Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/rss http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Medicare Actuaries Are Big Fans of Obamacare's Cost Reduction Programs http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/medicare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As long as we're perusing the 2014 Medicare Trustees Report, here's another interesting chart. It shows just how much the Medicare actuaries expect to save thanks to all the cost-reduction measures included in Obamacare. It's a pretty speculative forecast, of course, but their estimate is that Obamacare will reduce federal spending a lot. By 2080, the savings add up to about 1.5 percent of GDP, which in today's dollars amounts to $250 billion per year.</p> <p>Now, don't take this too seriously on a pure policy basis. Projections that are extended 70 years out are pretty worthless. Trend lines don't stay the same that long, and government policies change every decade anyway. Nor does this mean that Obamacare is a free lunch. It still has a high net cost since it's insuring a whole lot of people who never had insurance before.</p> <p>Still, this shows that the Medicare actuaries take the efficiency measures in Obamacare pretty seriously. If we stick to them, they really are likely to cut the growth rate of Medicare spending. And remember: Medicare costs get reflected in overall health care costs too. If Republicans ever win their jihad against Obamacare, we lose not just the Medicare savings, but a lot of savings in private health care too. That's a lot to give up.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicare_obamacare_savings.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Health Care Tue, 29 Jul 2014 00:42:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 257111 at http://www.motherjones.com US Coal Exports Have Erased All The CO2 Savings From the Fracking Boom http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/us-coal-exports-have-erased-all-carbon-pollution-savings-wed-achieved-switching- <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The domestic fracking boom has been widely celebrated as a godsend in the fight against climate change. In 2007, cheap natural gas began replacing dirtier coal as the fuel of choice in US power plants. By 2012, the switchover was annually saving an estimated 86 million tons of CO2, the carbon equivalent of taking 21 million cars off the road. That's obviously a huge accomplishment, but it comes with a lesser known catch: All of that coal we're no longer using is still getting dug up, sold off, and spewed into the atmosphere.</p> <p>The carbon pollution savings from our switch from coal to gas has been more than canceled out by an increase in our coal exports, according to <a href="http://co2scorecard.org/home/researchitem/29" target="_blank">a recent study</a> by Shakeb Afsah of the group CO2 Scorecard. After the domestic market for coal dried up in 2007, US exports of steam coal increased by 83 million tons, resulting in the release of an additional 149 million metric tons of CO2. That's 73 percent more CO2 than Americans have saved so far by ditching the black stuff.</p> <p>The study is mentioned today in a <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/Not-in-my-backyard-US-sending-dirty-coal-abroad-5650807.php" target="_blank">great story</a> by AP's Dina Cappiello, who looks at whether the coal exports will ultimately increase carbon emissions. Coal companies point to studies suggesting international demand for coal is fairly inelastic, meaning that if US coal exports suddenly disappeared, they would simply be replaced by coal from somewhere else. Yet other studies conclude that the US exports depress prices, driving up demand and delaying a switch to cleaner options.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/10/america-coal-industry-exports-china" target="_blank">As I've previously noted</a>, huge new coal export terminals proposed on the West Coast have become the latest flash points in the climate wars. Cappiello points out that a single ship full of Appalachian coal, exported from Virginia to South America, contains enough greenhouse gas to match the annual emissions of a small American power plant.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Climate Change Energy Infrastructure Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:37:33 +0000 Josh Harkinson 257096 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Great Medicare Spending Mystery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/chart-day-great-medicare-spending-mystery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here it is: the biggest question mark in the entire federal budget. The <a href="http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/Downloads/TR2014.pdf" target="_blank">2014 Medicare Trustees Report</a> is out today, and it shows, rather remarkably, that the cost per person of Medicare in 2013 was absolutely flat compared to 2012. Even more remarkably, they expect the combined increase over the next two years to be zero as well. In other words, Medicare costs are growing considerably slower than the inflation rate.</p> <p>And now for the trillion-dollar question: How long will this slowdown last? The historical data in the report, along with future projections, suggests that between 2006 (when the prescription drug benefit began) and 2018, Medicare costs will have grown, on average, at exactly the rate of inflation. In real terms, that means zero growth over a 12-year period. But Medicare's actuaries don't expect that to last. Starting in 2017 they expect high growth rates again, leading to Medicare spending outpacing inflation.</p> <p>This is by far the biggest unknown going forward in the federal budget: Will Medicare spending continue to increase slowly, or will it revert to the higher growth rates of the early aughts? You can make a pretty good case either way. But no matter what anyone tells you&mdash;<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/08/medicare-costs-down-down-down" target="_blank">including me</a>&mdash;don't be fooled. The real answer is that We. Just. Don't. Know.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_medicare_spending_projection_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:57:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 257101 at http://www.motherjones.com Anyone With a Concealed Carry Permit Can Now Come Dangerously Close to the White House http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/federal-court-voids-dc-gun-restrictions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A federal judge has <a href="http://ia600408.us.archive.org/2/items/gov.uscourts.dcd.137887/gov.uscourts.dcd.137887.51.0.pdf" target="_blank">ordered the District of Columbia </a>to stop enforcing its restrictions on carrying handguns on the streets of the nation's capital. The decision also forced the District government to allow out-of-state concealed carry and open carry permit holders to wield their weapons within steps of the White House.</p> <p>Senior District Court Judge Fredrick Scullin Jr., ruling from his regular post in Syracuse, New York, said that the case is a no-brainer. Based on the US Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in <em>DC v. </em><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/03/whitewashing-second-amendment" target="_blank"><em><em>H</em>eller, </em></a>which validated the individual right to bear arms, Scullin said the city's gun laws were clearly unconstitutional. He sided with the plaintiffs, who argued that while the city passed a law requiring a permit to carry a handgun in public, it then refused to grant them to anyone who planned to carry their weapons outside their homes, a move that violated the Second Amendment.</p> <p>The <em>Heller</em> case, spearheaded by Alan Gura, the same lawyer who won this weekend's ruling, struck down DC's long-standing ban on the ownership of handguns. But in complying with the ruling, the city passed new laws in 2008 that were so restrictive that, the court said, they still prevented virtually anyone from getting a license to carry a handgun outside of their homes. And that, Scullin said, just won't fly.</p> <p>The potential implications of the decision are enormous, should it be allowed to stand. The District of Columbia is unlike any other American city. It's filled with important federal agency buildings, monuments, courthouses, not to mention the White House. Visiting dignitaries, heads of state, and many members of Congress travel its streets on a daily basis.</p> <p>DC is also home to large public events attended by all manner of VIPs, including presidential inaugurations, which are difficult enough to secure without the prospect of gun-toting citizens joining the fray. The security apparatus in DC is intense. And assassination attempts aren't unheard of. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/longterm/library/dc/barry/violence.htm" target="_blank">Former Mayor Marion Barry Jr. was shot</a> in 1977 in the DC Council building. John Hinckley Jr. shot President Reagan as he left the Washington Hilton. There was also the 2013 Navy Yard shooting that left 12 people dead. DC is a magnet for crazy people with guns, something law enforcement officials have long recognized.</p> <p>Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier <a href="http://ia600408.us.archive.org/2/items/gov.uscourts.dcd.137887/gov.uscourts.dcd.137887.6.0.pdf" target="_blank">testified before Congres</a>s in 2008 against a bill pending in the House that would have accomplished what Scullin's ruling effectively did, overturning the city's gun laws. She noted that in order to watch the oral arguments in the <em>Heller</em> case, she had to leave her gun behind. No weapons are allowed inside the very building where the justices decided that the city's gun restrictions were just too restrictive.</p> <p>Many of those type of restrictions in DC will remain in place, regardless of Scullin's ruling. Both DC and federal laws will still allow the government to bar the bearing of arms in certain places, including federal buildings, schools, the Capitol, etc. Traversing the District without encountering terrain that prohibits guns would be difficult. Just crossing the trendy DuPont Circle neighborhood might entail stepping foot on federal parkland, where guns are barred.</p> <p>Even so, the ruling, which took effect almost immediately, could put a lot more guns into a city that's spent untold millions trying to secure and defend against terrorist and other public safety threats. The plaintiffs in the case that prompted Scullin's ruling, <em>Palmer v. DC</em>, argue that DC's gun laws need to be overturned for the benefit of law-abiding citizens. The plaintiffs are all described as upstanding folks just looking to defend themselves on the mean streets of DC (or at least not get arrested for having a gun in the car, as one of them did). But, as any number of recent gun-related massacres can attest, not all legal gun owners are sane, stable, or well intentioned.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.vpc.org/ccwkillers.htm" target="_blank">Violence Policy Center has been keeping a running tally </a>of all the people in the US who've been killed by people legally carrying a concealed weapon. Since 2007, that figure has reached 644, and it includes 14 law enforcement officers. Fewer than 20 of those deaths were deemed lawful self-defense. There's a good reason why DC has banned the open or concealed carrying of weapons by ordinary citizens for 150 years. But thanks to the US Supreme Court, and now Judge Scullin, those common sense practices may go out the door.&nbsp;</p> <p>Scullin's ruling, at least in the near-term, is likely to be short-lived. The District has <a href="http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Judge-Strikes-Down-DC-Ban-on-Guns-268790471.html?_osource=SocialFlowTwt_DCBrand" target="_blank">asked the court to stay its decision </a>and let the city's current laws stand until it can formally appeal the ruling or until it can revise its laws to meet constitutional scrutiny.</p></body></html> MoJo Crime and Justice Guns Regulatory Affairs Top Stories Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:16:11 +0000 Stephanie Mencimer 257061 at http://www.motherjones.com House Republicans Pass Bill to Lower Taxes on the Rich and Raise Taxes on the Poor http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/house-republicans-pass-bill-lower-taxes-rich-and-raise-taxes-poor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So what are Republicans in the House of Representatives up to these days? <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118866/house-republicans-vote-remove-marriage-penalty-child-tax-credit" target="_blank">According to Danny Vinik,</a> they just passed a bill that would reduce taxes on the rich and raise them on the poor.</p> <p>I know, I know: you're shocked. But in a way, I think this whole episode is even worse than Vinik makes it sound.</p> <p>Here's the background: The child tax credit reduces your income tax by $1,000 for each child you have. It phases out for upper middle-income folks, but&mdash;and this is the key point&mdash;it phases out differently for singles and couples. The way the numbers sort out, it treats singles better than couples. This is the dreaded "marriage penalty," which is bad because we want to encourage people to get married, not discourage them.</p> <p>So what did House Republicans do? Naturally, they raised the phase-out threshold for married couples so that well-off couples would get a higher benefit. They didn't have to do this, of course. They could have lowered the benefit for singles instead. Or they could have jiggled the numbers so that everyone got equal benefits but the overall result was revenue neutral.</p> <p>But they didn't. They chose the path that would increase the benefit&mdash;and thus lower taxes&mdash;for married couples making high incomes. The bill also indexes the credit to inflation, which helps only those with incomes high enough to claim the full credit. And it does nothing to make permanent a reduction in the earnings threshold that benefits poor working families. Here's the net result:</p> <blockquote> <p>If the House legislation became law, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&amp;id=4171" target="_blank">the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimated</a> that a couple making $160,000 a year would receive a new tax cut of $2,200. On the other hand, the expiring provisions of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbpp_child_tax_credit.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the CTC would cause a single mother with two kids making $14,500 to lose her full CTC, worth $1,725.</p> </blockquote> <p>So inflation indexing, which is verboten when the subject is the minimum wage, is A-OK when it comes to high-income taxpayers. And eliminating the marriage penalty is also a good idea&mdash;but again, only for high-income couples. Which is crazy. I don't really have a firm opinion on whether the government should be in the business of encouraging marriage, but if it is, surely it should focus its attention on the people who need encouragement in the first place. And that is very decidedly not the upper middle class, which continues to get married at the same rate as ever.</p> <p>So we have a deficit-busting tax cut. It's a cut only for the upper middle class. It's indexed for inflation, even though we're not allowed to index things like the minimum wage. And the poor are still scheduled for a tax increase in 2017 because this bill does nothing to stop it. It's a real quad-fecta. I wonder what Paul Ryan thinks of all this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Income Inequality Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:12:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 257071 at http://www.motherjones.com Why on Earth Are Argentine Bonds So Hot Right Now? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/why-earth-are-argentine-bonds-so-hot-right-now <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What's the hottest ticket in the global bond market right now? That's right: Argentine bonds. They're on a tear. But why? Didn't Argentina just <em>lose</em>&mdash;once and for all&mdash;its court case against vulture funds who own old Argentine bonds and are <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_argentina_map.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">refusing to accept partial payment of the kind that everyone else accepted after Argentina's default a decade ago?</p> <p>Why yes, they did lose. Argentina now has to pay the vulture funds&mdash;which is politically unthinkable for any Argentine politician who wants to avoid being tarred and feathered&mdash;or else it has to default on <em>all</em> its bonds, including the restructured "exchange" bonds that it issued in 2005. So why are these exchange bonds becoming more valuable? Argentina has always been <em>willing</em> to pay those bonds, so it's not as if the court ruling has made default less likely. The risk of default was already close to nil. So what's up?</p> <p>Felix Salmon, having gotten tired of financial journalists offering up bizarre theories to explain this, tells us today that it's probably all simpler than it seems. In fact, the odds of default <em>have</em> gotten higher, just as logic dictates, but this might actually be a good thing for bondholders. Normally, he points out, there's no upside to bonds: you get the coupon payment, but you never get anything more. In Argentina's case, however, that might not be true.</p> <p>First off, there's something called a RUFO clause. This means that if Argentina does eventually settle with the vulture funds, it has to offer the same deal to all the other bondholders.</p> <blockquote> <p>Obviously, Argentina doesn&rsquo;t have the money to pay out the exchange bondholders in full according to that clause. But if Argentina is paying out billions of dollars to vultures who deserve much less than they&rsquo;re getting, and if those payments create a massive parallel legal obligation to the bondholders who cooperated with the country and did everything they asked, <strong>then it&rsquo;s not unreasonable to expect that Argentina might end up paying something to the exchange bondholders,</strong> if doing so would wipe out any RUFO obligations.</p> </blockquote> <p>Then there are interest payments:</p> <blockquote> <p>The second way that exchange bondholders could get more than 100 cents on the dollar is, paradoxically, if there is a default. The minute that Argentina goes into arrears on its coupon payments, the clock starts ticking. From that day onwards &mdash; and actually, that day has been and gone already &mdash; bondholders are owed not only those coupon payments but interest on those coupon payments. <strong>And the interest accrues at the standard statutory rate of 8% &mdash; a massive number, these days.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: a paradoxical case in which bonds might be viewed as more valuable if the odds of default are higher. Salmon admits that he's just speculating here, since no one knows for sure why the market is so hot for Argentine bonds in the wake of Argentina <em>losing</em> its court case. But this is at least a reasonable guess. And a fascinating one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy International Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:11:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 257056 at http://www.motherjones.com Congress Might Actually Pass a Bill to Address VA Problems http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/congress-might-actually-pass-bill-address-va-problems <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Since I've been griping for a long time about Congress being unable to pass so much as a Mother's Day resolution these days, it's only fair to highlight the possibility of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/07/27/house-senate-negotiators-reach-deal-on-veterans-bill/" target="_blank">actual progress on something:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House and Senate negotiators have reached a tentative agreement to deal with the long-term needs of the struggling Department of Veterans Affairs and plan to unveil their proposal Monday.</p> <p>Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who lead the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees, continued negotiating over the weekend. Aides said they "made significant progress" on legislation to overhaul the VA and provide funding to hire more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals. Sanders and Miller are scheduled to discuss their plan Monday afternoon.</p> </blockquote> <p>We don't have all the details yet, and the bill hasn't actually passed or anything. There's still plenty of time for tea partiers to throw their usual tantrum. And there's also plenty of time for the House GOP leadership to respond to the tantrum by crawling back into its cave and killing the whole thing. It'll be President Obama's fault, of course, probably for attending a fundraiser, or maybe for sneezing at the wrong time.</p> <p>But maybe not! Maybe they really will pass this thing. It would provide vets with more flexibility to see doctors outside the VA system, which is a bit of a Band-Aid&mdash;but probably a necessary one&mdash;and it provides additional funding for regions that have seen a big influx of veterans. On the flip side, I don't get the sense that the bill will really do much to fix the culture of the VA, which becomes a political cause c&eacute;l&egrave;bre every few years as we discover that all the same things we yelled about the time before are still true. But I guess that's inevitable in a political culture with the attention span of a newt.</p> <p>All things considered, it would be a good sign if this bill passed. The VA, after all, isn't an inherently partisan issue. Just the opposite, since both parties support vets about equally and both should, in theory, be more interested in helping vets than in prolonging chaos for political reasons.</p> <p>In other words, if there's anything that's amenable to a basically technocratic solution and bipartisan support, this is it. In a way, it's a test of whether our political system is completely broken or just mostly broken. "Mostly" would be something of a relief.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:38:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 257051 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 28, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-28-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Marines take cover behind a barrier after tossing a grenade at <span class="meta-field photo-desc " id="yui_3_16_0_rc_1_1_1406554548253_1419">Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014. (Photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz.)</span></em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:43:03 +0000 257041 at http://www.motherjones.com Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens' "Cold World" Brings the Spirit http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/naomi-shelton-and-gospel-queens-cold-world <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><strong>Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens<br><em>Cold World</em><br> Daptone</strong></p> <p><img alt="Naomi Shelton Cold War" class="image" src="https://www.motherjones.com/files/DAP%20033%20Cover%20Art%20Hi%20Res-228x228.jpg" style="float: right;">If you pick up <em>Cold World</em>, get ready to do some foot-stomping. Like her more secular labelmate <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2011/04/sharon-jones-interview-dap-kings" target="_blank">Sharon Jones</a>, Naomi Shelton sings with a gritty warmth that will rouse believers and nonbelievers alike, while her Gospel Queens serve as a stirring foil, locating that sweet spot where church music and old-school R&amp;B intersect. This isn't a mere exercise in nostalgia for purists, however: Exciting tracks like "Get Up, Child" and "Bound for the Promised Land" boast propulsive grooves that will keep any party cooking with funky grace.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/CsCEx9qKeDg" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Mixed Media Music Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Jon Young 256856 at http://www.motherjones.com Fast Tracks: Imelda May's "Tribal" http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/fast-tracks-imelda-mays-tribal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rq2YUEFELLc" width="629"></iframe></p> <p><strong>TRACK 3</strong></p> <p>"It's Good to Be Alive"</p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/tribal-300x300.jpg"></div> <p>From Imelda May's <em>Tribal</em></p> <p>VERVE</p> <p><strong>Liner notes:</strong> Riding an exuberant rockabilly groove, the Irish shouter delivers a message of hope.</p> <p><strong>Behind the music:</strong> A veteran of Jeff Beck's guitar sessions, May wrote this exhilarating tune the day after giving birth to her first child.</p> <p><strong>Check it out if you like:</strong> Big, confident voices, from Wanda Jackson to Connie Smith to Neko Case.</p> <p><em>This review originally appeared in the </em><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/toc/2014/07" target="_blank">July/August 2014</a> Issue <em>of </em>Mother Jones.</p></body></html> Mixed Media Media Music Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:00:07 +0000 Jon Young 252791 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Is About to Give You the Right to Unlock Your Phone http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/cell-phone-unlock-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ever wondered why you can't transfer your old phone to a new carrier? The practice, known as cellphone unlocking, is illegal. It probably won't surprise you that in the '90s, wireless carriers&mdash;who, for obvious reasons, wanted everyone to buy new phones and plans&mdash;lobbied for a ban.</p> <p>As I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/cell-phone-unlocking-environment-waste" target="_blank">wrote</a> last year, this ban isn't just annoying and expensive for consumers, it's also wasteful. We only keep our phones for an average of 18 months , and when we get a new one, the old one seldom makes it to a recycling facility. Many languish in desk drawers; some end up in the garbage. That means a lot of electronic waste in landfills, not to mention the environmentally hazardous materials such as <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/11/rare-earth-elements-iphone-malaysia" target="_blank">rare earths</a> required to make all those new phones.</p> <p>So it's great news that today the House unanimously passed a <a href="http://cir.ca/news/cellphone-unlocking-legislation" target="_blank">law</a> that would finally make phone unlocking legal. The Senate approved the measure last week. Now President Obama just needs to sign off, which he has <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/cellphone-unlocking-bill-obama-109390.html" target="_blank">pledged</a> to do.</p> <p>After that, if you unearth that old phone from the desk drawer, someone might actually be able to use it.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Econundrums Tech Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:26:09 +0000 Kiera Butler 257011 at http://www.motherjones.com PETA's Five Most Tone-Deaf Stunts http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/peta-dumb <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Proving once again PETA is unfamiliar with how to a deliver meaningful publicity campaign, the animal rights group is now looking to score a win off poor people's thirst.</p> <p>Some background: The bankrupt city of Detroit has been shutting off its tap water to thousands of poor residents in order to force them to pay for nearly <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/un-help-sought-restore-detroit-water-service" target="_blank">$90 million </a>in overdue water bills. Advocates have slammed the move, calling out the city for eliminating a basic human right. The <a href="http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2014/07/21/naacp-detroit-water-service-shutoffs-are-racially-motivated/" target="_blank">NAACP recently filed a lawsuit</a> calling the shut down discriminatory, as most of Detroit's low-income residents are overwhelmingly black.</p> <p>It takes a certain type of callousness to look at this situation and see anything other than misfortune. PETA saw an opportunity! The animal rights group has made an offer to poor Detroit residents: Be one of 10 families to denounce meat and they'll put an end to your family's thirst. <a href="http://www.peta.org/blog/peta-pay-peoples-water-bills/" target="_blank">PETA will even throw in a basket of vegetables for the effort.</a></p> <p>"Vegan meals take far less of a toll on the Earth&rsquo;s resources," PETA wrote in a <a href="http://blogs.metrotimes.com/news-blawg/peta-offers-pay-overdue-water-bills-detroiters-willing-go-vegan/" target="_blank">recent press release</a>. "It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of meat but only about 155 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat."</p> <p>This seems like as good a time as any to look back on PETA's misguided and often times exploitative PR campaigns of the past:</p> <p><strong>1. "Boyfriend went vegan and knocked the bottom out of me." (2012)</strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/m0vQOnHW0Kc" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Enhance your sex life by e<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/02/15/peta-boyfriend-went-vegan-ad_n_1280061.html" target="_blank">ncouraging your boyfriend to go vegan.</a> He'll transform into a "tantric porn star," breaking your neck and causing your body to go limp. The sex will be so mind-blowing, in fact, you'll wander aimlessly in just a bra, as you reflect on the violent sex you had the pleasure of subjecting yourself to the evening prior.</p> <p><strong>2. "Holocaust on your plate." (2003)</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/02/28/peta.holocaust/" target="_blank">Here</a> the group matches photos of factory farms with Holocaust inmates. The display was promptly banned in Germany&mdash;a move PETA found absurd considering a Jewish PETA member happened to fund the campaign.</p> <p><strong>3. Too fat for Plan B?</strong> <strong>Try "Plan V." (2013)</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/screen_shot_2013-12-02_at_3.24.35_pm_0.png"></p> <p>Jumping on news Plan B may not work as well for women over 165 pounds, PETA <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/12/plan-b-weight-limits-peta-vegan" target="_blank">urges women</a> to shed a few pounds by going vegan.</p> <p><strong>4. Dog breeding is for Nazis. (2014)</strong></p> <p><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/020714dog.jpg"></p> <p>Again conjuring up the atrocities of the Holocaust, which lets keep in mind systematically killed 11 million people, the <a href="http://gothamist.com/2014/02/07/peta_9.php" target="_blank">group equates dog breeding to Hitler's plan to bring about a pure Aryan race.</a></p> <p><strong>5. Don a fur coat and you'll be beaten. (2007)</strong></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/SR021-qyLJ8" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>The <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR021-qyLJ8" target="_blank">disturbing video</a> above even seems to justify senseless violence.</p> <p>Detroit has already severed off the tap water supply to nearly 125,000 people, with thousands more likely to have their resources shut down in weeks to come. And anyone with a remote interest in current events understands most Detroiters are low-income residents, m<a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/the-challenge-of-going-vegan/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">any of whom could not afford to have a vegan diet.</a></p> <p>Nice going, PETA.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Animals Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:23:46 +0000 257006 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 25 July 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/friday-cat-blogging-25-july-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Say hello to Mozart, the latest addition to the Drum family menagerie. One of my mother's neighbors found him wandering around, so naturally he ended up at my mother's house. He's a very sociable cat and appears to be very pleased with his choice of home. To celebrate his appearance, today you get two catblogging photos: one that shows his whole body and one that's a close-up of his face. Enjoy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mozart_body_2014_07_25.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 5px 60px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mozart_face_2014_07_25.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 10px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 257001 at http://www.motherjones.com Doctors Aren't Really Very Smart About Buying Generics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/doctors-arent-really-very-smart-about-buying-generics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff takes a look today at our use of generic drugs. Long story short, it's surprising how few of us save money by buying generic pain medicine instead of name brands (Advil, Tylenol, Bayer, etc.). Why? In most cases, I suppose it's just ignorance: people don't realize that the "store brand" is genuinely identical to the name brand. In other cases it might be something else. I buy generic ibuprofen, and it usually comes in the form of small brown pills. One day, however, I went to to a different drug store to stock up, and it turned out that their generic ibuprofen came in the form of small <em>orange</em> pills. Marian used these for a while, but really hated them. Eventually she cracked, and insisted on buying a new bottle from our usual drug store. Sometimes little things can make all the difference.</p> <p>Anyway. The main point of Kliff's post is that generics are good, and as evidence of this she puts up a chart showing what doctors themselves buy. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/7/25/5936739/shop-like-a-pharmacist-dont-buy-advil" target="_blank">Here's an excerpt from the chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_doctor_generics_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 10px 5px;"></p> <p>It's true that doctors mostly favor generics when it comes to basic pain relievers. But frankly, what's amazing to me is how <em>little</em> they prefer them. For chrissake, they prefer generic <em>aspirin</em> by only ten percentage points. That means they buy the name brand about 45 percent of the time. Why would a doctor do this? Granted, the extra few dollars is probably no big deal to them, but why waste it anyway? Certainly not because of ignorance. Are their spouses doing the buying? Or what?</p> <p>And why the active preference for name-brand rubbing alcohol, of all things? It's hard to think of anything more generic than that. What's the deal here?</p> <p>As for Alka-Seltzer, the dislike of generics is so huge that there just has to be some real difference here. But what?</p> <p>In any case, I suspect this might have some real importance beyond the question of doctors spending a few dollars they don't have to. If physicians aren't really sold on generics in their own personal lives, does this mean they're not really sold on them in their professional lives too? Do they tend to prescribe name brands when they shouldn't? And how much does this cost all of us?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:05:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 256996 at http://www.motherjones.com You'd Scream, Too, If You Were This Close to a Collapsing Iceberg http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/iceberg-collapse-antarctica-greenland-climate-change <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XEk5mNVc2Hk?rel=0" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Climate change is melting ice at both ends of the planet&mdash;just ask the researchers who <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/05/west-antarctic-ice-sheet-collapse" target="_blank">published two papers</a> in May saying that a major expanses of antarctic ice are now undergoing a "continuous and rapid retreat" and may have "passed the point of no return."</p> <p>As the poles melt, icebergs are breaking off and drifting with greater ease, creating a world of problems for humans and animals alike. In Antarctica, warmer winters mean icebergs aren't held in place as they once were, and are now <a href="http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/about_bas/news/news_story.php?id=2663" target="_blank">colliding with the ocean floor</a> more frequently, laying waste to a complex ecosystem. In Greenland, summer icebergs&mdash; like one <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0719/Monstrous-iceberg-breaks-free-of-Greenland-glacier.-Is-climate-change-to-blame-video" target="_blank">twice the size of Manhattan</a> that broke off 2012&mdash;can clog up shipping lanes and damage offshore oil platforms.</p> <p>But whether climate change set it free or not, even a single 'berg can be dangerous if you get too close, as this couple discovered when they took a look at one floating off the coast of Newfoundland, in eastern Canada.</p> <p><a href="http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2014/07/iceberg-tourism-carries-unexpected-risks-couple-says/" target="_blank">h/t to Minnesota Public Radio News</a> for finding this one.</p></body></html> Blue Marble Video Climate Desk Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:54:11 +0000 Alex Park 256966 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Maybe Not as Inept as We Think http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/republicans-maybe-not-inept-we-think <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman thinks Republicans have become a <a href="http://prospect.org/article/how-did-gop-turn-such-bunch-clowns" target="_blank">bunch of bumblers and idiots:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Think about it this way: Has there been a single instance in the last few years when you said, "Wow, the Republicans really played that one brilliantly"?</p> <p>In fact, before you'll find evidence of the ruthless Republican skillfulness so many of us had come to accept as the norm in a previous era, you'll need to go back an entire decade to the 2004 election. George W. Bush's second term was a disaster, Republicans lost both houses of Congress in 2006, they lost the White House in 2008, they decided to oppose health-care reform with everything they had and lost, they lost the 2012 election&mdash;and around it all they worked as hard as they could to alienate the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_republican_self_id.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;">fastest growing minority group in the country and make themselves seem utterly unfit to govern.</p> <p>In fact, in the last ten years they've only had one major victory, the 2010 midterm election.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. It's true that the GOP has had a rough decade in a lot of ways. The number of self-IDed Republicans has <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/166763/record-high-americans-identify-independents.aspx" target="_blank">plummeted since 2004;</a> their standing among the fast-growing Hispanic population has cratered; and their intellectual core is now centered in a wing of the party that believes we should return to the gold standard. This isn't a promising starting point for a conservative renaissance.</p> <p>Still, let's not kid ourselves. If Republicans were really as woefully inept as Waldman says, then Democrats should be kicking some serious ass these days. I haven't especially noticed this. They won in the sixth year of Bush's presidency, when out parties always win, and then won in 2008, when an economic collapse pretty much guaranteed a victory for anyone with a D after their name. Then they had a single fairly good year&mdash;followed by an epic blunder that lost them a sure seat in Massachusetts, and with it control of the Senate. They got crushed in 2010. They won a squeaker in 2012 against an opponent who made a wedding cake figurine look good by comparison. For the last four years, they've basically gotten nothing done at all.</p> <p>And what about those Republicans? Well, they have a hammerlock on the House, and they might very well control the Senate after the 2014 election. They've won several notable Supreme Court victories (Heller, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, etc.). They control a large majority of the states, and have passed a ton of conservative legislation in areas like voter ID and abortion restrictions. Their "Just Say No" strategy toward President Obama has tied Democrats in knots. They won an all but total victory on spending and deficits.</p> <p>Nor is it really true that today's GOP is notably more bumbling than it used to be. The myth of "ruthless Republican skillfulness" in the past is just that: a myth. George H.W. Bush screwed up on Supreme Court picks and tax hikes. Newt Gingrich&mdash;ahem&mdash;sure didn't turn out to be the world historical strategic genius everyone thought he was in 1994. George W. Bush&mdash;with the eager backing of every Republican in the country&mdash;figured that a war in Iraq would be just the ticket to party dominance for a decade. Ditto for Social Security reform. Republicans were just sure that would be a winner. By contrast, their simpleminded Obama-era strategy of obstructing Democrats at all times and on all things has actually worked out pretty well for them given the hand they were dealt.</p> <p>Make no mistake: It's not as if Republicans have been strategic geniuses. There's no question that they have some long-term issues that they're unable to address thanks to their capitulation to tea party madness. But if they're really so inept, how is it that in the past 15 years Democrats haven't managed to cobble together anything more than about 18 months of modest success between 2009-10?</p> <p>I dunno. Republicans keep getting crazier and crazier and more and more conservative, and liberals keep thinking that <em>this time</em> they've finally gone too far. I've thought this from time to time myself. And yet, moving steadily to the right has paid off pretty well for them over the past three decades, hasn't it?</p> <p>Maybe it will all come to tears in the near future as the lunatic wing of the party becomes even more lunatic, but we liberals have been thinking this for a long time. We haven't been right yet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:49:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 256991 at http://www.motherjones.com Gruber: "It Was Just a Mistake" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/gruber-it-was-just-mistake <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why did Jonathan Gruber tell an audience in 2012 that states which failed to set up Obamacare exchanges would be depriving their residents of federal subsidies? Jonathan Cohn caught up with Gruber this morning and <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118851/jonathan-gruber-halbig-says-quote-exchanges-was-mistake" target="_blank">got an answer:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I honestly don&rsquo;t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. <strong>It was just a mistake.</strong></p> <p>....There are few people who worked as closely with Obama administration and Congress as I did, and at no point was it ever even implied that there&rsquo;d be differential tax credits based on whether the states set up their own exchange. <strong>And that was the basis of all the modeling I did,</strong> and that was the basis of any sensible analysis of this law that&rsquo;s been done by any expert, left and right.</p> <p>I didn&rsquo;t assume every state would set up its own exchanges but I assumed that subsidies would be available in every state. It was never contemplated by anybody who modeled or worked on this law that availability of subsides would be conditional of who ran the exchanges.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it: Gruber screwed up. More importantly, as he points out, he's performed immense amounts of technical modeling of Obamacare, and all of his models assumed that everyone would get subsidies even though not every state would set up its own exchange. As Cohn says, this was pretty much the unanimous belief of everyone involved:</p> <blockquote> <p>As I&rsquo;ve written before, I had literally hundreds of conversations with the people writing health care legislation in 2009 and 2010, including quite a few with Gruber. Like other journalists who were following the process closely, <strong>I never heard any of them suggest subsidies would not be available in states where officials decided not to operate their own marketplaces</strong>&mdash;a big deal that, surely, would have come up in conversation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kudos to Peter Suderman and his sleuths for uncovering this and getting everyone to talk about it for a day. It's a news cycle win for conservatives. But restricting subsidies to state exchanges just flatly wasn't part of Congress's intent. There's simply no way to rewrite history to make it seem like it was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:17:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 256981 at http://www.motherjones.com 57 Percent of Republicans Want to Impeach Obama http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/57-republicans-want-impeach-obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is completely, barking <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/07/24/rel7e.pdf" target="_blank">insane:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_obama_impeach.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"></p> <p>I don't even know how to react to this stuff anymore. A solid majority of Republicans wants to impeach President Obama for....what? An EPA regulation they don't like? Postponing Obamacare's employer mandate for a year? Not prosecuting some immigrant kids who have been in the country since they were three?</p> <p>This goes beyond politics as usual. It's nuts. Fox News is now officially in charge of one of America's two major political parties.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Obama The Right Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:38:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 256971 at http://www.motherjones.com We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 24, 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/were-still-war-photo-day-july-24-2014-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p class="rtecenter"><em>US Navy sailors participate in a replenishment-at-sea on a scheduled deployment aboard the USS Oscar Austin guided-missile destroyer.&nbsp;(US&nbsp;Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist&nbsp;3rd&nbsp;Class DJ&nbsp;Revell.)</em></p></body></html> MoJo Military Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:47 +0000 256961 at http://www.motherjones.com GOP to America: Rich Kids Are Worth More Than Poor Kids http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/07/republican-house-child-tax-credit-bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update, Friday July 25:</strong> On Friday, the House <a href="http://clerk.house.gov/floorsummary/floor.aspx" target="_blank">passed</a> Rep. Lynn Jenkins' (R-Ks.) child tax credit legislation, which would expand the credit for upper-middle class American families. The bill received the support of 212 Republican and 25 Democrats. </em></p> <p>On Friday, the House will vote on a <a href="https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4935" target="_blank">Republican bill</a> that ignores an expiring tax credit for millions of low-income families, while handing one to better-off Americans.</p> <p>The bill, introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Ks.), changes the way the federal child tax credit works by raising the eligibility cap for married couples. At the same time, the legislation would allow a 2009 child tax credit increase for low-income families to expire at the end of 2017. Here's how that would play out in the coming years. A married couple with two children that bring in $160,000 a year would get a new annual tax cut of $2,200, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">according to an analysis</a> by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). A single mother with two kids who makes $14,500 a year would lose $1,725 annually.</p> <p>"The big winners would be the more-affluent families who would become newly eligible for the [child tax credit]," tax experts at the CBPP <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">noted Tuesday</a>. "The losers would be millions of low-income families who are doing exactly what policymakers often say they want these people to do&mdash;working, even at low-wage jobs."</p> <p>Here's a look at how poor, middle-class, and wealthier Americans would be affected by the bill, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">via the CBPP</a>:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/cbpp.png"></div> <p>The 2009 law that increased the child tax credit for poor families did so by lowering the income level required for a partial credit to $3,000 and reducing the annual income required for a full credit to $16,333. If it expires, <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">6 million children and roughly 400,000 veterans and military families </a>would lose all or part of their child tax credit.</p> <p>A spokesman for Jenkins explains that the reason the bill ends up extending the child tax credit to wealthier Americans is that it gets rid of the marriage penalty, which treats a married couple's total income differently than the sum of two separate incomes. The way the child tax credit is currently structured, a single person making up to $75,000 is eligible for a full credit. But for a married couple filing jointly, full credit eligibility <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/qandactc.pdf" target="_blank">cuts off at $110,000</a> instead of at $150,000, the couple's combined total income. Jenkins' bill moves the full credit cut-off to $150,000. (As income increases above these thresholds, the child tax credit phases out slowly. Under Jenkins' bill, for instance, a couple with two kids could still get the credit if they make up to <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&amp;id=4171#_ftn1" target="_blank">$205,000</a>.)</p> <p>Jenkins' office adds that the reason that the legislation does not extend the low-income child tax credit increase is that this provision doesn't expire until the end of 2017, and future legislation can address it.</p> <p>But a Democratic aide familiar with the bill says this justification is disingenuous, adding that if GOPers wanted to extend the low-income provision, they would. All 22 Republicans on the House ways and means committee <a href="http://waysandmeans.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=385595" target="_blank">voted for Jenkins' bill</a>, while all 15 Dems on the committee voted against it. "[Republicans] can say whatever they want," the aide says. But "they are prioritizing making permanent&nbsp;[all the tax provisions] that they want to be permanent, and getting rid of everything else." For instance, Republicans are already <a href="http://democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/press-release/levin-opening-statement-markup-select-expanded-tax-provisions" target="_blank">pushing to extend</a> another <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/American-Opportunity-Tax-Credit" target="_blank">tax measure that expires at the end of 2017</a> that is designed to help parents and students pay for college expenses.</p> <p>The Democratic staffer adds that if Jenkins' bill were to become law, and the low-income provision were left hanging on its own, it would be very difficult to "galvanize Congress into action" to pass a separate extension for the measure. "What carries it along is that it's bundled together," he says. Chuck Marr, one of the authors of the CBPP study, agrees that the most obvious way for the House to extend the low-income measure would be to include it in Jenkins' bill.</p> <p>Even if the legislation passes the House, the bill&mdash;which&nbsp;would cost the government $115 billion over ten years&mdash;has little chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.</p></body></html> MoJo Charts Congress Economy Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:47:54 +0000 Erika Eichelberger 256876 at http://www.motherjones.com Popular Anti-Science Site Likens Journalists to "Nazi Collaborators" Over GMO Coverage http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/07/popular-conspiracy-site-likens-pro-gmo-journalists-nazi-collaborators <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em><strong>Update:&nbsp;</strong>After this story went to press, Adams appended a note to his story likening journalists to Nazis. It reads: "After careful analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the Monsanto Collaborators website is a bait-and-switch trap engineered by the biotech industry in an effort to lure in support from&nbsp;GMO&nbsp;skeptics and then discredit them with some sort of insane 'call to action'&nbsp;of some kind....For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone."</em></p> <p>For years, <em>Natural News</em>&mdash;a conspiracy-minded alternative medicine website that attracts <a href="http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/naturalnews.com" target="_blank">roughly 7 million unique visitors</a> each month&mdash;has been crusading against the practice of genetically modifying food. This week the site's proprietor, Mike Adams, took the campaign to new extremes with <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/046097_biotech_genocide_monsanto_collaborators_media_sellouts.html" target="_blank">a post</a> comparing journalists who are critical of GMO activists to "Nazi collaborators." Adams also urged readers "to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity." Below is a snippet from his anti-media diatribe:</p> <blockquote> <p>Monsanto is widely recognize as the most hated and most evil corporation on the planet. Even so, several internet-based media websites are now marching to Monsanto's orders, promoting GMOs and pursuing defamatory character assassination tactics against anyone who opposes GMOs, hoping to silence their important voices.</p> <p>These Monsanto collaborator sites tend to be "leftist" publications but also include at least one prominent business and finance publisher on the political right. All of them are Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of "feeding the world" with toxic GMOs.</p> </blockquote> <p>The rambling post goes on to compare the agrochemical giant Monsanto to IG Farben, a "chemical conglomerate run by Nazi collaborators" that "used Jewish prisoners as human guinea pigs in horrific medical experiments." And it calls on readers to target journalist who Adams views as pro-GMO by publicly listing their names:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just as history needed to record the names and deeds of Nazi war criminals, so too must all those collaborators who are promoting the death and destruction caused by GMOs be named for the historical record. The true extent of their collaboration with an anti-human regime will all become readily apparent once the GMO delusion collapses and mass global starvation becomes an inescapable reality.</p> <p>I'm hoping someone will create a website listing all the publishers, scientists and journalists who are now Monsanto propaganda collaborators. I have no doubt such a website would be wildly popular and receive a huge influx of visitors, and it would help preserve the historical record of exactly which people contributed to the mass starvation and death which will inevitably be unleashed by GMO agriculture (which is already causing mass suicides in India and crop failures worldwide).</p> </blockquote> <p>Adams, a self-proclaimed nutritionist who <a href="http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2014/05/13/new-low-dr-oz-promoting-mike-adams/#.U9GIOFPUFg9" target="_blank">was featured on Dr. Oz earlier this year</a>, is <a href="http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/four-biggest-quacks-plaguing-america-their-bad-claims-about-science?page=0%2C1" target="_blank">famous for his far-fetched ideas</a>. He <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/045563_aviation_fuel_toxic_lead_heavy_metals_pollution.html" target="_blank">believes</a>, for example, that Americans are being poisoned by lead-infused "chemtrails" and that Microsoft is developing infertility <a href="http://www.naturalnews.com/034848_Microsoft_Merck_eugenics.html#" target="_blank">drugs that "target specific races."</a>&nbsp; David Gorski of the website <a href="http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/">Science-Based Medicine</a> has dubbed <em>Natural News</em> "a one-stop shop" for "virtually every quackery known to humankind, all slathered with a heaping, helping of unrelenting hostility to science-based medicine and science in general."</p> <p>Still, Adams has a large pool of readers who take his ideas seriously. After he published his screed likening journalists to Nazi sympathizers, a "Monsanto Collaborators" website appeared with images of Nazi soldiers and emaciated corpses alongside a list of reporters whom Adams accuses of being in the GMO industry's pocket. The heading reads "Journalist Collaborators."</p></body></html> Blue Marble Food and Ag Health Top Stories Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 Mariah Blake 256946 at http://www.motherjones.com Photos: The World's Largest Church Is in the Middle of an African Coconut Plantation http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/worlds-largest-church--yamoussoukro-basilica-our-lady-of-peace <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Central-West&nbsp;<span class="st">C&ocirc;te</span><span class="st"> d'Ivoire</span> is a lush agricultural landscape, stuffed with rich banana, rice, and cocoa fields. The region is this West African nation's equivalent of the corn belt of Iowa and Illinois. A long drive down stretches of road left pockmarked by the ongoing rainy season yields endless repetitions of the same scene: Tiny villages&mdash;each home to only a few dozen farmers living in thatched-roof huts&mdash;quietly tending to crops and livestock. Things are even more&nbsp;peaceful than usual now, as the Muslims that make up this area's dominant religious affiliation celebrate Ramadan.</p> <p>But as you arrive in&nbsp;Yamoussoukro, the nation's capital, a strange monument can be seen towering over the horizon: An enormous gilded cross that adorns the top of what is, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2004/jun/17/architecture" target="_blank">by</a> <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/23/AR2006012301724.html" target="_blank">many</a> <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/17/nyregion/landmark-just-wait-till-it-s-done-unfinished-st-john-divine-set-make-history.html" target="_blank">accounts</a>, the world's <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" target="_blank">largest&nbsp;church</a>.</p> <p>Topping St. Peter's Basilica in Rome by more than 80 feet, Basilica Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, sometimes called the "basilica in the bush," is a jaw-dropping and bizarre monument to the end of a period only a few decades ago when <span class="st">C&ocirc;te d'Ivoire was&nbsp;competing against other&nbsp;newly-independent African nations</span> to become the cultural and economic powerhouse of the continent.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica columns" class="image" src="/files/basilica1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is supported by 84 pillars, each one 112 feet tall. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>The raw numbers are stunning: Between July 1986 and September 1989, 1,100 workers cleared 178 acres of coconut grove, coated the space with 13 football fields-worth of European marble, and erected a 520-foot-tall structure, supported by 128 towering Doric columns, that can accommodate 200,000 worshippers. Inside are 24 stained-glass windows. The organ can reach volumes that lead to <a href="http://www.gcaudio.com/resources/howtos/loudness.html" target="_blank">permanent hearing loss</a>. The&nbsp;building is estimated to weigh 98,000 metric tons.</p> <p>But probably the most interesting figure&mdash;how much it all cost&mdash;is shrouded in mystery: Although independent estimates pegged the price tag at about $300 million, then-President&nbsp;<span class="st">F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny was notoriously tight-lipped, preferring to refer to the construction as a gift from God (with help from his massive personal cocoa fortune).</span></p> <p><span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">"Most people think it also mostly came out of the treasury," says Tom Bassett, a geographer and </span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139; historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. For that reason, Bassett says, it got a second nickname: "Our Lady of the Treasury."<span class="st" style="line-height: 2em;">&nbsp;&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">&nbsp; &nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica stained glass" class="image" src="/files/basilica3.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica contains 24 massive stained-glass windows, each featuring a biblical scene. In this one, which depicts Jesus' arrival in Jerusalem, former Ivorian president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny is shown kneeling in front of Jesus. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">The wealthy heir to one of the country's largest cocoa operations,&nbsp;Houphou&euml;t-Boigny didn't exactly choose the most opportune moment to publicly drain his nation's cash reserves on what quickly came to be seen as </span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">less a glorification of God and more a vanity project straight from the "dictator handbook," as the&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/30/the-largest-church-in-the-world-has-the-fewest-worshippers.html" style="line-height: 24px;" target="_blank"><em>Daily Beast</em></a><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;recently put it.</span><span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny became&nbsp;</span>C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span>d'Ivoire&acirc;&#128;&#139;'s first president after the country gained independence from France in 1960 and ruled as a more or less benevolent dictator until his death 1993, overseeing what became known as a "miracle" period of economic prosperity in the 1960s and 70s. In 1983, he named his home village Yamoussoukro the new administrative capital and shortly thereafter set about planning the city's crown jewel, the basilica. In keeping with a request from Pope John Paul II, who said he wouldn't consecrate the building otherwise, the dome was made slightly shorter than St. Peter's. But the addition&nbsp;of a towering cross atop the dome pushed the church above its counterpart in Rome.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica dome" class="image" src="/files/basilica4.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The dove at the center of the basilica's dome is 23 feet wide. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>But meanwhile, by the late 80s the country had fallen to economic&nbsp;ruin, hit simultaneously by a nosedive in cocoa and coffee prices, climbing oil prices, and disastrous mismanagement of state-owned businesses. Midway&nbsp;through the basilica's construction, C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire declared itself insolvent. At the same time, budget-resuscitation measures mandated by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank slashed basic services and key agricultural subsidies, drastically lowering the standard of living for most Ivorians&mdash;including those living on farms in the shadow of the basilica.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">All this left </span><span style="line-height: 24px;">Houphou&euml;t-Boigny</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">&nbsp;wide open to scathing criticism for the unseemly contrast between the church's opulence and the decay of the surrounding countryside; his public image wasn't helped by&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">a large stained-glass window just inside the dome that depicts&nbsp;</span>him<span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;kneeling before Jesus on his entrance to Jerusalem</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif;">. An unnamed Vatican official&nbsp;<a href="http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,152145,00.html" target="_blank">told <em>Time</em></a><em>&nbsp;</em>th</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 2em;">at "the size and expense of the building in such a poor country make it a delicate matter." Still, t</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">he Pope consecrated the basilica in September 1990,&nbsp;the only time&nbsp;the thousands of seats here have been full (and the only time a grandiose papal residence on the grounds has been occupied).</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica5.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The interior of the basilica can seat 7,000 worshippers; altogether, the compound can accommodate 200,000. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>Since then, the basilica has been little more than a tourist destination; services are held weekly but are sparsely&nbsp;attended. In late 2002, while then-President Laurent Gbagbo was out of the country, disgruntled military leaders staged a coup that threw the nation into a bloody, two-year civil war. The basilica briefly came back into the limelight during this period, as Yamoussoukro became the heart of a UN-enforced buffer zone between rebel forces in the north and Gbagbo supporters in the south, where the country's largest city, Abidjan, lies. Political leaders on both sides, aided by the national media, portrayed the conflict in part as one between a Christian south and Muslim north, with the basilica in the middle.&nbsp;</p> <p>But in reality, Bassett says, demographic data never supported the existence of such a division&mdash;there are likely to be just as many Muslims in the south as in the north. And in any case, he says, "I don't think the basilica really fits into that narrative." So sorry, there are no heart-wrenching, <em>The&nbsp;</em><em>Sound of </em><em>Music</em>-esque scenes of embattled families taking refuge inside from machine-gun toting soldiers. It's a ghost town, a highly-visible tombstone for a&nbsp;C&ocirc;te<span style="line-height: 24px;">&nbsp;</span><span style="font-family: Verdana, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 24px;">d'Ivoire that died before it could be born.&nbsp;</span></p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica yamoussoukro" class="image" src="/files/basilica6.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The basilica is situated on the outskirts of Yamoussoukro, former president F&eacute;lix Houphou&euml;t-Boigny's hometown. It was a tiny village before he designated it the nation's administrative capitol in 1983; today it has about 240,000 residents. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica walkup" class="image" src="/files/basilica7.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The compound is spread across 17 acres (equivalent to 13 football fields) of marble imported from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="basilica interior" class="image" src="/files/basilica8.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>The world's largest church rarely sees more than a couple hundred worshippers. </strong>Tim McDonnell</div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Mixed Media Photo Essays International Religion Top Stories Infrastructure Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Tim McDonnell 256021 at http://www.motherjones.com Did Congress Actually Intend to Withhold Subsidies From Federal Exchanges? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/did-congress-actually-intend-withhold-subsidies-federal-exchanges <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In the <em>Halbig</em> case, the plaintiffs argued that the provision in Obamacare limiting subsidies to people enrolled through state exchanges was no typo. In fact, they claimed, Congress <em>intended</em> to limit subsidies to state exchanges as an incentive for states to set up their own exchanges instead of relying on the federal government. The problem with this theory is that <a href="https://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/492670708305391616" target="_blank">literally nobody</a> who was involved with the legislation or who covered it during its passage remembers anything of the sort, and the rest of the bill pretty clearly assumes that everyone gets subsidies regardless of whether they're enrolled via a state exchange or the federal exchange.</p> <p>Today, however, Peter Suderman presents some evidence that this was indeed Congress's intent. It's not evidence from 2009-10, when the bill was being debated. Nor is it from anyone involved in Congress. It's from Obamacare expert Jonathan Gruber <a href="http://reason.com/blog" target="_blank">speaking to an industry group in January 2012:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What&rsquo;s important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don&rsquo;t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits&mdash;but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you&rsquo;re essentially saying [to] your citizens you&rsquo;re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't really know what to make of this. It's a very odd mistake for Gruber to make, because in January 2012 the IRS had already issued a preliminary ruling on this exact question and had already held a public hearing asking for comments. Gruber surely knew this, and therefore knew that (a) the final ruling hadn't been issued yet, but (b) the IRS had already signaled that it intended to rule that subsidies were allowed on federal exchanges. Maybe he misremembered the IRS's preliminary ruling, or maybe he was just mixing this up with something else. Who knows? Perhaps Gruber will tell us on Friday.</p> <p>In any case, I doubt this changes anything too much. Although Gruber was a consultant on the law and intimately familiar with its details, he was neither a legislator nor a congressional staffer. The fact that he bollixed an audience question two years after the law's passage doesn't mean much. It's a nice gotcha moment, but probably not much else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:24:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 256956 at http://www.motherjones.com Power Outage Blogging http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/power-outage-blogging <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hey, I'm back! It turned out that today was the day for our annual neighborhood power outage, and at first I thought I was sitting pretty. I've got a Windows tablet, which means it's compatible with MoJo's blogging software. I've got my Bluetooth keyboard. And my phone will act as a WiFi hotspot, so I can connect to the net. Who needs electricity?</p> <p>Well, apparently this year's blackout was so extensive that it took out the local T-Mobile cell tower. So that was that. No internet connection. I thought I had this thing wired, but apparently not.</p> <p>Anyway, at the time my computer died I think I was writing a brilliant post about Republicans and abortion, but I no longer remember just what brilliant point I was going to make. It probably amounted to an assertion that they've always been against it and nothing has really changed. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow.</p> <p>In the meantime, what happened this afternoon? Anything I need to get on top of?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:02:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 256951 at http://www.motherjones.com The NFL Was Harder on These 6 Players for Smoking Pot Than It Was on Ray Rice for His Assault Arrest http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/07/ray-rice-suspension-marijuana <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The National Football League handed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice an <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/ravens/2014/07/24/ray-rice-suspension-baltimore-janay-palmer/12783281/" target="_blank">unexpectedly lenient punishment</a> Thursday following his offseason arrest for assaulting his fianc&eacute;e back in February: a two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rice allegedly hit Janay Palmer (now his wife) so hard she lost consciousness&mdash;and then <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2014/02/19/ray-rice-unconscious-fiancee-atlantic-city-video-arrest/" target="_blank">security cameras caught him</a> dragging her out of an elevator in Atlantic City. Aggravated assault charges eventually were dropped against both of them (Palmer allegedly hit Rice, too), and the two later held a bizarre <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/ray-rice-apologizes-alleged-assault-then-fiancee-article-1.1803771" target="_blank">joint press conference</a> addressing the whole incident.</p></body></html> <p style="font-size: 1.083em;"><a href="/mixed-media/2014/07/ray-rice-suspension-marijuana"><strong><em>Continue Reading &raquo;</em></strong></a></p> Mixed Media Crime and Justice Sports Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:52:39 +0000 Sam Brodey 256941 at http://www.motherjones.com