Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Why Did Lindsey Graham Vote Against Hurricane Sandy Relief in 2013? Here Are Half a Dozen Guesses. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham voted against a $51 billion aid bill for New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, but feels differently about federal aid for the devastating floods that have racked his state. "Let's just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs," Graham told Wolf Blitzer yesterday. Blitzer then asked him <a href="" target="_blank">why he had opposed Sandy relief:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way," Graham said. Pressed further, he said: "Anyway, I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, yes, he did indeed vote against Sandy aid. I don't know why he did it either, but I can take a few guesses:</p> <ul><li>He was pissed off over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the recently concluded fiscal cliff negotiations, which Republicans lost.</li> <li>He was pissed off over the national debt and wanted to make a point about out-of-control spending before the upcoming debt ceiling showdown.</li> <li>He was pissed off over sequester caps that prevented big increases in military spending.</li> <li>He was pissed off over flood insurance provisions in the bill, which had been loudly denounced by the Club for Growth.</li> <li>He was pissed off over alleged pork in the aid bill.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively, Graham didn't really think about it at all, which is why it's slipped his mind by now. Maybe he just vaguely figured the bill would pass, so this was a chance to demonstrate fiscal toughness without running the risk of being held personally responsible for enormous human suffering in New Jersey. After all, 35 other Republican senators voted against it too. So why not join them?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:41:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286206 at Thanks to the NSA, Data Sharing With Europe Just Got a Little Harder <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_edward_snowden.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The long arm of Edward Snowden <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">just got a little longer today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Europe&rsquo;s highest court on Tuesday <strong>struck down an international agreement</strong> that had made it easy for companies to move people&rsquo;s digital data between the European Union and the United States. The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, could make it more difficult for global technology giants &mdash; including the likes of Amazon and Apple, Google and Facebook &mdash; to collect and mine online information from their millions of users in the 28-member European Union.</p> </blockquote> <p>So what does this have to do with Snowden? Since 2000, a "Safe Harbor" agreement has allowed US companies to store personal data on European nationals as long as the companies comply with a specific set of rules to minimize abuse. At the time, it was commercial abuse that everyone had in mind. <a href="" target="_blank">Today it's government abuse:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Tuesday&rsquo;s decision stems from a complaint lodged in 2013 by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over Facebook&rsquo;s compliance with EU data-privacy rules. In his charge filed to the Irish data-protection authority, the U.S. social-media company&rsquo;s lead regulator in Europe, <strong>Mr. Schrems claimed that allegations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed Facebook wasn&rsquo;t sufficiently protecting users&rsquo; data because it is subject to mass surveillance in the U.S.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>There are workarounds for this, but they're complicated and burdensome. What's more, efforts to reach an updated agreement will be difficult since the court ruling allows privacy regulators in every country to set up their own rules. This means that negotiations with the EU almost certainly have to include every national regulator who wants a voice, since each one can essentially veto an agreement in their own country.</p> <p>Alternatively, the US could announce major reforms to its NSA spying programs. Just kidding, of course. We all know that's unpossible.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:11:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 286201 at The Latest Hobby Lobby Ruling Is Actually Good News <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A year after its <a href="" target="_blank">controversial</a> Supreme Court victory, Hobby Lobby found itself on the other side of a court decision&mdash;this time for denying a transgender employee access to the women's restroom.</p> <p>Since she transitioned more than five years ago, frame shop manager <a href="" target="_blank">Meggan Sommerville</a> has been forced to either use the men's restroom in her Illinois Hobby Lobby store or wait until her lunch break, when she could slip into other businesses nearby to use a women's restroom. In a May decision made public for the first time <a href="" target="_blank">on Sunday</a>, a state administrative judge <a href="">ruled</a> that the chain's treatment of Sommerville violates Illinois' Human Rights Act, <a href="" target="_blank">finding</a> "direct evidence of sexual related identity discrimination" in the store's decision to bar her from the women's restroom until she had gender reassignment surgery.</p> <p>The judge's order was a recommended ruling; a final decision from the state's Human Rights Commisssion is still pending. In the meantime, for Sommerville, nothing has changed: Hobby Lobby still requires her to use the men's restroom.</p> <p>Hobby Lobby hired Somerville in 1998, and two years later, she was transferred to the company's location in east Aurora, Illinois. By 2010, she was presenting and identifying as female and had legally changed her name to Meggan Renee. When she formally approached her employer to notify them of the transition, the company altered her personnel file to reflect the change, and Sommverville changed her nametag. Yet the company denied her request to use the women's restroom, demanding that she provide<strong>&nbsp;</strong>documents that would compel them to do so. Still, even after Sommerville did so, Hobby Lobby continued to deny her request, going so far as to issue her a written warning for using the women's restroom in February 2011. The company later insisted that she undergo gender reassignment surgery, which would allow her to change her birth certificate, before she could use the women's bathroom in the store.</p> <p>Sommerville filed a complaint, but it was dismissed by the Illinois Department of Human Rights in 2012 for lack of evidence, a decision that was later <a href="" target="_blank">overturned</a>.</p> <p>Sommerville's bosses instructed her not to use the restroom in part because another employee expressed "discomfort," the ruling revealed. "A co-worker's discomfort cannot justify discriminatory terms and conditions of employment," Judge William Borah wrote. "The prejudices of co-workers or customers are part of what the Act was meant to prevent." Furthermore, Borah found that Hobby Lobby's decision to build a unisex restroom for Sommerville's use was an example of segregation and "perpetuates different treatment."</p> <p>"Do I want to continue doing what I do? Yes," Sommerville <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the <em>Windy City Times</em>. "I enjoy it. Why should I quit? I'm good at what I do. I love what I do. If I quit, I give a right to any other company to discriminate against their employee in the hopes that they will quit so they will be done with them. No one should be forced to quit where they're being harassed and discriminated against. This case is bigger than me."</p></body></html> MoJo Civil Liberties Human Rights Labor Sex and Gender Top Stories Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:00:13 +0000 Madison Pauly 286116 at Coming Soon: Quantum Computing on Your Desktop PC? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_qubit_silicon.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today has been pretty dull in the world of political news, so let's continue trawling other parts of the global knowledge ecosystem for interesting tidbits. <a href="" target="_blank">This one looks potentially important:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For decades, researchers have been trying to build a computer that harnesses the enormous potential of quantum mechanics. Now engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia have overcome the final hurdle, <strong>by creating a quantum logic gate in silicon&nbsp;&mdash; the same material that today's computer chips are made from.</strong></p> <p><strong>The newly developed device allows two quantum bits&nbsp;&mdash; or qubits&nbsp;&mdash; to communicate and perform calculations together,</strong> which is a crucial requirement for quantum computers. Even better, the researchers have also worked out how to scale the technology up to millions of qubits, which means they now have the ability to build the world's first quantum processor chip and, eventually, the first silicon-based quantum computer.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quantum computing is sort of like fusion power: constantly right around the corner, but never quite there. The fundamental problem is that qubits suffer from decoherence unless they're kept completely isolated from their surrounding environment, which is pretty tough since they also need to communicate with other qubits in order to be useful. Researchers have gotten a lot better at controlling qubits in recent years, but as the UNSW paper points out, <a href="" target="_blank">this has required the use of fairly exotic materials:</a> "single photons, trapped ions, superconducting circuits, single defects or atoms in diamond or silicon, and semiconductor quantum dots."</p> <p>By contrast, a two-qubit logic gate that can be implemented in silicon using standard lithographic techniques is a whole different matter. If this turns out to be for real, chips containing thousands or millions of qubits are finally within practical reach.</p> <p>This would be very cool, though only for a certain subset of problems amenable to massive parallel processing. This is inherent in the difference between standard computers and quantum computers. A standard computer with, say, 50 bits, can be in any one of 2<sup>50</sup> states <em>at a single time</em>. That's about a quadrillion states. This state changes with every beat of the computer's internal clock, and eventually you get an answer to whatever problem you've programmed the computer to solve. By contrast, a quantum computer with 2<sup>50</sup> qubits can be in a quadrillion states <em>simultaneously</em> thanks to an aspect of quantum weirdness called superposition. Once you set up the program, you just collapse the quantum state and the answer is spit out instantly.</p> <p>This is not the kind of thing you'd use to write an iPhone app. But it could be used to break some public-key encryption systems. It might also be useful for things like modeling protein folding, which is fundamentally a quantum problem that requires a tremendous amount of computing time using traditional computers. There's also potential for exponentially faster database queries.</p> <p>And one other thing: it's possible that large-scale quantum computing could lead to breakthroughs in emulating human thought processes and speeding up the creation of artificial intelligence. Maybe.</p> <p>Anyway, it's fascinating stuff, and it seems as if useful quantum computing may be finally getting within reach. If it does, it would blow away Moore's law for certain kinds of problems&mdash;possibly many more than we think once we get the hang of writing a whole different kind of code. In a few years, maybe we'll even get customer support voice recognition systems to work properly.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 04:44:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286191 at Do You Spend an Hour Waiting For Your Doctor? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_doctor_waiting_time.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">A new study has been making the rounds today.</a> Over at JAMA, a team of researchers used one survey to calculate average time spent in face-to-face time with a doctor and another survey to calculate total average "clinic time" (wait time plus doctor time). If you subtract doctor time from clinic time, you get average wait time. That's shown in the chart on the right.</p> <p>But something isn't right here. The takeaway is that minorities tend to have longer wait times than whites, which wouldn't surprise me at all. (They also have longer travel times.) But even whites have an average wait time of one hour. That's nowhere near this white boy's experience for any of the doctors/medical systems I've ever been part of. What's more, other studies suggest that average wait time is around 20 minutes or so, which seems more likely.</p> <p>So....I'm not sure what's going on here. Something about this study doesn't seem right, and I don't know if it's in the methodology or in the interpretation everyone is putting on it. In any case, if you read about this study, I'd take it with a grain of salt for the moment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 02:51:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 286186 at The World Has Gone Crazy Over Ad Blocking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ad_blocking_headlines.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's pretty amazing. Ad blockers have been around forever. I've been using AdBlock Plus for nearly a decade and nobody ever cared. It was just a quiet little thing that a few power users knew about.</p> <p>But as soon as Apple decided to allow ad blocking on the iPhone, suddenly the world went nuts. News headlines exploded. Half the sites I visit now check for ad blockers and hit me with guilt-inducing messages about how I'm bankrupting them if I decline to read their latest Flash creations and bouncing gif animations. Hell, I just got one of these messages on For a while, the <em>Washington Post</em> randomly declined to let me read their articles <em>at all</em> unless I removed my ad blocker.</p> <p>I've got one question and one comment about this. The comment is this: Screw you, Apple. Everything was fine until you decided to barge in. The question is this: Is publisher panic over loss of ad revenue rational? Genuine question. I understand that mobile is where all the ad dollars are, and I understand that Apple accounts for a sizeable chunk of the mobile market. But is ad blocking ever likely to become a mass phenomenon, or will it continue to be used only by power users? I suppose there's no way to know. In any case, the recent hysteria over ad blocking sure does show the incredible PR power of Apple. If you take something that's been around forever&mdash;4G LTE, large screens, ad blocking&mdash;and slap it on an iPhone, everyone goes nuts. It's Apple's world and the rest of us are just pawns in the games they play.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Oct 2015 01:37:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 286176 at Bobby Jindal Sums Up His Struggling Campaign in One Chart <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Things are looking up for Bobby Jindal, according to Bobby Jindal.</p> <p>The Louisiana governor tweeted this afternoon about his campaign performance: "Momentum is building in Iowa." The tweet was accompanied by a chart showing Jindal's support among Iowa voters increasing exponentially.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align center" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Momentum is building in Iowa. <a href="">#IAPolitics</a> <a href="">#IACaucus</a> <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Gov. Bobby Jindal (@BobbyJindal) <a href="">October 5, 2015</a></blockquote> <p>The poll Jindal is proudly presenting is the latest NBC/Marist survey in Iowa, which shows him with a whopping 6 percent of the vote, tied with two candidates and behind four others. That looks impressive next to the 1 percent he got in a poll from the firm in July. But it's less impressive if you consider the 4.7 percent margin of error, which could more than account for his rise from the September poll that had him at 4 percent. Likewise if you look at the polling average from <a href="" target="_blank">Real Clear Politics</a>, which puts Jindal at 3.5 percent in Iowa (in ninth place). A Gravis poll concluded on September 27 listed Jindal at only 2 percent (tied for eighth place).</p> <p>But who cares? Just look at this chart!</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Elections Mon, 05 Oct 2015 21:15:29 +0000 Miles E. Johnson 286171 at California Legalizes Assisted Suicide For Terminal Patients <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After months of maintaining a stony silence about California's right-to-die bill, <a href="" target="_blank">Gov. Jerry Brown signed it today:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brown_assisted_suicide.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>The Golden Rule isn't always the best guide to public policy, but in this case I think it is. California has an obligation to make sure assisted suicide isn't abused, either by doctors rubber stamping requests or by friends or relatives pressuring sick patients to end their lives. Beyond that, though, deciding when and how to die is about as personal a decision as someone can make. It's not that assisted suicide doesn't affect other people&mdash;it does&mdash;but as a matter of <em>public</em> policy it's best for the state to remain resolutely neutral. This is something that should be left up to the patient, her doctor, and whichever of her friends, family, and clergy she decides to involve.</p> <p>The text of the bill is <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Brown did the right thing today by signing it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 20:20:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 286161 at Women in Texas May Have to Wait an Extra 20 Days for an Abortion <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">New research</a> from the University of Texas&mdash;Austin has found that women seeking abortions in cities such as Dallas, Forth Worth, and Austin face staggering wait times of up to 20 days before they can get the procedure. The data, which researchers working for the Texas Policy Evaluation Project released Monday, provides a startling look at the effects of abortion clinic closures in Texas just as the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to hear a case that could slash the number of remaining clinics by half.</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-10-05%20at%203.23.29%20PM_0.png"><div class="caption"><strong>Wait times at abortion clinics in Austin, Texas. </strong></div> </div> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%">&nbsp;</div> <p>Researchers documented wait times for clinics in Forth Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston from November 2014 to September 2015. In Austin, the average wait over the course of those 11 months was 10 days. In Dallas and Fort Worth, the annual average was 5 days. They also calculated the average monthly wait times and the range of wait times in a given month and found that average wait times within a single month reached up to 20 days in the Dallas-Fort Worth area&mdash;where there are <a href="" target="_blank">five abortion clinics</a>&mdash;and wait times for individual patients could reach up to 23 days.</p> <p>The escalating wait times are a result of successful efforts to close more than half of Texas's abortion clinics. Most of those clinics were closed by HB 2, a 2013 anti-abortion law that many consider to be the harshest in the nation. Its provisions included a requirement that clinics must have admitting privileges with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. Before the measure, Texas had 41 clinics; four months after it took effect, <a href="" target="_blank">there were only 22.</a> Today, <a href=";_ylt=A0LEVvJ3mhJWYFAABzInnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--" target="_blank">there are 19</a>.</p> <p>A final provision of the law, which may be the subject of a Supreme Court battle later this year, would close <a href="" target="_blank">all but 10 clinics</a> if it goes into effect. That measure requires abortion clinics to be regulated similarly to hospitals, which makes it dramatically more expensive to operate an abortion clinic. Leading medical organizations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, maintain this level of medical infrastructure <a href="" target="_blank">is not necessary</a> to safely perform most abortions. Whole Woman's Health, a chain of abortion clinics with several providers in Texas, sued in federal court and succeeded in having the Supreme Court temporarily <a href="" target="_blank">block the law</a>. The court could make a decision to hear the full case as soon as this month.</p> <p>A wait time of almost three weeks has serious consequences for women seeking abortions, ranging from her ability to afford an abortion, which becomes more expensive as the pregnancy progresses,<strong> </strong>to intensity of the procedure. In the second trimester, <a href="" target="_blank">the cost of an abortion</a> may go up by a hundred dollars every week. The researchers found that if the Supreme Court were to allow all but 10 clinics to close, it would almost double the number of second-trimester procedures in Texas&mdash;from 6,600 in 2013 to 12,400.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202015-09-09%20at%209.29.08%20AM_0.png"></div> <p>The researchers also predicted that if the Supreme Court upheld HB 2, the 10 clinics that would remain open would not have the capacity to meet demand. Those clinics today provide only one-fifth of abortions in Texas. If they were the only clinics in Texas, they would probably experience consistent wait times of around three weeks. For instance, the Houston area saw an average wait time of less than five days. But Houston has six clinics. If the law were fully in place, it would only have two clinics. And as clinics closed around the state, the number of abortions taking place in Houston would rise from 3,900 in 2013 to more than 11,000.</p> <p>Clinics in states bordering Texas are already feeling the crush. Kathaleen Pittman, an official with Hope Medical Group of Shreveport, Louisiana, said in an interview that the proportion of Texans going to Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, has leapt from 15 percent of patients in 2011 to 23 percent in 2014.</p> <p>And the South isn't the only region where clinic closures have sent a wave of patients looking for new providers. The problem is also pronounced in Ohio, where eight clinics have <a href="" target="_blank">closed since 2011</a>. Officials for Preterm, a clinic in Cleveland, say the number of patients traveling from a different part of Ohio has jumped 160 percent, and the number of patients from out of state has almost doubled.</p> <p>As <em>Mother Jones</em> reported in <a href="" target="_blank">a recent feature</a>, a clinic called the Cherry Hill Women's Center in southern New Jersey is seeing more and more patients from Virginia, because clinics in Maryland and Delaware are overbooked, and from the Midwest, because many clinics there have closed. An analysis by <em>Mother Jones</em> found that clinics are closing at a rate of 1.5 per week. If the trend keeps up, the new data from Texas may turn out to be a bellwether for the rest of the nation.</p></body></html> MoJo Reproductive Rights Top Stories Mon, 05 Oct 2015 19:31:39 +0000 Molly Redden 286156 at "The Good Wife" Is Back. We Have to Talk About It Right Now. Stop What You Are Doing. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The best show on network television finally returned last night, but is this <em>Good Wife</em> still <em>the Good Wife</em> we all know and love? <a href="" target="_blank">Kalinda</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Finn</a> have joined Will in that great big green room in the sky and last night's episode felt...different.</p> <p>Let's talk about it.</p> <p>Alicia's life sucks at the moment. She has no law firm. She has no male love interest. She has no friends. And where are her dumb kids anyway? She's a pariah! "I'm a pariah," she does not say as the episode begins, but she might as well have. She's whiling away her days in <a href="" target="_blank">Shooter </a><a href="" target="_blank">McGavin'</a>s bond court, fighting for pick-up cases with beleaguered unclean lawyers who probably went to a joke Ivy like Cornell unlike Alicia who went to Georgetown, which never pretended to be an Ivy in the first place. Poor good wife.</p> <p>Governor Bad Husband promised his good wife last year that he wouldn't run for president if she didn't want him to and she didn't want him to so he isn't running for president. OK? <em>Fine, Good. Whatever.</em> But then the good wife changes her mind, because Peter running for president is going to be the plot line for this season&mdash;paralleling the plot line in America these days&mdash;so she needed to get with it. Peter's chief of staff, <a href="" target="_blank">the Russian computer hacker from <em>GoldenEye</em></a>, is very pleased with this development and he celebrates by wooing Margo Martindale, a top-flight campaign consultant, the <a href="" target="_blank">meth-making matriarch from the second season of <em>Justified</em></a>.</p> <p>But Margo Martindale doesn't want to be just another campaign strategist. She wants to be the campaign manager and for reasons not entirely clear, Peter goes along with this and fires Alan Cummings. The good wife's bad husband is also a bad boss.</p> <p>Meanwhile the <a href="" target="_blank">attractive young man</a> who used to be Alicia's rival before becoming her law partner before becoming superfluous to the main plot of the show is unhappy at the big fancy law firm that bears his name. Cary's few scenes in this episode are dedicated to him trying to be popular with the first year associates who think he's a stodgy old fart because he spends all of his time with his stodgy old fart partners in their stodgy old fart ivory tower.</p> <p>Speaking of Cary's aged old partners: Diane and the <a href="" target="_blank">lawyer who makes the divorces happen</a> are facing off against Alicia in probate court over some meaningless bullshit about a painting that is worth a lot of money. Who will get the deceased's paining? No one cares. But this does provide a nice forum for the show to do what it does best: wink at the audience and acknowledge that the show isn't really about the cases. <em>The Good Wife,</em> more than any other legal drama, doesn't want you to care about the cases. The cases are just a thing for the characters to do. The marathon of random specialists testifying about post-it notes in this probate case are a great example of that. Not even the judge cares about what the post-it scientists have to say.</p> <p>Anyway, Alicia covers for one of the <a href="" target="_blank">bond court lawyers</a>&mdash;because bond court lawyers stick together&mdash; and then the bond court lawyer covers for Alicia in the probate hearing for which she's totally unprepared. Diane and Divorce Attorney are going to school her so hard but then&mdash;shocker!&mdash;the bond court lawyer is good at law and wins the case. Bond court lawyer is apparently supposed to be Alicia's new friend.</p> <p>Then Alicia hires Alan Cummings to be her chief of staff because the good wife is also a good friend. Alan Cummings tells Margo Martindale that he is going to destroy her.</p> <p>Oh also Michael J Fox wants Alicia to work with him. And I think she sort of said yes at the end. (Or did she?) It wasn't entirely clear.</p> <p>What is this show about now? It used to be about Alicia finding the courage, through crosses and losses, to become the person she wanted to be. Is it still about that? I guess we'll have to wait and see.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Film and TV Ben's Thoughts Mon, 05 Oct 2015 19:02:17 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 286131 at House Dems Fight Back on Benghazi <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few weeks ago, Hillary Clinton aide Cheryl Mills testified before the Benghazi committee. Apparently several Republican members of the committee talked to reporters about this. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is <em>Politico</em> on September 3:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Raising alarms on the right,</strong> Mills, Clinton&rsquo;s former chief of staff at the State Department, also told the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she reviewed and made suggestions for changes to the government's official, final report on what happened in Benghazi, according to a separate, GOP source familiar with what she said.</p> <p><strong>The source said it &ldquo;call[s] into question the &lsquo;independence&rsquo;&rdquo; of the report's conclusions</strong>....The report was supposed to be independent from state officials that may be involved, and the GOP argues top officials should not have had input, long questioning how independent the findings were.</p> </blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_elijah_cummings.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today, in the wake of Rep. Kevin McCarthy's boasting about how the Benghazi committee had been a great tool to bring down Hillary, Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, <a href="" target="_blank">lobbed a shot across the bow of the Republican chairman:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republicans began leaking inaccurate information about Ms. Mills&rsquo; interview within minutes after your public declaration that it should be treated as classified....During her interview, Ms. Mills corroborated both Ambassador Pickering&rsquo;s testimony and the Inspector General&rsquo;s findings:</p> <blockquote> <p>Q: Did you ever, in that process, attempt to exert influence over the direction of the ARB&rsquo;s investigation?</p> <p>A: No.</p> <p>Q: Did you ever try to&mdash;did Secretary Clinton ever try to exert influence over the direction of their investigation?</p> <p>A: No.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ms. Mills also explained that the Secretary&rsquo;s objective in selecting members of the ARB was, &ldquo;could they be people who could give hard medicine if that was what was needed. And I felt like, in the end, that team was a team that would speak whatever were their truths or observations to the Department so that we could learn whatever lessons we needed to learn.&rdquo;</p> <p>....We believe it is time to begin releasing the transcripts of interviews conducted by the Select Committee in order to correct the public record after numerous inaccurate Republican leaks....Please notify us within five days if you believe any information in the full transcript should be withheld from the American people.</p> </blockquote> <p>No response yet from committee chairman Trey Gowdy, who has insisted all along that the Benghazi investigation is purely an enlightened search for the truth with no trace of partisan overtones. But I'm all in favor of holding all of the committee's hearings in public with occasional exceptions for genuinely classified testimony. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:14:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286126 at Meet the Senate Candidate Who Sacrificed a Goat and Drank Its Blood <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Of all the scandals that have dogged political campaigns, the one threatening Augustus Sol Invictus' US Senate run may be among the most unusual: ritual goat sacrifice.<a href="#correction">*</a></p> <p>In 2013, Invictus walked from central Florida to the Mojave Desert and spent a week fasting and praying. Upon his return home, the Associated Press <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>, Invictus sacrificed a goat and drank its blood in an apparent pagan ritual.</p> <p>"I did sacrifice a goat," Invictus told the AP. "I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness...Yes, I drank the goat's blood."</p> <p>Invictus&mdash;he changed his birth name but declined to provide it to the AP&mdash;is now running for Senate in Florida on the Libertarian Party ticket. But the party hasn't taken well to has candidacy. Its state chairman resigned in protest and called Invictus a "self-proclaimed fascist" who is "promoting a second civil war." Invictus denied these charges but said he "sees a cataclysm coming."</p> <p>In 2013, Invictus wrote <a href="" target="_blank">a letter</a> to his classmates at the DePaul College of Law in which he seemed to say he might start a new civil war. "<span class="s1">I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself," he wrote. "Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all."</span></p> <p><span class="s1">He did return. But so far the only revolution he's bearing is the one within his own party.</span></p> <p id="correction"><em>Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Invictus' role in the Libertarian Party.</em></p></body></html> MoJo Elections Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:05:32 +0000 Miles E. Johnson 286106 at Hillary Clinton Unveils Plan to Tackle Gun Violence Using Executive Action <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Monday, Hillary Clinton plans to unveil a series of proposals aimed at <a href="" target="_blank">reducing gun violence</a> that includes the possible use of an executive action to close the "gun show loophole,"&nbsp;which&nbsp;currently allows gun sales to proceed even if background checks on individuals are still pending.</p> <p>The Democratic presidential candidate is expected to announce the plan at two town hall events in New Hampshire. In advance of the appearances, Clinton's campaign released a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> outlining her proposals that detail her push for comprehensive background checks, the tightening of loopholes and internet gun sales even if "Congress fails to act," and efforts to block individuals with domestic abuse records and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.</p> <p>In the wake of Thursday's deadly rampage at a community college in Oregon, the former secretary of state called on lawmakers to enact <a href="" target="_blank">stricter gun control legislation</a> and vowed to help loosen the grip of the National Rifles Association on Congress.</p> <p>"I'm going to try to do everything I can as president to raise up an equally large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance," she said&nbsp;in response to the latest mass shooting in America. "And we're going to tell legislators, do not be afraid. Stand up to these people because a majority of the population and a majority of gun owners agree that there should be universal background checks. And the NRA has stood in the way."</p> <p>Gun control is one area in which Clinton has appeared markedly more progressive than Sen. Bernie Sanders.&nbsp;In the past, the Vermont senator&nbsp;has drawn criticism from Democrats for his more <a href="" target="_blank">libertarian stance </a>on the issue, including his controversial support for a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">2005</a>&nbsp;law that&nbsp;protects gun makers against lawsuits from victims of violence. In her plan on Monday, Clinton will reportedly&nbsp;announce her efforts to repeal that law as well.</p> <p>Following Thursday's massacre, Sanders said he agreed with President Barack Obama's statements saying prayers and condolences were not enough to tackle gun violence in America.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Read Clinton's sweeping plan here. </a></p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Guns Hillary Clinton Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:58:14 +0000 Inae Oh 286086 at Can Donald Trump Sink the TPP? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cpac.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">A last-minute deal has <a href="" target="_blank">finally been reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership,</a> and concerns abound. Paul Ryan is concerned about dairy products. Sander Levin is concerned about cars. In Louisiana they're concerned about sugar. The whole deal is oozing with parochial local concerns.</p> <p>So will it pass? A couple of months ago, I would have said yes, and I guess I still do. But I'm a little less sure thanks to the Donald Trump effect. He's opposed to the deal&mdash;there's no telling why, really&mdash;and he's shown a genius in the past for picking out specific details about various issues and then flogging them to death. So I wonder: what's he going to pick out about the TPP? It might be something ordinary, like currency manipulation provisions, or a general attack on President Obama's lousy negotiating skills. Equally likely, though, he'll somehow find something in the treaty that no one else is really paying attention to, and then twist it into a populist attack that really resonates with the public. If he does that successfully, it's just possible that he could derail the deal.</p> <p>I'm not sure what odds I'd put on that. But not zero. So far, Trump has mostly been a loudmouth who hasn't fundamentally changed the political landscape. But there's a chance he could do it here. He's worth watching.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:29:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 286091 at Arming the Opposition: A Compendium of Failure <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago I linked to <a href="" target="_blank">a Phil Carter piece</a> about why arm-and-train missions in underdeveloped countries tended to fail. Today the <em>New York Times</em> has a longish roundup of our failures, and even I was a little surprised by the <a href="" target="_blank">sheer number of countries we've bungled:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The setbacks have been most pronounced in three countries....Pentagon-trained army and police in <strong>Iraq&rsquo;s</strong> Anbar Province....several thousand American-backed government forces and militiamen in <strong>Afghanistan&rsquo;s</strong> Kunduz <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_opposition_soldiers.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;"> <strong>Syria</strong>, a $500 million Defense Department program to train local rebels to fight the Islamic State has produced only a handful of soldiers.</p> <p>In northwest Africa, the United States has spent more than $600 million....<strong>Morocco to Chad</strong>. American officials once heralded <strong>Mali&rsquo;s</strong> military as an exemplary partner. But in 2012, battle-hardened Islamist fighters returned from combat in <strong>Libya</strong> to rout the military, including units trained by United States Special Forces....In <strong>Yemen</strong>, American-trained troops and counterterrorism forces largely disbanded when Houthi rebels overran the capital last year.</p> <p>Bright spot....oust the Shabab, Al Qaeda&rsquo;s affiliate in <strong>Somalia</strong>....The American government has invested nearly $1 billion....But even with the gains, the Shabab have been able to carry out bombings in Mogadishu, the capital, and in neighboring countries, including massacres at a university and a shopping mall in Kenya in the past two years.</p> </blockquote> <p>Karl&nbsp;Eikenberry, a former military commander and then US ambassador in Afghanistan, sums it up pretty well: "Our track record at building security forces over the past 15 years is miserable." Maybe it's time we faced up to this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:20:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 286076 at John Oliver Slams Republicans Who Only Discuss Mental Health to Actively Avoid Gun Control <!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>In the wake of Thursday's <a href="" target="_blank">mass shooting</a> at a community college in Oregon, many Republicans were quick to dismiss renewed calls for increased gun safety measures, in favor of discussing the need for a stronger mental health care system.&nbsp;</p> <p>On Sunday, John Oliver agreed that mental health is a topic Americans need to properly address. But as he explained on the latest <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Last Week Tonight</em></a>, broaching mental health issues in the aftermath of a mass shooting is more often than not a political strategy used to simply reroute the conversation away from gun control.</p> <p>"It seems like there is nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health," Oliver said, while featuring the talking points of Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee&mdash;all of whom steered away from discussing increased gun control legislation after the shooting in Oregon, to tout the need for better mental health programs.</p> <p>In reality, this is dangerously problematic because, as Oliver explains, "the vast majority of mentally ill people are nonviolent, and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally-ill people."</p> <p>But if Republicans are only willing to talk about treating mentally ill people following mass shootings, so be it: Then at the "very least we owe them a fucking plan," Oliver said.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Guns Media Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:07:47 +0000 Inae Oh 286081 at Bikini Kill's Classic Demo Finally Reissued <!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>Bikini Kill<br><em>Revolution Girl Style Now</em><br> Bikini Kill Records</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/untitled-article-1438356303.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;"></div> <p>Loud, surly and thrilling, <em>Revolution Girl Style Now</em> reissues the raw 1991 demo tape by the Olympia, Washington, punk quartet widely considered to have launched the Riot Grrl scene, leading the way for a host of other women not content to stay quiet. Feral singer Kathleen Hanna mixes performance art and old-fashioned show-biz charisma in confrontational outbursts like "Daddy's L'il Girl" and "Suck My Left One," addressing feminist concerns with surges of fabulous noise. For longtime followers, this essential set offers three previously unreleased tracks, including the sludgy "Playground." Recommended for fans of Sleater-Kinney and Screaming Females, and anyone else who appreciates rock and roll at its primal best.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:00:12 +0000 Jon Young 286056 at The Bottle Rockets' Latest, "South Broadway Athletic Club," Is One of Their Best <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p> <p><strong>The Bottle Rockets<br><em>South Broadway Athletic Club</em><br> Bloodshot</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/bs227_bottlerockets_cvr_1_0.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px;"></div> <p>Utterly familiar yet amazingly fresh on every album, Brian Henneman and company have made loose-jointed, empathetic roots-rock for more than two decades. <em>South Broadway Athletic Club</em> ranks among their best. Spiritual cousins of Drive-By Truckers, with less tragedy and more wry humor, this lovable St. Louis quartet honors people who don't merit headlines, including the auto worker with a bad attitude ("Chrysler"), the dude with a canine best friend ("Dog") and someone whose idea of a good time is wasting time ("Big Fat Nuthin'").</p> <p>The Bottle Rockets' nimble mix of boogie, blues, and country provides the perfect setting for Henneman's twangy everyman vocals. He's been one of pop's more underrated singers for a long time, but it's never too late to get on the bandwagon.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:00:11 +0000 Jon Young 286046 at The CIA Is Still Refusing to Release Its Files on This Alleged War Criminal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In November 1981, early in what would become a 12-year civil war, Lt. Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa P&eacute;rez led an estimated 1,200 Salvadoran troops into a rural region near the Honduran border. As part of an eight-day campaign to eliminate guerrillas in the area, the soldiers allegedly <a href="" target="_blank">killed dozens, even hundreds</a>, of fleeing civilians near the community of Santa Cruz.</p> <p>Now, nearly 34 years later, a group of human rights experts is trying to help bring Ochoa P&eacute;rez to justice&mdash;and is taking the fight to the CIA, as well. On Friday, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA after the agency would neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents surrounding the Santa Cruz massacre. That includes files on Ochoa P&eacute;rez, who <a href="" target="_blank">until recently</a> was a member of Congress in El Salvador.</p> <p>According to UWCHR project coordinator<strong> </strong>Phil Neff, the massacre was emblematic of the Salvadoran government's scorched-earth campaigns to "cleanse" areas of guerrillas while often claiming the lives of civilians. Ochoa P&eacute;rez, whom Neff calls "one of the US's top <a href=";lpg=PR1&amp;dq=El%20Salvador%20at%20War%3A%20An%20Oral%20History%20from%20the%201979%20Insurrection%20to%20the%20Present.&amp;pg=PA339#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false" target="_blank">counterinsurgents</a> during the '80s," is currently facing a criminal investigation in El Salvador in connection to the offensive. Now that Ochoa P&eacute;rez's congressional immunity has run out, the UWCHR is hoping to use CIA intelligence from that era to move the long-stalled cases against him.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/ochoa-perez-web_1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Ochoa P&eacute;rez marches with supporters in a 2012 protest. </strong>Luis Romero/AP</div> </div> <p>"There have been no successful prosecutions of this kind in El Salvador," Neff says. "In comparison to <a href="" target="_blank">Guatemala</a>, the advances have been insignificant. So it's thought that he may be low-hanging fruit&mdash;but he's not an insignificant guy."</p> <p>Kate Doyle, a senior analyst of US policy in Latin America at the <a href="" target="_blank">National Security Archive</a>, says the UWCHR faces an uphill battle. "The CIA has been traditionally very well protected against the efforts of citizens to gain records through the legal channels we have open to us," she says, noting that most CIA documents are exempt from FOIA thanks to a <a href="" target="_blank">1984 law</a> signed by President Ronald Reagan. The declassifications that do occur, Doyle says, generally happen because the agency releases the information on its own or is forced to by presidential order. That very thing happened in 1993, when President Bill Clinton, <a href="" target="_blank">under pressure from Congress</a>, pushed the CIA to declassify an estimated 12,000 documents on the Salvadoran civil war, including some on Ochoa P&eacute;rez.</p> <p>"The CIA has got a lot of tricks up its sleeve to protect itself from responding to something like this," Doyle says, noting that the courts rarely overrule the agency when it invokes national security. Still, she says the FOIA suit is a valuable public reminder that the US government has been knowingly sitting on records with important details of grave human rights abuses.</p> <p>"The lawsuit has the tremendously positive effect," Doyle says, "of bringing that gap between the rhetoric of human rights policy in the United States and the practice into the light."</p> <p><em>This story has been updated. For more on the Santa Cruz massacre, check out this short documentary from </em>the <em>University of Washington Center for Human Rights:</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> MoJo International Military Mon, 05 Oct 2015 10:00:10 +0000 Ian Gordon 285866 at Ask Dr. Science: Campaign Trail Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Presidential candidates have been asking a lot of questions lately. Science can help answer them, but this year scientists are in notably short supply on the campaign trail. Asked about the age of the earth, Marco Rubio famously told <em>GQ</em>, "I'm not a scientist, man." Likewise, Mitch McConnell is not a scientist, Rick Scott is not a scientist, John Boehner is not a scientist, Joni Ernst is not a scientist, Bobby Jindal is not a scientist, and Hillary Clinton is not a scientist&mdash;just a grandmother with two eyes and a brain. Luckily, I can help. Here are answers to some of the most pressing questions asked by major party candidates recently.</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Bernie Sanders: "Why are we the only major country that doesn&rsquo;t guarantee health care for all?"</strong></p> <p>In 1986 James Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work in public choice theory, which can shed some light on this. In layman's terms, public choice theory says you should follow the money. So let's follow it. Universal health care is expensive. This means higher taxes, which rich people don't like. Conservative parties cater to the rich, so they generally oppose expansions in health care coverage. In the US, the rich are the richest of all, and the Republican Party therefore caters to them more enthusiastically than anywhere else in the world. As a result, they're more rabidly opposed to national health care than any other conservative party in a major country.</p> <p>In other words, it's because no other country has the Republican Party.</p> <p><strong>Ben Carson: "Gravity, where did it come from?"</strong></p> <p>Well, Ben, when a four-dimensional pseudo-Riemannian manifold and a Landau&ndash;Lifshitz stress-energy tensor love each other very <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_blackboard.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">much, they produce a geodesic in curved spacetime. And that's the story of gravity.</p> <p><strong>Kevin McCarthy: "Everyone thought Hillary was unbeatable, right?"</strong></p> <p>Let's look at this statistically. According to a CNN poll from last year, 44 percent of respondents thought it "very likely" and 34 percent thought it "somewhat likely" that Hillary would win the Democratic nomination. Let's assign p=.9 to "very" and p=.65 to "somewhat." Then P(Nomination) = .62. The same poll assigned Hillary a conditional probability P(Presidency|Nomination) of .51. Thus, since P(A &cap; B) = P(A) * P(B|A), her perceived chance of winning the presidency was p=.32 and her chance of being beaten was a whopping p=.68. She was light years away from being considered unbeatable.</p> <p>Or, in simpler terms you're more likely to understand, there was never any need to brag about the awesome Hillary-smashing power of the Benghazi committee. You're an idiot.</p> <p><strong>Donald Trump: "Let Russia do it. Let 'em get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?"</strong></p> <p>In the neorealist school of international relations, hegemonic stability theory tells us that the world is a better place when a single nation-state, or hegemon, is the dominant player on the global stage. Vladimir Putin is challenging us for this role. If he succeeds, the outcome is either a disastrous multipolar world or an equally disastrous world in which Russia is dominant. Ditto for China. In other words, Russia is killing us! China is killing us! We need to beat them!</p> <p><strong>Marco Rubio: "How can it be that we sent a Republican majority to Congress and yet they&rsquo;re still not able to stop our country from sliding in the wrong direction?&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>The study of political science can provide some insight into this phenomenon. In "Decision Making in Political Systems: Veto Players in Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, Multicameralism and Multipartyism," George Tsebelis explains the crippling effect of having too many agents who can obstruct legislative agendas. "The potential for policy change," he says, "decreases with (a) the number of veto players, (b) the lack of congruence (dissimilarity of policy positions among veto players) and (c) the cohesion (similarity of policy positions among the constituent units of each veto player) of these players."</p> <p>Taking those one by one, (a) Democrats can filibuster your endless Obamacare temper tantrums, President Obama can veto them, and the Supreme Court can send you packing; (b) the Republican Party has gone nuts; and (c) Democrats are united in stopping you. Did you really not know this?</p> <p><strong>Carly Fiorina: "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck. Do you think this is not happening?"</strong></p> <p>Of course it's happening. In Hugh Everett's relative state formulation of quantum mechanics, the multiverse is composed of a quantum superposition of an infinite number of increasingly divergent, non-communicating parallel universes or quantum worlds. Thus, every possible thing is happening at every possible instant. And stop calling me Chuck.</p> <p><strong>Hillary Clinton: "Another conspiracy theory?"</strong></p> <p>Yes.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 04 Oct 2015 16:55:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 286071 at Here's Why "Arming the Opposition" Usually Doesn't Work <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I routinely mock the tiresomely predictable calls from conservative hawks to "arm the opposition." It never seems to matter who the opposition is. Nor does it matter if we're already arming them. If we are, then we need to send them even better arms. Does this do any good? Can allied forces always <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_syria_opposition.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">benefit from more American arms and training? That gets tactfully left unsaid.</p> <p>Today, Phil Carter, who has firsthand experience with this, writes a longer piece explaining just why the theory of indirect military assistance <a href="" target="_blank">is so wobbly in practice:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The theory briefs well as a way to achieve U.S. goals without great expenditure of U.S. blood and treasure.</strong> Unfortunately, decades of experience (including the current messes in Iraq and Syria) suggest that the theory works only in incredibly narrow situations in which states need just a little assistance. In the most unstable places and in the largest conflagrations, where we tend to feel the greatest urge to do something, the strategy crumbles.</p> <p>It fails first and most basically because it hinges upon an <strong>alignment of interests</strong> that rarely exists between Washington and its proxies.</p> <p>....Second, the security-assistance strategy <strong>gives too much weight to the efficacy of U.S. war-fighting systems and capabilities</strong>....For security assistance to have any chance, it must build on existing institutions, adding something that fits within or atop a partner&rsquo;s forces....But giving night-vision goggles and F-16 aircraft to a third-rate military like the Iraqi army won&rsquo;t produce a first-rate force, let alone instill the will to fight.</p> <p>....The third problem with security assistance is that <strong>it risks further destabilizing already unstable situations</strong> and actually countering U.S. interests. As in Syria, we may train soldiers who end up fighting for the other side or provide equipment that eventually falls into enemy hands.</p> </blockquote> <p>There are some things we should have learned over the past couple of decades, and one of them is this: "train-and-equip" missions usually don't work. Sometimes they do, as in Afghanistan in the 80s. But that's the rare success. In Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan in the aughts, they failed.</p> <p>So why do we hear cries to arm our allies during practically every conflict? Because it turns out there aren't very many good choices in between doing nothing and launching a full-scale ground war. One option is aerial support and bombing. Another option is arming someone else's troops. So if you know the public won't support an invasion with US troops, but you still want to show that you're more hawkish than whoever's in charge now, your only real alternative is to call for one or the other of these things&mdash;or both&mdash;regardless of whether they'll work.</p> <p>And of course, the louder the better. It might not help the war effort any, but it sure will help your next reelection campaign.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 04 Oct 2015 01:54:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286066 at Gun Control's Biggest Problem: Most People Just Don't Care Very Much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>David Atkins writes about the problem of <a href="" target="_blank">getting gun control legislation passed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is a broadening schism in the activist community between those who focus on nuts-and-bolts electoral and legislative politics, and those who spend their energy on issue-area visibility and engagement....<strong>Election work and party involvement is increasingly seen as the unhip, uncool, morally compromised province of social climbers and "brogressives" not truly committed to the supposedly "real work" of social justice engagement by non-electoral means.</strong></p> <p>....There is certainly great value in persuasion, engagement and visibility model....But gun politics in the United States shows above all the weaknesses and limits of the engagement model. <strong>The vast majority of Americans support commonsense gun laws</strong>....Numerous <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gun_lichtenstein.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">organizations have engaged in countless petitions and demonstrations to shame legislators into action from a variety of perspectives, but it essentially never works.</p> <p>....The reason that the United States cannot seem to do anything about guns is simply that the NRA and the vocal minority of the nation's gun owners mobilize to vote on the issue, while the large majority that favors gun safety laws does not....<strong>Gun control will pass precisely when legislators become more afraid of the votes of gun control supporters than they are of gun control opponents.</strong> That will only happen when interested organizations invest in field work&mdash;that much maligned, unsexy work of precinct walking and phonebanking&mdash;to mobilize voters on that issue, and when liberal organizations work to unseat Democrats who do the bidding of the NRA and replace them with ones who vote to protect the people.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not sure Atkins has this right. The problem is in the second bolded sentence: "The vast majority of Americans support commonsense gun laws." There's some truth to this, but there's also a big pitfall here, and it's one that liberals are especially vulnerable to. I routinely read lefties who quote polls to show that the country agrees with us on pretty much everything. Voters support teachers, they support the environment, they support financial reform, they support gun control.</p> <p>But this is a bad misreading of what polls can tell us. There are (at least) two related problems here:</p> <ul><li>Most polls don't tell us how deeply people feel. Sure, lots of American think that universal background checks are a good idea, but they don't really care that much. <a href="" target="_blank">In a recent Gallup poll of most important problems,</a> gun control ranked 22nd, with only 2 percent rating it their most important issue. Needless to say, though, gun owners are opposed to background checks, and they care a lot.</li> <li>Most polls don't tell us about the tradeoffs people are willing to make. In the abstract, sure, maybe a majority of Americans think we should make it harder to buy guns. But if there's a real-world price to pay how willing are they to pay it? A few months ago, <a href="" target="_blank">a Pew poll</a> that pitted gun control against gun rights found that gun rights won by 52-46 percent.</li> </ul><p>There are lots of polls, and some of them probably show a greater intensity among those who support gun control. A lot depends on question wording. But that's sort of my point: If you get substantially different responses because of small changes in question wording or depending on which precise issues you ask about (background checks vs. assault weapons, gun locks vs. large-capacity magazines) that's a sign of low intensity.</p> <p>Atkins is certainly right that Democratic legislators won't act on gun control until voters are mobilized, but that puts the cart before the horse. You can't mobilize voters on an issue they don't really care much about in the first place. In this case, I think the folks who prioritize issue-area visibility and engagement probably have the better of the argument. Until voters who favor gun control feel as strongly as those who oppose it, all the field work in the world won't do any good.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Oct 2015 16:02:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 286061 at "Employees Are Bitter" as Whole Foods Chops Jobs and Wages <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Whole Foods Market co-CEO and co-founder John Mackey has never hidden his disdain for labor unions. "Today most employees feel that unions are not necessary to represent them," he <a href="">told</a> my colleague Josh Harkinson in 2013. That same year, Mackey echoed the&nbsp;sentiment in an <a href="">interview</a> with Yahoo Finance's<em> t</em>he <em>Daily Ticker</em>. "Why would they want to join a union? Whole Foods has been one of [<em><a href="">Fortune</a>'s</em>] 100 best companies to work for for the last 16 years. We're not so much anti-union as beyond unions.&rdquo;</p> <p>On September 25, the natural-foods giant gave its workers reason to question their founder's argument. Whole Foods <a href="">announced</a> it was eliminating 1,500 jobs&mdash;about 1.6 percent of its American workforce&mdash;"as part of its ongoing commitment to lower prices for its customers and invest in technology upgrades while improving its cost structure." The focus on cost-cutting isn't surprising&mdash;Whole Foods stock <a href="">has lost 40 percent of its value</a> since February, thanks to <a href="">lower-than-expected earnings</a> and an <a href="">overcharging scandal</a> in its New York City stores.</p> <p>Sources inside the company told me that the layoffs targeted experienced full-time workers who had moved up the Whole Foods pay ladder. In one store&nbsp;in the chain's <a href="">South region</a>, "all supervisors&nbsp;in&nbsp;all departments&nbsp;were demoted to getting paid $11 an hour from $13-16 per hour and were told they were no longer supervisors, but still had to fulfill all of the same duties, effective immediately," according to an employee who works there.</p> <p>I ran that claim past a spokesman at the company's Austin headquarters. "We appreciate you taking the time to reach out and help us to set the record straight," he responded, pointing to the press release quoted above. When I reminded him that my question was about wage cuts, not the announced job cuts, he declined to comment.</p> <p>Another source, from one of Whole Foods' regional offices, told me the corporate headquarters had ordered all <a href="">11 regional offices</a> to reduce expenses. "They've all done it differently," the source said. "In some regions, they've reduced the number of in-store buyers&mdash;people who order products for the shelves."</p> <p>I spoke with a buyer from the South region who learned on Saturday that,&nbsp;after more than 20 years with the company, his position had been eliminated. He and other laid-off colleagues received a <a href="" target="_blank">letter</a> listing their options: They could reapply for an open position or "leave Whole Foods immediately" with a severance package&mdash;which will be sweetened if they agree not to reapply for six months. If laid-off employees manage to snag a new position that pays less than the old one did, they are eligible for a temporary pay bump to match the old wage, but only for a limited time.</p> <p>Those fortunate enough to get rehired at the same pay rate may be signing up for more work and responsibility. At his store, the laid-off buyer told me, ex-workers are now vying for buyer positions that used to be handled by two people&mdash;who "can barely get their work done as it is."&nbsp;</p> <p>My regional office source told me that the layoffs and downscaling of wages for experienced staffers is part of a deliberate shift toward part-time employees. Whole Foods has "always&nbsp;been an 80/20 company," the source said, referring to it ratio of full- to part-time workers. Recently, a "mandate came down to go 70/30, and there are regions that are below that: 65/35 or 60/40." Store managers are "incentivized to bring down that ratio," the source added.</p> <p>Employees working more than 20 hours per week are eligible for benefits once they've "successfully completed a probationary period of employment," the Whole Foods <a href="">website</a> notes. But some key benefits are tied to hours worked. For example, employees get a "personal wellness account" to offset the "cost of deductibles and other qualified out-of-pocket health care expenses not covered by insurance," but the amount is based on "service hours."</p> <p>And part-time employees tend not to stick around. My regional source said that annual turnover rates for part-timers at Whole Foods stores approach 80 percent in some regions. According to an internal document I obtained, the national annualized turnover rate for part-time Whole Foods team members was more than triple that of full-timers&mdash;66 percent versus about 18 percent&mdash;in the latest quarterly assessment. "Whole Foods has always been a high-touch, high-service model with dedicated, engaged, knowledgeable employees&acirc;&#128;&#139;,"&acirc;&#128;&#139; the source said. "How do you maintain that, having to [constantly] train a new batch of employees?"</p> <p>Of course, Whole Foods operates in a hypercompetitive industry. Long a dominant player in natural foods, it now has to vie with Walmart, Trader Joe's, and regional supermarket chains in the organic sector. Lower prices are key to staying competitive, and in order to maintain the same profit margins with lower prices, you have to cut your expenditures. Whole Foods' labor costs, according to my regional source, are equal to about 20 percent of sales&mdash;twice the industry standard.</p> <p>It's not unusual for a publicly traded company to respond to a market swoon by pushing down wages and sending workers packing. But Whole Foods presents itself as a different kind of company. As part of its <a href="" target="_blank">"core values,"</a> Whole Foods <a href="" target="_blank">claims</a> to "support team member [employee] happiness and excellence." Yet at a time when the company's share price is floundering and its <a href="" target="_blank">largest institutional shareholder</a> is Wall Street behemoth Goldman Sachs&mdash;which owns nearly 6 percent of its stock&mdash;that value may be harder to uphold.</p> <p>Workers join unions precisely to protect themselves from employers that see slashing labor costs as a way to please Wall Street. "There's a fear of unions coming in, because employees are bitter," the regional-office source said. "People talk about it in hushed tones." &nbsp;</p></body></html> Tom Philpott Food and Ag Sat, 03 Oct 2015 10:00:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 285796 at Why Do I Like Reza Farazmand's Stupid Comics So Much? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="caption"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/EARS.jpg"><div class="caption">Reza Farazmand</div> </div> </div> <p>Does a man ever grow up? Apparently not. I'm a geezer, for Chrissake, and I can't stop laughing at <em>Poorly Drawn Lines</em>. That's the popular <a href="" target="_blank">web comic</a> by Reza Farazmand that, come October 6, you can acquire <a href="" target="_blank">in the form of ink rolled onto processed and flattened dead trees</a>. You know, a book.</p> <p>Farazmand's gags are, if not poorly drawn, then simply drawn. They poke fun at technology, art, metaphysics, human (and creature) foibles, and the meaning of life. For the most part, they're kind of juvenile and super jaded, kind of like <em>The Far Side</em> meets <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Mad</em> magazine</a>, except with more swearing. Naturally, my 13-year-old loves 'em. And although they're hit or miss,&nbsp;like all comics, I love 'em, too.</p> <p>The book's very first strip reads as follows:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Buffalo:</strong> Some buffalo can jump as high as 36 feet.</p> <p><strong>Man:</strong> That's not true.</p> <p><strong>Buffalo:</strong> Some buffalo are lonely and lie to gain attention.</p> <p>[<em>They pause to consider.</em>]</p> <p><strong>Buffalo:</strong> Some buffalo would be down to get a drink later, or...</p> <p><strong>Man:</strong> I have a thing tonight.</p> <p><strong>Buffalo:</strong> Okay.</p> </blockquote> <p>If I have to explain why that's funny, you don't deserve to get it. (Sorry, Mom.) But plenty of people do, judging from the strip's 650,000-plus <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook fans</a>. Here are some more examples from the book:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/the-owl.jpg"><div class="caption">Reza Farazmand<br><br> &nbsp;</div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/beginning.jpg"><div class="caption">Reza Farazmand</div> </div> </div></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/mixed-media/2015/09/reza-farazmand-poorly-drawn-lines-book"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Mixed Media Cartoons Books Sat, 03 Oct 2015 10:00:08 +0000 Michael Mechanic 285041 at Ben Carson Just Showed the Other GOP Candidates How to Talk About Clean Energy <!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>When asked at a Friday appearance in Iowa if he'd support 50 percent clean energy in the United States by 2030, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson replied, "I want more than 50 percent."</p> <p>The 50 percent by 2030 mark comes from the advocacy group NextGen Climate, which has launched a campaign pushing candidates on the issue. And while Carson hasn't yet released any details on how he plans to accomplish this goal&mdash;and sometimes <a href="" target="_blank">struggles to explain</a> what climate change is, exactly&mdash;the former neurosurgeon has recently voiced his support for green issues.</p> <p>"I don't care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative, if you have any thread of decency in you, you want to take care of the environment because you know you have to pass it on to the next generation," he <a href="" target="_blank">said Wednesday.</a> "There is no reason to make it into a political issue."</p></body></html> MoJo 2016 Elections Climate Change Energy Fri, 02 Oct 2015 23:26:35 +0000 Gabrielle Canon 286051 at