Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2012/04/price-gas-still-. http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Lunchtime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/lunchtime-photo-1 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>We have our first baby waterfowl of the season! These are baby Egyptian geese, which the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_goose" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Trump Job Approval Continues Free Fall http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/trump-job-approval-continues-free-fall <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's your weekly look at <a href="http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/trump-job-approval" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Who Wins and Who Loses From TrumpamaCare? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/who-wins-and-who-loses-trumpamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/combining-obamacare-and-trumpcare-might-save-health-insurance" 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 http://www.motherjones.com The White House Is Looking Pretty Swampy These Days http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/white-house-looking-pretty-swampy-these-days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a quick tour through the Donald Trump swamp today:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-taps-kushner-to-lead-a-swat-team-to-fix-government-with-business-ideas/2017/03/26/9714a8b6-1254-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html" 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="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/26/us/politics/carl-icahn-trump-adviser-red-flags-ethics.html" 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="http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2017/03/27/nunes-made-secret-trip-to-white-house-for-wiretap-evidence.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com On Retirement, There's a Big Disconnect Between Today's Workers and Actual Retirees http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/retirement-theres-big-disconnect-between-todays-workers-and-actual-retirees <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="https://www.ebri.org/surveys/rcs/2017/" 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 show 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="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/08/my-retirement-reform-plan-one-third-one-third" target="_blank">But the data just flatly doesn't back this up.</a> Millennials earn incomes that are <a href="https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/tables/time-series/historical-income-people/p08ar.xls" target="_blank">pretty similar</a> to boomers, and 401(k)s have turned out to be <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/were-401k-plans-just-big-mistake" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Combining Obamacare and Trumpcare Might Save Health Insurance http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/combining-obamacare-and-trumpcare-might-save-health-insurance <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/26/us/politics/bipartisanship-health-care-congress-trump.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com James Mattis Wants to Increase America's Role in Yemen http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/james-mattis-wants-increase-americas-role-yemen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-administration-weighs-deeper-involvement-in-yemen-war/2017/03/26/b81eecd8-0e49-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Dinnertime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/dinnertime-photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm sure you're all waiting eagerly for the results of the Irvine <a href="http://cure.pcrf-kids.org/site/TR?fr_id=1120&amp;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 http://www.motherjones.com BREAKING: Donald Trump Played Golf This Weekend http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/breaking-donald-trump-played-golf-weekend <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="https://twitter.com/POTUS">@POTUS</a> spending weekend working at the White House. <a href="https://t.co/kAtZVQE2Mr">pic.twitter.com/kAtZVQE2Mr</a></p> &mdash; Fox News (@FoxNews) <a href="https://twitter.com/FoxNews/status/846112245797007360">March 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/republican-health-care-bill-dead-now" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Did Donald Trump Really Hand Angela Merkel a "Bill" For NATO Services? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/did-donald-trump-really-hand-angela-merkel-bill-nato-services <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This story from the <em>Sunday Times</em> <a href="http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/germany-dismisses-white-houses-intimidating-300bn-bill-for-defence-dl7dk629k" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Trump Throws Ryan Under the Bus in the Classiest Way Possible http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/trump-throws-ryan-under-bus-classiest-way-possible <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="https://twitter.com/JudgeJeanine">@JudgeJeanine</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/FoxNews">@FoxNews</a> tonight at 9:00 P.M.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/845646761704243200">March 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="https://twitter.com/hashtag/openingstatement?src=hash">#openingstatement</a> <a href="https://t.co/75WbI4mcYX">pic.twitter.com/75WbI4mcYX</a></p> &mdash; Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) <a href="https://twitter.com/JudgeJeanine/status/845807926413443072">March 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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 http://www.motherjones.com In Mosul, Yet Another Botched Operation http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/mosul-yet-another-botched-operation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A US airstrike in Mosul last week appears to have killed upwards of 200 civilians. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/world/middleeast/us-iraq-mosul-investigation-airstrike-civilian-deaths.html" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>American military officials insisted on Friday that the rules of engagement had not changed.</strong> They acknowledged, however, that American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had been heavier in an effort to press the Islamic State on multiple fronts.</p> <p>....Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State....<strong>Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened:</strong> Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses&rsquo; basements were filled with civilians.</p> <p>....Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration&rsquo;s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. <strong>Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes.</strong> Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration.</p> </blockquote> <p>This may simply be an appalling incident not related to any change in policy. Even with the best preparation, sometimes horrible things happen when you're at war. Still, in the past two months we've had a botched raid in Yemen; two attacks in Syria with heavy civilian casualties; and now an airstrike in Mosul that left hundreds of civilians dead. It's fair to wonder if a guy whose idea of military strategy is to "bomb the shit out of ISIS" has also decided that he doesn't much care about civilian casualties while he's doing it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Mar 2017 04:38:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 328876 at http://www.motherjones.com "The Republican Party Is a Party Without a Purpose" http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2017/03/trump-ryan-took-voters-for-a-ride-1 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Philip Klein unloads on the GOP in the pages of the conservative <em>Washington Examiner</em>, calling Obamacare repeal <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/gop-cave-on-obamacare-repeal-is-the-biggest-broken-promise-in-political-history/article/2618413" target="_blank">"the biggest broken promise in political history":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What's so utterly disgraceful, is not just that Republicans failed so miserably, but that they barely tried, raising questions about whether they ever actually wanted to repeal Obamacare in the first place.</p> <p>Republicans for years have criticized the process that produced Obamacare, and things certainly got ugly. But after having just witnessed this debacle, I think Paul Ryan owes Nancy Pelosi an apology.</p> <p>One has to admire the commitment that Democrats and Obama had to delivering something they campaigned on and truly believed in. They spent 13 months getting the bill from an initial concept to final passage, and pressed on during many points when everybody was predicting doom. They had public hearings, multiple drafts of different bills, they kept negotiating, even worked into Christmas. They made significant changes at times, but also never lost sight of their key goals. They didn't back down in the face of angry town halls and after losing their filibuster-proof majority, and many members cast votes that they knew risked their political careers. Obama himself was a leader, who consistently made it clear that he was not going to walk away. He did countless rallies, meetings, speeches &mdash; even a "summit" at the Blair House &mdash; to try to sell the bill, talking about details, responding to criticisms of the bill to the point that he was mocked by conservatives for talking so much about healthcare.</p> <p>The contrast between Obama and Democrats on healthcare and what just happened is stunning. House Republicans slapped together a bill in a few weeks (months if we're being generous) behind closed doors with barely any debate. They moved the bill through committees at blazing speed, conducted closed-door negotiations that resulted in relatively minor tweaks to the bill, and within 17 days, Trump decided that he'd had enough, and was ready to walk away if members didn't accept the bill as is...</p> <p>There was a big debate over the course of the election about how out of step Trump was with the Republican Party on many issues. But if anything, this episode shows that Trump and the GOP are perfect together &mdash; limited in attention span, all about big talk and identity politics, but uninterested in substance.</p> <p>Failing to get the votes on one particular bill is one thing. But failing and then walking away on seven years of promises is a pathetic abdication of duty. The Republican Party is a party without a purpose.</p> </blockquote> <p>Go read the <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/gop-cave-on-obamacare-repeal-is-the-biggest-broken-promise-in-political-history/article/2618413" target="_blank">whole thing.</a></p> <p>Trump, Ryan, and McConnell's total lack of commitment to repealing Obamcare really does stand in stark contrast to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid's total commitment to passing it in the first place.</p> <p>On the eve of the House ACA vote in 2010, Obama went to Democrats and <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/03/the_president_talks.html" target="_blank">implored them</a> to cast a vote many knew would be political suicide.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="343" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmotherjonesvideo%2Fvideos%2F1629907683705644%2F&amp;width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=265569630491558&amp;height=343" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"><br></iframe></p> <blockquote> <p>Sometimes I think about how I got involved in politics. I didn&rsquo;t think of myself as a potential politician when I get out of college. I went to work in neighborhoods, working with Catholic churches in poor neighborhoods in Chicago, trying to figure out how people could get a little bit of help. And I was skeptical about politics and politicians, just like a lot of Americans are skeptical about politics and politicians are right now. Because my working assumption was when push comes to shove, all too often folks in elected office, they&rsquo;re looking for themselves and not looking out for the folks who put them there; that there are too many compromises; that the special interests have too much power; they just got too much clout; there&rsquo;s too much big money washing around.</p> <p>And I decided finally to get involved because I realized if I wasn&rsquo;t willing to step up and be true to the things I believe in, then the system wouldn&rsquo;t change. Every single one of you had that same kind of moment at the beginning of your careers. Maybe it was just listening to stories in your neighborhood about what was happening to people who&rsquo;d been laid off of work. Maybe it was your own family experience, somebody got sick and didn&rsquo;t have health care and you said something should change.</p> <p>Something inspired you to get involved, and something inspired you to be a Democrat instead of running as a Republican. Because somewhere deep in your heart you said to yourself, I believe in an America in which we don&rsquo;t just look out for ourselves, that we don&rsquo;t just tell people you&rsquo;re on your own, that we are proud of our individualism, we are proud of our liberty, but we also have a sense of neighborliness and a sense of community -- (applause) -- and we are willing to look out for one another and help people who are vulnerable and help people who are down on their luck and give them a pathway to success and give them a ladder into the middle class. That&rsquo;s why you decided to run. (Applause.)</p> <p>And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and their bruises. And it turns out people have had to make compromises, and you&rsquo;ve been away from families for a long time and you&rsquo;ve missed special events for your kids sometimes. And maybe there have been times where you asked yourself, why did I ever get involved in politics in the first place? And maybe things can&rsquo;t change after all. And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked. And sometimes the very people you thought you were trying to help may be angry at you and shout at you. And you say to yourself, maybe that thing that I started with has been lost.</p> <p>But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you&rsquo;re right, the system is not working for you and I&rsquo;m going to make it a little bit better.</p> <p>And this is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself, doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I&rsquo;ve made those sacrifices. Because I believe so deeply in this country and I believe so deeply in this democracy and I&rsquo;m willing to stand up even when it&rsquo;s hard, even when it&rsquo;s tough.</p> <p>Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine. We have been debating health care for decades. It has now been debated for a year. It is in your hands. It is time to pass health care reform for America, and I am confident that you are going to do it tomorrow.</p> </blockquote> <p>With Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, Democratic voters had representatives who were as committed to their goals as they were. Republican voters should realize today that they are not so lucky.</p></body></html> Contributor Sat, 25 Mar 2017 20:47:59 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 328871 at http://www.motherjones.com Republican No Votes on AHCA Were All Over the Ideological Map http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/republican-no-votes-ahca-were-all-over-ideological-map <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a fascinating chart <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/with-gop-plan-dead-trump-eyes-other-ways-to-reshape-health-care-1490434201" target="_blank">from the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wsj_republican_holdouts.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Even the <em>Journal's</em> own description says "holdouts from two wings of the party" sank the Republican health care bill. But that's not what their own chart shows. Ideologically, there was neither a "coverage caucus" nor a "conservative" caucus. The holdouts spanned the entire spectrum of the party in a pretty even way.</p> <p>I can't think of any insightful point to make about this, but it's worth mentioning anyway. The conventional narrative of the bill being caught between two extreme ends of the party looks like it's not really correct.</p> <p>By the way, here's how the <em>Journal's</em> article begins:</p> <blockquote> <p>With the collapse of Republicans&rsquo; health plan in the House on Friday, the Trump administration is <strong>set to ramp up its efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act</strong> in one of the few ways it has left&mdash;by making changes to the law through waivers and rule changes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obamacare won't implode on its own, but it might after Trump does everything he can to sabotage it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Mar 2017 18:54:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 328866 at http://www.motherjones.com The Mayberry Machiavellis Lost a Battle on Friday. But the War Is Not Over. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/mayberry-machiavellis-lost-battle-friday-war-not-over <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is the last paragraph of David Brooks' blow-by-blow evisceration of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/the-trump-elite-like-the-old-elite-but-worse.html?_r=0" target="_blank">every single thing related to the Republican health care debacle:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can&rsquo;t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can&rsquo;t run policy from Capitol Hill because it&rsquo;s visionless and internally divided. <strong>So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around.</strong> The new elite is worse than the old elite &mdash; and certainly more vapid.</p> </blockquote> <p>Remember the <a href="http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a2880/dilulio/" target="_blank">Mayberry Machiavellis?</a> In the Bush White House they were "staff, senior and junior, who consistently talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white terms for public consumption." This is now the entire Republican Party leadership. Keep in mind that they never wanted to propose an Obamacare replacement in the first place. They figured they could just promise one for later. So deliciously Machiavellian! But it turned out that even the rubes who usually take their cues from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity saw through their repeal-and-delay ploy. So they had to come up with a plan. Any plan.</p> <p>And they did. Within a few days they whipped up a health care bill. No one cared very much what was in it. Sean Spicer's initial selling point&mdash;seriously&mdash;was the fact that it was much shorter than Obamacare. A few days later the CBO gave it possibly the most devastating score of any bill in history: 24 million people would lose coverage. But that was just substance, not important stuff like politics, so Republicans shrugged. When Tucker Carlson told Donald Trump about the millions who would be kicked off their plans, Trump muttered "I know" and swiftly moved on.</p> <p>Then the horsetrading began. Not over details here and there, but over the very foundations of the bill. Old people would see their premiums treble or quadruple, which nobody considered a problem until AARP pointed out that old people vote. So Paul Ryan tossed in $75 billion and told the Senate to figure out what to do with the money. Cutting nearly a trillion dollars in Medicaid funding wasn't enough for some? Fine, let states add work requirements. The ultras don't like essential health benefits? Out they go.</p> <p>By the time they were finished, a Rube Goldberg bill that was as brutal as anything we've ever seen had almost literally become tatters. Nobody cared what was in it. Nobody cared if it would work. Nobody cared if it would actually cover anyone.</p> <p>And even at that, something like 90 percent of the Republican House caucus was apparently willing to shrug and vote for it. Promise made, promise kept. Who cares what's in it?</p> <p>The silver lining here is that apparently there really is a limit to the power of Mayberry Machiavellianism. Merely repeating that the bill was "great" over and over wasn't enough. The hustle was just too raw. Even the white working class, the famous demographic that delivered the White House to Donald Trump, <a href="https://poll.qu.edu/images/polling/us/us03232017_Ukqbwg46.pdf/" target="_blank">disapproved of the bill 48-22 percent.</a></p> <p>So now we move on to tax cuts for the rich. Will the hustle work this time? Or has health care finally made even the Fox News crowd skeptical that Republicans have the best interests of the working class at heart?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:55:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 328861 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Beats Obama LOLOLOLOLOL http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/trump-beats-obama-lololololol <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American Action Network PAC aired a bunch of ads on basketball games tonight <a href="http://screengrabber.deadspin.com/basketball-fans-treated-to-ads-congratulating-republica-1793629526" target="_blank">congratulating Republican members of Congress</a> for voting to repeal Obamacare. Here's my artist's conception of Obama's response.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_comstock_sign.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px -15px 0px;"></p> <div class="caption">Pete Souza/The White House via ZUMA</div> <p>Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Barton (R&ndash;TX) earns quote-of-the-day honors for this explanation of why, after Republicans had unanimously voted to repeal Obamacare repeatedly over the past six years, <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/leadership-pulls-obamacare-repeal" target="_blank">they couldn't get it done this time:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Sometimes you&rsquo;re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you&rsquo;re in the real game. We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. <strong>This time we knew if it got to the president&rsquo;s desk it would be signed.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>LOLOLOLOLOL. And Trump himself <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/president-trump-called-my-cellphone-to-say-that-the-health-care-bill-was-dead/2017/03/24/8282c3f6-10ce-11e7-9b0d-d27c98455440_story.html" target="_blank">comes in a close second:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I&rsquo;m a team player....It&rsquo;s very hard when you need almost 100 percent of the votes and we have no votes, zero, from the Democrats. <strong>It&rsquo;s unheard of.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Unheard of! LOLOLOLOLOL.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Mar 2017 04:15:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 328856 at http://www.motherjones.com What If I Told You That Republicans Spent Only 36 Days on Trumpcare? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/what-if-i-told-you-republicans-spent-only-36-days-trumpcare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>If you want to know why Trumpcare failed so disastrously, here's a big part of the answer:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trumpcare_days_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The process toward passing Obamacare began on March 5, 2009, when President Obama convened a "health summit" with various players in the health care industry. It finished 383 days later, on March 23, 2010, when he signed it into law.</p> <p>Trumpcare began life on February 16, 2017, when Paul Ryan released an outline of what a Republican bill would look like. It was abandoned 36 days later, on March 24, 2017.</p> <p>And this doesn't even count the fact that Democrats had been seriously debating and designing health care policy for decades before Obamacare was born. Republicans had never gone much beyond the debating point stage. But policy matters: detailed, messy, real-life policy that makes compromises in order to produce something that works and has the support of all the stakeholders. The problem is that Trump isn't used to that kind of thing. Ezra Klein points out today that, in fact, Trump isn't a very good dealmaker. That's true, and it's something I've written about frequently. <a href="http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/24/15049820/donald-trump-extremely-bad-making-deals" target="_blank">But he also says this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In Trump&rsquo;s past jobs, he could simply move on from failed deals and find new partners, and new markets, and new sectors. But that&rsquo;s not how the presidency works, and it&rsquo;s not clear he realizes that.</p> </blockquote> <p>"Take it or leave it" works only if you really are willing to leave it. Trump often is, because he can always turn around and do a different deal with someone else. But there's only one Congress. If Trump gets bored after a whole month of negotiations and gives up, there's no other Congress he can turn to. That's why Trumpcare is dead.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Mar 2017 01:06:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 328851 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump: Failure of Health Care Bill Is All Democrats' Fault http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/trump-failure-health-care-bill-all-democrats-fault <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's laughable watching President Trump whine endlessly this afternoon about how his health care bill didn't get any Democratic votes. Not one! The Democrats just wouldn't work with him to craft a bill! Boy, that sure makes things tough.</p> <p>Needless to say, neither Trump nor Paul Ryan ever tried to bring Democrats into this bill. It was purely a Republican plan from the start, and neither of them wanted any Democratic input. That's just the opposite of Obamacare, where Democrats tried mightily to get Republican buy-in, and still ended up getting no Republican votes in the end. Not one!</p> <p>Anyway, Trump's plan now is to wait for Obamacare to implode and then Democrats will <em>have</em> to do a deal. I guess it hasn't occurred to him that he could do a deal with Democrats right now if he were really serious about fixing health care. But no. Trump says he intends to move on to tax reform, because that's something he actually cares about.</p> <p>In the meantime, it's very unclear what will happen to Obamacare. With so much uncertainty surrounding it, it's hard to say how insurance companies will respond. They might give up and pull out. Or they might stick it out and wait. It's pretty close to a profitable business now, so there's probably no urgency one way or the other for most of them. And anyway, somewhere there's an equilibrium. Having only one insurer in a particular county might be bad for residents of that county, but it's great for the insurer: they can raise their prices with no worries. There are no competitors to steal their business, and the federal subsidies mean that customers on the exchanges won't see much of a change even if prices go up. In places where they have these mini-monopolies, Obamacare should be a nice money spinner.</p> <p>April will be a key month, as insurers begin to announce their plans for 2018. We'll see what happens.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> It was also amusing to hear Trump say that he learned a lot during this process about "arcane" procedures in the House and Senate. Like what? Filibusters? Having to persuade people to vote for your bill? The fact that the opposition party isn't going to give you any votes for a bill that destroys one of their signature achievements? Reconciliation and the Byrd rule? I believe him when he says this was all new to him, which means he never had the slightest clue what was in this bill or how it was going to pass.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 21:07:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 328841 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Repeal Is Dead http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/republican-health-care-bill-dead-now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Well, that's it. Obamacare repeal has failed. The House will not vote on the Republican health care bill.</p> <p>So what's next? The first thing, of course, is for Trump to insist that he bears no blame for this. Possible candidates for being thrown under the bus include Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, Democrats, Obama, and illegal immigration.</p> <p>But what's next <em>after</em> that? This is the depressing part. From a partisan perspective, I imagine the best bet is to sabotage Obamacare as much as possible and wait for it to fail. Then Trump can say that he was right all along (isn't he always?) and now we <em>really</em> have to do something.</p> <p>But there's also the perspective of what's best for the country. If Obamacare repeal can't pass, the best bet is to work on making Obamacare better. This could be done fairly easily, since it's mostly tweaks that are needed. There are even deals to be made here. Democrats would probably be willing to give Republicans some things they want (tort reform, expanded HSAs, etc.) in return for modest changes that would make Obamacare more stable (higher penalties, tweaks to the subsidies, funding the risk corridors, etc.).</p> <p>But that's a fantasy. There's little chance of anyone in Congress these days working across the aisle to do what's best for the country.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> And the winner is...Democrats!</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">TRUMP tells me in interview this is now the Democrats' fault, and that he anticipates that when Obama "explodes" they will be ready to deal</p> &mdash; Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) <a href="https://twitter.com/maggieNYT/status/845362688557486081">March 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:39:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 328831 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 24 March 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/friday-cat-blogging-24-march-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>ZOMG! If Hopper is even closer than this, HOW CLOSE IS SHE???</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2017_03_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 19:00:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 328826 at http://www.motherjones.com The Latest: Trump Still Insisting on Vote for Doomed Health Care Bill http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/latest-trump-still-insisting-vote-doomed-health-care-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So here's where we are. Apparently things are getting worse, not better, for the Republican health care bill. More and more members of the House are publicly saying they'll vote No, and it's threatening to turn into a bandwagon. Who wants to vote in favor of a terrible bill that's going down to defeat anyway?</p> <p>Paul Ryan and the rest of the House leadership is <a href="https://www.axios.com/healthcare-bill-might-get-yanked-from-house-floor-2328191380.html" target="_blank">considering pulling the bill</a> rather than suffering through an embarrassing loss, and Ryan has told President Trump he doesn't have the votes to pass it. Trump still wants a vote, though, so he can take down the names of the No voters and <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/24/bannon-tells-trump-keep-a-shit-list-of-republicans-who-opposed-you.html" target="_blank">swear eternal vengeance</a> on them. He's already <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/trump-house-caucus-criticism-236458" target="_blank">declared war on the Freedom Caucus.</a></p> <p>Anyway, the vote is only about an hour away (3:30 pm Eastern), and it hasn't been officially postponed yet. Sean Spicer just told the press corps that it was still going forward. Paul Ryan may know when to beat a tactical retreat, but Trump is not really a tactical retreat kind of guy. Most likely, he's going to insist on a vote no matter what. And the bill will go down.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:04:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 328821 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Are Hellbent on Killing Off Internet Privacy Protections. Why? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/republicans-are-hellbent-killing-internet-privacy-protections-why <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/technology/congress-moves-to-strike-internet-privacy-rules-from-obama-era.html" target="_blank">From the <em>New York Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Republican senators moved Thursday to dismantle landmark internet privacy protections for consumers</strong> in the first decisive strike against telecommunications and technology regulations created during the Obama administration, and a harbinger of further deregulation.</p> <p>The measure passed in a 50-to-48 vote largely along party lines. The House is expected to mirror the Senate&rsquo;s action next week, followed by a signature from President Trump.</p> <p>The move means Verizon, Comcast or AT&amp;T <strong>can continue tracking and sharing people&rsquo;s browsing and app activity without permission,</strong> and it alarmed consumer advocates and Democratic lawmakers. They warned that broadband providers have the widest look into Americans&rsquo; online habits, and that without the rules, the companies would have more power to collect data on people and sell sensitive information.</p> </blockquote> <p>This kind of thing genuinely puzzles me. It's not unexpected, but I still can't figure out why Republicans are so hellbent on doing this. There's nothing particularly conservative about allowing telecom companies to collect personal information without permission. Neither the general public nor the tea party base is clamoring to repeal this rule. And there's no special reason Republicans should favor telecoms in their endless fight against content providers (Google, Facebook, etc.).</p> <p>But Republicans seem to prefer a privacy free-for-all. Is this just blind opposition to something Democrats like? Part of a general attitude that big corporations should be able to do anything they want? Or perhaps it's just a realistic appraisal of the fact that Americans seemingly <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/21/the-state-of-privacy-in-america/" target="_blank">don't care much about their personal information:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_privacy_concerns.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Personally, I favor very strong privacy protections. But even a more moderate view should understand that certain industries operate core infrastructure we all have to interact with: banks, credit card companies, doctors, phone companies, internet providers, and so forth. This puts them in a unique position to collect a lot of information.</p> <p>But being in that position shouldn't mean they get to do anything they want with all this information. Quite the contrary. The fact that we have essentially no choice in dealing with these folks means that privacy regulations should be especially tight on them. They shouldn't be able to share their information with anyone else except under very specific conditions (for example, blinded scientific studies), and they should even be limited in what they can do with this information internally&mdash;especially since "internally" can mean a huge number of subsidiaries and sister corporations these days.</p> <p>But for now, that's off the table. Big telecoms will be allowed to do anything they want and only a few privacy nuts seem to care. Still, you can put me down among the 8 percent who aren't thrilled about large corporations all having access to information about everything I buy. It's a lonely 8 percent, but at least there are still a few of us around.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:24:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 328811 at http://www.motherjones.com LA's Parker Center Should Be Relegated to Dragnet Reruns http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/las-parket-center-should-be-relegated-dragnet-reruns <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Behold Parker Center, former home of the LA Police Department and star of many a <em>Dragnet</em> episode:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_parker_center.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px -15px 0px;"></p> <div class="caption">From the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library</div> <p>You can see a more recent picture <a href="http://www.ladowntownnews.com/news/parker-center-the-l-a-mall-and-the-future-of/article_f54fd08a-3d45-11e5-a6f8-b71b97bfea72.html" target="_blank">here.</a> Parker Center was built in 1955 but has been empty for years. It's also, as you might expect, the focus of yet another tedious battle from preservationists who seemingly want to save <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-parker-center-plan-20170321-story.html" target="_blank">any gigantic box ever built by a notable architect:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The building was designed by Welton Becket, the prolific architect behind the Capitol Records building, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Cinerama Dome and the jet-age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport.</p> <p>Los Angeles city engineers contend that the mid-century building, which now sits empty, is seismically unsafe....The Los Angeles Conservancy disputes the city&rsquo;s analysis and accuses officials of using inaccurate estimates to justify Parker Center&rsquo;s demolition &mdash; something the city denies.</p> <p>The battle over the building, which was named for former Police Chief William Parker, comes as city leaders push for a dramatic remake of the Civic Center, roughly 10 square blocks of government buildings surrounded by Little Tokyo, the Historic Core and Chinatown.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who cares if it's seismically unsafe? If the city wants to build something more useful on the site, they should go ahead and do it. It's one thing to preserve houses and smallish buildings here and there, but multi-acre structures in the heart of a city should be preserved only if they're truly unique, historical treasures. The Parker Center, like the Ambassador Hotel, just doesn't qualify. It's a typical mid-century design, nicely executed, but nothing more. This kind of acreage can't be set in amber without a helluva good reason.</p> <p>I wish preservationists would back off from this kind of stuff and put their energy into truly important fights. The center of a city is a living thing, and it needs to change to accommodate the needs of its residents. That's hard to do if giant swaths are declared off limits. Buildings that aren't truly iconic need to make room for the new when their time is up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 16:29:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 328796 at http://www.motherjones.com When Telemarketers Call, Just Hang Up http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/when-telemarketers-call-just-hang <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>At the <em>LA Times</em>, David Lazarus writes about the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-chatbot-phone-scam-20170324-story.html" target="_blank">latest in robocall scamology:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s the most cunning robocall scam I&rsquo;ve encountered &mdash; and the fact that I&rsquo;ve fallen for it more than once tells you how successful it can be. The phone rings. You pick it up and say &ldquo;hello.&rdquo; There&rsquo;s a brief silence and then a woman&rsquo;s voice says, &ldquo;Oh, hi there!&rdquo; She offers an embarrassed laugh. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m sorry, I was having a little trouble with my headset!&rdquo;</p> <p>....This is a new and highly sophisticated racket known as the &ldquo;can you hear me&rdquo; scam, which <strong>involves tricking people into saying yes and using that affirmation to sign people up for stuff they didn&rsquo;t order.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Take my advice: never interact in any way with telemarketers, silicon or otherwise. Don't say "I'm not interested." Don't say anything. Just hang up. Period.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:46:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 328781 at http://www.motherjones.com We Have a Bill! But Can It Pass? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/we-have-bill-can-it-pass <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It looks like we have a <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/what-s-in-the-health-care-bill-changes-unveiled-late-last-night" target="_blank">final health care bill.</a> As expected, it eliminates all of Obamacare's essential health benefits. Say hello to health care insurance that doesn't cover hospitalization! The repeal is set for 2018, so states that want to set up their own lists of essential benefits had better get cracking.</p> <p>In a vain attempt to avoid headlines about how Republicans are being mean to women, the final version of the bill also adds $15 billion to the "stability" fund for maternity care and a few other things. It pays for all these changes by delaying the repeal of the Medicare surcharge on the rich. Oddly, though, this $15 billion appears to be <a href="https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules.house.gov/files/115/policymngr-amdt.pdf" target="_blank">only for the year 2020.</a> Is this a typo? Or what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:25:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 328771 at http://www.motherjones.com