Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Mass Transit Ridership Is Down. How Can We Fix This? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Tyler Cowen point us to Wendell Cox, who says that&nbsp; aside from New York City, <a href="" target="_blank">mass transit ridership in the US is looking grim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If New York City Subway ridership had remained at its 2005 level, overall transit ridership would have decreased from 9.8 billion in 2005 to 9.6 billion in 2015. The modern <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_la_metro_ridership_2006_2015_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">record of 10.7 billion rides would never have been approached.</p> </blockquote> <p>Despite spending billions of dollars on new rail lines in LA, mass transit in Southern California <a href="" target="_blank">certainly fits this bill:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the region's largest carrier, lost more than 10% of its boardings from 2006 to 2015, a decline that appears to be accelerating....In Orange County, bus ridership plummeted 30% in the last seven years....Southern California certainly isn't alone. Public transportation use in many U.S. cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C., has slumped in the last few years.</p> </blockquote> <p>But all is not lost. If you take a longer look at Los Angeles transit, it turns out there are things you can do to increase ridership. It's complicated, though, so you'll need to read carefully:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thirty years ago, [Metro] handled almost 500 million annual bus boardings in Los Angeles County. In the decade that followed...<strong>Metro raised fares and cut bus service hours. <em>[Ridership during this period declined from 497 million to 362 million. &ndash;ed.]</em></strong></p> <p>In 1994, an organization that represented bus riders sued Metro in federal court....<strong>Metro agreed to stop raising fares for 10 years and relieve overcrowding by adding more than 1 million hours of bus service. Ridership soared.</strong> Metro buses and trains recorded about 492 million boardings in 2006, the most since 1985.</p> <p>But from 2009 to 2011, several years after federal oversight ended and during the Great Recession, <strong>the agency raised fares and cut bus service by 900,000 hours. By the end of 2015, ridership had fallen 10% from 2006,</strong> with the steepest declines coming in the last two years.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. There's an answer in there somewhere. We just need to tease it out. Here's an annotated version of the full chart that I excerpted above. Maybe that will help.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_la_metro_ridership_1985_2015_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 12px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 28 May 2016 15:05:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 305211 at Friday Cat Blogging - 27 May 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I was going to link to <a href="" target="_blank">Dave Roberts' post</a> about Donald Trump's big energy speech yesterday, but then I couldn't think of anything to say about it. Before I knew it, catblogging time had arrived. So you're on your own. Click the link and draw your own conclusions.</p> <p>Or just skip it and instead admire Hilbert and Hopper peering out from under the rocking chair. For the record, they write all their own speeches.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2016_05_27.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 19:04:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 305196 at Just How Bad Is Gawker, Anyway? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So: <em>Gawker</em>. The general reaction of the press to the revelation that billionaire Peter Thiel has been behind the libel suit against <em>Gawker</em> all along has been close to unanimous: it's bad. The generally accepted storyline is that Thiel was pissed off at <em>Gawker</em> for outing him as gay many years ago, and has been plotting revenge ever since. His deep pockets pretty much ensured that eventually he'd be able to sue them into oblivion, and sure enough, he has.</p> <p>But do we really want a world in which angry billionaires who don't like the press they get can use their riches to put news organizations out of business? They don't even have to win. Just file enough lawsuits that meet the bare minimum standard to keep from being frivolous, and eventually they'll win. Now that Thiel has proven the concept, we can expect a lot more of this. <a href="" target="_blank">See Felix Salmon for a good precis of this argument.</a></p> <p>However, there's another point of view. John Hempton expresses it eloquently:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@felixsalmon</a> Denton and <a href="">@Gawker</a> crossed the line of human decency long ago. The option of behavior change has been open for years.</p> &mdash; John_Hempton (@John_Hempton) <a href="">May 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Ryan Holiday makes a pretty good case for the odiousness of <em>Gawker</em> <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Nick Denton, the owner of <em>Gawker</em>, more or less responds that <a href="" target="_blank">Thiel should just suck it up.</a> This kind of shit gets published all the time in places like New York and Washington DC. Why shouldn't Silicon Valley have to put up with it too?</p> <p>What to think? Here's the problem: I don't read <em>Gawker</em>. I've been on their site once in a while, and generally find it boring. I click on things here and there, and mostly find writers desperately trying to bring some snark to a topic that's really kind of dull. So I go away for a year or so before something happens to bring me back.</p> <p>So here's what I need: a <em>Gawker</em>-style listicle that sets out, say, the ten most loathsome things <em>Gawker</em> has done. Does anyone know where I can find something like that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 17:18:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 305186 at Cell Phones and Brain Cancer: A Mother Jones Symposium <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From <em>Mother Jones</em> this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's the moment we've all been dreading. Initial findings from a massive federal study, released on Thursday, suggest that radio-frequency (RF) radiation, the type emitted by cellphones, can cause cancer.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess it's up to me to present the authorized opposing viewpoint. I'm going to outsource it to Aaron Carroll, <a href="" target="_blank">who's pretty annoyed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&nbsp;It was a rat study....9 hours a day, seven days a week....At the end of the study, survival was lower in the control group of males than in all the exposed males. Survival was lower in the control group of females for two of the three exposed groups. Yet no headlines blared that cell phones extend life.</p> <p>....Now let&rsquo;s get to brain significant differences in the incidences of lesions in exposed male rats compared to controls....No differences were seen in the female rats at all. The cardiac schwannomas were more compelling, but again,<img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_brain_cancer_1975_2013.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;"> only for males. No differences for females.</p> <p>....I didn&rsquo;t see any sample size calculation....power calculation....about 14%. This means that false positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There&rsquo;s no clear dose response....Also, this: Cell phones are UBIQUITOUS in the United States. If they were causing cancer, we would expect to see rates of cancer going up, right? That&rsquo;s not what we&rsquo;re seeing. They&rsquo;ve been decreasing since the late 1980&rsquo;s.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'd add one more thing. This is going to sound snarky, but honest, it's not. Here it is: people don't use their cell phones much to make phone calls. This is especially true of young people, which means it's a trend that will only get more pronounced with time. But there's really no way that a cell phone used for, say, texting or Snapchatting could cause brain cancer. Maybe skin cancer? Fingertip cancer?</p> <p>On the other hand, maybe it's not the cell phones at all. Maybe it's the cell towers. Has everyone here read <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Waldo</em></a>? Maybe you should.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 15:54:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 305166 at Feeling the Bern in California <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bernie_sanders_california.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The <em>LA Times</em> reports that Bernie Sanders is doing something unusual: campaigning everywhere in California. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>All week Bernie Sanders has galloped about California, showing up in places where presidential candidates usually don&rsquo;t tread. On Sunday he was in Vista. On Tuesday he hit Riverside and San Bernardino. On Wednesday he was in Cathedral City and Lancaster. On Thursday, Ventura. On Saturday, he&rsquo;ll be in Santa Maria.</p> <p>....His move to the exurbs and to other less definitely Democratic turf is driven by several realities particular to California. Foremost is the state of the Democratic campaign: Sanders continues to trail Clinton, even if the race appears to be narrowing. So he needs every vote he can get....Another factor makes the exurbs a potential goldmine for Sanders, in particular: While the state as a whole took a giant hit during the Great Recession, the exurbs were particularly hard hit.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's actually a simpler explanation for this: 2016 is the first time in half a century that anyone has bothered campaigning <em>at all</em> in a California presidential primary in June&mdash;let alone for an entire month. In the past, nomination fights have been over by March or April, and California's only real role has been to act as a base for fundraising. And there's not much point in holding a fundraiser in Lancaster.</p> <p>So that explains all the exurbs. Sure, they might be Bernie territory, but he still wouldn't be there in an ordinary year. He'd either be out of the race entirely or else he'd already be the winner, and he'd be holding $5,000-a-plate dinners in Brentwood and Atherton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 15:27:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 305156 at Congress Continues Not to Care About Phone Scams Aimed at Elderly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> has an article today about the massive spike in robocall phone scams, mostly aimed at the elderly. Luckily, there are several well-known ways that phone companies could put a stop to this. <a href="" target="_blank">So what's happening on that front?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The FCC is strongly encouraging phone carriers to offer customers technology that aims to detect robotic calls and stop them before getting through, said an agency spokesman. Carriers are &ldquo;working toward that goal,&rdquo; said Kevin Rupy, vice president of law and policy at USTelecom, a trade association.</p> </blockquote> <p>Excellent. The FCC is "strongly encouraging" telcos to do something. And the telcos are "working toward" doing something. Someday. Maybe.</p> <p>Sounds like a job for Congress. Since telcos obviously don't plan on actually doing anything unless they're forced to, it's time to force them. Of course, that would require Congress to actually do something. During an election year. Can't have that, can we? Gotta keep the oldsters nice and angry. Maybe next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 14:46:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 305151 at Trump Toes the Line on Energy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Stop me if I'm wrong, but Donald Trump's big energy speech today was just the usual conservative mishmash, right? Global warming doesn't exist. Drill baby drill. Dig more coal. Repeal job-killing Obama environmental rules. Fracking is great. Wind and solar meh. Nukes, sure, whatever.</p> <p>This is the usual establishment Republican line, and Trump is carefully toeing it. Or am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 27 May 2016 01:55:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 305141 at How Can You Like Barack Obama But Loathe Hillary Clinton? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Shaun King says he's giving up on the Democratic Party. He can't abide Hillary Clinton's establishment views and thinks the Democratic Party is fundamentally corrupt and in thrall to moneyed interests. Fair enough. This isn't my position, but I understand it.</p> <p>But there are times when I wonder if we've all succumbed to some kind of mass memory wipe. Although King dislikes Hillary, he says he respects President Obama "a great deal." This prompts interviewer Emmett Rensin to ask an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Obama_Clinton.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">obvious question: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have pretty similar domestic policy positions. So why loathe one but like the other? <a href="" target="_blank">Here is King's answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think we would have to go down each and every one of the president&rsquo;s positions to really evaluate, what does the president think about health care? Yes, there is a thing called Obamacare &mdash; <strong>but was that what he campaigned on?</strong> What came out of the sausage factory, was that his dream? <strong>No. Of course not.</strong></p> <p>So is the president for universal health care? <strong>Well, he was. For years and years and years.</strong> And I don't know that he stopped being for universal health care. It was just that he used virtually all the political capital he had in his first term to get something decent through Congress, and what came out was very different.</p> </blockquote> <p>What? I don't doubt that Obama, in his heart of hearts, favors truly universal health care. He's said as much in the past&mdash;though in the next breath he's always added that it might take a while to get there. But the only thing he ever <a href="" target="_blank">campaigned on</a> was Obamacare. He unveiled his health care plan nine years ago almost to the day, and&mdash;well, <a href="" target="_blank">let's roll the tape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obama's plan retains the private insurance system but injects additional money to pay for expanding coverage. It would also create a National Health Insurance Exchange to monitor insurance companies in offering the coverage. Those who can't afford coverage would get a subsidy on a sliding scale depending on their income, and virtually all businesses would have to share in the cost of coverage for their workers. The plan is similar to the one covering members of Congress.</p> <p>Obama's package would prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage because of pre-existing conditions. The plan doesn't have the mandate that rival Democratic candidate John Edwards is proposing to ensure that all Americans get coverage. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee would require everyone to have health insurance, much like state requirements for auto insurance for every driver. Both candidates would require businesses to help cover their workers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obama was, by universal consensus, <em>less</em> ambitious on health care than either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards. He introduced his plan in 2007, he campaigned on it for the next 18 months, and it's quite close to what eventually got passed. The big difference is that the final version of Obamacare added an individual mandate, something that Hillary had in her plan from the start.</p> <p>There are plenty of reasons to like Obama more than Hillary Clinton. I certainly do. But we all need to stay reality-based too. On domestic policy there was very little difference between Obama and Clinton during the 2008 campaign, and to the extent there was, it was generally Obama who was considered a bit more centrist. It was Obama who was the darling of Wall Street. His climate change plan was all but identical to Hillary's but included lots of happy talk about clean coal. Etc. etc.</p> <p>This whole thing is crazy. Do people even remember the 2008 campaign? Obama was an inspirational speaker, for sure, but on policy matters he was a relentlessly pragmatic, mainstream Democrat. And that's how he's governed ever since he won. If you like Obama on domestic policy, it's really hard to see just what you'd have against Hillary. Their differences lie mostly in foreign policy instincts, and not anywhere else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 23:03:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 305121 at Chart of the Day: Housing Is Back! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Well, maybe. April saw sales of 619,000 new single-family homes. This is starting to get very close to the average from 1980-2001, before the housing bubble and subsequent crash. At our current rate, we'll exceed the old average by this time next year.</p> <p>Is this good or bad? It's nowhere near bubble territory, so it should be good. If people are buying new homes, it's a sign not just that the economy is picking up (we already knew that), but that people are confident enough in the economy to tie themselves into 30-year mortgages at the same rate they did back when the economy was motoring along. So: two cheers for housing!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_new_single_family_homes_q1_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 10px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 19:27:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 305096 at The Campaign Press Corps Needs to Rediscover Its Inner Cynic <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For the past several months, the press&mdash;and sadly, I suppose I have to include myself in this&mdash;has demonstrated an eager willingness to chatter away about literally anything Donald Trump says. Trump's MO is pretty simple: say ridiculous stuff, but say it with utter confidence. If any other politician said the kinds of things he said, reporters would take it as obvious&mdash;and fairly desperate&mdash;spin. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_paul_manafort.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But Trump's apparently total belief in what he says causes reporters to shed their years of well-earned cynicism and write with an almost wide-eyed fascination.</p> <p>This is sort of inexplicable. It's as if campaign reporters have never encountered a top-notch salesman outside the world of politics. Good sales people aren't slick and oily, folks. They aren't the ones who sell used cars&mdash;that's for penny-ante sales people. The really good ones go after much bigger game. They speak with total confidence, they appear to believe everything they say, and they have the gift of seeming completely truthful. Trump is one of the best, and he doesn't try to hide it. He's written whole books about it. He's <em>proud</em> of his ability to snooker folks, and he brags about it openly if you ask him.</p> <p>But no matter. Say it with enough brio and the marks will come running.</p> <p>This has been obvious for a long time, so why bring it up now? Because apparently Trump has finally trained an acolyte. A few months ago he hired Paul Manafort to run his delegate operation, but that job is no longer necessary now that he's wrapped up the nomination. So these days Manafort plays some kind of vague role in the Trump campaign that will probably get sorted out eventually when all the current infighting is over. <a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday he gave an interview to Howard Fineman,</a> and Manafort sounded just like the master himself. It was endless spin delivered with absolute, utter confidence regardless of how ridiculous it was.</p> <p>And as near as I can tell, Fineman bought it. There's barely a hint of cynicism, barely a nod to the possibility that Manafort is just delivering garden variety political spin. "Manafort's sunny vision may be a little skewed," Fineman says, arousing hope that he <em>does</em> see through Manafort's charade, but no: "Having made millions as an image crafter for foreign tyrants, he can't help but see Trump as an easy lift by comparison." See? The guy's just calling them as he sees them!</p> <p>This is all bad enough, but there's more: as near as I can tell, Fineman's interview generated as much chatter as an interview with Trump himself&mdash;most of it taking Manafort at face value. So now we have <em>two</em> master salesmen who can generate endless chatter just by delivering ordinary spin and making it sound like something more.</p> <p>I dunno. Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe this was just a standard bit of beat sweetening, and nothing to get bothered about. But I'm bothered anyway. Trump is a master salesman, and the same reporters who routinely get suckered by Silicon Valley "visionaries" seem to be getting suckered not just by Trump anymore, but by Trump's minions as well. Where's the cynicism, folks?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 18:11:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 305071 at Bernie Sanders Is Switching Teams <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump says he'd be delighted to debate Bernie Sanders:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.</p> &mdash; Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) <a href="">May 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is just sad. Trump is the master of modern publicity, and he knows perfectly well that a debate like this would (a) help Trump and (b) hurt Hillary. That's it. That's all it would do. And Bernie is all in.</p> <p>Is Bernie really so aggrieved by losing the Democratic nomination that he's now willing to explicitly campaign on Trump's behalf? Because that's all this is. What happened to the old Bernie Sanders?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 16:45:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 305056 at It's Time to Kill Off the Scripps Spelling Bee <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff provides the basic argument for <a href="" target="_blank">killing off the spelling bee:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here's how the final round of the Spelling Bee works. Once the competition is narrowed to two or three competitors, officials go to a list of 25 words. These are supposed to be the Bee's hardest words, reserved for the very top contenders.</p> <p>....But something weird happened in 2014: Both finalists got all their words right. It happened again in 2015....Co-championships used to be rare in the spelling bee world. Before 2014, there had only been three such instances in the Bee's 90-year history. And now we've had the unprecedented situation of back-to-back co-champions. <strong>All because we're running out of words that are too hard to spell.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've been unhappy about the spelling bee for years. For starters, I don't like the idea of national TV coverage for kids that young. Like the Little League World Series, it becomes an ever bigger television spectacle every year, and I just flatly think <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Spelling_Bee_1930.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">that's wrong. At the very least, we should wait until kids are in high school before they get that much pressure dumped on them.</p> <p>There's also the fact that the bee has become cool at precisely the time that no one cares about spelling anymore. Computers have made it an obsolete skill, so the bee reinforces the notion that academic prowess is dumb and nerdy. Look at all those kids spending thousands of hours practicing something of no use whatsoever! Suckers!</p> <p>Finally, as Kliff points out, the bee has finally been hacked. Unlike most competitions, spelling bees have a ceiling. If you can spell every word in the dictionary, you're done. You're the best speller that will ever live. And that makes it time to retire the trophy.</p> <p>I'm all in favor of academic competitions. Maybe ESPN could hire some color commentators and televise the Academic Decathlon or something. That's mostly for high school juniors and seniors, which is fine, and there's no ceiling on the competition. If the kids keep getting better, just make the questions harder. Or maybe ESPN should make up its own academic version of American Ninja Warrior. "No one has ever made it through the trigonometry ladder in less than two minutes, but it might happen tonight! Tune in!"</p> <p>But the spelling bee? It had a great run. Now it's time to end it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 16:20:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 305051 at Economic Productivity Is Looking Bleak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Financial Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Productivity is set to fall in the US for the first time in more than three decades, raising the prospect of persistent wage stagnation and the risk of a further populist backlash. Research by the Conference Board, a US think-tank, also shows the rate of productivity growth sliding behind the feeble rates in other advanced economies, <strong>with gross domestic product per hour projected to drop by 0.2 per cent this year.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The San Francisco Fed tracks a different measure called utilization-adjusted total factor productivity, which they say is a better benchmark of technological improvements than old-school labor productivity. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's their current series:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_factor_productivity.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 7px;"></p> <p>These are 4-quarter growth rates, but the San Francisco Fed says that utilization-adjusted TFP has already gone negative on a pure quarterly basis: it was -2.66 percent in the last quarter of 2015 and -0.58 percent in the first quarter of 2016. So everyone agrees: no matter how you measure it, productivity growth is pretty weak these days. Is this because technological change has stagnated? Because low wages have prevented businesses from spending money on new labor-saving machinery? Because we're not measuring the effect of the app economy properly?</p> <p>Hard to say. Come back in a decade and I'll tell you. In the meantime, it's something to keep an eye on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 15:26:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 305046 at Today's PSA: It's Time to Brush Up On All the Clinton Crap of the 90s <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday I nominated Joe Conason to write a series of cheat sheets on all the Hillary Clinton "scandals" of the 90s. Today he emailed to beg off, offering an excuse about having to finish up a "book," <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hunting_hillary.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">which I gather from context is some kind of long, paper-based blog post. Anybody ever heard of this before?</p> <p>But all is not lost. While we wait for this "book," it turns out that he and Gene Lyons have created "The Hunting of Hillary," an abridged version of their original comprehensive look at all the Clinton crap of the 90s. And it's free! I read most of it over lunch today, and if you need a quick refresher on this stuff, it's pretty good.</p> <p>For those of you who are new to all this, I'll warn you right off that you might initially feel inundated by a horde of Hales and McDougals and Tuckers and Nelsons and Scaifes. Don't worry, though: it will start to make sense eventually. They're mostly just various types of unsavory Arkansas political fauna.</p> <p>Anyway, <a href="" target="_blank">it's all here in PDF form,</a> free for nothing more than an email address. I hate to do this to you, but I have a feeling we're all going to need to brush up on this stuff sooner rather than later. Might as well do it now.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 04:58:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 305026 at "Roots" Remake Gets the Drudge Treatment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This week's <em>Hollywood Reporter</em> features a 4,000-word cover story about A&amp;E's remake of <em>Roots</em>. About halfway through, <a href="" target="_blank">reporter Marisa Guthrie inserts this brief sentence:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The original <em>Roots</em> has its deficiencies. It hasn't aged well at all; Burton admits that it feels "dated." At times, it's also overly sentimental and historically dubious. <strong>A handful of white characters diverge seriously from Haley's novel, most conspicuously a benevolent slave-ship captain played by Ed Asner.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Here's how this plays at the <em>Drudge Report</em>:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_roots_reborn_drudge.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 47px;"></p> <p>Credit where it's due: Drudge knows his audience well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 26 May 2016 03:34:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 305021 at Donald Trump Tried to Cheat Veterans out of $1 Million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I want to make this simple. Here's what Donald Trump did recently:</p> <ul><li>He pledged $1 million to help veterans.</li> <li>He tried to weasel out of it for months and hoped no one would notice.</li> <li>When he finally got caught, he ponied up grudgingly and insulted the reporter who caught him.</li> </ul><p>Even among sleazebags, <em>this is not normal behavior</em>. This is pathological sleaziness. It's literally beyond belief. Do not let Trump distract you with his <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_five_dollars_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">latest barrage of insults. Do not turn your attention to the latest polls. Do not let this be normalized away as "just another Trump thing."</p> <p>Maybe we need to put this in simpler terms. $1 million is one ten-thousandth of Trump's claimed wealth. The average American household has a net worth of <a href="" target="_blank">about $50,000.</a> One ten-thousandth of that is $5. In terms of its effect on his personal finances, what Trump did was the equivalent of promising five bucks to a homeless vet and then trying to weasel out of it. What kind of person would do that?</p> <p>This deserves far more attention than it's gotten. If character is supposed to be important in our presidents, this is evidence of the most contemptible kind of character imaginable. <em>He tried to cheat a bunch of veterans!</em> Can we please not shrug our shoulders and let this fade away?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 19:09:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 304901 at Weekly Flint Water Report: May 14-19 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 189 samples. The average for the past week was 17.08.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_05_19.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 18:01:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 304871 at Chart of the Day: Here's Why Our Infrastructure Is Crumbling and Our Recovery Is So Weak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Tim Fernholz says that <a href="" target="_blank">this chart shocked him:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_government_investment.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>It's pretty shocking, all right. We're allowing our infrastructure to crumble because we'd rather keep taxes on millionaires low than spend the money it takes to keep our country in decent shape. But it's even worse than that. This seems like a good time to update my chart showing total government spending after our four most recent recessions. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_spending_recessions_26_quarters_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 7px;"></p> <p>It's now 26 quarters since the official end of the Great Recession and total government spending is <em>still</em> below its 2009 level. This is entirely unlike previous recessions, in which we spent our way to recovery. After 26 quarters, Reagan was spending 19 percent more than in November 1982, when his recession ended. Clinton (and the Gingrich congress) were spending 6 percent more. Bush was spending a whopping 26 percent more.</p> <p>But the Republican Congress has prevented the same thing from happening on Obama's watch. We're still spending 5 percent <em>less</em> than we were in June 2009, when the recession ended. Is it any wonder that our recovery has been so weak?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 17:20:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 304866 at IG Report on Clinton Email Concludes With...Nothing New <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The State Department's inspector general has finally issued his report on email preservation and retention practices within the department, <a href="" target="_blank">and he's not impressed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>OIG identified multiple email and other electronic records management issues during the course of this evaluation....Insufficient Oversight of the Recordkeeping Process....Print and File Requirements Not Enforced....Limited Ability To Retrieve Email Records....No Inventory of Archived Electronic Files....Unavailable or Inaccessible Electronic Files....Failure To <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_email_oig_report.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Transfer Email Records to IPS....Failure To Follow Department Separation Processes....Failure To Notify NARA of Loss of Records</p> <p>OIG discovered anecdotal examples suggesting that Department staff have used personal email accounts to conduct official business....<strong>OIG identified more than 90 Department employees who periodically used personal email accounts to conduct official business.</strong>...OIG also reviewed an S/ES-IRM report prepared in 2010 showing that more than 9,200 emails were sent within one week from S/ES servers to 16 web-based email domains, including,, and former Director of Policy Planning wrote: <strong>&ldquo;State&rsquo;s technology is so antiquated that NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Yikes! But no one cares about this. We care about Hillary Clinton. Are you ready? Here's the IG's blistering report:</p> <blockquote> <p>Sending emails from a personal account to other employees at their Department accounts is not an appropriate method of preserving any such emails that would constitute a Federal record. Therefore, <strong>Secretary Clinton should have preserved any Federal records she created and received on her personal account by printing and filing those records</strong> with the related files in the Office of the Secretary. At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department&rsquo;s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.</p> <p>NARA agrees with the foregoing assessment but told OIG that <strong>Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s production of 55,000 pages of emails mitigated her failure to properly preserve emails that qualified as Federal records during her tenure</strong> and to surrender such records upon her departure. OIG concurs with NARA but also notes that Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s production was incomplete. For example, the Department and OIG both determined that the production included no email covering the first few months of Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s tenure.</p> <p>....With regard to Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s immediate staff...<strong>OIG learned of extensive use of personal email accounts by four immediate staff members</strong> (none of whom responded to the questionnaire). During the summer of 2015, their representatives produced Federal records in response to a request from the Department, portions of which included material sent and received via their personal email accounts. The material consists of nearly 72,000 pages in hard copy and more than 7.5 gigabytes of electronic data.</p> <p>....During Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s tenure, the FAM also instructed employees that they were expected to use approved, secure methods to transmit SBU [Sensitive But Unclassified] information and that, if they needed to transmit SBU information outside the Department&rsquo;s OpenNet network on a regular basis to non-Departmental addresses, they should request a solution from IRM. However, <strong>OIG found no evidence that Secretary Clinton ever contacted IRM to request such a solution,</strong> despite the fact that emails exchanged on her personal account regularly contained information marked as SBU.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, this is pretty much all the stuff we already knew. The Department of State apparently has epically bad email systems. Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton should have consulted with State's IT staff about her personal email account. She didn't. She should have turned over her work emails sooner. She didn't. Ditto for her staff.</p> <p>And that's about it. Hillary screwed up. The IG report doesn't present any evidence that her system was ever hacked. Nor does it suggest that Hillary was deliberately trying to prevent work-related emails from being retained. Nor was she the only one conducting official business on a personal account. Colin Powell did it too, as well as dozens of other State employees.</p> <p>Nonetheless, Hillary exercised poor judgment here. That's been clear for a long time. Beyond that, though, there's not much more to say.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 15:58:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 304851 at Repeat After Me: Democrats and Republicans Are Not the Same <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Charles&nbsp;Camosy proposes <a href="" target="_blank">a grand bargain for Democrats and Republicans:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>How to pass federal paid family leave and limit abortions</strong></p> <p>Family leave programs and child-care support are energetically backed by liberals....[But] these kinds of programs violate the extremist small-government orthodoxy of the Republican Party. Even if Democrats were to win the presidency this year, and a majority in the House and the Senate, the GOP would almost certainly filibuster bills that meaningfully addressed paid family leave and child-care costs.</p> <p>That means that Democrats who want to see such bills pass need to come up with a carrot to get moderate Republicans on board. A nearly perfect one exists: the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which was passed by the House last year but filibustered by Senate Democrats. The bill would ban elective abortions past the 20th week of pregnancy. The United States is extreme in allowing such abortions in the first place; it is one of only seven countries in the world that permit abortions beyond 20 weeks.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Paid family leave and child-care support in return for limiting abortions after 20 weeks instead of 26. Camosy is right: there are probably some Democrats who'd back that deal. At a guess, there would be at least enough to defeat a filibuster and put this on the president's desk. So let's give it a try!</p> <p>Oh wait. We need some Republican votes too. At the moment I can think Republicans who wouldn't dismiss this out of hand. Other than that, though, it sounds like some great out-of-the-box thinking.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 15:15:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 304841 at Peter Thiel's Secret War Against Gawker <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Forbes</em> provides some interesting dirt on <a href="" target="_blank">Hulk Hogan's libel suit against Gawker:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook, <strong>has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan&rsquo;s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media</strong>....During court proceedings, which ended in late March with a $140 million victory for Hogan, there had been rumors that a wealthy individual had funded <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_peter_thiel.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Hogan&rsquo;s case though there was never any hard evidence that surfaced to prove that was true.</p> <p>....Money may not have been the main motivation in the first place. Thiel, who is gay, has made no secret of his distaste for Gawker, which attempted to out him in late 2007 before he was open about his sexuality. In 2009, Thiel told PEHub that now-defunct Silicon Valley-focused publication Valleywag, which was owned by Gawker, had the &ldquo;psychology of a terrorist.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p><em>Mother Jones</em> has had its own recent run-in <a href="" target="_blank">with a zillionaire who tried to sue us into oblivion,</a> so maybe I'm biased. But I'd like to hear a little more about this from the folks who think that safe spaces and campus protests are harbingers of doom for the First Amendment. You know what could <em>really</em> hurt a free press? Mega-millionaires who know that defending a suit can easily put a small publication out of business, and don't really care much if they win or lose. For them, a few million dollars is chump change anyway. And if they can do it secretly? All the better.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 May 2016 14:18:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 304826 at Trump Finally Caves, Gives Money to Vets After Media Badgers Him Into It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_greedy.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Our story so far: on January 28, Donald Trump pledged $1 million at a charity fundraiser for veterans. Four months later, after considerable digging, the <em>Washington Post</em> was unable to find any evidence that he had made good on his pledge, so they asked his campaign manager about it. <a href="" target="_blank">On Friday,</a> Corey Lewandowski said "The money is fully spent. Mr. Trump&rsquo;s money is fully spent." So who did he give it to? "He's not going to share that information."</p> <p>So the <em>Post</em> kept digging all day Monday. Finally, on Tuesday, we learned that Lewandowski had lied. Trump had not, in fact, <a href="" target="_blank">given any money to anyone:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump said in an interview Tuesday that he pledged the $1 million to the Marine Corps - Law Enforcement Foundation. The mogul notified the group's chairman, retired FBI official James Kallstrom, <strong>in a phone call sometime Monday night,</strong> according to Kallstrom's wife, Sue Kallstrom.</p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em> had been querying charities on social media, trying to find evidence that his $1 million had been received by any veterans' groups. Trump fulfilled his pledge hours later, it appears.</p> <p>Why had it taken almost four months? "You have a lot of vetting to do," Trump said....<strong>When asked if the Monday donation was in response to questions from the news media, Trump said: "You know, you&rsquo;re a nasty guy. You&rsquo;re really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Even for Trump, this is inexplicable. Whenever you think he can't possibly be a bigger douche, he proves you wrong. What a revolting human being he is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 23:49:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 304806 at Hillary Clinton Needs Some Better Hobbies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>David Brooks tries to explain <a href="" target="_blank">why Hillary Clinton is generally disliked:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun &mdash; golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.</p> <p>But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms....Clinton&rsquo;s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_bill_clinton_dogs.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 30px 0px 15px 30px;">to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.</p> </blockquote> <p>Brooks has been mocked extensively for this, but that's unfair. He has a point here.</p> <p>Before I get to that, though, let's insert the obvious caveat: one of the main reasons Hillary is disliked is because Republicans have spent a quarter of a century attacking her character relentlessly. Benghazi is just the latest of a long string. This has done plenty of damage on its own, but it's also caused Hillary to build a very thick shell between herself and the press. This naturally makes her seem distant and calculating.</p> <p>Now let's get back to Brooks. Here's the thing: like it or not, from cherry trees to log cabins to men from Hope, presidents have always been as much about image as reality. In the modern era, that means presidents have a carefully constructed TV persona. JFK played touch football on the White House lawn. LBJ lassoed calves on his ranch. Nixon bowled.<sup>1</sup> Carter went fishing. Reagan rode horses on his ranch. Bush the Elder went sailing off Kennebunkport. Bill Clinton practically focus grouped his vacations. Bush the Younger cleared brush. Obama does hits on ESPN talking about his March Madness bracket.</p> <p>Apparently Hillary's hobbies are Scrabble, gardening, and crossword puzzles. That's not a lot to work with, but it's something. For example, here's a picture of Hillary and Bill in a Scrabble death match against the Bidens. Here's another of Hillary relaxing after a long day with the <em>New York Times</em> crossword puzzle. And here's one of her planting some new spring bulbs in her&mdash;</p> <p>Wait. What's that? You don't see any pictures? Sorry about that. I couldn't find any. Maybe I didn't look hard enough.</p> <p>Bottom line: Brooks has a point. It doesn't matter if you think it's fair or not. Modern presidents all know perfectly well that TV has brought the American public into their lives, and the public wants to know what they do for fun. They want to feel like their president is someone who relaxes at the end of the day and lets off a little steam. But Hillary Clinton won't let them see that.</p> <p>Sure, a lot of this is artifice. So what? It still matters.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>For all the good this did him. But at least he tried. Not for nothing did Nixon turn to media guru Roger Ailes for advice on how to appear less like the devious prick he was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 23:20:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 304801 at Paging Joe Conason to the Assignment Desk <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As we all know, Donald Trump recently suggested that Vince Foster's suicide was "fishy." He did this solely to get everyone talking about the old conspiracy theories that maybe Hillary had him murdered, and it worked. Everyone's talking about it. Sure, most of the talk is about how the conspiracy theories were thoroughly discredited years ago, <a href="" target="_blank">but as Digby says:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem is that nobody believes fact checks they don't already agree with. And from what I'm hearing from some of my readers, this is all news to them and they're ready to believe it. Clinton lies about everything so why not about murder?</p> </blockquote> <p>Yeah. If you're under 35, you probably barely heard about this in real time. It's all brand new, and if you're a Bernie supporter who loathes Hillary as part of the corrupt, warmonger, Wall-Street-loving establishment, you're primed to give it a listen.</p> <p>Needless to say, Trump is likely to repeat this about every one of the long string of pseudo-scandals that have been aimed at Hillary over the past 25 years. So here's what we need: a series of cheat sheets. One for Vince Foster, one for Whitewater, one for Travelgate, etc. Here's a proposed format:</p> <blockquote> <p>Description of alleged scandal (100 words max).</p> <p>Where it came from (150 words max)</p> <p>Actual truth of the matter (250 words max)</p> <p>Conspiracy theory talking points (1 million words max)</p> </blockquote> <p>Just kidding on that last one. Let's keep it to a few hundred words, OK? The idea here isn't to be exhaustive, it's to provide something that people might actually read. Something that allows folks who don't know about this stuff to get up to speed in a minute or two. I nominate Joe Conason for this task, but anybody else with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Arkansas Project and its bastard cousins is welcome to contribute instead. I hate to say it, but we're probably going to need this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 22:11:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 304786 at Millennials Are the First Generation In Which Men Outnumber Women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This post was just completely wrong. Men generally outnumber women in every generation until mortality rates turn things around after middle age. I'm not really sure what I was thinking here.</p> <p>Anyway, I've deleted the whole thing. If you already read it, try to forget it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 May 2016 19:21:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 304766 at