Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Globalization Isn't Dead, But It's Taking a Nap <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> says that <a href="" target="_blank">globalization is dead,</a> killed on a rising tide of financial crisis, populism, and nationalist politics. Some threads of their evidence are more convincing than others, but a quick look at global trade shows that they have a point:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_world_trade.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Since 2011, world trade (in both merchandise and services) has grown at a rate of about 0.8 percent per year. By 2014 it had barely recovered to its pre-recession high. That compares to a growth rate of over 17 percent per year in the first eight years of the century. Globalization may not be dead, but it's definitely taking a nap.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:18:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 329241 at Why Does Apple Object to News About Drone Strikes? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Intercept</em>, Josh Begley has a story that's disturbing&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">but not in the usual <em>Intercept</em> way:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Five years ago, I made a simple iPhone app. It would send you a push notification every time a U.S. drone strike was reported in the news. Apple rejected the app three times, calling it &ldquo;excessively objectionable or crude content.&rdquo;</p> <p>....In 2014, after five rejections, Apple accepted the app....But the following September, Apple decided to delete the app entirely. They claimed that the content, once again, was &ldquo;excessively objectionable or crude.&rdquo;...Well, Apple&rsquo;s position has evolved. Today, after 12 attempts, the Metadata app is back in the App Store.</p> <p>....<strong>Update: 2:32pm.</strong> Apple has removed Metadata from the App Store.</p> </blockquote> <p>There is, needless to say, nothing objectionable or crude about this app. It merely aggregates news on a particular subject. Drone strikes themselves may be objectionable and crude&mdash;opinions differ, obviously&mdash;but reporting on them isn't.</p> <p>This matters. Upwards of half of all Americans get some or most of their news from their mobile devices, and for all practical purposes there are only two options in the mobile device world: iOS and Android. If you can't get an app accepted on either platform, then no one will ever see your app. Apple and Google are the sole gateways to what we can and can't see.</p> <p>Now, there are obviously other ways of getting the news. There may even be a website that aggregates drone news the same way Begley's app does. Still, there's no question that an app can do things a news site can't. It can make the news more immediate. It can make sure you don't miss anything. It can allow you to share more easily with fellow activists.</p> <p>When Google and Apple are just keeping out porn sites, no one really cares. Even when they're nixing apps that happen to compete with Apple or Google, people mostly shrug. But when they start censoring apps based on their news content, we're in trouble. If there were dozens of mobile platforms, and none of them had a big market share, it might not matter too much. Competition would probably sort things out. But when there are only two, it matters a lot. There may still be plenty of news outlets, but in a real-world sense we're increasingly outsourcing our news to a tiny number of players&mdash;mostly Apple, Google, and Facebook. We may wake up some morning and be sorry we did that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:16:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 329186 at EU-Britain Divorce Will Get Started... Someday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Prime Minister Theresa May submitted an official notice today the Great Britain will be <a href="" target="_blank">exiting the European Union:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now that Prime Minister May has officially given notice to Tusk, the next step is to begin negotiations <em>about</em> the negotiations. <strong>In about a month,</strong> the UK and EU will formally sit down to come to terms on how the negotiations will work.</p> <p>&ldquo;Most of the formal stuff that will be agreed upon in the big meetings has already been penciled in,&rdquo; Tim Oliver, an expert on the EU at the London School of Economics, tells me....Ultimately, Oliver believes, &ldquo;nothing substantive&rdquo; will be agreed upon until <strong>after the French presidential election in April and the German parliamentary election in late September.</strong> That&rsquo;s because the French and Germans are, by far, the two most important EU member states. Without a firm sense of who their leaders will be in the coming years, it will be impossible to know what terms the EU might agree to.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, nothing really happens for the next six months. And that's totally OK because, hey, that still leaves 18 months to negotiate the biggest, messiest divorce in treaty history. Plenty of time. No need for any sense of urgency here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 14:35:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 329171 at California Should Leave Undercover Video Activists Alone <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Remember the undercover Planned Parenthood videos that caused such a fuss last year? Their creators, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, <a href="" target="_blank">are back in the news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Two antiabortion activists whose controversial undercover videos accused Planned Parenthood doctors of selling fetal tissue were charged Tuesday with more than a dozen felonies by California prosecutors.</p> <p>....Prosecutors contend Daleiden and Merritt used fake identities and a fabricated medical research company, BioMax Procurement Services, to secure the meetings with healthcare providers, according to court papers filed in San Francisco Superior Court. Prosecutors also contend they made secret recordings of attendees and speakers at the National Abortion Federation&rsquo;s 2014 conference in San Francisco.</p> </blockquote> <p>I continue to have zero sympathy for these two. They edited their videos deceptively and basically lied about everything they did. Nevertheless, I don't like the idea of prosecuting them. This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it. The First Amendment doesn't say anything one way or the other about how honest one's speech has to be.</p> <p>This also strikes me as political grandstanding. I imagine that if this were a couple of liberal activists secretly recording meetings with anti-immigration groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra wouldn't so eager to go after them.</p> <p>Needless to say, I Am Not A Lawyer, and there might be a good case that they broke California law. If they did, though, so much the worse for California law.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 04:44:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 329166 at Trump Keeps Asking For More Military Spending. He's Not Going to Get It. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Not satisfied with proposing $54 billion in domestic spending cuts for next year, today President Trump asked Congress to <a href="" target="_blank">cut $18 billion in what's left of the current fiscal year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House is asking Congress to cut $18 billion from discretionary spending bills for the current fiscal year that have been long settled &mdash; a move that could threaten a major showdown just a month ahead of the deadline to keep the government funded....<strong>The $17.94 billion cut would help pay for Trump&rsquo;s military supplemental request, which was sent to Congress earlier this month.</strong> About $2 billion would also go towards Trump&rsquo;s proposed wall along the Mexican border.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is yet another half-baked Trump idea, and it's the last thing Congress needs on its plate right now. Health care failed because they tried to rush it through, and now they have a grand total of 65 legislative days to work on tax reform and finish up the budget for next year. They really can't afford to waste their time on dumb stuff like this.</p> <p>Aside from that, I continue to be perplexed about this whole thing. These cuts are supposed to pay for Trump's $30 billion supplemental military request, $25 billion of which is targeted for the Pentagon's base budget. But Congress can't do that. The sequester caps prevent it, and there's no way to increase the caps without Democratic cooperation. John Boehner struck a bipartisan deal to do that in 2015, but there's no way Republicans are going to get a similar deal while also proposing whopping big domestic cuts.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_discretionary_spending_2006_2020_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The same is true of Trump's proposal to increase military spending $54 billion next year. So what's the point of all this? I can think of three basic scenarios that Trump might be hoping for:</p> <ol><li>Ask for the extra $54 billion in military spending, and then settle for less by agreeing to smaller cuts in domestic spending.</li> <li>Do a deal with Democrats that increases both military and domestic spending, but increases military spending more.</li> <li>Same as #2, but also kills sequester caps permanently.</li> </ol><p>None of these seem especially likely, and only #2 seems even remotely within the realm of the plausible. The Democratic position right now is that they'll increase military spending caps only if domestic caps are raised by the same amount. They <em>might</em> agree to a smaller increase for domestic spending, but there's no chance they'll go any further. Why should they? Trump really doesn't have any leverage here.</p> <p>One possibility, of course, is that Congress will put all $54 billion into the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, which isn't affected by the sequester caps. But if that's the plan, why not propose the same thing for this year's request? Am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 22:41:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 329161 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is our new Hello Kitty Cafe at the Spectrum shopping center. You're jealous, aren't you? You wish <em>you</em> had a Hello Kitty Cafe.</p> <p>This picture was taken shortly before I was kicked off the property.<sup>1</sup> Snapping pictures with cell phones is fine, it turns out, but the security guards are told to watch out for anyone with a "high end" camera. No management pass, no picture taking.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Not really <em>kicked off</em>, actually. Just told to stop taking pictures by the security guard, who was very nice. But there was no point in staying if I couldn't take any pictures.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_hello_kitty_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 329121 at In Private, It Turns Out That Trump Is Pretty Much the Same <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Roger Cohen writes about the Trump-Merkel meeting <a href="" target="_blank">a couple of weeks ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Donald Trump met Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany earlier this month, <strong>he put on one of his most truculent and ignorant performances.</strong> He wanted money&mdash;piles of it&mdash;for Germany's defense, raged about the financial killing China was making from last year's Paris climate accord and kept "frequently and brutally changing the subject when not interested, which was the case with the European Union."</p> <p><strong>&hellip;Trump's preparedness was roughly that of a fourth grader</strong>&hellip;Trump knew nothing of the proposed European-American deal known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, little about Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Minsk agreements, <strong>and was so scatterbrained that German officials concluded that the president's daughter Ivanka, who had no formal reason to be there, was the more prepared and helpful.</strong></p> <p>Merkel is not one to fuss. <strong>But Trump's behavior appalled her entourage</strong> and reinforced a conclusion already reached about this presidency in several European capitals: It is possible to do business with Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, <strong>but these officials are flying blind because above them at the White House rages a whirlwind of incompetence and ignorance.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I'm sure glad that Republicans are restoring the respect for America that we lost after eight years of that empty suit Barack Obama.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 19:22:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 329141 at Your Morning in Tweets <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's been one of those mornings. My best source to capture the flavor of the news today is my Twitter feed. In no particular order:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Spicer says there is a double standard. when leaks to press, focus on substance. with nunes info, people focused on what nunes up to <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Laura Rozen (@lrozen) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Um, sure, except that Nunes <em>won't show us the substance of the leak</em> and <em>misled everyone about where it came from</em>. Other than that, spot on. And as long as we're on the subject of Nunes:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Monday: Nunes' spox: Comey "couldn't come in tomorrow as we hoped."<br> Today: FBI: No official request for Comey's testimony was ever received.</p> &mdash; Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Back to the White House now. Here is April Ryan, Washington Bureau Chief for American Urban Radio Networks:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="cy">Lawd!!!!</p> &mdash; AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Huh? What's that about? Oh:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Sean Spicer tells reporter April Ryan not to shake her head. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Axios (@axios) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Got anything else for us today, Sean?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@EamonJavers</a> asks Press Sec. Spicer if there&rsquo;s an estimate of coal jobs that will be created w/ today's exec. order<br><br> "I'm not aware of one" <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; CNBC Now (@CNBCnow) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Roger that. Let's move on to someone else in the White House:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This exchange between a senior White House official and a reporter on climate change is.... not great. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Emily Atkin (@emorwee) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>So they've moved on from denying climate change, and are now denying that they're even aware of what scientists say about climate change. Where are they going to be by 2020?</p> <p>Finally, on a completely different subject:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"Antitrust is dead, isn't it? That was my impression." - Posner, 7th Cir judge and antitrust giant <a href="">#StiglerConcentration</a></p> &mdash; Lina Khan (@linamkhan) <a href="">March 28, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Unfortunately, yes, I think it is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 18:31:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 329116 at Who Was Devin Nunes' Secret White House Source? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from further involvement in the Russia probe. This comes after Nunes' bizarre unveiling of supposed evidence that the Obama White House really did surveil Trump aides during the transition. Nunes still hasn't shown his evidence to anyone, and it appears increasingly likely that it doesn't really show anything at all. Nor will he tell us who he met with on the White House grounds to procure his evidence. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Michael Isikoff:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Schiff statement came as panel staffers speculated on the possible identity of Nunes&rsquo; White House source, <strong>focusing on Michael Ellis, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on the intelligence panel and who was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House counsel&rsquo;s office.</strong> A White House official and spokesman for Nunes declined to comment on whether Ellis was involved in providing information to Nunes, as did a spokesman for Schiff. White <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_michael_ellis_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 20px 15px 30px;">House press secretary Sean Spicer insisted that White House officials were not aware of Nunes&rsquo; secret trip to meet his source and referred all questions to Nunes&rsquo; office.</p> <p>Democrats have been furious that Nunes has yet to describe precisely the classified intelligence he has seen. Nor has he shared any documents with others on the House intelligence panel. Nunes, for his part, defended his previously undisclosed trip to the White House grounds, telling CNN&rsquo;s Wolf Blitzer that he had to view the classified documents in an executive branch location because the intelligence community had not yet provided them to Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p>Michael Ellis is a former editor-in-chief of the <em>Dartmouth Review</em> and a longtime "promising young conservative." Sadly, <a href="" target="_blank">he's not related to the Ellis side of the Bush family,</a> which would have been great.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:51:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 329081 at Trump Team Continues to Act Guilty Over Russia Ties <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One of my complaints about Hillary Clinton during the email affair was the fact that she sometimes acted guilty even when she wasn't. Now it's Donald Trump's turn. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is the <em>Washington Post</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress</strong> in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign, <em>The Washington Post</em> has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.</p> <p>....Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, <strong>had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made,</strong> according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates&rsquo;s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yates, you'll recall, was the acting attorney general left over from the Obama administration who Trump fired for refusing to defend his first immigration order in court.</p> <p>This whole Russia thing is crazy. Whenever I start believing there's really something there, I feel like I'm turning into a nutball conspiracy theorist. But if there <em>isn't</em> anything there, it's plenty odd that the Trump team keeps acting as if there were.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:05:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 329076 at Leverage and Liquidity Are the Keys to a Strong Banking System <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm a big fan of higher capital ratios (i.e., lower leverage) as a way of making the banking system safer, so I was disturbed when Tyler Cowen pointed to a new paper suggesting that high capital ratios don't reduce the likelihood of financial crises. Instead, a team of researchers suggests that what's more important is the <em>type</em> of capital a bank has. Deposits are the most stable source of funding for any bank, and liquidity is king. Put these together, <a href="" target="_blank">and what's important is the loan-to-deposit ratio:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bank_capital_ltd.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>As you can see, the LtD ratio rose steadily in the postwar era, doubling from 50 percent to over 100 percent by 2008. This indicates that credit was expanding, with banks making more loans for every dollar in deposits they took in. This, the authors say, is a better predictor of financial crises than raw leverage:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bank_capital_different_indicators.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>In this triptych, capital ratios are in the middle, and they don't change much before and after a financial crisis (denoted by Year 0). However, right before a financial crisis there's a steady <em>decline</em> in deposits as a percentage of total assets (which indicates a decline in the quality an;d stability of a bank's capital base) and a steady <em>rise</em> in the loan-to-deposit ratio. These are the indicators that seem to be associated with financial crises.</p> <p>So is there any point to higher capital standards? Yes indeed: they may not <em>prevent</em> financial crises, but they make <em>recovery</em> from a financial crisis much quicker. Just compare the green line and the red line in the charts below:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bank_capital_recoveries.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Both of these charts show the same thing: in countries with higher capital ratios, recovery from a financial crisis was far faster. Five years out, the difference was a full 13 percentage points of GDP per capita.</p> <p>If these researchers are right&mdash;and I'll add the usual caveats about this being only one study etc.&mdash;then the key to a strong, resilient banking system is twofold: a low loan-to-deposit ratio produces a liquid capital base that helps avoid financial crises, while a low leverage ratio produces the necessary capital to recover quickly if a financial crisis hits anyway.</p> <p>Leverage and liquidity are key. In one sense, this is nothing new, since anyone could have told you that. But this paper suggests that they're important for slightly different reasons than we thought.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 15:24:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 329071 at Trump Set to Take an Axe to Climate Change Rules <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is all completely expected, but it's still depressing as hell. The Trump administration has already approved two new pipelines and said it will reconsider tougher fuel economy standards that Barack Obama put in place, but that was just the start. The <em>LA Times</em> reports that Trump's willful destruction of the planet <a href="" target="_blank">will kick into high gear tomorrow:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump on Tuesday will order the Environmental Protection Agency to <strong>dismantle his predecessor&rsquo;s landmark climate effort,</strong> backing away from an aggressive plan to cut emissions at power plants that had been the foundation of America&rsquo;s leadership on confronting global warming....The directive that administration officials said Trump will issue takes aim at the <strong>Clean Power Plan,</strong> a far-reaching initiative former President Obama signed in 2015.</p> <p>....Trump&rsquo;s plans to curb climate action also reach well beyond power plants. A pioneering EPA rule that sets a <strong>&ldquo;social cost&rdquo; for carbon,</strong> placing a dollar value on the long-term damage caused by each ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, will be eliminated. An Obama-era requirement that all government agencies <strong>factor climate effects into their decision making,</strong> particularly as they launch new projects, is also targeted. Trump will also <strong>lift a moratorium on coal leasing</strong> on federal land.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh, and apropos of Trump gutting climate change rules because climate change totally isn't a real thing, a paper published today suggests that climate change is <a href="" target="_blank">permanently altering the jet stream</a> in a way that produces conditions during the summer that are more favorable to long episodes of extreme weather. That means more extreme droughts, more extreme heat waves, more extreme rain, and so forth. No worries, though. Trump will be sure to take care of everyone affected by this stuff. You can count on it.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_qra_climate_change.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:55:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 329061 at Kid Confuses Waterheater For Robot, Hugs "Robot," Shows World What Love Truly Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is so intensely adorable.</p> <p>And&nbsp; I want you to know that I do not find most things adorable.</p> <p>People might tell you that I find things adorable or that I may have found things adorable in the past but people lie. People LIE. It's what they do.</p> <p>Liars, the lot of them.</p> <p>Never in my life have I found anything cute or adorable.</p> <p>Cynical! That's my bag, doll. I dance to the beat of a heartless drum. Sad, worn-out, on my own. When I was young I would go from town to town and witness all the things collected in the local papers that were said to be cute or adorable and I would be unmoved by them. The townsfolk, they would say, "here comes that unmovable machine who feels not for cute things. For he is the bane of our existence! Never admitting how adorable or cute our things are!" And I would try to explain to them that it wasn't personal. "It's a calling, not a job."</p> <p>But they wouldn't hear. Or at least couldn't forgive.</p> <p>Yet, here I am. Captain Cynical, voted most cynical 3 years running in the Blaine County (Idaho) Cynics' Fare, which you shouldn't try to look up because though it is a real thing that existed when I lived in Blaine County in the early aughts the records were destroyed in a flood. Don't look up the flood either. The records of the flood were destroyed in a fire&mdash;HEY MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET OFF MY BACK, YEAH?</p> <p>I didn't come here for a Spanish inquisition. I came here on a mission from the Care Bears to warm your cold hearts.</p> <p>Anyway, here's the video. I don't know anything about it. Could be fake. Maybe the kid is an actor. Maybe the robot is an actor. Maybe I'm an actor. Maybe acting is a construct. Maybe we should talk about this at Burning Man.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This little girl thought a broken water heater is a real life robot. It's just not fair how cute it is <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ben Tolmachoff (@bentolmachoff) <a href="">March 27, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Have a great night.</p></body></html> Contributor Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:16:30 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 329051 at Lead Update: White Folks and Alabama Prisoners <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's been...weeks, at least, since I've mentioned lead and crime, and today I got two nice little anecdotes at once. The first is from lead researcher extraordinaire Rick Nevin, <a href="" target="_blank">who directs our attention to this chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nevin_albama_prison_population.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>As predicted by the lead-crime theory, the prison population of younger cohorts (15-25) has dropped the most. The 26-30 cohort is flat, and the older cohorts are making up a bigger proportion of the total prison population. Why? Because everyone under 30 grew up in a fairly lead-free environment, so they're less likely to commit serious crimes than similar cohorts in the past. 35-year-olds grew up at the tail end of the lead era, and are still moderately crime prone. Older cohorts were heavily lead poisoned as kids, and they've remained more crime prone even as they've grown older.</p> <p>If you have a good memory, you may also recall <a href="" target="_blank">a post I wrote four years ago</a> explaining that lead poisoning affected blacks and Hispanics more than whites because they were more likely to grow up in dense urban environments with a lot of auto exhaust. Because of this, during the great crime wave of the 60s and 70s, their crime rates went up faster than white crime rates. The flip side of this is that with lead mostly gone, their crime rates are <em>dropping</em> faster than they are for whites. We can see this in the declining share of the jail population made up by blacks and Hispanics. Keith Humphreys shows us the mirror image of this, <a href="" target="_blank">the rising share of the jail population made up by whites:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_humphreys_white_jail_population.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>The lead hypothesis predicts that young cohorts are less crime prone than older cohorts, so their share of the jail and prison population should decline. It predicts that black crime rates will drop faster than white crime rates. And it also predicts that small-city crime rates will drop faster than big-city crime rates. All of these things have turned out to be true.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:49:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 328976 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We have our first baby waterfowl of the season! These are baby Egyptian geese, which the <a href="" target="_blank">Nestor of the 21st Century</a> informs me are actually ducks. Shelducks, to be exact. Aren't these little shelducklings adorable?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_baby_egyptian_geese_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 328926 at Trump Job Approval Continues Free Fall <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's your weekly look at <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump's job approval rating.</a> He's now in a net hole of 15 percentage points, and still falling.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_trump_job_approval_2017_03_27.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:40:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 328951 at Who Wins and Who Loses From TrumpamaCare? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Earlier this morning</a> I sketched out a possible compromise between Obamacare and Trumpcare that might have a chance of getting through Congress if everyone agrees to a plan that would rely on both Republican <em>and</em> Democratic votes. I consider the odds of such a thing small, but nevertheless it's worth looking at why nearly everyone should find this idea attractive:</p> <ul><li><strong>Donald Trump</strong> gets a big win. Paul Ryan couldn't get his plan through Congress, but then Trump steps in and pulls off a huge deal. His presidency is back on track.</li> <li><strong>Republicans in Congress</strong> get an albatross off their backs. Right now, health care is a loser for them, and the Freedom Caucus is riding high. But if they pass a bipartisan plan, it sticks a finger in the eye of the FC ultras. And if they're worried about their base, they don't have to be. Trump will sell the hell out of the plan, and his fans will buy it.</li> <li><strong>Democrats</strong> have to make some concessions, but in return they get stability and permanence&mdash;and the possibility of future enhancements&mdash;for a social welfare program they've been trying to get enacted for decades.</li> <li><strong>The health care industry</strong> gets some certainty about the future, along with a system that promises to be a moneymaker for them.</li> </ul><p>Who are the losers in this deal? Hardly anyone. The ultras lose, but everyone wants them to lose. Rich people lose a bit because they continue paying a modest tax, but frankly, I haven't noticed that rich people are all that upset about it. They care more about capital gains taxes and top marginal rates. Talk radio shouters lose a reliable audience pot stirrer, but they'll support Trump in the end. And they have plenty of other ways of keeping their listeners at a fever pitch of outrage anyway.</p> <p>Oh, and I almost forgot: the American people would be big winners too. Already, Obamacare covers 20 million people. A new and improved TrumpamaCare would probably get to 30 million within a few years.</p> <p>Given all this, it's almost insane that this deal isn't likely to happen.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:38:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 328931 at The White House Is Looking Pretty Swampy These Days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a quick tour through the Donald Trump swamp today:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Jared Kushner,</strong></a> who has no evident qualification aside from being married to the boss's daughter, has been named to head up a new White House Office of American Innovation, which will have "sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy and fulfill key campaign promises &mdash; such as reforming care for veterans and fighting opioid addiction &mdash; by harvesting ideas from the business world and, potentially, privatizing some government functions." I guess that bringing peace to the Middle East wasn't enough to keep Kushner busy.</p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Trump pal Carl Icahn</a></strong> is working on a plan to change the rule that governs the way corn-based ethanol is mixed into gasoline. Icahn is also the majority stakeholder in CVR Energy, which would have saved more than $200 million last year under Icahn's proposed change.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Rep. Devin Nunes,</strong></a> one of Trump's most loyal spear carriers, announced last week that there "might" have been "incidental" surveillance of some folks "close" to Donald Trump. But where did his bombshell come from? It turns out that Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds. So his "source" is most likely the White House itself. Maybe even Trump himself. It wouldn't be the first time Trump has done something like this.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess that's it for today. The day is young, though, so you never know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 16:04:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 328921 at On Retirement, There's a Big Disconnect Between Today's Workers and Actual Retirees <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The folks at EBRI have published the results of the 27th annual Retirement Confidence Survey, and once again it shows a puzzling disconnect between workers&mdash;who are relatively pessimistic about retirement&mdash;and actual retirees. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's an example:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ebri_worker_retiree_confidence.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Generally speaking, workers are a lot more nervous about retirement than actual retirees. What's even more interesting, the disconnect began in the early aughts, when the economy was still booming. Since then, the gap has continued to grow. The 2017 results are only one data point, but they show a gap of 19 percentage points. What's going on? Why are workers so nervous, while actual retirees are reporting increased confidence?</p> <p>Here's another chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ebri_worker_retiree_age.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Workers are apparently convinced that they'll never retire young and will most likely have to work forever. Actual retirees tell a much different story: 39 percent retired before age 60 and only 4 percent kept working after age 70.</p> <p>I know it's fashionable to talk about how screwed Xers and millennials are, and how 401(k)s have wrecked retirement. <a href="" target="_blank">But the data just flatly doesn't back this up.</a> Millennials earn incomes that are <a href="" target="_blank">pretty similar</a> to boomers, and 401(k)s have turned out to be <a href="" target="_blank">comparable</a> to old-style pensions. It's true that the Social Security retirement age has increased, which might account for some of the difference in expected retirement age, but only in the 65-69 age band.</p> <p>Actual retirees have a message for us: things aren't so bad. In reality, the vast majority of them retired by age 65 and the vast majority say they're financially comfortable. It's likely to be pretty much the same for today's workers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:29:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 328916 at Combining Obamacare and Trumpcare Might Save Health Insurance <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Is bipartisanship coming back into style? With Republicans hopelessly divided, Reince Priebus suggested this morning that maybe it was time to <a href="" target="_blank">work with Democrats on health care reform:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s time for our folks to come together,&rdquo; Mr. Priebus said, adding that it is time to &ldquo;potentially get a few moderate Democrats on board, as well&rdquo; as they try to bring down premiums and stabilize insurance markets.</p> <p>That appeal was echoed by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican who opposed the House Republicans&rsquo; health bill and has also worked with Democrats to explore changes to the Affordable Care Act without repealing it.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't know if this is just wishful thinking, but there might be a deal to be made here. Obamacare has a number of smallish problems but only one big one: Its insurance pool is unbalanced, with too many older-sicker (OS) customers and too few younger-healthier (YH) customers. Insurers expected differently back in 2013, which is why they priced their policies too low at first, eventually leading to big premium increases last year. It's also why several insurers have pulled out of the Obamacare market entirely. Fix the pool, and you fix a bunch of other problems at the same time.</p> <p>So how do we get more YH folks to buy insurance? There are carrots and sticks, and the biggest stick is to strengthen the individual mandate by increasing the tax penalty for not buying insurance (and tightening up enforcement). However, the individual mandate is the single most hated part of Obamacare among Republicans, so there's not much chance of doing anything there. At the same time, we also can't replace the mandate with Trumpcare's continuous coverage provision, since the CBO seems pretty convinced that this would decimate the market. Basically, this has to be left alone.</p> <p>But what about carrots? The best way of attracting more YH customers is to make policies cheaper for them. There are several ways of doing this, but one way would be to combine the income-based subsidies of Obamacare with the age-based subsidies of Trumpcare. Something like this:</p> <ul><li>Reduce the income-based subsidies by about a third.</li> <li>Add a flat-rate version of Trumpcare's age-based subsidies: $500 per person across the board.</li> <li>Change the age band to 4:1, a compromise between Obamacare and Trumpcare.</li> <li>Ensure continued funding of Cost Sharing Reductions.</li> </ul><p>This would probably be more popular than Obamacare's current subsidies, since middle-class workers would at least get something to help them out with insurance even if they made too much money to qualify for today's income-based subsidies. Nobody would be left out completely. Here's a rough guess at how this would look for a single individual:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_vs_merged_plan_subsidies.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Obviously there would be winners and losers here. Somebody with a detailed model would need to analyze this, but my horseback guess is that the overall changes would be fairly modest. Still, if the middle class gets a bigger share, the poor will get a smaller share. Likewise, if the young get a bigger share thanks to the widened age band, the old will get less. There's no way around that arithmetic unless Republicans are willing to increase the total subsidy level. But these are concessions that might be worth making.</p> <p>What else? We have to leave the taxes in place, but Republicans seem to have a real issue with the medical devices tax. Democrats could agree to get rid of it. Maybe the employer mandate could also be repealed, since it doesn't seem to be all that necessary.</p> <p>The devil, as always, is in the details, and there are other issues with Obamacare that could be shored up too. But balancing the pool is really the biggest one, and adopting a compromise between Obamacare and Trumpcare might do a workable job of fixing that.</p> <p>Could this happen? Republicans, as we know, are averse to compromise of any sort because it brings instant charges of selling out from the true believers. But the true believers aren't very popular right now, so maybe Republicans would be willing&mdash;even eager!&mdash;to use this as a chance to take them down a peg. Among Democrats, the biggest opposition to a deal is going to come from people who don't want to give Donald Trump a victory of any kind. But for a chance to stabilize a program they've spent decades trying to get passed, they might be willing to talk.</p> <p>Bipartisanship is in poor odor these days, so maybe this is all just pie in the sky. But it's at least worth investigating. After all, we don't need everybody on board, just 60 percent of each caucus. That might be doable.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:40:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 328906 at James Mattis Wants to Increase America's Role in Yemen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Oh goody:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked the White House to lift Obama-era restrictions on U.S. military support for Persian Gulf states engaged in a protracted civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to senior Trump administration officials.</p> <p>....Approval of the request would mark a significant policy shift. U.S. military activity in Yemen until now has been confined mainly to counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda&rsquo;s affiliate there....It would also be a clear signal of the administration&rsquo;s intention to move more aggressively against Iran. The Trump White House, in far stronger terms than its predecessor, has echoed Saudi and Emirati charges that Iran is training, arming and directing the Shiite Houthis in a proxy war to increase its regional clout against the Gulf&rsquo;s Sunni monarchies.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Yemen civil war is one of the dirtiest little wars around. It's yet another proxy Sunni-Shia conflict, and it's not helped by the fact that the Saudi Arabians are fairly incompetent at prosecuting it. We're not going to be willing to endlessly fund an incompetent war, so if we get more heavily involved there's no telling where it ends. I hope somebody is asking James Mattis exactly what he thinks the long-term game plan is here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 04:46:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 328911 at Dinnertime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm sure you're all waiting eagerly for the results of the Irvine <a href=";pg=entry" target="_blank">Reaching for the Cure Half Marathon</a> today. Sadly, MoJo's stringer, who happens to live right on the course, fell down on the job. The first-place man ran by him while he was dicking around doing something else, and the first place woman was hopelessly out of focus.</p> <p>The good news is that we got a fine photo of the second-place woman. Here is Arizona Cardinals fan Natasha Gunaratne, who took second place&mdash;and first in the 25-29 age category&mdash;with a time of 1:31:00:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_half_marathon_natasha_gunaratne.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 01:14:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 328901 at BREAKING: Donald Trump Played Golf This Weekend <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The sad thing about this tweet is that it really would be news if Donald Trump was at the White House working this weekend:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">News Alert: <a href="">@POTUS</a> spending weekend working at the White House. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Fox News (@FoxNews) <a href="">March 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>But no: Trump played golf at his club in Virginia this weekend, so it's not clear what Fox was up to here. Perhaps they <em>meant</em> to say that by 5:26 pm on Sunday, Trump was back in the White House.</p> <p>Normally, I'd suggest that everyone cool it with the golf snark. We've now had four consecutive presidents who have taken endless grief every time they hit the links, and it's pretty stupid. Let 'em golf if they want to. But there are two differences with Trump. First, the guy really does play a ton of golf. You'd think the first few months of a new presidency would be a busy time, but Trump has played 12 rounds of golf, mostly at Mar-a-Lago, in only ten weekends. That's more than he played before he was president. Second, like an embarrassed drunk, he's now trying to hide his golf addiction. This weekend marked the second in a row in which his press office tried to pretend that Trump was "meeting with people" at the club, only to have Trump's golfing exposed, as they must have known it would be, by someone with a cell phone tweeting out pictures. Why do they bother with such flimsy and easily exposed lies?</p> <p>And while we're on the subject of Trump, I'd like to note that he's hit the quadfecta <a href="" target="_blank">I predicted on Thursday.</a> He has now blamed all four of the following for the failure of Trumpcare:</p> <ul><li>Paul Ryan, for insisting on doing health care before tax reform and then being unable to shepherd the bill through the House.</li> <li>The Freedom Caucus, for voting against his bill.</li> <li>Democrats, for...being the opposition party, I guess.</li> <li>Obama, for deliberately designing Obamacare to fail in 2017.</li> </ul><p>Apparently Reince Priebus is also taking some heat from within the White House, because he's pals with Ryan and was supposed to know about all this congressional hoo ha. But it's not clear if Trump himself blames Priebus for anything.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Mar 2017 00:26:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 328896 at Did Donald Trump Really Hand Angela Merkel a "Bill" For NATO Services? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This story from the <em>Sunday Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">leaves me in a quandary:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill &mdash; thought to be for more than &pound;300bn &mdash; for money her country &ldquo;owed&rdquo; NATO for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed.</p> <p>The bill &mdash; handed over during private talks in Washington &mdash; was described as &ldquo;outrageous&rdquo; by one German minister. &ldquo;The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,&rdquo; the minister said.</p> </blockquote> <p>What to think? On the one hand, reporting on items like this from the British press is notoriously unreliable. On the other hand, it's moronic beyond belief, which makes it perfectly plausible that Trump might have done this. Hmmm.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_merkel_bill_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Mar 2017 19:11:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 328886 at Trump Throws Ryan Under the Bus in the Classiest Way Possible <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Friday&mdash;that's 24 hours ago for those of you with short memories&mdash;President Trump insisted that he had no hard feelings toward Paul Ryan. Ryan had worked hard on the health care bill, and it was just bad luck that it failed. In fact, it was really the fault of the Democrats, who hadn't provided a single vote. Not one!</p> <p>However, experienced Trump watchers noticed a brief aside: he mentioned that there <em>were</em> a few things he would have done differently&mdash;but he wasn't going to talk about that. This is Trump code for "I'm not to blame and I won't be able to bottle up my whining for long. I definitely <em>will</em> talk about these things eventually."</p> <p>So how long would Trump be able to hold his tongue? A few days? A whole week? Nope. About 18 hours, it turned out:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Watch <a href="">@JudgeJeanine</a> on <a href="">@FoxNews</a> tonight at 9:00 P.M.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">March 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And here's what Jeanine Pirro said a few hours after that on her Fox News program:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the house.The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his healthcare bill." <a href="">#openingstatement</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) <a href="">March 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>What a guy. Within 24 hours Trump is sticking a shiv in Paul Ryan's back without even a pretense of keeping it private. He doesn't have the guts to tell Ryan to his face, so instead he uses a TV show to pass along the message.</p> <p>The real message, of course, is that no one should ever work with Trump. He'll throw you under the bus at the first hint that he needs someone to take the blame for something that went awry. And maybe Ryan should take him up on this. When John Boehner retired and Kevin McCarthy flamed out, Republicans were literally left with no plausible candidates for Speaker who were acceptable to all factions of the party. Ryan was the only one who came close, so if he quits the GOP is in for some real chaos. That's just what they need as they try to get a budget in place and start work on a hugely complex tax cut for the rich.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Mar 2017 06:24:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 328881 at