you. America is entangled in a never-ending mess in the Middle East because of you. Hollywood keeps rebooting Spider-Man because of you. These hangover tips aren't working because of you, too, right?</p> <p><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34072712" target="_blank">Wrong</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>Raiding the fridge or downing glasses of water after a night of heavy drinking won't improve your sore head the next day, Dutch research suggests.</p> <p>Instead, a study concluded, the only way to prevent a hangover is to drink less alcohol.</p> </blockquote> <p>The bad news is: You will die with a headache. The good news is: It won't be your fault.</p></body></html> Contributor Science Ben's Thoughts Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:18:29 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 283206 at http://www.motherjones.com You Are Haunted By Regret. Soon You Will Be Haunted By Even More Regret. http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2015/09/does-mcdonalds-deliver <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You shouldn't eat fast food because fast food is bad for you but if you do eat fast food&mdash;and you will eat fast food at least once in a while because no one can be perfect all the time&mdash;then you could probably do worse than eat a <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/09/11/steak_egg_mcmuffin_can_mcdonalds_improve_on_perfection.html" target="_blank">Sausage McMuffin with Egg</a>, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/venessawong/mcdonalds-all-day-breakfast-starts-oct-6" target="_blank">which will finally be available all-day, along with the rest of McDonald's breakfast menu, starting October 6. </a></p></body></html> Contributor Food and Ag Ben's Thoughts Wed, 02 Sep 2015 13:32:42 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 283196 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have No Headline Worthy of Donald Trump's Latest http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/i-have-no-headline-worthy-donald-trumps-latest <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I hesitate to drop the P-bomb, but <a href="https://twitter.com/paul_w_hoffman/status/638888254469574656" target="_blank">this bit of word salad from Donald Trump</a> is eerily Palinesque. How is it possible that <em>Spy</em> magazine is no longer around to explain this to the world?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_argle_bargle.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 01:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 283191 at http://www.motherjones.com In the Contest for Worst Automobile-Driving Species, the Winner is Homo Sapiens http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/contest-worst-automobile-driving-species-winner-homo-sapiens <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A reader tells me this story seems <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/technology/personaltech/google-says-its-not-the-driverless-cars-fault-its-other-drivers.html" target="_blank">right up my alley:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Google, a leader in efforts to create driverless cars, has run into an odd safety conundrum: humans.</p> <p>Last month, as one of Google&rsquo;s self-driving cars approached a crosswalk, it did what it was supposed to do when it slowed to allow a pedestrian to cross, prompting its &ldquo;safety driver&rdquo; to apply the brakes. The pedestrian <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_car_in_pool.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 28px 0px 15px 30px;">was fine, but not so much Google&rsquo;s car, which was hit from behind by a human-driven sedan.</p> <p>....<strong>Dmitri Dolgov, head of software for Google&rsquo;s Self-Driving Car Project, said that one thing he had learned from the project was that human drivers needed to be &ldquo;less idiotic.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's the spirit! And when Skynet takes over, humans will finally cease to be such a nuisance. Driverless car nirvana will be at hand.</p> <p>Ahem. In reality, of course, this whole story is sort of silly. <em>Of course</em> the biggest problem with driverless cars is humans. What else would it be? Plop a few thousand driverless cars into an empty city and they'd get along swimmingly. No one is unaware of this, least of all Google.</p> <p>But I suppose from Google's perspective, stories like this are useful as ways to calm fears about driverless cars. And there <em>is</em> a good point to be made about that: driverless cars don't have to be perfect to be useful. They just have to be at least as good as humans. So while the fact that humans are generally idiotic drivers might be a short-term annoyance, in the long run it's a huge bonus for Google. They don't have to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, just the local high school JV team.</p> <p>This, by the way, is why I'm so generally bullish on artificial intelligence. It's not because I have such a high opinion of computers, but because I have such a low opinion of humans. We really are just overclocked chimpanzees who have convinced ourselves that our weird jumble of largely Pavlovian behaviors&mdash;punctuated by regrettably rare dollops of intelligence&mdash;is deeply ineffable and therefore resistant to true understanding. Why do we believe this? Primarily for the amusingly oxymoronic reason that we aren't smart enough to understand our own brains. The silicon crowd should be able to do better before long.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> By the way, I'm a lovely driver. It's all you other folks who are causing so many problems.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 21:32:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 283171 at http://www.motherjones.com Sorry, I Don't Know Why Murder Rates Are Up In a Bunch of Big Cities http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/sorry-i-dont-know-why-murder-rates-are-bunch-big-cities <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've gotten enough requests to comment on this piece from the <em>New York Times</em> that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/us/murder-rates-rising-sharply-in-many-us-cities.html" target="_blank">I guess I'd better do so:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Cities across the nation are seeing a startling rise in murders after years of declines,</strong> and few places have witnessed a shift as precipitous as this city. With the summer not yet over, 104 people have been killed this year &mdash; after 86 homicides in all of 2014.</p> <p>More than 30 other cities have also reported increases in violence from a year ago. In New Orleans, 120 people had been killed by late August, compared with 98 during the same period a year earlier. In Baltimore, homicides had hit 215, up from 138 at the same point in 2014. In Washington, the toll was 105, compared with 73 people a year ago. And in St. Louis, 136 people had been killed this year, a 60 percent rise from the 85 murders the city had by the same time last year.</p> <p>Law enforcement experts say disparate factors are at play in different cities, though no one is claiming to know for sure why murder rates are climbing. Some officials say intense national scrutiny of the use of force by the police has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals, though many experts dispute that theory.</p> </blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_baseline_lead.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The reason I haven't said anything about this until now is that I had nothing to say. I have no more idea what's driving this increase than anyone else.</p> <p>But what about lead? Here's the problem: gasoline lead explains one thing and one thing only. And that thing is the huge violent crime wave of 1960-1990 followed by the equally huge drop of 1990-2010. But that's over. What we're left with now is the baseline level of violent crime, which obviously wouldn't be zero even if there were no lead in the environment at all. And the causes of this baseline level of violent crime are all the usual suspects: poverty, race, drugs, policing, guns, demographics, and so forth. A more detailed explanation is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-baselines-vs-crime-waves" target="_blank">here.</a> At this point, lead is a very small contributor to the crime level.</p> <p>It's also worth pointing out that crime figures, and murder figures in particular, are extremely noisy. Lead explains long-term shifts. It doesn't explain short-term spikes or (in most cases) differences from one city to another. The current increase in murder rates could be due to lots of things, or it could just be the usual noise in the numbers. Maybe they'll go right back down next year.</p> <p>But I don't know. The only thing I do know is that lead is playing no particular role in this, either good or bad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 19:09:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 283166 at http://www.motherjones.com Let Us Now Praise Passionate Politics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/let-us-now-praise-passionate-politics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>German Lopez notes the reaction in some quarters to the <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/9/1/9239643/black-lives-matter-fox-news" target="_blank">recent shooting of a Texas deputy sheriff:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Despite any solid leads and facts about the motives in the shooting of 10-year deputy veteran Darren Goforth, some conservative media outlets and local law enforcement officials have already settled on the <em>real</em> culprit: Black Lives Matter.</p> <p>....Fox News's Elisabeth Hasselbeck later wondered aloud on air why Black Lives Matter isn't considered a "hate group." Bill O'Reilly was more blunt, concluding the movement was indeed a "hate group."</p> <p>....It's not just Fox News &mdash; other reports painted narratives that put Black Lives Matter and police as inherently in conflict. A CNN report, for instance, described Black Lives Matter's advocacy as "anti-police rhetoric." What does it say about American society that advocating for black lives and ending racial disparities in the criminal justice system <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_speakers_corner_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">would qualify not as pro-equality but as anti-police?</p> </blockquote> <p>It's hardly a surprise to hear stuff like this. Nor is it limited to conservatives. Liberals frequently fault anti-abortion rhetoric when someone kills an abortion clinic worker or anti-government rhetoric when someone shoots up an IRS office.</p> <p>That won't stop, but it should. People and groups have to be free to condemn abortion or police misconduct or anything else&mdash;sometimes soberly, sometimes not. And it's inevitable that this will occasionally inspire a maniac somewhere to resort to violence. There's really no way around this. It's obviously something for any decent person to keep in mind, but it doesn't make passionate politics culpable for the ills of the world. We can't allow the limits of our political spirit to be routinely dictated by the worst imaginable consequences.</p> <p>This is no apology for obviously incendiary speech. If you get on your soapbox and tell your followers to kill the pigs or murder the child murderers, then you bear a share of blame for what happens next. That's both common sense and legal reality.</p> <p>But we also need common sense toward speech that's less immediately incendiary but still fiery or angry&mdash;or both. After all, this is where change, liberal and conservative alike, comes from. It's sadly inevitable that in a country of 300 million, even the minuscule fraction who turn that fear into a killing rampage amounts to a lot of people. But it's neither a good reason to rein in our political vigor nor a good reason to blame passionate engagement in politics for every related tragedy. That way lies atrophy and rot.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:22:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 283156 at http://www.motherjones.com Science Marches On: We Now Have a Yard Sale That Runs Backward In Time http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/science-marches-we-now-have-yard-sale-runs-backward-time <!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.racked.com/2015/8/31/9201599/127-sale-worlds-longest-yard-sale" target="_blank">A sentence to ponder:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The world's longest yard sale runs for nearly 700 miles along a mostly vertical line connecting Alabama and Michigan, from the first Thursday in August through the first Sunday.</p> </blockquote> <p>But what if the first Sunday comes before the first Thursday? Do they cancel the sale that year? Does it run backward through time? I demand answers.</p> <p>(Via Tyler Cowen.)</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:50:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 283141 at http://www.motherjones.com September Is Here! Time for Republicans to Get ... Um ... Something About Donald Trump. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/september-here-time-republicans-getumsomething-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><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gop_field_rcp_2015_09_01.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's September! Hooray! The kids are back in school and Donald Trump's reign over the silly season will soon be coming to an end. Finally, we can start to get serious about choosing our next presi&mdash;</p> <p>Wait. WTF? Trumpmentum's sagging fortunes have turned around? He's now even further in the lead? Well crap.</p> <p>The Republican field really needs to get its act together. They can't go on being afraid of him because he's "tapping into something real," or whatever the latest excuse is. It's time for some nuclear-level attack ads. The problem, I assume, is that everybody in the race wants someone <em>else</em> to waste their money attacking Trump, so they're all left in a weird kind of prisoner's dilemma where no one is willing to go first. They better figure out soon that this is a losing strategy.</p> <p>Oh well. The higher they go, the farther they fall. Amirite?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:23:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 283136 at http://www.motherjones.com The Average Family Pays a Federal Income Tax Rate of 5% http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/average-family-pays-federal-income-tax-rate-5 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ross Douthat writes today about the split on taxes between the Republican donor class and <a href="http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/trump-taxes-and-the-g-o-p/" target="_blank">the average Republican voter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The donorist vision, in my experience, has its own distinctives: It&rsquo;s less interested in the specifics of the Laffer curve or any other economic theory, and more inclined to take a vaguely Randian view of high taxes as an unjust punishment for success....</p> <p>Then the average Republican voter has a different perspective still....This prototypical Republican voter, who might be pulling in $45,000 working a trade or $95,000 running a small business (or vice versa), isn&rsquo;t necessarily being <em>soaked</em> by the federal income tax, but he or she remains an anti-tax voter because even small tax fluctuations year to year feel like an immediate threats to the ability to save, to plan, to expand or preserve a business, to buy a home and put money away for college and think about retirement and generally preserve their peace of mind.</p> </blockquote> <p>Douthat's post was inspired by Donald Trump's heresies on taxes, but I wouldn't read too much into that. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/conservative-tax-borg-has-finally-absorbed-donald-trump" target="_blank">As I noted yesterday,</a> it looks to me as if Trump is slowly but steadily moving in the direction of Republican orthodoxy with only a few minor populist concessions.</p> <p>But I was happy to see Douthat acknowledge that the average Republican voter is not exactly being soaked by taxes. As it happens, that's putting it mildly. The median family in America earns about $65,000. That family, on average, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_average_fed_income_tax_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">pays a federal income tax rate of <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=226" target="_blank">about 5 percent.</a></p> <p>In other words, for the average voter this isn't about money. Even the hardest core tea partiers can't possibly be outraged at the prospect of paying 5 percent of their income to Uncle Sam. The plain truth is that middle-class tax cuts are becoming all but impossible these days: the average family no longer pays enough in taxes to even notice a small change up or down. And the trend over the past few decades has been nothing but down anyway.</p> <p>And yet, taxes continue to be a potent message. Why? It's not because of payroll taxes. Numerous polls have shown that most voters consider these fair because they pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits down the road. Nor do state income taxes change the overall picture much.</p> <p>Republicans have been in this quandary for a while. Cutting taxes is pretty much all they've got on the economic front, but there's not a whole lot left to cut for the average Joe. And yet, the anti-tax message really does continue to resonate. Why? I'd suggest two things.</p> <p>First, most people are bad at math. They may be paying about 5 percent of their income in federal taxes, but if you ask them, they'd probably guess it's more like 20 or 30 percent. Republicans have long complained that weekly withholding makes taxes invisible, and they have a point. But right now, that works in their favor.</p> <p>Second, a lot of people are afraid that Democrats will <em>raise</em> their taxes. This prospect carries more punch than the prospect of a cut from Republicans.</p> <p>In any case, even though Donald Trump is coming around to Republican orthodoxy on taxes, I do think he's highlighting a real dilemma for Republicans. Raising taxes on hedge fund managers is no big deal. They can be thrown under the bus if necessary. But the other half of Trump's message is about reducing taxes on average middle-class families. That may still be a potent message, but even now it's not as potent as it was 30 years ago. And going forward, Democrats are eventually going to figure out a way to make it clear that federal income taxes really aren't very onerous anymore.<sup>1</sup> When that happens, it's bye bye tax cuts for the rich&mdash;because the only way you can sell tax cuts for the rich is to hide them behind tax cuts for the middle class. For simple mathematical reasons, that particular con is coming to an end.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, they haven't figured this out yet, so maybe I'm being too optimistic.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:47:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 283126 at http://www.motherjones.com Kentucky Clerk Continues to Defy Supreme Court by Refusing to Issue Marriage License to Gay Couple http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/kentucky-clerk-gay-marriage-license-supreme-court <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Supreme Court on Monday night denied an emergency application from a defiant Kentucky clerk who is refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Today, Kim Davis, of the Rowan County Clerk's office, is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/us/same-sex-marriage-kentucky-kim-davis.html" target="_blank">once again refusing to comply</a> with a lower court's order by denying marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight.</p> <p>When asked by a same-sex couple on Tuesday morning under whose authority she was failing to obey the high court, Davis answered, "under God's authority." She then told the crowd to leave and threatened to call the police.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Davis came out of office briefly to speak to couple (part 1) <a href="http://t.co/lzuHysWi0T">pic.twitter.com/lzuHysWi0T</a></p> &mdash; Hillary Thornton (@HillaryWKYT) <a href="https://twitter.com/HillaryWKYT/status/638687018835423232">September 1, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Davis out of office (part 2) <a href="http://t.co/HIWQpyR6N5">pic.twitter.com/HIWQpyR6N5</a></p> &mdash; Hillary Thornton (@HillaryWKYT) <a href="https://twitter.com/HillaryWKYT/status/638686820826513408">September 1, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>The Supreme Court denied Davis's <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/31/politics/kentucky-gay-marriage-licenses-supreme-court/index.html" target="_blank">application </a>to turn away same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses because it did not align with her religious beliefs. Her appeal marks the first time since June's historic <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/06/supreme-court-gay-marriage" target="_blank">Supreme Court decision</a> that the justices have had to deal with the issue again.</p> <p>If she continues to defy the court, Davis could be found in contempt and face possible jail time and fines. A hearing is set for Thursday.</p></body></html> MoJo Gay Rights Supreme Court Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:44:19 +0000 Inae Oh 283116 at http://www.motherjones.com Lone Gay Marriage Holdout Acting "Under the Authority of God" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/lone-gay-marriage-holdout-acting-under-authority-god <!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.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/us/same-sex-marriage-kentucky-kim-davis.html" target="_blank">Sigh.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A county clerk in Kentucky who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds denied licenses to gay couples on Tuesday, just hours after the Supreme Court refused to support her position.</p> <p>In a raucous scene in the little town of Morehead, two-same-sex couples walked into the Rowan County Courthouse, trailed by television <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kim_davis.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">cameras and chanting protesters on both sides of the issue, only to be told by the county clerk, Kim Davis, that she was denying them marriage licenses &ldquo;under the authority of God.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>The optimist in me says that if the biggest backlash to the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision is one clerk in a tiny town in Kentucky, then we've gotten off pretty easy. And really, the more I think about it, that really does seem like the main takeaway from this.</p> <p>But it's obvious that the endgame here is for Kim Davis to be fired, or tossed in jail for contempt. The Supreme Court itself has ordered her to issue licenses, so she has no further legal recourse. Only recourse to God.</p> <p>I'm now curious to see what the Republican field will make of this. On the one hand, most of them are treating the primary contest as a zero-sum race to see who can move furthest to the right. On the other hand, do they really want to get on the wrong side of gay marriage <em>and</em> immigration? On the third hand, there's the whole rule of law thing. And on the fourth hand, Donald Trump is not an anti-gay warrior. He's the guy everyone is responding to, so maybe that means this will stay low key.</p> <p>The Huckabees and Carsons of the world will surely support Davis. The rest of the field....probably not. That's my guess. Then again, if video of Davis being hauled off to the county pen ends up on a 24/7 loop on Fox News, who knows? Defying the will of a small group of pissed off base voters is not something the Republican field is exactly famous for.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/01/a-kentucky-clerk-is-turning-away-gay-couples-but-shes-a-real-rarity/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent confirms my sense</a> that holdouts like Davis are very rare. "In the seven southern states where the backlash might have been expected to be fiercest, only one &mdash; Alabama &mdash; still has multiple counties that are holding out. One other &mdash; Kentucky &mdash; has only two remaining counties holding out." The national campaign director for Freedom to Marry says that, all things considered, "things are going exceedingly smoothly."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:38:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 283121 at http://www.motherjones.com