Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en The Hero of Tal Afar Gets the Last Laugh <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I can still remember a decade ago, when Col. H.R. McMaster, the hero of Tal Afar and genius of counterinsurgency, had been <a href="" target="_blank">passed over for the second time</a> for promotion to brigadier general. Did we ever find out who had it in for him? Probably not. In any case, he eventually got his star, and then another, and then another, <a href="" target="_blank">and now he's got an office in the White House:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump appointed Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster as his new national security adviser on Monday, picking a widely respected military strategist known for challenging conventional thinking and helping to turn around the Iraq war in its darkest days.</p> <p>....General McMaster had the aura of disruption that Mr. Trump has valued in several cabinet secretaries, said a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity to describe internal deliberations. <strong>Another candidate, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the superintendent of West Point, impressed Mr. Trump as being &ldquo;from central casting,&rdquo;</strong> the official said. But the president wanted him to stay at West Point, which he reveres.</p> </blockquote> <p>I see that Trump is using his usual keen management insights to choose the folks responsible for running our country. Luckily, he somehow decided that the guy from central casting ought to stay at West Point, and accidentally chose McMaster. This is probably a pretty good selection, so I guess we should all be grateful regardless of how we got there.</p> <p>I wonder what McMaster thinks of K.T. McFarland? That seems to be a key prerequisite for NSA these days. I sure hope they get along, since I assume McFarland will have no problem using her personal connection with Trump to complain about McMaster behind his back if she doesn't like what he's doing.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:29:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 326126 at A Closer Look at the Killing Fields of Sweden <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Trump just can't give up on Sweden:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Give the public a break - The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully. NOT!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>I suppose that "beautifully" is subjective, so I won't comment on that. But Trump is specifically talking about crime here, and a bit of googling tells me that the <em>real</em> target of the fear-o-sphere isn't so much Sweden in general, but the city of Malm&ouml;, just across the sound from Copenhagen. About a third of Malm&ouml;'s population was born abroad, the highest rate in Sweden, and to listen to the right-wing media it's basically become the Beirut of the North ever since immigrants started pouring in. "How Muslim Migration Made Malmo, Sweden A Crime Capital," blares the <em>Daily Wire</em>. "Malmo, Sweden is the Most Dangerous City in Western Europe," says Infowars, adding that it's suffering from "soaring crime, murder." Over in Britain, the <em>Express</em> puts things plainly: "SWEDEN CRUMBLING: Demands for military intervention as thugs turn Malmo into 'no-go zone.'"</p> <p>(Sorry, no links. Google 'em yourself if you really want to read this stuff.)</p> <p>Luckily for the rest of us, Sweden has quite an excellent crime reporting website, helpfully offered in both Swedish and English. Here are the crime rates in recent years for <a href="" target="_blank">Sweden's three biggest cities:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_crime_against_persons_2008_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Sadly, the laggard Swedes don't have 2016 numbers for Malm&ouml; even though we're a full 50 days into 2017, so this will have to do. As you can see, Malm&ouml;'s crime rate is higher than Sweden's, which is the usual case for big cities, but generally lower than Stockholm's. It's been trending slightly <em>downward</em> over the past decade. Here's property crime:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_property_crime_2008_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Malm&ouml; doesn't look much like a hellhole, does it? Violent crime looks fairly normal for a city of its size, and it's trending down. Property crime looks <em>better</em> than you might expect, and it's trending distinctly down. For a longer-term look at things, here are the <a href="" target="_blank">total number of murders in Sweden over the past 50 years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sweden_murder_1964_2014.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I suppose you all recognize this shape from my hundreds of posts about lead and crime, right? In any case, it's been trending steadily downward since 1990 while the number of immigrants has been steadily rising. Drilling down, the murder rate between 1991-2014 in Sk&aring;ne county, which includes Malm&ouml;, has stayed flat. However, the murder rate in Malm&ouml; itself has nearly doubled in the past two years, increasing from about seven murders in 2014 to twelve in 2016.</p> <p>Why? Gang wars. This is also the reason Malm&ouml; has been the victim of a surprising number of <a href="" target="_blank">hand grenade attacks</a> lately. Apparently they're leftovers from the Balkan wars that are smuggled into Sweden and used by rival drug gangs in their turf wars. There's no question that gang wars fought with hand grenades and handguns are the kind of thing that could put people on edge, but these gangs have been around for a long time and it's unclear what's caused the recent surge in turf wars. It might be related to the influx of immigrants, but since immigrants have been moving to Malm&ouml; for years, while the gang wars have increased in just the last two, that seems a bit of a stretch.</p> <p>All this said, Malm&ouml;'s overall crime rate, both violent and property, has been pretty flat for the past decade, and the murder rate has been flat for the past three decades. All this has happened while the immigrant population in Malm&ouml; has increased more than tenfold.</p> <p>So that leaves us with the recent gang wars, which have caused an uptick in murders over just the past couple of years. That's it. If you cherry pick a single city with a sudden upsurge in gang warfare, and then assume it's all the fault of immigrants, then Sweden becomes the poster child for immigrants and crime. But that's a pretty thin case.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 02:26:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 326121 at NBC News: Putin Still Trying to Figure Out Trump's Brain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bill Neely of NBC News reports on Vladimir Putin's efforts to understand the psyche of <a href="" target="_blank">America's reality-show president:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A dossier on Donald Trump's psychological makeup is being prepared for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among its preliminary conclusions is that <strong>the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be na&iuml;ve,</strong> according to a senior Kremlin adviser.</p> <p>....Former Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fedorov told NBC News..."Very serious preparatory work is going on in the Kremlin, including a paper &mdash; seven pages &mdash; describing a psychological portrait of Trump, especially based on this last two to three months, and the last weeks."</p> <p>....Putin's government is growing increasingly concerned about Trump's battles in Washington, according to Fedorov and former lawmaker Sergei Markov, who remains well-connected at the Kremlin. <strong>Fedorov added that Trump's "constant battle with the mass media" was "worrying us."</strong> The U.S. president "is dancing on thin ice," he said. "It's a risky game."</p> <p>A former prime minister under Putin said the Kremlin is taking no pleasure at Trump's struggles. "Absolutely not &mdash; not laughing," Mikhail Kasyanov said. <strong>"The situation is very serious and the whole of [Putin's] team, they are nervous."</strong> Many in the Kremlin believe hardliners in America &mdash; in Congress and the military &mdash; want to sabotage the president and his plans for better ties with Russia.</p> </blockquote> <p>From Putin's point of view, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that Trump can't control himself. Putin could literally publish his dossier on his Facebook page and it wouldn't matter. Just as he did in the debates, when Hillary Clinton baited him in the most obvious ways, Trump will respond to provocations the way he always responds.</p> <p>That's also the bad news, of course: Trump can't control himself. He lives in a delusionary world where everything is going great and the White House is a finely tuned machine. This divorce from reality is likely to become ever more cavernous as time goes on, and there's no telling how long it will be until this produces a disaster of some kind. Eventually it's going to become clear that trying to run the US government the same way he ran his business&mdash;Trump acting as the showman/marketing genius, while professional managers keep the gears turning&mdash;isn't producing any results here in consensus reality. And then the whole delusionary edifice will come tumbling down.</p> <p>But when? Next week? Next year? Whenever the economy turns down? There's no telling. Putin better keep that dossier constantly updated.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 19:55:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 326111 at Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Reality is setting in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, <strong>the debate over &ldquo;Obamacare&rdquo; is becoming less about &ldquo;Obama&rdquo; and more about &ldquo;care&rdquo;</strong> &mdash; greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.</p> <p>....As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama&rsquo;s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say <strong>there is significantly less intensity</strong> among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.</p> </blockquote> <p>Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don't seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_favorable.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But the intensity of opinion <em>has</em> changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn't care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares <em>more</em>. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was&mdash;no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah&mdash;under the apparent assumption that it didn't matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.</p> <p>So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it's worth fighting for.</p> <p>But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 18:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326086 at Cleaning Up After Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jim Mattis, on his first trip to Iraq as defense secretary, said he plans to assess the fight against Islamic State in the country and that the U.S. isn&rsquo;t there to take its oil. &ldquo;I think all of us here in this room, all of us in America, have paid for our gas and oil all along and I&rsquo;m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,&rdquo; he told reporters in Abu Dhabi the day before leaving for Iraq. &ldquo;We are not in Iraq to seize anybody&rsquo;s oil.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So far, Mattis and VP Mike Pence have been fanning out across the world to assure our allies that President Trump thinks NATO is great; that America's support for Europe is "unwavering"; that Trump will be tough on Russia; and that we're not going to take Iraq's oil. In other words, basically the opposite of everything Trump himself has said over the past year.</p> <p>This is becoming the signature of the Trump administration. At home, Trump says something stupid, and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway gamely go out to clean up the mess and claim that Trump didn't really mean what he said. Abroad, Mattis and Pence and Rex Tillerson play the same role. They're like the guys who follow the elephants at a parade.</p> <p>I'll bet they didn't think this was how they'd be spending their time as some of the most powerful people in the world.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:15:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 326101 at Quote of the Day: Donald Trump Saves the Coal Mines <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href=";utm_term=.17a4e818e5a4" target="_blank">Via the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;If he hadn&rsquo;t gotten into office, 70,000 miners would have been put out of work,&rdquo; Patricia Nana, a 42-year-old naturalized citizen from Cameroon. &ldquo;I saw the ceremony where he signed that bill, giving them their jobs back, and he had miners with their hard hats and everything &mdash; you could see how happy they were.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>And those immigration raids last weeks ended up deporting 1.3 million undocumented workers. And Intel's new factory will give good, high-paying jobs to 250,000 hardworking Americans. And Trump's Muslim ban prevented 400 acts of terror on American soil.</p> <p>Sigh. Among his supporters, Trump's style of governance by TV spectacle is working out well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 16:02:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326096 at Trump Pals Have a Plan For Lifting Sanctions on Russia <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The president's friends <a href="" target="_blank">have a proposal for him:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, <strong>a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.</strong></p> <p>Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: <strong>Michael D. Cohen,</strong> the president&rsquo;s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; <strong>Felix H. Sater,</strong> a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a <strong>Ukrainian lawmaker</strong> trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump&rsquo;s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.</p> <p>....[Mr. Cohen] said Mr. Sater had given him the written proposal in a sealed envelope. <strong>When Mr. Cohen met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in early February, he said, he left the proposal in Mr. Flynn&rsquo;s office.</strong> Mr. Cohen said he was waiting for a response when Mr. Flynn was forced from his post. Now Mr. Cohen, Mr. Sater and Mr. Artemenko are hoping a new national security adviser will take up their cause. On Friday the president wrote on Twitter that he had four new candidates for the job.</p> </blockquote> <p>The "Ukranian lawmaker" is a pro-Putin opponent of the current regime in Ukraine. Sater is, um, a guy with an interesting background: <a href="" target="_blank">"mafia linked,"</a> spent some time in prison, <a href="" target="_blank">worked as an FBI informant,</a> and spent several years as a <a href="" target="_blank">close business associate of Donald J. Trump.</a> Oh, and Sater was born in Russia and continues to have lots of contacts there.</p> <p>And Cohen? Well, he's the guy who could actually get inside the White House and deliver the letter. You remember Michael Cohen, don't you?</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Every time we turn around, there's something new linking Trump to Russia. Just a few days ago, FBI Director James Comey briefed the Senate Intelligence committee about the ongoing investigation of Team Trump and its ties to Russia, and all the chatter afterward was about how the senators seemed kind of shaken by what they heard.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe it all turns out to be nothing. But there sure is a lot of smoke out there. It's hard to believe there isn't a fire too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 14:30:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326091 at Trump "Considering" Intriguing New Way to Lie With Statistics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Oh FFS:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is considering changing the way it calculates U.S. trade deficits, <strong>a shift that would make the country&rsquo;s trade gap appear larger than it had in past years,</strong> according to people involved in the discussions.</p> <p>The leading idea under consideration would <strong>exclude from U.S. exports</strong> any goods first imported into the country, such as cars, and then transferred to a third country like Canada or Mexico unchanged, these people told <em>The Wall Street Journal.</em></p> <p>Economists say that approach would inflate trade deficit numbers because <strong>it would typically count goods as imports when they come into the country but not count the same goods when they go back out,</strong> known as re-exports.</p> </blockquote> <p>While we're at it, let's change our new jobs report to show all the people who have gained a job but not the ones who have lost a job. That should make the economy look great, just like Trump wants it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 20 Feb 2017 01:46:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 326081 at Trump's Thin Skin Is Keeping Him From Staffing the Federal Government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Rex Tillerson's choice of Elliott Abrams to be his deputy at the State Department was vetoed by the White House. Abrams had once said some bad things about Donald Trump, so he was out. <a href="" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports on what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump remains fixated on the campaign as he applies a loyalty test to some prospective officials....Six of the 15 statutory cabinet secretaries are still awaiting Senate confirmation as Democrats nearly uniformly oppose almost all of the president&rsquo;s choices.</p> <p>....<strong>It is not just Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson who has no deputy secretary,</strong> much less Trump-appointed under secretaries or assistant secretaries. Neither do the heads of the Treasury Department, the Education Department or any of the other cabinet departments. <strong>Only three of 15 nominees have been named for deputy secretary positions.</strong> Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has a deputy only because he kept the one left over from President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yes, Democrats are slow-walking Trump's cabinet choices. You can decide for yourself if this is justified. But it's the deputies who often really run things, and Trump has only managed to name three out of 15 candidates. After he interviewed all those cabinet nominees, I guess he got bored.</p> <p>In other words, it's not Democrats who are holding up the rest of government. The problem is that Trump has no idea what he's doing, and his staff is too busy with Trump's thin skin and chaotic management style to find qualified deputies that are acceptable to him. After the debacle with his National Security Advisor, I imagine this has gotten even harder. You could almost feel qualified conservatives backing away from Trumpland as that shitshow played out.</p> <p>Trump has always had a pretty small set of people acceptable to him, and now a shrinking number of experienced players are finding Trump acceptable to them. This doesn't bode well for basic management of government business, let alone the "change for the ages" that he promised last night.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 22:07:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 326076 at Do Strict Voter ID Laws Suppress Minority Voting? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Do photo ID laws reduce minority turnout? Previous studies have suggested that the answer is yes, but the effect is fairly small. <a href="" target="_blank">However, in the <em>Washington Post</em> last week,</a> three scholars wrote about a new study they conducted, which offers "a more definitive assessment" than previous studies. Their conclusion: states with strict photo ID laws produce a far lower turnout among minorities than other states.</p> <p>It's taken me a while to comment on this because I had to read the report a few times to make sure I understood everything. In the end, I found several reasons to be skeptical of their conclusion.</p> <p>First off, they found much stronger effects in primaries than in general elections. Now, maybe this really is the case, and I can certainly invent plausible stories about why it might be so. But it still seems odd.</p> <p>Second, in a draft version of their study, <a href="" target="_blank">they say this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Importantly, we see no effects for Asian Americans, the one minority group that is, by at least some standards, not socioeconomically disadvantaged. The effects of these laws seem to be concentrated toward the bottom end of the racial hierarchy.</p> </blockquote> <p>In later drafts, their numbers have been updated and it turns out that Asian Americans <em>are</em> affected by voter ID laws&mdash;which makes their important finding disappear. But if this was an important <em>verification</em> in one draft, it ought to be an important <em>discrepancy</em> in the final draft. However, it's not mentioned.</p> <p>Third, hardly any of their findings are statistically significant. I'm not a big stickler for 95 percent significance always and everywhere, especially for something like this, where there's one messy set of real-life data and you have to draw conclusions from it one way or another. If the results are significant at 85 or 90 percent, that's still strongly suggestive. Nonetheless, that's all it is.</p> <p>Fourth, the effect size on African Americans is considerably less than it is for Hispanics and Asian Americans. Maybe this is just because blacks are more politically organized, and therefore more likely to overcome the deterrent effects of photo ID laws. Maybe.</p> <p>So far, none of these are deal breakers. They made me a little tentative about accepting the authors' results, but that's all. But then we get this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_voter_id_black_hispanic_asian.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Here's what's going on. On the left, you see their main results, based on a model they constructed. It shows very large effects: in states with strict photo ID laws, turnout decreases 8 percentage points among Hispanics, 2 percent among African Americans, and 5 percent among Asians.</p> <p>On the right, you see the results from a second test. It compares turnout in states before and after they enacted strict photo ID laws, and it shows much smaller effects: about 2 percentage points for all minorities. This strikes me as a <em>better</em> test, since it eliminates lots of confounding variables that crop up when you compare one set of states to a different set. But the authors go to considerable lengths to downplay these results, for reasons that I don't find very persuasive. Yes, their sample size is smaller, and yes, things can change from year to year. But their sample sizes aren't that small, and the differences in a single state over the course of two years is probably smaller than the differences between states in the same year.</p> <p>Maybe I'm totally off base here. I don't have the raw data or the chops to analyze it. Still, if I had to bet money, I'd bet that the second test is more reliable, and the real effect of photo ID laws is a decreased turnout of about 2 percentage points among minorities. That's plenty to affect a close election, and the motivation for these laws is plainly partisan and racial. They should be done away with everywhere.</p> <p>That said, I continue to suspect that the effect is fairly modest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:46:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 326071 at We Should Practice Truth in Statistics, Even When It Hurts <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump at his pep rally yesterday <a href="" target="_blank">on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You look at what's happening in Germany, <strong>you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden.</strong> They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nothing happened in Sweden last night, which has prompted lots of IKEA and ABBA joke memes. However, Zack Beauchamp thinks Trump was probably referring not to something that happened recently, but to the alleged "rape epidemic" in Sweden ever since they started taking in lots of Middle Eastern immigrants. This is apparently a staple of the Breitbart-o-sphere. Unfortunately, <a href="" target="_blank">Beauchamp then says this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The problem, though, is that this &ldquo;rape epidemic&rdquo; is as fake as the Bowling Green Massacre.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Canadian reporter Doug Saunders</a> rigorously investigated the narrative, and concluded that it &ldquo;falls apart as soon as you speak to anyone knowledgeable in Sweden.&rdquo; Official Swedish statistics do indeed show a high rate of rape, but that&rsquo;s because Swedish law has an extremely expansive definition of what qualifies as rape under the law.</p> <p>....These panics about immigration, instead, reflect a long history of sexual panics in the West about non-white immigrants. Etc.</p> </blockquote> <p>Whenever I see writing that carefully avoids providing comparative statistics, my BS detector goes off. Sure enough, Saunders didn't "rigorously" do anything. He linked to an old report that tallies crime rates for the years 1997-2001&mdash;which is all but useless in 2017<sup>1</sup>&mdash;and then glided quickly past his eventual acknowledgment that the foreign-born have "a higher rate of criminal charges than the native-born." If you're interested, here's the actual data from the report <a href="" target="_blank">(tables 3 and 6 in the appendix):</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_immigrants_sweden_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>These are very big differences. Now, Saunders also links to a study which suggests that "half to three-quarters" of the difference can be accounted for by socioeconomic status. Maybe so. But crime is crime. If you're the victim of assault from a Syrian refugee, you don't really care if it happened because he's Syrian or because he's poorer than average.</p> <p>There's plenty more to legitimately say about this. If poverty really is a causal factor, maybe it means Sweden needs to be more generous. Other statistics suggest that the children of the foreign-born have much lower crime rates than their parents. And as Beauchamp says, "rape" in Sweden is defined pretty broadly.</p> <p>Still, if we bring up this subject at all, we have to present the statistics fairly. In the US, immigrants seem to commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. But Sweden is a different country, and the statistics suggest that foreign-born immigrants do indeed commit crimes there in much larger numbers than native Swedes.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I don't know just how interested everyone is in the minutiae of Swedish crime, but here's the crime rate <a href="" target="_blank">over the past decade:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_swedish_crime_survey.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 55px;"></p> <p>Some are up, some are down, but the overall trend appears fairly flat despite the large rise in immigrants over this period. On the other hand, <a href="" target="_blank">preliminary figures</a> show that crime against persons was up 7 percent in 2016, including a 13 percent increase in reported rapes and a 14 percent increase in child abuse.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Apparently this is the most recent report that examines crime rates by area of origin. I don't know why Sweden hasn't done anything more recent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:54:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 326066 at A Travel Query for the Hive Mind <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_zuma_big_ben_fireworks.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 0px 0px;"></p> <div class="caption">Ben Cawthra/Rex Shutterstock via ZUMA</div> <p>OK, hive mind, I have a question for you. My sister is heading to London later this year, and this time she has a shiny new iPhone to take with her. She's on T-Mobile, so allegedly she'll have access to calling, texting, and low-speed data without doing anything. So here's one plan:</p> <ul><li>Download the maps she needs before she leaves.</li> <li>Rely on T-Mobile for calling and texting.</li> <li>Use WiFi whenever she's at the hotel, in a coffee shop, etc.</li> <li>Register for The Cloud, and use that when she's out and about.</li> <li>When all else fails, use T-Mobile's low-speed data.</li> </ul><p>Alternatively:</p> <ul><li>Buy a SIM when she gets there and use local calling, texting, and high-speed internet.</li> </ul><p>Do I have any T-Mobile readers who have been to London lately? What's the dope? What do you think her best alternative is?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Thanks everyone! It sounds like T-Mobile's native service works pretty well.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 16:29:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326061 at Premiere Episode of Trump Show Disappoints With Sluggish Pacing and Dated Material <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today's episode of the Trump Show was disappointing. It started late, it was only 30 minutes long, and much of it was read off a teleprompter. A few miscellaneous comments:</p> <ul><li>No tie! Truly, Trump is a man of the people.</li> <li>The first five minutes is dedicated solely to trashing the media. He says he wants to speak directly to The People without the filter of fake news. "When the media lies, I won't let them get away with it."</li> <li>This is all done in service of a speech carried live and commercial-free by all three cable news channels.</li> <li>The White House is running "smoothly, <em>very</em> smoothly."</li> <li>He wants to bring back mining jobs for "clean, <em>very</em> clean coal." I'm sensing a rhetorical trend here.</li> <li>He reprises several of his greatest hits: His Obamacare replacement will provide much better health care at a much lower cost. No more jobs are going to be sent overseas. He's going to slap a 35 percent tax on goods sent back here. And he still wants a "trillion dollar" infrastructure plan.</li> <li>Jobs are already "pouring back in" to the country.</li> <li>"Not one network will show the crowd," he says at the exact moment the pool camera pulls back to show the crowd.</li> <li>He says he got the price of Air Force One down by a billion dollars. When did that happen? Let's google a bit...ah. It's just your basic Trump bullshit. The CEO of Boeing has agreed to keep the price tag below $4 billion for a project that's currently estimated to cost between <a href="" target="_blank">$3.2 billion</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">$3.7 billion.</a> Nice work, Donald.</li> <li>He also got the price of the F-35 down by "hundreds of billions" dollars. It's actually hundreds of <em>m</em>illions, but who's counting? And it was a price reduction that was <a href="" target="_blank">already in the works</a> before Trump ever got involved.</li> <li>He says Obama was letting immigrants into the country with "no vetting, no nothing." This is just a ridiculous lie.</li> </ul><p>Meh. I doubt this rally did much for him. Even his most fervent supporters are starting to figure out that Trump isn't accomplishing a whole lot. Besides, how often can he go back to this well? Is he going to hold a pep rally every month? If he does, he better start coming up with some new material.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 19 Feb 2017 01:04:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 326056 at Waiting For Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>OMG OMG OMG!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plane_waiting_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 10px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:45:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 326046 at Who Really Benefits From Repealing the Stream Protection Rule? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Behold the politics of Donald Trump in a nutshell:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Talking to Trump voters here, several have said that Trump "put the miners back to work." (They are referring to the stream rule rollback)</p> &mdash; Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) <a href="">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Weigel is in Florida, so the workers in question are mostly Appalachian miners. Here's a quick look at Appalachian coal mining employment:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_appalachia_coal_mining_jobs_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This chart shows two things. First, coal mining in Appalachia has been plummeting for a long time. Decades, actually. So it's pretty easy to see why Appalachian coal miners are in dire straits and eager to listen to someone, <em>anyone</em>, who sounds sympathetic to their plight.</p> <p>Second, Trump is getting a lot of of attention for rolling back the Stream Protection Rule, but it's not going to put anyone back to work. I had to cheat to even get it to show up on the chart. It's responsible for maybe a hundred mining jobs out of a total decline of 30,000 between 2009 and 2020.</p> <p>So who <em>does</em> benefit from rolling back this rule? Well, OSM figures that Appalachian mine owners will save about $24 million per year in compliance costs.<sup>3</sup> So they're pretty happy. This is a dynamic that we're going to see over and over from Trump:</p> <ul><li>He puts on a big show about something or other. Workers cheer.</li> <li>Offstage, it turns out the benefit to workers is minuscule.</li> <li>Instead, the bulk of the benefits end up going to corporations and the rich.</li> <li>Liberals will find out about this because the <em>New York Times</em> will probably write about it. Working-class Trump fans won't, because none of it will be reported by Fox News or Drudge or Limbaugh or <em>Breitbart</em>.</li> </ul><p>Executive summary: workers get a pittance, the rich get rewarded, and streams and rivers will continue to be fouled by mine tailings. But Trump's supporters will be happy because they'll be kept in the dark by all the people supposedly looking out for them.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I've gotten several requests for a longer look at coal mining employment. Here it is.<sup>4</sup> Please note two things: (1) this is for the entire US, not just Appalachia, and (2) it's for <em>coal miners</em>, not total coal mine employment. You can't compare it to the chart above.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_coal_miners_us_1950_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>This is approximate. I counted <a href="" target="_blank">coal mine employment</a> from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama. The projection is based on a <a href="" target="_blank">50 percent loss</a> of coal production and coal jobs between 2012 and 2020. The Office of Surface Mining figures that the Stream Protection Rule will cost about 260 mining jobs, and that Appalachia will bear 46 percent of compliance cost. (See <a href="" target="_blank">this CRS report,</a> p. 17.) So we can roughly figure that it will cost Appalachia a little over a hundred mining jobs.<sup>2</sup></p> <p><sup>2</sup>The <em>net</em> job loss will be about zero, thanks to additional hires of engineers and biologists. However, that does nothing for miners.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>See <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> p. 15. Total estimated compliance costs are $52 million per year, with Appalachia bearing 46 percent of the total.</p> <p><sup>4</sup> Data for 1950-1985 from <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Data from 1985-2016 from <a href="" target="_blank">FRED.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 22:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 326036 at NSC Aide Fired, Now Owes Us Account of Trump Call to Mexico's President <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Now is the winter of our discontent:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday....The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC's senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Earlier in the week, at a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, <strong>Deare harshly criticized the president and his chief strategist Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House,</strong> according to a source familiar with the situation.</p> <p>He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president &mdash; <strong>and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump's call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I can't fault Trump for firing Deare. Then again, I also can't fault Deare for going berserk. Sometimes a marriage just doesn't work.</p> <p>However, now that Deare is out of a job, perhaps he'd like to share his detailed and embarrassing readout of that Mexico conversation? My email address is below.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_02_17.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 19:44:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 326031 at Gossip of the Day: What's the Deal With KT McFarland? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's a weekend. How about some gossip?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">contact says, Just was told Trump told KT McFarland to pick her new boss. She named Bolton. see where this goes</p> &mdash; Laura Rozen (@lrozen) <a href="">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">contact earlier said the personnel disagreement btw Adm. Harward &amp; Trump was centered on McFarland. KT is very close to the Trump family</p> &mdash; Laura Rozen (@lrozen) <a href="">February 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Apparently David Petraeus has withdrawn his name for consideration over the same issue as Robert Harward. He wants control over NSC personnel, but Trump refuses to give up McFarland as deputy. Given the fact that McFarland hasn't held a government post in over 30 years and is wildly unqualified to be the #2 person on the National Security Council, there must be some strangely tight bond to account for Trump keeping her even though it's preventing him from appointing his preferred candidates to the #1 spot.</p> <p>OTOH, we also know that Trump doesn't like John Bolton's walrus mustache. Would he demand that Bolton shave it off as a requirement of the job?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 19:25:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 326026 at Arizona Suggests Forced Suicide For Death Row Inmates <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's getting tougher and tougher to obtain the lethal cocktail used to execute prisoners <a href=";utm_term=.4127bc76aa6a" target="_blank">convicted of capital crimes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now Arizona has responded with a new &mdash; and some say bizarre &mdash; solution to this quandary: Death row inmates can bring their own execution drugs. The state&rsquo;s manual for execution procedures, which was revised last month, says attorneys of death row inmates, or others acting on their behalf, can obtain pentobarbital or sodium Pentothal and give them to the state to ensure a smooth execution.</p> </blockquote> <p>Note to conservatives: sometimes you just have to give up. Do you <em>really</em> care that much about killing lots of bad guys as opposed to letting them rot in prison for the rest of their lives? It might be time to let go and save your energy for other battles. This one is getting absurd.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 17:30:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326021 at It's Pretty Sad That the President of the United States Needs to Watch Briefing Videos Like This <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Thursday morning, <em>Mother Jones</em> fellow <a href="" target="_blank">Ashley Dejean</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reported on a classified memo</a> which revealed that Donald Trump's "daily briefing book typically contains reports on only three topics, typically no more than one page each."</p> <p>On Thursday afternoon, American Urban Radio White House correspondent <a href="" target="_blank">April Ryan</a> <a href="" target="_blank">asked the president a question</a> about the Congressional Black Caucus that provoked a response suggesting Donald Trump thinks all black people know each other.</p> <p>On Friday night, <a href="" target="_blank">occasional</a> <em>Mother Jones</em> <a href="" target="_blank">contributor</a> (and <a href="" target="_blank">my brother</a>) <a href="" target="_blank">Harry Dreyfuss</a> <a href=";theater" target="_blank">published a video</a> neatly tying those two stories together.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="473" scrolling="no" src=";width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=265569630491558&amp;height=473" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Contributor Ben's Thoughts Sat, 18 Feb 2017 16:10:06 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 326016 at Trump Decrees That the Economy Must Grow Twice as Fast <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Congressional Budget Office <a href="" target="_blank">forecasts</a> that the labor force will grow 0.5 percent annually over the next ten years and productivity will grow 1.4 percent. That's total economic growth of 1.9 percent per year. But the Trumpists are forecasting 3.5 percent growth over the next decade. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they supercharge the economy, pulling everyone back into work and achieving labor force growth of 0.8 percent. They still need productivity growth of 2.7 percent. That's astronomically higher than anyone thinks possible. So how are Trump's economists justifying this?</p> <p>The answer is simplicity itself. <a href="" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What&rsquo;s unusual about the administration&rsquo;s forecasts isn&rsquo;t just their relative optimism but also the process by which they were derived. Normally, the executive branch starts with a baseline forecast prepared by career staff of the CEA....Discussions for the Trump administration unfolded differently, <strong>with transition officials telling the CEA staff the growth targets that their budget would produce and asking them to backfill other estimates off those figures.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So...they're doing it by just <em>telling</em> their economists what growth will be. That's an interesting approach. But what's the point of this? Here's a pair of growth forecasts&mdash;one for 2 percent and one for 4 percent&mdash;that should illustrate things:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_effect_growth_taxes_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>If you assume higher growth, you can cut taxes and still get more revenue. Alternatively, you can spend more on the military or a border wall without increasing the deficit. Or a combination of both.</p> <p>In other words, it's magic fairy dust. Sprinkle it around and you can do anything you want. Problems only arise if a bunch of snooty Ivy League economists insist that you're delusional, which explains why Trump hasn't bothered to hire anyone for his Council of Economic Advisors. They would just tell him stuff he doesn't want to hear. It also explains why Paul Ryan isn't playing this game too: his budget is vetted by the CBO, which has no intention of aiding and abetting fantasyland figures like these.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_productivity_growth_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>It's hard to know what the point of this is. Most likely, Trump said on the campaign trail that he'd grow the economy at 4 percent, and by God he's going to stick with that. (Remember: 3.5 rounds up to 4, so his campaign promise is safe.) Besides, Trump probably really believes that he can get the economy growing that fast through the sheer force of his personality.</p> <p>The real shock here isn't Trump&mdash;we already know <em>he's</em> divorced from reality&mdash;but the rest of his staff. Is there really not a single person in the White House who has both the gumption and the standing to tell Trump that the president can't peddle this kind of drivel in an official document? Is there no one who can tell him that Twitter is one thing, but the Budget of the United States of America is another?</p> <p>I guess not.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The original illustration of 2 percent vs. 4 percent growth used figures for nine years of growth instead of ten. It's been corrected.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 18 Feb 2017 04:39:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 326001 at Donald Trump Edits a Tweet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>At 4:32 pm, President Trump put up this tweet:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tweet_enemy_people_original.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>It was quickly deleted and 16 minutes later it was replaced with this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tweet_enemy_people_revised_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>Fascinating! Here are the edits Trump made:</p> <ol><li>Changed "and many more" to the more specific @ABC and @CBS.</li> <li>Eliminated the ugly extra spaces after the parentheses.</li> <li>Capitalized the P in "people."</li> <li>Removed "SICK!"</li> </ol><p>What can this mean? Did someone tell Trump that his tweet sounded like something Hitler might have written and he should probably revise it? No one has ever told him this before, so it seems unlikely this time too. Presumably he made these changes all on his own. Let's do a little Kremlinology here:</p> <ol><li>It's obvious that Trump's <em>real</em> enemies are CNN, NBC, and the <em>Times</em>. Then, later, he tossed in CBS and ABC. Was this to cover his tracks? Nah. He doesn't care what us overeducated elitists think. More likely it's because he decided his fans<sup>1</sup> wouldn't automatically fill in ABC and CBS, so he needed to be more explicit about it. After all, he wants his fans to distrust <em>all</em> the media they consume except for Fox, so it makes sense to be very clear about this.</li> <li>Eliminating the spaces is either because Trump has a love of neatness we've never seen before, or because they pushed his tweet over 140 characters. However, the tweet is only 123 characters long, so I guess it must have been a purely esthetic bit of editing.</li> <li>Hmmm. <em>American people</em> vs. <em>American People</em>. That's a tough one. The latter is more Germanic, which might have appealed to him. In English, though, it's also less literate. That might have appealed to him too. Or, maybe Trump just capitalizes stuff randomly and there's nothing to this.</li> <li>This is the real chin scratcher. Did he think that <em>SICK!</em> was going too far? I can't imagine why. And the one-word adjective at the end is standard Trump Twitter grammar. We do know that Trump is a germaphobe, so maybe he doesn't even like typing the word. However, a quick search shows that he's called several people sick in the past year (Karl Rove, Megyn Kelly, failing <em>New York Times</em>). So what is it? WHY DID DONALD TRUMP REMOVE THE WORD "SICK" FROM THIS TWEET???</li> </ol><p>Oh, and by the way, calling the press an enemy of the people really is pretty Hitleresque. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that an awful lot of Trump's supporters might not consider that such a bad thing.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>As always, remember that his supporters are the audience for his tweets, not you or me.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 23:30:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 325996 at Friday Cat Blogging - 17 February 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We have exciting news this week: Yale University has decided to <a href="" target="_blank">rename one of its colleges after Hopper.</a> It's a well-deserved honor for her contributions to this blog, and she will be replacing the odious John Calhoun, who spent the second half of his life defending states rights and slavery in uncompromising terms.</p> <p>You will note, by the way, that Yale plans to keep up a pretense in public that Hopper College is actually named after an admiral who earned degrees from Yale in the 30s and went on to do some kind of computer stuff. But we all know better, don't we?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2017_02_17.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 20:02:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 325986 at Violent Crime Peaked In Britain in 2006 Because.... <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I missed this when it was first written&mdash;probably because it was only a week after Donald Trump won the election&mdash;but Robert Waldmann decided to <a href="" target="_blank">check out a few of his predictions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In April 2008, I predicted that the UK violent crime rate would peak <a href="" target="_blank">some time around 2008.</a> I just googled and found that it peaked in around 2006 or 2007.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the chart, courtesy of the Institute for Economics and Peace:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iep_crime_britain.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Note two things here. First, Britain's violent crime rate peaked about 15 years after it did in the US. Second, it dropped a lot faster than it did in the US. Why?</p> <p>Because, first, Britain adopted unleaded gasoline <a href="" target="_blank">about 13 years after the US</a> (1988 vs. 1975). And second, because it phased out leaded gasoline a lot faster than the US. Within four years Britain had cut lead emissions by two-thirds, which means there was a very sharp break between infants born in high-lead and low-lead environments. Likewise, this means there was a sharp break between 18-year-olds with and without brain damage. In 2006, nearly all 18-year-olds had grown up with lead poisoned brains. By 2010, that had dropped substantially, which accounts for the stunning 40 percent drop in violent crime in such a short time.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>This is one of the reasons the lead-crime hypothesis is so persuasive. Not only does recorded crime fit the predictions of the theory&mdash;both in timing and slope&mdash;but it does so in many different countries. What other theory would predict a gradual drop in violent crime between 1991-2010 in the US and a sharp decline in violent crime between 2006-10 in Britain? Especially considering that the US and Britain have entirely different policing, poverty rates, race issues, etc.?</p> <p>Anyway, I might as well take this opportunity to repeat my prediction that <a href="" target="_blank">terrorism in the Middle East will begin to decline between 2020-30.</a> You heard it here first.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>And it continued dropping for several years after that. There was a big increase last year, but it was almost entirely driven by changes in measurement, not changes in the actual crime rate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 19:51:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 325981 at Republicans Have No Good Options for Funding Their Obamacare Replacement <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Sarah Kliff reports on one way Republicans are thinking about <a href="" target="_blank">paying for their Obamacare replacement:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republican legislators need a way to pay for their eventual Obamacare replacement plan. One leading contender is capping the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, which shows up in multiple replacement plans as well as recent interviews with legislators. <strong>It&rsquo;s going to be a huge fight.</strong></p> <p>Right now, companies and their workers pay no taxes on health benefits. This means the federal government misses out on a lot of potential revenue &mdash; $260 billion in 2013, according to Congressional Budget Office data.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is not just a huge fight, it's probably an unwinnable fight. As Kliff points out, Obamacare's Cadillac tax is a cousin of this proposal&mdash;it levies a fine on <em>extremely expensive</em> plans <em>sometime in the future</em>&mdash;and even at that it's already been delayed from 2018 to 2020 and most likely will never be allowed to take effect.</p> <p>By contrast, the Republican plan would have to affect far more plans and it would have to affect them right away. If it doesn't, it won't raise any money. For example, here's a <a href="" target="_blank">CBO estimate</a> of revenue from a plan that taxes about half of the value of employer-based health plans:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_revenue_health_tax_exclusion.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>That's a fair amount of revenue, but CBO also estimates that it would lead to about 6 million people losing their employer plans by Year 5. And even among the workers who didn't lose their coverage, they'd probably get hit with reduced benefits or increased deductibles.</p> <p>Do you remember the fuss over "if you like your health plan, you can keep it"? That promise was actually true for <a href="" target="_blank">all but about two percent of the insured population,</a> but that two percent caused massive conservative outrage anyway. A Republican plan that affected 50 percent of the insured population would cause heads to explode. So naturally they'd try to phase it in, or back load it, or delay it for a few years, or something&mdash;<em>anything</em>&mdash;to keep it from biting too hard at first. But the more they do this, the less money it will raise. If you limit it to, say, the top ten percent and phase it in over five years, it would probably raise $10-15 billion in Year 10. That's hardly worth it.</p> <p>Bottom line: if Republicans do this in a serious way, it will raise money but the entire country will go ballistic. If they try to play games, it <em>might</em> keep the outrage tamped down, but it won't raise enough money to be worth it. Economically it might be a good idea, but politically, I just don't see how they can pull this off.</p> <p>Of course, they could raise the same amount of money just by levying a small tax on rich people. Obviously that's out of the question though.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 17:40:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 325971 at AP: Trump Considering Using National Guard for Immigration Raids <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the AP:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is considering a proposal to <strong>mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants,</strong> including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press.</p> <p>The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana....Governors in the 11 states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, <strong>according to the memo, written by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly,</strong> a retired four-star Marine general.</p> <p>....<strong>Requests to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for comment and a status report on the proposal were not answered.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The White House may not have commented when the AP called them, but now that the story has been published they're suddenly outraged:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is not true. DHS also confirms it is 100% false <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Sean Spicer (@PressSec) <a href="">February 17, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Hmmm. This <em>is</em> not true. But has it <em>ever</em> been true? Perhaps we wouldn't need to parse the verb tense so closely if it were any other press secretary, but I think we should with Sean Spicer. And if it's not true, what's up with the memo? Is it a forgery? Was it written by one of those scurrilous "Obama holdovers" who infest the federal government and are trying to make Trump look bad at every turn? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 17 Feb 2017 16:01:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 325966 at