Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Donald Trump's Lawyer: Marital Rape Cannot Be Rape <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So Donald Trump used to be married to Ivana Trump. According to an account resurfaced by <a href=";source=twitter" target="_blank">Tim Mak and&nbsp;Brandy Zadrozny at the <em>Daily Beast</em></a>, the former Mrs. Trump once used the word "rape" during legal proceedings in connection with an event between her and her ex-husband, the current GOP front-runner:</p> <blockquote> <p>Ivana Trump's assertion of "rape" came in a deposition&mdash;part of the early '90s divorce case between the Trumps, and revealed in the 1993 book <em>Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump</em>.</p> <p>The book, by former <em>Texas Monthly</em> and <em>Newsweek</em> reporter Harry Hurt III, described a harrowing scene.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Daily Beast</em> has the entire "violent assault."</a> It's indeed harrowing. Trump has denied the allegations.</p> <blockquote> <p>"It's obviously false," Donald Trump said of the accusation in 1993, according to <em>Newsday</em>. "It's incorrect and done by a guy without much talent&hellip; He is a guy that is an unattractive guy who is a vindictive and jealous person."</p> </blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s important to note that this never went to court, Trump never faced any charges, and Ivana Trump herself walked back the allegations before the book in question was published:</p> <blockquote> <p>"As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a 'rape,' but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense."</p> </blockquote> <p>This brings us now to Donald Trump's lawyer who <em>The Daily Beast </em>reached out to for comment. He went on a tirade that would make Trump blush:</p> <blockquote> <p>Michael Cohen, special counsel at The Trump Organization, defended his boss, saying, "You're talking about the front-runner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can't rape your spouse."</p> <p>"It is true," Cohen added. "You cannot rape your spouse. And there's very clear case law."</p> </blockquote> <p>Realizing perhaps that denying the undeniable criminality of spousal rape was not the best way to kill the story, Cohen switches gears, making things worse:</p> <blockquote> <p>"You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it, with the word 'rape,' and I'm going to mess your life up&hellip;for as long as you're on this frickin' planet&hellip;you're going to have judgments against you, so much money, you'll never know how to get out from underneath it," he added.</p> </blockquote> <p>Trump's lawyer continued to threaten the reporter by saying, "Tread very fucking lightly, because what I&rsquo;m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting."</p> <p>One thing is clear: Trump's lawyer <a href="" target="_blank">has the same rhetorical style as Trump</a>.</p> <p>Shout out to my friend Nina Strochlic and former deputy Asawin Suebsaeng for helping report the story.</p></body></html> MoJo Elections Tue, 28 Jul 2015 02:12:07 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 280766 at Obamacare Rates In California Will Rise Only 4% in 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Obamacare's moment of truth is coming. By now we've heard all the scare stories about a few health insurers in a few states requesting gigantic rate hikes for next year. But over the next few weeks, states are going to start publishing the <em>actual</em> average rate increases that consumers will see in 2016. <a href="" target="_blank">California released its report today.</a> It's still marked preliminary, but you can expect that the final numbers will be very close to these:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_obamacare_rate_increase_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>I've highlighted two numbers. First, the overall average rate increase is 4.0 percent. That's way lower than you've seen in the scary headlines. And this is for a state that makes up more than a tenth of the country all by itself.</p> <p>Second, the price of the second-lowest-price silver plan has gone up 1.8 percent. This is the figure used to calculate subsidy levels, so it's an important one. In fact, here's an interesting consequence of that number: because subsidies will be going up roughly 1.8 percent, and the cost of the <em>lowest</em>-price silver plan is going up only 1.5 percent, the net cost (including subsidies) of buying the cheapest silver plan is actually going down. As you can see in the bottom row, if you shop for the lowest-priced plan, your premiums are likely to <em>decrease</em> about 4.5 percent.</p> <p>I have a feeling this number is not going to be widely reported on Fox News.</p> <p>Now, California isn't necessarily a bellwether for all the other states. Because it's the biggest state in the union, it has lots of competition that helps drive down prices. A big population also means less variability from year to year. Also: California's program is pretty well run, and the California insurance market is fairly tightly regulated. All this adds up to a good deal for consumers.</p> <p>In any case, the headline number here is a very reasonable 4 percent increase in overall premiums, and a 4.5 percent <em>decrease</em> for consumers shopping for the cheapest plans. These are real statewide numbers, not cherry-picked bits and pieces designed to encourage hysteria. Once again, it looks like Obamacare is working pretty well.</p> <p>This all comes via Andrew Sprung, who has much more detail <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Jul 2015 00:28:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 280761 at Boy Scouts End Age-Old Ban on Gay Leadership <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Boy Scouts of America voted today to scrap a blanket ban on gay leaders, marking the end of a policy as old as the group itself. The change will also bar discrimination based on sexual orientation in all Boy Scouts of America official facilities and paying jobs.</p> <p>Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America (and former US defense secretary), <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> for an end to the ban in May, saying the organization should "deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be."</p> <p>The end of the ban does not, however, mark complete acceptance of gay leaders: Some scout groups, particularly those with close religious affiliations, will be able to limit leadership positions to heterosexuals.</p> <p>Here are some stories that demarcate turning points in the controversy:</p> <ul><li>An <a href="" target="_blank">alternative group called the Navigators</a> gained traction with families fed up with BSA policies against gay scouts, atheists, and families who wanted their daughters and sons to be in the same scouting troop. Navigators USA publicized itself as an organization that "welcomes all matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief."</li> <li>This timeline shows <a href="" target="_blank">just how long</a> anti-gay discrimination has been going on in the BSA.&nbsp;</li> <li>In 2013, the BSA <a href="" target="_blank">ended its ban on kids</a> in the program who identify as gay, but kept its ban on adults&mdash;meaning, in effect, that once a scout turned 18, he could be kicked out.</li> <li>The Boy Scouts council <a href="" target="_blank">threatened to kick out</a> a Maryland pack for posting an inclusive statement on its website promising not to discriminate against gay scouts.</li> <li>BSA funders such as UPS, United Way, the Merck Company Foundation, and the Intel Foundation fled for the hills as <a href="" target="_blank">a direct result </a>of the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies.</li> </ul><p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> MoJo Gay Rights Top Stories boy scouts Mon, 27 Jul 2015 23:31:09 +0000 Becca Andrews 280696 at Sorry Donald, Most Republicans Don't Actually Care That Much About Illegal Immigration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> has an item today noting that by a 63-34 percent margin in a <a href="" target="_blank">new CNN poll,</a> Republicans believe the main focus of immigration policy should be stopping the flow of immigration and deporting the ones who are already here. No big surprise there. But when I clicked over to the poll itself I found a couple of things related to immigration that were kind of interesting.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_unauthorized_immigrant_population_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">First, CNN asked "Just your best guess, do you think the number of immigrants coming to the United States illegally has increased or decreased in the last few years?" Among Republicans, 83 percent thought it had increased. Granted, asking about the "last few years" is a little ambiguous, but if you assume at a minimum that it means less than a decade, then 83 percent of Republicans are woefully misinformed. As you can see from the <a href="" target="_blank">Pew data</a> on the right, the illegal immigrant population dropped considerably in 2008 and 2009 and has been basically flat ever since.</p> <p>(By the way, among Democrats 61 percent think immigration has increased. That's a little better, but still not exactly a proud moment in voter awareness. It isn't just Fox News that's keeping us all misinformed.)</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cnn_poll_important_issues_2015_07_27_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The second interesting question was one that asked about which issues were most important. This kind of thing always has to be taken with a grain of salt, but even so it's a little surprising how little Republicans actually care about immigration. For all the attention it's gotten from Donald Trump, only 9 percent said it was their most important issue, the lowest showing of any of the issues CNN asked about. The economy and terrorism/foreign policy were far and away the biggest worries among Republicans. Also surprisingly, health care didn't register very high either. The tea party may be yelling endlessly about the need to repeal the worst law since the Fugitive Slave Act, but among all Republicans, only a few rate it as a critical issue.</p> <p>So....immigration and Obamacare probably aren't going to be gigantic issues this year among Republicans&mdash;or in the general election. As usual, the economy will be #1, and #2 will probably be terrorism and foreign policy in general.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jul 2015 21:32:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 280701 at Want to Meet a 9/11 Truther? Go to a Donald Trump Event <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Despite all the <a href="" target="_blank">outrageous stunts</a> and patently <a href="" target="_blank">racist quotes</a> from Donald Trump's current campaign for president, the real estate mogul continues to lead as the front-runner for the GOP nomination.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Washington Post</em>'s David Weigel</a> recently visited a Trump "family picnic" to take a look at the pandemonium surrounding the campaign. It's also where 9/11 Truth Activist Rick Shaddock happened to be before meandering into the press room to ask the following question:</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">excellent segue game from a 9/11 truther, via <a href="">@daveweigel</a>'s trump story <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jim Newell (@jim_newell) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>Trump rejected the question, asking the reporters in the room, "Is this guy some kind of conspiracy guy?" But he shouldn't have been all too surprised by Shaddock's presence. After all, if you're going to peddle outrageous conspiracy theories, <a href="" target="_blank">you're going to attract outrageous conspiracy theorists.</a></p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Mon, 27 Jul 2015 21:03:41 +0000 Inae Oh 280716 at Hillary Clinton Refuses to Take a Position on the Keystone Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton took a strong stance on clean energy Monday, telling a crowd in Des Moines, Iowa, that her efforts to tackle climate change would parallel President John F. Kennedy's call to action during the space race in the 1960s.</p> <p>"I want to get the country back to setting big ambitious goals," Clinton said. "I want us to get back into the future business, and one of the best ways we can do that is to be absolutely ready to address the challenge of climate change and make it work to our advantage economically."</p> <p>Her remarks tracked closely with an ambitious plan her campaign released Sunday night, which <a href="" target="_blank">set a target</a> of producing enough renewable energy to power all the nation's homes and businesses by 2027.</p> <p>"America's ability to lead the world on this issue hinges on our ability to act ourselves," she said. "I refuse to turn my back on what is one of the greatest threats and greatest opportunities America faces."</p> <p>Still, the Democractic front-runner refused&mdash;as she has <a href="" target="_blank">several times before</a>&mdash;to say whether or not she supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. That project, which would carry crude oil from Canada's tar sands to refineries and ports in the United States, is seen by many environmentalists as a blemish on President Barack Obama's climate record. It has been <a href="" target="_blank">stalled for years</a> in a lengthy State Department review that began when Clinton was still Secretary of State. The Obama administration has resisted several recent attempts by Congress to force Keystone's approval, but it has yet to make a final decision on the project&mdash;although one is expected sometime this year.</p> <p>"I will refrain from commenting [on Keystone XL], because I had a leading role in getting that process started, and we have to let it run its course," Clinton said, in response to a question from an audience member.</p> <p>Her non-position on Keystone earned derision from environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose organization has been at the forefront of opposition to the pipeline.</p> <p>"I think it's bogus," he said in an email. "Look, the notion that she can't talk about it because the State Dept. is still working on it makes no sense. By that test, she shouldn't be talking about Benghazi or Iran or anything else either. The more she tries to duck the question, the more the whole thing smells."</p> <p>Clinton also punted on an audience request to reveal further details of how exactly she would finance the renewable energy targets she announced yesterday, which aim even higher than those already put in place by Obama. She reiterated that one key step would be to ensure the extension of federal tax credits for wind and solar energy that have expired or are set to expire over the next few years. And she said that she would continue Obama's practice of pursuing aggressive climate policies from <a href="" target="_blank">within the White House</a>, saying that "we still have a lot we can do" without waiting for a recalcitrant Congress to act.</p> <p>Clinton acknowledged that the clean energy boom would come at a cost for the US coal industry, which is already in <a href="" target="_blank">steep decline</a>. She said she would "guarantee that coal miners and their families get the benefits they've earned," but didn't elaborate on what she meant or how specifically she would achieve that.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Environmental groups offered a generally positive reaction to Clinton's policy announcement Sunday. In a statement, League of Conservation Voters vice president Tiernan Sittenfield commended her for "calling out climate change deniers and effectively illustrating the urgent need to act on a defining issue of our time." She also <a href="" target="_blank">earned praise</a> from billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has set a high bar on climate action for any candidate who wants to tap his millions.</p> <p>"I refuse to let those who are deniers to rip away all the progress we've made and leave our country exposed to climate change," Clinton said.</p></body></html> Blue Marble 2016 Elections Climate Change Climate Desk Hillary Clinton Top Stories Infrastructure Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:45:30 +0000 Tim McDonnell 280686 at Added Sugar Is Your Enemy, Not Aspartame <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Why does anyone still choose sugared sodas over artificially-sweetened sodas? One reason is taste. If you don't like the taste of aspartame or saccharin, then that's that. Another reason might be a rare medical condition that makes you allergic (or worse) to certain artificial sweeteners.</p> <p>But that probably accounts for only a small fraction of the people who continue to drink sugared sodas. The rest are most likely convinced that artificial sweeteners are bad for you. But they're wrong. It's <em>sugar</em> that's bad for you. <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=mini-moth&amp;region=top-stories-below&amp;WT.nav=top-stories-below&amp;abt=0002&amp;abg=1" target="_blank">Aaron Carroll brings the research:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One of the oldest artificial sweeteners is saccharin. Starting in the 1980s, Congress mandated that any product containing it be accompanied by the following: &ldquo;Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.&rdquo;....There was a problem, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_diet_coke.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">though. This link has never been confirmed in humans....<strong>Based on these newer studies, saccharin was removed from the carcinogen list in 2000.</strong> But by that time, opinions were set. It did little to make anyone feel safe.</p> <p>....Aspartame was introduced in the United States around the time that saccharin began taking a beating....But in 1996, a study was published in <em>The Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology</em> titled &ldquo;Increasing Brain Tumor Rates: Is There a Link to Aspartame?&rdquo; Most people ignored the question mark....There were any number of problems with this logic....Because aspartame was approved in 1981, blaming it for a rise in tumors in the 1970s seems impossible. Finally, much more comprehensive studies couldn&rsquo;t find links....<strong>A safety review from 2007, published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, found that aspartame had been studied extensively and that the evidence showed that it was safe.</strong></p> <p>....But what about sugar?....Epidemiologic studies have found that even after controlling for other factors, <strong>one&rsquo;s intake of added sugars is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes,</strong> with a 1.1 percent increase in prevalence for each can of sugar-sweetened soda. A study following people for an average of more than 14 years published last year in <em>JAMA Internal Medicine</em> found that <strong>those in the highest quintile of added sugar consumption had more than twice the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease</strong> than those in the lowest quintile, even after controlling for many other factors.</p> </blockquote> <p>Anyway, that's what science says. Unfortunately, science also says that <a href="" target="_blank">presenting facts to people almost never changes their minds.</a> In fact, it can do just the opposite as people respond defensively to the notion that they've been wrong for a long time. So I suppose no one reading this is actually going to switch to diet sodas. Instead they'll cherry-pick studies that support their previous point of view. Or claim that all the studies exonerating artificial sweeteners are funded by big business and not to be trusted. Or perhaps make an outr&eacute; claim about how aspartame interacts with gluten and animal fat to produce....something or other.</p> <p>That's life, I guess. However, I suggest that you swamp Professor Carroll's inbox with all these insights instead of bothering me with them. He's the expert after all. Or, just switch to water. Then you won't have to worry about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:51:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 280691 at Anti-Abortion Hackers Claim to Have Stolen Data That Could Take Down Planned Parenthood <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Update, July 27, 4:45 p.m. EST: </strong>Planned Parenthood released a statement confirming it has notified the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate the cyber attack. "Today Planned Parenthood has notified the&nbsp;Department of Justice and separately the&nbsp;FBI that extremists who oppose Planned Parenthood's mission and services have launched an attack on our information systems, and have called on the world's most sophisticated hackers to assist them in breaching our systems and threatening the privacy and safety of our staff members," Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said. "We are working with top leaders in this field to manage these attacks. We treat matters of safety and security with the utmost importance, and are taking every measure possible to mitigate these criminal efforts to undermine our mission and services."</p> <p>A hacker group calling itself 3301 is claiming to have penetrated Planned Parenthood's databases and is threatening to release the personal information of employees working for the non-profit organization, along with other sensitive data. <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Daily Dot</em></a> spoke to one of the alleged hackers, who denounced Planned Parenthood as an "atrocious monstrosity." A senior Planned Parenthood executive tells <em>Mother Jones </em>that the group is investigating the alleged hack.</p> <p>"Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice," the alleged hacker, going by the identity "E," said. "It'll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped&nbsp;naked and exposed to the public."</p> <p>The group&mdash;whose name, according to <em>The Daily Dot</em>, appears to be a nod to "a famous group of secretive cryptographers known as Cicada 3301"&mdash;claims it will release the names and addresses of employees "soon."</p> <p>The potential breach comes amid intense controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion group released hidden-camera <a href="" target="_blank">footage</a> appearing to show top Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses. Though the footage was heavily edited, pro-choice groups fear the ramifications that could potentially follow from the sting operation. A slew of <a href="" target="_blank">anti-abortion politicians,</a> including Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have used the videos to denounce the organization and justify defunding it.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Please join me as I speak at the <a href="">#WomenBetrayed</a> Rally tomorrow in Washington D.C. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>"We've seen the claims around attempts to access our systems," Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement to <em>Mother Jones</em>. "We take security very seriously and are investigating. It's unsurprising that those opposed to safe and legal abortion are participating in this campaign of harassment against us and our patients, and claiming to stoop to this new low."</p></body></html> MoJo Reproductive Rights Top Stories Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:48:48 +0000 Inae Oh 280676 at Wait? The Robots Aren't Coming After All? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, Matt Yglesias laments that, contrary to scare stories in the media, robots <em>aren't</em> taking away our jobs. In fact, productivity has dropped steadily over the past few decades. That wouldn't be true if automation were taking away work while producing more goods and services.</p> <p>True enough. <a href="" target="_blank">But what about the future?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Of course, all this <em>might</em> change. The power of Moore's Law &mdash; which states that the power of computer chips doubles roughly every two years &mdash; is such that the next five years' worth of digital progress will involve bigger leaps in raw processor power than the previous five years. It's at least <em>possible</em> that we really will have a massive leap <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_atlas_robot.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">forward in productivity someday soon that starts substantially reducing the amount of human labor needed to drive the economy forward.</p> <p>But robots are never going to take <em>all</em> the jobs.</p> </blockquote> <p>I have one question: Why not?</p> <p>There are a couple of possible answers to that question. The first is that we'll never manage to invent true AI, which will prevent robots from ever being able to perform a wide range of tasks that humans perform easily. The second is that we <em>will</em> invent AI, but....something something something. I don't really understand the second answer. I'll grant that humans might continue to be CEOs and legislators and a few other things just to make sure that we're still ultimately in charge of the world ourselves. And who knows? We might even decide that we prefer human art even if we can't tell the difference, the same way an original Rembrandt is worth a lot more than even a perfect copy.</p> <p>But that would still mean robots taking over 99 percent of the jobs. If you don't believe AI is coming anytime soon, then I understand why you think this will never happen. But if you <em>do</em> accept that AI is coming in the medium-term future, then why won't robots take essentially all the jobs? What exactly is it that they won't be able to do?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jul 2015 15:58:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 280681 at China's Stock Market Back In Trouble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shanghai_stock_market_2015_07_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Thanks to government support, the Shanghai stock index has rallied for the past few weeks after a month of losses. Today it plummeted again, apparently due to the government withdrawing its support. <a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Authorities may want to &ldquo;test whether the market has recovered its resilience,&rdquo; said Fu Xuejun, a strategist at Huarong Securities. &ldquo;The government wants to use state funds to stabilize the market, not to prop it back to 5000 points overnight.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I guess that test didn't work. According to the <em>Journal</em>, Monday's drop came as a big surprise. "I am positive that we will see state support emerging again in the next two days," said Jacky Zhang. Maybe so. But if the fundamentals aren't there, even the Chinese version of government support can't keep things propped up forever. It's only a matter of time until we see the market plummeting again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Jul 2015 15:07:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 280671 at John Oliver Explains How Cruel Mandatory Minimum Laws Ruin Lives <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Earlier this month, President Obama <a href="" target="_blank">granted clemency</a> to 46 nonviolent drug offenders,&nbsp;which saw the largest number of presidential commutations granted in a single day since the 1960's. As <a href="" target="_blank">John Oliver</a> noted on the latest<em> Last Week Tonight</em>, the move was particularly significant because each offender was subjected to harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which require low-level offenders to be locked up regardless of the crime's context.</p> <p>"Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime," Oliver explained in his take-down of unfair sentencing laws on Sunday. "Prison sentences are a lot like penises: If they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick.</p> <p>"The truth is that mandatory minimums didn't just not work, they ruined lives."</p> <p>While failing to reduce crime, mandatory minimum laws also disproportionately target <a href="" target="_blank">minority groups</a> across the country.</p> <p>"There should be a lot more pardons and commutations," Oliver said. "But if we really want to address this problem permanently, we need states and the federal government, not just to repeal mandatory minimums going forward, but to also pass laws so that existing prisoners can apply for retroactively reduced sentences."</p></body></html> Mixed Media Crime and Justice Media Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:57:58 +0000 Inae Oh 280661 at 35 of Bill Cosby's Accusers Posed for a Powerful New York Magazine Cover Story <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>New York</em> magazine just released its newest cover story, which features <a href="" target="_blank">35 women who have publicly accused Bill Cosby</a> of sexual assault for one powerful photo series. The arresting black and white cover photo presents each accuser seated in a chair with one final empty seat remaining at the end.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">35 women speak about being assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the culture that wouldn't listen: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; New York Magazine (@NYMag) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>The magazine spoke to all 35 women separately over the course of six months. Noreen Malone writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>Each story is awful in its own right. But the horror is multiplied by the sheer volume of seeing them together, reading them together, considering their shared experience. The women have found solace in their number&mdash;discovering that they hadn't been alone, that there were others out there who believed them implicitly, with whom they didn't need to be afraid of sharing the darkest details of their lives.</p> </blockquote> <p>On Monday morning, just hours after the story was published online, the magazine's website appeared to be hit by a <a href="" target="_blank">DDoS attack</a> blocking any attempt to successfully read any article coming from <em>New York</em>. The alleged hacker told the <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Daily Dot</em></a> the hacking had nothing to do with the cover story and it was instead motivated by a recent bad trip to New York City.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href=""></a> will be down for hours.... :D ENJOY</p> &mdash; Vikingdom2016 (@Vikingdom2016) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>People have since responded on social media by using the hashtag #EmptyChair to praise the story and to speak out against sexual assault.</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#TheEmptyChair</a> signals the women who couldn't come forward mostly b/c we, as a culture, wouldn't believe them. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Janet Mock (@janetmock) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There are SO many women who could be the <a href="">#EmptyChair</a>. Not just Cosby's rape victims, but rape victims everywhere. They aren't lying.</p> &mdash; Patrick (@QuadCityPat) <a href="">July 27, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></center></body></html> Mixed Media Crime and Justice Media Sex and Gender Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:48:19 +0000 Inae Oh 280656 at 'Strange Wilds' Creates Disruptive Noise <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong>Strange Wilds</strong><br><strong><em>Subjective Concepts</em><br> Sub Pop</strong><br> &nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/sw-subjectiveconcepts-900.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;"></div> <p>Nasty, brutish, and relentlessly thrilling, the Olympia, Washington, trio Strange Wilds grinds up abrasive rock'n'roll ingredients and spews 'em out as one glorious wave of disruptive noise. These raucous youngsters have thoroughly schooled themselves on early punk, thrash metal and grunge (with a big debt to Nirvana's pre-<em>Nevermind</em><em> </em>vibe), but Subjective Concepts sizzles like a brand-new inspiration. And for all the bruising chords, crashing drums, and wounded-beast vocals, it's not hard to find some solid songs amidst the storm. "Starved For" echoes Chris Bailey's Saints, while "Oneirophobe" finds singer-guitarist Steven (no last names used here) growling, "I feel fine, I feel okay/Just so scared of the everyday" as he tries to make sense of it all.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:00:50 +0000 Jon Young 280306 at Donald Trump Explained in Four Words <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_donald_trump.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">If you want to understand Donald Trump&mdash;and I wouldn't blame you if you don't&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">this paragraph from the <em>Post</em> should do it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>&ldquo;Finally, I can attack!&rdquo;</strong> Trump said at a packed rally at Oskaloosa High School. &ldquo;Wisconsin&rsquo;s doing terribly. It&rsquo;s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don&rsquo;t have any money to rebuild them. They&rsquo;re borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus, and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education was a disaster. And he was totally in favor of Common Core!&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>In a private email, Walker supporter Gregory Slayton wrote, "As you've seen Gov Walker is now well ahead of everyone not named DumbDumb (aka Trump) in the national polls." <a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> made the email public,</a> and that was that. Finally, Trump could attack.</p> <p>This is what he lives for. But only if he can pretend that the other guy started it. John McCain called his supporters crazies. Lindsey Graham called Trump a jackass. And now a Walker fundraiser called him DumbDumb. Finally! It must have been killing Trump to hold back on Walker until he had the appropriate casus belli.</p> <p>That's Trump. He lives for the fight. And despite being worth $10 billion (or whatever) he always manages to feel like he's the aggrieved party. If this reminds you of any particular bloc of voters, now you know why he's doing so well in the polls.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jul 2015 16:02:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 280651 at Health Update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This has come up in comments a few times recently, so here's a quick update.</p> <p>Short answer: I'm fine.</p> <p>Slightly longer answer: As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I didn't respond to the stem cell transplant, so we're trying a new chemo med. The good news is that I don't seem to be suffering any side effects so far. But it often takes more than a month for these things to show up, so we're not out of the woods yet. As for whether it's working, it will be several more months before we know.</p> <p>All that aside, I feel pretty good these days. Not totally back to normal, but 80-90 percent of the way there. I still have a bit of mild stomach nausea periodically, and my neuropathy shows no signs of going away, but my energy level is pretty good and I'm eating enough for two people. At the moment, my only real problem is that I'm tired from not getting enough sleep. But that's nothing to worry about. I've been taking sleep meds for the past six months, and wanted to wait until I was feeling better to get off them. That time has come, so I'm tapering off under my doctor's instructions. It's actually going better than I expected, but there's still a price to pay. Until my body gets back into the habit of falling asleep and staying asleep on its own, I'm going to be a little short on shuteye. With any luck, this will only last a few more weeks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Jul 2015 00:54:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 280646 at Republicans Is Weird, Summer 2015 Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mike_lee.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">No, this isn't about Donald Trump. It's about Sen. Mike Lee of Utah&mdash;who plans to offer yet another amendment to repeal Obamacare, but this time with a special super-duper secret sauce added to the <a href="" target="_blank">upcoming highway funding bill:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Lee said he will try to re-offer the Obamacare repeal as <strong>a special amendment that is directly related to highway funding.</strong> Under Senate rules, amendments that are directly related, or germane, to the underlying legislation can pass with just 51 votes.</p> <p><strong>Lee knows that the chair of the Senate is likely to reject his logic that Obamacare repeal is germane to highway funding,</strong> so he plans to use the nuclear option. That means he will formally object to the ruling of the chair, which requires a 51-vote simple majority &mdash; then he plans to move on to the coveted simple majority vote.</p> <p>....If his plan works, Lee gets to tell his supporters that he&rsquo;s responsible for a major vote to kill the health care law he reviles. The House voted to repeal the law in February, so the two chambers could then theoretically conference the bills &mdash; leaving it up to Obama to veto a bill to kill his own signature policy achievement.</p> </blockquote> <p>So the plan is simple: have Republicans declare ex cathedra that repeal of Obamacare is germane to highway funding, and then pass Lee's amendment with 51 votes. It's brilliant! All that's missing are the sharks with lasers attached to their heads!</p> <p>Aside from being mind-numbingly stupid<sup>1</sup>, it also won't work. Democrats will just filibuster the entire highway bill, or else they'll vote for it and then Obama will veto the entire mess. Result: Obamacare stays in place but our highways continue to crumble into dust. Nice work, Senator! It's good to see that the Republican Party remains committed to the sober, responsible kind of leadership that makes our great nation the envy of the world.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>It's times like this that I regret the recent banishment of "retarded" from polite conversation. Because I think we all know that it's the word that really fits here.<sup>2</sup></p> <p><sup>2</sup>Though I suppose there's no reason to insult the developmentally disabled by comparing them to Mike Lee.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Jul 2015 16:29:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 280641 at The Americans With Disabilities Act Is Turning 25. Watch the Dramatic Protest That Made It Happen. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Twenty-five years ago this weekend, the <a href="" target="_blank">Americans With Disabilities Act</a> was signed into law, officially outlawing discrimination against disabled people in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and government services. The law was a long time coming: Activists had fought for decades against unequal access to jobs and <a href="" target="_blank">exclusion from public schools.</a> But the ADA might never have gotten to President George H.W. Bush's desk were it not for a group of activists in wheelchairs who took matters into their own hands earlier that year.</p> <p>On March 12, 1990, hundreds of people with disabilities gathered at the foot of the Capitol building in Washington to protest the bill's slow movement through Congress. Dozens left behind their wheelchairs, got down on their hands and knees, and began pulling themselves slowly up the 83 steps<strong> </strong>toward the building's west entrance, as if daring the politicians inside to continue ignoring all the barriers they faced. Among the climbers was <a href=";dat=19900313&amp;id=IOFLAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=b4sDAAAAIBAJ&amp;pg=6535,2252422&amp;hl=en" target="_blank">Jennifer Keelan</a>, an eight-year-old from Denver with cerebral palsy. "I'll take all night if I have to!" she yelled while dragging herself higher and higher.</p> <p>Here's some footage of the protest, via PBS's <em>Independent Lens</em>:</p> <p class="rtecenter"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The Capitol Crawl, as it became known, made national headlines and pushed lawmakers to pass the ADA into law. When Bush finally signed the landmark bill, it was seen as one of the country's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation to date. But it was not a total cure-all, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Susan Parish</a>, a professor of disability policy at Brandeis University. <a href="" target="_blank">The Supreme Court later watered it down</a>, she says, in a series of decisions that created a narrow definition of disability.</p> <p>In 2008, lawmakers passed <a href="" target="_blank">amendments to strengthen the ADA</a>, but Parish says people with disabilities have still struggled to gain equal access to employment, in part because employers are expected to comply with the law but do not have to follow reporting requirements. "I feel that the country needs a full-scale affirmative action program for people with disabilities," she said in <a href="" target="_blank">a recent interview</a>.</p> <p>President Obama issued an <a href="" target="_blank">executive order</a> in 2010 requiring the federal government to hire more people with disabilities. In <a href="" target="_blank">a speech </a>earlier this week, he said the West Wing receptionist, Leah Katz-Hernandez, is the first deaf American to hold her position. But despite some progress since 1990, he acknowledged, "We've still got to do more to make sure that people with disabilities are paid fairly for their labor, to make sure they are safe in their homes and their communities&hellip;I don't have to tell you this fight is not over."</p></body></html> MoJo Video Human Rights Top Stories Sat, 25 Jul 2015 10:00:07 +0000 Samantha Michaels 280461 at Louisiana Has Some of the Weakest Gun Laws in the Country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Thursday night,&nbsp;59-year-old John Russell Houser of Alabama <a href="" target="_blank">walked into the Grand Theater</a> in Lafayette, Louisiana, with a handgun and shot into a crowd, killing two and injuring nine more<strong>.</strong> At a press conference Friday, Democratic state Rep. Terry Landry Sr. <a href="" target="_blank">called</a> for stricter gun laws in Louisiana, saying, "It's our job as legislators to close the loopholes in these gun laws." Indeed, according to the National Rife Association, Louisiana has one of the most open gun policies around&mdash;from its <a href="" target="_blank">unabashedly</a> <a href="" target="_blank">pro-gun </a>governor to its <a href="" target="_blank">concealed carry law</a>.&nbsp;A 2014 <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence rated the state as having "the weakest gun laws in the country."</p> <p>Here's what you need to know about gun law in Louisiana:</p> <ul><li>Gun owners don't have to obtain a permit to purchase guns. Buyers don't have to register their firearms, and they don't need a license to possess them. State <a href="" target="_blank">law</a> requires a concealed carry permit for handguns, but there is no permit required to carry rifles or shotguns.</li> <li>State law only restricts two kinds of people from possessing guns: those 17 and under, or those convicted of certain violent crimes (until a decade has passed since the completion of the sentence, probation, parole, or suspension of a sentence).</li> <li>The state has <a href="" target="_blank">enacted "castle doctrine"</a>, meaning deadly force is considered justifiable in a court of law to defend against an intruder in a person's home. The Louisiana state legislature also passed a "<a href="" target="_blank">Stand Your Ground</a>" law in 2006, stating that anyone in a place "where he or she has a right," including public spaces, is not obligated "to retreat" if faced with a threat and "may stand his or her ground and meet force with force." (Check out <a href="" target="_blank">our map</a> of how quickly "Stand Your Ground" laws spread across the United States).</li> <li>Firearms may be stored in locked, privately owned motor vehicles. Louisiana is one of <a href="" target="_blank">22 states </a>with similar policies that allow guns to be left in the office parking lot.</li> <li>Gun owners have the right to carry in restaurants.</li> <li>According to a 2012 state constitutional <a href="" target="_blank">amendment</a>, "[t]he right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed" and "any restriction on this right" will be met with maximum skepticism from the courts. The amendment, which was heavily backed by Gov. Jindal, also removed language that would allow the legislature to "prohibit the carrying of weapons concealed on a person." In a written <a href=";tmp=detail&amp;articleID=3444&amp;printer=1" target="_blank">statement</a>, Jindal argued: "We are adopting the strongest, most iron-clad, constitutional protection for law-abiding gun owners. It's our own Second Amendment, if you will."</li> </ul><p>Given these laws, it's no surprise that <a href="" target="_blank">nearly half of Louisiana households own a gun</a>. Unfortunately, the state also sees high levels of armed violence: According to a <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="" target="_blank">investigation</a>, the state has the country's highest gun homicide rate&mdash;9.4 per 100,000 residents. And that gun violence has cost each Louisiana resident <a href="" target="_blank">at least $1,333</a><strong> </strong>a year.</p></body></html> MoJo Guns Fri, 24 Jul 2015 21:29:07 +0000 Becca Andrews 280521 at Report: The Obama Administration May Release Israeli Spy Jonathan Pollard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Much of the debate surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran announced last week has centered around Israel's reaction&mdash;and what the United States might offer the Israeli government to tamp down its anger over the agreement. It turns out one of those things may be the freedom of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.</p> <p>Pollard, once a US Navy intelligence analyst, was convicted of espionage in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison. His release became a <em>cause </em><span class="st"><em>c&eacute;l&egrave;bre </em></span>for many Israelis, and the country's leaders have campaigned for years to have Pollard released. They have been unsuccessful up until now, but the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reported on Friday afternoon that the US will <a href="" target="_blank">soon allow Pollard to go free</a>.</p> <p>Israel has been the leading international critic of the Iran deal&mdash;Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "<a href="" target="_blank">stunning historic mistake</a>" within hours of its completion&mdash;and the timing of the report gives the impression that Pollard's release would be an olive branch to the Jewish state. But, as the <em>Journal</em> reports, "[s]ome U.S. officials strongly denied Friday there was any link between the Iran deal and Mr. Pollard's prospective release, saying that any release decision would be made by the U.S. Parole Commission." Pollard has also <a href="" target="_blank">been a bargaining chip</a> in previous US-Israeli diplomatic spats, most recently last year as the Obama administration sought concessions from Israel in order to salvage peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.</p> <p>Pollard is approaching the 30-year mark of his life sentence, and is eligible for parole for the first time on November 21, 2015.</p></body></html> MoJo International Israel Fri, 24 Jul 2015 21:02:06 +0000 Max J. Rosenthal 280601 at This Video of 22-Year-Old Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Amazing <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Action movie star, <a href="http://environmental%20activist" target="_blank">environmental activist</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">exercise instructor</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">kindergarten teacher</a>, governor of the largest state in the union. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been many things. But it all started with bodybuilding.</p> <p>While digging through <a href="" target="_blank">a trove of historical news footage</a> recently released by the Associated Press, we came across this gem of Arnold competing in the 1969 Mr. Universe competition at the tender age of 22:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>"The choice was an American as amateur Mr. Universe and an Austrian as the professional," the announcer says. The Austrian? Yep, that's Arnold. He would go on to win five Mr. Universe titles and seven Mr. Olympia titles, before <a href="" target="_blank">gracing the silver screen</a> with his manly muscles and Austrian accent.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:59:35 +0000 Luke Whelan 280551 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 July 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hopper and Hilbert like to (a) play-wrestle with each other, and (b) jump up on the fireplace mantel. Here they are doing both. Hopper has lately been taking control of these affairs, finally realizing that she's the real alpha cat in the household even if her brother is bigger. As she's finally figured out, being alpha is more about will and energy than about size, and she's got both. Nonetheless, you can see in this picture about how seriously she takes it.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_07_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:45:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 280566 at Cigna-Anthem Merger Might Not Be a Bad Deal for Consumers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There used to be five big health insurance companies in the US. If the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger goes through, we'll be down to three. Is this a good thing? <a href="" target="_blank">Wonkblog's Carolyn Johnson reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The effect on premiums are hard to predict, but are likely to be bad.</strong></p> <p>The question of how the mergers will affect card-carrying members is more complicated than it might seem. In general, consolidation in an industry leads to less competition and higher prices. Indeed, the few studies that have been <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cigna_anthem.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">done suggest that fewer insurers in the marketplace will mean higher prices.</p> <p>...."The premise of the merger for both of these transactions is that they can achieve cost savings and economies of scale, and they of course maintain that will lead to their ability to price even more competitively," said Richard Zall, chair of the health care department at Proskauer, a law firm. "It will take some time to see: 1) can they implement the mergers and achieve those savings and 2) is there still sufficient competition in the various markets that it won&rsquo;t lead to price increases?"</p> </blockquote> <p>Actually, it's not this simple. There are several things that make it hard to predict how this will shake out:</p> <ol><li>Health insurers do compete with each other, but even more they compete with providers (doctors, hospitals, drug companies, etc.). If there are multiple small insurers in, say, Kansas, then hospitals there have a lot of pricing power. If an insurer refuses to do business with a particular hospital, that puts them at a big disadvantage compared to their competitors and limits their leverage to negotiate lower prices. But if there are only one or two big insurers, it's the hospitals that are at a disadvantage since they can't afford to be out of their networks. In this case, insurers have much more leverage to negotiate lower prices.</li> <li>Unlike, say, diet colas, which are available everywhere, even big health insurers tend to be somewhat regional. This means there are some areas where there's literally only one insurer available. This obviously could put consumers at a disadvantage.</li> <li>However, Obamacare mandates a minimum "medical loss ratio" of 80 percent. Even if there's only one insurer in a county, they have to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on actual health care. That number goes up to 85 percent for large group plans. So there's a hard limit on how much insurers can charge no matter who controls the market.</li> <li>Generally speaking, we liberals would prefer a system in which there was only <em>one</em> insurer: the federal government. There are various reasons for this, but one of them is that a single nationwide insurer would have enormous pricing power. This is sort of the ultimate version of item #1. Medical costs are overwhelmingly set by providers, not by insurers, and the more leverage insurers have, the lower prices are for consumers.</li> </ol><p>In other words, while I'd normally be opposed to such severe consolidation in an industry, it's a little trickier in this case. There are plenty of horror stories about health insurers, but when it comes to pricing, a smaller number of bigger insurers is probably a good trend. In the health care industry, the thing to be worried about is consolidation on the provider side. <em>That</em> would be bad for medical costs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:08:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 280556 at Hillary Clinton Takes Aim at Capital Gains Taxes for the Rich <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports that Hillary Clinton's tax plan is <a href="" target="_blank">starting to take shape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton will propose a sharp increase in the capital-gains tax rate for the highest earners for investments held only a few years, a campaign official said Friday. Under the Clinton plan, investments held between one and two years would be taxed at the normal income-tax rate of 39.6%, nearly double the existing 20% capital gains rate.</p> <p>....The rate for top-bracket taxpayers would be set on a sliding scale, with the lowest rate applied to investments held the longest. To qualify for the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_capital_gains_distribution_tpc.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">existing 20% rate, one would have to hold an investment for at least six years.</p> </blockquote> <p>This change would apply only to high-income taxpayers and only to short-term investments. Lower-income workers would continue to get a break on capital gains taxes compared to the rate they pay on ordinary income. This is mostly for show, however: low-income workers barely have any capital gains income in the first place. The chart on the right <a href="" target="_blank">from the Tax Policy Center</a> shows the breakdown. Anyone making less than a six-figure income pays virtually no capital gains taxes, so changing their rates serves no purpose. It's only at the high end of the income spectrum that the preferential capital gains rate matters.</p> <p>Hillary's proposal will enrage conservatives, who are convinced that capital gains rates are the magic key to prosperity. Since there's <a href="" target="_blank">virtually no evidence linking capital gains rates to economic growth, </a>the cynical among you might think that what really motivates their tireless advocacy of low rates is that it benefits the rich enormously. But that's only for the cynical among you.</p> <p>In any case, folks who make more than a million dollars a year are going to be pretty exercised about this, even though Hillary's proposal allows them to keep a modestly preferential rate for investments held longer than two years and the current super-preferential rate for investments held for six years or more. Still, details aside, the rich account for virtually all the capital gains taxes paid, and raising that rate in any way would hurt them considerably. These are also the folks who are donating vast sums to the Republican candidates, so you can be sure they'll be insisting that their favored candidate goes after this proposal hammer and tongs. But Hillary is right. There's little evidence that higher capital gains rates do much harm, and a fair number of reasons to actively prefer a higher rate. Jared Bernstein has more <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:43:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 280501 at Here's How to Stop Covering Donald Trump: Stop Covering Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Message to everyone: You don't <em>have</em> to cover Donald Trump's every move. Honest. If you're going to whine and complain about how he's sucking all the oxygen out of the race, then <em>stop covering him unless he does something genuinely newsworthy</em>. Which actually isn't all that often.</p> <p>For God's sake, how hard can this be? If clickbait is all that matters to you, fine. But don't pretend you're being journalists if that's all that's driving you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:00:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 280496 at Hillary vs. the Press, Round One Million: The Times Screws Up a Scoop <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton's email travails are a genuine problem for her. At best, relying solely on her own server to handle email while she was Secretary of State shows bad judgment, and at worst it might have violated government rules. There's <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_email.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not much question this is going to dog her going into next year's election.</p> <p>That said, Jonathan Allen points out that the press is <a href="" target="_blank">back to its old bad habits as well:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Clinton rules are in full effect again. This case would fall under the umbrella of No. 3: The media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there's hard evidence otherwise. The <em>New York Times</em>, which got the scoop, rewrote its original story and is taking a beating from political observers and other media outlets for it. The first version said the inspectors general want a criminal investigation into Clinton's actions specifically, while the revised copy says they want the Justice Department to open a probe, more broadly, into whether the email was mishandled. It may turn out that Clinton is responsible for mishandling sensitive material, but the inspectors general didn't ask for an investigation into her, as the first version of the <em>Times</em> story said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here are the <a href="" target="_blank">two versions of the <em>Times</em> lede:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into <strong>whether Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled</strong> sensitive government information....</p> <p>&nbsp;Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into <strong>whether sensitive government information was mishandled</strong>....</p> </blockquote> <p>The second one is correct. <strong>[See update below.]</strong> The request is a very generic one, asking whether the State Department misclassified some documents, and criticizing it for "its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations." Aside from the fact that the buck stops at the top, there's nothing here that's specifically about Clinton. And yet, the <em>Times</em> writers originally made their lede all about Hillary, almost as if on autopilot.</p> <p>The feud between Hillary and the press is sort of like the Hatfields and McCoys: it's now so old, and so deeply ingrained, that it's almost impossible to tell who's more at fault. The press learned to deeply mistrust the Clintons during the 90s, sometimes with cause, and the Clintons learned to deeply mistrust the press at the same time, also sometimes with cause. The result is that Hillary does everything she can to shield herself from the press, and the press assumes that everything she does has some kind of sinister motive. Meanwhile, Republicans sit back and fan the flames, just as you'd expect them to.</p> <p>It's gonna be a grim 2016 campaign if this keeps up.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Actually, even the second one is wrong. It's not a criminal investigation. <a href="" target="_blank">From <em>Politico</em>:</a> "In an attempt to clarify reports, a Justice Department official said on Friday, 'The Department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information. It is not a criminal referral.' "</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:25:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 280486 at